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- 04/15/15--10:03: _LessonFace with Joh...
- 04/15/15--13:05: _Dave Edmunds Plays ...
- 04/15/15--13:35: _Deep Water: The Dow...
- 04/15/15--17:21: _Cody Simpson Announ...
- 04/16/15--07:10: _Watch Five Acoustic...
- 04/16/15--07:18: _Jeff Loomis Plays J...
- 04/16/15--07:29: _Guitarist Michael H...
- 04/16/15--08:46: _The 30 Most Badass ...
- 04/16/15--10:17: _The Top 30 12-Strin...
- 04/16/15--11:00: _New Jason Isbell Al...
- 04/16/15--12:03: _Carly Simon Announc...
- 04/16/15--12:51: _Eddie Van Halen Is ...
- 04/16/15--14:31: _Kirk Hammett Discus...
- 04/16/15--14:53: _Betcha Can't Play T...
- 04/17/15--09:11: _Joan Jett Talks Roc...
- 04/17/15--10:46: _Stevie Ray Vaughan ...
- 04/17/15--11:06: _Secrets of Shred wi...
- 04/17/15--11:08: _Top 10 Weirdest Cus...
- 04/17/15--11:25: _The Top 10 Heavy Me...
- 04/17/15--11:40: _Taylor Guitars Intr...
- 04/15/15--10:03: LessonFace with John Heussenstamm: Introduction to Jazz Guitar
- 04/15/15--17:21: Cody Simpson Announces New Album 'Free' Out June 23 — Listen Now!
- 04/16/15--07:18: Jeff Loomis Plays Jason Becker's "Perpetual Burn"— Video
- 04/16/15--08:46: The 30 Most Badass Guitarists of All Time
- 04/16/15--10:17: The Top 30 12-String Guitar Songs of All Time
- 04/16/15--11:00: New Jason Isbell Album Announced for July 17
- 04/16/15--12:51: Eddie Van Halen Is Guitar World's June 2015 Cover Star
- 04/17/15--11:06: Secrets of Shred with Sammy Boller: Modern Shred Arpeggios — Video
- 04/17/15--11:08: Top 10 Weirdest Custom Guitars — Photo Gallery
- 04/17/15--11:25: The Top 10 Heavy Metal Album Openers
- 04/17/15--11:40: Taylor Guitars Introduces Two New 600 Series Models at Musikmesse
This video and article offer introductory jazz guitar concepts from guitarist and music educator John Heussenstamm. Author and co-author of multiple widely distributed books and videos from major music education publishers, and recipient of more than 10 million views on YouTube, Heussenstamm now can be reached for live online lessons via Lessonface.
How many pianos are there in the world? Millions, right?
They all have the same keyboard layout of the C major or A minor scale on the white keys.
It must be important or such an instrument wouldn't exist. The jazz guitarist should focus on that and make a thorough study of the C major diatonic scale in all of its positions and discover its significance.
In my experience as a teacher, usually the up-and-coming player neglects this area because they feel it's boring and doesn't sound like the wild jazz they're so anxious to hear coming out of their instrument.
Since a large part of all the music in the world is based on this sound, every aspect of melody and harmony you learn from your diatonic study can be applied to the more dissonant and outside-the-box sounds. The scales that are more difficult to command are easier to use once you master the more fundamental harmonies.
In the three examples below, I've given a different fingering and position for each one with a corresponding melody. The reason it's a good idea to learn more than one position or fingering is because of our physical limitations.
Melodies that are too difficult to play in one area might be possible or easier to play in another. My desire as a teacher is not to show what to play but how to go about playing what YOU could play if you were familiar with different positions. MAKE UP YOUR OWN MELODIES ONCE YOU KNOW WHERE THE NOTES ARE!
Octaves are a popular sound for the jazz guitar. One should listen to Wes Montgomery and George Benson. Study their use of octaves and hear how it really highlights their style and sound.
The next line is an exercise I use to help familiarize students with the sound and technique required to play octaves.
Octaves based on the E and A strings are two frets apart. Octaves based on the D and G string are three frets apart. The theory of the line is going up in 4ths. A 4th is the interval between all the notes climbing in the music line. Example A B C D = 1 2 3 4. 1 to 4 would be called a 4th.
To play octaves on the guitar we have to mute or deaden the strings our fingers aren't pressing. To do that lightly touch the string next to the one you're pressing by leaning into it with that finger. We can also pinch or pluck the octave strings with the thumb and fingers of the right hand. It really helps to have a teacher show you this.
The use of octaves is simply based on fattening or beefing up the sound of each note in a melody. In the following example, I wrote a simple blues melody with bass notes. I then added the higher octave note. We can do this with any melody, but really super-fast jazz lines are difficult or perhaps impossible to play with octaves. There might be someone like Scotty Anderson who can do it.
Unlike the trumpet or saxophone, that can only play one note at a time, the guitar can play intervals and chords with more than one note sustained and sounded out simultaneously. Some of my favorite sounds in all of music are jazz chords on the guitar. I particularly like the use of the thumb and fingers of the right hand plucking the strings. You can get piano and harp-like results from a relatively small instrument. George Van Eps used to call his guitar a lap piano.
* Notice that all the voicings of the next example consist of four notes designed to be played by the thumb, first, second and third fingers of the right hand.
All the theories to develop these kind of results are found in blues and jazz. As I said before and so often do, study music theory and harmony from the perspective that a keyboard offers then organize and label everything that universal way. Then go about breaking all the rules or making up your own rules to come up with your own sound. But first learn the fundamentals!
Having several chords cascading down is a wonderful effect in music.
Most of the chords in this upper example relate directly to the key of C. Whenever there is a flat or sharp used you could say you've left the key or you're hearing accidentals. To get smooth transitions back and forth or in and out of keys is a main feature in jazz and it is the responsibility of the jazz musician to learn how to resolve his or her musical ideas smoothly and gracefully.
This final example of jazz guitar in this brief lesson touches upon chord melody; having chords and melody notes being played at the same time. You can accompany your own melodies with chords as a soloist. This gives you the ability to work on your own in different venues and events without the need of any other musician backing you up; a triumph for the little guitar man.
The sample melody harmonized.
John Heussenstamm offers live online lessons and classes on Lessonface.com. Learn more.
Today is the 71st birthday of Welsh guitarist Dave Edmunds—he of Rockpile and Love Sculpture fame, he who scored a Number 1 U.K. hit with "I Hear You Knocking" in 1970.
Edmunds forged a successful solo career with a string of middle-weight hits, including "Queen of Hearts,""Girls Talk" and "Slipping Away."
But what a lot of people don't know is that Edmunds is an incredible guitarist, initially making his six-string mark with Love Sculpture's blistering version of "Sabre Dance" in 1968.
Edmunds still performs "Sabre Dance," and we figured we'd share a recent (OK, recent-ish) live version of the tune below. The song has gone on to be his official guitar showcase piece, and it's easy to see why.
As everyone knows, "Sabre Dance" is from the final act of Aram Khachaturian's ballet Gayane. It is Khachaturian's best known and most recognizable work.
Edmunds is getting ready to release a new studio album, On Guitar...Dave Edmunds, May 18 via Another Planet Music. You can check out an audio sampler below.
OK, by now, we've all worked the Strat thing to the point of making that guitar, or some variation of it, a part of almost every electric guitar player's arsenal. We also just work around, or just avoid, some of the limitations of the Strat-style vibrato bridge.
One of the limitations is that you cannot D-tune, or down-tune a guitar with a floating Strat-style bridge without it going drastically out of tune. The same goes for when you break a string. The whole guitar goes out of tune.
Some people set up a Strat with the bridge flat on the body to avoid these issues, but I think that really takes away from the charm of a Strat. Subtle tremolo bar effects are really compromised if the bridge is not floating off the body.
But just because you have more than one Strat doesn't mean you want to haul a bunch of them to shows just to cover all the songs you want to play that have different drop tunings. Drop-D and Drop-C are just two that I like. I used to have a dedicated Strat for each of those tunings.
With a Strat-style vibrato bridge, if you want a nice floating bridge that gives you a nice, smooth vibrato action, you will need to set up the guitar specifically for the altered tuning.
So the big surprise is that Leo Fender figured out a fix. With a properly set-up Jazzmaster / Jaguar-style bridge system, you can down-tune from standard tuning, and the guitar will still be in tune, and, as a bonus, you can still use the tremolo bar, though only go down in pitch when down-tuned. This also can allow you to keep playing if you break a string in the middle of a song.
Here I am playing some stuff doing some down-tuning on the fly. First I'm in standard tuning, then Drop-D, then Drop-C, then back up to standard tuning with no problem:
To properly setup a Jaguar-style tremolo so that you can down-tune a string, or continue to play in tune after breaking a string and still be able to use the vibrato bar, follow these steps:
1. First, tune the guitar. Then hold down the the vibrato bar as low as it will go, and push the round sliding lock back toward the Fender logo, and then let go of the tremolo bar.
2. Pull up on the vibrato bar. If there is some upward movement possible before you feel it stop, turn the tension screw clockwise to close the gap. As you continue to turn the screw clockwise, you will not be able to pull the vibrato bar up as far, until you get to the point where you cannot pull up the vibrato bar at all.
3. Tune the guitar again. If you can pull up the vibrato bar, and it moves a bit before hitting inside, tighten the tension screw some more.
4. The end result we're looking for:
~ The guitar is in tune
~ The tension screw is tightened just enough so that the mechanism is "zeroed." That means that when you gently pull up on the vibrato bar, it's the tiniest distance to when you feel it hit.
5. Now slide the lock forward toward the headstock. The vibrato works normally.
6. When you want to down-tune a string, push the sliding lock back toward the Fender logo. Down-tune any string, and you can now use the vibrato bar with the guitar remaining in tune.
Thanks for checking out this technique! Hope it made some sense to you. If I see any questions in the comments section below, I'll get to them as quickly as I can.
Till next time,
Guitarist Dave Wronski is one third of Slacktone, a Southern California-based modern surf band that has toured the world and elsewhere. He also has written and recorded music for TV-show themes, commercial soundtracks and films. For more info, visit DaveWronski.com.
Music © Dave Wronski
Australian singer/songwriter Cody Simpson is proud to announce the release of his much-anticipated upcoming album titled FREE> out June 23, 2015 via Coast House Records / Banana Beat Records which is also available for pre-order today.
The album, produced by Cisco Adler, marks Cody’s first release as an independent artist and he unveiled the album artwork and track listing today. When fans pre-order the album on iTunes, they will receive instant downloads of new tracks “Flower,” “New Problems,” and “Thotful.”
FREE symbolizes an evolution in Cody’s career as he steps away from a major label becoming an independent artist and creating music that is authentically his own. The album contains features by Donovan Frankenreiter and G. Love on "It Don't Matter" and "Love Yourself," respectively.
“Cody is an artist who was raised in the pop world with a deep desire to find his musical soul,” says producer Cisco Adler. “As a producer you look for that untapped talent. His evolution has been a natural one because it's his ultimate truth...a journey to set his soul free. I believe when we met and set out to make this music we did just that.”
Cody first gave listeners a sneak peek of his new sound on RollingStone.com with his track “Flower” and single artwork created by Miley Cyrus.
The single artwork can be also be seen on limited edition t-shirts of which a percentage of proceeds will go to Miley’s charity, the Happy Hippie Foundation.
Cody also worked with director Cameron Duddy (Bruno Mars, Mark Ronson, Grouplove) for his “New Problems” video.
At just 18, Cody has enjoyed quite an impressive career to date. His 2013 album Surfer’s Paradise featured collaborations with Ziggy Marley and Asher Roth and landed in the Top 10 of the Billboard Top 200. He toured Europe and the U.S. as direct support for Justin Bieber and released his official autobiography, Welcome To Paradise: My Journey, through Harper Collins. Along the way, he performed on television programs including The Today Show, Live! with Kelly, and The Ellen DeGeneres Show and garnered the award for “Favorite Aussie Star” at the 2012 Kids Choice Awards as well as International Male Artist Award at the 2015 Huading Awards in China. In addition, Cody has generated 8M+ Facebook fans, 7.3M followers on Twitter, over 1M YouTube subscribers and 2.4M followers on Instagram.
Cody recently made his SXSW debut performing multiple showcases and wrapping up select U.S. tour dates before embarking on his European tour.
For more information, updated tour dates and to purchase tickets, visit www.codysimpson.com.
UPCOMING TOUR DATES
Apr 7 Toronto, ON @ Opera House
Apr 22 Helsinki, Finland @ Circus
Apr 24 Gothenburg, Sweden @ Tradgarn
Apr 26 Bergen, Norway @ USF Verftet – Rokeriet
Apr 27 Stavanger, Norway @ Folken
Apr 28 Aarhus, Denmark @ Train
Apr 29 Berlin, Germany @ Postbahnhof
May 1 Warsaw, Poland @ Palladium
May 3 Hamburg, Germany @ Gruenspan
May 4 Cologne, Germany @ Kantine
May 6 London, UK @ Shepherds Bush Empire
May 7 Birmingham, UK @ Institute
May 8 Manchester, UK @ Ritz
May 10 Utrecht, Netherlands @ Tivoli Vredenburg
May 12 Paris, France @ Alhambra
May 14 Zurich, Switzerland @ Dynamo
May 15 Milan, Italy @ Tunnel & Magazzini Generali
May 17 Barcelona, Spain @ Razzmatazz
May 18 Madrid, Spain @ Sala San Miguel
From the depths of YouTube, here’s another Video Find for you!
