I believe that feel comes with practice. The more comfortable you are with something the easier it is to play with feeling. As corny as it may sound to some people, I always try to invoke what the song is calling for. You have to really let your guitar speak for you. Think of it as a singer. If you want something to be more aggressive perhaps having a harder more intense vibrato. And if something is more softer or emotional well, you might want a more crying sound of a vibrato. Feel comes simply with experience and being comfortable with what you’re doing. It comes with connecting your phrases well, and allowing little nuances like sliding up to notes and good feeling of rhythm. Perhaps you could upload a video of yourself playing and it would allow us to give you better tips
It might sound weird but when I force myself to do faces or be more expressive physically, my guitar playing somewhat follows Using different picking dynamics (hit the string really softly vs extremely hard) can tell alot about how youre supposed to feel about a note.
In my opinion, playing with feel requires first playing whatever you want to play as a practice. And only after you know you can play it, you memorized every note and it takes no effort, that is the time to put on some backing track, or other instruments/a singer if you are in a band and let the rhythm and beat catch you. When you are a driving part of the song then the feel will come natuarlly.
Try listening to other guitarists who are known to put tons of “feel” in their playing. David Gilmour, Mark Knophler etc. Play with the solos, jam with the songs. Slowly you will see results. I was exactly at your position 2 years back and my process and still working on it.
try and find a backing track you can connect with, just something that has loads of emotion that you can compliment, It doesn’t have to be a really complex thing you play, just something that serves the song.
Try to focus on practising bending in pitch and vibrato as well.
I dont know if this is the answer you’re looking for I know for certain it is one that will help you- Practicing playing rhythmic variation. A lot of musicians dont realize this, but rhythmic variation is what REALLY determines a genre and the “feel” of a song. Most music is using the same basic harmonies. ALL western music is some combination of major, minor, or dominant harmony when you break it down to its basic form and function. Of course it’s your job to add color to this and make things interesting, but much of that comes with the rhythmic variation that you put to the music. My advice is to look for a rhythm studies book or online resource. An INCREDIBLE program that EVERYONE here should download is Earmaster. Its one of the most complete programs for practicing intervals, chord progression, rhtyhmic exercises- everything. But the most you practice just different rhythms themselves, the more your feel will improve. You’ start to *understand* rhythm and groove better just by doing new rhythms outside of your comfort zone.
There are a LOT of things that conspire together to create feel. It’s one of those things that is really difficult to explain, but you know it when you have it or hear it.
Start by dissecting parts you hear that resonate with you. Get a feel for the chords, the rhythm, and then the note choices and phrasing over them. Experiment with trying to express yourself solely through bends and vibrato. What kind of vibrato feels sad? Happy? Excited? What kind of bends? The long, slow Gilmour bend?
Finding it in yourself starts with understanding what it is in the playing of others that triggers those feelings in you.
I was actually thinking about this forum topic the other day when I was practicing the C shape lesson. I noticed that Papa Gates plays with so much feel. In every single thing he does. For example, the licks that he demonstrates in the C shape lesson are played with almost a soft country swing kind of feel. Maybe not even swing but it kind of feels bouncy and Skippy if that makes any sense. He’s playing the licks with his eyes closed and you can see him moving his body and swaying with the rhythm of what he wants to portray. So I would like to add that playing with rhythmic feel and getting in the feel of a song whether it’s got a shuffle beat or anything will really come through in your lead playing. Like for example, if you were to play over a swing blues or a shuffle blues your approach to how you do the lead is going to be different. Rhythm is a big aspect of lead as well as lead itself. Like when I went to go learn the hail to the king solo, a lot of people leave out very important aspects of that solo that make it sound the way it does. They miss out on the connecting slides, they miss the vibratos, and they missed the rhythmic aspects that make the song have its own feel. In the shepherd of fire solo, there’s a section where when you slow it down, you can hear the series of bends that Syn does and sounds like hes almost drunk with a swaying kind of vibe. There’s also a waltz like feeling in the sweep pattern before it. And nobody plays it like that. He does a lot of push bends and people miss those and it gets the effect that the solo is known for. I don’t know if this helps at all, but I would strongly suggest you looking at a lot of Papa Gates’ Licks and really watch him play. Maybe try listening to more players that are known for their feel. I know Syn did a f******* incredible job on the solo for “wish you were here” just recently. Also a lot of eighties guitarist like Neal Schon can play with a lot of feel. David Gilmore is one too. Hope this helps!
what you can also try is. Play a lick, anything small enough…again and again and again…not for practising..to see if it has some hidden melody..something which you feel/ or can hear in your mind but is not exactly what you are playing..if you have not done it before, it will take time. Don’t worry. I don’t know if I could explain it, but this excites me a lot and helps me a lot. It’s like hearing a song again and again to get the nuances and then make something out of it just from the nuances(often different from the song)
How I developed that, is before learning songs through sheet music or tab, give your ear first dibs, then supplement that with tab/sheet music for accuracy (its rewarding when you get it right lol). What I’ve noticed looking back over the years, is when I would like a song, my ear would naturally be drawn to certain aspects of the lead playing, such as tone, vibrato, the intonation and timing of the bend or slide. These things make a huge difference in the way something sounds. If you only look at tabs or sheet music for a song, you fixate on just playing the notes, versus feeling them. When i was 14 I was OBSESSED with Slash’s Talkbox Solo from the Use Your Illusion Tour in Tokyo 1992, I bought a talkbox and practiced for hours until I could play it (somewhat accurately lol), and if you want to talk about some real feel, check out Slash’s Argentina 1992 solo, that solo was instrumental for me to develop feel when i tried to learn that. You find things you like, and naturally, you stick with em. Train your ear, find a blues progression and just jam out. You might not be able to do much with it at first, but good things happen with practice, and practice what you like because the most important thing with this is having fun or you’ll burn out. Also, mistakes are good when playing with feel. It trains your ear, when I miss a note by a fret, I’m already bending that string to the correct pitch or sliding, and sometimes it sounds cool, other times it doesn’t. But either way, learn from it, and have fun. Hope this novel of a reply helped lol, keep at it my dude