in­stru­men­tal in­qui­si­tion!

Gui­tar in­stru­men­tals have sup­plied some of mu­sic’s most evoca­tive mo­ments. We asked some top gui­tarists for their take on this iconic move­ment. To­day we meet: Liv­ing Colour, Yo­himbe Brothers and Masque’s gui­tarist, Ver­non Reid.

Guitar Techniques - - INTRO -

GT: What are the things about gui­tar in­stru­men­tals that ap­peal to you?

VR: I’ve al­ways been in­trigued with how so many dif­fer­ent gui­tarists ex­press them­selves non ver­bally, from Link Wray’s Rumble to Hen­drix’s Third Stone From The Sun, to San­tana’s Song Of The Wind, To Metheny’s Unity Vil­lage.

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

VR: An in­stru­men­tal be­comes a very per­sonal sound­track to the movie of the lis­tener’s life, and mood. The lis­tener gets to di­rect the pic­ture and choose whether or not to add their own di­a­logue.

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

VR: I like to em­brace the im­me­di­ate mo­ment, and avoid re­ly­ing on the tried and true.

GT: Is a typ­i­cal song struc­ture verse, cho­rus, etc - al­ways re­li­able for an in­stru­men­tal?

VR: It can be help­ful in the in­stru­men­tal to create a song-like ef­fect, but that is not the only way to ap­proach their cre­ation.

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

VR: I think that study­ing a vo­cal­ist’s ap­proach can be very in­struc­tive in guid­ing a gui­tarist to­wards a more lyri­cal than tech­ni­cal ap­proach to play­ing a melody.

GT: How do you start writ­ing one; is there a typ­i­cal ap­proach or in­spi­ra­tion for you?

VR: A line of melody, a groove, a pleas­ing se­quence of chords. Or a riff. It varies.

GT: What do you aim for when your per­for­mance is cen­tre stage for the du­ra­tion of the in­stru­men­tal?

VR: I aim not to trip!

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

VR: This struc­ture is only use­ful if it doesn’t lead to a stul­ti­fy­ing same­ness of ap­proach. It re­ally de­pends on what the point of fi­nal ex­pres­sion is. If the point is to sat­isfy pre­ex­ist­ing ex­pec­ta­tions, then it is very use­ful. If the point is to tell one’s own story through the in­stru­men­tal, then maybe not.

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

VR: There is a wide va­ri­ety of sounds that can ap­ply de­pend­ing on the com­po­si­tion, the groove and the mood you are try­ing to create.

GT: Do you have favourite keys or tem­pos in which to play or com­pose your mu­sic?

VR: My favourite keys change, de­pend­ing on the style, like A or B flat for blues be­cause they are placed right in the mid­dle of the neck. A key or mode like A Mixoly­dian is fun in stan­dard tun­ing be­cause you can utilise the open strings. But I like all the keys. I‘m not key-ist! Same thing goes for tem­pos, it de­pends on the style. You do have to be care­ful with at­tach­ing your­self to a bpm be­cause they can be de­ceiv­ing. For ex­am­ple, a high-en­ergy drum and bass in 180 can also be a laid back 90.

GT: Do you find mi­nor or ma­jor keys prefer­able to write in?

VR: Mi­nor keys if I’m feel­ing blue, and ma­jor keys if I’m feel­ing op­ti­mistic and happy.

GT: Any favourite modes?

VR: Yes: Mixoly­dian, Ly­dian, and Do­rian, but I like all modes. I’m not mode-ist ei­ther!

GT: What about mod­u­la­tions into new keys?

VR: Mod­u­la­tions into new keys work well to build ex­cite­ment or ten­sion, and can also sig­nal an exit from one mood to an­other.

GT: Do you view the back­ing band in a dif­fer­ent way than you would on a vo­cal song?

VR: Play­ing with Liv­ing Colour is a very dif­fer­ent ex­pe­ri­ence than play­ing with my mostly in­stru­men­tal groups, Masque or Yo­himbe Brothers. Ev­ery­thing in Liv­ing Colour is in ser­vice to the song, lyrics and Cory’s vo­cals. Whereas play­ing in Masque, ei­ther I’m in­ter­pret­ing melody on gui­tar or Leion Gru­en­baum is on keys. In Yo­himbe Brothers I’m play­ing off DJ Logic.

GT: What are your views on har­mon­is­ing melodies?

VR: It re­ally de­pends on the con­text. They can work very well or be su­per cheesy.

GT: What three gui­tar in­stru­men­tals would you con­sider iconic, or have per­haps in­spired your own play­ing or com­pos­ing?

VR: Song Of The Wind by Car­los San­tana from the al­bum Car­a­vanserai. I lis­tened to that piece over and over again. My cas­sette is worn out. Then there’s Mag­got Brain, fea­tur­ing Ed­die Hazel from Funkadelic. That song has al­most a gospel kind of in­ten­sity; it builds and builds. And I’d add Third Stone From The Sun by Jimi Hen­drix; it’s the ul­ti­mate rock and roll sci-fi trib­ute to the space pro­gram.

i liKe a or b for blues be­Cause they are plaCed right in the mid­dle of the neCK... but i’m not Key-ist!

Liv­ing Colour’s lat­est al­bum, Shade, is out now. For more on Liv­ing Colour, or on Ver­non’s in­stru­men­tal projects Masque and Yo­himbe Brothers, fol­low him on Face­book or Twit­ter.

Ver­non Reid: likes to avoid re­ly­ing on the tried and true

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