Today we have five fingerstyle acoustic guitarists delivering an impromptu cover of Ed Sheeran’s “Thinking Out Loud.”
The guitarists — Gareth Evans, Andrew Foy, Eddie van der Meer, Andre van Berlo and Peter Gergely — you may know from their many fingerstyle performance videos posted on YouTube.
And if you haven’t heard any one these guys, look them up! Each is worth checking out.
“This is a jamming take on “’Thinking Out Loud,’” shares Gergely in the video’s description. “It was recorded in February while we were all in Dordrecht (The Netherlands) for the Dutch Acoustic Guitar Event.”
We hope you enjoy this interesting take on Sheeran’s tune. Enjoy!
Check them out on YouTube:
Peter Gergely - https://www.youtube.com/user/GPeti2
Gareth Evans - https://www.youtube.com/user/G0liath1012
Andrew Foy - https://www.youtube.com/user/awfguitar
Eddie van der Meer - https://www.youtube.com/user/eddie2754
Andre van Berlo - https://www.youtube.com/user/YourGuitarWorkshop
The video below shows former Nevermore guitarist Jeff Loomis playing Jason Becker's "Perpetual Burn" to a backing track—and pulling it off in one impressive sitting.
"I think it was really a challenge for myself to see if I could do it," Loomis told Guitar World.
"I always found myself playing snippets of Jason's music but never really played a whole piece of his accurately. After I learned it, I thought, Hey, this doesn't sound half bad, so I programmed some drums and did a few tracks of rhythm guitar."
Check out the video below.
Below, check out a recently posted holdover from the 2015 Winter NAMM Show.
It's a video of young guitarist Michael Hermes demoing Kiesel Guitars/Carvin Guitars' new Jason Becker "Numbers" Tribute model at the Kiesel/Carvin NAMM booth at the January show.
Says Jeff Kiesel on the company's Facebook page:
"I'm excited to announce that [Kiesel/Carvin] and Michael are now working together! Michael may very well be the youngest endorser to grace our roster. His weapon of choice [is the] Carvin CT624T carved-top guitar.
"For the past eight years, Michael has played at various venues throughout the Northwest, alongside some very seasoned and well-known musicians and onstage with the Portland School of Rock.
"At 14, Michael is an accomplished musician and songwriter. He plays classical guitar (studying under Scott Kritzer), electric guitar and piano and writes music on the keyboard. His influences include Hans Zimmer, Steve Vai, Paul Gilbert, Jeff Beck and Andrés Segovia."
I wanted to re-upload this video of the amazing young guitarist Michael Hermes! In this video Michael is demo'ing the incredible JB24 - Jason Becker "Numbers" tribute model at the NAMM show 2015! We lost this initial video with the merging of our FB pages. However I'm excited to announce that we are now working together! Michael may very well be the youngest endorser to grace our roster! His weapon of choice: CT624T Carved Top Guitar! For the past 8 years, Michael Hermes has played at various venues throughout the Northwest, alongside some very seasoned and well known veteran musicians and onstage with Portland School of Rock. At the age of 14, Michael Hermes is an accomplished musician and song writer. He plays the classical guitar (studying under Scott Kritzer), the electric guitar, the piano and writes music on the keyboard. His influences in music include: Hans Zimmer, Steve Vai, Paul Gilbert, Jeff Beck and Segovia.***Welcome to the Kiesel/Carvin Guitar family Michael!***
Posted by Kiesel Guitars Carvin Guitars on Thursday, April 9, 2015
Guitar players are the coolest creatures on this planet.
Don’t believe us? Consider Buddy Holly. Take away his guitar and he might as well be Melvin Poindexter, full-time accountant and part-time carnival geek. Give him a Stratocaster and suddenly he’s dumping Peggy Sue Gerron and shacking up with Maria Elena Santiago, una caliente Latina!
In fact, guitarists are on a whole different planet when it comes to defining cool. When you play guitar, you can get away with all kinds of acts normal people could never attempt. Face it: An ordinary dude could not walk down the street wearing a leopard-skin jacket, high-heel cowboy boots, flowing silk scarves and dozens of silver bangles without getting beaten up within minutes.
But put a guitar case in that dude’s hands and suddenly grown men want to buy him a drink, and ladies slip him their phone numbers. Or try doing Chuck Berry’s famous duck walk without a guitar; people will think you’re mental. But do it with a guitar and they’ll pelt you with a sea of money and panties.
Since guitar players are automatically cool, that means cool guitar players are the coolest of the cool. In this issue, we exalt this elite class of cold — the players who even we would sell our wives and first born just to have some of their mojo rub off on us. Some of them are pioneers who paved a bold, daring path to define new styles of cool, while others are simply the kind of guitarists we want to be when we never grow up (which is part of being cool).
These people are the real reason why the guitar remains the world’s most popular instrument, so let’s all raise our headstocks and give them a 21-power-chord salute.
Born August 3, 1963
Iconic Guitar 1984 Gibson Explorer
Coolest Riff“Leper Messiah” — Master of Puppets
Most metal guitarists would kill to have half of the power and precision of James Hetfield’s right hand, not to mention his ability to write the most devastating riffs known to mankind, from “Seek and Destroy” and “Creeping Death” to “Enter Sandman.” Of course, most musicians with skills comparable to Hetfield’s have such big egos that they become the targets of our murderous intentions. That’s not the case with Hetfield.
Years of hard-earned success and fame have not changed his down-to-earth attitude. Even though he has become one of the world’s richest rock stars, he hasn’t married a supermodel or become a pompous art collector. Instead, he’s remained true to his working-class roots, spending his spare time building incredibly cool kustom cars and cruising the streets with his car club buddies, the Beatniks of Koolsville.
His kustom masterpieces like “Slow Burn” (a 1936 Auburn boat-tail speedster), “Skyscraper” (a 1953 Buick Skylark) and his daily driver known as “The Grinch” (a 1952 Oldsmobile) are drivable works of art that defy the bland Toyota Priuses, Lexuses and Land Rover SUVs of his Northern California environs like a stiff middle-finger salute wearing a skull ring.
Born August 21, 1952 (died December 22, 2002)
Band The Clash, Joe Strummer and the Mescaleros
Iconic Guitar 1968 Fender Telecaster
Coolest Riff"Train in Vain"— London Calling
Joe Strummer was far from the most proficient rhythm guitarist in punk rock, and his tone was often downright wimpy.
Yet you’d never find a punk rocker who didn’t want to be just like him. Whereas most punk guitarists found inspiration from the same hard rock and proto-metal players that they pretended to despise, Strummer was influenced by reggae, rockabilly, soul, ska and even early New York rap music when most of the world still hadn’t heard of the Sugarhill Gang.
Those influences helped him develop a truly unique rhythm guitar style that no one has been able to duplicate since. Perhaps the coolest thing about Joe Strummer is no one could ever predict what he would do next. In 1981, the Clash played 17 consecutive nights at the 3,500-capacity Bond’s International Casino nightclub in Manhattan, but when they returned to New York the next year they played two sold-out shows at Shea Stadium as an opening act for the Who.
Julien Temple’s documentary, Joe Strummer: The Future Is Unwritten, reveals what many would perceive as Strummer’s flaws: from his hippie squatter roots to the way he dissed former bandmates during the Clash’s last gasps. But ultimately, Strummer was a man who simply did wanted he wanted to do without giving a shit what anybody else thought.
SLASH & IZZY STRADLIN
Born July 23, 1965 (Slash); April 8, 1962 (Izzy)
Band Guns N' Roses
Iconic Guitar 1985 Gibson Les Paul Standard (Slash); Gibson ES-175 (Izzy)
Coolest Riff "Welcome to the Jungle"— Appetite for Destruction
Rock music has produced some memorable tandem guitar teams: Keef and Ronnie, Angus and Malcolm, Glenn Tipton and K.K. Downing to name a few.
But Slash and Izzy Stradlin, with the original lineup of Guns N’ Roses, have to go down as one of the coolest duos ever. Gutter rats Slash and Izzy had just enough yin and yang going on to provide the color and contrast that made them more than the ordinary lead and rhythm guitar team.
Both loved similar bands, like Aerosmith and Led Zeppelin, but Izzy’s tastes leaned more toward groove-oriented bands like the Rolling Stones and the Doors, with a healthy dose of punk rock thrown in, while Slash loved guitar heroes like Michael Schenker and Jeff Beck.
The combination of Slash’s rough-edged pyrotechnic solos and Izzy’s raw power chords and off-kilter rhythms resulted in an unusual mish-mash with massive crossover appeal that metalheads, punks, glam poseurs, pop fans and classic rockers loved alike. Slash and Izzy also made vintage guitars cool again, strapping on Gibson Les Pauls, Telecasters and ES-175 hollowbodies when most guitarists were playing DayGlo superstrats, pointy metal weapons or minimalist headstock-less Stein-bortions.
Balding guitar players also have Slash and Izzy to thank for making hats fashionable rocker attire during a time when big hair was all the rage.
Born November 27, 1942 (died September 18, 1970)
Band The Jimi Hendrix Experience, Band of Gypsys
Iconic Guitar Fender Stratocaster
Coolest Riff "Machine Gun"— Band of Gypsys
Most guitarists view the guitar in terms of scales to master and tones to tame, but Jimi Hendrix viewed the instrument as an open canvas for his imagination, pulling sounds out of his Stratocaster and Marshall stacks that no one previously knew the guitar was capable of making.
The first guitarist to chain effect pedals together, Hendrix combined their tones and textures with whammy bar squeals and growls and unorthodox playing techniques to make the guitar sound like a symphony, animals, armies or the far reaches of outer space. While most Sixties psychedelic music was banal bubblegum pop with fuzz-tone guitar hooks, Hendrix made music that actually sounded like a trip after ingesting a cocktail of LSD, mushrooms and THC.
What makes Hendrix stand out is how he could play chilling, beautiful music without the sonic bombast as well. Naked, unadorned songs like “Little Wing” and “Red House” still burn with intensity even without sound effects and studio trickery, showing Jimi’s uncanny ability to speak through his instrument.
His playing shocked, awed and frightened even Eric Clapton and Jeff Beck, who still view Hendrix as some sort of supernatural, mythical being. Of course, they may have also been scared of how Jimi could make even a puffy shirt and a marching band jacket look fashionable.
EDDIE VAN HALEN
Born January 26, 1955
Band Van Halen
Iconic Guitar Homemade "Frankenstein" Strat
Coolest Riff "Panama"—1984
Eddie Van Halen forever changed the way that the guitar is made and played, but that’s not why he’s cool. Sure, he’s single-handedly responsible for the whole hot-rodded guitar and amp phenomenon that brought companies like Jackson and Charvel fortune, techs like Jose Arredondo and Lee Jackson fame and inventors like Floyd Rose immortality.
Yes, he perfected the two-handed tapping technique that made the guitar sound like a fucking synthesizer. And, okay, he crafted a legendary sound that guitarists are still trying to duplicate today. But what makes Eddie cool is his attitude—especially how he makes work seem like it takes no effort at all.
While he could put out an album of his farts or slap his name on any shitty guitar and still make millions, he is a painstaking perfectionist who spent years agonizing over every minute detail of his EVH Wolfgang guitar and EVH 5150 III amp before offering it to the public and who has refused to release a new Van Halen album until he feels it’s ready.
Even after splitting with Valerie Bertinelli after 26 years of marriage, surviving battles with alcohol and cancer and enduring the presence of David Lee Roth and Sammy Hagar for most of the last 38 years, nothing has wiped the big, warm, friendly smile off of his face.
Born May 2, 1929 (died November 5, 2005)
Band Link Wray and the Ray Men, Robert Gordon
Iconic Guitar Supro Dual Tone
Coolest Riff "Run Chicken Run"— Rumble: The Best of Link Wray
Back in 1958, most guitarists and guitar amp designers tried to avoid distortion. Not Link Wray. When he recorded his instrumental “Rumble,” Wray poked holes in the tweeters of his Premier Model 71 amp to make it sound even more nasty and distorted than it could on its own.
A direct line can be drawn from “Rumble” to “My Generation,” “Anarchy in the U.K.” and “Smells Like Teen Spirit.” The song is often credited as the origin of the power chord, but it also heralded the transformation of rock from the music of youth to the soundtrack of juvenile delinquency. Several radio stations banned “Rumble” because they thought it was too sexy, raunchy and violent. Wray even dressed like a juvenile delinquent, embellishing his greasy black pompadour with a leather jacket, jeans and shades at a time when most white rock and rollers still took fashion cues from Perry Como and Bing Crosby.
