John Wheatcroft examines the unmistakably fiery style of Mahogany Rush’s Frank Marino.
If you can count Paul Gilbert, Steve Vai, Zakk Wylde and countless other famous guitar stars as huge fans then there is a chance that you’re doing something right. Such is the case with Montreal born legend Frank Marino, whose playing is a showcase of blistering attack, dynamic delivery and fretboard mastery. If you can imagine combining the feel and vibe of Hendrix with the modal mastery of Duane Allman, then add to this a fast and precise technique that would give picking virtuosos like Al Di Meola and John McLaughlin a run for their money, you’re somewhere close. Marino’s playing is a perfect display of just what a loud electric guitar is capable of in the right hands.
After starting off on drums, Marino’s first exposure to guitar playing was less than perfect. Frank was hospitalised aged 13 (!) after a coma-inducing LSD overdose. The myth that grew from this, followed Frank throughout his entire career. Somehow he became the spirit of Jimi Hendrix, waking from his coma to find he had miraculously attained the ability to play like his idol, with no prior experience of the guitar. Marino always denied this story and, like most myths, truth is more down to earth. To occupy his mind from fear of relapse into insanity, Frank turned to the guitar, finding solace in the music of Jimi Hendrix. He practiced incessantly and soon became highly proficient on the instrument.
Soon after leaving hospital, Frank and his new band, Mahogany Rush (a reference to a sensation he felt during his life changing acid
If it doesn’t have good tone, it doesn’t matter how fast you can play. Frank Marino
trip), began a musical journey that is now into its fifth decade. Marino has been suffering from acute adhesive capsulitis or ‘frozen’ (in guitar circles ‘strap’) shoulder. Fortunately this is treatable and I’m sure you’ll join me in wishing Frank a speedy recovery.
There are five licks this to learn month, each displaying a different side to Frank’s varied soloing vocabulary. For a man that claims to never practice he’s certainly on top of his chops - usually an indication of someone that plays a lot. And, by his own admission, his formative years Frank would jam until the cows came home.
Actually we do need to consider the difference between practice and performance. But with the availability of super-realistic backing tracks (with this very magazine), looping pedals and easy accessability to recording devices and software, you should make some attempt every time you play the guitar to bridge this gap between what you play in the bedroom and what you might play on stage. Do this by applying what you know in as close to a real life scenario as possible.
From a technical standpoint here the biggest challenge when looking at achieving Marino’s speed and agility, is usually not the actual notes but in replicating his articulate but still relaxed time feel. Particularly when you’re attempting to emulate Frank’s bold attack, there is often a tendency in guitarists to rush ahead of the beat, as if there is an intrinsic connection between velocity and speed, reminding me of the old guitarist joke, ‘Can we try that 10db slower please?’.
Your task is to stay in control of all aspects of your playing on demand, including speed, accuracy, dynamic delivery and time-feel. Needless to say, Marino is a master as combining all these elements.
Frank Marino: blistering blues from Canada