Why Do Guitarists Pull Faces?
We’ve all seen instances where guitarists seem to lose all control over the way their face looks while playing. There is quite a range of different faces that can be made, some of which are downright humorous.
Have you ever wondered what the reasoning and causes responsible for the faces that guitarists make? You’ve come to the right place, as all of your questions will be answered.
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What’s The Cause Behind Those Goofy Guitar Faces?
The myriad of guitar faces ranges from the look of a bad smell to squinting in the sun. Then, you have the sleepy, open-mouthed look, as well as the look of getting a thumb struck with a hammer.
Quite often, these faces are mostly affected by manipulations of the eyebrows and the mouth. You’ll often find head jerks and body movement in accompaniment with these facial inflections.
Did someone on stage pass a smelly breeze, or is there some deeper reason behind these faces?
To begin with, let’s take a moment to remember what the point is of playing music with a guitar. Generally, music is created to make somebody else feel something, and the guitar is used to translate feelings into music.
In one sense, music is a language of its very own, conveying ideas that all of humanity can somehow understand. No matter how subtle, all conversations have some degree of emotion involved, and music is no different.
The mouth obviously speaks, while the eyebrows sort of act like the various options for punctuation on a sentence. When the guitar is used to “speak”, this ancestral habit almost acts out in second nature.
However, it does go a bit beyond this, as guitar tends to be more of an emotional experience in general. Consider the fact that music is full of musical moments based upon reactions made in mere nano-seconds.
When you take this consideration and combine it with the emotional side of guitar expression, an answer emerges. An incredible amount of brain power is used at any given moment in time during a song.
Because of this, guitarists often lose motor control, particularly when it comes to the face. Intense emotions are being expressed like in conversation, but with a guitar, rather than the mouth.
Are There Any Other Instances A Guitarist Might Make A Face?
Outside of the context of expressing oneself on the guitar, a guitarist might make faces in other scenarios. However, these instances fall outside of the loss of motor control due to expression combined with brain activity.
You’ll often see guitarists making a certain face in photoshoots or music videos. This is done to project an image that correlates with the vision of the project they may be working on.
Of course, guitarists are human, too. And, really, it’s not all that uncommon for somebody suddenly to want to make a weird face.
Who Are Some Famous Guitarists That Are Known For Making Faces?
If you were to search for a guitarist who makes these faces, you wouldn’t have to look very far. It’s almost impossible not to make some sort of contorted face when truly expressing the self on the guitar.
However, some of the most influential and well-known guitarists have been known to make a face during performances. The following guitarists are some prime examples of this.
Please keep in mind that the point of their inclusion is not to poke fun at them in any way. Rather, we’ll focus on how the face might have come about in the emotional context of the song.
You should hopefully gain a bit of insight into what certain faces might mean. However, do keep in mind that everyone expresses themselves in a unique way, and this is only an educated interpretation.
In terms of facial expressions, B.B. King is by far, one of the most expressive. However, his guitar playing had a vocal quality that few other guitarists have been able to match.
B.B. often uses his face to inflect emotional intent behind his melodic solos. You’ll see him moving his mouth and eyebrows much like he is having an emotionally-charged conversation.
When you watch B.B. King play, you have no doubt about the emotion embedded within his playing. Aside from his exquisite playing, this allows people to connect with the music beyond just the music itself.
Stevie Ray Vaughan
Stevie Ray Vaughan’s facial expressions tend to be more akin to getting squeezed through a small space. His face and neck area will often show slight tension as if being subjected to high speeds and wind velocity.
Of course, when you take into account SRV’s musical characteristics, it starts to make sense. Intense flurries of emotionally articulate guitar lines were par for the course for him, which often happened in bursts.
John Mayer’s range of expressions tends to run the whole gamut from subtle to full-on facial contortion. He will usually raise his eyebrows and purse his lips together, with his body sometimes being affected as well.
While he possesses excellent technique, Mayer’s style tends to be more about note selection than anything else. He has a knack for creating melodic solos that are drenched in emotional dynamics.
Albert King is another one of the blues genre’s most influential players, and he too makes faces. This particular King has a very conversational style of his own, with faces emoting the emotion behind his phrases.
To understand his playing, take a moment to listen to him tell a story. You’ll notice much of the exposition and the dynamics used often share similarities.
Freddie King is a guitarist who certainly isn’t afraid to let his body become a conduit for emotional expression. He was no stranger to using his body to help convey the emotion behind his musical phrases.
This King’s soloing style is extremely melodic, with instances that hint that he might be internally singing his notation. His facial expressions perfectly emote and dictate every note he plays.
What Should I Do If I Make Faces While Playing The Guitar?
Imagine this scenario: you’ve played a gig and during the performance, you played your best guitar solo to date. When you get home, you receive a message with some pictures of you up on the stage.
You excitedly view the images, only to find you’re making a face you would be ashamed of making in private. Then, you suddenly realize that you made that face all night, and everybody saw it.
Don’t worry, there is definitely a light shining at the end of this dark tunnel of perception. While this could certainly be a bit embarrassing, it’s something that nearly every guitarist has gone through.
You shouldn’t be ashamed of uncontrollably making a face while playing the guitar. It is a byproduct of emotional expression, allowing people to see that your music comes from an authentic place.
People know you are emoting something deep because they can see it on your face. This ultimately allows an audience to connect with your music on a deeper emotional level.
Take great care not to succumb to the feeling of wanting to edit yourself in this regard. You don’t need to be distracted by thinking about not making a face in the middle of a song.
Instead, take it upon yourself to embrace this as a signature aspect of your musical identity. Yes, even if the faces you make are quite unholy in almost every regard.
Allow yourself the freedom to make faces without concern about the judgment of others. You just might find that you connect with the guitar on a much deeper level than you thought possible.
Plus, it keeps you humble knowing that no matter how good you are, there are times when you’ll look ridiculous. Welcome to the club, there are many of us here.
Why Do Guitarists Pull Faces? Final Thoughts
As long as the guitar is played, the world will witness the many possibilities of faces a human can make. It’s a safe bet that certain faces would likely have been thought impossible until they are made.
However, every guitarist must take it upon themselves not to have concern for the judgments of others. Embrace the face, and your guitar playing will have a deep-rooted connection to your inner self.
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