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Articles on this Page
- 10/27/14--14:34: _Guitar Gods Playing...
- 10/27/14--15:22: _Restorations Guitar...
- 10/27/14--20:15: _Platinum Rush Video...
- 10/29/14--07:57: _Hammer Jammer Key-H...
- 10/29/14--08:01: _Guitarist Arrested ...
- 10/29/14--08:32: _Carlos Santana and ...
- 10/29/14--08:48: _Book Review: Joe Pe...
- 10/29/14--08:54: _In Deep: Tribute to...
- 10/29/14--08:56: _Eric Clapton’s Favo...
- 10/29/14--10:36: _Devon Allman: 'Ragg...
- 10/29/14--11:43: _Playback: The War O...
- 10/29/14--14:37: _PRS Guitars Adds Th...
- 10/29/14--14:57: _Reverend Guitars an...
- 10/30/14--07:41: _Review: Ibanez ES2 ...
- 10/30/14--08:49: _Guitar Chalk Sessio...
- 10/30/14--09:11: _LessonFace with Ste...
- 10/30/14--09:38: _December 2014 Guita...
- 10/30/14--09:39: _Jim Dunlop Effect P...
- 10/30/14--10:09: _Genre-Fusing Del Mc...
- 10/30/14--11:40: _Songcraft: Mike Vio...
- 10/27/14--20:15: Platinum Rush Video Blog #1 — Sons of Bill
- 10/29/14--08:01: Guitarist Arrested for Performing in NYC Subway — Video
- 10/29/14--08:48: Book Review: Joe Perry’s 'Rocks'— Yes, It Does
- 10/29/14--10:36: Devon Allman: 'Ragged & Dirty' and Loving It
- 10/29/14--11:43: Playback: The War On Drugs — 'Lost in the Dream'
- 10/29/14--14:37: PRS Guitars Adds Three All-Mahogany “S2 Standard” Models to Lineup
- 10/30/14--07:41: Review: Ibanez ES2 Echo Shifter — Video
- 10/30/14--08:49: Guitar Chalk Sessions: Five Simple Reasons Your Solos Sound Cheap
The staff of Guitar World is excited to launch its first ever Kickstarter campaign—and we need your support to help make it a reality! The project is a deck of standard-sized playing cards featuring 54 of our favorite covers that span our entire 34-year existence as a magazine.
Dimebag Darrell, the Beatles, Jerry Cantrell, Judas Priest, Les Paul, Alex Lifeson, Slipknot, John Petrucci, Kirk Hammett, Eddie Van Halen, Slayer, Yngwie Malmsteen, Frank Zappa, Zakk Wylde and many others will be featured!
The first 100 decks are being offered for $10 each, with free shipping! But you have to act now and pledge your support: after the first 100 are gone, decks are $12 each.
Click here to order your own set of Guitar Gods Playing Cards—shipping inside the U.S. is free, and international shipments are available! If the project gets funded, we expect the cards to ship by February 2015.
The punk and hardcore roots of Philadelphia’s Restorations are still evident on LP3, but pigeonholing the band is even more difficult this time around.
The Philadelphia band’s third album in four years—out October 28 on SideOneDummy—is the band’s most compelling yet, featuring more focused songwriting, a wider sonic palette and the clear sense that Restorations have tapped into something that will serve them well for the long haul.
Not everything Restorations bring to bear has clear stylistic antecedents, but what does is unimpeachable: straightforward Fugazi-style punk, thundering hardcore, edgy barroom anthems and some psychedelic detours.
The band features Carlin Brown on drums, Dan Zimmerman on bass, Ben Pierce on guitar and keyboards, Dave Klyman on lead guitar and Jon Loudon on guitar and vocals.
Guitar World caught up with Klyman during the calm before the storm to talk about the band’s roots and songwriting, his guitar style and gear and what’s to come for the Restorations.
GUITAR WORLD: When Restorations started, what did you have in mind for a sound or style?
This band started with a minimum of plans and expectations. The most basic of these was to write stories and then form music that complemented those stories. The idea was to keep the spirit of our punk and hardcore roots, but channel it through a more reserved genre blend of indie, alt-country, folk and the like.
There’s a way to keep music interesting and intense without having to literally scream it in someone else’s face. Subtlety was to be the core driver. Of course, plans have a way of growing on their own and songs have a way of writing themselves. Things got bigger and louder as we went along. While elements of that original ethos are certainly present, Restorations’ sound has definitely evolved between our first 7-inch and LP3.
How do you describe your sound?
From the inside looking out, this is always an odd thing to attempt to qualify. It’s been amusing and very flattering to hear all the musical descriptions and comparisons we get from the outside looking in. I accept pretty much every one of them. When asked directly, everyone in the band has a different answer anymore.
The one I usually go with is “Loud Indie Rock.” I feel that’s encompassing enough. I read an interview years ago with an old punk band in which they said something to the effect of, “Every band thinks they’re writing the most ridiculous and groundbreaking stuff in their practice space.” Since then I’ve tried hard to avoid that notion, to somehow put what we’re doing on some other level. I’d like to think we’re pretty damn good, but at its center we’re still just a group of friends with instruments just like every other band should be.
What did you bring to Restorations from Jena Berlin and your other bands?
We’ve all played in a variety of different kinds of bands in the echelon of rock, punk, hardcore and even some metal. I think the biggest aspect that has carried over to Restorations is the energy of the live show. Call it kinetic or whatever, but it’s that knowledge that anything can and will happen on stage that keeps the performance, mind and body moving at all times. I’m also prone to improvisation live and that’s definitely something that’s increased over the years.
From Jena Berlin specifically? Stylistically, my penchant for fast hammer-ons and pull-offs has not gone away, although tapping is becoming a more frequent practice. I’ve also continued to greatly enjoy full step bends and prebends. I’ve tried to expand the use of chord melody, often with finger picking. Every record brings with it the natural compulsion to push skills beyond current capabilities. And since I’m always writing a record of some sort, the push is always there. And there’s always a desire to try new things as well. For example, I’m not very good at sweep picking, but I practice it all the time because you never know what will be the perfect compliment to a song. That’s always been the crux: give the song what it needs. Sometimes you need to add a technical guitar part that takes a lot time and practice to solidify, sometimes you need to cut a technically proficient riff or solo because it just doesn’t belong.
When did you start playing guitar?
I started in seventh grade so that would put me around 12. I’m about to be 32, so it’s been more than half my life. I can’t imagine what I would be doing with myself if I’d never picked it up. I’d probably be a lot more financially successful and a lot less happy.
What guitarists have influenced you over the years?
My influences began fairly typically: Jimi Hendrix, Led Zeppelin, Traveling Wilburys. Pink Floyd was a particularly big deal. U2 expanded on that. Nirvana came through at just the right time. Then came Green Day and the Offspring. That led me to find West Coast punk like NoFX, Lagwagon, Strung Out, the list goes on from there. Strung Out was especially developmental for me. Their approach to leads and solos is counter to the more typical classic-rock influenced ones I’d been accustomed to. Another crucial band was At the Drive-In.
They blew the doors wide open on alternate chord formations along with atonal and arrhythmic lead runs Their use of effects pedals was captivating as well, a modern step on what Pink Floyd started. I started looking at the guitar beyond just the frets. Any part can be used to create a noise of sorts. Metal came later which is why I think I wound up more on the “artsy” side of playing as opposed to the theory and technical side. Don't get me wrong, early Metallica and Pantera were great and I think modern bands like Darkest Hour, Unearth, Dark Tranquility, Baroness and so many other are doing great things under that genre umbrella. I just don’t see a lot of that in my playing for Restorations. When I noodle around at home, sure. But I’m influenced by guitarists who were clearly influenced by that sort of playing, so who knows? Like every guitarist, I am an amalgam of everything the sponge of my brain soaks up.
What guitars do you play? What about amps, pedals, etc.?
I’ve been a devotee to the Gibson SG for many years now. I’ve found it to be the most versatile guitar for both resonant low-end rhythm playing as well as clear highs for leads and solos. I also play a Fender Telecaster Baritone guitar with the B string drop tuned to A. I love baritone guitar so much. In the scene I tend to run in, it unfortunately gets pigeonholed as a metal instrument strictly because it can be downtuned into that leaden, droning territory. It’s certainly excellent for that. But I don’t play in a metal band. For Restorations, the baritone fills a different sonic space. There’s a roar, a guttural recognition to it that can’t always be accomplished in standard tuning. I wrote and recorded the majority of LP3 on baritone.
I’ve been through a few different amp setups over the years for various styles. Right now I’m playing a vintage MusicMan HD-130 Reverb. That goes through a 2X15 Emperor cab, easily one of the best musical purchases I’ve made. I really wish they hadn’t ceased production. My pedal board isn’t too complicated right now, but that’s always in flux. For the time being it’s just a boost/overdrive, volume pedal, and a couple different delays. The boost/overdrive I currently run is coincidentally also named Emperor; it’s a product of a local, hand-made boutique company called TSVG Pedals. I highly recommend checking out their full line. I’ve also been thinking about getting back into looping and soundscapes.
