Listen Up. I Have Good Sounds to Share
Magic in the Music
I consider the guitar about the most flexible and wide-ranging instrument in modern music. Now, take anything I say about music with a grain of salt. I play no instrument, save for a brief time with the Kazoo (funny story, there. Later.) I cannot read music. This is an inexcusable personal failure owing to lack of initiative. Who knows, if we are all quarantined for another month, I may solve that. I don’t even have very good hearing. But music moves me.
The guitar has been a mainstay, particularly of popular and folk music, for a very long time. In modern times, it has dominated rock music and its cousins. Consider the seemingly impossible range of sound that a talented musician can bring forth from an acoustic guitar or from an electric guitar. The most talented can bring out the best in both forms of the instrument.
A casual perusal of YouTube will provide you endless lists of “the 10 best guitar solos ever, 100 of the best guitar riffs in Rock, the best guitar performance ever,” on and on. I am interested enough to give a listen to a lot of these. I would like to share with you a couple of conclusions and (more fun), some of my favorite samples.
One, they could not be more different, but both acoustic and electric guitars offer amazing sound. I often find myself listing to them as separate categories, so different can be their sounds. But good musicianship shows us what is possible with both of them.
Two, there seem to be two categories of “best of” guitar players. Both are valid, but I have my preferences. One category, consisting almost exclusively of electric guitarists, rely heavily on volume, amplification, and power. This is not to downgrade their offerings. It’s just a component that either really works or really fails in a given performance. I have some I like in this category, but a lot rely too much on speed and volume for my taste.
The other category consists of those who rely more on the subtly and discipline of musicianship to do their work. More of these are acoustical guitarists, but certainly not all. As I tallied up my scoring of YouTube videos, I found this group to be my people, by and large.
Let’s Give a Listen
Here are a few I like in both categories, in no special order except the last one. I hope you will like them, too. These are short pieces. Get comfortable, put on headsets if need be, and enjoy. You are authorized to begin playing air guitar is so move.
- Eric Clapton – Wonderful Tonight. This is a lovely ballad. Clapton is one of those equally at home on electric or acoustic and has hits with both. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UprwkbzUX6g
- Glen Campbell –Campbell was a very talented guitarist, way beyond his best-known ballads. This is a different one for him I have chosen Check him out doing the William Tell Overture, at lightning speed, and with some acrobatics toward the end. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GUBhE00h9U0
- Chuck Berry – Doing his classic Johnny B Goode, complete with the duck walk. Ignore the uncoordinated dancers in the background!
- Jimmy Page – The remarkable lead guitar for Led Zepplin, and a famous studio guitarist long before that. Here he is doing probably his most famous number, Stairway to Heaven. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hAwqev7No1s
- A Cover Song – Here is an interesting variation. Led Zepplin received Kennedy Center honors in 2012. At that event, Heart, backed up by two choruses, an orchestra, and more did a cover on Stairway to Heaven that is better than the original. I have this one on my phone and play it a lot. Pay attention especially to English lead guitarist Shane Fonteyne, who comes in for his grand moment at about 4:50 on the playback. He does an amazing job. But there is great music throughout this one, from everyone. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LFxOaDeJmXk
- Jimmie Hendrix – Given his talent, one cannot help but wonder what levels he would have reached had he lived longer. Definitely an electric guitar guy only, by nature. Here he plays on of his best known songs, All Along the Watchtower – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qmGFFJtkDXA
- BB King – With his guitar, Louise. No one ever did the Blues better than BB. He owned the genre, certainly any Blues with a guitar in it. Here he plays the soulful The Thrill is Gone – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4fk2prKnYnI
- Mark Knopfler – In my humble opinion, the best of the bunch. Knopfler is the leader of Dire Straits. Basically, a shy, not flashy musician, but his craft with the guitar is intimate and deep. Be sure to watch his fingers on both hands in this excellent modified rendition as an instrumental of their big hit, Sultans of Swing. To my layman’s eyes and ears, this is a complete blending of artist and instrument. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cJwJ11-pmxg
There are others that could have made this list. You have any favorites I omitted?
I hope you had as much fun with these as I did. You’re welcome. Now, go wash your hands again.
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