Simon McBride - 6 tips for guitarists

Predicted to be the next Irish guitar hero in the footsteps of Rory Gallagher and Gary Moore, Simon McBride has undeniable guitar artistry combined with a fine voice and a real knack for creating memorable hooks and great melodies. Simon has toured with Don Airey, Joe Bonamassa and Joe Satriani, is endorsed by PRS Guitars and has released four albums to critical acclaim. Here’s some of the tips and advice he gave to the guitar students at dBs Bristol FE during his recent masterclass...

1. Playing with others

“You’ve always just got to really listen to what’s going on. As guitar players, we all tend to get a bit self-indulgent but as I’ve got older I’m always listening and as a result we vibe off of each other and get inspired. The only way you can play to the best of your ability is by having fun on stage and respecting each other, trying to outplay someone is a waste of time and the audience will be bored by it. It’s also good to surround yourself with good musicians as you can always learn something off of everyone no matter their instrument, there’s no better person to learn rhythm from than a good drummer."

2. Practicing

“As I tour so much I rarely practice now, when I first started playing at around nine or ten years old I played for 20 minutes a day, then 30, then an hour and so on. After a year I was playing 8 hours a day everyday up until I was 18. I didn’t have a life! The key thing with your routine is that you gotta make it interesting for yourself. If you just play exercises you’ll go insane and give up. Take an hour and work on chords, positions and inversions. Then work on legato for an hour, then alternate picking, arpeggios, modes... if you think about the amount of things you have to learn eight hours a day is nothing. Always practice scales and runs to a metronome, that’s your best friend right there. You need to be structured, constantly be playing and learning but keep going back after a few days as things will stick. The thing is with learning guitar or any instrument is you gotta make it fun for yourself, if it’s not, what’s the point? You may as well go and work at Tesco!!” 
Simon McBride at dBs Music Music Performance "The key thing is to not do the same thing twice or rely upon any licks you may have already."

3. Ear training, sessions and learning songs
“Having a good ear has gotten me out of so many holes. As a session musician, you’d be expected to pick things up very quickly, they don’t have the budget to have you in for five hours to learn a song and there may not be a chart so having a good ear is key. It’s also important to know what’s going on in the music world so listen to the radio as most session work is gonna come from pop. As for tab, and these days the internet for learning, I hate it. We didn’t have it when I was growing up. I used to sit and learn songs and solos by ear, note for note. Learning something by ear will take a bit longer but it’s in there for ever. You can play ‘Name that Chord’ with a friend but don’t look where their fingers are! It’s amazing the number of people that can’t hear the differences between major, minor, augmented,’ll get to learn the tonality of all the chords that way and the more you do the better you’ll be.”

4. Playing fast and improvisation

“For your own precision and timing it’s best to pick a run/scale and slow it right down, like at 80BPM we’d all be rushing, I’d be rushing. It’s a discipline to play slowly but it’s the best way to get your technique precise as you gradually get quicker. Improvisation is the same as sight reading, you should never do the same piece twice as then you’re learning it. One day improvise using the modes and the next using Pentatonic scales or you’ll repeat yourself in the licks you’ll play. The key thing is to not do the same thing twice or rely upon any licks you may have already.”

5. Mixing genres, playing styles and melody

“No matter what style, you can incorporate it, there’s no rules man! It’s that whole fusion thing, not restricted to jazz/rock - it’s a mix of whatever you want to put together. Steve Vai and Stevie Ray Vaughan styles are easy to mix, it’s really just down to you as a person and how creative you are. What will set you apart from other players is your melody, having a vocal like quality in your playing. Think of the solo’s you love and I bet that you can sing along to to them except for the fast parts. There’s players out there that are categorised to a genre like blues, but they are more classic rock style guys, they’re just playing the market well to reach more people. So many riffs were an accident, music is a one big accident by stumbling across ideas whilst playing! The trick is to not be scared and try things. This is 2016 anything goes, so if you want to mix reggae and metal go for it!”

6. Being professional

“Try and be as professional as possible as there’s so much competition out there. You have to be on time, have your game and your gear together, you have to be on top of everything. If you’re not 100% you won’t get called again. Just try and be the best at what you do and don’t settle for anything that’s mediocre in your playing or other musicians. If you think you are of a certain standard, surround yourself in others of that level, always be keen for everything and be humble.”



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