Wray kept the hits coming through the Sixties, issuing singles like “Jack the Ripper,” “Ace of Spades,” the manic “Run Chicken Run,” the appropriately titled “The Fuzz” and the coolest version of the Batman theme ever. Wray rocked hard until the end, playing his last gig only four months before he passed away at the age of 76.
Born October 8, 1948 (died September 15, 2004)
Band The Ramones
Iconic Guitar Mosrite Ventures II
Coolest Riff "Blitzkrieg Bop"— Ramones
If ever there were a forensic investigation to identify the true biological father of punk rock guitar, all DNA evidence would point clearly to Johnny Ramone. The guitar style that people most associate with punk—briskly downpicked barre chords executed with blinding precision at breakneck tempos and marshaled in service of concise catchy song structures—is the invention, progeny and proud legacy of the man born John Cummings on Long Island, New York.
Johnny was a strange case, a rock and roll outsider who was obsessed with uniformity. And that obsession helped forge the Ramones aesthetic: the identikit leather jackets and ripped jeans worn by each band member, the single surname shared by all four (in the absence of any actual familial kinship) and the terse pacing of the music itself, with not a single excessive note or lyrical utterance.
It all added up to a cartoonish minimalism that struck a vital cultural nerve when the Ramones burst out of Manhattan’s Lower East Side CBGB scene in the mid Seventies. They were the perfect antidote to the bloated self-indulgence of Seventies arena rock and the tendency—a hangover from the hippie era—for rock and rock musicians to take themselves way too seriously. The Ramones were passionate about rock, without ever being pompous.
Their songs cut right to the melodic and rhythmic core of great rock and roll. Johnny contributed song ideas and slashing guitar arrangements, but he also kept the whole thing on the rails. A straight guy in a world of addicts, perverts, weirdoes and psychos, Johnny’s politics were dubious. But, like Mussolini, he made the Ramones’ rock and roll train run on time for more than two decades. John Cummings passed from this life in 2004 after a five-year fight with prostate cancer.
But in the clashing clangor of Green Day, Rancid, Blink-182 and the next bunch of punk rock misfits rehearsing in some basement or garage, Johnny Ramone lives on.
Born October 29, 1949
Band Iggy and the Stooges, Iggy Pop
Iconic Guitar Gibson Les Paul Custom
Coolest Riff "Search and Destroy"—Raw Power (Iggy and the Stooges)
James Williamson was the man who facilitated Iggy Pop’s transition from self-lacerating Stooges frontman to solo artist, icon and all-around elder statesman of punk. In a way, Williamson was the only man for the job. He shared Iggy and the Stooges’ Detroit garage rock roots and was a friend of Stooges founding guitarist Ron Asheton during the mid Sixties.
But he also had his act way more together than any of the Stooges during their cataclysmic heyday. By the early Seventies, the Stooges were two albums into their career and starting to come apart at the seams due to myriad drug problems and an overall lack of widespread commercial acceptance of their music.
Williamson injected new life into the group, bringing an ideal balance of discipline and frenzy, best heard on the group’s 1973 disc Raw Power, the album that launched thousands of punk and post punk bands. “I’m his biggest fan,” the legendary Smiths guitarist Johnny Marr once said of Williamson. “He has the technical ability of Jimmy Page without being as studious and the swagger of Keith Richards without being sloppy. He’s both demonic and intellectual, almost how you would imagine Darth Vader to sound if he was in a band.”
Williamson went on to produce and play on Iggy’s classic solo 1979 album New Values, which features gems like “I’m Bored” and “Five Foot One.” The guitarist also played a key role on the follow-up disc, Soldier, anchoring a punk rock all-star lineup that included ex-Pistol Glen Matlock, Ivan Kral from the Patti Smith Band and Barry Adamson from Magazine. Shortly after Soldier, Williamson took a hiatus from rock to study electronic engineering, becoming Vice President of Technology and Standards for Sony.
When Ron Asheton died, Williamson took an early retirement from Sony and returned to his rightful place as the Stooges’ guitarist. Their new album, Ready to Die, came out this year.
Born July 30, 1936
Band Solo, Muddy Waters, Buddy Guy & Junior Wells
Iconic Guitar 1957 sunburst Fender Stratocaster, polka-dot Buddy Guy signature Fender Strats
Coolest Riff"The First Time I Met the Blues"— Can't Quit the Blues
Buddy Guy is our greatest living link to blues tradition—a man who sat and played with immortals like Muddy Waters, Howlin Wolf, Willie Dixon and Otis Spann, and who still climbs up onstage at events like the Crossroads Festival to jam with greats such as Eric Clapton, Jeff Beck and Carlos Santana, not to mention newcomers like John Mayer.
Clapton himself has repeatedly called Guy “the greatest living guitarist.” Hendrix literally knelt at Buddy’s feet in the late Sixties, the better to study his riffs. Guy’s secret? He combines an old-time blues feel with the technical facility of a modern guitar player. He was a youngster at the legendary Chess Records in early Sixties Chicago. Fresh up from Lettsworth, Louisiana, Guy was some 20 years junior to giants like Muddy Waters and Howlin’ Wolf, yet old enough and gifted enough to share the studio with them.
And when Cream, Hendrix and Led Zeppelin brought amped-up guitar hysteria to the fore, Buddy was still in his prime, ready, able and eager to join the fray. He’s still going strong today, an inspiration—and intimidation—to all who would strap on an electric guitar and dive deep into the mighty river that is the blues.
Born July 15, 1952 (died April 23, 1991)
Band New York Dolls, the Heartbreakers, Gang War
Iconic Guitar Gibson Les Paul Jr.
Coolest Riff "Chinese Rocks"— Blank Generation: The New York Scene (1975-78) (The Heartbreakers)
Johnny Thunders’ snot-nosed New York take on Keith Richards’ cool is one of the pillars on which punk rock was built. An Italian-American guy (birth name John Anthony Genzale Jr.) from Queens, he was born a little too late to be part of the Sixties rock explosion. But the bands of that era were his influences, and he put his own spin on them in the early Seventies as the New York Dolls came together with Thunders on lead guitar.
Thunders had the riffs to match the glam-trash group’s mascara. He took rock guitar and cooked it down to its essence, playing open chords and switchblade riffs that laid bare the amphetamine urgency behind the Dolls’ concise, catchy tunes. The Dolls had split up by the time punk rock got underway in New York and London, but their influence was profoundly felt on both shores.
Steve Jones of the Sex Pistols has repeatedly cited Thunders as a major influence, Dee Dee Ramone was a friend, colleague and drug brother, and Richard Hell played alongside him in the Heartbreakers. While Thunders shared Keith Richards’ appetite for excess, he sadly was not blessed with Keef’s monumental endurance.
Thunders died in New Orleans in 1991 under mysterious, although most likely drug-related, circumstances.
Born December 18, 1943
Band The Rolling Stones, the X-Pensive Winos
Iconic Guitar 1953 Fender Telecaster Coolest Riff “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction” — Out of Our Heads
Keith Richards has made living on the edge his life’s mission. Grinning blissfully—and blatantly stoned—from mid-Sixties picture sleeves, lean and lanky, swathed in flowing scarves and stylish shades, he defined the look, the attitude and the swagger essential to the vocation of rock guitarist.
From day one, his playing asserted the primacy of riffs and rhythm as the structural backbone of rock music. Following his lead, an entire generation discovered the ancient mysteries of the blues and learned to cultivate a little sympathy for the devil. Effortlessness is the key to Keef’s cool.
He’s sauntered down through the decades unfazed by stints in jail and hospital, heroin addiction, assorted femmes fatales, copious boozing, rampaging Hells Angels and assaults from fellow icons like Chuck Berry and Peter Tosh. Unconstrained by the grinding gradations of clock, calendar, public morality or legal prohibition, he has defined life on his own terms.
The same lawless sense of effortlessness defines his playing. Guitar slung low, cigarette dangling from his lip, he’s never hyper, never tries too hard and always swings free of such limited concepts as lead versus rhythm. This is what enables him to get down to the raw truth of the groove.
Born April 23, 1936 (died December 6, 1988)
Band Solo, the Traveling Wilburys
Iconic Guitar Gibson ES-335
Classic Riff “Oh, Pretty Woman”—The Essential Roy Orbison
Most people think of Roy Orbison as the super-smooth crooner who sang songs like “Crying,” “In Dreams” and “Only the Lonely.” But Orbison was also a wicked guitar player, who ripped out several impressive solos on early Sun Records singles like “Ooby Dooby.” In fact, Sun owner Sam Phillips was more impressed with Orbison’s guitar playing than his singing during the early days of the rocker’s career.
Although Orbison’s good friend and Sun Records labelmate Johnny Cash may be known as “the Man in Black,” Orbison habitually dressed from head to toe in black in the early Sixties, a decade before Cash adopted his dark uniform. Even Orbison’s raven hair and impenetrable jet Ray-Bans were blacker than the cover to Spinal Tap’s Smell the Glove, adding to his alluring persona as a mysterious, brooding artiste.
By 1964, most of Orbison’s early rock and roll contemporaries were either dead, strung-out on drugs, in jail or making crappy movies, but Orbison’s musical career still hadn’t reached its peak. In between the ballads, he recorded singles like “Mean Woman Blues” (check his wild guitar solo) and “Oh, Pretty Woman” that showed upstarts like the Beatles, the Animals and the Rolling Stones that Americans still could rock harder than any Brit.
Born April 3, 1962
Bands Social Distortion, Easter, solo
Iconic Guitar 1971 Gibson Les Paul gold top with Seymour Duncan P-90s
Coolest Riff “Ball and Chain”—Social Distortion
Bull necked and heavily tattooed, Mike Ness is not the kind of guy you’d want to mess with. The Southern California guitarist, singer and songwriter has known good times and bad, punching his way out of a serious drug addiction in the mid Eighties. He has funneled these experiences into some of the most hard-hitting, plain-dealing rock songs to come out of the SoCal punk milieu. Ness launched Social Distortion in 1978.
Initially a hardcore act—in fact one of the most vital bands on the Orange County beach town/skater hardcore scene—Social Distortion morphed over the years into a vehicle for Ness’ ever-evolving narrative songwriting gift, dedicated to a few simple-but-slamming guitar chords and lyrics that recount life’s hard lessons.
An avid skateboarder and hot-rod enthusiast, Ness epitomizes working-class Southern Californian culture. Springsteen comparisons are always dangerous, but the Boss did appear on Ness’ 1999 solo disc Cheating at Solitaire. Springsteen also named Social Distortion’s Heaven and Hell as his favorite record of 1992. Brian Setzer is another kindred spirit and musical collaborator. Ness is one skate punk kid who has stood the test of time.
Born November 4, 1956 (died June 16, 1982)
Band The Pretenders
Iconic Guitar 1980 custom metal-front Zemaitis
Coolest Riff “Tattooed Love Boys”—The Pretenders
James Honeyman-Scott’s moment in the spotlight was far too brief. He recorded only two albums with the Pretenders before he died of heart failure, but those tracks revealed incredible talent and versatility that quickly made him the most revered guitarist to emerge during the early days of post-punk new wave.
Honeyman-Scott’s solos were concise and economical, getting the point across in only a few measures. His solo on “Kid” is a pop song unto itself that evokes the Beatles’ finest melodic moments, while his three- and four-second bursts on “Tattooed Love Boys” unleash more emotion, fire and style than most guitarists can convey in an extended 15-minute solo.
Unlike most new wave guitarists at the dawn of the Eighties, Honeyman-Scott had impeccable fashion sense. He always maintained a timeless detached rocker look, and his aviator shades, medium-length shag haircut, suit jacket and jeans attire never really went out of style, unlike the geometric haircuts and DayGlo suits that many of his contemporaries wore. He always played the coolest guitars onstage as well, from classic Gibson Les Pauls and Firebirds to custom-made Hamers and Zemaitis metal-front guitars.
He even married a model with coolest imaginable name for a guitarist’s girlfriend—Peggy Sue Fender.
Born April 10, 1959
Bands Stray Cats, Brian Setzer Orchestra
Iconic Guitar 1959 Gretsch 6120
Coolest Riff“Runaway Boys”—Stray Cats
Most musicians who revive a musical style from the past are like classic-car restorers, refusing to modify it in any way and insisting on keeping it exactly as it was back in the day. Brian Setzer is more like a hot rodder, keeping certain essential elements as a foundation but updating them with a lot more power, speed and style.
With the Stray Cats he made rockabilly sound as dangerous as punk, and his fleet-fingered solos impressed even the most technically minded metalheads. He pulled off a similar feat in the Nineties with the Brian Setzer Orchestra, making big-band jazz appealing to rockers.
Although Gretsch went out of business and ceased making guitars about the same time that the Stray Cats emerged, Setzer helped bring the company back to life by showing players just how cool Gretsch guitars could sound. As a result, Setzer was the first artist since Chet Atkins to be honored with his own signature-model Gretsch guitar.
