caught up with the legendary studio ace and Toto guitar hero for an exclusive two-part tutorial – playing ‘outside’ the blues box.
Steve ‘Luke’ lukather has one of the most impressive CVs in the business. He has done it all, from being a hired gun on a zillion studio sessions, coming up with memorable riffs and solos and writing killer songs, to being Toto’s frontman and a successful solo artist. He is still going strong both live and in the studio.
Some people take umbrage at the success of session musicians. But the ability to walk into a studio, perhaps with a megastar in front of you demanding that you create something to lift their track and make it a hit, is not only an amazing feat in itself, but shows musicality of the highest order. And in the face of all this success Luke remains one of the humblest and most generous of musicians we’ve ever met.
“I’m a serious musician, as serious as I can be,” he says. “There’s a million guys better than me and in this day and age you look on the internet and you’re constantly barraged with the new virtuoso, who’s the fastest gun in the west. To me that’s a young man’s game and it’s great but I’m not in competition any more. I’m kind of past that; I mean I can play, and when I play live, I play live and every guitar player shows off a certain amount. But give me Jeff Beck playing a melody or Dave Gilmour playing something any time. I really like all the brilliant guys like Petrucci, but it’s kind of daunting when you’re sitting in front of a camera like this and go, ‘Okay, impress me!’, because everybody is sitting out there like judge, jury and executioner.
“You put anyone under the microscope and you’ll find warts. You see these young kids on YouTube that have these amazing chops but if you stick them in a situation where they have to play with a drummer or they have to play in a recording studio with a click track or anything, they fold up like a house of cards.”
“You look at a guy like Keith Richards, who never played a solo in his life besides Chuck Berry kind of stuff but he’s written some of the greatest riffs of all time. And for me that’s much more memorable than someone who can play 64th notes at 220 bpm.”
“I once met Jimmy Page and he was really sweet. He took me aside and he goes, ‘Listen, man, you should be proud of being a session musician because I used to be a session musician as well.’ I almost had a tear in my eyes hearing that from Jimmy Page, one of my heroes. He said ‘Don’t take any shit for that because people don’t understand what that is’. That really touched me.”
In the three tabbed examples Luke played for us in Part 1 of this two-part compilation, he demonstrates various ways in which you can play ‘outside the box’ of the usual blues based approaches by mixing things up a bit. You’ll note that he doesn’t only use the notes in the key of E, but also superimposes notes from other modes to create melodic interest. He also plays across the entire neck to utilise the full range of the guitar. Also, pay attention to the way he mixes various rhythms together to create even more interest. NEXT MONTH We have five new and original blues licks from the legendary Robin Trower
Steve Lukather shares his priceless experience and musical ability with GT
Steve’s six-string weapon of choice is his Ernie Ball Music Man ‘Luke’ signature guitar. Over the years he has used high-gain amps like Mesa Boogie or Marshall on stage, but has settled with Bognor in recent times. Go for a smooth, saturated lead tone using either bridge or neck pickup to emulate the tones . Add reverb or a long delay to taste.