This month Martin Cooper delves into the guitar style of this British-born blues-rocker and icon of legendary stadium fillers, Guns N’ Roses.
Martin Cooper looks at the bluesy-rock style of Slash, the man some say saved the Les Paul!
Slash is one of the most iconic of guitar heroes. He may not have redefined rock guitar in the way that Van Halen or Hendrix did, or been quite the household name as players like Clapton, but he and his style are instantly recognisable, and have been for the past 30 years.
Of course, most well known for his role with Guns N’ Roses in their heyday, as well as playing on Michael Jackson’s Dangerous album in 1991, he also went on to form Velvet Revolver with Duff McKagan, Matt Sorum and the late Scott Weiland. He now has a successful ‘solo’ career with Slash & The Conspirators, which includes Alter Bridge frontman Myles Kennedy.
When GN’R’s success reached fever pitch, Slash was something of an anti-hero – in the days when guitars were pointy, and whammy bar histrionics and pinch harmonics the rock norm, Slash played classic Les Paul licks in a traditional, blues-rock way.
Slash was actually born Saul Hudson in Hampstead, England and began to take an interest in guitar at school when one of his teachers played him Brown Sugar by The Rolling Stones. He went on to be influenced by Cream and Led Zeppelin, and these influences are on full display in the career defining Appetite For Destruction. The album was released in 1987 and has sold over 30 million units worldwide; it remains the biggest selling debut album in US history.
Packed with crunching guitar riffs and wailing solos, Appetite’s most well known track, Sweet Child O’ Mine is possibly as widely heard in guitar shops and school bands as Smells Like Teen Spirit or Smoke On The Water. In fact, many of Slash’s solos have made their way into magazine readers’ ‘best’ polls over the years, and the guitarist himself is often found in the upper echelons of ‘greatest guitar player’ lists.
Slash knows what he likes and sticks with it. He may have embraced technology in terms of recording techniques and the way music is released, but his playing remains recognisable as the same person who helped to create those classic songs three decades ago.
Our track this month features a Slash style guitar riff and chords and is in the key of A major (A-B-C#-D-E-F#-G#), although you’ll find plenty of bluesy G and C natural notes scattered throughout. Although Slash’s style is very much blues based and therefore includes Minor Pentatonic, Major Pentatonic and Blues scales, he also favours Harmonic Minor in many of his songs and solos. This scale contains a major 7th and on this occasion it means over the B5 chord we’re playing B Harmonic minor (B-C#-D-E-F#-G-A#).
NEXT MONTH Martin investigates the smooth, speedy style of Be Bop Deluxe’s Bill Nelson
APPETITE FOR DESTRUCTION REMAINS THE BIGEST SELLING DE BUT ALBUM IN US HISTORY
Slash in typical pose: vertical Les Paul and black top hat
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