When Pappy asked me to contribute my top 5 influential guitarists I had to think hard about who had really influenced me at different points over the years rather than just picking the first 5 guitarists that inspired me as that really doesn’t tell the whole story. So without further ado here is my first pick:
Dave Murray/Adrian Smith
I thought that the first choice was an easy one, Edward Van Halen, but then I really thought about what made me want to play in the first place and the band that really had me listening to the guitar parts intently for the first time in my life was Iron Maiden. I had Seventh ‘Son of a Seventh Son’ on cassette playing endlessly on my Walkman, I had Eddie posters on my wall and t shirts for every single released of the album. I know it’s sort of cheating to say 2 guitarists but I think of Dave Murray & Adrian Smith as a single entity, their styles compliment each other perfectly. There is enough variation in their playing and tone to identify who is who but they merge as one, playing harmony leads and perfect timing rhythm parts (no pro tools back in those days!). My first TAB book was Seventh Son that my dad surprised me with one day, I totally immersed myself in learning those songs at the tender age of 12/13, trying to pick up all the nuances of Dave & Adrian’s styles, the Trills, bends, vibrato, palm muting and of course galloping triplets! It was also my first introduction to power chords, possibly the most exciting thing I’ve ever been shown, I’m not kidding. It was a great leap forward for me as a player.
Eddie Van Halen
About a year after I had started learning guitar (I would be 13 at the time) my friend loaned me his Van Halen: Live Without A Net VHS tape (still one of my Favourite live shows) and what I thought was possible on guitar was completely turned on it’s head. Remember this was the late 80’s there was no YouTube, there was no internet! I studied that concert for hours and hours on end, through Eddie’s playing I learned so much about technique, timing, vibrato etc. and his enjoyment of playing at that period of time was infectious, how could I not want to do exactly what he was doing?! From that point on I have been listening to Van Halen, new and old, and still get blown away by Eddie’s playing.
After Eddie I started to uncover other amazing players, Yngwie Malmsteen, Jason Becker, Michael Lee Firkins, Steve Vai… but the person who for me became a life long inspiration as soon as I heard the Dreaming #11 EP was this guy:
What I’d learned on guitar so far was by listening and copying players who had great feel but here was someone who not only had great feel in his playing but also a deep understanding of music theory which he used to craft his music and solos. Not only that but he was thinking of ways to extend techniques introduced by guitar players like Eddie Van Halen and use them to create different textures. Eddie’s two handed tapping usually center’s around arpeggios whereas Joe Satriani started tapping across multiple strings, creating chords with multi finger tapping etc. I’m not saying he was the first to do this, I think he had probably been inspired by someone like Stanley Jordan, but it was a fresh approach for an instrumental rock guitar player and he created amazing compositions like “Day At The Beach” that almost sound like a completely new type of instrument. What’s more Joe has continued writing great music year after year and is still touring endlessly, a huge inspiration.
Talking of prolific composers and endless touring brings me to my next influential guitarist:
When I finished my music degree I was totally burnt out, I didn’t touch a guitar for years. When I moved to Australia I didn’t even have a guitar for about 3 years. One day I was watching TV and saw an ad for Tommy Emmanuel with a quote from Eric Clapton saying how he was the greatest living guitar player or words to that effect so I thought I’d check him out. At this time YouTube had yet to be invented so I found Tommy’s website and thankfully there were streams of a few songs from his album “Only”. I heard “Train to Dusseldorf” and that was it, I needed another guitar in my life and this time it had to be an acoustic.
I bought myself a nice Takamine guitar, although I made the mistake if rushing into that purchase as it was a fantastic looking and sounding guitar but it was a strummer, not a modern fingerpicking style guitar with a flatter radius that I should have bought for what I was wanting to play. I’m sure Tommy would have managed no problem on it but I struggled. Nevertheless I bought a couple of Tommy’s album TAB books and set about learning how to play again. My Classical guitar training helped a lot with the right hand complexity of Tommy’s music and my Electric guitar skills helped with the left hand. I never got close to learning “Train to Dusseldorf” as it should be played but Tommy did and still does inspire me to play. If it wasn’t for him Guitar Noize wouldn’t even exist.
From that point on I have never looked back, I totally regained the obsession that had gripped me back in my early teenage years. I am always looking for new guitar players to inspire me and to write about and then one day I saw a video on YouTube that completely blew my mind. Bear in mind that I hadn’t been buying guitar mags for years and had a significant period of time where I hadn’t played electric guitar so when I stumbled upon this incredible musician I was a bit late to the game but he has been a continuous inspiration ever since. I am of course talking about:
The video I referred to was the Jamtrackcentral.com (known back then as bluesjamtracks) video of Guthrie playing over his ‘Erotic Cakes’ album track ‘Fives’ uploaded in May 2007. Incidentally this was also the first time I’d seen a Suhr guitar and was immediately intrigued, I’ve since bought two. I ordered a copy of ‘Erotic Cakes’ on CD and actually received it which at that time was apparently a rarity due to the dodgy distributor Cornford Records. Thankfully Jamtrackcentral.com managed to take over as the distributor so you can still buy this landmark instrumental guitar album.
After 7 years of following Guthrie Govan’s career as a solo artist, band member of both The Aristocrats and the Steven Wilson band, online teacher and travelling clinician I finally got to experience a Guthrie Govan Masterclass for myself last week and he didn’t disappoint. GG was every bit as inspiring talking about music as he was playing his music and after years of attending various clinics I felt that I got the most out of this particular clinic. It also made me realise that I should be exposing my children to way more music and not to lazily give in to their requests for the same old pop songs they hear on the radio. Govan was exposed to all styles of music by his parents which is what has helped shaped him as a musician, I began this weekend with some Jeff Beck (with Joss Stone singing, I’ll ease them into instrumental music!).
So there you have it, my top 5 influential guitarists. There are so many more guitarists I would have loved to have mentioned but I’ll have to save those for another day.