A couple of emails I've had recently with fellow guitarists inspired me to spiel up a blog entry, but I fear it is not going to go anywhere. Let's see!
Half-song playing guitarists; if I were to estimate a percentage, I'm guessing that 90% of people who can form an E chord on a guitar are half song playing guitarists. It makes sense, when you first start out on the guitar, you want, nay, *need* something that is going to inspire you. If you took up playing the guitar out of your own free will (wasn't forced on you by well-meaning parents) then you probably did so because of some riff that you fell in love with. So you learn that riff. And a few others.
The problem is that a riff is not a whole song; and probably, that song contains a whole lot of stuff that _isn't_ a riff, so you don't really have a chance of being able to play the whole thing as a complete song. It's a guitarist half-song.
That might be enough for you; pick up a guitar and noodle your favourite snippets. But don't expect any audience to appreciate it. A listener wants to hear a song from start to finish, it's just the way it is.
(I'm in the land of cover music by the way, the rules change for originals and improvisations.)
So what are your choices, when you are one bloke/blokette with a guitar, and have finally/thankfully become sick of playing half-songs? I see three excellent choices, in reverse order of recommendation: 3 - learn fingerstyle, that's where I went; 2 - learn to sing and play guitar, either just strumming or strumming with some picking either finger or plectrum; 1 - don't be one guy playing a guitar, play with other musicians.
Singing and playing guitar is great. Someone who can hold a tune while playing the guitar will engage an audience easily.
I rarely play with other musicians, but of late when I do I've realised that I'm missing something special. The style that I play isn't designed to fit in with other instruments, it's solo fingerstyle, trying to be a one-man-band. So I'd have to drop that style and go for lead, rhythm or bass. None of them really appeal, so I don't think I'd fit in a band.
And there shows the control freak. When you are solo-fingerstyling, you are completely in control, you rely on no-one except yourself, you're doing everyone's job. The situation then self-fulfills, the more you solo-fingerstyle the more control freak you become, the more control freak you become the more you solo-fingerstyle.
Is there a way to break out, and "let go"? I dunno. Do we want to "let go"? I dunno.
My advice then is, if you have played half-songs for long enough then (1) join a band and enjoy being part of a team (2) learn to sing, the guitar is "backing" for your singing and (100) go down the control-freak solo instrumental fingerstyle path.
(I love solo instrumental fingerstyle)