How to develop feel?

What has worked for you guys in developing the ever elusive “feel.” For example, I’m learning “Sweet Home Alabama” for a cover band I’m playing with and while I know all of the notes to the solo, it doesn’t have half the feel and vibes that this guy’s does here. What helps this? Just tons of practice and reps?

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@RyanMW Could you post a video of your play through? It will help identify what you can work on. There are innumerable aspects to feel. Here’s some of the things from the top of my head I think contribute to feel. Intonation, swing and timing ( being in the pocket and drifting for accent ), picking dynamics, the tone you get when you play, guitar setup ( higher action is good for many things, often a lot of players especially here set there guitar up for the lowest possible action, but most great players use medium to high action ), this higher action gives you more room to interact with your guitar and amps response, more responsive to subtle input changes is a good pallet to have.

It’s a bit like when say you start riding a motorbike, it takes a while for you to get used to syncing you input with the motors response, there’s a feedback element that’s very important. On the guitar too, the feedback and response dynamics are very critical. This mostly cannot be taught, one can point out areas to work on, but ultimately it’s an experience related sensation that happens in real time.

To get results I think it would be best to post a vid of where your at, that will help diagnose some issues that can be identified. I tend to think about feel like adding colour to your playing, there’s a lot of room for wiggle here, but it’s what makes all the difference. Its a difficult thing to perhaps reason about but at the same time anybody can tell the difference between different players performances.

This definitely helps and can be a very personal thing, infact it is a very personal thing. Play like your pick is a ballerina treading your strings, tiptoeing or more forceful, try to keep it tasty, ultimately if something sounds good to you, do more of it. Pick angles make a diff, the amount of muting is a big part of this, think of it as dampening more than muting. Dampening is a tool for dynamics, it’s not always dead or a clear ring, more like a constant subtle filter you apply, some notes more, some notes less, accent certain notes in the bar with more attack, etc.

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Yes, I do think that if there are challenging techniques in a song, then you really have to practice it over and over and over until you can play it blindfolded or instinctually without huge effort; then you can introduce your own “feel” or style into the song by (like @Twangsta says) changing the timing of certain notes or phrases or adding your own style of vibrato here and there or adding more “feel” into the string bends etc.

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Heres Tommy Emmanuel talking about this a bit

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That’s the best explanation there ever will be. Something like western classical master classes, they know the notes, all that is lack is the gumption!

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Ah, Tommy’s a legend - great clip.

You really have to have it under your fingers. If you find yourself thinking about how you are doing something or where you are going next you are kinda stuffed.

One thing I would recommend is not to play along with a recording too much as it can sorta fill in the gaps and make you think you are playing better than you are. Grab a backing track, and record yourself and listen back. Find spots to work on and do that over and over. You can learn a lot that way and you don’t have the pressure of performance or rehearsal to deal with.

That clip you posted is also pretty instructive. My first thought was “that’s a bit too smooth/slick” which is a pretty common YT problem :slight_smile: . So try this: listen to the 1st solo on YT 5 or 10 times in a row, then go back to the original recording. All the stuff the YouTube guy isn’t doing in the first 2 bars is “feel”. :grinning:

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I think a lot of it is “dynamics” and how you subtly change pick attack, timing, vibrato, etc. as others have said though a lot depends on how wel you can play the thing in question. I can play a medium tempo easy solo with much more feel than something pushing my technical limits. The best can do both.

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Here’s a track with all feel and no vocabulary :grin:

All the dissonant stuff was just to explore the amp I just got at the time, still have it, love it.

awesome! I’d love a tab for the descending run that starts at 2:37. Is it just diatonic?

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Thanks @RyanMW

I’m pretty sure it’s the same lick as in the descending run here:

Just starting on the 10th fret with a different “feel” :roll_eyes: :laughing:
It’s that typical Yngwie harmonic minor shape, descending in 4s. I am guilty of over using this one a lot up and down :cry:

If you need the tab let me know.

edit: just to add, feel can often mean individual ideocracies or in my case often an excuse to obfuscate, slur and be sloppy too, or sound cooler than I can play. :laughing:

Excellent playing. It does sound a little different but that’s probably due to the context given by the backing track. I’m going to slow it down and look over it. This is a scale I rarely come across since I don’t ever really play any metal.

Thanks again!


This is the two string repeating shape/

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Of course, the solo to Sweet Home is strangely out of key. The producer had words about it at the time but he was overruled! Awesome solo for all that though!

I don’t think there needs to be a lot more to this than:

When you hear something that makes you think “oh that’s good feel”, try and copy it until you can match it. Slow it down so you hear all the nuances of vibrato and timing and whatever it is.

Eventually it will spread out into the rest of your playing.

It’s more that no-one agrees what key the song is actually in. :slight_smile:

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Only I know! It’s in B but everything is substituted.

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I know some world-class classical pianists and I have confirmed that in their mind they have a “mental piano” playing, and they make their actual physical piano match their “mental piano.” In other words, they have a reference that they are trying to make the physical instrument match. Therefore, it seems that two ingredients are necessary: (a) knowing exactly what you want it to sound like (dynamics, etc.), and (b) actually making your fingers deliver (a). When (b) can express (a), that’s when people are impressed with your “feel” (assuming that you have “good taste” for what you want it to sound like). At least that’s my understanding! :rofl:

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I’ve actually started doing this in my mind also, unintentionally at first. It’s taken me 20 years or so of playing but now the guitar in my head sounds and feels like a real guitar, and the notes are in the right places and so on.

Now that I’m intentionally doing it, i try to play things beyond my ability and imagine how they would feel if i was able to accomplish them. I know intention is super powerful in general so I’m hoping some progress will come from this. I’m usually doing it before bed for what it’s worth.