I don’t think that many people, when they start off playing the guitar, think about which style to adopt. They might learn with the preference of a certain style of music, but that is going to happen. At some point, some players are going to want to decide which direction to follow. So they might need to know how to choose the most suitable guitar playing styles.
Choosing for Fame?
If you are starting to play the guitar because you want to be famous, then you might as well forget it. That is not the reason you pick up a guitar to learn. If it is, then there are going to be some serious disappointments.
Should You Specialize?
Some people say you should concentrate on only one or two styles of music. They carry on by saying that no one ever became accomplished in many styles. Don’t tell Mark Knopfler or a dozen others that. They have done it, so why not you?
But there comes a moment when you need to start somewhere, and in doing so, you choose a guitar playing style. Let’s look at some things to consider.
Level of Experience
Before we start talking about choosing the most suitable guitar playing styles, let’s talk about your standard of playing.
A Complete Beginner
If you are thinking about taking up the guitar, then that is good. And I am presuming you haven’t yet bought your instrument. If that is the case, I would advise getting a very basic classical guitar with nylon strings.
Not everyone would agree with that. Especially the deluded father I know that went out and went crazy. He bought his son an Epiphone Les Paul, a Marshall 100W amp and cabinet, and an array of effects pedals. The son played for about two weeks.
Maybe it was because the father forgot to buy the silly hat to complete the illusion.
They will be kinder on the fingers of a starter. The fingerboard will be wide enough to allow easy cord construction, and it will be lightweight and easy to hold. Then once you have begun to master it, you can move on.
Some room for improvement
Going down this road also offers you the chance to find out what music you like to play. No point in lashing out on a guitar that will be unsuitable in the future. That will just incur an expensive change, of course. A very good option is the Yamaha C40II Classical Guitar.
If You Already Play
It will depend to a certain extent on how far down the road you are. If you are still relatively new, then I would say wait a while before choosing your instrument. But experience as much of a variety of music as you can.
If you are a little more experienced, it will become a different set of options. You will know what music you like to listen to. That is certainly not the complete answer to what guitar style you should choose, but it is a starting point.
The first question to ask yourself is maybe not what is the most suitable music. It is probably what style of guitar playing you prefer. There are five basic guitar playing styles we can identify. So let’s look at them in some detail. This should help you figure out How To Choose The Most Suitable Guitar Playing Styles.
That sounds a very bland and ordinary thing to want to play, far from it. Chord structures are not all just C, F, and G. Many of the great songs of the last 60 years have had some interesting chord shapes that create the sound.
If you like playing chords, then it could fit all sorts of music, from gentle ballads right through the list to some serious power chords.
If you feel you may want to be in that style, then chords will be your backing track as you sing. This will also influence your choice of the guitar you play. Never underestimate the value of the rhythm guitar in any musical environment. As I say, if you like playing chords, this could be the way to go.
This will probably come once when you have mastered a few things. It could be time to go out and get the silly hat and two hundred effects pedals. Or you could just impress everyone with how good you are and not use more than a couple.
It is no bad thing to have a few pedals. All the great guitarists – Dave Gilmour, Jeff Beck, Jimmy Page, Mark Knopfler – use them. Just don’t rely on them.
Prepare for a challenge…
Lead guitar is the hardest style of guitar playing to be good at. It often requires advanced technique, speed around the fingerboard, and knowing when to play and when not to play. It is probably the choice that most will make. But there are different types of Lead guitarists.
Yes, you can stand in front of Pink Floyd and be subtle and gracious, or you can hover behind Robert Plant and let rip. But what about all acoustic groups? Those lead guitarists have just an acoustic guitar and themselves.
A very defined art, and some of the great guitarists have been good in this area. However, it can be a style that you use all the time. It can be the most advanced technique to master. You are often playing a bit of rhythm lead and bass all at the same time.
There are some masters at this style from a variety of genres. We have had Chet Atkins, early Bob Dylan, and Paul Simon. Plugged in, we have Jeff Beck and Mark Knopfler. And, of course, so many others. Country, Folk, Pop, and Rock. Fingerpicking style fits everywhere.
This can fit into a variety of genres as well. It is probably a style you won’t experience too much until you know what you are doing. It will involve alternate tunings as well as learning to play with the slide on your third, or ring finger. It is mostly in Blues or Rock genres that it fits best. Take a listen to Rory Gallagher.
There is an alternative type of slide that is played sitting down with the guitar on your lap or on a stand. This is almost exclusively played in Country and some Folk music. It is an acquired skill if you want to go down that route.
Well, why not. Some people learn on the guitar and then decide they would prefer to play the most important instrument in the band. Why do I say that? Take the rhythm guitar or lead guitar away, and the band carries on. Take the bass away, and it’s all over. I am not going to get into the discussion, but it is an option.
What Will be the Most Suitable Style?
There are plenty to choose from, and all have their plus points. Some styles combine two or more genres and some in many ways are indefinable.
Placing things in little boxes so that they are easily identified is something I don’t like to do. In music, things fall into three categories. Either they are good, take it or leave it, or bad. All three exist in all musical genres.