For those of us who dread Christmas music, Setzer’s holiday collections with the Brian Setzer Orchestra provide relief, giving guitar fans plenty of shredding solos to enjoy in between schmaltzy verses about figgy pudding and some fat, creepy man in red velvet pajamas.
Born January 23, 1910 (died May 16, 1953)
Band Quintette du Hot Club de France
Iconic Guitar Selmer Modèle Jazz
Coolest Riff“Mystery Pacific”—The Very Best of Django Reinhardt
Electric guitarists like Charlie Christian and T-Bone Walker rightfully get a lot of credit for introducing the concept of the single-string electric guitar solo, but many historians forget that Belgian Gypsy guitarist Django Reinhardt was shredding the strings a few years before those gents—and he didn’t need electricity.
The acoustic solos Reinhardt recorded with the Quintet of the Hot Club of France between 1936 and 1940 are simply astounding displays of virtuosity, melodic taste and speed that left indelible impressions on players throughout several generations, including Les Paul, Jimmy Page and Michael Angelo Batio. Django didn’t even need all four fretting fingers either, using only two left hand fingers to play complicated chords and hyperspeed solos (his third and fourth fingers were badly burned in a fire).
Django’s “handicap” later inspired Tony Iommi and Jerry Garcia to keep playing guitar after they permanently injured their fretting hands. Django lived life as hard and fast as he played guitar. A notorious gambler, drinker, gourmand and womanizer, he died of a brain hemorrhage at the age of 43, but his solos continue to awe players today.
Born May 28, 1910 (died March 16, 1975)
Bands Solo, Sebastian’s Cotton Club Orchestra, Freddie Slack’s Orchestra
Iconic Guitar Gibson ES-250
Coolest Riff“Strollin’ with Bone”—The Complete Imperial Recordings, 1950–1954
As the first blues guitarist to pick up an electric guitar and play single-string solos in the late Thirties, T-Bone Walker didn’t just lay down the foundation for electric blues and rock and roll—he also built the first three or four floors. John Lee Hooker credits T-Bone Walker with making the electric guitar popular, claiming that everybody tried to copy T-Bone’s sound.
That’s not an overstatement, as traces of T-Bone’s influence can be heard in the early recordings of Albert, B.B. and Freddie King, Muddy Waters, and especially Chuck Berry, who adopted many of Walker’s signature licks as his own. A sharp-dressed, flamboyant performer who played the guitar behind his head and did the splits without missing a note, Walker helped reposition the guitar player from the sidelines to center stage, inspiring Buddy Guy, Jimi Hendrix and Stevie Ray Vaughan to copy his impossible-to-ignore moves.
Walker’s licks were so fresh and ahead of their time that his solos on the 1942 single “Mean Old World” and his 1947 breakthrough “Call It Stormy Monday” still inspire guitarists today.
Born January 9, 1944
Bands The Yardbirds, Led Zeppelin, the Firm, Coverdale/Page
Iconic Guitar 1959 Gibson Les Paul Standard
Coolest Riff“Black Dog”—Led Zeppelin IV
Normal people define cool as laid-back, excellent or highly skilled, but most guitarists define cool as Jimmy Page circa 1975 in a black velvet bellbottom suit decorated with embroidered dragons, playing a Les Paul slung down to his knees. As the musical mastermind behind Led Zeppelin, one of the greatest rock bands of all time, Page elevated the guitar riff to an art form, crafting orchestrated overdubbed parts that bludgeoned listeners like the hammer of the gods.
Page’s musical contributions with Led Zeppelin are well known to readers of this magazine, but here are some cool facts about him you may not know. As a session musician in the Sixties, Page played guitar on the singles “Gloria” by Them, “You Really Got Me” by the Kinks, “I Can’t Explain” by the Who and “It’s Not Unusual” by Tom Jones.
He’s owned homes previously lived in by Richard Harris, Michael Caine and Aleister Crowley, and his guitar collection consists of more than 2,000 instruments. The devil sold his soul to Jimmy to learn how to play the blues. As for that guy in the Dos Equis ads, forget him—Jimmy Page has already won the title of Most Interesting Man in the World.
Born December 16, 1949
Band ZZ Top
Iconic Guitar 1959 Gibson Les Paul Standard, a.k.a. “Pearly Gates”
Coolest Riff“Heard It on the X”—Fandango!
Bumper-sticker philosophy says that he who dies with the most toys wins. If that’s true, Billy Gibbons would be the hands-down champion.
The sharp-dressed ladies man known to his friends as “the Reverend Willie G” owns more hot rods, Harleys, vintage and custom guitars, amps, stomp boxes, museum-quality African art pieces, cowboy jackets, tortoise-shell combs and cheap sunglasses than two dozen sultans of Dubai could ever hope to acquire.
Every ZZ Top tour is a treat for guitar geeks, as Gibbons uses the occasions to unveil a six-string surprise. (Last year it was an elusive Gibson Moderne.) But what really makes Gibbons cool is a certain undefinable quality called “vibe.” Anyone who has ever met Billy and gotten to know him—however briefly—has an outrageous story to tell about the encounter.
Gibbons has also twisted more than a few towering tall tales in his time, but his life is so surreal that it’s hard to tell where the truth ends and the trip takes over. His colorful manner of speech, known as “Gibbonics,” has made him one of Guitar World’s favorite interview subjects, especially since his poetic ponderings are loaded with insight, wisdom and a unique sense of humor.
ZACKY VENGEANCE & SYNYSTER GATES
Born December 11, 1981 (Vengeance); July 7, 1981 (Gates)
Bands Avenged Sevenfold (both), Pinkly Smooth (Gates)
Iconic Guitars Schecter Vengeance Custom (Vengeance); Schecter Synyster Custom (Gates)
Coolest Riff“Unholy Confessions”—Waking the Fallen
You’d be hard-pressed to find a more distinctive guitar tandem in modern metal than Zacky Vengeance (Zachary Baker) and Synyster Gates (Brian Haner, Jr.). From their sound, to their look, even to their names, the duo routinely go down guitar paths other metal axmen don’t dare travel, spicing up Avenged Sevenfold’s otherwise dark and aggressive attack with, among other things, hooky, major-key melodies, laid-back acoustic picking, buoyant, carnival-esque rhythms and a whole lot of style.
They can also shred like nobody’s business: Though Vengeance largely fills the role of rhythm player while Gates handles the majority of the solos, almost every A7X song finds the two locking up for at least one or two rampaging runs of dual-guitar harmony leads.
Vengeance and Gates’ ascent to the top of the metal guitar heap did not always seem inevitable. Avenged Sevenfold began life as a somewhat traditional Orange County–style metalcore act, as evidenced on their 2001 debut, Sounding the Seventh Trumpet, for which Vengeance served as the primary guitarist. But the band has been reinventing and refining its sound ever since. By A7X’s third effort, 2005’s City of Evil, they had morphed into a swaggering, thrashy unit with an adventurous edge that showed itself in everything from the grand, instrumentally dense songs to the band’s theatrical image.
On 2007’s self-titled effort and the new Nightmare, Avenged Sevenfold have continued to expand their sonic template, leaving Vengeance and Gates plenty of space to explore a range of different styles. At the end of the day, however, metal is metal, and at its essence that means killer riffs and shredding solos, which the duo unleash in abundance. A7X staples like “Bat Country,” “Almost Easy” and the latest single, “Nightmare,” are chock full of blistering rhythms and finger-twisting, speed-of-light leads, while they tread that sweet spot between catchy melodicism and all-out aggression.
As metal guitar continues to evolve in even faster and wilder ways, expect Vengeance and Gates to be two of the players leading the pack for a long time to come.
Born April 4, 1915 (died April 30, 1983)
Iconic Guitar 1958 Fender Telecaster
Coolest Riff“Rollin’ and Tumblin’ ”—The Real Folk Blues
The father of electric blues, McKinley Morganfield was born in rural Mississippi, where he absorbed the folk blues stylings of Son House, Big Bill Broonzy and Robert Johnson. But in the Forties, he made the pilgrimage to Chicago, picked up an electric guitar and forged a bold new style all his own.
He assumed the stage name Muddy Waters and released a series of historic recordings on the legendary Chess Records label. These discs established the quintessential Muddy Waters persona—the jive-talkin’, sharp-dressed, tough-as-nails, mojo-workin’ Hoochie Coochie Man. Waters’ confident, cocky vocal delivery was augmented by the knife-edge drama of his bottleneck guitar leads. This steely, highly electrified sound galvanized a new rising generation of British rock musicians when Muddy first visited those shores in 1958.
A group of blues-crazy Brits even took their name from one of his songs: the Rolling Stones. The blues in general, and the recordings of Muddy Waters in particular, became the “roots music” for the youth counterculture that sprang up in the Sixties. Countless bands, from the Stones on down, have assayed Waters classics like “Rollin’ and Tumblin’,” “Got My Mojo Workin’,” “You Shook Me,” “I Just Wanna Make Love to You” and “Mannish Boy.”
Leading rock publications Rolling Stone and Mojo also paid proud titular homage to Muddy Waters, who passed away in 1983. It’s no overstatement to say that there would be no rock and roll had Muddy Waters not come along.
Born February 20, 1948
Bands X, Billy Zoom Band
Iconic Guitar Gretsch Silver Jet
Coolest Riff“Johnny Hit and Run Pauline”—Los Angeles (X)
As guitarist for the seminal punk band X, Billy Zoom played a key role in launching the L.A. punk scene in the late Seventies. His raw-nerved guitar work with X drew heavily on Fifties rockabilly, spelling out the connection between punk rock and the original rock and roll music.
But Zoom also served as the perfect foil for X’s principal songwriters, singer Exene Cervenka and bassist John Doe, who were arty, bohemian denizens of hip L.A. environs like Silverlake and Venice. Zoom was a politically conservative Christian greaser from the notoriously uncool southern L.A. suburbs of Orange County. In the now-classic L.A. punk documentary The Decline of Western Civilization, he is famously shown refusing to get a tattoo.
But opposites not only attract—sometimes they also make groundbreaking music together. This is certainly true of Zoom’s collaboration with Doe and Cervenka. Since that band broke up, Zoom has gone on to do session work with everyone from the late John Denver to the Raconteurs. He’s also become semi-legendary as a guitar amp hotrod guru, having tweaked circuitry for Jackson Browne, the Black Crowes, Los Lobos, L7 and Social Distortion, among many others.
WAYNE KRAMER & FRED "SONIC" SMITH
Born April 14, 1948 (Kramer); September 13, 1949 (Smith; died November 4, 1994)
Bands The MC5 (both), Gang War (Kramer), Sonic Rendezvous Band (Smith)
Iconic Guitars Custom Strat with American Flag finish (Kramer); Mosrite Ventures (Smith)
Coolest Riff “Ramblin’ Rose”—Kick Out the Jams (MC5)
The MC5 were the nexus where radical politics and proto-punk belligerence first came together. This dangerous mixture touched off an explosion that’s still rocking the world today. The group burst out of Detroit in the cataclysmic year of 1969, with its roots firmly planted in mid-Sixties garage rock, and mutated by injections of inner-city R&B and free-jazz mayhem.
The MC5 was founded by guitarists Wayne Kramer and Fred “Sonic” Smith, friends since their teen years and veterans of the Detroit garage rock scene. They honed a two-guitar attack that owed much to the heavy rock sounds being popularized at the time by acts like Cream, the Jimi Hendrix Experience and Led Zeppelin. But Kramer and Smith laid down their riffs with more reckless abandon and a greater sense of desperate urgency than any of those groups.
Many Sixties rock acts made political statements, but the MC5 were among the first rockers to make a serious commitment to revolution, aligning themselves closely with the White Panther Party (a Black Panther offshoot organization) and effectively serving as the White Panthers’ agitprop machine. Their blue-collar Detroit roots lent a certain gritty gravitas to their stance. These weren’t effete rock stars dabbling in left wing chic but working-class guerrillas with ammo belts strapped across their bare chests and guitars brandished as rifles.
Kramer served a prison sentence on drug-related charges after the MC5 split up. When he got out, he teamed up with Johnny Thunders to form Gang War and later re-emerged as a solo artist on L.A. punk label Epitaph. Smith went on to lead the punishingly loud Sonic Rendezvous Band and married New York punk rock poet, artist, singer and originator Patti Smith. He passed away in 1994. But from the Clash to Fugazi, Crass and Green Day, the politicized wing of punk rock continues to fly the banner first raised by the Motor City 5.
Born October 18, 1926
Iconic Guitar Gibson ES-355
Coolest Riff“Johnny B. Goode”—Gold
Chuck Berry is probably the only man alive who could kick Keith Richards ass, and not only would Keef let him get away with it, he’d thank Chuck afterwards. That’s because Keef knows that without Chuck there would have been no Rolling Stones, let alone the Beatles or Beach Boys.