What’s the band’s songwriting process?
The intention is to always be collaborative. Sometimes one of us might bring in a structured plan and lay it out for the band. For example, with LP3, the song “Tiny Prayers” was a fully formed concept based around the opening guitar harmonies that came together very quickly. But most songs start as a loose collection of parts and ideas.
For that, look to a song like “Misprint,” which started as just a chord progression that led to one of my favorite lead lines on the whole record. From there the song started forming itself with help and direction from everyone. Both these methods of songwriting undergo reformations and addition/subtraction. Vocals come in and that throws some changes in as well. Most songs start from one member’s quiet, acoustic recording done in the bedroom and then comes into the practice space and gets blown out as loudly as possible.
What was the experience recording LP3?
Comparatively speaking, LP3 was a breeze. That’s not to say we didn’t work hard and go for the best performance possible. We had a bit more time to focus on writing and making sure the songs were as complete as they could be before we even set foot in the studio. At this point, we’ve worked with Jon Low and Miner Street Recordings enough that we have a solid rapport. Low mixed our first full-length and produced, engineered, and mixed the A/B 7-inch, LP2 and LP3. He’s not just our producer, he’s also a good friend. It makes for smooth, comfortable, productive sessions. I hope that translates to the listener.
What sets this new record apart from Restorations’ other albums?
LP3 sees the band locking into our roles more comfortably as a unit. As a songwriter, it’s really important to play your best, sure. But it’s also really important to know when not to play. It might not seem so, but a lot of LP3 is an exercise in restraint, a conscious effort to make sure the songs aren’t cluttered with distractions. This goes back to what I was saying earlier about sometimes having to cut a lead or solo, even if it’s really impressive or fun. If it’s tripping over the lead vocal, then it’s got to go. This goes for any instrument. Everything should be a part of one textural goal. This way, when it’s finally time for me to rip through a song with a solo, it’s effective in context with the whole record, not just an excuse for me to shred away.
What’s your dream guitar?
Oh, man, I’d love to have so many different kinds of guitars and guitar-related instruments. But the answer is a true vintage SG, just because. Electrical Guitar Company creates all aluminum, custom guitars and getting a baritone made by them is high on the list of future desires. Every time I go into a music shop and they have the reissue Fender VI, I want so badly to take it home. I just can’t justify it yet. Speaking of Fender, the best bass I ever was lucky enough to play was, I believe, a ‘76 Precision Bass.
I’d really like one of those for the arsenal as well. Learning pedal steel guitar is something I’ve been interested in for years and haven’t been able to jump into. The same goes for violin. You always see the clichéd rock star documentary, or even Spinal Tap, where the guitarist has hundreds of guitars just sitting around. Sure, that’s cool. But if someone ever cared enough to take a look, I’d prefer to have a smaller, more diverse collection and have to explain the purpose and function of each instrument.
If you could pick any guitarist, living or dead, to jam with, who would it be?
I owe David Gilmore from Pink Floyd a nice drink and the biggest handshake. Whether I mean to or not, I somehow rip him off in nearly every lead or solo I’ve written. If I was in a room with him and he leaned into one of his prebends from “Brain Damage,” I think I’d cry.
What’s next for Restorations?
In celebration of the release of LP3, we’ll be on the road for a bit to close out 2014 and head into 2015. This year should prove to be very interesting for us. Nothing I can comment on fully just yet. Let’s just say we hope to see all of you very soon.
Restorations 2014 Fall Tour:
Monday, Oct. 27 – Columbia, SC – Foxfield Bar *
Tuesday, Oct. 28 – Atlanta, GA – Under The Couch *
Wednesday, Oct. 29 – Tampa, FL – Pre-Fest
Sunday, Nov. 2 – Gainesville, FL – The Fest
Tuesday, Nov. 4 – Nashville, TN – The High Watt ^
Wednesday, Nov. 5 – Chicago, IL – Township ^
Thursday, Nov. 6 – Newport, KY – Southgate House ^
Friday, Nov 7. – Pittsburgh, PA – The Smiling Moose ^
Saturday, Nov 8. – New York, NY – Mercury Lounge ^
Sunday, Nov 9. – Allston, MA – Great Scott ^
* = Self Defense Family
^ = The Smith Street Band
Our first video blog features Sam Wilson of the band Sons Of Bill.
I found the band by chance loading their gear into a truck while I was driving by.
This is what this blog series (and upcoming movie) is all about: finding out the stories and the people behind the guitars and the songs.
Sons Of Bill are indeed the sons of Bill, their dad, who turned them onto music by way of his guitar as opposed to radio or records. A true folk story. Enjoy!
Scot Sax knows his way around a solid pop song. The Philadelphia musician has been writing them for years, whether it was with his own bands Wanderlust and Feel, or as a purveyor of hits for singers like Faith Hill and Tim McGraw. It was Sax, in fact, who co-wrote the country duo’s Grammy-winning smash “Like We Never Loved At All.” His catchy “I Am the Summertime,” penned while with the band Bachelor Number One, was featured in the blockbuster “American Pie.” And he’s netted countless TV credits, with song placements in shows like “Ghost Whisperer,” “NCIS,” “CSI: NY” and “Keeping up with the Kardashians.” He toured as a guitarist with Sharon Little throughout North America supporting Robert Plant and Alison Krauss' Raising Sand. His filmmaking debut, the documentary "Platinum Rush," is currently being entered into film festivals worldwide and will premiere in 2015. Sax lives in Nashville with his family.
Gear lovers might might remember when we posted a story (with a video) about a device called the Hammer Jammer.
The Hammer Jammer is unique key-hammering percussive device that fits onto electric or acoustic six-string guitars, producing a different-sounding attack—something in the ballpark of a hammer dulcimer on speed.
Our story and its video went viral, which led Ohio-based Big Walnut Productions, maker of the Hammer Jammer, to believe its product is, to say the least, ready for the guitar market.
As a result, the device is available for preorder through Titl Open, where you can order the Hammer Jammer for $60. The projected shipping date is January 2015.
Here's more information from the company:
The Hammer Jammer was invented in the Nineties, with about 2,000 samples produced at that time that were never pushed into the mainstream guitar market for a number of reasons. However, Ken McCaw, inventor of the Hammer Jammer, who is also a film composer, used the Hammer Jammer on a trailer for a feature film released in Europe about five years ago. From that, interest for this invention began to grow around the world.
The demonstration video below was posted on YouTube in January 2014 and went viral. It became obvious that this unique invention is now ready for the guitar market. All Hammer Jammer samples were sold within a couple of weeks, to players in 60 countries, many of them young guitarists.
It has also been learned recently that the Hammer Jammer provides a legitimate and highly useful device for handicapped people and players with arthritis and other issues that make finger picking and standard picking technique prohibitive.
Here’s a video that’s recently caused an uproar around the internet, especially among musicians.
Watch as New York City musician Andrew Kalleen is arrested for busking in the NYC Subway.
According to section 1050.6(c) of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority’s rules of conduct, “artistic performances, including the acceptance of donations” are permitted. Even after reading this section aloud, the officer tells Kalleen that he needs to leave “by force, or you’re gonna go out on your own.”
Kalleen is eventually ejected from the subway system by a group of officers while singing Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young’s 1970 protest song, “Ohio.”
The video has received more than 1.2 million views since being uploaded October 18. What are your thoughts? Tell us in the comments below or on Facebook.
BTW: Kalleen is a member of the Brooklyn-based band Lawrence & Leigh. Check out one of their videos at the bottom of this story.
As a side note, why do people shoot vertical videos?
Last Saturday, October 25, Carlos Santana performed the national anthem prior to Game 4 of the 2014 World Series at AT&T Park in San Francisco.
For the performance, Santana was joined by another successful Santana — his Grammy-winning, keyboard-playing song, Salvador, who happens to be a lifelong San Francisco Giants fan.
By the way, the Giants beat the Kansas City Royals that night, 11-4.
What do you think of their performance?
P.S.: Thanks to MLB for the video!
There’s something to be said for the fact that by the time you reach the last page of Joe Perry’s new autobiography, Rocks, you still like the guy. Heck, you respect him, even.
I mean, this is after darn near 400 pages’ worth of the good, the bad and the really, really ugly side of Perry’s 64 years on this planet (more than 40 of them as a founding member of Aerosmith). You’re left realizing that the man has worked hard to be the best he could be at his chosen craft — and he’s struggled to figure out how to handle all that comes with it.
In the process, we learn about Perry’s early years: a shy misfit and a loner, his boyhood heroes were oceanographic pioneer Jacques Cousteau and Chuck Berry, who Perry describes at one point as “the Ernest Hemingway of rock and roll. He was strong, simple and manly, a force of nature who created a musical lexicon all his own.”
