Over the years you pick up little pieces of wisdom from great players, perhaps through a simple quote, seeing them live, going to a master class or just something you came across on YouTube. Here are a few pearls of wisdom that have served me well.
John Petrucci – Although there are a great many things to be learned from this truly amazing player and technician, what I learned from John Petrucci has little to do with technique. He recommends sorting your practice material into different folders or sections such as scales, chords, works in progress, rhythm playing etc. Such a simple thing but it makes a huge difference to have your practice material organized and ready to dive into.
Jeff Beck – In short: Abandon the pick (for a while), take risks and work on your tone.
Getting rid of the pick, even if only a few months, works wonders for anything from getting out of ruts to developing fingerstyle techniques and generally seeing the guitar from a whole new perspective.
I love the way Jeff Beck takes risks, it’s like he’s always pushing himself and the boundaries to come up with a new twist; a truly inspiring player well worth seeing live if you get the chance.
The tone you get from your bare fingers is unmistakably you and is well-worth taking the time to develop.
Mike Stern – Outside playing. I saw one of Mike’s master classes when I was at Music College. It was truly amazing to watch him up close taking a tune and playing so far out that he almost came back round the other side. As soon as I got home I wasn’t afraid to stray out of the boxes anymore.
Jaco Pastorius – I love to play bass too from time to time but what I got from watching Jaco’s instructional video was to always learn the melody of the tune, this is especially relevant in jazz but can also be applied to any genre. If you’ve got the melody of the tune down you can use it to improvise and more importantly, it’s almost impossible to get lost.
Stanley Jordan – Aside from the (tasteful) guitar acrobatics what fascinates me about Stanley Jordan’s playing is the tuning he uses. He tunes to all fourths (or P4 tuning) E,A,D,G,C,F which gives you perfect fourths all across the fretboard making everything nice and symmetrical. I really recommend exploring this tuning, the basic premise of which is that the same chord, scale or arpeggio shape will work anywhere on the fretboard thereby reducing the amount of information to be learned by about two thirds. It’s great for anything that involves a lot of scalar playing or chord changes. Cowboy chords and flamenco go out the window but the trade off is more than worth it.
Vernon Reid – Giving yourself permission. There’s this interview where Vernon’s talking about fast playing and just going for it and he remarks something like, ‘you have to give yourself permission to do that’, and it kind of struck a chord with me.
Frank Gambale – As mentioned in other articles, Frank’s picking technique. I’ll let the man himself explain:
===> Frank Gambale's Speed Picking Technique
Allan Holdsworth – Allan’s way of thinking about chords and guitar scales is endlessly fascinating. Again, I’ll let the man himself explain:
===> Chord Scales
What's something you've learned from the greats? Let me know in the comments.
Look out for part 2.