Chuck Berry is the true founding forefather of rock and roll. His guitar playing in the mid Fifties defined the true personality and vocabulary of rock and roll guitar so comprehensively and conclusively that it’s impossible to find any rock player who doesn’t still steal his licks, riffs and tricks today. In fact, Berry doesn’t even tour with his own band; instead, he hires local musicians to back him up, because almost everyone all over the world knows how to play his songs.
Berry is also an energetic performer who invented perhaps the ultimate rock and roll stage move: the duck walk. Surprisingly, Chuck still performs this signature move when he plays onstage, even though he’s now in his 80s.
Born March 2, 1942
Bands The Velvet Underground, solo
Iconic Guitars Gretsch Country Gentleman (Velvets), Schecter, Klein, Sadowsky and other customs
Coolest Riff“Sweet Jane”—Loaded (The Velvet Underground)
The dark underbelly is Lou Reed’s comfort zone. Despair and degradation are his muses. Emerging in the mid Sixties at the helm of the Velvet Underground, he offered up a gritty black-and-white alternative to the rainbow-colored pyschedelia of the prevailing rock culture. He brought us along, albeit reluctantly, to meet junkies and hustlers, S&M bondage goddesses and suicidal transvestites. He was one of the first rock guitarists to embrace chaos truly and wholeheartedly.
But the avant-garde din of Velvet Underground rave-ups seemed a genteel curtain raiser compared with the full-bore cacophony of Lou’s 1975 solo opus Metal Machine Music. The noise-guitar side of Lou’s legacy set the stage for cutting-edge genres like industrial, art damage, dream pop, grunge and present-day noise exponents, like Wolf Eyes and Yellow Swans.
But Lou’s edgy lyrical stance and image spawned something even more fundamental to deviant aesthetics: punk rock. It is with considerable justice that he graced the first cover of Punk magazine in 1976 and was subsequently dubbed the Godfather of Punk. Lou embodied a new kind of rebel hero, an amalgam of two distinctly different but equally vilified social pariahs: the disaffected intellectual and the scumbag street hustler. In recent years, he’s added a third persona: the grumpy old man.
And let's not forget his recent album with Metallica ... Still, there can be no underestimating Lou’s immense contribution to rock or the fierceness of his commitment to obtaining guitar tones and lyrical images that cut like a knife and leave a permanent scar.
Born October 31, 1963
Bands The Smiths, Electronic, the Pretenders, The The, Johnny Marr and the Healers, Modest Mouse, the Cribs, solo
Iconic Guitar Rickenbacker 330
Coolest Riff “What Difference Does It Make?”—The Smiths
Johnny Marr is a chief architect of the post-modern rock-guitar aesthetic. As the guitarist for seminal Eighties poetic pop stars the Smiths, he created a tonal palette and crisp stylistic approach that still forms the roadmap for much modern rock guitar playing. It was Marr who created the orchestral guitar soundscapes that enhanced the moody drama of Smiths singer Morrissey’s introspective lyrics and ironically detached vocals.
From the low-string riff for “What Difference Does It Make?” to the deep tremolo textures and swooning string bends of “How Soon Is Now,” Marr always seemed to have the notes and the tone to suit the moment perfectly. Marr’s work has been profoundly influential to guitarists of the Nineties and beyond. Noel Gallagher of Oasis dubbed Marr “a fucking wizard,” and Radiohead guitarist Ed O’Brien has cited Marr as the reason he picked up a guitar. In essence, Marr is a classicist, drawing much of his approach from the guitar sounds of the Sixties British Invasion, yet deftly adapting those influences to rock and roll modernity.
He embodies the stylish sideman identity forged by guitar greats like George Harrison and Keith Richards: a neatly trimmed pudding-basin haircut, and a stage presence that never upstages the frontman. Yet, he is intriguing in his own right. Marr’s post-Smiths career has been stellar. He’s worked with everyone from New Order’s Bernard Sumner (in Electronic) to Oasis to John Frusciante, and has been quite active recently with both Modest Mouse and the Cribs. He has an uncanny knack for being around whenever cool music is happening.
Born April 14, 1945
Bands Deep Purple, Rainbow, Blackmore’s Night
Iconic Guitar Fender Stratocaster with scalloped neck
Coolest Riff “Smoke on the Water”—Machine Head (Deep Purple)
The original dark knight of metal guitar, Ritchie Blackmore boasts a surname that evokes Medieval England and a pedigree that goes back to the beginning of classic rock. Early studies in classical guitar left him with an astounding legato technique that laid the groundwork for the neoclassical and shred movements several decades later.
In the early Sixties, Blackmore did sessions with legendary British producer Joe Meek and apprenticed with U.K. session ace (and Jimmy Page mentor) Big Jim Sullivan. Blackmore founded Deep Purple in the late Sixties and led the group through various incarnations. He also spearheaded metal icons Rainbow with the late Ronnie James Dio and has more recently played a role in Blackmore’s Night with his wife Candice Night.
The history of metal wends ever onward, but, much like Mephistopheles, Ritchie Blackmore has a way of always turning up.
Born September 10, 1950
BANDS Aerosmith, Joe Perry Project
ICONIC GUITAR Gibson Les Paul
COOLEST RIFF “Walk This Way”—Toys in the Attic (Aerosmith)
Joe Perry is the American distillation of the good-old Keith Richards/Jimmy Page recipe for sideman/lead guitarist cool. He’s got the look and the licks, and he’s maintained both over the course of three or four decades—despite all odds. Jagger and Richards are the Glimmer Twins, but Perry and Aerosmith singer Steven Tyler went down in history as the Toxic Twins.
They took the Sixties formula of sex, drugs and rock and roll to new heights in the decadent Seventies. Yet they also cranked out a steady stream of hard rock gems throughout a career that has known more ups and downs than a roller coaster. What’s perhaps most amazing about Tyler and Perry’s partnership is that Perry is the sensible one.
He averages only about one meltdown to Tyler’s every three and keeps the Aerosmith juggernaut anchored with endless heavy guitar hooks. He’s even marketed his own brand of hot sauce. How cool is that?
When considering the choices for this list, we realized it wasn't as easy a task as we first thought.
What makes for a great 12-string guitar song as opposed to a great song that just happens to have a 12-string somewhere on it?
Let's face it, if "Stairway to Heaven" had a ukulele on it, it would immediately be in the running for Greatest Ukulele Song of All Time.
That being said, we looked at not only the legacy of the song but how prevalent 12-string guitar is in the song and how influential the song would be in inspiring others to pick up their 12-strings. Without the movie A Hard Day's Night, the Byrds might not have existed as you now know them, and without "Stairway to Heaven," the doubleneck guitar might be sitting in a museum as a one-time oddity produced by Gibson.
So what song will we crown as the Greatest 12-String Guitar Song of All Time? Read on ...
30. Pantera, "Suicide Note, Part 1"The Great Southern Trendkill (1996)
This song marked one of the most experimental moments in Pantera's catalog, with Dimebag Darrell's dark 12-string guitar part perfectly echoing the song's somber subject matter.
29. John Butler Trio, "Ocean"John Butler (1998)
The newest song to make the cut, John Butler's instrumental masterpiece "Ocean" stands as a fine example of the timeless sound of the 12-string. Keep an ear out for Butler's use of two-hand tapping ala Satriani in "Midnight."
28. America, "A Horse With No Name"America (1971)
Although the 12-string acoustic guitar plays only a supporting role in this ubiquitous folk-rock tune about a nameless equine, it actually plays a major part in its overall sound. When "A Horse With No Name" was released, a lot of people thought it was a Neil Young song, which is ironic because it replaced Young's “Heart of Gold” at the No. 1 spot on the U.S. pop chart.
27. Bob Dylan, "Hurricane"Desire (1976)
Most assume it was Dylan himself who played the 12-string here, but it was actually session guitarist Vinnie Bell manning the Danelectro Bellzouki 12-string guitar on this classic cut.
SORRY, THERE'S NO VIDEO FOR THIS ONE.
26. Gordon Lightfoot, "Early Morning Rain,"Gord's Gold (1975)
Gordon Lightfoot re-recorded this old Gordon Lightfoot tune for his 1975 compilation album, Gord's Gold, and it's this lush, radio-friendly version that became the hit. While 12-string electric guitars were all the rage in the Sixties, 12-string acoustics had taken their place in the Seventies; this song is a prime example of that shift.
25. Alice In Chains, "I Stay Away"Jar of Flies (1994)
If ever there was a rock band who had an equally strong handle on menacing drop-D riffs and menacing, introspective acoustic music, it was most certainly Alice In Chains. "I Stay Away" from Jar of Flies is not only the band's best 12-string moment, but it marks the first track Jerry Cantrell wrote with then-new Alice in Chains bassist Mike Inez.
24. The Hollies, "Look Through Any Window"Hollies (1965)
As you'll see, 1965 was a huge year for the electric 12-string guitar. It was big like synthesizers and skinny black ties were big in 1982. You had your Byrds, of course, your Beatles—and your Hollies, who rode the 12-string bandwagon to great heights with this song written by Graham Gouldman and Charles Silverman. That's Tony Hicks on the 12-string, by the way.
23. Queen, "39,"A Night at the Opera (1975)
Brian May's massive-sounding 12-string acoustic is an integral part of this sci-fi masterpiece, the B-side of "You're My Best Friend." It's about a group of astronauts who set out on what they think is a one-year journey, but when they get back, they realize they've been gone for 100 years. They simply don't write Einstein allusions like this anymore.
22. Mahavishnu Orchestra, "You Know You Know"The Inner Mounting Flame (1971)
It's undeniable that Mahavishnu Orchestra had many fine 12-string moments in their career, but "You Know You Know" off their first album, The Inner Mounting Flame, stands out as guitarist John McLaughlin's shining moment with the instrument. Fun fact: This song was later sampled by both Mos Def and Massive Attack.
21. Red Hot Chili Peppers, "Breaking the Girl"Blood Sugar Sex Magik (1991)
One of only two Chili Peppers songs in 3/4 time, John Frusciante's main 12-string riff in this song was inspired by none other than Jimmy Page.
20. Jimi Hendrix, "Hear My Train A-Comin'"Blues (1969)
Jimi Hendrix sitting alone playing blues on a 12-string acoustic guitar is a reminder that, despite all of his distortion and psychedelia, he always felt a strong connection to his roots, including Delta blues. Although he performed and recorded electric, full-band versions of this song (as heard on the Valleys of Neptune album), this version is more stark and disarming.
19. Supertramp, "Give A Little Bit"Even in the Quietest Moments.... (1977)
This international hit for Supertramp is a pop masterpiece in the key of D, which, as the Byrds proved a decade-plus earlier, is the 12-stringiest of all the keys. It was written by Roger Hodgson, and a solo Hodgson performance is featured in the video below.
18. David Bowie, "Space Oddity"David Bowie/Space Oddity (1969)
Long before working with the likes of Adrian Belew, Carlos Alomar, Robert Fripp and Stevie Ray Vaughan, Bowie himself manned the 12-string for his 1969 ballad of Major Tom. The song was so well-received, the album it appeared on, David Bowie, was renamed after the song before its 1972 reissue.
17. The Who, "Substitute" (1966)
When Pete Townshend wanted a riff to one-up the Rolling Stones'"(I Can't Get No) Satisfaction," he reached for his 12-string. "Substitute" was a top 10 hit twice in the U.K., once in 1966 when it was originally released an again 10 years later when it was re-issued. The track found unlikely supporters in the punk rock movement, being covered by both the Sex Pistols and the Ramones. (Note: In the video below, just ignore the Tele, which is essentially just a poorly chosen prop for the video.)
16. The Beatles, "A Hard Day's Night"A Hard Day's Night (1964)
Although the Byrds were the band that was most associated with the 12-string Rickenbacker in the '60s, their inspiration came from the Beatles. "We went as a group to see A Hard Day’s Night multiple times and were totally taken with the Beatles," said Roger (formerly Jim) McGuinn.
"I liked George Harrison’s Rickenbacker 12, but I couldn’t find one that looked like his with the pointy cutaways, so I bought the blonde 360 model." For a clear, crisp example of the beauty of the guitar's sound, check out the 12-string riff as the song fades.
15. Rod Stewart, "Maggie May"Every Picture Tells A Story" (1971)
"Maggie May," Rod's Stewart's first hit as a solo performer, starred a striking combination of 12-string acoustic guitar and mandolin. In 2004, Rolling Stone ranked the song at No. 130 on its list of the 500 Greatest Songs of All Time. We like it too.
14. Bon Jovi, "Wanted Dead or Alive"Slippery When Wet (1986)
Half-inspired by Old West Outlaws and half by Bob Seger's "Turn the Page," Jon Bon Jovi and Richie Sambora managed to craft arguably the most recognizable acoustic guitar riff of a ballad-heavy era in rock music.
