Charlie Griffiths takes on one of the most technically awesome and creatively inspiring guitarists. Mr. Big himself – Paul Gilbert!
Technically awesome and creatively inspiring: Charlie Griffiths honours Mr Big’s Paul Gilbert.
Paul Gilbert co-founded Mr. Big in 1988 with Billy Sheehan, ex of David Lee Roth’s band. Gilbert was previously shredding alongside Bruce Bouillet in Racer X, but Mr. Big allowed him to focus more on songwriting with tracks like Green Tinted Sixties Mind and the acoustic anthem To Be With You. From 1989 to 1996 Mr. Big released four studio albums and enjoyed worldwide success. As is often the case with intense touring schedules, tensions built up and Paul left in 1996 to pursue his solo career and reconvene with his mates in Racer X.
Mr. Big continued with Richie Kotzen on guitar, recording two albums, Get Over It and Actual Size, but disbanded in 2002. However, a reunion tour with Paul back on guitar led to two more albums: What If… in 2011 and The Stories We Could Tell in 2014.
Paul’s style is astounding to witness; he is capable of blistering picked runs played with precision and power, but also a lot of attitude.
Example 1 highlights his trademark, three-notes-per-string patterns, here applied to the E Minor Pentatonic scale, rather than the more typical seven-note scale shapes. The Minor Pentatonic contains a mixture of tones b3rd and stretches, which can be quite a challenge even for average-sized hands.
Example 2 is ‘tinted’ slightly ‘green’ and features a melodic and super-catchy twohanded tapping lick played along one string; a great example of using tapping musically.
Our third riff echoes tracks on Mr. Big’s latest album, The Stories We Could Tell. The riff is played in a 16th-note shuffle feel and features open powerchords on the lower strings. To spice things up there are some blistering scales within the riffs; something at which Paul is exceedingly brilliant.
Example 4 looks back to the early days with a riff using various positions of E Minor Pentatonic, performed with palm-muted alternate picking and two-handed tapping. Our final riff has a more laid-back feel and demonstrates that alternate picking doesn’t always have to be full throttle, but is equally cool for more relaxed situations.
Our solo nods towards tracks like Colorado Bulldog and American Beauty. It starts in blues-rock style before moving onto a string-skipped arpeggio passage and finishes up with some trademark Gilbert alternate picked sextuplets.
Work through all the examples slowly, making sure the notes sound clean and full before speeding up – gradually. For some of the examples a metronome, plenty of picks and a lot of patience will be required. NEXT MONTH Charlie looks at 80s-90s glam-rock band Warrant, with guitarist Erik Turner
PAUL GILBERT’S STYLE IS ASTOUNDING TO WITNESS; BLISTERING PICKED RUNS PLAYED WITH PRECISION, POWER AND ATTITUDE