Thursday, 24 February 2011

Who is your favourite guitarist

I have now had four guitar lessons and week three was the best fun yet as I was given twelve bar Blues (in various keys) and Johnny B. Goode to practice for homework; my first real tunes. Excellent!

The finished product
Originally uploaded by DavidDMuir
What triggered this post though, was a throw away comment from my teacher, Les. He said something along the lines of, "If you said to me that you wanted to sound like your favourite guitarist, then...". I'm ashamed to say I tuned out of the next bit because I started thinking, "Who is my favourite guitarist?".

On the face of it, you would think it was a fairly simple question. If, for example, I was asked to name my favourite band, the answer, without a moments thought, would be, Rush. If I was asked for a favourite drummer, it's Neil Peart - no question. Favourite bass player - silly question. Nobody has a favourite bass player. (Or at least nobody important, so we can safely ignore them.) But favourite guitarist... I'm finding that tricky.

One issue is a question of style. Are we talking Rock, or Metal, or Blues, or... Here are some examples and contenders to make my point:

I still remember hearing Van Halen's debut album for the first time (I bought it on cassette!). I was simply stunned by Eruption - 1 minute 42 seconds worth of guitar genius. I'm still hugely impressed with it, so does that make Eddie Van Halen my favourite? Well perhaps. At least he might be until I listen to John Lee Hooker who is perhaps the complete antithesis of Eddie's finger tapping pyrotechnics but a single-note solo from Mr Hooker, accompanied by foot-stomping and moans can blow the flashier competition out of the water with its power and emotional depth. Then moving sideways to Chris Whitley, we have a sparse, almost discordant guitar sound that can be achingly beautiful. Or there's Stevie Ray Vaughan (who I first heard on a single by David Bowie), and Clapton, and Hendrix, and Page, and Young, and ... the list goes on. How are you supposed to pick a favourite?

If I pick a favourite today, it is likely to change tomorrow. But if you force me to pick one, just now I'd probably go for Joe Bonamassa. I like the way his solos flow naturally out of the music so they don't feel tacked on as an afterthought. He is steeped in the Blues but he knows his Rock and isn't afraid to experiment and explore other genres. And he is frighteningly prolific!

So, today, it is Mr Bonamassa. Tomorrow, who knows?

Does anyone else have this problem, or is it just me? Who is your favourite?


Amanda Wilson said...

Guitars seem to be the in thing just now (well in my house anyway) my 13 and 11 yr old gals have just started getting lessons from their grandad. The oldest is now discovering bands like Green day, Paramore, My chemical romance etc. Shes even started me getting her Kerrang now been a while since I used to get that.

Bass players mine was Pat Badger from Extreme (or it could just have been his long blonde hair that did it lol so u r right !!!!)

Couldnt say for sure about my fave I go through phases of my music. Nuno from Extreme I guess was always my fave for a long time or Kirk Hammett, Steve Craddock, Paul Weller great too again it depends on what style of music.

Decisions decisions.

Ecoblogger said...

For me it has to be Camel's Andy Latimer. His playing just takes me to a really special place. Check out his solos in Long Goodbyes, Stationary Traveller, Go West, Rose of Sharon or Lady Fantasy. sublime .. No wonder Roger Waters wanted him in his band on his latest 'Wall' tour. An under rated genius !

Reserves would be Leslie West, Gary Moore, Neal Schon and John Sykes

but Clapton, Bonamassa, Steve Howe, Dave Gilmour, Philip Sayce, Tony Iommi and Bernie Marsden would be in my team !


David said...

Hello Amanda

Mostly young things you've gone for (with the exception of Paul Weller) so I'm not too familiar with them. As I'm a fan of the power trio, I like Green Day - although it is the drummer that stood out for me.

Never really taken to Paul Weller's solo stuff although I did like The Jam (another power trio).

Hello Jaye

I'm not going to argue with any of your choices, although despite a strong recommendation (from your good self?) I've not managed to get into Camel. Perhaps I've just not listened to the right album yet. Which one would you recommend? Also, I'm surprised I didn't mention Gilmour myself.

David said...

Donald Gray left a couple of comments on facebook:

"David - read the blog (good one!) and, you know there are favourite bass players too. One of my favourite bass players is here playing with one of my favourite guitarists/singers:
Friday at 4:14pm


"...and another virtuoso bass player - Stanley Clarke:
Friday at 8:02pm

Hello Donald

Thanks for the links. I suppose it shows fans of bass players have the same sort of problem as fans of guitarists. How do you choose between two such different styles of playing?

And, as a "six degrees of separation" type claim, the husband of a former colleague (Fionna's husband) went to school with John Martyn. That means I've shaken hands with somebody that played football in the playground (probably) with your favourite singer!

"Ecks" said...

I like that you asked about favorite, and not best. It's like a visual artist - how can there be a "best"?

To me, Stevie Ray was the apex. Technical mastery, but more importantly, emotion. He felt every note. These days I don't put much thought into it, it's purely visceral - they hit my pleasure center, or they don't. A few that do are Tab Benoit, Jimmy Thackery, Walter Trout, Robbie Gjersoe, and lately I've been particularly enjoying Cody Canada from Cross Canadian Ragweed / The Departed.

And don't do a bass discussion without Victor Wooten of the Flecktones!

David said...

Hello Ecks

Thank you for suggesting a few people that I am not familiar with. I'll need to check them out.

Amanda Wilson said...

Well guitars again in music class for my 13 y/o this time, she came home telling me about how great Hendrix and Bob Dylan were!!! from her music lesson. Shes just started guitar and her teacher's told them about these 2 and she was v impresssed. A lesson for me possibly in other cool great guitarists. !!!!

David said...

Hello Amanda

When Daughter Number 2 was taking guitar lessons, I got a row because she didn't know who George Harrison was!

Ballito Bay said...

Hi David

Gilmour was listed in my team though. Maybe Robert Fripp should have been as well...

As to Camel, it's the later stuff which floats my boat. Lots is on YouTube, particularly the live versions of Stationary Traveller and Long Goodbyes, which show Andy Latimer at his most awesomeness.
Dust and Dreams is an album I'd recommend, as well as Stationary Traveller. Pressure Points Live is great too.

Be interested in your thoughts after listening ?