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Guitar Heroes Part 1
Here’a list of outstanding guitarists who are known for both technique and showmanship. These artists have inspired generation after generation of guitar players. And will continue to inspire listeners for years to come.
James Marshall “Jimi” Hendrix (born Johnny Allen Hendrix; November 27, 1942 – September 18, 1970) was an American rock guitarist, singer, and songwriter. Although his mainstream career spanned only four years, he is widely regarded as one of the most influential electric guitarists in the history of popular music, and one of the most celebrated musicians of the 20th century. The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame describes him as “arguably the greatest instrumentalist in the history of rock music”
Hendrix played a variety of guitars throughout his career, but the instrument that became most associated with him was the Fender Stratocaster. He acquired his first Stratocaster in 1966, when a girlfriend loaned him enough money to purchase a used one that had been built around 1964. He thereafter used the model prevalently during performances and recordings. In 1967, he described the instrument as “the best all-around guitar for the stuff we’re doing”; he praised its “bright treble and deep bass sounds”.
With few exceptions, Hendrix played right-handed guitars that were turned upside down and restrung for left-hand playing. This had an important effect on the sound of his guitar; because of the slant of the bridge pickup, his lowest string had a brighter sound while his highest string had a darker sound, which was the opposite of the Stratocaster’s intended design.
In 1989, Noe Goldwasser, the founding editor of Guitar World magazine, described Are You Experienced as “the album that shook the world … leaving it forever changed”. In 2005, Rolling Stone called the double-platinum LP Hendrix’s “epochal debut”, and they ranked it the 15th greatest album of all time, noting his “exploitation of amp howl”, and characterizing his guitar playing as “incendiary … historic in itself”
James Patrick “Jimmy” Page, is an English musician, songwriter, and record producer who achieved international success as the guitarist and founder of the rock band Led Zeppelin.
Page began his career as a studio session musician in London and, by the mid-1960s, alongside Big Jim Sullivan, was one of the most sought-after session guitarists in Britain. He was a member of the Yardbirds from 1966 to 1968. In late 1968, he founded Led Zeppelin.
Page is widely considered to be one of the greatest and most influential guitarists of all time. Rolling Stone magazine has described Page as “the pontiff of power riffing” and ranked him number 3 in their list of the “100 Greatest Guitarists of All Time”. In 2010, he was ranked number two in Gibson’s list of “Top 50 Guitarists of All Time” and, in 2007, number four on Classic Rock’s “100 Wildest Guitar Heroes”. He was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame twice; once as a member of the Yardbirds (1992) and once as a member of Led Zeppelin (1995). Page has been described by Uncut as “rock’s greatest and most mysterious guitar hero”. Los Angeles Times magazine voted Jimmy Page the 2nd greatest guitarist of all time.
Led Zeppelin is one of the best-selling music groups in the history of audio recording. Various sources estimate the group’s worldwide sales at more than 200 or even 300 million albums. With 111.5 million RIAA-certified units, they are the second-best-selling band in the United States. Each of their nine studio albums reached the top 10 of the US Billboard album chart, and six reached the number-one spot.
Led Zeppelin were the progenitors of heavy metal and hard rock, and their sound was largely the product of Page’s input as a producer and musician. The band’s individualistic style drew from a wide variety of influences. They performed on multiple record-breaking concert tours, which also earned them a reputation for excess. Although they remained commercially and critically successful, in the later 1970s, the band’s output and touring schedule were limited by the personal difficulties of the members.
Page explained that he had a very specific idea in mind as to what he wanted Led Zeppelin to be, from the very beginning:
I had a lot of ideas from my days with the Yardbirds. The Yardbirds allowed me to improvise a lot in live performance and I started building a textbook of ideas that I eventually used in Zeppelin. In addition to those ideas, I wanted to add acoustic textures. Ultimately, I wanted Zeppelin to be a marriage of blues, hard rock and acoustic music topped with heavy choruses – a combination that had never been done before. Lots of light and shade in the music.
Tony Iommi is an English guitarist, songwriter and producer. Best known as lead guitarist and founding member of the pioneering heavy metal band Black Sabbath, he has been the band’s sole continual member and primary composer.
While working in a factory as a teenager, left-handed Iommi lost the tips of the middle and ring finger of his right hand in an accident; an event which crucially affected his playing style. Iommi briefly left Black Sabbath’s forerunner, ‘Earth’, in 1968 to join Jethro Tull, after which he returned to Black Sabbath in 1969, recording their self-titled debut album. In 2000, he released his first solo album Iommi, followed by 2005’s Fused, which featured his former bandmate Glenn Hughes. After releasing Fused, he joined Heaven & Hell, which disbanded after Ronnie James Dio’s death in 2010.
