5 Musical Qualities that are More Valuable Than Speed

Thursday, July 13, 2023 by Andrew Hatfield | Uncategorized


Your tone is the first thing that defines you as a musician. Guitarists spend lots of time and money looking for gear that will give them the tone they want, but few spend much time learning how to get the best tone from their instrument. Here are some factors that go into what your tone will sound like(in no particular order).

  • The instrument you play, including any electronics or amplification involved

  • The pick thickness and material

  • The angle you hold the pick

  • How far you pick from the bridge

  • The weight, shape, and strength of your hands and fingers that is completely unique to you.

  • Who you listen to, want to sound like, and really try to emulate (it’s the trying that matters. Often you’ll try to sound like someone else, and in that search, you end up sounding like yourself)

What you imagine yourself sounding like begins the search for your unique tone.


Every musician should be able to play in time, both in rhythm and lead playing. At the basic level, playing in time means:

  • being able to keep a beat (play one note per beat)

  • being able to subdivide a beat (play 2, 3, or 4 notes per beat)

Besides just keeping basic time with a metronome, it's important to also learn to play in time with other musicians. You learn how to back up a singer or other soloist, when to come in on your solo, how to manage transitions as the chord changes, and how to end on time with the band.


While timing is mathematical, groove is about making your music come to life. Does it make you move? Could someone dance to it? Forget the notes for a minute—Is there a rhythm to what you’re playing that just feels really good?

Sometimes groove isn’t open what notes you play or how many notes you play, but how you accent. You can groove on one note. You can groove on quarter notes! Listen to any jazz bass player—they only play quarter notes, but they create a groove for the whole band.


As an improviser, your taste will help you decide what and how much to play. This includes your preferences (your taste in music), as well as your ability to play something that fits the song and situation (playing tastefully).

Playing with Feeling

Being told that you play with feeling is one of the highest compliments you can receive as a musician!.

Someone could program a computer to play faster and more accurately than you or I could ever play, so playing fast and accurate really can’t be the only goal. The life, heart, and experience that is in your music is really what connects you to your audience.