Don't Just Write For Other Guitarists

In her latest column, Sarah Longfield writes that guitarists who write deeply complex instrumental music sometimes limit their audiences.
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There are always some great exceptions, but, by and large, if you compose super-complex instrumental music, you’re limiting your audience. Instrumental guitar music typically appeals to other guitarists, and we recognize speed, tone, and technique, because we’ve all worked on those elements. But while you can do whatever you want when you’re not catering to vocal-driven songwriting, the flip side is that your guitar parts still need to be catchy. People need to be able to follow them.

When I write my own songs, I try to focus on making them fun to play and easy to listen to. If a song is too technical, I have a hard time moving around to it when I perform live. If it’s too easy, I get bored. Finding a balance between technique and accessibility is a common struggle for a lot of guitar players, but as I love pop music, my end goal is writing super catchy, yet technically satisfying jams.

Also, no one is looking for something that already exists. You must establish your presence in the scene, and do something different. I lucked out by getting on YouTube early, and, (un)fortunately, a lot of my initial recognition was because I was a girl playing guitar. But, hey, an “in” is an in. I stuck with it, and I’ve worked on improving myself over the last ten years. Being in it for the long haul is huge, because so many artists drop off after the first few years if they don’t see big success. Patience and persistence are key!

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