Iommi is widely considered one of the most influential rock guitarists of all time. A prolific riff writer, he was ranked number 25 in Rolling Stone magazine’s list of the “100 Greatest Guitarists of All Time”.
At the age of 17, Iommi lost the tips of the middle and ring finger of his right hand in an industrial accident on his last day of work in a sheet metal factory. After the injury Iommi considered abandoning the guitar entirely. However, his factory foreman played him a recording of famous jazz guitarist Django Reinhardt, which encouraged him to continue as a musician. As Iommi would later write:
My friend said, “Listen to this guy play”, and I went, “No way! Listening to someone play the guitar is the very last thing I want to do right now!” But he kept insisting and he ended up playing the record for me. I told him I thought it was really good and then he said, “You know, the guy’s only playing with two fingers on his fretboard hand because of an injury he sustained in a terrible fire.” I was totally knocked back by this revelation and was so impressed by what I had just heard that I suddenly became inspired to start trying to play again.
Inspired by Reinhardt’s two-fingered guitar playing, Iommi decided to try playing guitar again, though the injury made it quite painful to do so. Although it was an option, Iommi never seriously considered switching hands and learning to play right-handed. In an interview with Guitar World magazine, he was asked if he was “ever tempted to switch to right-handed playing.” Iommi responded:
If I knew what I know now I probably would have switched. At the time I had already been playing two or three years, and it seemed like I had been playing a long time. I thought I’d never be able to change the way I played. The reality of the situation was that I hadn’t been playing very long at all, and I probably could have spent the same amount of time learning to play right handed. I did have a go at it, but I just didn’t have the patience. It seemed impossible to me. I decided to make do with what I had, and I made some plastic fingertips for myself. I just persevered with it.
In any case, he decided to continue playing left-handed. To do so, he fitted homemade thimbles made from melted plastic bottles to his injured fingers to extend and protect them, which created two technical problems. First, the thimbles prevented him from feeling the strings, causing a tendency to press down very hard on them. Secondly, he had difficulty bending strings, leading him to seek light-gauge guitar strings to make it easier to do so.However, Iommi recalls that such strings were not manufactured at the time, so he used banjo strings instead, until around 1970–71 when Picato Strings began making light-gauge guitar strings. Furthermore, he used the injured fingers predominantly for fretting chords rather than single-note solos.In 1974, Iommi told Guitar Player magazine that the thimbles “helped with his technique” because he had to use his little finger more than he had before the accident.Later, he also began tuning his guitar to lower pitches, sometimes as far as three semitones below standard guitar tuning (e.g., on “Children of the Grave”, “Lord of this World”, and “Into the Void”, all on the album Master of Reality). Although Iommi states that the main purpose of doing so was to create a “bigger, heavier sound”, slackening the strings makes it easier to bend them
In 2011, he published his autobiography, entitled Iron Man: My Journey through Heaven and Hell with Black Sabbath.
Brian May, is an English musician, singer, songwriter and astrophysicist best known as the lead guitarist of the rock band Queen. He uses a home-built electric guitar, called the Red Special. His compositions for the band include “We Will Rock You”, “Tie Your Mother Down”, “I Want It All”, “Fat Bottomed Girls”, “Flash”, “Hammer to Fall”, “Save Me”, “Who Wants to Live Forever” and “The Show Must Go On”.
May was a co-founder of Queen with lead singer Freddie Mercury and drummer Roger Taylor, having previously performed with Taylor in the band Smile, which he had joined while he was at university. Within five years of their formation in 1970 and the recruitment of bass player John Deacon completing the lineup, Queen had become established as one of the biggest rock bands in Britain with the album A Night at the Opera and its single “Bohemian Rhapsody”. From the mid-1970s until the early 1990s, Queen were an almost constant presence in the UK charts and played some of the biggest venues in the world, most notably giving an acclaimed performance at Live Aid in 1985. As a member of Queen, May became regarded as a virtuoso musician and he was identified with a distinctive sound created through his layered guitar work. Following the death of Mercury in 1991, Queen were put on hiatus for several years but were eventually reconvened by May and Taylor for further performances featuring other vocalists. In 2005, a Planet Rock poll saw May voted the 7th greatest guitarist of all time. He was ranked at No. 26 on Rolling Stone magazine’s list of the “100 Greatest Guitarists of All Time”. In 2012, May was ranked the 2nd greatest guitarist of all time by a Guitar World magazine readers poll.
