• 2020 Issue 3 /
  • Sound, Feel and Focus: 3 Ways to Improve Your Playing
Nicholas Veinoglou with Taylor acoustic guitar

Sound, Feel and Focus: 3 Ways to Improve Your Playing

Scroll Down

Music director, songwriter and guitarist Nicholas Veinoglou kicks off a new video instruction series with three foundational tips.

In the print edition of Wood&Steel, we’ve always enjoyed sharing new musical ideas and playing techniques to encourage you along your guitar-playing journey, from the basics of slide guitar to writing catchy, compelling songs and plenty more. Now, our new digital format has expanded our platform for helping players improve their skills, and we’re excited to introduce video lessons from professional players and guest instructors.

Developing players know that aside from one-on-one instruction, seeing and hearing an idea being presented often helps us grasp it more firmly. As we move forward, we hope these lessons inspire you to explore fresh paths and deepen your enjoyment as a guitar player.

To kick things off, we asked multi-genre guitarist, songwriter, producer and recording artist Nicholas Veinoglou to share some basic tips for adding color to your guitar’s tone, relaxing your fretting arm, and making the most of your practice time. In each video, Veinoglou plays a GT Urban Ash guitar.

Nicholas Veinoglou demonstrates how adjusting your picking position can create new musical colors.

Picking Location and Tonal Colors

In his first segment, Veinoglou demonstrates how shifting the location of your picking hand when you play can add warmth or brightness to your tone, depending on the sound you’re seeking. Veinoglou compares it to the world of electric guitar pickups, where a neck pickup and bridge pickup will produce different tonal colors. Many acoustic players keep their strumming or picking hand in one position—often near or right above the soundhole—but Veinoglou demonstrates how shifting the position of your hand closer to the neck or bridge can alter your tone quite dramatically. Strum or pick near the saddle, where the strings feel stiffer, and you’ll hear a much brighter, treble-emphasized tone. Move toward the fretboard extension for a warmer, more rounded tone. As Veinoglou describes, this is a great way to add color and tonal dynamics to your music.

Work on relaxing your fretting hand to make chords sound clearer and reduce the strain on your wrist.

Relaxing Your Grip

Next, Veinoglou addresses a common tendency among newer acoustic players to tense up while fretting, especially as they’re learning new chords or guitar lines. Forming chords, especially more complex shapes, can be a challenge, and many learners become frustrated by dead notes or buzzing. Though many instinctively compensate by trying to clamp down harder on the strings, Veinoglou demonstrates how only slight pressure is needed to make the note ring clearly. Instead of squeezing the strings with a vice grip, Veinoglou says, focus on relaxing your fretting arm, wrist and hand. This will help you adjust the position of your fingers to clear up any dead notes, and will help save you from cramped fingers and potential wrist problems down the line.

Break your practice routine into smaller chunks focused on specific skills.

Practicing with Focus

Finally, Veinoglou suggests an alternative practice strategy to help you focus on productive exercises during your guitar practice time. Instead of setting aside one large chunk of practice time (say, an hour per day), which makes it more likely that you’ll get distracted and lose focus, try blocking out shorter intervals of 15-20 minutes and allowing yourself to take breaks in between. Devote each block of practice time to a specific subject and try to block out potential interruptions (e.g., set your phone to airplane mode). This makes it easier to stay on-task and work on the skills you want to improve.