• The Modern Guitarist

My Favourite Guitar Players

Okay, first things first, despite being a dedicated guitarist with the long-term goal of virtuosity, I don’t really listen to “guitar music” as in shred-fest music, where the player is just doing constant sweep picking, tapping, speed/alternate picking, legato, hybrid and economy picking, “tricks” etc. While every other musician around me seems to celebrate the incredible, death-defying shredding feats of the people playing that kind of music, to me it’s boring. I don’t think it serves any purpose, and to me it simply sounds like the guitarist is playing technically just for technicality’s sake.

There are a couple of players who fit into that category though who blow my mind and who I love listening to, such as Jason Becker and Yngwie Malmsteen, who are both Neoclassical Shred guitarists. I think I love listening to these two so much because growing up, I have always listened to a lot of classical music, so Neoclassical Shred obviously fits in well with the normal classical stuff, which has been embedded into me as something I have enjoyed as far back as I can remember.

But anyway, moving on, this post is meant to be about my *favourite* players!

So, you might be asking, who are my favourites???

Well, Little Johnny, I shall list their names right now!

  1. Matthew Bellamy

  2. John Mayer

  3. Jack White

  4. Guthrie Govan

  5. John Petrucci

I think the most important thing to note right away is that each one of these players has had a massive impact on me during my development as a guitarist, affecting both my attitude and the way I play on top of them being my favourite players and musicians in general.

I’ll talk about my No. 1 main man Mr Matthew James Bellamy first.

Oh boy, I want to take this man out to dinner just to ask him how he became the pure genius that he is. This is the guy who got me well and truly into the Piano, Guitar and music in general. But since this is a post focused around the guitar side of things, I’ll only talk about that.

He is a “sonic architect” kind of player. His approach to physically playing the instrument is so old school, but I LOVE how he incorporates technology into his sound to create a new school-old school blend. It’s weird to explain. There is a strange kind of mastery of the instrument there, and you can tell he studied up and practised. (just watch the interview with Deezer, and he starts talking about Paco De Lucia and he knows his stuff!) But at the same time, those elements aren’t there at all and I love how undisciplined it sounds when he plays.

His use of the Whammy pedal (best pedal of all time in my opinion) to create those sudden massive leaps in pitch is so cool and the way it’s used in conjunction with standard guitar tricks like pick scratching, and striking the strings behind the nut to make the screechy noise to create the computerised, really “electric” sound in the Muse song The 2nd Law: Unsustainable (as an example) is revolutionary.

Watching the making of one of my favourite Muse songs, Guiding Light, it was only until watching it recently that I discovered just how good his picking technique is, as is demonstrated in the fast shred bit of the solo. (Which by the way is one of my all time favourite solos) I still to this day can’t play that bit of the solo convincingly, despite the countless hours of practise I’ve put in to getting good at this instrument.

It’s something about Matt that is just completely untouchable when it comes to trying to play like him. That was why I started playing, because I wanted to be just like Matt Bellamy. But as I said before in one of the very first posts I ever wrote on this blog, playing like Matt Bellamy “is something I haven’t achieved and never will.”

Links to some of my favourite Matt Bellamy guitar moments:

Guiding Light Solo: https://youtu.be/NxnoiqZ8AJI?t=241

Straight ripping through a New Born solo: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Zs53NSDvRoc

Unsustainable: https://youtu.be/KYHLar–tac?t=89

Honourable mentions: His guitar playing in every Muse song with guitar in ever. More specifically, the Hysteria solo, (try playing that one *well*. Extremely difficult.) The soloing in Survival, his lead guitar playing in the song Animals, the goosebump creating solo near the end of Sunburn, the solo in Big Freeze, the orgasm inducing solo in Reapers (absolutely love that one), the MK Ultra opening riff which I still can’t god damn play, the Hyper Music riff, the climactic bit in The Globalist, all of his playing in Knights of Cydonia, the revolutionary octave pitch shifting sound to create the overall sound of Map of the Problematique, the pure hard rock riffing in Assassin (still can’t believe I’ve now seen them play that live), the famous riff in the form of Supermassive Black Hole, the really cool lead playing 30 secs from the end of Exo-Politics…

I could really go on and on and on and on and list great guitar playing moments in every Muse song that has guitar in it but I think I should move on to another favourite guitar of mine…

John Mayer!!