Perhaps if Perry’s academic career had been more successful, he might’ve ended up exploring the world’s oceans rather than playing the world’s stages; but after struggling through high school with undiagnosed ADHD, Perry walked out of his senior year in a dispute with his teachers over the length of his hair.
Without the focus of music, it’s hard to say what might’ve become of Perry. But no matter: What did happen makes for an excellent read. If it was fiction, you might shake your head and say, “No way” — but this is Joe Perry’s life.
The wildly-colored thread otherwise known as Aerosmith lead singer Steven Tyler is woven throughout Perry’s story, of course. Tyler has been part of Perry’s world since their paths first crossed at Lake Sunapee, New Hampshire, in the late Sixties (He was known as Steven Tallarico back then). There are times when Perry’s descriptions of Tyler’s interactions with himself and others are laced with near-hatred and disgust … but there also the moments when you realize that if Shakespeare had ever written a play about rock ‘n’ roll blood brothers, the two male leads would’ve been Joe Perry and Steven Tyler.
For all the horrible blowups, dope-fueled horrorshows, and twisted mind games described in Rocks, the one Perry/Tyler moment that will stick with you the longest is from 1972, the morning after the Stones played Boston Garden. A very young Aerosmith was actually using the Garden locker room as a practice space (part of the story of the legendary Frank Connelly, an early band benefactor). Perry describes the scene, after having watched the Stones perform the night before:
“The next day when we returned to the Garden to rehearse in the locker room, Steven and I first walked out into the arena. All of the Stones’ equipment was gone. We climbed up onstage and lay on our backs for a few minutes, side by side. Looking up into that cavernous arena, we said the same words at practically the same time: ‘One day …’”
Rocks is damn near inspirational, as Perry’s story is one of putting your head down and living out a dream, told without preaching, excuses or hyperbole. There’s yin-yang supreme: focused determination challenged by roadblocks created from Perry’s own actions; mountains of dollars and empty pockets; the love/hate Aerosmith brotherhood as a whole; and Perry’s own struggle between the rock ‘n’ roll lifestyle and family.
In the end, Rocks is the story of how Joe Perry has managed to pull off the unique balancing act of being “Joe Fuckin’ Perry” and a human being at the same time.
Rock on, sir.
A former offshore lobsterman, Brian Robbins had to wait a good four decades or so to write about the stuff he wanted to when he was 15. Today he’s a freelance scribe, cartoonist, photographer and musician. His home on the worldwide inner tube is at brian-robbins.com (And there’s that Facebook thing too.)
A true original, the late, great virtuoso guitarist Duane Allman led the Allman Brothers Band into rock history with his ferocious, deeply expressive and trailblazing guitar work.
Rounder Records offers ample testimony to the beauty as well as the breadth of Duane’s recorded work in the new, beautifully compiled box set Skydog: The Duane Allman Retrospective. In this edition of In Deep, we will examine some of the key elements of Duane’s signature style as a lead guitarist.
One of the best examples of the genius of Duane Allman can be found on the timeless, classic live album, At Fillmore East (1971), which captures the Allman Brothers Band live in concert at the peak of their powers.
Duane’s razor-sharp articulation and masterful touch abound, starting with the slide guitar tour de force “Statesboro Blues,” through the smoldering slow blues “Stormy Monday” and continuing through the fiery, aggressive solos performed on “Whipping Post,” “You Don’t Love Me” and other great tracks.
Duane’s rich, warm tone was achieved via his main ax, a 1958 tobacco sunburst Gibson Les Paul Standard, played through Marshall
“Plexi” 50- and 100-watt heads, usually running two 4x12 Marshall bottoms. For additional distortion, he very occasionally used a Dallas-Arbiter Fuzz Face, usually in the studio.
A key to Duane’s virtuosity was the fact that, like Jimi Hendrix, he had extensive experience as a session guitarist, working closely alongside R&B greats like Wilson Pickett, Aretha Franklin and King Curtis. Through his studio work, Duane had developed a great sense of rhythm as well as a keen understanding of economy, in terms of phrasing.
This understanding resulted in improvised solos that remained cohesive and conversational no matter how long they stretched out or how far they roamed from the original starting point. For this column, let’s use two of Duane’s signature songs, “Stormy Monday” and “Whipping Post,” as our points of focus.
“Stormy Monday,” written and originally recorded by blues great T-Bone Walker, is played in the key of G. For soloing, Duane relied primarily on a few standard “bluesapproved” scales. FIGURE 1 illustrates a scale most guitar players are well familiar with, G minor pentatonic (G Bf C D F), as played in third position. FIGURE 2 illustrates the G blues scale, which is the same as G minor pentatonic but additionally includes the flatted fifth (f5), Df.
Most blues players move alternately between minor and major pentatonic scales based on the same root note. Eric Clapton and B.B. King are two great examples of guitarists whose solos are almost always based on a combination of these two scales. FIGURE 3 illustrates the G major pentatonic scale (G A B D E) in an extended pattern that diagonally traverses the fretboard from third to 12th positions.
Duane often used a soloing device that can be traced to B.B. King, one of his biggest influences. King’s signature soloing approach combines the notes of minor and major pentatonic scales in a very specific fretboard pattern, or “shape.” The pattern, known as “B.B.’s box,” is illustrated in FIGURE 4.
This small handful of notes can be ordered and phrased in nearly an infinite number of ways, resulting in many great blues licks. FIGURES 5–8 offer four different ways in which Duane would use this shape as a jumping off point to improvised solo ideas.
PART ONE OF THREE
Now let’s focus on soloing over a 12-bar slow blues form along the lines of “Stormy Monday” and in the style of Duane Allman, as illustrated in FIGURE 9.
I begin in bars 1 and 2 with a melodic idea based on G major pentatonic, but in bar 3, I morph into G minor pentatonic by overbending the second, A, up and step and a half to the fourth, C. At the end of bar 4 into bar 5, I apply the overbending technique to E, the sixth, bending that note all the way up to the G root note, repeating the melodic motif into bar 6.
When performing these bends, line up additional fingers behind the fretting finger—for example, reinforcing the ring finger with the middle finger or both the middle and index—to help it push the string. Doing so will give you better pitch control and stability when bending. The same is true for bend vibratos.
Throughout the remainder of the example, I limit my movement to the eighth and 10th positions to demonstrate that a great amount of melodic invention can be found without moving up and down the fretboard. The intent here is to create lines that are expressive and vocal-like while also evoking a bit of the Duane-like focused intensity.
For his “Whipping Post” solo, Duane drew primarily from the A Dorian mode (A B C D E Fs G), two fretboard patterns of which are shown in FIGURES 10 and 11. Both patterns are very useful for soloing, so you’ll want to memorize them thoroughly.
FIGURE 12 offers an eight-bar solo along the lines of Duane’s “Whipping Post” solo. The song is played in 12/8 meter, which affords a lot of room for rhythmic creativity, and Duane made the most of the opportunity every time he played it. I begin this solo with a wholestep bend from the A root up to the second, B, followed by subtle movement down through the notes of the A Dorian mode.
In bar 2, I play a quick repeated hammer/pull phrase that emphasizes two notes of a G major triad (G and B) before moving into a line based on A minor pentatonic (A C D E G).
Bar 5 offers a unique rhythmic superimposition that Duane used often. Another classic Duane-ism is illustrated in bar 7, as quick pulloffs on the top three strings alternate back and forth in an ascending-and-descending manner.
Try using your index and ring fingers to execute this phrase as well as your index and middle fingers and index and pinkie, or a combination of any of these. The aim should be, as always, clarity in execution.
"I remember hearing 'Hey Jude' by Wilson Pickett and calling either Ahmet Ertegun or Tom Dowd and saying, 'Who's that guitar player?'" says Eric Clapton in the top video below.
It turns out that guitar player was a 22-year-old guitarist named Duane Allman, aka "Skydog."
"I just filed it away," Clapton adds. "To this day, I've never heard better rock guitar playing on an R&B record. It's the best."
In November 1968, Wilson Pickett showed up at Rick Hall's Fame Studios in Muscle Shoals, Alabama, hoping to record, but with no material or ideas. Allman, who was working for Hall (as one of several lead guitarists), suggested they record a version of a then-hot single by the Beatles, "Hey Jude."
Hall and Pickett thought it was an insane idea; after all, the Beatles' version of the song was literally climbing the charts as they spoke. Somehow, however, Allman convinced the duo (Perhaps he mentioned the fact that the composition was already a proven hit), and you can hear the complete track in the bottom video (and most of it in the top video).
The result? A sublime vintage R&B recording by one of the masters — and one of Clapton's all-time favorite guitar solos.
Of course, after a year-plus of success with the Allman Brothers Band, Allman found himself in the same studio as Clapton, recording yet another classic set of tracks, 1970's Layla and Other Assorted Love Songs. Head here to read our ode to Clapton and Allman's epic solo on "Layla,"
Damian Fanelli is the online managing editor at Guitar World. He often wears shoes to the office.
