Guitar Wisdom from the Greats (Part 1)

guitar scales

A selection of inspirational quotes from the some of the best in the business to get those improvisational juices flowing. Enjoy.

“My best solos come when I get into a stream of consciousness and there are no stylistic considerations like, “Now I’m going to use some two-handed tapping technique or play a hip bebop phrase.” There are times when you can feel yourself thinking things out, but for the most part, if you’re in touch with your capabilities, ideas will begin to flow. What musicians don’t realize is that as you play over a long period of time, you pick up a lot of things. If you could unlock what you’ve learned from the time you started playing, you would be amazed.”

-Vernon Reid

“I would take riffs I learned from other guitar players and use them as doors into new ideas. By investigating the playing of guitar players I loved, I discovered the methods they used for creating improvised lines. Once you find a particular pattern, try transposing it to diminished scale, or to each of the minor modes, and so on. Then start moving those patterns all over the neck, studying them in every position.”
-Trey Anastasio

“I push [myself] as far as I can go within the instrument at that point in time. It’s just try to do whatever you can do on an instrument and give it 100 percent of what you can do with the time you have to do it.”
-Jimmy Page

“I realized when I first started playing the guitar I wanted to be very fast. Then I realized, when that wore off, that playing slower and with more feeling and emoting was much harder. It took me a few years to get used to playing slowly. Now I find it harder to play fast.”
-Richie Blackmore

“I’m not sure, but I know when I teach I tell people to concentrate on the sound. Something that will inspire them so it sounds good to listen to and also the feel. That’s the most important thing in any music. Those are the 2 things players need to concentrate on.”
-Mike Stern

“I have a keen sense of melody. I don’t want to be experimental to the extent of doing things I don’t like. I do do a lot of that stuff in the studio when I’m mucking about; you just don’t get to hear it, ’cause that’s when I’m searching. By the time they get out as finished product I’ve ironed them into stuff I like.”
-David Gilmour

‘Cause the bottom line is, you only have 12 notes. The 13th is the octave. So none of these techniques added any notes to my playing, again, ‘cause you only have 12 notes. What you do with those 12 notes is totally up to you. There are no rules. I think the first thing you should do or try is, don’t be afraid to make mistakes or fall on your face. My whole approach has always been (but not necessarily, consciously) “Falling down the stairs and hoping to land on my feet,” and I don’t always land on my feet. Now this might sound really stupid, but if you are stuck on scales or if you are simply doing something you don’t like, do something different. If I don’t like what I’m doing, I try something else until I’m happy with what I’m doing.”
-Eddie Van Halen

[On scales] “To me, it’s a really logical system. I recognize and see certain scales. I don’t think about what the root is. I just see a permutation of intervals. When I look at the neck the notes just light up where those scales would be. I hear a chord or a color. The harmony is one color and you can get two or three things that come along on top of it, that match it. I like playing things that some say would be a diatonically incorrect note. But it’s really not, depending on how it’s played. It’s really appealing to me to weave in and out of these colors. I love the way that sounds. I also like to see the symmetries. For example, if we consider a C Major scale, with D as the center (D dorian) it’s symmetrical in both directions.”

-Allan Holdsworth

“I just had this feeling that in order to move forward musically, I needed somehow to separate myself from all that fun and kind of woodshed and try to figure out more of the secrets of music. I had to cross this bridge to my musical future. I had to take the plunge and start approaching my guitar with a mixture of wonder lust, and scholarly aspirations.”
-Joe Satriani

“I really love when people play lyrically. It seems to be more heartfelt than just playing a string of licks and I try not to do that, even though I like to play fast sometimes too. Playing fast is just another colour, but you don’t want to play like that all the time.”
-John Scofield

“I feel funny when someone comes up to me and asks ‘what modes do you use?’ or ‘what scales do you use?’ To me, that’s the equivalent of someone asking, ‘what kind of verbs do you use?’ The idea is to play music, and assuming you’re a good musician, you’ve spent a lot of time learning the grammar of music which includes the knowledge of all of those things. You can’t just know a few modes or a few scales; you have to know all of them, and you have to be able to get from one to the next without even thinking about it.”

-Pat Metheny

More food for thought in Part 2.

About Graham Tippett 301 Articles
Compulsive guitar blogger and writer of many innovative guitar books.

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