Whatever you may end up learning in the course of developing your guitar-playing “roots”, there will be, in addition, something that you will have to refer to as your true roots! By this I mean the kinds of things that may have brought you to love guitar and music in the first place. I mean, I developed very early on, true Blues and Country roots, but I actually had started on classical guitar, and was listening to non-stop guitar-driven Flamenco records played all the time by my Dad in the apartment!
There’s no doubt that a lot of these younger guitar players these days who call themselves Blues-roots players, probably first came to love the guitar via hi-powered metal players, such as Eddie Van Halen and Steve Vai. It’s important to remember these true heroes of yours, because they also had roots, which led to their particular styles. Even back in the day when I was starting to develop as a player, there were guys such as Clapton, Bloomfield, Page, Beck , George Harrison and Keith making us all aware of the players that they listened to as young players first falling in love with the guitar; many players and artists Americans had so quickly forgotten such as Chuck Berry, B.B. King, John Lee Hooker, Lightning Hopkins and more, as well as new, up and coming Blues players such as Buddy Guy and Otis Rush, who were truly current at that time. But I always tried to go deeper and deeper into the roots, and before long, was loving the Blues of Son House and Robert Johnson, and on the Country side getting into Jimmie Rodgers, The Delmore Bros., Merle Travis and Bill Monroe!
But while all this was happening, I was staying true to the early fingerstyle techniques I had learned as a 10 year-old Classical guitarist, which eventually made me a better lead player, fingerpicker and slide player, for sure!
This can have interesting “cross-over” effects in terms of technique for you. For example, if you grew up listening to many heavy metal “shredders” who played with nothing but extreme distortion, you should now try to apply some of that technique into the less “forgiving” cleaner sounds of natural Blues and lead guitar playing, without the dependence on effects pedals that so many of your heroes had! I like to stay away from effects pedals, or “stomp boxes” as many call them, because I prefer getting my overdrive from the amp itself, and not have anything along the line that might get in the way of my “natural” tone. If you were used to playing superfast with lots of distortion, try playing it “clean” now, and you’ll see that your picking technique will be thanking you for sure! Stay true to your roots, and develop new roots as you go along! The combo of the two just can’t be beat, and you’ll see that you’ll always develop a style that is truly all your own!