On one hand, you can say Devon Allman comes by his musical talents naturally, being Gregg Allman’s son.
But the fact of the matter is, Devon’s parents were divorced when he was a baby—and he was brought up in a world that was well-insulated from the savage highs, lows, glories and turmoils of the Allman Brothers Band.
As you’ll read below, Devon’s musical interests developed organically. Translating his passion for the music he was listening to on the radio into garage band roar, Devon was already forging his own sound by the time he met his famous father. And though their musical and personal paths have crossed over the years since, Devon’s path is truly his own, along with his sound, style and career.
Most interesting may be Devon’s evolution as a guitar player: Though he first strapped on a six-string in his early teens, he was into his thirties before circumstance inspired him to get serious about his lead playing (as he explains in our conversation that follows).
Devon’s latest solo album, Ragged & Dirty, is a solid showcase of his talents—from powerful, soulful vocals to dig-in-and-let-fly guitar work. Working with producer (let alone killer drummer) Tom Hambridge, Allman has crafted a collection of tunes that spans the gamut from shake-the-speaker-out-of-the-dashboard rock roar to starlit blues jam. His originals nestle comfortably alongside covers such as the Spinners’ “I’ll Be Around” and Otis Taylor’s “Ten Million Slaves."
Allman and his core band of bassist Felton Crews, Marty Sammon on keys and guitarist Giles Cory cover a lot of ground over Ragged & Dirty’s dozen tracks—but every inch is a natural fit.
Devon’s insistence that Bobby Schneck Jr. (who plays guitar in Devon’s current touring band) take a fat-toned lead on the cut “Leavin’” tells you a lot about the man. “It’s my duty to let the younger players be heard,” he told me. “That’s how this is supposed to go, man.”
Meet Devon Allman—funky, soulful and real as hell.
GUITAR WORLD: Devon, what music really grabbed you as a kid?
I was listening to Seventies rock radio; it’s called “classic rock” now, but it was cutting edge then. I was very much into Santana, the Beatles, the Stones and the Doors, you know? Eventually, I branched out into other stuff: hardcore blues, heavy metal, jazz, alternative … everything. Once I started to play guitar, I wanted to hear all the different styles: “I want to hear this guy play it this way …”
Was the guitar the first thing you picked up?
I actually started on violin, and I was horrible, man. [laughter] Truly horrible … but it didn't last long.
How old were you?
11, I think. The guitar came at 13.
I’m guessing you didn't pick up the violin on your own.
It was forced onto me, bro … it was forced onto me.
But you reached out for the guitar.
I did, yeah. I went to my buddy Jason’s house one day after school—eighth grade. I saw this guitar in the corner of his room, and I said, “Dude, you play guitar?” And he was, like, “Oh, yeah, man … I can play.”
So I said, “Play it, then.”
He picked it up and fumbled his way through a Def Leppard song or something. And in my mind, I was thinking, “This is horrible …” [laughter] But it was the first time I'd ever watched someone play from just a few feet away, you know? And I thought, “I can do that.”
I went home and said, “Ma, I want to play guitar.”
And what could she say?
Well, the thing was, she’d actually tried to get me to play guitar from the age of 5 or 6; tried and tried but I just didn't have any interest. I guess I didn’t think I'd be any good. When I came to her finally after seeing this kid play, she was ecstatic. She handed me her Mexican flamenco guitar that we had; she actually took lessons and played when she was a teenager.
Of course that was impossible to play—the catgut strings, the baseball bat neck—but she said, “If you get good enough on this, I’ll buy you an electric guitar. I learned some tunes; she was impressed; and I had an electric guitar in, like, a month.
And that first electric?
A piece-of-shit Martin Stinger. [laughs]
Yeah: a Strat body and it had an Eddie Van Halen paint job, or something close to it. I think I had that for six months before I got a B.C. Rich Strat body. That was my baby through high school. [laughs] We were all kids at one point. [laughter]
So once you started playing rather than just listening, how did that change things? Who were your guitar heroes early on?
Early on? Jimi Hendrix. Jimmy Page was right up there … Eddie Van Halen … all the guys from the Steely Dan records. The fact is, I really just picked up the guitar to have something to write songs with. I was just a rhythm player. I didn’t start playing lead until I was 32. I don't know … I was frightened of anything past the seventh fret.
I have to ask: Was part of it the Allman name? Was there an intimidation factor for you?
I don't think so … I mean, I was a singer out of the gate. I was the only one in the garage bands when I was a kid that kind of had the balls to go to the mic and sing, you know? I thought I should spend my time becoming a better singer and rhythm guitar player.
What was the tipping point that got you playing lead?
In 2006, my band Honeytribe really hit the road hard and started touring all over America and Europe. And that’s when our lead guitarist hit me up with, “Hey, man, touring life isn't for me. I’m leaving the band. I love ya, but I can't do this.”
At that point, I was playing one guitar solo in the set per night, you know? It was a ballad; I could play really slow; I had this melodic, Santana kind of approach to it … and I really liked it. But it was the only one I really had any confidence in playing.
When he left, I was like, “OK, I can replace him, or I can try and play all the guitar solos.” I gave myself six months: “All right, practice your ass off for six months; if by then you’re not cutting it, be honest with yourself and hire a hotshot guitar player.” I think about two or three months into it, I had a really breakout night on stage where everything worked … I really got a lot of confidence from that. And that was it.
Listening to Ragged & Dirty, it’s obvious you have a wicked set of pipes. I’m thinking some folks who are new to your music might not realize that’s you doing the leads, because your voice is so damn strong.
No, it’s not a compliment; it’s a statement of fact. [laughter]
Well … thank you.
But you have your own thing going on. And to me, that’s the message about this album: it's your thing. Whether we’re talking about family or your influences over the years, you’ve made your own way with your vocal and your picking. Maybe it was better that you held off on lead playing until you were 32, you know?
And that’s the crazy thing. Everything happens for a reason: and there was a reason I didn’t grow up around my Pops, you know? I got to forge my own path through music organically and I wasn’t around the insanity that was happening in those days.
By not touching lead guitar until later on in life, I had a chance to become a good singer before I started worrying about guitar, as well … I got to take things in stages and really work at becoming a songwriter and a singer first.
I’m not a shredder, though; I wasn’t formally schooled or anything. It's all by touch and feel and ear. The thing is, I'd much rather be able to play five notes and have someone know who I am than play 50 notes really fast.
I’ll take heart over technique any day. Heart has its own technique.
You got it, man.
I think of you as a Gibson guy . Is that true on Ragged & Dirty?
Absolutely. I played Strats for years, but when I switched to lead guitar, I needed a thicker voice. I went to Gibson and within a year I signed an endorsement deal with them. I’ve been a loud, proud Gibson guy for a long time now. I did pick up a Strat for the instrumental “Midnight Lake Michigan” on this record. That’s a very Strat kind of thing.
So, the primary guitar for the bulk of the tracks was …?
The same one I’ve used for the last ten years. A ’59 Cherry Sunburst Les Paul, a Custom Shop Historic that Les Paul himself signed. That’s been my baby for 10 years. It's on probably 80 percent of the record, and it’s what I play on stage most of the time.
And how about amps on this album?
You know, I’m an endorser of Fuchs; they released a Devon Allman signature amp a few years back. That’s my live rig that I’m so proud of. But for this record—believe it or not—all of my leads were done on a 15-watt 1x12 Victoria. Every single lead was done on a little tiny amp.
I remember when I discovered the secret to Duane and Clapton’s sound on Layla years ago: Fender Champs. Little pisspot amps that sounded as big as the world.
Absolutely, man. If you mic it right and throw a mic into the room to catch the ambience, you can mix the two. It doesn't take volume in the studio—it takes tone.
You tap into some effects along the way but you don't rely on them a lot on this album. There is one tune, “Traveling,” where you do some really tasty wah work. Who’s your wah hero?
I think when I first started playing lead, I leaned on the wah quite a bit; it was something to hide behind. But now that I’m confident as a lead player, I use it a lot less … more for texture than a gimmick. I loved all the Hendrix wah stuff. That’s my go-to.
The one track I wanted to make sure we talked about specifically is “Midnight Lake Michigan”: nine minutes and 30 seconds of sultry blues guitar porn. There are a lot of players who would’ve dug into some go-to blues clichés in an instrumental that long, but you definitely find your own way as you go.
That’s my favorite track on the record, and it was the last thing we cut. We had the album in the can as far as the basic tracks.
I asked Tom, “Would you let me do a mood piece?”
And he said, “What do you have in mind?”
I told him I wanted to do a slow, spooky blues in B minor; just have the band percolate, slowly boil on the I, like, forever, like a Coltrane thing. I said, “Let me lead the band and when we get to a certain point, I’ll give the signal and we’ll go from the V to the IV and then drop right back down to the I. We’ll hold that pattern and repeat it, running through it three times. It’ll be, like, 10 minutes long.”
