JAZZ

This month John Wheatcroft ex­am­ines one of the world’s most ex­cit­ing and in­flu­en­tial pick­ers, the ex­plo­sive Al Di Me­ola.

Guitar Techniques - - CONTENTS -

John Wheatcroft ex­plores the style of one of the world’s most ex­cit­ing pick­ers: Al Di Me­ola

Al Di Me­ola is one of the most in­flu­en­tial gui­tarists of the 70s fu­sion ex­plo­sion. From his ear­li­est elec­tric record­ings with Chick Corea’s Re­turn To For­ever with bassist Stan­ley Clarke and drum­mer Lenny White, through his stun­ning acous­tic trio with John McLaughlin and Paco De Lu­cia. Then, on to his im­pres­sive body of Latin and jazz-in­spired record­ings as a band­leader, Al Di Me­ola has been at the cut­ting edge of con­tem­po­rary gui­tar for four decades – and he’s not fin­ished yet!

Me­ola’s al­ter­nate pick­ing tech­nique is the stuff of leg­end, with re­mark­able speed and punch. Equally at home on elec­tric, steel and ny­lon-string acous­tic gui­tar, Al’s style has earned him a de­voted fol­low­ing with lovers of fu­sion, acous­tic, jazz and, in par­tic­u­lar, rock. Yn­g­wie Malm­steen, John Petrucci and Zakk Wylde have all waxed lyri­cal about the beauty of Me­ola’s su­per-en­er­getic and ar­tic­u­late ap­proach to play­ing. His re­cent CD, Ely­sium, finds Al in fine form on Les Paul, plus steel and ny­lon-string acous­tics, fly­ing about the fret­board with, to steal the name from one of his com­po­si­tions, pas­sion, grace and fire.

The fol­low­ing les­son con­sists of eight ex­am­ples typ­i­cal of how Al might ap­proach an im­pro­vised solo, an arpeg­giated rhythm part or even how he might drill a scale in the form of a tech­ni­cal ex­er­cise. Me­ola’s play­ing can reach speeds con­sid­er­ably higher than those pre­sented here. Nonethe­less, th­ese are chal­leng­ing ideas to per­fect and you can gain a huge amount from learn­ing th­ese mu­si­cal ex­am­ples even at a re­duced tempo.

You can try dif­fer­ent meth­ods to im­prove pro­gres­sively when prac­tis­ing. A com­mon ap­proach is to slow things down then build tempo in in­cre­ments as your ac­cu­racy and stamina im­proves. You could also at­tempt to leave the tempo on the brisk side and in­crease your suc­cess per­cent­age by break­ing each lick into small pieces and aim­ing to play more and more of each idea. Fi­nally, at the end of each work­out give the ex­am­ple a go, full speed ahead and al­low your­self to mess up if nec­es­sary. It’s never a prob­lem to make mis­takes so long as you di­ag­nose and ad­dress

A gui­tArist must be Able to tAp his foot when he plAys. you cAn for­get About ev­ery other les­son in the book Al Di Me­ola

them. This fi­nal ap­proach gives you a clear pic­ture of ex­actly which ar­eas re­quire the most at­ten­tion. Try a com­bi­na­tion of th­ese ideas plus any oth­ers you have picked up along the way. The trick is to mix things up, be kind to your­self and recog­nise your strong points as much as your weak­nesses. Lastly, keep your ears open and, most of all, re­mem­ber to have fun.

Al Di Me­ola: get­ting into the groove with his Gib­son Les Paul

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