REVIEW: Guitar Center Sessions – Paul Gilbert

22 Jul

Paul Gilbert The format Paul followed throughout the night was pretty simple:

  1. Play a tune
  2. Explain what he was doing/thinking
  3. Introduce the next tune
  4. Repeat until end of set list

Obviously step 1 and 2 are the real meat of any instructional exercise. What make’s the teaching style Paul has used for years so brilliant is that he explains the details of his playing by simply breaking things down into bite-sized, consumable pieces. Each mini-lesson follows the proven formula of play it fast, slow it down, break it down, clearly explain each piece, speed it up, go to the next lick.

As an aside, this is one reason I think Paul is one of the most influential guitarists to the Internet generation; their expectations are high and their attention spans are short. Plus, he explains what he is doing in terms of shapes, intervals, and patterns without overloading people’s brains with technical information. Contrast that with players who either dazzle you with theoretical mumbo-jumbo or give worthless responses like “I don’t know how I do it, I just do it.”

So, here are the tunes Paul played and the details he provided between each one:

Paul Gilbert

Rock Me Baby – B.B. King (Robin Trower version)

Here Paul discussed rhythmic and non-rhythmic playing. He cited (and played) Van Halen’s “Eruption” as an example of non-rhythmic playing. That is until the last part of the song, where it becomes rhythmic. This discussion established rhythm as one of the core concepts referenced throughout the Session.

TAKE AWAY: for the most part, it’s best for the guitar to lock into the rhythm of the band and play notes that accentuate what they’re doing, instead of catapulting a flurry of 16th notes at their faces on every solo. Non-rhythmic playing is OK sometimes but guitarists should play with the band, not above them.

What You’re Doing – Rush

After this tune, Paul said playing over blues changes is a “brain challenge” for him since he’s more comfortable with rock soloing in a single key. He contrasted himself to a jazz player who might work with different keys, modulations, and turnarounds more often. He went on to play and sing a portion of “Takin’ It To The Streets” by the Doobie Brothers to demonstrate a blues turnaround he discovered in the vocal line. It was surprising, yet comforting to learn that playing over a I-IV blues transition isn’t easy for Paul and that he still gets excited when he plays something that sounds good over a IV chord. And of course he stressed another Gilbertism: learn lots of songs.

TAKE AWAY: learning songs is the key to expanding your musical vocabulary. Cherry picking ideas from songs, especially from non-guitar parts, can be an unexpected source for new ideas.

Paul Gilbert
Snortin’ Whiskey – Pat Travers Band

Paul talked about how he got started playing and mentioned that “Rocky Raccoon” by the Beatles was the first song he learned. He discussed strumming and used “Take The Money And Run” by Steve Miller to liken a guitarist’s picking hand to a drummer who constantly keeps the rhythm going. He also very creatively used bongos to demonstrate the rhythm and picking elements of a cool sounding pentatonic lick . That might sound kind of weird, but it worked well. It was so effective I guarantee everyone there would recall the explanation and could in turn play the lick exactly as Paul explained it.

TAKE AWAY: there’s that word again…rhythm.

I Want To Be Loved – Muddy Waters

After a quick discussion about bending the strings to sound like a harmonica, Paul again promoted stealing licks from other instruments. He then played the violin arpeggio from “Point Of No Return” by Kansas (awesome!).

TAKE AWAY: people appreciate when musicians perform songs made famous by their local artists. So do that.

(Unnamed violin piece) – J.S. Bach

This was an amazing performance of something Paul said he always messes up. If he did this time, I’m pretty sure nobody noticed it.

TAKE AWAY: classical music sounds so sweet on electric guitar. So friggin’ sweet.


2 Responses to “REVIEW: Guitar Center Sessions – Paul Gilbert”

  1. Jenn July 23, 2010 at 9:28 am #

    This is a truly exceptional clinic review. Thank you so much for sharing these priceless minute details with us, Chris. You Rock!

  2. mattstorm August 12, 2010 at 11:32 pm #

    Awesome article!

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