One thing I've learned in over 25 years of guitar playing is this:
Unless I practice applying the musical licks, concepts and ideas I'm working on they will never become a part of my vocabulary. If this is true then a whole lot of practice time has been wasted over the years. Why do I say that? Isn't it good enough to just practice? Does it really matter that I consistently and purposefully make time to apply the stuff I'm learning?
One of the biggest problems some inexperienced players have is that they use their technical skill to cover up their poorly developed phrasing skills. In other words, they play fast constantly to try to mask the fact that they lack the necessary skills to truly communicate and express themselves. This is a shame, but it is correctable.
Okay, so hopefully you’ve decided that you do not want to be a guitarist who talks “at” his audience with very little to say. Let’s try this breathing exercise together. The point of this is to demonstrate that there is an inherent natural flow to effective communication. There must be words, notes, and substance, but there also must be space and rest.
Herein lies a big problem that most guitar players face in this day and age of internet tab and short attention spans — they don’t know how to express themselves. If you get this, and you understand that self-expression is perhaps the greatest musical goal you can have, you can avoid the fate most of the tab-and-fingers-only players will meet… most of them will either give up from frustration or boredom. After all, how fun is music and playing guitar if you aren’t expressing yourself?
Technique is very important, make no mistake; and learning other people’s songs from Guitar Pro or Youtube has its place. But self-expression happens when your heart, your emotions, your brain, your ears, your thoughts, your knowledge, and your fingers all come together simultaneously. This is a skill you can develop. But in order to do so you must change not only how and what you practice, but also how you think.
It is my belief that, as a whole, guitar players have the least developed phrasing skills of any musicians. The reason I bring this up is because I think there are a few very obvious reasons why this problem exists, and that by understanding the problem we can begin to fix it.