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: jazz-blues-fusion virtuoso, Oz Noy.
GT: What is it that appeals to you about guitar instrumentals?
ON: I just like the tone of the guitar, whether it’s a nylon, a steel string or electric jazz or rock sound. I do like other instruments too, of course.
GT: What can an instrumental provide a listener that a vocal song can’t?
ON: More colours of sounds, wider range, a level of virtuosity that’s just not humanly possible on the voice.
GT: Any tendencies that you aim to embrace or avoid?
ON: Beautiful melodies are always great; good groove and rhythm; nice sound; trying to avoid too many notes! If the composition and overall sound is good, most people can listen to it.
GT: Is a typical song structure still relevant for an instrumental?
ON: If you want to make a statement and make sure the listener grabs it, I’d say you have a better chance using this structure.
GT: How useful is studying a vocalist’s approach?
ON: I think it’s incredibly important in terms of getting a melody or a lyrical idea across. I believe that the most important thing is to understand that the human voice is still the strongest form of communication we’ve got. I try to communicate my music – melodies and rhythm – to the audience, and the closest you get to a human expression, the best results you’ll have communicating your music to people, which is what all musicians want.
GT: How do you start writing one – any particular method or typical form of inspiration?
ON: No, not really. Inspiration could come from different places; it could be a simple drum groove, just a rhythm idea, a melody, a chord melody, or even a sound effect, anything that will stimulate the brain and open some doors.
GT: Many vocal songs feature a solo that starts low and slow then finishes high and fast. Is this useful for instrumentals?
ON: It depends to some degree on the song and the style of music. But you can do anything you want if it sounds good to you; there really are no rules.
GT: What type of guitar tone do you prefer for instrumentals – clean, distorted, fat or trebley?
ON: Just whatever will deliver the idea of the particular song.
GT: Do you have any favourite keys or tempos?
GT: Do you find minor or major keys easier to write in?
ON: No, the same.
GT: Any favourite modes?
GT: What about modulations into new keys?
ON: Only if it’s necessary. If it fits I’ll do it; it if doesn’t, I won’t.
GT: What are your views on harmonising melodies?
ON: I love it.
GT: Are there any particular guitar instrumentals that have inspired you, or that you would describe as iconic?
ON: I can’t really choose, because there’s so many of them. But I really love Last Train Home by Pat Metheny, because it’s one long melody from beginning to end – including his solo. That’s the kind of stuff I like!
Oz Noy’s new album, Who Gives A Funk is out now with guests including Robben Ford, Dweezil Zappa and Joe Bonamassa.
inspiration could come from anything that stimulates the Brain and open some doors
Oz Noy: a superb player of guitar instrumentals