Guitar Slingers of Today are like Peak Oil
Very few True “Guitar Slingers” exist today. At the same time, there has never been more Wal-Mart guitarists on the planet. Most fall into the “not bad” category. Many fall into the proficient/extraordinary category. But both the not bad and proficient to exceptional lack what it takes to be a guitar slinger. Impressing yourself with a five minute solo is the easy part.
What makes a True “Guitar Slinger”?
Today’s Guitar Slinger’s include but are not limited to:
- Dave Edmunds
- Brian Setzer
- Todd Rundgren
- Ace Andres
- Trevor Rabin
There exist 3 types of guitarists:
1. The Guitar Slinger: He sings lead; However, plays guitar better than most.
2. The Singer who plays guitar. His guitar skills are negligible. (Think John Fogerty)
3. The Guitar Alien. (See Yngwie Malmsteen, Steve Vai and Joe Satriani) their guitar performance is spoiled by the mere presence of vocals.
Your guitar playing should set you apart from those who have done their homework and play “rehearsed” solos. When the Guitar Slinger plays, He takes the audience to the far side of the galaxy in which the Slinger never imagined he could go. To quote Pete Townsend; “The guitar is at its’ best when it is slightly out of control.” The term, “Astral Traveling” comes to mind. If you’ve rehearsed your basic scales for hours, you can get to that point of the:
“Out of body experience”
Once you get to that point; remember this, it’s not you. Perhaps the highest accolades I’ve ever received, and theses weren’t one off comments; but many owners of establishments commented that when I solo, I seem to be in another dimension. “He looks like he’s left his body”. The question: “How does he just throw his head back and solo? “ Is not uncommon. Personally, (and stick with me) I think the music has a soul of its own and if you’re good enough and you allow it to; you become (As Eric Clapton said about SRV) a conduit for the sound of the music. It’s like giving birth to the music. Playing “Eruption” or “Cliffs of Dover” is an accomplishment, yet so is working on an assembly line, that’s not what the Guitar Slinger does. The truth is, the Slinger never knows what he’s going to do. My solos have become random pieces of subconscious recall.
Don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying don’t practice or rehearse. I’m saying practice to command your guitar until it becomes a living part of your body. It gets mad when you refer to it as an instrument or even an extension of your body; rather an equal part of your body. Your guitar wants to go out of its body with you on your out of body experience. Respect your guitar like a Major league Pitcher holds a baseball. He holds it like an egg. When you’re done with your guitar, put it back in its case or its womb. How dare you let a drunk knock it over.
The Alpha Musician
It’s not an issue of control. It’s an issue of leadership. In the big band days and even today orchestras need conductors. That’s the Guitar Slinger. A good Alpha Musician will give the other musicians the respect and acknowledgment they need. You never want to hear: “Who the fuck does he think he is”? Instead; if you come together like a synergistic organism, your bass and drummer are going to anticipate the unanticipated. I have video where I can see myself looking back at the drummer and giving him a wink because we both knew the song would sound better with an accent at a certain spot. A tight band with a strong leader will communicate telepathically after a while.
Let me quote Jimi Hendrix: “I liked the Idea that guys like Bob Dylan could be successful and not have to be the best singers”. Jimi’s biggest hit, (believe it or not) was not Purple Haze, rather “All along the watchtower”.
Let me quote the musician that penned the song “Old Time Rock and Roll: “Yeah I took six years of my life trying to play guitar. No! I wasted six years of my life trying to play guitar. ~ Bob Segar
Let me quote Joe Satriani when asked by Guitar Player Magazine why his album “Surfing with the Alien” was an instrumental album. Joe replied: “Oh I can sing, but just listen to this”. He then played a beautiful instrumental part of his new album. (Sans vocals).
There you have it. A response from one of the GREATEST Guitar Slingers ever ~ Jimi Hendrix. A regret from the singer and writer of the Iconic song “Old Fashion Rock and Roll confessing he wasted time trying to be a “Guitar Slinger” ~ Bob Segar. Finally, a response from a Guitar Virtuoso who thought his music would be ruined by adding vocals ~ Joe Satriani. As you can see, the Guitar Slinger today, more than ever, has become an anomaly.
If you were a blues guitarist, you weren’t if you couldn’t sing and play (Throw down). Just die, go to music heaven and ask BB King, Stevie Ray Vaughan, Jeff Healy, Gary Moore, Robert Johnson and Johnny Winter. If you really want to know if you’re worthy of the “Guitar Slinger” moniker; try and entertain an audience while playing “Scat”.
My apologies to Pat Travers for his omission. ~ Ace