Guitar Techniques - - News -

eric clapton taught me to play guitar! Not per­son­ally, you un­der­stand; but via my ini­tially fruit­less at­tempts to copy what he was do­ing on Cream records. Since I had no other dis­trac­tions at the time ( job, car, girl­friend), the hours of solid prac­tice I put in, play­ing to those vinyl LP s, even­tu­ally be­gan to pay off.

Our turntable had a 16rpm set­ting which meant I could slow 33rpm al­bums down so they played at half speed, pretty much in pitch but an oc­tave down. It was bril­liant! I heard all Eric’s in­flec­tions; I could tell which notes were picked, which ones were ham­mered on, which ones were bent, and how that whole vi­brato thing worked. I’m sure that learn­ing ev­ery­thing he did at half tempo taught me how to play – and weirdly, that’s of­ten what we in GT tell read­ers to do, ei­ther to a metronome or to click tracks.

I was one of thou­sands of peo­ple struck by Clapton’s style, and want­ing to be able to do the kind of thing he did. Gary Moore told me the same story, and I know Van Halen and Eric John­son were equally cap­ti­vated by that EC era. You can hear it in the work of gui­tarists as dif­fer­ent as Mick Ron­son and Marc Bolan, too. There was some­thing ‘per­fect’ about his whole thing – the phras­ing, the tone, the tim­ing; ev­ery­thing was dead right in Cream.

My choice of first Gib­son guitar was as a di­rect re­sult of Clapton, too. I bought a red mid-60s ES-335 in 1972, and it was my main in­stru­ment for many years. Like a fool I sold it, but re­cently ‘re­placed’ it with the one you see below – a reis­sue ’63, just like Eric’s, and as hard to tell from an orig­i­nal as I’ve ever seen.

Jon Bishop is a gen­uine Clapton fan too, as you will hear from his rather su­perb ex­am­ples in our main fea­ture this month. If you’re not that big on EC , for what­ever rea­son (I know he has his de­trac­tors), I’d ask you to try a few of the ideas pre­sented in the fea­ture. Then think about the im­pact that this brief pe­riod (two-and-a-bit years) had on mod­ern guitar play­ing. You might then un­der­stand why Jon, Gary, Ed­die, Mick, Marc, and so many other play­ers (in­clud­ing me), hold Clapton, and that pe­riod in his long and rather distin­guished ca­reer, in such high re­gard. See you next month…

Neville Marten, Edi­tor neville.marten@fu­turenet.com

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