Well, I can’t thank my brother enough for telling me about Blues music and about a cool artist called John Mayer. I remember the first video I ever saw of him playing. He was improvising funky blues and playing just a pure kick ass solo.

I was hooked straight away and I don’t think I’ve ever been so quickly influenced to completely switch things up and learn a completely new style of music. I had been playing Muse, U2, White Stripes, Led Zeppelin, Rage Against The Machine, that kind of straightforward rock music before I discovered John.

I use the licks and musical phrases that I learnt from watching him play, way back then to this day and actually, John Mayer has kind of become the guitar player that I would compare myself most to in terms of how I play. Obviously, my development as a guitar player has kind of taken me far away from John’s style and led me to create my own unique sound on the instrument, but when stripped down to the core, my “noodling” on the instrument sounds most like I’m trying to emulate John Mayer out of all my favourites.

What I really like about his playing style is that it’s a very “sweet” and “beautiful” kind of sound. Like, it just sounds very *musical* and pleasant. His blues style somehow sounds fresh and enticing, rather than sounding bog standard like how a lot of people sound when they try to play the blues. I think it’s because, he really feels the music, he’s really in touch with what he’s playing and you can see the level of musical joy/emotion he’s getting out of what he’s playing, and that’s why he sounds so great when he plays, because mixed with expertise in that style on the guitar with his emotion, it makes for something pretty special which is what sets him apart from all of the other guitarists “playing blues” and sounding uninspired as hell, playing the same trash ass minor pentatonic phrases over and over. Somehow, John Mayer can play those same standard minor pentatonic licks and sound brilliant and it’s because he plays it with feeling and he plays those phrases when they actually fit. He went to Berklee College of Music and dropped out because he was failing miserably and has gone on to be a legend in music. He’s a great player and the links to my favourite moments of his guitar playing are below…

A re-uploaded slightly higher definition version of the first video I ever saw of John Mayer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ab_k6ZrCPmw

Slow Dancing In A Burning Room (the night I saw him live, incredible emotionally driven solo): https://youtu.be/M6b4QfmTL4c?t=333

Wicked solo in his version of Wait Until Tomorrow: https://youtu.be/po5tlWnYmls?t=178

One of the hardest god damn songs I’ve tried to learn. (Near impossible fingerpicking) The song is Neon: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hc9VXLtgw5g

Moving on…

Jack White 

What a legend. Seriously, how are you gonna take the blues, mix it with punk, out of tune, sloppy guitar playing, the worst drummer known to mankind, with no bassist to speak of, and turn it into a band as influential as The White Stripes. *Trust me, Seven Nation Army is not the only thing they ever did.* Lol, just watch the man in action, he’s a genius. Forms two other great bands after The White Stripes called The Raconteurs and The Dead Weather then launches a solo career in 2012. I just love this guy. And it’s all been successful.

What makes him one of my favourite players of all time is his incredibly stripped down, highly aggressive and ferocious way of playing the guitar. He plays with such attitude that it doesn’t matter at all that what he’s playing is so sloppy and often out of tune, it’s just awesome to watch. He only uses like three pedals on stage, has only like 4 guitars, and a terrible amp which he uses to create more noise, and oh man, it’s just so cool. This is so different to Matt Bellamy for example who uses something along the lines of a spaceship control system with tonnes and tonnes of effects units, amps, guitars etc. I love the extreme differences between my favourite players, I really do.

Jack plays the blues, and when he plays the blues, he really means it. You get the feeling from watching him play that he realllllly feels what he’s playing. And at the same time, it’s just an old school undisciplined punkish way of playing which just suggests that he really doesn’t give a ____ about the music theory side of things, or the technical accomplishment side of things. He’s just a shut the f*ck up and play kind of guitarist and I LOVE that. You can tell he’s the kind of guy, who picked up an old beaten to death out of tune guitar one day and just played it, eventually made some decent noises out of it and never bothered to learn anything past that stage because he didn’t need to. He played music and that’s all that matters. I always say, it doesn’t matter how fast you can shred if there’s nothing musical or interesting about it.

