Chasmac is a semi-retired guitar teacher who has taught in various schools in London and elsewhere for over 30 years.
Pick up some valuable tips from these nine acclaimed masters of guitar playing. The article contains videos of them explaining how they do what they do.
1. B. B. King
The blues legend B. B. King talks about phrasing in G Major and shows how he does it. He makes an especially good point when talking about not having the speed that other guitarists have (meaning the likes of Eric Clapton, Gary Moore and other 'young' guitarists he befriended and performed with, and who idolised him). He never needed their speed. He was a consummate, master blues guitarist and in this video shows how to play with ease through his phrasing.
2. John McLaughlin
This long lesson by one of the world's top jazz guitarists, John McLaughlin, covers a lot of ground. It's not for beginners, although beginners may find it interesting. It starts at an above-basic level of knowledge and assumes you know notation, scales and modes. Notice the precision and consistency he achieves when playing melodic runs. That's McLaughlin's hallmark.
3. Carlos Santana
This short and sweet lesson features Carlos Santana demonstrating how he plays "Oye Como Va" with feeling. Again, it's down to phrasing and separating phrases to sound like two guitars taking turns.
4. Steve Vai
Steve Vai provides lots of advice in this lesson. A lot of it is psychological and aimed at providing you with the right mental attitude to achieving your goals when trying to advance technically. He stresses the advantage of imagining yourself playing a piece perfectly and keeping it in mind when trying it for real. It's good advice.
5. Eric Clapton
In this 1968 interview with a young Eric Clapton, the interviewer sounds like he's never seen an electric guitar before, or 'electronic' guitar as he calls it. The whole interview is reminiscent of "This is Spinal Tap" and Clapton comes across sounding like Nigel in the famous "volume up to 11" scene in the movie. Nevertheless, it's good to hear and see Eric demonstrate how he achieved his range of different tones on the guitar back in the days of playing with Cream.
6. Joe Pass
Another jazz legend, Joe Pass gives terrific insights on how he plays melodic jazz lines over chord progressions. As he reveals, he is always guided by the root and chord tones of the underlying chord rather than modes or scales that many other guitarists obsess about. His approach to chords is that he considers them as belonging to three groups: major, minor and dominant. That thinking enables him to construct distinctive melodic lines based on the chord tones of complex chords.
7. John Renbourn
John Renbourn shows how he holds the guitar and uses glued-on fake nails for picking. More seriously, he then demonstrates how he plays the song "Buffalo" with improvised sections using intervals of major and minor sixths consecutively as a main feature. Intervals of a sixth are commonly used this way. They're typical of the harmonic runs used in the type of music that Renbourn and others such as Bert Jansch and Davey Graham played as part of the early 60s London folk scene. They produce a more interesting harmony than consecutive thirds.
8. Tony McManus
Specialising in Celtic guitar pieces, Tony McManus shows how to play "Sibheag Si Mhor" by the blind, 17th century Irish harpist Turlough o Carolan in DADGAD tuning. He also takes you through the tuning required if you want to try and play along.
9. Mark Knopfler
Mark Knopfler gives a good talk on playing with a pick as well as fingerstyle. He also discusses how he writes songs and chooses between a Fender or Gibson electric or an acoustic to provide the most fitting tone for the song. The section on improvising is especially insightful and useful.
© 2021 Chas Mac