13. The Rolling Stones, "As Tears Go By"December's Children (And Everybody's) (1965)
This was one of the first Jagger/Richards compositions—although producer Andrew Loog Oldham is also credited as a writer. Legend has it that ol' Loog Locked Mick and Keith in a room and told them to come out with an original song, period. This is what they came up with, and they gave it to Marianne Faithfull in 1964 before taking a stab at it a year later.
12. The Byrds, "Mr. Tambourine Man"Mr. Tambourine Man (1965)
Even though George Harrison had been recording with his 12-string Rickenbacker for a while, with this song, Jim (later Roger) McGuinn showed the world exactly how cool a 12-string guitar could be. Its jangly sound was the perfect partner to Bob Dylan's ethereal lyrics. The 12-string Rick would be an integral part of the Byrds' sound until they disbanded in 1973.
11. Led Zeppelin, "Stairway to Heaven"Led Zeppelin IV (1971)
With this song, Jimmy Page did for the doubleneck guitar what Roger McGuinn of the Byrds did for the 12-string electric. Or perhaps more fitting, Page did for the doubleneck what Henry Ford did for the horseless carriage.
10. Rush, "Closer to the Heart"A Farewell to Kings (1977)
Taken from Rush's 1977 album A Farewell to Kings, "Closer to the Heart" begins with a majestic-sounding arpeggio picking pattern played by guitarist Alex Lifeson on a 12-string guitar. This song was also Rush's first hit in the U.K. and has been a staple of their live show ever since.
09. Ozzy Osbourne, "Mama I’m Coming Home"No More Tears (1991)
Zakk Wylde's obvious Southern-rock homage in the opening bar gives way to beautiful, descending riff, which anchored Ozzy Osbourne's only solo Top 40 hit. Rest assured there are plenty of Zakk's patented pinch harmonics to go around, but the sound of the 12-string intro is what makes this song instantly recognizable.
08. Boston, "More Than a Feeling"Boston (1976)
A classic rock radio mainstay and one of the most recognizable 12-string guitar intros in all of rock, "More Than a Feeling" reportedly took Tom Sholz five years to write.
07. Tom Petty, "Free Falling"Full Moon Fever (1989)
Back when the Traveling Wilburys ruled the airwaves, Tom Petty, a Wilbury himself, adopted the band's thick, acoustic sound for Full Moon Fever, his first solo outing. He also took fellow Wilbury Jeff Lynne along for the ride as co-producer. This one features 12-string acoustic on the rhythm and a touch of 12-string Rickenbacker on the mini-solo.
06. The Byrds, "Turn! Turn! Turn!"Turn! Turn! Turn! (1965)
Yes, it's The Byrds again. This song is higher up on the list than "Mr. Tambourine Man" because of its beautiful 12-string Rickenbacker solo and the fact that the Byrds are actually playing on it (which is not entirely true for "Mr. Tambourine Man").
05. The Beatles, "Ticket To Ride"Help! (1965)
Yet another one from '65. This tune, with its crisp 12-string Rickenbacker intro, is one of the many highlights from the Beatles' second feature film, Help! Just play an A on the G string, an open E string, a C sharp on the B string, that A again and then an open B string, and you're on your way.
04. Stevie Ray Vaughan, "Rude Mood"Stevie Ray Vaughan and Double Trouble (Box Set) (1990)
It was a little surprising when SRV turned up on MTV's Unplugged in 1990 with a Guild 12-string, tearing through a slew of Texas Flood tunes, including "Pride and Joy,""Testify" and "Rude Mood." Then again, that's also the year he recorded "Life By the Drop" on a 12-string. Perhaps he'd stumbled upon something new that he could've put to greater use in the future.
03. Pink Floyd, "Wish You Were Here"Wish You Were Here (1975)
Recorded to sound like it was being played through an old transistor radio, the 12-string intro of Pink Floyd's "Wish You Were Here" never fails to evoke a sense of nostalgia. When David Gilmour plays the overdubbed six-string solo, sounding like a lonely old man playing along with the radio, you get one of the most timeless songs in the back catalog of one of the most timeless bands of all time.
02. Led Zeppelin, "Over the Hills and Far Away"Houses of the Holy (1973)
"Stairway" may be the most revered song on this list, but there's no denying "Over the Hills and Far Away" as the quintessential 12-string guitar song in Led Zeppelin's catalog.
01. The Eagles, "Hotel California"Hotel California (1976)
Yes, it's "Hotel California." What a nice surprise! Admit it: Don Felder's 12-string acoustic guitar intro (and every other note and chord he plays on this song) is, at this point, a part of our collective consciousness. This song, the ubiquitous soundtrack to 37 trillion barbecues, elevator rides and long trips through the desert at 3 a.m., has never gone away—and probably never will.
Jason Isbell will release Something More Than Free, his highly anticipated fifth album, on July 17 via Southeastern Records.
The album features Isbell’s Southern-inspired vignettes of working class men, women and traditions that permeate these 11 new songs.
The pure honesty and authenticity of Isbell’s poetic lyrics and soulful vocals have connected deeply with so many, and they shine as brightly as ever on Something More Than Free.
Something More Than Free is Isbell’s most sonically diverse album to date. The opening track, “If It Takes A Lifetime,” exudes a classic country tone, while “24 Frames” flows effortlessly with its easy, Laurel Canyon vibe.
The wistful folk balladry of “Flagship”, along with the bluesy Southern rock timbre of “Palmetto Rose” and epic “Children Of Children” prove that Jason Isbell is an artist whose creative pinnacle has yet to be within sight.
Something More Than Free is the follow up to Isbell’s 2013 celebrated breakthrough album Southeastern, which received overwhelming support from the press and went on to sell over 150,000 copies. Isbell was subject of stories in outlets ranging from The New York Times Magazine and Wall Street Journal to NPR’s All Things Considered and Fresh Air with Terry Gross.
Jason Isbell & The 400 Unit made multiple television appearances, including The Late Show with David Letterman, Conan and Austin City Limits. Isbell won Artist of the Year, Song of the Year (“Cover Me Up”) and Album of the Year at the 2014 Americana Music Awards. Catch Jason and his wife Amanda Shires during a very special performance on The Late Show with David Letterman on April 24.
Along with the media support, the success of Southeastern was the product of good old-fashioned hard work. Much like the working class subjects in his songs, Isbell grinded it out with his band The 400 Unit on the road. They toured extensively, made real connections with his audience, poured his heart out each night and stayed true to his convictions. Audiences grew as venue sizes expanded with sold out shows throughout the U.S. and Europe, including New York’s Beacon Theatre and three sold out nights at Nashville’s historic Ryman Auditorium, where an unprecedented four-night stand has been announced for October 23-26. See tour dates below.
Something More Than Free was recorded at the Sound Emporium in Nashville, TN and produced by Dave Cobb, who also produced Southeastern.
For more, visit www.jasonisbell.com.
Jason Isbell & The 400 Unit Upcoming Tour Dates
April16 - Chattanooga, TN - Track 29 ^^
April 17 - Charlotte, NC - Tuckfest at U.S. National Whitewater Center
April 18 - Greenville, SC - Horizon Records (Record Store Day 2015 In-Store)
April 18 - Columbia, SC- Music Farm Columbia ^^
May 2 - Meridian, MS - Jimmie Rodgers Music Festival
May 8 - Richmond, VA - Friday Cheers at Brown’s Island
May 9 - Maryville, TN - The Shed #
May 12 - Jacksonville, FL - Florida Theatre **
May 13 - Clearwater, FL - Capitol Theatre **
May 15 - Orlando, FL - The Plaza Theatre **
May 16 - Atlanta, GA - Shaky Boots Festival
May 17 - Wilmington, NC - Greenfield Lake Amphitheatre **
May 19 - Westbury, NY - The Space at Westbury **
May 20 - Port Chester, NY - Capitol Theatre **
May 22 - Albany, NY - Hart Theatre @ The Egg **
May 23 - Cumberland, MD - Del Fest
May 24 - Boston, MA - Boston Calling
May 26 - Rochester, NY - Water Street Music Hall **
May 27 - Cleveland, OH - House of Blues **
May 28 - Bristol, TN - Paramount Center for the Arts **
June 4 - Cincinnati, OH - PNC Pavilion %
June 5 - Dayton, OH - Rose Music Center at the Heights %
June 6 - Black Mountain, NC - Pisgah Brewing Co. Outdoor Stage°°
June 20 - Austin, TX - Texas Union Ballroom – SOLD OUT
July 4 - Austin, TX - Willie Nelson’s 4th of July Picnic
July 9-12 - Winnipeg, Canada - Winnipeg Folk Festival
July 26 - Columbia, MD - Merriweather Post Pavilion ✚
July 31 – Fort Smith, AR – Peacemaker Music & Arts Festival
August 14-16 - Lyons, CO - Folks Festival
October 23-26 - Nashville, TN - Ryman Auditorium
** = Craig Finn opening
^^ = Strand of Oaks opening
# = Anderson East opening
°° = Amanda Shires opening
% = With Amanda Shires, opening for Dwight Yoakam
✚ = Opening for My Morning Jacket
Ryman Auditorium Special Guests:
October 23: Amanda Shires
October 24: Parker Millsap
October 25: Hurray for the Riff Raff
October 26: Chris Stapleton
With an iconic career spanning over four decades, touching on film, fashion, literature and popular music, Carly Simon continues to expand upon her already prodigious legacy.
Simon is set to re-release The Bedroom Tapes - Special Edition through her own boutique label C‘EST Music (Pronounced “Say”) in conjunction with CARLY SIMON VINTAGE.
CARLY SIMON VINTAGE is a lifestyle brand that will connect fans, music lovers, and fellow artists to her expansive legacy in a unique and intimate way.
Through her web-store and other exciting partnerships, the vintage brand will bring a selection of new, vintage, hand-crafted and one of kinds items, as well as limited and expanded releases of classic albums to the public, all curated by Simon herself.
Originally released in 2000 through Arista and then unavailable shortly after it’s initial release, Simon is now making The Bedroom Tapes available to her fans with the addition of two rare bonus tracks “Grandmother’s House” and “When Manhattan Was a Maiden.”
The initial title of the collection was called “When Manhattan Was A Maiden” because of the many Manhattan references, but when the title song (“When Manhattan Was A Maiden”) was eventually left off the original CD along with several other tracks, the Manhattan reference was diluted.
The true thematic glue that remained was that the greater part of the recordings were made in the bedroom. There are still overtones of New York City, as in “Cross The River,” “Whatever Became of Her,” “So Many Stars,” and “In Honor of You (George),” and now the inclusion of “When Manhattan Was A Maiden” brings some of that back.
Watch Simon talk about the album:
In 1998, during Carly’s last winter living on Central Park West in New York, it was a musical letter to George Gershwin in the form of “In Honor Of You (George)” that broke a years long writing slump and brought Carly back to thinking that perhaps she had something to say. This is also the first and only time that the Gershwin estate ever allowed a co-write with another writer.
Returning to Martha’s Vineyard, Carly moved her studio into her daughter Sally’s old bedroom which soon became littered with scraps of lyrics, phone messages, dried up pilot pens, past-the-pale tea mugs, and an accumulation of crispy moths from last summer. It created an atmosphere that allowed Carly to make sounds that she liked, not thinking in an orthodox way. Carly said she “never quite had that much fun. It was like playing with dolls”. Nearly 17 years later the songs sound as fresh and inspired as ever.
“The fun part of those long nights was that there was no danger of anyone hearing me. I could fail over and over. I could try anything and ask whoever came by the next day to guess whether it was a hair brush brushing against a strand of pearls or the sound of a bee buzzing against the corner of an old copy of Joseph Conrad's The Secret Sharer. The world of what was available and what could emanate from my throat or my hands was what I relied upon, and had true fun with.” – Carly
Find out more at www.carlysimon.com.
The Bedroom Tapes - Special Edition Track list:
1. Our Affair
2. So Many Stars
3. Big Dumb Guy
5. Cross The River
6. I Forget
8. I'm Really The Kind
9. We Your Dearest Friends
10. Whatever Became Of Her
11. In Honor Of You (George)
12. Grandmother's House
13. When Manhattan Was A Maiden
We figured you wouldn't mind a sneak preview of the next Guitar World cover!
For the June 2015 issue, guitar legend Eddie Van Halen is back, making his first cover appearance since the February 2014 issue.
In our new exclusive interview by Chris Gill, the guitarist chronicles the making of Tokyo Dome Live in Concert, Van Halen’s first official live record with David Lee Roth. He also discusses his super-secret new guitar amp and EVH Gear's mysterious Star Guitar, the latest addition to the company's ultra-cool Stripe Series.
Here's a taste!
What was the motivation for releasing a live album at this point in Van Halen’s career?
We realized that we have never made a live album with Dave. Since we had already released a studio album with Wolfgang playing on it, it also made sense for us to do a live album with both Wolf and Dave. Another reason why we put out a live record was to give people the experience of hearing us play our classic songs live.
Did you record any other shows or just the Tokyo show?
We have a Pro Tools rig out by the front of the house and have recorded every show since the beginning of the 2007 tour when Dave first got back in the band. But we never originally intended to put out a live record. We just recorded our shows to archive them.