May has been referred to as a virtuoso guitarist by many publications and musicians. He has featured in various music polls of great rock guitarists, and in 2011 was ranked number 26 on Rolling Stone magazine’s list of the “100 Greatest Guitarists of All Time”. Former Van Halen vocalist Sammy Hagar stated, “I thought Queen were really innovative and made some great sounding records.. I like the rockin’ stuff. I think Brian May has one of the great guitar tones on the planet, and I really, really love his guitar work.”May mainly used the “Red Special”, which he designed when he was only 16 years old. It was built with wood from an 18th century fireplace.
Ace Frehley is an American musician, singer and songwriter best known as the former lead guitarist and founding member of the rock band Kiss. He invented the persona of the “Spaceman” or “Space Ace” and played with the group from its inception in 1973 until his departure in 1982. After leaving Kiss, Frehley embarked on a solo career, which was put on hold when he rejoined Kiss in 1996 for a highly successful reunion tour.
His second tenure with Kiss lasted until 2002, when he left at the conclusion of what was originally purported to be the band’s Farewell Tour. His most recent solo album, Origins, Vol. 1, was released on April 15, 2016. Guitar World magazine ranked him as the 14th Greatest Metal Guitarist of All Time. His solos often incorporate the minor pentatonic scale and the use of vibratos. Outside of Kiss, Frehley has continued to be commercially successful, with his first solo album going platinum. Frehley is also known for the use of many “whimsical” guitars, including a Gibson Les Paul guitar that emits smoke from the neck humbucker pickup and produces spinning pyrotechnics, and a custom Les Paul that emits light based on song tempo.
In a 2009 interview with Rock N Roll Experience Magazine, Frehley stated, “I’m an anomaly, I’m an un-schooled musician, I don’t know how to read music, but I’m one of the most famous guitar players in the world, so go figure.”
“I play guitar in such an unorthodox way,” he told Guitar World in 1996. “I’ve never taken a guitar lesson. One of our assistants brought it to my attention a few months ago that, sometimes, when I play chords, my thumb is on the fretted side of the neck. I have no idea why or how I do it, but I do.” “I remember a time early on when Ace and I would play,” added Paul Stanley, “and I would do vibrato with my hand, and Ace would get vibrato by shaking his whole arm against the neck of the guitar [laughs].
Angus McKinnon Young (born 31 March 1955) is an Australian guitarist, best known as the co-founder, lead guitarist, songwriter and sole constant member of the Australian hard rock band AC/DC. He is known for his energetic performances, schoolboy-uniform stage outfits and his own version of Chuck Berry’s duckwalk, Young was ranked 24th in Rolling Stone magazine’s 100 greatest guitarist of all-time list.
In 2003, Young and the other members of AC/DC were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
Young has stated that he first began playing guitar when, “I was little, teeny. I would sort of dabble around five or six years old. That’s when I started hearing Little Richard.”
Young’s energetic guitar style has influenced many young rock n roll guitarists. When Canadian band Anvil were asked what it was like to tour with AC/DC, they mentioned that Young has a big heart and he should bring AC/DC to Calgary.
In an interview with The Guitar Show, Young noted his influences include his brother Malcolm Young, Chuck Berry, Freddie King, and Muddy Waters, while playing licks relating to Jimi Hendrix, John Lee Hooker, and The Kinks’ “You Really Got Me”. Young has indicated that he was also influenced by Keith Richards, as well as Chuck Berry’s performing style, including his banter with audiences and duck walk.When the band covered Chuck Berry songs in their early years, audiences would recognize the song, while noting their renditions were very different to the source material
Young’s playing style is influenced by straight blues playing in both the minor and major pentatonic twelve bar blues-type progressions. In AC/DC’s earlier recordings, power chords can be heard in songs such as “T.N.T.” and “It’s a Long Way to the Top (If You Wanna Rock ‘n’ Roll)”. He also utilizes touches of Scottish folk in his playing, and pull-off arpeggios (pull-offs, played one-handed) are a popular trick, appearing in songs such as “Who Made Who”, “Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap”, “Sin City”, and “Let There Be Rock” (live). In 1976, the band recorded an instrumental arrangement of the Scottish traditional song “Loch Lomond”, retitled “Fling Thing”, which has appeared in their stage act over the years. The title refers to the Highland Fling. Young occasionally provides backing vocals along with Malcolm on songs such as “T.N.T.” and “Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap”.
A common criticism of AC/DC is that their songs are excessively simple and formulaic. In reply, Young stated in an interview with the Atlanta Gazette in 1979:
“It’s just rock and roll. A lot of times we get criticized for it. A lot of music papers come out with: ‘When are they going to stop playing these three chords?’ If you believe you shouldn’t play just three chords it’s pretty silly on their part. To us, the simpler a song is, the better, ’cause it’s more in line with what the person on the street is.”
