Thursday, October 22, 2009


I'll admit that I've heard that before. Or, "It sounds a little notey," or "It's kind of noodley." Not often, but on occasion. Most guitarists who have any interest in guitar solos probably went through a phase where they didn't exactly play the best thing to serve the song. It's ok. It's part of your growth. When you love Mahavishnu Orchestra as much as we do, how could you ever see it as a bad thing.
Of course this all depends on the type of music, and the type of gig. And it CAN be a really bad thing.
In my first years as a professional guitarist, I played really notey solos and was eager to show what I could do. This worked to my advantage because I was in a band that asked for that kind of thing. This is also where I got the unfortunate nickname of "Shreddy," and a bit of a reputation as a "fast" guitar player. Not at all a bad reputation to have. Definitely a bad nickname to have.
As a musician, and a listener though, I had long since gravitated away from your Steve Vai's, and was becoming more moved by The Band, Leon Russel, James Taylor, and other artists who "wrote songs." Not that Steve Vai doesn't write songs, but his songwriting will always take a backseat to his guitar playing. And why shouldn't it, it's what his fans want.

Now here's what I want... I want to be able to write, play, sing, and on occasion take a tasty little solo. Then every once in awhile, bust out a mountain-top-face-melter.

Too much to ask? I don't think so. Lots of people have done it. In my opinion, that's what Led Zep, Deep Purple, and their contemporaries figured out years ago, and probably the reason why the best hard rock and heavy metal all happened around a time when the finest songs ever written were being crafted. I'll spare you the argument that music today sucks, etc. Most people agree that it does. Or at least it's not as good as it once was.

Now, the difference between a face-melter, and shredding is pretty substantial to me. Melting faces comes from an emotional release channeled through your guitar. It'll rarely be perfect, It'll sometimes be notey, It'll often be sloppy, but always impressive, and most importantly, It'll move you. Shredding, on the other hand, is a more fluid and calculated release, seemingly designed to express how much you know about the guitar. It can be melodic, and even really cool to listen to, but it wont make you sweaty.
Please don't get me wrong, I'm fan of many types of guitar playing, and my intent isn't to put any one way of playing on a pedestal.
That being said,
I've been insulted on a number of occasions by people who just assume I only like fast-guitar-player-music. They don't know they're insulting me, but they are. Anytime someone figures I wont like something because I've played fast guitar solos before, has inadvertently insulted me. i.e.> "You probably wont like this. It's a really good song with a great melody, but it only has three chords." ....Hey, Fuck You! I LOVE music. I like lots of different types of music. In fact, probably more than you! And why am I not allowed to be moved by the same melody that moves you, just because I spent time practicing my guitar... jerk.

I recently attended a live workshop with my old guitar teacher from when I was much younger. His name is Bob Murnahan and he's arguably the greatest guitarist I've ever known. He happened to be teaching this class with a partner, and his partner actually said something that I really dug.
He stopped after a particular demonstration and took the time to explain that while he and Bob may play a lot of notes in their solos, that doesn't mean that YOU have to do that. He went on to explain that it's something that they like to do because it's fun for them. It's the way they like to play the guitar, and it's their choice. They also took the time to explain their lessons much slower, but more importantly, I think the lesson solidified the most important thing about playing the guitar. If it's not fun for you, don't do it. And now of course these guys can have fun playing at slower tempos, and I'd never assume otherwise, and nor should you. Both are also very capable of playing a simple, tasty rhythm guitar part and appreciating the lyrics of Bob Dylan as much as you, but they're not gonna make excuses about playing a ripping solo from time to time just for fun.

The moral of the story is, no one deserves good music more than anyone else.

For me, music is perfect when it has a great melody, real emotion, great lyrics and a good hook, and some really great guitar playing, Not everyone requires the great guitar playing part, but it sets a great song over the cliff for me. I don't have to make an excuse for this. It's just one of the MANY aspects of MUSIC that I like. I don't like any one thing over another, but when all the elements are there, it really hits me.
I'll leave you with the Deep Purple classic "Child in Time." Without a doubt, this is Purple's Stairway to Heaven. Way too long, great melody and chord progression, FACE MELTING solo at about 5:00, and moving throughout.

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