Tom thought the record was strong enough where this would be a really cool artistic statement. “Let's do it,” he said.
We went in there, played it once—and that was it.
We didn't play it a second time. What you hear is completely live; the only overdub is Marty going back to put some spooky, percussive piano wire stuff. Everything else is totally live.
I appreciate you saying I didn't fall into any blues clichés, as I wanted to do an instrumental without doing a main head; a main melody. I wanted it to be spooky and open-ended and let it land where it wanted to land.
And that’s what it feels like: Here’s the empty wall and you’re coming in and splashing on the colors as you see fit.
Definitely—a Jackson Pollock approach. [laughs]
So why the Strat on that one?
You know … I really don't know. [laughter] I guess because I wanted the guitar to talk, you know? You can make a Les Paul sing—that violin-like, woody tone—but you can make a Strat talk.
Well, as I said earlier: that tune, and this album as a whole, is such a great example of you having your own thing going on. I mean no disrespect to the family name.
I hear you and I appreciate that. I think at the end of the day, that’s not disrespectful – I think it’s the most respectful thing to my family to have made my own way and made my own name. Sure, the music falls in the same category – the same genre - but you really do have to be your own person; you have to do your own work; you have to make your own art.
To have a personal stamp on it has always been my goal … and I think it does my family proud to have that.
If you were a cook, I’d tell you not to mess with the recipe.
[laughs] Thank you, man—thanks so much.
A former offshore lobsterman, Brian Robbins had to wait a good four decades or so to write about the stuff he wanted to when he was 15. Today he’s a freelance scribe, cartoonist, photographer and musician. His home on the worldwide inner tube is at brian-robbins.com (And there’s that Facebook thing too.)
With Gene Simmons (and so many other stars) discussing rock's demise, you might be thinking all these naysayers have a point.
In 2014, where else can the guitar be taken? Where can rock go?
Well, for any of you guitar players who find yourself constantly saying "There just isn't any good music anymore," I'd ask you to give this a listen.
Lost in the Dream, the third full-length from Philadelphia's the War on Drugs, is an extraordinary rock record for a number of reasons. It's an album that truly re-imagines the idea of how the guitar works within the framework of a rock band. Rather than using his extraordinary chops to create a singular, distinctive voice, mastermind Adam Granduciel uses the guitar texturally.
In any given song, you might hear dozens of guitar tracks. But Granduciel doesn't do this to overwhelm you; he does it to create the effect of a beautifully mobile and fluid piece of music.
On "Eyes to the Wind," you first hear a galloping acoustic, then some slide playing and a couple of alternating lead lines. But Granduciel is such a master of sound that he manages to take all of these tracks and make them work flawlessly together, creating a deep, mesmerizing whirlpool of sound.
Granduciel channels influences from across the spectrum of classic rock — including the let's-run-away, escapist lyricism of Bruce Springsteen, the poetic sneer of Bob Dylan, the star-gazing instrumentals of late-period Roxy Music and the hooks of Tom Petty. But even though his musical roots are so deeply embedded in the past, Granduciel manages to make all of these influences almost unrecognizable in his own work, such is its sonic innovation.
On the ballad "Suffering," he unleashes one of the most sorrowful guitar solos you'll ever hear, wringing every ounce of emotion he can out of every note. "Red Eyes" is propelled relentlessly forward by multiple layers of vivacious acoustics, before Granduciel kicks the song into high gear with a piercing, explosive lead line.
Even with all of the layers, Lost in the Dream never loses sight of the agony that spurred its creation. Granduciel struggled with panic attacks and severe depression throughout the making of the album, and those dark times define the album's framework. It's an album that uses its many layers to convey confusion and loss and the listless haze of emotion that accompanies them. It uses the guitar as an all-encompassing means of expression, rather than an instrument used solely for rhythm or punctuation.
If you're one of those people who agrees with ol' Gene and thinks rock died however many years ago, at least give this a shot. Overall, you really don't have to look far to find rock music in 2014 that isn't only innovative but incredibly meaningful and cathartic.
Lost In the Dream is one of those records that sticks, an album that is restless with ambition and emotional weight, but flawless in execution.
Jackson Maxwell is a sophomore at the University of Massachusetts Amherst. He is double majoring in history and journalism. He is an editorial assistant at the Massachusetts Daily Collegian and has his own music blog entitled "Broken Drums." You can follow him here at broken--drums.tumblr.com/.
Weeks before announcing its 2015 lineup, PRS Guitars has introducing three new all-mahogany S2 Series guitars: the S2 Standard 24, S2 Standard 22 and S2 Singlecut Standard.
From the company:
The original PRS Standard, introduced in 1987, evolved from Paul Reed Smith’s Pre-Factory all-mahogany instruments. Reimagined for the S2 Series, these guitars feature the subtle aesthetic of mahogany and pickguard-mounted electronics for a vintage vibe with modern versatility and playability that is perfect for the gigging musician.
All three models have solid mahogany bodies, set mahogany necks, versatile electronics, and tried-and-true PRS quality.
Known for its warm, woody tone, mahogany provides the S2 Standard models with a strong fundamental that has been built on to create guitars that play as well and sound as good plugged straight into an amp or run through a modern pedalboard setup.
The set neck adds to the tone of these guitars by providing remarkable resonance and lasting sustain while the addition of PRS-designed pickups and push/pull tone controls gives players access to authentic singlecoil sounds in addition to strong, punchy humbucker tones.
The only 24-fret model in the lineup, the Standard 24 is a classic PRS reimaged for players who prefer a stripped-down approach to their music. The Standard 22 goes in a more vintage direction, but remains a bare-bones workhorse for the player who needs to cover a lot of ground with their music. The Singlecut Standard boasts a classic body shape and control layout, with volume and tone controls for each pickup and a 3-way toggle pickup switch on the upper bout, giving payers plenty of options to dial in flawless tone.
As with all S2 Series guitars, the Standard models feature S2 locking tuners, PRS-designed bridges, as well as PRS nuts, frets, and strings. This means PRS fit, finish, and attention to detail all at a more affordable price. With solid build quality and versatile electronics platform, the S2 Standard lineup can effortlessly go from high gain punk and metal to low, bassy blues, making these guitars a solid choice for players who prefer a straightforward approach to a variety of different musical styles.
For full specifications and to see the rest of the S2 Series, visit prsguitars.com.
Reverend Guitars and Monster Music have collaborated on an exclusive Sensei HB FM model.
The Reverend Sensei HB FM is a Flame Maple Gloss Rock Machine with raw, midrange warmth for authentic rockers. The Monster Music Exclusive is a Gloss Turquoise Burst with an ebony fretboard.
A double-cutaway outfitted with Reverend’s own Classic H Humbuckers, the iconoclastic Korina body is capped with a flame maple top. Like all Reverends, the Reverend Sensei HB FM features Reverend’s bass contour, pin-lock tuners and a graphite nut, all for maximum performance.
This model was a natural choice for the exclusive Monster Music Reverend guitar.
Ken Haas of Reverend Guitars and Brian Reardon of Monster Music have forged a long-standing business relationship and friendship based on their warm, yet no-nonsense sales style.
The Reverend Sensei HB FM in Gloss Turquoise Burst is available only at Monster Music, 3068 Hempstead Turnpike, Levittown, New York. Visit monstermusicny.com for more information.
When it comes to echo and delay pedals, guitarists have a choice of analog or digital, each of which has its pros and cons.
While analog units typically create the most natural-sounding repeats, they dull the fidelity of the source signal and don’t provide precise control over the timing of the repeated signal. Digital units, on the other hand, offer more finite control and pristine sound processing but lack warmth and are known to inject digital artifacts.
Ibanez’s ES2 Echo Shifter combines the best of both worlds by mating a superb, no-compromises, all-analog audio path to a digital control circuit. Better still, the Echo Shifter features unique oscillation and modulation circuits that add greater versatility, letting you create everything from subtle to extreme sonic weirdness.
Features: There’s a lot to love about the Echo Shifter, from its Seventies-style wood-and-stamped-steel housing to its well-placed controls and classic and clean styling. The smooth mixing-console-style center slider governs the delay time (30 to 1,000ms), the feedback control sets the the number of repeats, the mix knob balances the ratio of wet/dry signal, and two clicks of the tap button sets the delay’s tempo/speed through an ultra-accurate digital circuit.
So far, it’s pretty familiar stuff, but the Echo Shifter’s oscillation control takes things into an entirely different dimension. Activating it pumps the delay gain by 15db, allowing the Echo Shifter to feedback infinitely and produce extreme and otherworldly delay effects, drones and dissonance. There’s also a modulation feature that can add subtle chorusing, vibrato-like flutters or slow groaning siren sweeps, depending on the depth control setting. The Echo Shifter features 1/4-inch mono input and output jacks and is powered by a nine-volt battery or adapter.
