If you go to any YouTube video featuring a skilled guitarist of some degree, there are invariably a large number of comments from people arguing over who is better or worse. Let me let you in on a little secret—it doesn’t matter, idiots! There are many ways to compel an audience to listen to you–none “better” than the other anymore than the color orange is better than the color blue. They both have their place. That said here are a few ways to get people to listen.
Most people think that to get someone’s attention you have to play loud. While this primal way of thinking may have its merit, all you really have to do is present a dynamic change. If you’re playing loud, and you reduce to a whisper, people will be captivated and lean in to listen.
Blues musicians are rarely the most technically gifted, but walk into a genuine blues bar and hear a musician wailing away on those pentatonics and you can feel their presence. We spend so much time practicing different scales and techniques that we forget that none of it matters if there is no human element. Music isn’t a competition; it’s a language and a means of expression.
That said—high levels of technique are another way to compel an audience. People are attracted to gimmick and flash, but that’s not something most musicians would like to be known for. However if you use high levels of technique within the context of the previous two principals, then you are quickly on the road to creating great music. One way to think about technique is that it is very impressive and fun to watch and listen to– much like a star athlete like Lebron James. But if you’re all flash and no soul, then you’re never going to win any championships.
Music is a language… make sure you have something to say.