But we are trying to give you an idea of how to choose the most suitable music for a guitarist to play. Therefore we will have to create a few boxes. Let’s look at a few.
1 – Rock
We will start here because it is probably the most confusing. What defines rock style guitar playing? Led Zeppelin, or The Who? Probably. How about The Eagles? Some would put them in there, but they are light years away from either of the first two.
What about Motorhead, The Beach Boys, or Queen? Again, light years apart, but could they be identified as rock bands? You can see the problem.
Should we have a separate section?
For Buddy Holly, Jerry Lee Lewis, The Everly Brothers, and Elvis Presley? Were they Rock or Rock n Roll? Or are those two the same thing but in a different era? Maybe we could have a sub-section for genius to accommodate the Beatles.
Saying you want to be a “rock guitarist” could mean many things to many people. But it is in this box that most would put themselves.
2 – Blues
In some ways a little easier to identify but still full of anomalies. There is traditional Blues music or the more modernized version. Do you want to play like Buddy Guy, Muddy Waters, or Robin Trower? Peter Green or Rory Gallagher? It is not easy to say, “I want to play the Blues.” What does that mean?
One common thing is the mood of the music. And that is what sets it apart and makes it a little easier to define as a genre.
3 – Bluegrass
Much easier now. Inimitable sound with advanced techniques. This is a genre often referred to as “Flatpicking.” But it is a genre that sticks to its Folk and original Appalachian mountain country roots. If you want to play this style, then you’d better be good.
4 – Country
Once again, we move into a difficult area. How do you define Country music? Is it C and W? Some of it is. What about “Electric Country”? Some would say so. So would the early Eagles fit into this bracket?
Again there are so many variations it is difficult to say, “I want to play Country.” Is it the country of Dolly Parton or Emmylou Harris? Or the country music of Shania Twain, Faith Hill, or Linda Rondstadt? Are the last three country singers at all, or are they what became known as “Country Rock”?
Do you want to play along with Hank Williams, George Strait, or Johnny Cash? Or maybe The Band or Creedence Clearwater Revival? Country music is one of the most diverse guitar playing styles around. In some ways, even more so than Rock.
5 – Jazz
Much easier to define as there is no definition. But if you are going to play Jazz, that isn’t going to happen early on. That will come a little later when you have total mastery of your guitar technique.
6 – Folk
Is that the same as country music? It has its roots in the same places, I suspect. Is it acoustic or electric? Both. Does the fingerpicking style fit one of them? No, you find it in both. What about chords and solos? Sorry, both again.
Folk music tells stories and often refers to social and community problems. So were Bob Dylan and Neil Young Folk singers? What about people like Harry Chapin? Seeing how they often sang about social issues, then we can call them Folk musicians. However, they were never limited to that style.
7 – Classical
Much easier. We all know what that is, even if it does have various forms. The vast majority of pieces involve a classical guitar and a great appreciation of music theory. Someone referred to it as “thinking man’s music.” Not a silly hat or an effects pedal in sight here.
You should be. It isn’t possible to box things up in neat packages. Virtually all of the genres cross over each other. You will find a little bit of this in most of that, and a bit more over there. Does it matter? Of course, it doesn’t. I gave you a clue earlier. Is it good or bad? Do you like it, yes or no?
My Advice on Choosing
After all this, I have one big piece of advice on How To Choose The Most Suitable Guitar Playing Styles. Don’t choose any style to play. Why? Because the style of music you play will probably choose you.
One Piece of Definitive Advice
But there is one thing that you will need to do with certainty. After you have started to learn your trade on that old classical nylon guitar, choose the next one wisely. Certain types of instruments don’t just suit certain styles of music; they are made for them.
The Electric Guitar will cover most genres we have mentioned. The Acoustic or the Classical won’t. They will be limited in their uses.
Options to Think About
For an electric guitar, I would choose this Squier Classic Vibe 50’s Stratocaster. A great guitar made by a Fender subsidiary, Squier. Far greater value for money than anything Fender produces themselves these days.
If you prefer the “Les Paul” shape, check out this Epiphone Les Paul Melody Maker. As with the previous offering, far better value for money than the Gibson alternative, which is seven or eight times the price.
A classic “Arch Back” acoustic for some Country, Folk, Acoustic Rock, Country Rock, etc., there is this Guild Guitars F-250CE Deluxe Jumbo Archback Solid Top.
Looking for more excellent Great Guitar options?
Then check out our in-depth reviews of the Best Electric Guitar For Beginners, the Best Lap Steel Guitars, the Best Classical Guitars, the Best Blues Guitars, the Best Jazz Guitars, the Best Hollow And Semi-Hollow Guitars, and the Best Resonator Guitar you can buy in 2023.
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How To Choose The Most Suitable Guitar Playing Styles – Final Thoughts
Don’t be afraid to experiment with guitar playing styles. They are all different, with some overlaps, but they all have their positives. And if you want to pursue a couple of them, that is also good. But don’t worry and get in a panic about finding your style.
One day when you aren’t thinking about it, it will come up behind you and tap you on the shoulder. “I’m here… let’s play”. It will find you.
Until next time, let your music play.