Performance: Hats off to Ibanez for the pure sonic integrity of the ES2 Echo Shifter. It’s one of very few under-$1,000 delay units that doesn’t degrade the signal, add compression or produce changes in feel or response. Whether placed in the effect loop or in front of the amp, the pedal sits in the mix as well as a good tube reverb tank. Whacked-out space effects are easily obtained when you engage the oscillation and modulation switches and venture into the controls’ upper ranges. Serious musicians will also appreciate how the ES2 preserves their signal and note attack, regardless of their amp’s gain setting.
List Price: $214.28
Manufacturer: Ibanez guitars, ibanez.co.jp
Cheat Sheet:The all-analog signal path creates organic, accurate repeats from 30 to 1,000ms.
Deep layers of unique delay responses are achievable through the oscillation and modulation circuits in combination with the depth control.
The Bottom Line: Ibanez’s multidimensional ES2 Echo Shifter is the tone purists’ budget delay pedal, offering phenomenal sound quality that competes with professional rack units and adds unique oscillation and modulation features.
To some degree, your guitar solos will always sound a bit predictable to your own ear.
After all, you listen to them all the time and you’re painfully familiar with your own playing style. So it sort of has the same effect that listening to a song over and over again would have.
I remember one night I stayed at a friend’s house when I was maybe 10 years old, and he put “All Star” (yep, the Smash Mouth version) on repeat and let it play all night after we had went to bed.
I listened to it through seven hours of sleep. That’s a long haul in 10-year-old time.
Thinking back, I’m surprised I tolerated it; especially since I wasn’t a fan of the song to begin with. I know that ever since, I’ve avoided that song like the plague.
So there is some truth to the old adage that familiarity breeds contempt, or at least boredom.
That’s part of the reasons your solos sound cheap. You’re simply familiar with them and probably tired of hearing them every time you pick up your guitar.
What if it’s more than that?
But what if you’re doing (or not doing) something that’s causing your solos and lead work to just sound bland and tasteless?
Maybe. Let’s dig in.
We should first point out that a good solo isn’t just technical; it’s emotional. In fact, a solo that’s emotional and not so technical is often going to have a greater impact than something that’s highly technical but lacks that emotional drive.
So let’s examine some simple reasons that our solos can fall flat and become ineffective.
1. We play above our technical comfort level.
It’s tough to impress others with a technical wow-factor, but it’s even more difficult to impress ourselves.
We often tend to play too fast or overly technical when we’re soloing, because we’re seeking to play at a technical level that’s beyond our capability. That means we try to cram more speed and more notes into a short amount of time, which simply leads to poor-sounding solos.
Playing within our comfort zone means we don’t “max out” our speed when we’re performing or writing music we actually intend to play in front of people.
Pushing our skill limit shouldn’t be something we do in an effort to entertain.
Instead, we should seek to play safely within our comfort zone and save the technical heavy-lifting for practice sessions.
2. We ignore our melodic responsibilities.
Lead guitar players are ultimately responsible for carrying melody at certain points in a song.
While this is often the job of a lead vocalist, the guitar player takes over during fills, short turnarounds, guitar solos and any note-by-note progression that comes to the foreground of the music.
That’s melody. And a good melody should be engaging, thoughtful and emotionally influential.
Fast, technical playing can be a part of that, but it’s never a requirement, as many of music’s most memorable melodies are not incredibly technical.
Think about the playing of David Evans (the Edge) of U2.
His stuff is seldom highly technical but always emotionally engaging. Thus the heart of the song and musical quality are always high. Ignoring that aspect of our solos makes them dry and tasteless, at which point they can’t be helped by adding more technical difficulty.
3. Muscle memory
I know that when I start to build more speed in my solos, there are distinct patterns my fingers want to follow. If I’m not intentional about writing and tracking solos, those patterns will prevail and dominate my sound when I’m soloing, especially when improvising. To varying degrees, we all have this tendency.
Fighting it takes some time and intentionally practicing the movements that don’t come naturally to you. For example, you might be really comfortable with the following run:
While this movement might feel completely foreign and uncomfortable:
If you want to start expanding your solos and improving the variety you get from them, targeting these problem areas is something you’ll need to be intentional about. Simply look for movements you aren’t comfortable with and repeat them like you would an exercise.
You could take the example we’ve just used and run through it up each fret.
As you develop comfort with more diverse movements, your solos will begin to sound far less stale and repetitive.
4. You have an expectation that’s too high.
Keep in mind that your sound doesn’t always have to be completely reinvented every time you play. In fact, many of the great guitar players of our day have distinct qualities and a feel to their solos that stamp them with a trademark.
Take Godsmack’s Tony Rombola, for example. Most of his solos follow a simple pentatonic pattern and are predictably similar. Though they always sound good and drive the song forward.
So it’s not always bad to be predictable, provided you’ve found something that works and that people like.
5. Your effects are misplaced.
Rarely is an electric guitar (or even an acoustic guitar) in a lead role without some kind of effect. Consider the possibility that you can have one of three different problems when using effects and playing lead.
• Too much saturation.
• Not enough saturation.
• Poorly tuned or placed effects.
Simply put, you can over-use effects, under-use them or simply use them in the wrong place. Without a scripted manual to address every musical scenario, we’ve got to do some experimenting and tweaking when it comes to adding effects to our solos.
And often times it’s not a concrete discipline.
Think about Billy Corgan’s solo on “Cherub Rock.” It’s a distorted guitar with a slow flanger in the background. Who would have thought that a flanger would sound so good there? He managed to balance a noticeable effect without crowding out the melody of the solo and making the sound seem “fitted” to where it was in the song.
Thus the only proven method is to do your own testing and tweaking.
What’s your problem area?
Most guitarists struggle with one or all of these at one point or another. In an objective assessment of your own playing, which one resonates the most with you as an area that needs work?
Whatever that is, work on it first.
Because maybe you’re great at placing effects, but you don’t know the first thing about melody. It all depends on how you’ve learned the instrument and what you’re used to focusing on. Regardless, some examination of your playing and intentional practice will go a long way toward fixing it.
Flickr Commons Image Courtesy of Pensiero
Steve Stine teaches live online group and private classes at Lessonface.com. His next course, Blues Fundamentals, is for intermediate-level guitar players and starts Saturday, November 1, 2014. For more information, head here.
Hey, guys. Welcome to Part 10 of my Absolute Fretboard Mastery series.
Over the past 10 months, we’ve touched on a heap of theoretical, technical and creative aspects of guitar playing. And if you’ve followed the series from the very beginning (If you haven’t, start here and be sure to check out all the previous parts of this lesson under RELATED CONTENT, just below my photo).
Which brings us to today’s lesson! You see, it’s always great to acquire knowledge, but that knowledge becomes redundant if you don’t know how to apply it. And sometimes when it comes to guitar playing, a massive body of knowledge can be confusing to draw from and organize when creating music.
So in this week’s lesson, I want to focus on teaching you how to effectively organize and plan your solos. By the end of this lesson, you’ll have a visual map that will cover all the things we’ve learned and how we’re going to organize them when writing solos.
Category 1: Fundamental Concepts
If you take some of the greatest guitarists of our time, the one thing they have in common is that they know their fretboard like the back of their hand. If you look at a guitarist like Joe Satriani or Steve Vai or Yngwie Malmsteen, you’ll notice how their hands just seem to dance across the fretboard without looking at it.
So the first thing I want you to focus on is your visual mastery of the fretboard. So far, we’ve learned things like the notes across our fretboard, the pentatonic shapes, pentatonic expansions and CAGED chord shapes. When you look down at your fretboard, ask yourself if you can see all these theories in visual layers. Be brutally honest here and address any visual “black holes” you might have. For example, if you can’t immediately see all your pentatonic shapes when you look down at your fretboard, revisit that knowledge area and relearn in until you’re absolutely sure of it.
Category 2: Understanding Grouping
The next category I want you to think about is how each of these theories we’ve learned correlate to each other. For example, when you play a pentatonic scale, do you understand the notes you’re playing? Do you understand how these notes correlate to the chords you’re playing over? Do you instantly know which key you’re playing in?
The beauty of learning these various aspects of guitar theory is that in the end it all comes together to form a beautiful mosaic of sorts that makes your understanding of the instrument so much more holistic.
Category 3: Technical Ability
Sometimes when I talk about technical ability, I hear things like, "Oh, you don’t need to play fast to sound good,” or “You can’t be good unless you can play fast.” But here’s the thing: I’m not here to tell you that you need to play fast or you need to play slow.
Instead, all I’m going to tell you is to not limit yourself in any technical aspect. Don’t shy away from a particular aspect of technique just because you think it fits into one category or style of playing. Learn and master as broad an array of techniques that you can so that when you do create your own music, you don’t ever have a disconnect with what you want to play and your actual ability to play it.
Category 4: Real Music Direction
You know, at the end of the day, it’s not the theoretical understanding or the techniques that make a great guitar player. It’s the human element of their playing. So with this category, the first thing I want you to focus on is the vocal techniques you can use in your guitar playing. What we’re really doing as guitarists is making our instruments sing. So start learning to use things like bends, vibrato, hammer-ons, pull-offs and slides that enhance the vocal element of your playing.
