When we go to concerts we expect our favorite band to perform amazingly on stage. This is extended to every member of the group but there is something curious about guitar players.
You may have noticed from the observation that most musicians don’t just play with their fingers, they also involve body movements that fit the song’s rhythm or dance following the music. However, the part of the body that best exhibits this is obviously the face.
It is a subject of amusement that guitarists tend to twist and contort their faces, mouthing and gumming in strange ways. Some people believe that is everything about acting but this is not always the case.
So, why do guitar players make those strange, ridiculous faces? Well, let me tell you that is not something they do on purpose.
Funny guitar faces are typically a response to a stimulus, many times an unconscious reaction. Players reflect emotions such as sadness, pain, or even joy through these responses. They convey what they are feeling while playing. These facial expressions are commonly involuntary actions.
Perhaps you have never paid attention to it but it is more usual than you think.
In this article, I will try to cover every issue related to this topic. The main idea is to describe and explain why musicians express themselves this way.
Why are “guitar faces” that common?
You may think that it is everything about looking cool or calling attention while playing but in fact, there are some causes. It is common for people to make weird faces when they are concentrated on doing something.
Although is usual in little kids, can also affect grown people. This could be due to a phenomenon called motor overflow.
This term refers to a condition in which intentional motor behavior in one muscle leads to an unintentional movement in another group of muscles. When guitar players are focused on putting all their attention into a specific part of the song, maybe a solo, they don’t even notice what are they doing with their faces.
Why do musicians move their mouths while playing?
When you see a guitarist mouthing while playing you can figure is singing the song along with the vocalist. But let me tell you that is not the only possibility.
Sometimes, guitar players sing everything they play because it is a useful technique to internalize the lines. What is more, mouthing is pretty common when playing with a wah effect.
This mustn’t sound convincing but think of yourself performing a task that requires a lot of attention. I think people change their faces whatever they do in life so it is naturally usual.
Are guitar faces involuntary?
Well, we know that guitar faces are common but are they involuntary? I would be wrong if I said those faces are made on purpose.
Most of them are involuntary reactions to concentration or emotion. What is more, the mentioned facial expressions show how guitar players are feeling the music or even these reactions could be driven by committing mistakes.
Live performance is a rollercoaster of emotions for musicians, they are under high pressure. That’s why they reflect their feeling involuntarily through the performance.
Moreover, they usually change the expressions when they turn to different sections of a song. The most noticeable are the solos, when guitar players get there, the facial expressions become stronger.
Some of them don’t have any problem hiding their nerves or emotions. Others simply express themselves by making guitar faces.
How can I stop making weird faces when I play?
When you start playing the guitar you tend to pay more attention to your hands than the rest of your body. Although this makes your body move unconsciously when you automate your playing movements the reactions disappear a little bit.
Some players practice in front of the mirror, in that way you can see the expressions your face is actually making. By identifying them, you can try to control the reactions.
Another tip for you could be forcing yourself to smile while playing. In that way, you will have your face busy trying to smile.
However, some players claim that omitting or eliminating guitar faces is the worst you can do. You may feel uncomfortable playing if you make a strange, weird face but it is part of your style, and wouldn’t be cool to erase that.
Moreover, you will pay attention to something that has nothing to do with your live performance and it could be tricky. I suggest you eliminate just “ugly” faces if you can.
What you have to take into account is that, as guitar faces are an involuntary response, it could take time to monitor them.
Are players who make faces better?
Almost every player in the world makes facial expressions, this does not especially mean that they are better but you might feel a stronger connection to those who do make them. That is because through these faces guitarists show they actually feel comfortable with the instrument.
In addition, players express that they are feeling what they are playing. We have some remarkable examples such as Jimi Hendrix, who imitated the sound of his guitar playing with his lips and tongue.
Are guitar faces fake?
After everything that we have previously discussed this question may sound silly. What I mean to say is that although some players perhaps exaggerate them, the faces are real.
This could be because of the stage presence; as it is a live performance, some guitarists try to give a more theatrical touch. Think of the crowd, who paid for the tickets, waiting for the group, they expect to see a wonderful show so they don’t want to see just a group of bored-looking musicians playing.
Furthermore, facial expressions enhance musicians’ stage presence. Through them, players can visually express the mood of the songs and create a special bond with the audience.
Do you actually think that the great BB King faked his expressions? He completely showed the emotions he felt while playing. Another well-known player is John Frusciante, from Red Hot Chili Peppers.
Frusciante easily displays his feelings, you can feel anger, melancholy, or even happiness by watching his face. But obviously, the best example is John Mayer, whose faces have become an internet sensation and were the base of hundreds of memes.
Hello there, my name is Ramiro and I’ve been playing guitar for almost 20 years. I’m obsessed with everything gear-related and I thought it might be worth sharing it. From guitars, pedals, amps, and synths to studio gear and production tips, I hope you find what I post here useful, and I’ll try my best to keep it entertaining also.