In­stru­men­tal In­qui­si­tion!

In­stru­men­tals have supplied some of mu­sic’s most evoca­tive and ex­cit­ing mo­ments. We asked some top gui­tarists for their take on this iconic move­ment. This month: acous­tic in­stru­men­tal­ist par ex­cel­lence, Lau­rence Ju­ber

Guitar Techniques - - INTRO - Lau­rence is at Pizza Ex­press in London on Wed­nes­day Au­gust 3rd and Thurs­day Au­gust 4th 2016. Pizza Ex­press, 10 Dean St, London

GT: What ap­peals to you about gui­tar in­stru­men­tals?

LJ: One of the first records that made an im­pres­sion on me was The Shad­ows’ Apache. So the con­cept was baked into my mu­si­cal con­scious­ness from the be­gin­ning.

GT: What can an in­stru­men­tal pro­vide that a vo­cal song can’t?

LJ: Play­ing the tune with­out vo­cals puts the fo­cus on the melody, although, with a fa­mil­iar song the au­di­ence may be men­tally fill­ing in the miss­ing lyrics. That fa­mil­iar­ity can cre­ate an in­ter­est­ing live per­for­mance dy­namic. It also leaves room for melodic, har­monic and tex­tu­ral em­bel­lish­ment. And it’s the player that sets the agenda, rather than fol­low­ing the singer’s lead.

GT: Any ten­den­cies that you aim to em­brace or avoid?

LJ: On acous­tic, I’ve made it my artis­tic fo­cus to ex­plore the pos­si­bil­i­ties of ar­rang­ing and com­pos­ing for fin­ger­style gui­tar. I at­tempt to em­brace the lyri­cal ‘mean­ing’ of the song, ar­tic­u­late the melody, be true to the har­mony, or at least ex­pand on it ap­pro­pri­ately. It has to be both at the ser­vice of the song and gui­taris­ti­cally sat­is­fy­ing, which, for me, of­ten means us­ing an al­tered tun­ing, typ­i­cally DADGAD or CGDGAD. Com­pos­ing is a more ran­dom process and it de­pends on how the tune and the tex­ture evolve. I try to avoid note-spin­ning and look for some­thing gui­taris­tic to hang the work on. On elec­tric lead gui­tar it’s sim­ply about finding the right voice and tone. The way that Jeff Beck coaxes multi-di­men­sional fin­ger­style solo lines is the epit­ome of that, to me. Rhyth­mi­cally, I enjoy be­ing able to in­te­grate some­thing per­cus­sive. You’ll find dif­fer­ent grooves in my work – shuf­fles, reg­gae, swing – what­ever fits.

GT: How use­ful is study­ing a vo­cal­ist’s ap­proach for gui­tar melodies?

LJ: I re­cently played at event for Tony Ben­nett’s 90th birth­day. He is a mas­ter of putting the song across with no ar­ti­fice. It’s a pure en­gage­ment with the au­di­ence. There’s a 1959 Johnny Mathis al­bum, Open Fire, Two Gui­tars recorded with Tommy Mot­tola and Al Caiola – it has an amaz­ing in­ter­play of Mathis’ voice and the chro­mat­i­cally-voiced, jazz-toned gui­tars. Great vo­cal­ists all have one thing com­mon: they are great sto­ry­tellers. I look for some­thing that sparks the imag­i­na­tion.

GT: What do you aim for when your per­for­mance is centre stage?

LJ: I try to stay fo­cused, as it’s usu­ally 90 min­utes of solo play­ing. When I’m with my trio, I have a lot more free­dom to ex­tend the solo­ing.

GT: What type of gui­tar tone do you pre­fer for in­stru­men­tals?

LJ: I don’t use fin­ger­nails and I pluck rather than pick the string so I work to bring out the voice of the gui­tar. Mostly I use my Martin sig­na­ture OM model which has the tight fo­cus of a smaller-body gui­tar and the 25.4” scale that keeps it from get­ting flabby in dropped tun­ings. On elec­tric I’m par­tial to some Hank Marvin-style twang from a Strat!

GT: Any favourite keys or tem­pos?

LJ: Jazz gui­tarists are typ­i­cally pushed into flat keys by play­ing with horn play­ers. Sharp keys are nat­u­rally friendly to stan­dard­tuned solo gui­tar be­cause of the open bass notes E, A and D. I’ve writ­ten tunes in B ma­jor and mi­nor, and used DADGAD for the flat keys. CGDGAD is great for Cm and Gm. My ar­range­ment of Bacharach’s Al­fie uses that tun­ing in the key of Bb.

In DADGAD, I’ll tend to start in D – it’s the home key, whether ma­jor or mi­nor. Tem­pos are all over the map. It can be fun to take a fast tune and ar­range it slowly, or the re­verse.

GT: Are mi­nor or ma­jor keys eas­ier ?

LJ: I’m a fan of melodic mi­nor be­cause, if you in­clude blue notes, it’s al­most com­pletely chro­matic. Other­wise I’m equal op­por­tu­nity.

GT: What about key mod­u­la­tions?

LJ: I like the twists that come with a tune like All The Things You Are, where the mod­u­la­tions are a com­po­si­tional fea­ture. Half-step mod­u­la­tions of the ‘here-comes­the-last-cho­rus’ kind are tricky for solo gui­tar as you’ll of­ten end up with hand­fuls of barre chords. I do tend to look for ways of do­ing more dis­tant key changes.

GT: And har­mon­is­ing melodies?

I’m all for it! Some­times all you need is the min­i­mum to es­tab­lish the har­monic per­spec­tive: a bass note, a 3rd, 6th or 10th. I enjoy play­ing chord melody style. An al­tered tun­ing can al­low sax sec­tion-type four-note par­al­lel voic­ings that don’t fin­ger so eas­ily in stan­dard tun­ing. In DADGAD, the mul­ti­ple oc­tave strings al­low for a 12-string like ef­fect, as well as a Wes Mont­gomery oc­tave ap­proach.

GT: What three gui­tar in­stru­men­tals have most in­spired you?

LJ: There are many but the top three are: Apache (The Shad­ows), Anji (the Bert Jan­sch ver­sion), Good­bye Pork Pie Hat (Jeff Beck), from the al­bum Blow By Blow.

i at­teMpt to eM­Brace the lyri­cal ‘Mean­ing’ of the song and ex­pand on it ap­pro­pri­ately

Lau­rence Ju­ber with his OMC-18VLJ Martin sig­na­ture

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