We have so much material that it was too overwhelming to listen to about 150 shows and pick the best one. I didn’t even bother listening to any of the past shows, outside of a few jams here and there. We played pretty much the same set every night, although we changed a few songs here and there. We played the classics. That’s what people want to hear.
Because the performances by Alex, Wolfgang and myself were pretty consistent from one night to the next, we decided to leave it up to Dave to pick, and he happened to pick Tokyo. Performing live is a lot harder on a singer. Wolfgang and I sing backup vocals on the choruses, so we know how much the vocals can vary from one night to the next.
When your voice is your instrument, you can be affected by a lot of different things. If you sleep with the air conditioner on or the bus ride is too long, you can wake up the next day with a fucked up voice. That’s the main reason we decided to let Dave pick.
The June 2015 issue of Guitar World will be available April 28.
Last month, Metallica announced they'd be offering a unique, limited-edition reissue for Record Store Day on April 18: a remastered cassette version of their 1982 demo, No Life ‘til Leather.
That seven-song demo, which was recorded July 6 of that year, and which spread like wildfire through the thriving underground tape-trading scene, featured the original Metallica lineup of James Hetfield (vocals/guitar), Lars Ulrich (drums), Dave Mustaine (lead guitar) and Ron McGovney (bass).
It contains many of the band’s now-classic songs, including “Hit the Lights,” “Motorbreath,” “Seek & Destroy” and “Jump in the Fire,” all of which eventually found their way onto Metallica’s stunning 1983 debut, Kill ‘Em All.
Although Hammett didn’t play on the demo (he left Exodus to replace Mustaine in early 1983 prior to the recording of Kill ‘Em All), we recently caught up with him to discuss his unique relationship with No Life ‘til Leather, as well as Metallica’s plans to release deluxe reissues of their entire back catalog.
“We’re gonna reissue everything,” Hammett says. “We’re in the process of finding artifacts. Me, I didn’t hardly save anything. [laughs] But Lars, on the other hand, is an archivist and [is] obsessive-compulsive about it. He has all that stuff.
"When the idea was floated around about releasing the No Life ‘til Leather demo as a cassette, I thought they were joking. Then the next thing you know I’m holding a fucking cassette! [laughs]
“Then I started to remember that even though I didn’t play on this cassette, it was so monumental to my connection to the band. It was the cassette Metallica’s sound guy, Mark Whitaker, who was also Exodus’ manager, sent me so I could learn the songs for my audition.
"I still have my copy of No Life ‘til Leather. It came with a cassette slip case that said, ‘Metallica Is: James Hetfield, vocals/guitar, Lars Ulrich, drums, Ron McGovney, bass, Dave Mustaine, guitar.’ But [on my copy] someone scratched out Dave Mustaine’s name and put “Kirk Hammett”!
"I thought it was a pretty funny joke back in the day in ’83. But when I look at it now there’s an irony and poignancy to it that kinda brings a tear to my eye. But I’m glad the No Life 'til Leather demo is out in its original cassette form.”
Photo: Jimmy Hubbard
This is a triplet-based run in A minor that starts out in the low register and moves up and across the fretboard, spanning three octaves before settling into a single position and moving back across the strings.
I’m using hammer-ons and pull-offs in combination with picking to achieve a fast stream of notes that "pops" and flows. Each pair of triplets in bar 1 is played within a compact four-note shape that I fret with my index and ring fingers.
When I get to the top two strings in bar 2, I continue the same phrasing approach and bring the pinkie into play to incorporate wide intervals and big fret-hand stretches and use quick position shifts to ascend the neck. On beat three of bar 2 I melodically outline a Gadd2 chord [G A B D], which creates a nice sense of harmonic movement in an otherwise A minor pentatonic [A C D E G] tonality.
Once I get to the high A note at the 17th fret at the end of bar 2, I stay in the 14th-position A minor pentatonic box pattern for the remainder of the lick and work my way back over to the low E string, using double pull-offs in conjunction with chromatic passing tones at the 16th fret on the top two strings.
At the end of bar 3, I play a Jeff Beck–inspired move, picking the C note at the 17th fret on the G string followed by a big, one-and-one-half-step "over-bend" up to that same pitch from A, three frets lower, pulling the string downward with my index finger.
I also do a little bit of string skipping to disguise the sound of the scale pattern, and I finish the lick by adding the ninth, B, to the scale to suggest an A natural minor [A B C D E F G] sound. As I did with the bend, I add vibrato to the final note by pulling the string down, which is the only way to bend the low E string.
Girl’s Got Rhythm: Joan Jett has been banging out some of rock’s greatest power chords since the age of 15. With her induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, there’s only one thing you need to know—she still loves rock and roll.
Joan Jett looks perfect. In other words, she looks exactly the way you want Joan Jett to look.
With her iconic black shag and eyeliner, she saunters into the Guitar World photo studio wearing a variation on a rock and roll uniform she had worn almost her entire life: a tight black sleeveless shirt, black jeans and black motorcycle boots, all of it topped with a kick-ass leather jacket.
And if you have to ask about the color of her jacket, you clearly haven’t been paying much attention.
The last few years have been pretty supersonic for Jett and her band the Blackhearts. Since releasing the critically acclaimed Unvarnished album in late 2013, which featured the hit “Any Weather,” co-written with Foo Fighters frontman Dave Grohl, she has been touring up a storm while snagging honors right and left, like the Revolver Golden God award and the Alternative Press Icon Award.
To complete the trifecta, this month she is being inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, long considered music’s ultimate validation. Not bad for a veteran celebrating her fourth decade in the biz.
Truth is, Joan Jett’s entire career is nothing short of miraculous, especially when you consider just how difficult it was for her to simply get out of the starting gate.
“My parents got me a guitar for Christmas when I was 13 and I went to take lessons,” Jett says in her distinctive sandpapery voice. “I told the teacher I wanted to learn how to play rock and roll, and because I was just a naïve kid, I thought he was going to be able to show me in one lesson! I didn’t know that you had to learn the ropes. If he would’ve explained that to me, it would’ve been fine, but instead he said something far worse. He told me, ‘Girls don’t play rock and roll,’ and then tried to teach me ‘On Top of Old Smokey.’ ”
In response, Joan grabbed her guitar and stormed out never to return. A mere two years later, at the age of 15, Jett proved her teacher—and every other sexist naysayer—wrong when she formed the Runaways, a groundbreaking all-female rock band, best known for their 1976 hit “Cherry Bomb.” The band didn’t last very long, but their music and exploits became legendary to multiple generations, partly due to The Runaways, a successful movie biopic about the band released in 2010 starring Kristen Stewart as Jett.
While the Runaways were crucial to Joan’s development, it was her solo career that made her a household name. A succession of Top 40 hits including “Bad Reputation,” “Crimson & Clover,” “Do You Wanna Touch Me (Oh Yeah)” and the 1981 monster smash “I Love Rock ’N’ Roll” cemented her status as the quintessential queen of noise. And the accompanying MTV videos didn’t hurt either.
If you had to design a woman rocker from the ground up, it would probably look a helluva lot like Joan in videos like 1988’s “I Hate Myself for Loving You.” With her white Gibson Melody Maker slung low, she was sleek, tough and sexy—the living embodiment of the ultimate badass girl with a guitar.
Image aside, as a musician, she’s no slouch either. One former Blackheart bandmate recently commented, “You could build a fortress on the foundation of Joan’s rhythm hand.” True, that. Her power chords detonate with the shattering force and clarity of a nail bomb going off at Tiffany’s, and outside of AC/DC’s Malcolm Young or Keith Richards, it’s hard to think of anybody that can lay down a groove like Joan. What’s her secret? That’s partly what we’re here to find out.
It’s interesting to note that Joan rarely uses the word “rock” to describe her favorite music. Instead, she almost always refers to it by its somewhat antiquated and more formal name, “rock and roll.” Maybe it’s just out of habit, but perhaps it’s out of respect. It’s clear from our conversation Joan has a deep reverence for rock and roll. One thing is very certain: she clearly loves it.
How do you feel about being inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame?
It’s awesome and an honor. The Hall has inducted so many people that I look up to, so it’s incredible to be counted among them. That said, it’s not something I ever aspired to. When I write songs or play music it’s not something I really think about. You just want to tour and get your songs out. I mean this in the best way, but the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame is just an aside.
The part that I think is really positive about the Hall of Fame is that rock isn’t being acknowledged at the Grammy’s and other music awards shows, so it’s cool that we have our own moment. And I really hope it stays focused on rock, because all other music already gets acknowledged on all the other shows.
You are being inducted with two other musicians that are cut from the same cloth. Both Lou Reed and Billie Joe Armstrong of Green Day are great singer/rhythm guitarists. Did you ever hang with Lou and his legendarily decadent crew in the Seventies?
No, unfortunately. In the early days, I was based on the West Coast and he was in New York City. However, I remember buying Transformer with “Walk on the Wild Side” as a kid and I was really impressed with how it freaked people out! People would say he couldn’t carry a tune, but that wasn’t the point. He was a storyteller and singing about things nobody else was talking about at the time.
I finally met Lou at a Rock and Roll Hall of Fame ceremony a few years ago. We were sitting at different tables near each other, and that particular year there were a few acts being inducted that weren’t really rock and roll. We just kept looking at each other, making faces. It was a special moment between the two of us, because no one else saw what we were doing. [laughs]
When you were in the Runaways, you actually covered Lou Reed’s song “Rock and Roll,” but you did it more in the style of Mitch Ryder’s great 1971 version of the song.
Yeah, the weird thing is, we weren’t even aware of Lou Reed’s version at that time. We had heard Mitch Ryder’s version and fell in love with the great guitar riff that kicks off the song so we focused on that. A couple years later I started listening to Lou’s original recording, and as a rhythm guitar player I started liking it more, because it had a weird rhythm to it. It has an extra bar tucked in, which is something I always find intriguing.
“I Love Rock ’N’ Roll,” your biggest hit, actually has that extra bar in it.
The two songs are connected in a funny way. I first heard “I Love Rock and Roll” in England while the Runaways were touring. It was the B-side of a single by a group called the Arrows and I immediately thought it sounded like a hit. I played it for the band, but they didn’t want to do it because we had just recorded “Rock ’N’ Roll” and they didn’t think it was a good idea to have two songs on the same album with the words “rock ’n’ roll” in the title, so we didn’t do it. I thought to myself, I’ll just stick it in my back pocket, and maybe we’ll revisit in another album or two. Anyway, the band broke up, I ended up recording it for my solo album and the rest is history.
You were only 15 when you formed the Runaways and had been playing guitar for just a couple of years, yet your rhythm playing was already rock-solid. Was that just something that came naturally?
After my first guitar teacher tried to discourage me from playing rock and roll, I went out and bought one of those teach yourself how to play guitar books and learned all the basic open chords and barre chords and started playing along with records. The first songs I was able to figure out were things like “Smoke on the Water” by Deep Purple, Black Sabbath songs like “Iron Man” and “Sweet Leaf” and “Bang A Gong” by T. Rex.
I immediately gravitated to power chords because I found I could be more rhythmically accurate with them and they sounded closer to the music I was listening to. But to answer your question, I never really thought about whether I was any good or could keep a beat, I just played along to albums. My bigger problem was that I was alone—I couldn’t find other kids to rock out with.
Eventually my family moved from Rockville, Maryland, to California, which was really great because I knew there had to be other girls in Los Angeles that could play music and maybe I could form a band. That idea really motivated me. Not long after, I met Sandy West, who would eventually be the drummer for the Runaways. She was a big, strong girl and her idol was Led Zeppelin’s John Bonham and she played like him. We set up in the rec room of her house and just started to jam, and the sound was so powerful we knew we were on to something. We said, “We gotta go find some other girls.” I knew pretty quickly that I was a rhythm guitar player and not a lead player—I just wasn’t interested in that.
Photo: Jimmy Hubbard
Even though this video has been viewed more than three million times—it still strikes me as something of a rare bird (probably because I've—somehow—never seen it before!).
The clip, which apparently was shot in January 1986, shows Stevie Ray Vaughan and Double Trouble running through three songs—"Scuttle Buttin',""Ain't Gone 'n' Give Up On Love" and "Say What!"—during a soundcheck at an unspecified venue.
According to the info posted with the video, it shows "Stevie just waking up, then warming up."
Assuming this is true, it's annoyingly insane how incredible SRV could be at the drop of a hat—or at the ring of a bedside alarm clock. It's particularly impressive how he digs into "Ain't Gone 'n' Give Up On Love," meaning he was truly "feeling it" that day. It's also sort of priceless to see Vaughan, Tommy Shannon, Chris Layton and Reese Wynans just sort of milling about before and after takes.
Editor's Note: Extra info attached to video — "This was filmed Jan 1986 by Greg Savage of Savage Guitar Design and is used with permission. Greg is an expert luthier; visit Greg's page here: savageguitar.com.