Randy Rhoads was an American heavy metal guitarist who played with Ozzy Osbourne and Quiet Riot. A devoted student of classical guitar, Rhoads combined his classical music influences with his own heavy metal style. He died in a plane accident while on tour with Osbourne in Florida in 1982. Despite his short career, Rhoads, who was a major influence on neoclassical metal, is cited as an influence by many guitarists and is included in several “Greatest Guitarist” lists.
Rolling Stone Magazine lists Rhoads as one of the greatest guitarists of all time. Rhoads has been on the covers of many guitar magazines and has influenced many guitar players, including Dimebag Darrell, John Petrucci, Brad Gillis, George Lynch,[Michael Romeo,Alexi Laiho, Mick Thomson, Paul Gilbert Buckethead, and Mike McCready. Rhoads’ talent was not always met with such praise during his lifetime. J. D. Considine of Rolling Stone was critical of his playing, referring to Rhoads in his review of Diary Of A Madman as “a junior-league Eddie Van Halen – bustling with chops but somewhat short on imagination”.
Rhoads was influenced by the Beatles and the Rolling Stones as a child and would imitate their performances with his brother Kelle in the family garage. His biggest influences as a guitarist were Leslie West, Ritchie Blackmore, Michael Schenker, Charlie Christian, and John Williams.
Shortly before leaving Quiet Riot in 1979, Rhoads presented hand drawn pictures of a polka-dot Flying V-style guitar to Karl Sandoval, a California luthier. The guitar Sandoval built for Rhoads became one of the guitarist’s trademark instruments
Ritchie Blackmoreis an English guitarist and songwriter. He was one of the founding members of Deep Purple in 1968, playing jam-style hard-rock music which mixed guitar riffs and organ sounds. During his solo career, he established a heavy metal band called Rainbow which fused baroque music influences and elements of hard rock. Rainbow gradually progressed to catchy pop-style hard rock. Later in life, he formed the traditional folk rock project Blackmore’s Night transitioning to vocalist-centred sounds. As a member of Deep Purple, Blackmore was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in April 2016.
Despite completely retiring from hard rock, Blackmore was ranked number 16 on Guitar World’s “100 Greatest Metal Guitarists of All Time” in 2004, and number 50 in Rolling Stone magazine’s list of the “100 Greatest Guitarists of All Time” in 2011.Readers of Guitar World also voted two of Blackmore’s guitar solos (both recorded with Deep Purple) among the 100 Greatest Guitar Solos of all time. (“Highway Star” ranked 19th, and “Lazy” ranked 74th.)
In 1993, Musicologist Robert Walser defined him “the most important musician of the emerging metal/classical fusion”. He is also credited as a precursor of the so-called “guitar shredders” that emerged in the mid-1980s.
Michael Schenker is a German rock guitarist, best known for his tenure in UFO, in addition to his solo band. Nicknamed the “Blonde Bomber”, he first rose to fame as an early member of Scorpions, then achieved fame in the mid-1970s as the lead guitar player for UFO. Since leaving UFO in 1978, he has been leading the Michael Schenker Group in various incarnations. He has rejoined UFO three times, producing an album each time. He is the younger brother of Rudolf Schenker, who is still a guitarist with Scorpions. His career has had many ups and downs, partly due to a long history of alcoholism and personal problems; still, Schenker continues to perform and record. He has been called “a legendary figure in the history of metal guitar.
Schenker’s main guitar for much of his career was a Gibson Flying V, which he typically played through a wah-wah pedal (used as a parametric equaliser to strengthen the “sweet spot”) and Marshall amplifiers. His “unmistakable midrange tone”emphasised by the partially engaged wah, as exemplified on the song “Rock Bottom” from the UFO album Strangers in the Night, was listed among the 50 greatest tones of all time by Guitar Player magazine. In recent years Schenker has switched to using a signature model Dean V.
In 2007 Dean Guitars, after producing a signature Schenker Dean V, also made two acoustic models with the familiar black and white “V” design.
Schenker has been on the covers of many guitar magazines and has influenced many notable guitar players, including Kirk Hammett and James Hetfield (Metallica), Dave Mustaine (Megadeth and also a former member of Metallica),Dimebag Darrell (Pantera and Damageplan), Eric Peterson (Testament), Gary Holt (Exodus and Slayer), Rob Cavestany (Death Angel), and Phil Campbell (Motörhead).
Joe Perry is the lead guitarist, backing and occasional lead vocalist, and contributing songwriter for the American rock band Aerosmith. He was ranked 84th in Rolling Stone’s list of The 100 Greatest Guitarists of All Time. In 2001, he was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame as part of Aerosmith, and in 2013, Perry and his songwriting partner Steven Tyler were recipients of the ASCAP Founders Award and were also inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame. In October 2014, Simon & Schuster released Rocks: My Life In and Out of Aerosmith, written by Joe Perry with David Ritz.
