Some of the greatest guitar players on the planet are rotten teachers, so what he gives to the guitar community is not lost on me. Not only does he take complicated music theory concepts and make them understandable to slow kids like me, but he also transcribes and interprets the work of the masters so we lesser players can get it. He can go from Albert King to Allan Holdsworth in a heartbeat—and then show up to his own gigs and be his unadulterated self. My time spent with him revealed an artist searching for something deeper than creating a guitar chops record. What have you been doing lately?
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Some of the greatest guitar players on the planet are rotten teachers, so what he gives to the guitar community is not lost on me. Not only does he take complicated music theory concepts and make them understandable to slow kids like me, but he also transcribes and interprets the work of the masters so we lesser players can get it.
He can go from Albert King to Allan Holdsworth in a heartbeat—and then show up to his own gigs and be his unadulterated self. My time spent with him revealed an artist searching for something deeper than creating a guitar chops record. What have you been doing lately? Trying to get my next album done. Things keep getting in the way, which is nice. In this economic climate, being too busy is not a problem anybody should be complaining about.
The next album should be a snapshot of where I was in my life. The dance music guys will make a demo and take four bars of a James Brown loop or something like that.
There are companies who recreate those loops and get other musicians to try and get the same tones. They basically try to come up with a facsimile of that loop. So they bring you in to replicate the guitar parts? He was approached by the BBC. They did a thing called The Electric Proms, where they take popular artists and try to put them in an unusual context. The year before they had Oasis playing with an orchestra. For this they wanted Dizzee the rapper to play with a rock band and a choir.
So I ended up in this band for a televised gig with a twenty-piece string section. There were horns, a male voice choir, and then me just shredding and playing acoustic!
I played about five minutes of every musical style known to man. It was a really fun gig. I think Dizzee liked it as well and saw real potential in doing the rap thing a little bit differently. Photo by Harmony Gerber. There were some problems when Geoff Downes, the keyboard player, found it irresistible to do a reunion tour with all the original members: Steve Howe, John Wetton and Carl Palmer.
They wanted to celebrate the 25th anniversary of that huge first album. It created an awkward situation whereby the original guys obviously wanted to go out and be billed as Asia, because they are. The band who had been playing all the Asia stuff for the previous ten or fifteen years, which was pretty much the band that I was in, was kind of Asia.
They were clearly Asia, but we did it. It split into two factions, and the band I was playing with was renamed Asia Featuring John Payne, which kind of works because he had huge creative input into everything the band had done in more recent years. Every time there was a gig, I would have to fly for eleven hours from London to LA to rehearse for the gig and get all the gear sorted, then maybe to fly to Philadelphia to do the gig.
Then fly back to LA so I could cash in on my return ticket to get back to London. It was a week out of my life and a world of jet lag, and another week of feeling ill once I got home. It was killing me. I loved the guys to death. Have you done any tracking for the new record yet?
Not really. You want to do it all in one big shot. I want to explore doing it the opposite way so I can learn something about the whole working process. I find that if you can lock yourself away from the rest of the world just for a few days, gradually you start to go mad in all the right ways. How does that inform your personal style? It was working out Beatles chord progressions, Clapton blues licks or whatever. Not one lesson?
Then you associate the shape with that sound. You still have to assimilate that into the more subconscious side of how you play. How do you make that feel as natural as the blues licks that come so easily to most of us? You found a context for the sounds first as opposed to starting with an exercise or a pattern of notes?
Can you scat it without having a guitar there or without having a shape to guide you? You just memorized the short cut to those notes. The process has to be imagining some music in your head, then being able to play what you hear in your head by ear. What was your big guitar epiphany when you were younger? Sometimes the wrong note played with the right tone and the right attack works better than perfect notes played with apathy. I spent a lot of time trying to make my one guitar and my one amp sound like all these different players.
The other epiphany was Jimi Hendrix. There was no division between lead playing and chord playing. Guthrie performs to a packed house in Boston with the Jon Finn Group. His recent Boston visit included clinics and seminars at Berklee College of Music.
Photo by JR Terri. Frank Zappa was an epiphany with the way he phrased. I just got it one day. When you put it behind any kind of pulse it becomes a really intriguing thing to listen to.
I guess I have to say my signature guitar. It has moderate output pickups, not too loud. You can get the neck coil and the bridge coil. You can get a Mark Knopler sound or a Stevie Ray sound. I was raised on old-style amps. The switch was born out of a desire to be able to set the volume knob to that perfect sweet spot where you can get a clean tone through an overdriven amp.
Then when you push the button again, the guitar remembers the volume knob being in your favorite place. I love that. A lot of people think that. They think mahogany is going to sound like mud, but not necessarily. Mahogany has a certain focus in the midrange and a certain honk, but everything else is in there as well. I just like the mahogany honk. My other favorite guitar is the first electric guitar I ever had, which was the Gibson SG.
Guitars that are built that way feel right to me. What is it about Cornford amps that you like so much? Whatever goes into that amp is what will come out louder. You can get a number of players with a number of different guitars and plug them into that amp. To some extent they will all sound similar, because the amp is doing quite a lot of the work. Cornfords kind of do none of the work. They just amplify it. The basic idea of the amp is translating every little detail of the way you hit the notes.
It has a dedicated clean channel, which is something of a departure for Cornford. Cornford is pretty much in love with the dirt. You do it with your volume knob if you need it. Because of the dedicated clean channel on the MK50H II, I can take it to absolutely any gig and depend on it to give me the tone I want at whatever volume I want. Are you a fan of effects? It depends on the situation. I do a fusion gig at home once a week and I love bringing in envelope filters and ring modulators and all my childish toys.
When I was playing with Asia, my whole pedal board would be a volume pedal, a wah, maybe a chorus in the effects loop and that was it. If you turn the speed up you get this nice Leslie effect. If you turn the depth up too much you get John Scofield, which is pleasing. The Xotic effects Robotalk is my new toy. The new Robotalk has two versions of the same thing, where you can set your two favorite filter sounds and switch between them or combine them.
You can control the output of the filter, which is a good thing as well. What kind of music do you listen to for pleasure? Have you heard stuff from Squarepusher?
You might like it or it may horrify you. I can generally give you the genealogy of the lick and who did it first. The electronic thing for me is that.
Guthrie Govan - Creative Guitar 02 - Advanced Techniques
Tired of the old ways of playing? Want to break out of a guitar rut? Learn to play rock guitar like a horn section, or a synthesizer or even like a drummer. Aimed at providing advice and direction for the frustrated guitarist, Guthrie Govan focuses on how you can expand your potential by refining your playing techniques, allowing you to tackle more complex riffs and solos. Using some of the most influential rock players of our time this book explains how to develop a more accomplished style, providing advice on borrowing licks from other instruments and using exotic scales, with each example played on the accompanying instructional CD. Guthrie Govan is a noted guitar instructor through his work with the magazine Guitar Techniques.
The aim of Creative Guitar 1 is to help any rock guitarist who feels stuck in a rut. The book focuses on refining playing techniques, explaining the nuts and bolts of theory in an accessible manner, as well as how to practice efficiently, and even demonstrates lots of new licks. This book promotes a self-sufficient approach to learning that will give guitarists new artistic directions in every aspect of their playing. The accompanying CD features detailed examples of pentatonic patterns, minor arpeggios and backing tracks so the guitarist can apply these instructions to their individual style of playing, helping them to become more creative musicians. Guthrie Govan, who is also a regular contributor to Guitar Techniques magazine, and an immensely talented guitarist in his own right, has pulled out just about every stop in these two books.
Guthrie Govan... So Far
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