Josh Rand’s Top 10 Guitar Playing Tips

Josh Rand is a founding member of Stone Sour, a Berklee College of Music graduate and an accomplished rock guitarist. Here, he shares his tips on becoming a better player…

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1. Playing standing up
“I’m even guilty of constantly sitting down myself. If the ultimate goal is for the individual to perform and unless you’re playing nylon it’s a necessity.”

2. Learn your favourite songs
“This is the music that’s inspired you to pick up an instrument, so make every attempt to learn those songs. No matter what area you’re in you have to put in the work, but I would suggest not to get too tied up in the technique or theory that you forget what inspired you to play to begin with. You might not be able to play it well, but it’s all about muscle memory, so the more you work on it the more you advance your playing. Unless you’re a fan of shredding I don’t see why you’d be intimidated to play the music you like. Start slowly, eventually it’ll click.”

3. Jam/play with others
“Start a band, go to jam nights. Get out and play. Just play with as many people as possible. I’m convinced you can learn from anyone at any level. It doesn’t hurt to play in different styles. You can take something from the blues and apply it to metal. Ultimately you’re gonna make it your own anyway. With our previous record I was taking lessons and learning jazz, which made me include 9th and 11th chords in metal.”

4. Play outside of your comfort zone
“One thing I’ve learned is that I can learn more from working on difficult chords and changes, that I normally would suck at, than playing along to a metronome for an hour. There are so many chords you can play in different positions to strengthen all of your fingers and it makes you more musical, too.”

5. You’re not too good to take lessons
“I don’t think anyone is too good to take lessons. Even Steve Via would say he hasn’t mastered the guitar, it’s not possible. There’s not enough time. From a young players perspective it’s also important because you have someone to bounce questions off of. I learnt by book but then went back and started taking online classes at Berklee, I’ve taken seven classes there since 2009 and I’m now working towards my masters.”

6. Record yourself playing
“The easiest way to say it is that tape doesn’t lie. When you’re playing you might not hear exactly how you’re phrasing it. If you record yourself and listen back you can notice if you’re sloppy in certain areas etc. It’ll give you a different perspective, you might totally change ideas after listening to it, rather than just playing it. With todays technology it’s so easy, it’s not like 30 years ago.”

7. Use a metronome
“It can be annoying, but if you’re a younger player you have to learn timing. It’s a lot more musical and fun to play along with a drum machine or an actual drummer versus a metronome, but the exercise is still really important. I tend to stick with 4/4. I never really veer too far off the grid with time signatures. For the aspect I’m talking about it’s about painting hand strength and dexterity, but you could push into alternative time signatures with a drum machine.”

8. Use technology to your advantage
“The vast amount of information that is available to everyone now is crazy. When I was learning I had to wait a month for a magazine that might have four columns on technique and that was it. For example, when Metallica released the black album, you’d wait forever for them to feature it in a guitar magazine and then the tab that comes with it is Master Of Puppets when really you want to learn the solo to Enter Sandman because it just came out, y’know? Now, if I want to learn sweep picking I can go online and find every sweep picking riff ever written! There’s so much information at your fingertips, why wouldn’t you use that?”

9. Work on your original material
“You’re not just gonna wake up one day and be Bob Dylan. You have to keep writing, that’s the only way you’ll progress. Some of them will suck, but that’s how it is for everyone in every genre. How you get better is continuing to do so.”

10. Guitar maintenance
“The neck is gonna shift, strings will need changing… When these things happen the guitar will become more difficult to play and make you not want to play it. Basic maintenance is important for all level of players and probably gets overlooked. Play around with different string gauges and picks. When I play live I use 2-3 different gauges, ranging from 10s to 13s and pick sizes for different songs. I use heavy picks for heavy and articulated stuff, and more mellow straight up rock and roll like Through Glass would constitute a thinner pick. It all depends on what the guitar part is, even the materials.”

Hydrograd is out now on Roadrunner Records.

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