He was a huge influence on Slash, who after hearing Rocks decided to take up the guitar rather than race BMX. Slash owned Perry’s old ’59 Les Paul, but later returned it as a birthday present.
Slash is a British-American musician and songwriter. He is best known as the lead guitarist of the American rock band Guns N’ Roses, with whom he achieved worldwide success in the late 1980s and early 1990s. During his later years with Guns N’ Roses, Slash formed the side project Slash’s Snakepit. After leaving Guns N’ Roses in 1996, he co-founded the supergroup Velvet Revolver, which re-established him as a mainstream performer in the mid to late 2000s. Slash has since released three solo albums: Slash (2010), featuring an array of famous guest musicians, and Apocalyptic Love (2012) and World on Fire (2014), recorded with his band, Myles Kennedy and the Conspirators. He returned to Guns N’ Roses in 2016, nearly 20 years after he had left.
Slash has received critical acclaim as a guitarist. Time named him runner-up on their list of “The 10 Best Electric Guitar Players” in 2009, while Rolling Stone placed him at No. 65 on their list of “The 100 Greatest Guitarists of All Time” in 2011. Guitar World ranked his solo in “November Rain” No. 6 on their list of “The 100 Greatest Guitar Solos” in 2008, and Total Guitar placed his riff in “Sweet Child o’ Mine” at No. 1 on their list of “The 100 Greatest Riffs” in 2004. During 2010 Gibson Guitar Corporation ranked Slash as No. 34 on their “Top 50 Guitarists of All Time”, while their readers landed him No. 9 on Gibson’s “Top 25 Guitarists of All Time”. In 2012, he was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame as a member of Guns N’ Roses’ classic line-up.
Dimebag Darrell was an American guitarist and songwriter best known as a founding member of two bands, Pantera and Damageplan, alongside his brother, Vinnie Paul. He was considered to be one of the driving forces behind groove metal.
Abbott was shot and killed by a gunman while on stage during a performance with Damageplan on December 8, 2004, at the Alrosa Villa in Columbus, Ohio. He ranked No. 92 in Rolling Stone magazine’s 100 Greatest Guitarists and No. 1 in the UK magazine, Metal Hammer.
Abbott formed Pantera in 1981 with his brother Vinnie Paul on drums. Originally he called himself Diamond Darrell Lance.The band played with thrash metal acts such as Slayer, Megadeth, Venom, and Metallica as well as traditional metal bands such as Black Sabbath, Iron Maiden, Motörhead, and Judas Priest. Shortly after singer Phil Anselmo joined Pantera, Darrell was invited by Dave Mustaine to join Megadeth. Darrell was willing to join, but on the condition that Mustaine also hire his brother Vinnie on drums. As Mustaine already had a drummer Nick Menza, Darrell stayed with Pantera.
Pantera would go on to become a key formulator of the post-thrash subgenre of “groove” metal. It would not be until nine years after forming that Pantera saw its first piece of commercial success in its 1990 major label debut, Cowboys from Hell. Pantera’s “groove” style came to fruition in its breakthrough album Vulgar Display of Power, released on February 25, 1992, which saw the replacement of the power metal falsetto vocals with a hardcore-influenced shouted delivery and heavier guitar sound. On Pantera’s 1994 album Far Beyond Driven, Abbott, who’d been listed on all prior albums under the moniker “Diamond Darrell”, was listed as “Dimebag Darrell”. On the night before Pantera’s live appearance at the Monsters of Rock in England’s Donington Park, the Abbott brothers got involved in altercations at a local club with journalists from magazines Kerrang! and Raw.
Pantera began to suffer from mounting tensions between band members in the mid-1990s, largely due to vocalist Phil Anselmo’s rampant drug abuse.
In 2001, the group went on hiatus, during which time Anselmo worked on side projects, such as Superjoint Ritual and Down. This caused more friction within the band, as the Abbott brothers kept waiting for Anselmo to become available to work with them again. The frustration with Anselmo led to their decision to disband Pantera in 2003.
Abbott once said in a Guitar World interview that “if there were no Ace Frehley, there would have been no Dimebag Darrell”. Abbott bore a tattoo of the KISS guitarist on his chest. Frehley signed the tattoo in pen ink upon meeting him, at Dimebag’s request, and the autograph was later tattooed over.
Abbott stated in various interviews that his riffs were largely influenced by Tony Iommi of Black Sabbath. Iommi also influenced Dimebag’s guitar tone and tunings, which often went down to D♭ or lower. Pantera covered Black Sabbath songs “Planet Caravan”, “Hole in the Sky” and “Electric Funeral”. Eddie Van Halen was another big influence on his style. He learned “Eruption” note-for-note and often played it live in his early days.
