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: top ses­sion mu­si­cian, tour­ing and record­ing artist and GIT tu­tor, Allen Hinds

Guitar Techniques - - INTRO -

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

AH: My whole life the ‘sound’ of stringed in­stru­ments has struck a nerve. Gui­tar is such an emo­tional and nu­anced in­stru­ment; so much can be said with the turn of a phrase or the small­est in­flec­tion.

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

AH: To me, it’s a bit like read­ing a book as op­posed to see­ing the movie. You re­ally have to use a sen­si­bil­ity, an an­tenna in­side that cre­ates im­ages that maybe you don’t de­pend on when a song has vo­cals. I to­tally un­der­stand the chal­lenges of pulling off a melody on gui­tar. Bal­lads are cru­cial to fo­cus on the melodies and, just like a voice, the gui­tar can con­jure up so much emo­tion. It has a wider range, and there are just so many ef­fects and sounds to choose from.

GT: What do you em­brace or avoid?

AH: I gave up try­ing to ‘out-shred’ any­one long ago. Too many play­ers get caught in the shred­ding quag­mire. It can be ex­cit­ing for a minute, but in the long run it’s much less in­ter­est­ing. And be­cause there are so many palates of sound out there it’s easy to lose sight of what you orig­i­nally in­tended. We all know smart peo­ple who com­mand at­ten­tion by speak­ing thought­fully and of­ten softly. We lean in closer to lis­ten, as op­posed to be­ing ham­mered over the head with in­for­ma­tion.

GT: Do you like to stick to a typ­i­cal song struc­ture?

AH: It’s art. You wouldn’t tell Pi­casso his paint­ings didn’t look right be­cause they didn’t look like Nor­man Rock­well’s. Same with mu­sic. There are al­ways ex­am­ples of fol­low­ing the nor­mal ‘form’ of tra­di­tional songs, but some of the best stuff is the un­pre­dictable.

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

AH: Very, I al­ways tell my stu­dents to ap­proach a solo like it’s a melody he or she is cre­at­ing for my song. As soon as my stu­dents be­gin singing along with them­selves and in­ter­nal­is­ing, their so­los im­prove im­me­di­ately. And when I play bal­lads I am al­ways singing along.

GT: Is there a typ­i­cal ap­proach?

AH: Any­thing can spawn an idea for a song; a drum groove, a phrase you hap­pen to dis­cover while warm­ing up. Any­thing, re­ally.

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

AH: Con­nect­ing and feel­ing the au­di­ence. It’s hard to de­scribe. Maybe it’s a bit of a sixth sense, but I strive to get to that ‘zone’. Mu­sic can be very pow­er­ful. David San­cious used to talk about this: how do you get there? Con­cen­tra­tion? Med­i­ta­tion? Tequila? (laughs).

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

AH: You want it to tell a story, so that would make sense a lot of the time. But look at Van Halen’s solo on Beat It, or Al­lan Holdsworth’s so­los on Metal Fa­tigue; some­times it’s ef­fec­tive to come blaz­ing out of the gate. It depends on the song.

GT: What type of tone do you like?

AH: The more vo­cal the bet­ter – not too com­pressed, not too dis­torted, but singing, where you can hear all the lit­tle sub­tleties your fin­gers are do­ing.

GT: Favourite keys or tem­pos?

AH: I tend to write in gui­tar keys, but on my next CD I pur­posely

Eb tuned town to or D. But gen­er­ally no favourites. I like 6/8 grooves, but it all depends on the groove, the song, the chords.

GT: Are mi­nor or ma­jor keys eas­ier?

AH: It all depends on the melody, and the mood you want to con­vey.

GT: Any favourite modes?

AH: I grew up hear­ing Clap­ton, Jeff Beck, Hen­drix, Fred­die King, so the Blues scale, or the Mixoly­dian com­bined with Do­rian. And later, all the stuff in be­tween, a la Scofield, Mike Brecker, Holdsworth, etc.

GT: Mo­du­la­tions into new keys?

AH: I fig­ure if I am bored in one key, so the lis­tener may also be, but if there are too many changes, the lis­tener will also get bored. So I try to keep my­self in­ter­ested first, whether that means changes or not. But I worked hard on play­ing over chords when I was younger. And I still play around with real book songs like Fee-Fi-Fo Fum, Gi­ant Steps or Fall­ing Grace.

GT: Do you view the back­ing band dif­fer­ently on an in­stru­men­tal?

AH: No, they have to sup­port the melody and vibe of the song first.

GT: What are your views on har­mon­is­ing melodies?

AH: It’s good prac­tise to do when learn­ing any song – get in­side the song struc­ture by har­mon­is­ing. Hav­ing said that it drives me crazy when peo­ple sing har­monies to a Bea­tles melody that wasn’t there orig­i­nally!

GT: What three gui­tar in­stru­men­tals have in­spired you?

AH: Cause We’ve Ended As Lovers, by Jeff Beck; Flashes, by Ry Cooder; Lit­tle Martha, by Duane All­man; Lafayette Rail­road, by Lit­tle Feat. Any of the Joe Pass Pablo se­ries. I loved the Steve Morse solo pieces. Lenny Breau. Ted Green. Allen has two new al­bums out; one with his trio, Won­der­land, called Just Get In and his lat­est solo al­bum, Fly South.

i gave up try­ing to ‘out-shred’ any­one long ago. too many play­ers get caught in the shred quag­mire

Allen look­ing at home in his record­ing stu­dio

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