Les Paul Heroes 50 awesome licks!
Richard Barrett has created and transcribed 50 licks from 50 of the most iconic Les Paul players of all time. There’s five stylistically authentic backing tracks to try them over, too!
ABILITY rating Moderate/Advanced ✪✪ ✪✪ ✪ Info Will improve your… Improvisation and vocabulary Key Various Tempo Various CD TRACKS 4-13 All types of picking Stylistic knowledge
Many of the best-known players switch guitar to suit their material. For instance, Peter Frampton played Show Me The Way on a Strat and Eric Clapton also eschewed his trusty Gibsons for Layla and Other Assorted Love Songs; but it’s interesting to view this from the other side of the fence and see how different guitars, with their inherent characteristics, have influenced the styles of those who play them. Arguably, the first mass-produced ‘signature model’, the Les Paul was, of course, designed for jazz – its solidbody virtually eliminating the resonant feedback issues of the hollow body instruments that had previously dominated this field. Of course, Les’s own guitars were considerably more ‘weird and wonderful’ than the regular production model – instruments like the Les Paul Personal and Recording featured complex switching and low impedance pickups, far ahead of the curve and closer to his own specification. But these were much more ‘hi-fi’ sounding than your average rock and roller required, so considerably less popular with the mainstream. Though its initial production run ceased in 1960, popular demand led to the Les Paul’s triumphant reintroduction in 1968, thanks to guitarists like Eric Clapton, Mike Bloomfield, Jimmy Page, Peter Green, among many others, who ably demonstrated some unexpected capabilities of this classic design. The Les Paul, it transpired, was unrivalled at producing a smooth, singing sustain through a cranked amplifier. This is partly due to its woods and construction, though the PAF (or P90) pickups were capable of driving an amp fairly hard, while also retaining enough ‘cut’ to stand out in the mix. As we’ve progressed through the ‘70s, ‘80s and ‘90s to the present day, fashions have changed fairly regularly: ‘hot’ aftermarket pickups, refrigerator-sized racks of effect processors, high-gain amplifiers, ad infinitum. But although a player like Neil Young has continued to use his heavily customised ‘53 Goldtop (sprayed black) through a cranked Fender tweed throughout these decades (albeit aided by a custom made ‘whizzer’ that physically changes his amp settings on the fly!) it was probably Slash who, at the height of the pointy-headstock-programmable-everything era, first reminded everyone that the raw appeal of a Les Paul, minimal pedals and a Marshall amp may be the ultimate rock setup after all. Gary Moore had a hand in doing the same for blues. Recent years have marked a return to the more ‘traditional’ vintage spec Les Paul, with lower output pickups and aged finishes, but the different playing styles keep coming. While some of the players in this feature have remarkably similar styles, it’s interesting to note that even though many set up their sounds in very different ways, it’s still pretty clear what guitar you are hearing.
These 50 musical examples are grouped in no particular order over five different styles of backing track that are designed to complement my impersonation of each player’s style. Hopefully, some will be instantly recognisable, though it’s well worth following the transcription to see if you agree whether it sounds like them. There’s bags of fun to be had, so enjoy these licks anyway!
at THE HEIGHT of THE Pointy Headstock era SLASH reminded us of THE raw APPEAL of a Les PAUL, minimum PEDALS and a MARSHALL AMP