Steve Vai is an American guitarist, composer, singer, songwriter, and producer. He was voted the 10th “Greatest Guitarist” by Guitar World magazine,and has sold over 15 million records. A three-time Grammy Award winner and fifteen-time nominee,Vai started his music career in 1978 at the age of 18 as a transcriptionist for Frank Zappa, and joined his band from 1980 to 1983. He embarked on a solo career in 1983 and has released eight solo albums to date. He has recorded and toured with Alcatrazz, David Lee Roth, Whitesnake, as well as having recorded with artists such as Mary J. Blige, Spinal Tap, and Ozzy Osbourne. Additionally, Vai has toured with live-only acts G3, Zappa Plays Zappa, the Experience Hendrix tour, as well as headlining international tours.
Vai has been described as a “highly individualistic player” and part of a generation of “heavy rock and metal virtuosi who came to the fore in the 1980s”. The launch of the Ibanez JEM guitar developed and co-designed by Vai was described as the “exact moment the entire guitar landscape was reshaped”. He also designed the first commercially produced seven-string guitar, the Ibanez Universe, which was used by nu metal artists in the 1990s. He released his first solo album Flex-Able in 1984, while his most successful release, Passion and Warfare (1990), was described as “the richest and best hard rock guitar-virtuoso album of the ’80s.
Vai’s first solo album, Flex-able, began his career as a solo artist in 1984. During the period of time that the album was recorded, Vai was heavily influenced by his previous tenure in Frank Zappa’s band. Originally not intended for release, Flex-able expressed a certain creative “quirky” and “angular” freedom in the eclectic nature of Vai’s writing style. Passion and Warfare, Vai’s second solo album, expressed a more mature and evolved “signature” style but retained a certain freedom of unmolested inspiration that would continue to influence Vai’s future releases. In speaking of his inspiration, Vai has said that it comes to him in many forms (even from the flowers pushed up against a fence outside of his studio, which he transcribed and used in the ninth track “Weeping China Doll”, from The Story of Light). While expressing that he is not continuously inspired, Vai uses a concept he calls “musical meditation” to enter a state of consciousness that he calls “The Ultra Zone”. When inside this un-critical frame of mind, Vai is able to achieve inspiration in the form of musical ideas (often in forms of melody or rhythm). For these moments of inspiration, Vai created what he calls the “Infinity Shelf”, a drive of thousands of snippets of song ideas that he has collected over his entire career. These esoteric principles are taught by Vai during his Alien Guitar Secrets masterclasses, among a host of other information.
Vai’s playing style utilizes specialized guitar techniques (such as two-handed tapping, alternate picking, legato, hybrid picking, sweep picking, whammy bar acrobatics, and circular vibrato) in his music, as well as a wide range of recording techniques.
Joe Satriani is an American instrumental rock guitarist and multi-instrumentalist. Early in his career, Satriani worked as a guitar instructor, with many of his former students achieving fame, such as Steve Vai, Larry LaLonde, Rick Hunolt, Kirk Hammett, Andy Timmons, Charlie Hunter, Kevin Cadogan, and Alex Skolnick; he then went on to have a successful solo music career. He is a 15-time Grammy Award nominee and has sold over 10 million albums, making him the biggest-selling instrumental rock guitarist of all time.
In 1988, Satriani was recruited by Mick Jagger as lead guitarist for his first solo tour. Satriani briefly toured with Deep Purple as the lead guitarist, joining shortly after the departure of Ritchie Blackmore in November 1993. He has worked with a range of guitarists during the G3 tour, which he founded in 1995. His G3 collaborators have included Vai, LaLonde, Timmons, Steve Lukather, John Petrucci, Eric Johnson, Yngwie Malmsteen, Brian May, Patrick Rondat, Paul Gilbert, Adrian Legg, Kenny Wayne Shepherd, Steve Morse and Robert Fripp. Satriani has been the guitarist for the supergroup Chickenfoot since joining the band in 2008.
Satriani is considered a highly technical guitarist, and has been referred to as a top guitar virtuoso. Satriani has mastered many performance techniques on electric guitar, including legato, two-handed tapping and arpeggio tapping, volume swells, harmonics and extreme whammy bar effects. During fast passages, Satriani favors a legato technique (achieved primarily through hammer-ons and pull-offs) that yields smooth and flowing runs. He is also adept at other speed-related techniques such as rapid alternate picking and sweep picking. Satriani was influenced by blues-rock guitar icons such as Jimi Hendrix, Brian May, Eric Clapton, Jimmy Page, Ritchie Blackmore and Jeff Beck, as well as jazz fusion guitarist Allan Holdsworth.