The second aspect I want you to focus on in this category is your phrasing. To understand the importance of phrasing, think about how we speak. If you spoke each and every word at a consistent pace, with no stops or pauses, imagine how monotonous it would sound.
It’s the same with your playing. When playing guitar, you need to know when to speed up, when to slow down and most importantly, when to stop. Another important aspect of phrasing I want you to pay attention to is repetition. Whether it’s a melody or a rhythm, repetition gives listeners an opportunity to latch onto the music you are playing. I’m not saying you should play the same notes and rhythms over and over again, but create passages with repetition that act as hooks.
Next we have intervallic playing. A common mistake a lot of beginner players make is they restrict their playing to simply going up and down a scale. But there’s hardly any musical depth or excitement in this. Instead, focus on strengthening your ability to utilize intervals. Instead of going from tone to tone, try skipping over a couple of tones once in a while. It’ll free up your melodic sensibility a whole lot more and it will make your playing so much more interesting.
NOTE: You'll find a larger version of this info-graphic in the photo gallery at the bottom of this story.
Up next, note chasing and chord chasing. If you listen to singers, you know they don’t just sing random notes over any and every chord. The notes they sing tend to correlate to the chords they’re singing over. And this is exactly what we learned with chord chasing and note chasing. I’m not saying that whatever melodies you play on the guitar need to always use this principle, but say you’re soloing in the key of A minor and the chord moves to G, it makes musical sense to incorporate notes in the scale that correlate with this chord.
Dynamic contrast is also a very important aspect of real music direction. If you listen to players like David Gilmour or Gary Moore, you’ll notice how they seem to spend so much attention to the dynamics of their playing. You’ll notice how they play some notes hard and some notes soft, or how they sometimes play really loud before switching to playing really softly. This is what adds the human aspect to their playing.
So try to shake things up. If you’ve been going fast, go slow, or stop playing altogether. Think of the story that you’re trying to tell through your solos and use your dynamics to make listeners feel this story.
Last but not least, we have the guitar effects element of your playing. Playing guitar isn’t just about cranking up the distortion and just playing licks all day. Listen to some of your favorite guitarists and learn how they use their effects to augment whatever solos they are playing on their guitar. And then start experimenting yourself. In this day and age, there are so many incredible effects we can use to add aspects to our guitar playing that we couldn’t have even imagined 10 years ago.
So, what do I want you to take away from today’s lesson? I want you to understand that the real job of a guitar player is to complement and help carry whatever greater musical idea he or she is a part of at any given moment.
If you are a player who tries to incorporate every scale, every technique and every lick you know when playing, you’re not doing justice to whatever bigger musical idea you are a part of. Instead, focus on really listening to whatever music you are playing along with, understanding what it needs from you as a guitarist, and using this categorization to work on delivering that.
Steve Stine’s Blues Fundamentals course, for intermediate-level guitar players, starts this Saturday, November 1, 2014. Click here for more information and to enroll.
Steve Stine is a longtime and sought-after guitar teacher who is professor of Modern Guitar Studies at North Dakota State University. Over the last 27 years, he has taught thousands of students, including established touring musicians, and released numerous video guitar lesson courses via established publishers. A resident of Fargo, North Dakota, today he is more accessible than ever before through the convenience of live online guitar lessons at Lessonface.com.
In the new issue, we feature Slipknot. Between the death and departure of various band members, Slipknot have had a rough few years. With .5: The Gray Chapter, they channel the energy of deceased bassist Paul Gray and return with a brutal but multifaceted album.
Then, Guitar World focuses on Slash. Everyone's favorite hard-rocking riffmaster returns with World on Fire, his new searing-hot album with Myles Kennedy and the Conspirators.
Next, to celebrate the release of his new album, Different Shades of Blue, Joe Bonamassa invites us over for a look at his ever-growing collection of vintage axes and amps.
Later, Motionless in White have been one of metal's most outrageous and audacious bands. On Reincarnate, they bring their vision into focus and wind up with a killer album.
Finally, read about Electric Wizard. They've been cursed with arrests, accidents and a recent breakup with their label. But with their latest album, Time to Die, the stoner-doomers prove they still have plenty of life left.
PLUS: Tune-ups for Pierce the Veil, Royal Blood, Uncle Acid & the Deadbeats, Lenny Kravitz, Archaon of 1349, Wovenwar, Parquet Courts, Crowbar's Set List, Mr. Big, New EQ The latest and greatest, Lace USA Sensor pickup, Man of Steel, Metal for Life, Acoustic Nation and much more!
Five Songs with Tabs for Guitar and Bass
• Blue Öyster Cult - “Cities On Flame with Rock and Roll"
• Trivium - “Strife”
• Joe Bonamassa - " The Ballad of John Henry"
• W.A. Mozart - “Eine Kleine Nachtmusik"
• Bad Company - "Can't Get Enough"
It's time to compare the mettle of Jim Dunlop pedals!
In GuitarWorld.com's latest readers poll — the first annual Jim Dunlop Effect Pedal Throwdown — we're pitting Dunlop, MXR and Way Huge pedals against each other in a no-holds-barred shootout.
Yes, we're pulling out all the stomps! Thirty-two stompboxes will go head to head — or toe to toe, if you prefer — culminating with the crowning of the king of Dunlop pedals.
You can check out the beginning bracket — with all 32 competing pedals — in the Scribd.com window below (Be sure to click on the "full screen" button in the lower-right-hand corner to expand the bracket).
The bracket will be updated after every matchup, and matchups will take place pretty much every day. Each competing pedal will accompanied by a demo video created by the Jim Dunlop company, and you'll always find a photo gallery of the competing pedals at the bottom of each matchup.
In today's matchup, the Way Huge WHE201 Pork Loin Overdrive goes foot to foot against the Way Huge WHE 301 Fat Sandwich Distortion pedal. Start voting below!
YESTERDAY'S RESULTS: Yesterday, the MXR Uni-Vibe Chorus/Vibrato (80.08 percent) destroyed the MXR Micro Chorus (19.92 percent) and advanced to the next round! To see all the matchups that have taken place so far, head HERE. Thanks for voting!
Meet the Combatants
Make room for one more Way Huge original! The Pork Loin incorporates two distinct tonal pathways that are blended together—a modern soft clipping overdrive and a modified classic British preamp for clean. At the heart of the Pork Loin’s overdrive path is a soft clipped BiFET overdrive gain stage with a passive Tone control, rounded out by a Curve function that gives the user freedom to fine-tune corner frequencies.
The Volume control regulates the masses of pork power that exude from its space age circuitry, leaving room for the Clean control to blend in its warm glistening clean tones. Additionally, the Pork Loin has three internal mini controls: Filter and Voice deliver extensive tonal shaping possibilities, while the overdrive Mix control allows the Pork Loin to be run as a clean preamp. With a wide range of dynamic tones, the Pork Loin is the premier overdrive pedal on the market today!
The Fat Sandwich represents a new era in pedal design for Way Huge. In addition to carrying on the Way Huge tradition of amazing tone, rugged construction and cool names, the Fat Sandwich delivers heaps of crunchy distortion goodness via its innovative multi-stage clipping circuit. Meticulously designed from the ground up, the passive tone stack was tuned to bring out the “sweet spot” with any guitar and amp combination.
The Volume control produces tons of output, making it ideal for driving the headroom out of the most powerful tube amps. Additionally, the Fat Sandwich has two internal mini controls: the Curve knob lets the user fine-tune the corner frequency of the overdrive filtering and the Sustain control adjusts the gain of the final distortion stage. The Fat Sandwich is versatile and over the top—the consummate distortion pedal for any genre or playing style.
Del McCoury has been writing, recording and performing bluegrass music for more than 50 years.
At 75, he continues touring, making albums and doing session work, bringing the traditional music that he loves to longtime fans and new generations.
McCoury sings and plays lead guitar in his band. Joining him are fiddle player Jason Carter, bassist Alan Bartram, and sons Rob McCoury on banjo and Ronnie McCoury on mandolin.
In this interview, Del McCoury discusses how he has crossed bluegrass music into new genres, how technology has affected tradition and why it makes sense to bring bluegrass to rock's concert and festival scenes.
GUITAR WORLD: Very few artists can say they have a foot in every genre of music. Are you able to stand outside of this and realize how much you've accomplished and the impact you have?
Not really, but it is kind of amazing. I’ve played with major jam bands like Phish, the String Cheese Incident and Leftover Salmon. We’ve played venues together, and the reason we’ve done that, I think, is because all music is related. Music is music. There’s good and bad, and that’s subject to taste. There are so many things I like that I heard through the years.
I love listening to Bing Crosby and Frank Sinatra; they were big when I was a kid. I was interested in Earl Scruggs and the banjo style he played. A lot of times these bands have been to my shows, and they call me and want us to play with them. That’s the way I get to be around all genres of music.
