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: Genesis gui­tarist and solo artist ex­traor­di­naire, Steve Hack­ett

Guitar Techniques - - INTRO -

GT: What is it about guitar in­stru­men­tals that ap­peals to you?

SH: If it’s ny­lon clas­si­cal, it’s the self suf­fi­ciency. If it’s elec­tric, it’s the ex­cite­ment that it pro­duces.

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

SH: Some­times a po­etic ti­tle is all the lyrics you need to make the dream com­plete.

GT: What do you em­brace or avoid?

SH: It’s im­por­tant not to fall back on tech­nique too much. A great melody should be enough in it­self. I try to tai­lor the tone to fit the phrase and the line.

GT: Is a typ­i­cal song struc­ture al­ways rel­e­vant?

SH: An in­stru­men­tal doesn’t need to be lim­ited by the same con­stric­tions as a vo­cal work. I pre­fer not to get stuck with for­mu­lae. I like in­stru­men­tals to go off the map at times.

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

SH: The elec­tric guitar is ba­si­cally an­other voice. It can sound like a woman’s voice with the right amount of sus­tain, feed­back and ef­fect. But then some vo­cal­ists in­form mu­si­cal ideas. The power of Mario Lanza’s voice is an in­flu­ence on my guitar play­ing when I hold re­ally long notes with my Fer­nan­des guitar.

GT: How do you start writ­ing one?

SH: I some­times start off with an acous­tic melody, which I can ar­range to fit the elec­tric guitar, as we did many times with early Genesis melodies.

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

SH: The melody needs to be able to haunt me. I of­ten ca­pit­u­late to subject mat­ter in the way Os­car Wilde so per­cep­tively de­scribed – a cer­tain amount of sur­ren­der­ing in or­der to be hon­est rather than try­ing to be fash­ion­able.

GT: Many songs fea­ture a solo that starts low and slow, and fin­ishes high and fast. Is this use­ful?

SH: A climb­ing melody will of­ten sound more and more emo­tional. I’m as in­flu­enced by the soar­ing strings of Rach­mani­nov as by a Les Paul and a Marshall on full stun.

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

SH: I find a con­tin­u­ously chang­ing tone is best. While in my early days I tended to play in one tone, I now al­low the mu­sic to take me to ar­eas I might have pre­vi­ously re­jected.

GT: Favourite keys or tem­pos?

SH: I’m mostly known for slow so­los but I also love the thrill of im­pos­si­bly high-speed work. All keys that have open strings are in­ter­est­ing but the best thing is to write in un­fa­mil­iar keys such as F# to get the best out of the pi­anist.

GT: Are mi­nor or ma­jor keys eas­ier?

SH: I find all keys equally dif­fi­cult if you want to truly in­spire and sur­prise your­self.

GT: Any favourite modes?

SH: Like all gui­tarists, the Do­rian scale is per­fect for fir­ing off salvos that are none too care­ful but are thrilling. But I do en­joy Eastern sound­ing scales. There is a very in­ter­est­ing Bar­tok scale which

E-G-Ab-B-C-C#-Eb. com­prises: This sounds mar­vel­lously exotic and few peo­ple will know what the hell you’re do­ing if you em­ploy it!

GT: And key mod­u­la­tions?

SH: That can sound ei­ther very nat­u­ral or re­ally con­trived. It’s fan­tas­tic when it works.

GT: Do you view the back­ing band dif­fer­ently than on a vo­cal song?

SH: I’ve come to re­alise that the hum­ble tri­an­gle is just as im­por­tant in an orches­tral work as ev­ery­thing else. There is no such thing as the back­ing group for me.

GT: What are your views on har­mon­is­ing melodies?

SH: Vo­cal har­monies can be in­cred­i­bly mov­ing. It’s what drove The Bea­tles on to world fame. Har­mony guitar work can be re­ally beau­ti­ful. I have a Boss Har­monist pedal, which does great three-part har­monies and works very well for record­ing or live work. Some­times I add a 5th har­mony to the straight 3rds from my Dig­itech Whammy pedal, which sounds more like the brass ar­range­ments by Wil­liam Wal­ton than rock guitar. It’s per­fect for heroic-sound­ing chords.

GT: Name three guitar in­stru­men­tals have in­spired you.

SH: 1. Apache by the Shad­ows and The Ven­tures. A great melody, both ro­man­tic and de­scrip­tive. 2. Jig­saw Puz­zle Blues by Fleet­wood Mac, writ­ten by Danny Kir­wan. This is in the style of blues guitar but with the in­flu­ence of Django. 3. Con­certo de Aran­juez by Ro­drigo. A fa­mous guitar piece that re­ally cap­tures the spirit of Spain. The melodies per­fectly bridge the gap be­tween fla­menco and clas­si­cal work. For me it’s both me­lan­cholic and up­lift­ing. Dur­ing the slow move­ment the ris­ing fast arpeg­gio sec­tion sounds like the mu­sic from a thou­sand foun­tains...

GT: What are you up to: gigs, tours?

SH: There’s The To­tal Ex­pe­ri­ence Live In Liver­pool Digi­pak – solo num­bers plus Genesis clas­sics and doc­u­men­tary. And The Charisma Years – eight vinyl plus 12" EP box set; and Deluxe CD/5.1 DVD sets of Please Don’t Touch, Spec­tral Morn­ings and De­fec­tor…

it’s im­Por­tant not to fall BacK on tech­nique. a great melody should Be enough in it­self

Steve Hack­ett with his mod­i­fied Les Paul Gold­top

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