Eddie Van Halen:
Edward Lodewijk “Eddie” Van Halen is a Dutch-American musician, songwriter and producer. He is best known as the lead guitarist, occasional keyboardist and co-founder of the American hard rock band Van Halen. He is considered to be one of the world’s greatest guitarists. In 2011, Rolling Stone Magazine ranked Van Halen number eight in the list of the 100 Greatest Guitarists. In 2012, he was voted in, a Guitar World magazine reader’s poll, at number one of “The 100 Greatest Guitarists of All Time”.
Van Halen released a total of six albums with vocalist David Lee Roth: Van Halen (1978), Van Halen II (1979), Women and Children First (1980), Fair Warning (1981), Diver Down (1982), and 1984 (1984).
It was during the early eighties, that the band began having increasing trouble working together as a cohesive unit. According to Gene Simmons’ book Kiss and Make-Up, Van Halen approached Simmons in 1982 about possibly joining Kiss to replace Ace Frehley, chiefly because of his personality conflicts with Roth. Simmons and Alex persuaded Eddie to remain in Van Halen, while Kiss replaced Frehley with Vinnie Vincent.
Shortly afterwards, Van Halen released the album 1984, from which the single “Jump,” was their first number-one single on the Billboard Hot 100. Other singles released from the album performed well, particularly “Hot for Teacher,” the video for which featured a skimpily dressed model playing the part of a female elementary school teacher and young actors portraying the band members as children. The album peaked at No. 2 on the Billboard charts, behind Michael Jackson’s Thriller.
Jimmy Page said at the time, “For my money, Van Halen was the first significant new kid on the block. Very dazzling.” In 1982, Van Halen was invited by producer Quincy Jones to contribute the guitar solo for Michael Jackson’s single “Beat It.” Van Halen reportedly declined any payment for the recording, deeming a credit on the album sufficient.
With the arrival of former Montrose singer Sammy Hagar in July 1985, the band’s sound changed somewhat to adapt to the strengths of the new vocalist. Van Halen’s keyboard playing became more prominent, as heard in songs such as “Dreams” and “Love Walks In.”
Hagar appeared on four studio albums with the band, 5150 (1986), OU812 (1988), For Unlawful Carnal Knowledge (1991), and Balance (1995), as well as one live album, Live: Right Here, Right Now (1993). During Hagar’s time with the band, some fans informally referred to the band as “Van Hagar” to distinguish it from the David Lee Roth lineup. With Hagar, all four studio releases reached No. 1 on the Billboard charts. For Unlawful Carnal Knowledge was awarded the 1992 Grammy Award for Best Hard Rock Performance with Vocal. The live album Live: Right Here, Right Now peaked at No. 5.
Van Halen’s approach to the guitar involves several distinctive components. His use of two-handed tapping, natural and artificial harmonics, vibrato, and tremolo picking, combined with his rhythmic sensibility and melodic approach, have influenced an entire generation of guitarists. The instrumental Eruption was voted No. 2 in Guitar World magazine’s readers poll of the 100 Greatest Guitar Solos. Despite his massive success Van Halen has never learned to read music.
The 1978 instrumental “Eruption” by Van Halen showcased a solo technique called tapping, using both left and right hands on the guitar neck. Although Van Halen popularized tapping, he did not, despite popular belief, invent the tapping technique. The tapping technique in blues and rock was picked up by various guitarists in the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s. Dave Bunker of Bunker Guitar called it Touch Guitar and Jimmie Webster with Gretsch called it the Touch System. Duane Allman, Frank Zappa and Ace Frehley tapped with a pick in the early 1970s. Steve Hackett used tapping to play Bach-esque keyboard passages on the guitar in the early 1970s as the lead guitarist with Genesis. Hackett has been credited by MusicRadar as an influence on Van Halen as well as several other notable guitarists.Larry Carlton also had a tapped note at the end of his solo on the song “Kid Charlemagne.”
Queen’s Brian May used the tapping technique, which he picked up in America in the early 1970s, on songs such as “It’s Late” from the News of the World album. In a January 1983 Guitar Player interview, May said, “I stole it from a guy who said that he stole it from Billy Gibbons in ZZ Top.
George Lynch (of Dokken and Lynch Mob fame) said in an interview that he and Van Halen saw Harvey Mandel tap at the Starwood in the 1970s. In a March 2009 Metal Den interview, Lynch said:
We both witnessed Harvey Mandel from Canned Heat do a neo-classic tapping thing at a club called the Starwood in West Hollywood back in the 1970s. Other people were doing it to a limited extent: Brian May from Queen dabbled … George Van Eps was doing it in the 1950s.
