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: blues-rock six-string hurricane, the amazing Eric Gales
GT: What is it about guitar instrumentals that appeals?
EG: They’re a way of expressing what words and vocals can’t - as vocals can express like music can’t. I like them both as a combination but also as stand-alones as well.
GT: What can an instrumental provide a listener that a vocal can’t?
EG: It can give you a listen to the artist’s soul just through playing.
GT: Are there any tendencies that you aim to embrace or avoid?
EG: I tend to avoid nothing. Nothing is off limits. I like utilising it all!
GT: Is a typical song structure always relevant for an instrumental?
EG: Sometimes the groove will come to me and I’ll write a melody to it. Others I have a melody first and then write a groove. Structurewise it all depends on how I’m feeling when I’m writing that song.
GT: How useful is studying a vocalist’s approach?
EG: I love studying the vocalists approach! I am a vocalist so I have to bear in mind both perspectives when I’m writing stuff and I’m being more cognitive of that now because this new record is more about the song content and the melodies. I think it’s been proven pretty good in the last 20 years that I can play a little bit! But I give a good example and a good premise for both areas of the music spectrum and I’m very proud of that.
GT: Is there a typical approach or inspiration for you?
EG: It all depends on what I’ve been listening to. I may be listening to some John Mayer, some Albert Lee, some Jerry Reed, Eric Johnson, Joe Bonamassa or some gospel! Depending on what mood I’m in is how I’ll approach something new.
GT: Songs often feature a guitar solo that starts low and slow, and finishes high and fast. Is this structure a useful for instrumentals?
EG: Yeah definitely. But there have been times where I start out blazing with the gas pedal to the floor and don’t let up! Sometimes there’s call for that, too.
GT: Any favourite keys or tempos?
EG: Not really man, it’s just all what comes out.
GT: Do you find Minor or Major keys easier to write in?
EG: I favour Minor a little bit better but major is great too. I like them both, either one is great with me.
GT: How about modes - do you have any favourites?
EG: All of the modes are good! You never know what’s going to come out. The thing about having all of the content studied, is you can just pick at random any mode that you want because you have all of the information there, like a computer. You put something in and it goes right to it, because the information is already there.
GT: What about modulations into new keys?
EG: Again, absolutely. I use that as an example when I’m teaching my students something on Skype. The more you study, the more it will help you in the end because you can go to it effortlessly whenever you feel like it.
GT: Do you view the backing band differently than you do on a vocal?
EG: No, not at all.
GT: What are your views on harmonising melodies?
EG: I like it, and I will use it, though sometimes it can seem a bit ’80s and ’90s; but then sometimes it can be used so well that it’s not dated. It all depends on the presentation.
GT: What three guitar instrumentals have inspired you?
EG: Cliffs of Dover by Eric Johnson; Riviera Paradise by Stevie Ray Vaughan; and Peace In Mississippi by Jimi Hendrix.
Eric Gales: new album, Middle Of The Road, out on 24 February