To sum up Jack White in one word it would have to be “Raw”. Check out the links:

Death Letter: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pQZznLtm9fU

The video that sums up Jack White (builds a guitar out of a plank of wood, a bottle a pickup and a string and some nails): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=r_F7aiOvdwE

Rippin’ it during Ball and Biscuit: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Xc1rYiUf73k

Next guitar player on the list is…

Guthrie Govan!!! (His surname rhymes with oven)

This man is the very best guitar I have ever seen. In fact, every guitar player I’ve met and on every guitar forum I’ve been on says that he is the best guitar player to have ever lived, or at least up there with other people’s personal favourites.

Literally, you watch him play and it’s like watching him create another wonder of the world with every note he plays it’s absolutely incredible. I’ve never seen anything like it. An absolute virtuoso, a complete mastery of the instrument and musical theory, he’s like a human musical encyclopaedia. He’s also meant to be incredibly humble, he started playing at age 3 and he’s 40something now.  He is the guitar player I and countless others aspire to be. He can play anything with absolute mastery and oh man there’s no point in me even trying to explain why he’s one of my favourites just watch. Links below:

Bulls on Parade cover solo: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=s_0QizlG7Rs

Shredding on a fretless guitar are you kidding me?? https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=l_ZHn4GyARg

Guest solo on a Periphery track (probably did it in one take as well): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZDXpoaJqemM

Can you imagine seeing this incredible solo take place in some dingy old bar. So awesome: https://youtu.be/th_vaaZsB4M?t=186

Wait for the moment he starts tapping. Around 1:20. This is the song that got me into him. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yK91tuIQTVE

Last player…

John Petrucci 

Founding member for prog metal extraordinaire band Dream Theater, this guy possesses the technical virtuosity that I wish to reach. He is something else. I can never decide between who I like watching play technically more out of John Petrucci here and Guthrie Govan. He’s considered by many to be pretty much out of this world and understandably so. A formidable force of musical nature.

I don’t even really know what to write about him, he’s just the most terrifying shredder that I’ve ever seen. Incredible speed and accuracy, the great thing is that, in the music that he writes, it’s not all about speed and shredding all the time, he has such a great sense of musicality and melody.

Oh and another thing, the style of rhythm guitar playing that he does has been so influential on me, with those massive, expansive and dreamy chords it’s just so great to hear him play. A lot of people dismiss him as being nothing but a shredder (albeit an incredible one) but they really don’t have a clue. His shredding ability is a defining thing about his playing but like I implied above, what he plays really serves the music that he is playing and while it may not be to everyone’s taste (understandably so due to the straight up weirdness and non conventional melodies/harmonies etc), I don’t think anyone possessing a frontal lobe cortex can deny how good he is. Like with Guthrie Govan, enough talk, here are the links:

Awesome improv solos from his instructional dvd: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eqeH9R1Qx3o

Try and tell me he has “no emotion”. Impossible!: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-5VwPfyEq3w

Mind boggling: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zQ5qR7zKK3c

This gets me every time: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FkrV8Pdw8uM

Well! You made it to the end! I really hope you do check out those links. I worked pretty hard on this post and wouldn’t want a major part in it to have gone to waste. But basically, I can’t begin to describe just how big of an influence each one of these guitar players has had on me as a guitar player myself and as an overall musician. Matt Bellamy with his technological, experimental, charismatic, educated (yet not openly displaying it) approach towards playing, John Mayer with his sweet, soulful style that you can really get in touch with, Jack White with his bare bones approach, he couldn’t care less what you think about his playing, just play a song and fill it with aggression and meaning, Guthrie Govan with his encyclopaedic knowledge of music and virtuosic technique, being the best and staying humble and John Petrucci with his frightening shredding technique and outside the box approach to writing and playing in general.

Each one of them is a musical genius in their own right, and it goes to show, that you don’t need to be technically the best to be the best, but it’s great to have the technique at the same time. It’s all contradictory and I love it, I love that there’s so many ways of playing the guitar and making it sound so good in so many ways. These musicians all have something in common which makes them the very best in my eyes. They all play for the music. They don’t play for themselves, putting in meaningless solos and other things that make no sense in the grand scheme, showing off, like I see in so many other guitar players.

These five people realise that it’s all about the music and I can proudly say that I’m also one of the very few guitarists that I know of in real life that is interested in developing great technique and theoretical knowledge and things, but realises at the same time that really, technique and theory doesn’t mean anything if there is no music to it.

It’s About The Music.

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