The Guitar and the Music
The guitar certainly has a long illustrious history and has evolved into the most popular and versatile instrument in the world. It is an instrument that is beautiful in design and with a three plus octave range has the ability to express almost unlimited harmony, melody and rhythmic qualities. Its capability to sustain notes extends the instruments versatility and the electric version has an expansive pallet of tones, sounds and sonic capabilities. The guitar is an instrument which can generate the intensity and power of rock, interpret the beautiful melodies of popular music and reflect the essence of the blues.
The instrument forms an integral part in virtually every style of music; from classical, flamenco, jazz, blues, rock and country. Every guitar reflects a unique sound and tone quality and every player has their own sound and tone signature. Beyond the technical aspects of the guitar and music, the most valuable qualities a guitarist may develop is style and soul; the ability to reflect the essence of the music and arrangements which extend beyond the written page.
It was the development of the electric guitar that enabled players to progress from a basic rhythm component in the band to a solo instrument and eventually assuming centre stage. Players such as Charlie Christian pioneered the electric guitar as a solo instrument in the band and his legacy continued with jazz artists Howard Roberts, Herb Ellis, Barney Kessel, Wes Montgomery and George Benson. Rock and country music introduced Chet Atkins, Les Paul, Duane Eddy, Luther Perkins, Scotty Moore, James Burton, Albert Lee, Mark Knoffler and Eric Clapton among many others. The blues approach of Buddy Guy and B.B.King further expanded the variety, technique and capabilities of the instrument.
All of those great players and the exposure to a variety of different musical genres were certainly influential in the evolution and the development of my particular approach to the instrument and style of playing.
As for guitars, I use a number of different instruments depending on the song or track and the sonic tone signature inherent with each instrument. The sound of the Gretsch Chet Atkins 6120 model with humbucker pickups certainly has different tonal qualities than the Gretsch Nashville 6120 and Fender Stratocaster both which have single coil pick-ups. I like both of these sounds; the single coil pick-up being crisp, clean and clear while the humbuckers have a thicker, more mellow sound and is somewhat louder at the same output. I also like a relatively clear, clean sound on the guitar and use a Fender Twin Reverb amplifier for live performing and at the studio. I generally don’t use guitar effects with the exception of an overdrive pedal for rock and blues. In the final analysis however, an artist’ sound signature is mainly in the hands.
I became interested in a wide variety of music at an early age. It was a period when the guitar was already taking centre stage and contributing to the style, shape and evolution of popular music and its artists. Immersed in the swing and popular standards collected by my parents and later Rock and Roll and the British invasion, I started playing with a series of groups for the local dances and later transitioning to some of those infamous Ontario and Quebec bars and clubs of the day at the age of sixteen. Later there was a long series of rock, country, blues and popular bands that further enhanced my approach and style on the guitar.
In the early years when I was starting to grapple with the intricacies of the instrument, the radio air waves were saturated with instrumental music. Bill Doggett, Les Paul, Chet Atkins, Duane Eddy, The Ventures, The Shadows, Booker T & the MG’s and many more were charting instrumentals hits.
In those days we usually had a couple of vocalists and a line-up that included a saxophone and trumpet player and we performed at both the teen dances and adult events. As a component of my studies, I started learning all those great instrumentals songs and added them to the repertoire of those earlier bands. Because we had a horn section in the band, there was an abundance of instrumentals in the set list ranging from the popular songs of the day to the new and emerging rock and roll artists.
Later the British invasion gave us the Beatles and the Rolling Stones, further expanding the music we embraced. As a country music fan, there was the impact of some of those great country artists such as Johnny Cash, Merl Haggard, George Jones and Waylon Jennings as well as the talented country guitar players of the period. Each of these players demonstrated various aspects of technique, phrasing, harmony and musical styles; important insights in order to learn the essence of the various musical genres, from country and rock to blues and jazz.
Naturally, when you learn and play the material of all those great players and artists, you also absorb certain aspects of their approach to the music as well as tone and technique. All of those influences were eventually combined and distilled, resulting in my personal musical profile which is a reflection of the music and artists that I have appreciated and emulated through the years.