Charlie Griffiths takes the Nightrain down to Paradise City to explore the techniques behind the ‘most dangerous band in the world’.
Charlie Griffiths continues his new series with a look at those bad boys of 80s US rock – the brilliant Guns N’ Roses and guitarist, Slash.
Gilby Clarke, Paul Tobias and Robin Finck. Although all of those guitarists have undoubtedly made valuable contributions to Gn’R, it has to be said that the pairing of Izzy stradlin and slash was a match made in guitar heaven. Between Izzy’s rhythm and songwriting prowess and slash’s lead guitar chops and timeless guitar hooks, the Appetite For Destruction and use Your Illusion albums remain all-time classics.
The Gn’R style could be described as Rolling stones meets Led Zeppelin with Izzy stradlin channelling Keith Richards’ rock’n’roll style based around strummed chords and a focus on songwriting. slash’s style is easily traced back to Jimmy Page with his chunky riffs and Pentatonic-based lead hooks and melodic solos.
With the following examples we look at these different aspects of the classic Gn’R sound starting with a driving riff in the style of Welcome To The Jungle, which uses some chromatic passing notes to sex up the A minor Pentatonic notes a little. next, we have an open fifth string riff with Pentatonic triad fragments played on the second, third and fourth strings. Again at the core of the sound is the minor Pentatonic scale, but the addition of the 2nd and 6th puts it in Dorian territory. Although guitar shop employees across the globe may have a slightly jaded view, one of Slash’s finest moments must surely be the intro melody to sweet Child o’ Mine. ex 3 is our tribute to that gem, which although sounds impressive, is simply a case of playing the chord progression as arpeggios; which means playing the chord-tones separately and cleanly to create a melody.
The term ‘arpeggio’ can also relate to the approach taken in ex4, which is reminiscent of the Paradise City intro. In this case, full chord shapes are held and the pick is used to articulate the notes, while allowing all the notes to ring together. The final riff is at the heavier end of the spectrum, in the style of It’s so easy or Mr Brownstone. other than the open string keys of e and A, F# is a very guitar friendly key as it provides access to the b7 below the 2nd fret root note. This riff highlights the main scales that comprise slash’s style, which for the most part is minor Pentatonic and blues scale – 1-b3-4-b5-5-b7 – and Harmonic minor – 1-2-b3-4-5-b6-7 – which he uses occasionally to add some spice to the predominantly blues-rock sound.
our solo example focuses on slash’s melodic and lyrical side heard on november Rain, sweet Child o’ Mine and the Gn’R cover of Knocking on Heaven’s Door. It uses a lot of bending, Pentatonic scale runs and repeating licks to tell the story. The solo is over a repeating chord progression in the key of F major. As most rock players tend to know their minor scales better than their major scale, it is possible to play from the relative minor key, which can be found three frets lower on the guitar; for this reason our solo has a distinctly D minor flavour, although it is theoretically in F major.
Slash’s style is easily traced back to Jimmy Page with his chunky riffs and Pentatonic-based lead hooks and melodic solos.
Slash in classic pose with one of his many Les Paul guitars