Lessons from the world’s greatest teachers and schools...
Many years ago the great Paul Gilbert told me his licks were starting to sound the same to him, regardless of the many variations he was developing. In short, he had realised his hands were like a high performance car - he could blaze for days - but where should he go with it? It’s a fair point; a guitarist might culminate at some point into a great musician after prolonged study and practice. So what was once musically inspiring and baffling becomes manageable, meaning the grass on the other side is now no longer quite as green. Furthermore, the initial context may not matter once that musical awesomeness has been secured. For example, David Bowie’s ’90s guitarist, Reeves Gabrels once talked of wanting to acquire technique chops akin to Malmsteen and Di Meola but once he finally got into that ability ball park, their musical contexts didn’t really appeal. His appreciations had moved into new terrains.
For Paul and his metaphorical flash car, his big road vision was learning repertoire. Lots and lots of it. On his own albums and gigs he’s covered Abba, The Spice Girls and Donna Summer as well as typical rock such as Joe Satriani, Yngwie Malmsteen, Deep Purple and Dio. I’ve also spent time with him talking about Stevie Wonder’s wonderful chord progressions (Don’t You Worry About A Thing), Tony Bank’s inventive keyboard parts for Genesis (Afterglow) and Michael Jackson bass lines (Wanna Be Startin’ Something). From being a macro focused rock guitarist that would vacuum up all manner of shred, he evolved into a massive music fan who found marvel in countless bands and styles of music.
I hope this issue proves incredibly useful for your own macro study as you pick, hammer, trill, slide, tap and Mixolydiate (if ever there was such a term!) through our far reaching articles. So, tune up your own impressive car but do spend time listening to as much varied music as you can. If a broad appreciation helped Paul to become the celebrated virtuoso that he is today, it undoubtedly will shape you too. Besides, Abba’s Dancing Queen is too well written to be relegated only to wedding bands!