Welcome to the first installment of the Unsung Guitar Hero series! These posts will be dedicated to spreading the word about phenomenal guitarists who aren’t household names, but probably should be. In some cases, these players are not even well known to your average guitarist!
The first guitarist I’m presenting is the incredible Steve Lukather.
Steve is well known for being a founding member of the group, Toto (“Rosanna”, “Africa”, “Hold the Line”), but he is also a Grammy winner and one of the most recorded guitarists in pop history, having served as a first-call session player in Los Angeles during the 70s and 80s heyday of the “studio cat”.
“Luke”, as he is known to his friends and fans, is responsible for many of the rhythm tracks, riffs and solos you’ve likely heard on the radio over the last 30 years or so. He has also co-written quite a few major pop hits and played on countless gold and platinum albums, most notably, Michael Jackson’s Thriller.
Although Luke is well-known and highly respected among his peers and fans, he doesn’t have a lot of name recognition among the average music fan or guitarist. In this post we hope to change that by giving you a short biography and some interesting factoids about our Unsung Guitar Hero, and also treat you to a list of recommended listening and some great videos. Let the games begin! Continue reading “Unsung Guitar Hero: Steve Lukather” »
Wanna solve a host of guitar playing issues in one shot?
Learn to place your thumb properly.
I know. I was surprised at how easy that was too.
And yet I see so many guitarists place their thumbs in positions that actually hurt their technique more than help it.
I’ve learned a few things in my 30+ years of playing this fine instrument, but few concepts have become more profound to me than this:
If you place your thumb properly OFF the fingerboard, your technique ON the fingerboard will instantly improve. Few things have as much direct impact on your playing as thumb placement, for better or for worse! Continue reading “The Definitive Lesson: Thumb Placement” »
Learning to bend strings is essential to our progression as guitarists. Along with hammer-ons, pull-offs and slides, these types of slurs will give your playing nuance and a more legato, professional sound.
Bent notes lend a “vocal” sound to your playing, adding bluesy, “in-between” sounds to your riffs and solos. Although jazz and classical players do not typically use the technique, string bending is a critical part of the vocabulary for pop, rock, blues and country guitarists.
Bends can make your lines sound groovy, but they require an enormous amount of fine motor control to sound confident and in tune. This translates to a lot of practice! But if you roll the JB way, you’ll be bending strings like a pro in no time.
In The Definitive Lesson: Bending Strings, we’re going to learn proper bending techniques that will immediately add a bluesy, legato character to our single-note lines. Let’s rock! Continue reading “The Definitive Lesson: Bending Strings” »
Those wacky Rolling Stone people are at it again, with yet another list of the greatest something or other. This time it’s 100 Greatest Guitarists. Unfortunately for them, this is right in my wheelhouse and I’m begging to add some juice to the discussion.
Now, this list has already generated quite a bit of controversy, as most lists do. And I’m sure it’s meant that way – after all, “greatest ever” or “top ten” lists are highly subjective. But some of the choices are truly mind-boggling, both as inclusions and exclusions.
(I feel like I should be doing one of those SNL segments, Really? With JB.
“Bruce Springsteen at #87, Rolling Stone? Really?!? He’s ahead of 13 people? I didn’t know one of the criteria was being able to strum so hard the strings pop off your Tele. Really.”)
It’s no different than a sports Hall of Fame; who gets in versus who gets snubbed. Fans can argue all day long over the choices, and some of my friends and I have already begun this process on Facebook.
For me, the biggest question is this: How do you define “greatest”, when we’re talking about guitarists? That’s a toughie, and unfortunately NOT something Rolling Stone made clear. So let’s clear it up here, shall we? Continue reading “Rolling Stone’s 100 Greatest Guitarists. Really?” »
Learning to play pull-offs is essential to our progression as guitarists. Along with hammer-ons, slides and bends, these types of slurs will make your playing instantly quicker, smoother and more professional-sounding.
Most guitarists do not pick every note individually. As a matter of fact, when you hear a great guitarist playing blazing fast lead lines, they are often using slurs to facilitate their movements. Masterful pull-offs enhance your speed and help your playing sound legato, which are two things most players strive for.
Although there are a few picking Nazis out there who insist on “no slurs” – Al DiMeola comes to mind – almost all guitarists use slurs, and some world-class players have virtually built their entire technique on hammering, pulling, bending and sliding. You may recognize the names Eddie Van Halen, Joe Satriani, and Allan Holdsworth – slur monsters! If it’s good enough for them, it’s good enough for me.
Of course, there are times when picking notes individually sounds better, but a nice mix of picked notes and slurs gives you the best of both worlds. And picking each note is akin to asking a saxophone player to tongue every note – the notes would sound more like a machine gun than music. Slurs make your lines sound a little looser and groovier, less rigid.
So in The Definitive Lesson: Pull-offs, we’re going to learn proper pull-off techniques that will immediately enhance our speed and create a more legato single-note line. Let’s rock! Continue reading “The Definitive Lesson: Pull-offs” »