Between a Riff and a Hard Pace

Excuse me for butchering the English language here. Hopefully you understood the reference to the saying “between a rock and a hard place”, and if you didn’t there you got the explanation for this title. Between a rock and a hard place is exactly where I am guitar-wise.

Between a riff and a hard pace… The riff, the rhythm guitar is where I belong. It is where I feel home. The hard pace is  something I’m not very comfortable with… I try to push beyond my limits, and it doesn’t seem to work yet.

Two weeks ago, I attended an audition to join a Trip Hop band, and instead of focusing on what I do best… Well, I didn’t! I was messy, trying to do stuff I couldn’t do. Instead of listening well, and finding the best fitting riffs… I just tried to not be me! And I’m not even talking about the fact that I just went to the audition almost naked effect-wise. That was kinda stupid to try to join a Trip Hop band, and to rely on a dry clean tone.

Yesterday, I posted an entry to The French Guitar Contest, and once again I tried hard to be someone I’m not. I tried to do something that I can’t properly do! Not that I was posting to win… I know I have no chance at all at this game! But I think I tried to challenge myself in the worst way possible. And nothing happens. I just have to hear the track to be shocked about how sloppy I am with the rhythm! Awful! Worst part is that I’m not even attempting wild sweeping, tapping, whatever-ing technique that some contestants used.

I like fast guitar playing… After all I’m a Vernon Reid fan, and the dude is fast! But before being a fast guitar player, he is a musician with a strong identity. Most guitar players that I like are actually people with a strong identity, and most often they are not the fast players. So why would I go that way?

Do you have such a dilemma? Is there a cure for that dilemma? Here are a few leads…

Focus on What You do Best !

I’ll have to do that! Does that mean I should ignore the rest? I really don’t know for sure.  It’s always good to challenge yourself. But building on what you are best at is the best way to achieve a strong musical identity… If that is your goal! I think it’s mine…

Join a Band !

I definitely have to join a band… Or start my own project, why not? It’s only by playing, and playing again that you’ll develop a musical identity.

Write Songs !

Write songs again… I used to do that a few of years ago… That was pretty amateurish but it had one virtue : It forced me to play music instead of noodling around…

Bonus Lead !

Stop watching Youtube guitar players… Or at least reduce the dosage!

What else? Shoot your ideas & thoughts in the comments below…

To illustrate what I’m talking about, and just because I made it for the fun of it… Here is my entry to the French Guitar Contest…


About Sem

I am the founder of Muzicosphere (that also exists in a French version). In 2011, I also created Guitar Fail, the Guitar LOL place to be. And before that I created GAS a GoGo, a gear giveaways blog in French.


  1. Stop watching Youtube guitar players… Or at least reduce the dosage!

    Great advice – it’s easy to get discouraged watching 12 year old prodigies with incredible chops. Just remember that more often than not, these kids are playing by rote and they might as well be playing Guitar Hero. (Even so, they ARE building muscle memory and perfecting technique.)

    Bottom line, there will ALWAYS be folks better than you but you are the only one that can express what is in your head!

  2. @zach : True… Expressing what’s in our minds should always be the ultimate goal. Technique is just a way to do it…

  3. For what it’s worth, I think you don’t have a chance because you’re actually playing something listenable. Most of the other entries seem to be all about playing the fastest scales possible or show boating for the sake of show boating. I understand this is a contest and you want to show as many of your chops as possible, but soloing is increasing a dying art form. A really good solo should compliment the main melody of the song and take you to another place. Kids today seem only to know how to play fast and loud.

    (You got my vote!)

  4. Thank you Mike 🙂 It means a lot to read that I played something listenable… We agree that it’s the whole point of making music ! 🙂

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