In this lesson, I’ll be demonstrating a modern way of playing arpeggios by combining string skipping and tapping.
I’ll be showing you three different arpeggio shapes. At the end of the lesson, I’ll give you an example of how you can string them together into a ripping fast progression.
Let’s start with EXAMPLE 1. This example starts with an Fmaj7 arpeggio with the root of the chord on the A string. I then take this shape and move it to the E string to play a Cmaj7 arpeggio.
What I love about this approach is that nearly every arpeggio shape is movable between the A and E strings. For all the examples in this lesson, I play two notes with my left hand and one note with my right hand on every string in the arpeggio.
EXAMPLE 2 is the same approach but this time with Min7 arpeggios. I start with a Dm7 on the A string then move it over to the E string to play an Amin7 arpeggio. Notice I’m using the same fingering between arpeggios.
Moving on to EXAMPLE 3, I take this approach one step further by playing Dim7 arpeggios. This time, I play Edim7 and Bdim7, respectively. This is probably the trickiest shape to get down in this lesson, but it is also the most useful. Since it is a diminished chord, it can be moved up and down the neck by three frets to achieve the next inversion of the chord.
NOTE: All diminished arpeggio shapes can be moved up and down by three frets, regardless of the technique you’re using: sweep picking, tapping, string skipping, etc.
For our final example, EXAMPLE 4 takes these shapes and strings them together into a progression. The progression is Dm7-C#maj7-G#maj7-Edim7. When I’m practicing something like this, I try to focus on the transitions between each chord. I find the more I focus on the transitions, the faster I get the progression down.
These modern shred patterns are my favorite way of playing arpeggios because they have a completely different sound than the standard sweep picking shapes everybody plays. They are also closely related to the most common pentatonic and major scale shapes, so once you get these down, try linking them in with some of your favorite scales. I think you’ll find they are easy to grab all around the neck.
And remember there are only two types of breakfast cereals for guitar players: BLUESBERRY CRUNCH and ARPEGGI-O’s. Cheers!
Sammy Boller is the guitarist for the Detroit rock band Citizen Zero. They’re touring and recording their first full-length album with Al Sutton and Marlon Young (Kid Rock, Bob Seger, Uncle Kracker). In 2012, Boller was selected by Joe Satriani as a winner of Guitar Center’s Master Satriani competition. He studied music at the University of Michigan. For more about Boller, or to ask him a question, write to him at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter.
Most guitarists at one point or another in their development have gone through some sort of “I want a custom guitar” phase.
Whether it’s a funky paint job or a radical new shape, a custom ax presents the opportunity to express yourself. Or, in the opinion of some, the opportunity to say, “Hey, look at me, I’m a horse’s arse!”
Here, we celebrate 10 such opportunities. We’ll let you categorize them as you see fit.
No one ever went to a Led Zeppelin concert expecting the band to open with “The Rain Song.”
It's a fine tune, to be sure, but the electric charge of a crowd in waiting must be met in kind.
The same applies to the album: Kiss didn’t open Destroyer with “Beth,” for example. And Metallica had the prudence to place “Fade to Black” a good four songs into Ride the Lightning.
When you get down to it, just about any band from any genre wants to kick things off hard and fast, and none more so than axe-wielding heavy metal masters.
With that, we present the 10 greatest starting guns from metal’s most iconic albums.
The Black Album
How does the world’s greatest thrash band open its masterpiece album? Not with sledgehammer riffs or machine gun drum patterns, but rather a droning E-minor tritone pattern that ushers in bass, drums and a drudging minor-2nd power chord riff.
The song’s signature E to F interval has become so synonymous with “Enter Sandman” that, in the Nineties, a rumor began that Metallica trademarked the progression and would sue any band that used it. This proved a hoax, but showed how indelible a mark the Black Album’s opener left on heavy metal.
Pantera—“Cowboys From Hell”
Cowboys From Hell
Abandoning their previous glam metal sound, CFH showcased Pantera’s new groove metal style, no better exemplified than in the title track.
Dimebag begins by pedaling a flanger-soaked open E string, then subtly introduces his immortal riff before launching into full-on open-string chainsaw fury.
Priest drummer Scott Travis demonstrates that screaming guitars aren’t the only way to open an album with this explosive double-bass onslaught, which ushers in one of the veteran metal band’s most crushing tracks.
Glenn Tipton and K.K. Downing lay down blazing riffs and solos, Ian Hill’s bass is rock steady with Travis, and Rob Halford’s ear-splitting vocals sound like his nuts are on the business end of a steel-toe boot; it’s a metal behemoth and a return to form after the more pop-oriented Turbo and Ram It Down albums.
Slayer—“Angel of Death”
Reign in Blood
Any metal band can start an album with walls of guitar and rapid-fire drum blasts, but Slayer kicks off their seminal 1986 effort with one of the most controversial tracks in the genre’s history.
Guitarist Jeff Hanneman wrote “Angel of Death” about infamous Nazi doctor Josef Mengele. Though Hanneman and the rest of the band insisted the song is a documentary, and in no way an endorsement of Nazism, Neo-Nazi labeling ensued upon the album’s release in 1986.
Lyrical interpretation notwithstanding, the song is still considered a “classic” thrash metal track.
Black Sabbath—“Sabbath Bloody Sabbath”
Sabbath Bloody Sabbath
“The riff that saved Black Sabbath” may have never come to fruition had it not been for the supposedly haunted recording location at Clearwell Castle in England.
In 1973, guitarist Tony Iommi was suffering writer’s block trying to come up with ideas following the success of Volume 4. With no luck in L.A., the band reconvened at Clearwell, writing and recording in the dungeons of the 18th-century castle. While the song rarely appears in the band’s live set, it launched one of Sabbath’s most critically lauded albums and has been covered by everyone from Anthrax to Amon Amarth to, um, the Cardigans.
Iron Maiden—“Aces High”
The 24-second eighth-note intro is the subtle pattern that lulls the listener into complacency; it’s just another somber churner, a la “Hallowed Be Thy Named.”
Then the blazing 16th note harmonies drop and Powerslave takes off. “Aces High” is a heavy fan favorite among metal acts like Children of Bodom and Arch Enemy, both of whom have covered the song, and recalls a feisty Iron Maiden poised to take over the metal world.
Children of Bodom—“Living Dead Beat”
Are You Dead Yet?
Keys are an unlikely way to open a metal album, but with melodic death metal quintet Children of Bodom, an ominous synth intro here or there is expected.
“Living Dead Beat” opens with a John Carpenter-style synth lead, but is quickly appended with gattling gun guitars, a la Laiho and guitarist Roope Latvala. The guitars dominate the album, but throughout, the baleful melodies of Janne Wirman’s keyboards can be heard creeping in the mix.
Testament—“D.N.R. (Do Not Resuscitate)”
It would be nine years before Testament would release another studio album, but fans had much to be content with from 1999’s The Gathering. Loaded with some of Testament’s fastest, most aggressive material, the band itself is shy of a few classic lineup members, namely guitarist Alex Skolnick and drummer Louie Clemente.
Former Death guitarist James Murphy and Slayer drummer Dave Lombardo filled in, their up-tempo playing styles appearing throughout the album. “D.N.R.,” at just over 3:30 minutes, is a blistering insight into the album’s pure ferocity.
Megadeth—“Last Rites/Loved to Deth”
Killing is My Business… and Business is Good
Far from the polished and intricate sonic architecture that would become Megadeth’s trademark, the debut release from Mustaine and crew makes up for its minimalism with raw, unbridled energy.
“Last Rites/Loved to Deth” begins with an excerpt from Bach’s Toccata and Fugue in D Minor before Mustaine and guitarist Chris Poland’s guitars take center stage. The dark, baroque intro may have aligned itself better with later, more sophisticated Megadeth work, but there’s no denying “Last Rites/Loved to Deth” ushered in new champions of thrash metal.
Motörhead—“Ace of Spades”
Ace of Spades
Bridging the gap between punk and metal, Motörhead’s seminal 1980 release had a substantial impact on many up-and-coming thrash bands.
The ferocious pick attack of guitarist “Fast” Eddie Clarke no doubt provoked many budding bands’ inclinations towards blazing tremolo riffs, not least of all metal kings Metallica, who released four Motörhead covers as b-sides with their single “Hero of the Day” in 1996.
After unveiling a transformative redesign of its maple 600 Series acoustic guitars earlier this year at the Winter NAMM Show, Taylor Guitars is expanding the rollout this spring.
The new 600s, which were revoiced to bring out a richer, warmer maple sound and given a major aesthetic makeover, made their debut with an initial release of four models — the 614ce, 616ce, 618ce and 12-string 656ce.
In the wake of rave reviews from industry leaders, dealers and media, two Grand Concert models join the series this spring: the 612ce and 612ce 12-Fret.
The new models embody the same tone-forward vision as their 600 Series siblings, with shape-specific bracing and wood thicknesses, thin finish, and new seasoning processes like torrefaction, which together expand maple’s tone profile to include more complexity and overall playing versatility. Despite the smaller dimensions of the Grand Concert body style, Taylor Master Builder Andy Powers was able to elicit a surprisingly potent sound. “It has a delicate, articulate voice, but it’s not a quiet or weak-sounding guitar,” he says. “It’s actually really loud and powerful. But because the shape is a smaller outline, it will emphasize a certain clarity in its articulation and a certain high-end chime that a larger guitar won’t.”
Specifically with the 612ce 12-Fret model, the geometry of the bridge to shorter neck results in a different voicing option for fans of the Grand Concert shape. “By making a shorter neck, you shift where the strings fall in relation to the body,” Powers says. “The bridge sits in a different spot on the body, so the way the player drives the top is different, with an extra robust punch in the midrange. It makes for dramatically present notes.”
Notable design innovations on the new 600 Series models include:
Customized Wood Thicknesses and Bracing: The top and back thicknesses have been specially gauged for each body shape. Powers also optimized the bracing for each shape. The backs feature new maple-specific bracing profiles and patterns to enhance the responsiveness. As a result, he says, “the backs of these guitars work a lot like an archtop guitar or a violin if you were to delete its soundpost. These braces allow the back to move in a much warmer, stronger way. Players will hear more volume, more projection, and more low-end warmth than a maple guitar they’ve heard in the past.” The back and sides also undergo a special seasoning process to enhance the resonance and stability.
Torrefaction: This carefully controlled, high-temperature roasting process is applied to the Sitka spruce tops to give a new guitar an aged or played-in sound. By aging the wood on a molecular level, torrefaction makes the top warmer and more responsive. “There’s less resistance in the wood,” Powers explains. “As a result, it allows a more efficient energy transfer from the strings. A new piece of wood has quite a bit of resistance to moving. It’s not used to vibrating at a high frequency like that. An aged or played-in top is just waiting to be set in motion. For a player, it feels like the notes are just falling out of the guitar. As soon as you touch the strings, it takes hardly any effort; it doesn’t feel like you have to pry the sound out.”
Hand-Rubbed Color and Finish: Not only do the new 600s feature the same ultra-thin 3.5-mil clear gloss finish developed for the 800 Series, the maple back and sides boast an additional breakthrough: the inclusion of a proprietary hand-rubbed color application process that adds no additional thickness to the finish. The stain enhances maple’s visual aesthetic without causing any damping in the natural movement of the guitar body, helping to boost the tonal projection and sustain. The new color, “Brown Sugar,” complements the slightly darker color of the spruce tops, a result of the torrefaction process.
Protein Glue: The same protein glues used in the company’s redesigned 800 Series are used in the 600 Series for the critical tone-producing parts, namely for the “power train” components: the bracing and bridge-to-top joint.
Expression System® 2 Pickup: The acoustic voicing enhancements designed for the new 600 Series translate into amplified form with Taylor’s new Expression System® 2 (ES2) electronics. The ES2 incorporates three uniquely positioned and individually calibrated pickup sensors. These are installed behind the saddle, through the bridge, and effectively capture more of each guitar’s dynamic properties and acoustic energy.
First World Tonewood: Maple is a tonewood that can be harvested specifically for instruments here in the United States, a project that longtime tonewood supply partner Steve McMinn of Pacific Rim Tonewoods is undertaking. Given its geographical location, maple grows in politically and economically stable environments and is considered to be “conflict free” and well-managed. This is important to Taylor co-founder Bob Taylor. “Now and in the future, maple forests will be among the healthiest and most sustainable sources of instrument wood,” he says. “This is a species from our own backyard that can be formed into world-class instruments for generations to come. So, it is an important wood for us as a forward-thinking instrument manufacturer. This redesign is our way of showing players how great a maple and spruce instrument can look and sound.”
Taylor Guitars 612ce 12-Fret (L) and 612ce (R):
The newly redesigned 600 Series is also available in the 614ce (Grand Auditorium), 616ce (Grand Symphony), 618ce (Grand Orchestra) and 656ce (12-String Grand Symphony). Models are available at authorized Taylor dealers. To locate a dealer, please visit www.taylorguitars.com/dealers.