IN­STrU­MEN­TaL in­qui­si­tion!

In­stru­men­tals have sup­plied some of mu­sic’s most evoca­tive mo­ments. We asked some top gui­tarists for their take on this iconic move­ment. This month, tech­ni­cal and melodic mas­ter, Eric Johnson

Guitar Techniques - - INTRO - Eric’s new al­bum, EJ is out now. For more in­for­ma­tion on Eric, his mu­sic and pur­chas­ing CDs or mer­chan­dise, please visit www. er­icjohn­

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

EJ: The free­dom that you have in in­stru­men­tal mu­sic; you have so much free­dom to kind of go wher­ever you want and wher­ever your in­tu­ition can take you and I think that if you try to stick with melody, it can be as in­ter­est­ing as vo­cals and some­times that’s nice.

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

EJ: It just gives it gives a lot of room for in­ter­pre­ta­tion for the lis­tener. It cre­ates and stirs emo­tion in the lis­tener that maybe they’re not get­ting from the lyrics.

GT: Any ten­den­cies with in­stru­men­tals that you aim to em­brace or avoid?

EJ: I think hav­ing a re­ally strong melody is most im­por­tant, then you can har­monise it to make it in­ter­est­ing. I try to use all of it, melody and har­mony, but I think melody is re­ally im­por­tant. I try to make it be a song in­stead of it be­ing an ex­er­cise in gui­tar play­ing.

GT: How use­ful is study­ing a vo­cal­ist’s ap­proach for cre­at­ing gui­tar melodies?

EJ: It’s very, very use­ful as far as vi­brato and bend­ing notes. I think be­cause maybe it lets you re­flect on be­ing del­i­cate with your in­flec­tions or your tech­nique.

GT: How do you start writ­ing an in­stru­men­tal? Is there any typ­i­cal ap­proach or in­spi­ra­tion?

EJ: You know a lot of the times it’s just im­pro­vis­ing and al­low­ing your­self to come up with some­thing in­ter­est­ing. Then when you feel you have some­thing worth chas­ing, and get­ting to be more prag­matic about it and try­ing to piece it to­gether, it kind of un­folds as it would. But re­ally I just try to im­pro­vise and come up with some­thing unique.

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

EJ: It’s most im­por­tant to keep the song in­tact. Some­times if I see YouTube clips of me play­ing I’ll be like, “Okay that solo’s cool but you went on too long”, but I think I like to tell my­self to just be care­ful. That’s what I’m try­ing to take up more now, try­ing to be in­ven­tive with the solo­ing or the play­ing but not to stuff ev­ery­thing you know in and don’t let it go on for­ever, or it loses the im­pact.

GT: Many vo­cal songs fea­ture a gui­tar solo that starts low and slow then fin­ishes high and fast. Is this use­ful for in­stru­men­tal writ­ing?

EJ: That’s a pretty col­lo­quial way of do­ing it. I think there’s other ways you can do it too. I guess with any­thing you want it to build in­ten­sity but I guess the in­ten­sity can be by emo­tional im­pact in­stead of loud­ness or com­pli­ca­tion.

GT: What type of gui­tar tone do you pre­fer for in­stru­men­tals?

EJ: I think there’s a use for it all. You can some­times have sounds that are kind of abra­sive in the back­ground that add a cer­tain tex­ture or a cer­tain pic­ture. I think if you al­ways get ev­ery sound just right and then you put it in the whole pic­ture, some­times it’s not as good as when some of them have a lit­tle bit of edge to them.

GT: Do you have any favourite keys or tem­pos that you like to write in?

EJ: No, not re­ally. I do think I have a ten­dency to write a lot in the same tempo, which I’d like to not do. I’d like to vary it up a lit­tle more. So I think the more var­ied the tem­pos the bet­ter. Some­times I’ll write in a shuf­fle or a 4/4 but I think it would be cool to ex­per­i­ment with other things. I like to try and pick keys that are not nor­mal gui­tar keys like F# or C# or G#. I don’t know why, maybe it just sounds dif­fer­ent to my ears.

GT: Do you find Mi­nor or Ma­jor keys eas­ier to write in? Or pre­fer the sound of?

EJ: I let it hap­pen and go with it. I sup­pose I prob­a­bly write more in a Mi­nor key but ei­ther one can present it­self and be ef­fec­tive.

GT: How about modes - do you have any favourites?

EJ: I use a lot of Pen­ta­tonic stuff but re­cently I have been try­ing to add more pass­ing tones in like 9ths and 2nds and then you can su­per­im­pose dif­fer­ent scales over other scales which is cool. But I’ve been try­ing to learn more har­monies and chord changes and then play the melodies through the chord changes.

GT: What about mod­u­la­tions into new keys?

EJ: I’m work­ing on a cou­ple of tunes at the moment that do that though it’s not some­thing that I typ­i­cally do.

GT: Do you view the back­ing band in a dif­fer­ent way to how you would if you were singing?

EJ: Not nec­es­sar­ily. Some­times it might have a lit­tle more in­ten­sity. But usu­ally no.

GT: What are your views on har­mon­is­ing melodies?

EJ: If it’s done spar­ingly. I don’t re­ally do it a whole lot but a lit­tle bit is cool. As long as it’s not over­done.

GT: What three gui­tar in­stru­men­tals would you con­sider iconic or have in­spired you?

Third Stone From The Sun by Jimi Hen­drix; Apache by Hank Mar­vin; and Sleep Walk by Santo & Johnny.

I’M Try­INg To BE IN­vEN­TIvE wITH THE SoLo­INg, BUT NoT STUFF Ev­Ery­THINg yoU KNow IN or LET IT go oN For­EvEr

Eric Johnson: a mas­ter mu­si­cian and ti­tan of melodic gui­tar

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