Eric Barnett’s Big Five for Instrumental Guitarists

August 15, 2012

Eric Barnett came to GP’s attention in 2008 when he was a Guitar Superstar finalist. Barnett’s band, Points North, just released its debut, Road Less Traveled [Magna Carta], and the guitarist’s ability to showcase crazy chops within the context of solid songcraft is earning him a broad audience. Here are Barnett’s tips for turning heads with instrumental guitar music.

Content Drives Technique

“One could argue that technique is more important than ever, given the glut of amazing technical feats that are merely mouse clicks away online, but technique in the absence of composition and emotion comes off as novelty. People can search YouTube for ‘world’s fastest guitar player,’ and they might even come to see you perform, but they won’t come back unless you give them something more than chops.”

Don’t Blow Minds Out of the Gate

“Throwing down all of your most impressive chops right out of the gate might initially make jaws drop, but the audience will quickly lose focus. Compositionally, Eric Johnson’s ‘Cliffs of Dover’ is a great example of embellishing themes and hooks as the song progresses.”

Think Like a Singer

“When the guitar becomes the voice of the band, it’s important to use a variety of techniques to render the emotions you are trying to convey. Bending into notes, sliding into them, or playing them staccato are interesting inflections that keep your musical sentences from sounding monotonous.”

Know Your Tone in All Places

“Try to test drive guitar tones in the environment where you are actually going to use them. The new amp that sounds good in your home studio or in rehearsal with your band might not cut it onstage, or vice-versa. Spend time auditioning your rig in real-world situations first, before you unleash the tones on an audience, engineer, or producer.”

Let Go of “Perfect ”

“It’s easy to get frustrated over a missed passage, or when your tone isn’t right, but take it easy on yourself. YouTube has done wonders for destroying my perfectionism. When people video every performance, you have to let go of the notion you can control people posting your imperfections for the world to see. You- Tube has been like exposure therapy for me!”

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