Early Van Halen stage photographs, and demo and bootleg recordings from 1976 and before, do not indicate Van Halen using any tapping techniques. Van Halen’s comments about how he came across the tapping technique vary from interview to interview. In one review with Guitar World, he said:
I think I got the idea of tapping watching Jimmy Page do his “Heartbreaker” solo back in 1971. He was doing a pull-off to an open string, and I thought wait a minute, open string … pull off. I can do that, but what if I use my finger as the nut and move it around? I just kind of took it and ran with it.
Van Halen also employs tapping harmonics. He holds the pick between his thumb and middle finger, which leaves his index finger free for tapping, and also makes for easy transitions between picking and tapping. In support of his two-handed tapping techniques, Van Halen also holds a patent for a flip-out support device that attaches to the rear of the electric guitar.This device enables the user to play the guitar in a manner similar to the piano by orienting the face of the guitar upward instead of forward.
Van Halen (a self-described “tone chaser”) achieved his distinctive tone using the EVH “Frankenstrat” guitar, a stock 100-watt Marshall amp, a Variac (to lower the voltage of the amp to keep the same tone as an amplifier running full-blast at lower volumes), and effects such as an Echoplex, an MXR Phase 90, an MXR Flanger, chorus, and EQs as well as wah since the early 90s. Van Halen constructed his now legendary Frankenstrat guitar using a Boogie Bodies factory “2nd” body, Charvel neck, a single vintage Gibson PAF humbucker pickup sealed in molten surfboard wax done at home in a coffee can to reduce microphonic feedback (which also warped the bobbin of the pickup), a pre-CBS Fender tremolo bridge (later to be a Floyd Rose bridge) and a single volume control with a knob labeled “tone”.
Van Halen has used a variety of pickups including Gibson PAF’s, 1970s Mighty Mites, DiMarzios and Ibanez Super 70s. He was using Mighty Mite pickups in 1977 club photos, just prior to the recording of the first Van Halen album. Mighty Mite pickups were OEM pickups made by Seymour Duncan and were copies of DiMarzio Super Distortion pickups. They can be identified by their lack of bobbin holes. Seymour Duncan started advertising pickup rewinding services in late 1977 to early 1978, and apparently rewound a Gibson PAF for Van Halen around the early 1978 period.
The famous single pickup, single volume knob guitar configuration was Van Halen’s chosen platform due to his lack of knowledge in electronic circuitry, primitive wire soldering skills, and his disappointment in not finding an adequate, durable bridge and neck pick-up combination on his own. Upon installing the humbucking pickup, he did not know how to wire it into the guitar circuit, so he wired the simplest working circuit to get it to function.
His later guitars include various Kramer models from his period of endorsement for that company (most notably the Kramer 5150, from which Kramer in its Gibson-owned days based their Kramer 1984 design, an unofficial artist signature model) and three signature models: the Ernie Ball/Music Man Edward van Halen Model (which continues as the Ernie Ball Axis), the Peavey EVH Wolfgang (which has been succeeded by a similar guitar called the HP Special), and the Charvel EVH Art Series, on which Van Halen does the striping before they are painted by Charvel. His current deal is with Fender, making the EVH series of stripped guitars, Wolfgang guitars, and EVH amps.
In an interview in Guitar World magazine in July 1985, Van Halen states that his “brown sound” is “…basically a tone, a feeling that I’m always working at … It comes from the person. If the person doesn’t even know what that type of tone I’m talking about is, they can’t really work towards it, can they?” In an interview with Billboard magazine in June 2015, he states that with the expression “brown sound” he actually tried to describe the sound of his brother Alex Van Halen’s snare drum, which he thought “…sounds like he’s beating on a log. It’s very organic. So it wasn’t my brown sound. It was Alex’s.”
Van Halen used a volume technique in the instrumental “Cathedral”. He hammered notes on the fretboard with one hand while rolling the volume knob with the other. This altered the attack and decay of the notes so they mimicked the sound of keyboards. This “volume swells” sound (also known as “violining,” because of the sound) was originally popularized by 1970s progressive rock bands like Genesis (Steve Hackett), Focus (Jan Akkerman), Yes (Steve Howe), and Rush (Alex Lifeson), but it was usually performed with a volume pedal at a slower pace. Cathedral also employs an electronic delay, set at 400 ms, and the delayed note set at the same amplitude as the original note. Most of the composition’s notes come from hammering on the notes of a major fifth string barre chord (ascending and then descending) and replicating this pattern up and down the neck of the guitar. The end result of this technique make the composition sound as if it is being played on a church or cathedral organ.