When somebody calls me to record and I’m not sure I can do it, I go and try and see what happens. I’m always up for a challenge. I record with a lot of different people and it’s so much fun. I never have a set list onstage. I never know which songs I’m going to do. People request songs, and I try to get new songs if we’re promoting a new record, but mostly I play requests. I’ve got four guys with me, they do their thing, and when someone makes a request, if I’m lucky I remember the words! Otherwise, I’ll just take a solo while I confer with someone in the band about the next verse, and sometimes they give me the verse I just sang!
You’ve played every festival from Bonnaroo to Jazz Fest. When you look at someone like Johnny Cash, it took Rick Rubin to put him in front of young audiences and they adored him. Is there a tendency to underestimate the taste of the general public?
Exactly. You said it exactly right. I wonder the same kind of thing over and over. It’s exciting to hear something new and different, and the average person feels the same way.
I remember the first time we played Bonnaroo. We were in California, and we had to go home and then travel there the next day. We lease our buses now and we were playing on Sunday. We were really worried about traffic and there was none. The road was open because everyone had gotten there on Thursday. I thought, Will they even know what we do? They got so loud; people were screaming requests, which surprised me. Somebody wrote a request down on a piece of cardboard with a Sharpie and held it up, and from there, people began holding up signs with their requests. That was my first experience with Bonnaroo, and it was fun. We played it every other year.
After all these years, are there times when you still feel you’re rediscovering the instruments?
Yeah, I sure do. You keep learning forever, you never stop. I learned G, C and D when I learned to play, and every song had that. That was bluegrass in the 1970s. Then I started doing different things than what most bluegrass bands do. This interviewer said to me once, “Most bluegrass songs have three or four chords, and one of yours has seven. What you think of that?” I said, “I never thought about it. I recorded it because I liked it, and the only way to do it was with seven chords in it.”
Bluegrass people are often purists, and you have to grow. As a kid, the bluegrass banjo — especially Earl Scruggs’ three-finger playing style — excited me the most, but as I grew older my tastes widened. Everyone gets something from somewhere, and again, all music is related.
Bluegrass players are known for jam sessions. Do they still go on? Are musicians losing that because of technology and sending files?
I wonder about that. Years ago we would jam all night and do a show the next day because we love to play. You don’t see that as much as you used to. There are a lot of bluegrass fests, but I don’t see especially professional musicians getting out there after the show and playing.
I used to see Bill Monroe do that when he was in his 60s. We played in Camp Springs, North Carolina, at a bluegrass fest one Labor Day weekend. One night it was real dark, they didn’t light up the places like they do now, and I was jamming with some guys. A guy came up behind me and said, “Don’t you think it’s time for you to be in bed?”
Then he played a chord on his mandolin and I knew who it was — it was Bill. I left around 4 or 5 o’clock in the morning and he was still playing! You’re right, we used to do that. I don’t do it as much now because I need some rest, but jamming used to be the normal thing. We all looked forward to playing late at night with everybody else.
Alison Richter interviews artists, producers, engineers and other music industry professionals for print and online publications. Read more of her interviews right here.
One night, mid-Nineties, after catching a great set by singer-songwriter (not yet children's music superstar) Dan Zanes at New York City's Fez, I stuck around to take in "a bit" of the next act on the bill, the still-unknown-to-me Candy Butchers.
Thirty minutes later, much to my surprise and delight, I was still glued to my chair.
Singer-songwriter Mike Viola (along with fellow Candy Butcher and drummer Todd Foulsham) proceeded to blow up the room with his infectious brand of ultra-melodic, slightly retro, acoustic pop. Floored by set's end, I was sold.
A professional musician since his early teens in Boston, Viola has had a long, prolific and eclectic career; from issuing numerous, superb albums via the Candy Butchers' moniker as well as under his own name, to lending his musical talents to big-screen projects like Tom Hanks'That Thing You Do and the Judd Apatow productions Walk Hard and Get Him to the Greek.
Viola also has co-written and produced music with/for artists such as Ryan Adams, Jenny Lewis, Mandy Moore and Jill Sobule, to name just a few.
I spoke with Viola (now based in Los Angeles) from the road while touring as lead guitarist for Ryan Adams' new band, the Shining.
GUITAR WORLD: You write a lot of incredibly catchy, hook-filled tunes. Do "the hooks" come to you naturally or are they the products of plain, old-fashioned song craft/hard work?
A little bit of both. When I feel a tug of what I think might be inspiration, I drop what I’m doing and go to work on it. That part of the process is never pretty for the people around me. Stopping the world can get messy.
You're a seriously prolific songwriter. Can you give us a glimpse into your process? Are you exclusively a "wait for the muse to strike" kind of person, or do you also sit down every day to write?
The process is so unpredictable and unreliable, I’d be making something up if I told you I had an actual process. I’m like a M.A.S.H. medic; I get called on when I get called on and I do what I can to keep it alive. There’s lots of blood and saline involved and there’s a laugh track behind everything I do.
In addition to being a prolific writer, you're also a very personal one. Do you find it hard to tap that deep well so often?
Every time I write a song, it ends up being about something personal in some way. Otherwise, there’s no way for me to connect to it and there’s no way for a listener to be invited into the song. In the beginning, it’s easy to mishandle this responsibility as a songwriter and just write lyrics to impress yourself. That’s a trap. That’s a dry well with graffiti on its walls; you’ll spend all your time down there reading and trying to make sense of the pretty words rather than drinking it all in.
When composing for film projects, serving a visual and someone else's narrative, how does that gear-shift affect your writing approach?
It’s pretty much the same except easier because everybody involved is referencing the script. So we’re all following this map together, arguing over directions, all trying to get to the same sunny place in one piece. I use that map along with my usual personal process to get to the song. For instance, in Walk Hard the first song I was asked to write was “A Life Without You.” I connected to the scene maybe a little too much. I dragged a bunch of personal stuff into those lyrics, things that also related to Dewey.
Everybody laughed and slapped me on the back when I delivered the song; they were saying how funny they thought it was, that I nailed it, etc. But for me it was a beautiful, sad [Roy] Orbison tribute. A song that came from a real place. “Beautiful Ride” was the same: real place, real song. Against the picture it all came out funny. But dark funny. Deep slow funny.
You've been producing quite a bit as of late, working with a number of accomplished songwriters. As an accomplish writer yourself sitting in the producer's chair, how much song tweaking are you doing? Is it unnecessary with that level of talent or can every song benefit from a little third-party perspective?
Most of the production jobs spawn out of writing sessions. I work without an agent or a manager, I just do my thing and I get an email from so and so asking me if I want to write for an artist. If I like them, then I do. And if we get along that usually leads to recording something for fun. And that ends up serving as an example of what I might be able to get out of the artist.
I used to be the Mutt Lange/Jeff Lynne kind of producer with a sound, a team and a process that I’d put the artist through. But I morphed into something else a few years ago and there’s no going back for me. I help the artist make their record. Period. I’m not out to insinuate myself into somebody else’s work. Great records have been made that way, but these days I’m not as interested in those records. The Svengali process records. I’m more into the old records made on a shoestring in the middle of the night, fast and dirty, half baked. SST, Touch and Go, Stax Records. Records where you hear the artists working it out.
Since this is for Guitar World, I'd be remiss if I let you go without talking a little guitar porn. Can you give us a brief rundown of the rig — guitars, amps, pedals — you're using for this tour with Ryan?
My main guitar these days is a Black Gibson Les Paul Custom I snagged a few days ago from Willie’s in Minnesota. It’s from 1978, all original. Fender gave me a Custom Shop Jazzmaster with “Abigail wound pickups” that I put to use a bunch for the songs on Ryan’s new record. Also, my 1964 Cherry Les Paul Jr. I got in Boston from Paul Kolderie is probably one of the best guitars I’ve ever played.
For amps I use a silver-face Princeton and a black-face Princeton at the same time. I never used pedals before this tour; I would plug right into whatever amp was in the room, I’d try and make something cool come out of it. But our band is really dynamic and I need more ammunition when things get loud. So I have a few Telenordia pedals I use for boost and crunch, a simple Boss chorus C-1, a Holy Grail, and last on my chain (today, at least) is a Boss delay pedal. The signal out splits and I send one to the silver face and one to the black face.
We’re one of the few rock bands at this level not using in ear monitors or sequencing, triggers, stuff like that. And I think we might be the only band that has functioning vintage arcade games onstage.
Big thanks to Mike Viola. For more info on Mike, visit mikeviola.com.
Photo: Lauren Pisano
Mark Bacino is a singer/songwriter based in New York City. When not crafting his own melodic brand of retro-pop, Mark can be found producing fellow artists or composing for television/advertising via his Queens English Recording Co. Mark also is the founder/curator of intro.verse.chorus, a website dedicated to exploring the art of songwriting. Visit Mark on Facebook or follow him on Twitter.