The Player and Guitar Tone


‘The Player’
is where it all starts. If the tone you’re producing isn’t good, then
nothing else in the chain afterward is going to save it. When you
hear a great guitarist, it doesn’t matter what instrument they’re
playing, it always sounds like them and it always sounds great. So
what makes a player produce good sound? Let’s break it down into the


material as well as the thickness of a pick makes a difference in
tone. I avoid picks made out of ‘glossy’ materials. Thinner picks
tend to produce more harmonics, and also a brighter attack. Thick
picks are good for a jazzy tone as they produce that marimba-like
tone necessary for a classic jazz sound.


How tightly
do you hold the pick?. Gripping tightly tends to create a very
bright, brittle tone (it also makes your strings more likely break).
A loose grip will give you a fatter, rounder tone. Try it yourself
and listen closely to the sound. Sometimes (like if your playing surf
music) an extremely bright tone works well.

Angle of
Attack (vertical):

When you
swing the pick does it travel parallel to your fingerboard, or does
it tend to arc down towards the body of your instrument. Swinging
parallel will increase your sustain and give you a clearer tone. If
you angle your picking action down into the fingerboard, string
‘crash’ will result. This produces a shorter, slightly strangled
tone. Sometimes this is cool, but you should be able to do it on
demand, rather than have it happen randomly.

Angle of
Attack (horizontal):

hitting the string with the face of the pick parallel to the string,
and then try rotating your pick so that the edge strikes the string
first. With the string rotated you should get a fair bit of ‘scrape’.

Placement of

where you’re fretting the note and the bridge, there is a lot of
string to play with. Experiment picking at different places within
that length of string. Picking somewhere in the middle of the string
length will produce the most volume, and the sweetest tone. Picking
up against the bridge will give you a bright tone, moving towards the
fretting hand will give you a rounder tone.


both hands arrive at the same time, i.e. your fretting hand touches
down on the string at exactly the same time as your picking hand
strikes it. This will increase sustain, give you clearer tone and a
habit of listening closely to what you do.

with all of these things, and listen closely to the results. Record
them if you can, and you’ll start to get a feel for ways that you can
improve your tone dramatically.

As always,
if you have any questions. Please drop us an email on or use our contact page to book a free, no obligation introductory lesson.

The Inner Game Of Music

The Inner Game Of Music might be one of
the most helpful books you ever read in your musical life.

It can open you up to a whole new way
of making music. It contains a lot of the tips and tricks that we use
at IMA to help our Clients overcome challenges and have fun making
music (yay!).

It’s a book that you’ll often go back
to, and when you do, you’ll find something new or something useful
that you forgot.

Below I’ve outlined a brief history of
the book and how it’s put together to help you decide if The Inner
Game Of Music is the book for you.

Back in the 70’s, before you would find
an entire wall at your favourite bookshop devoted entirely to self
help books, a man called Timothy Gallwey wrote a book that was
destined to be a classic – The Inner Game Of Tennis.

It spawned various other sport books
(like The Inner Game Of Skiing for example) and the goal in all the
books was the same – to help the sports person to reduce mental
interference so the body can perform to it’s peak potential.

A Californian Double Bass player called
Barry Green spent a skiing holiday working with The Inner Game of
Skiing and was very excited both with his improved skiing and with
the concepts contained in the book. He applied the concepts to his
Double Bass playing, and was so happy with the results, he got in
contact with Timothy Gallwey to ask if they could work on a book
together – The Inner Game Of Music.

The Inner Game Of Music rattled a lot
of cages when it was written – traditional methods of music teaching
(ruler over the knuckles anyone?) were shown to be incomplete. Any
teacher interested in getting the best out of all their students had
to get a copy and start reading.

The book also changed the lives of a
lot of performing musicians.

At the core of the book is this
important idea – what we usually consider as playing music –
wiggling the fingers, practicing scales, performing pieces etc – is
only the outer game of playing music.

The other half of playing music all
takes place in your own mind – the inner game of music.

In the first half of the book Barry
defines the inner and outer games, introduces the concepts of Self 1
and 2, and devotes one chapter each to the skills of the inner game –
awareness, will and trust.

Barry uses Self 1 and 2 to help us
understand the difference between our unconscious, naturally creative
self and our other ‘rational’ self – distracted, focused on
shortcomings, full of negative self talk and doubt.

He provides us with concepts and
exercises to help us ignore our rational self and to play from our
unconscious, creative self. The skills of awareness, will and trust
are critical to this new way of playing music and he provides a
wealth of great ideas and examples to help you master those skills.

One of the strengths of the book is
it’s many examples. Take this one –

A trombonist I met at a workshop in
Minnesota found she had trouble getting enough air at the end of
phrases. When I asked her simply to be aware of the sound of the last
notes of a phrase, a remarkable change took place.

As she put her attention on those
last few notes, she unthinkingly switched from a slide vibrato to a
lip vibrato. The phrase sounded much better – and her desperate
breathing vanished. She had discovered by her own simple awareness
that not having sufficient air wasn’t her real problem – her
‘problem behind the problem’ came from using the wrong kind of

Any wind player
will benefit from using this technique and string players,
keyboardists, percussionists and guitarists will find plenty to keep
them inspired and focused on their music making.

second half of the book deals with practical applications of the
Inner Game technique – overcoming obstacles, improving the quality
of your musical experience, teaching, learning and listening, being a
parent or a coach, balancing your personality traits, applying the
inner game in ensembles and the difficult to define skills of
improvisation, composition and creativity.

If you
feel you could do with a bit of this when
make your music –

…alert, yet at ease with
themselves, their attention fully concentrated in the present moment.
They enjoyed themselves, learned quickly and seemed to be functioning
at close to their full capacity.

Then The Inner Game
Of Music is just what you need.