John Frusciante Guitar Method

author: ARMAGEDDON_IT date: 05/15/2012 category: guitar gurus
rating: 9.4 / votes: 11 
If you're reading this then you're probably already aware of who the great man John Frusciante is, but for those that don't he played guitar for the Red Hot Chili Peppers from 1988 to 1992, and again from 1999 to 2009, as well as his own impressive body of solo work. He has also collaborated with artists as diverse as modern prog stalwarts The Mars Volta, his good friend and multi-instrumentalist Josh Klinghoffer (also his successor in RHCP), and funk legend George Clinton, whom he knows from his first tenure in the Chili Peppers. Much of John's early style and technique was inherited from the late Hillel Slovak, the original guitarist of the Chili Peppers and John's predecessor and idol. Slovak's "less is more" style of funk guitar playing complimented the busy bass lines of Flea and provided a perfect platform for vocalist Anthony Kiedis to exercise his once signature rapping vocal delivery, something Froosh later perfected on the Chili's all-time classic "Blood Sugar Sex Magik". Hillel was also a more than capable soloist, his speedy blues pentatonics helped paved the way for John Frusciante's electric approach to soloing. Chords & Harmony Much of John's early compositions with RHCP made heavy use of the extended dominant chords utilized in funk, often making use of voicings limited to the top three strings for a snappy, funky sound. A good example of this is the bridge of "If You Have To Ask" off "BSSM", an excellent workout in funk guitar playing:
G9  Gb9 F9 C7 Ebmaj9 Bb7 D7#9
|------------------------------|
|-10---9--8-----6-----------6--|
|-10---9--8--9--7------7----5--|
|-9----8--7--8--x------6----4--|
|-10---9--8--x--6------x----5--|
|------------8---------6-------|
(If you aren't familiar with any of the chords in the above example now would be a perfect opportunity to fresh up on chord construction, as this section of the lesson deals with these kinds of chords frequently) The most used chord is this progression is obviously the dominant 9th, and this is also the most frequently appearing chord in most funk music. Dominant 9 chords with a sharpened 9 (known as 7#9, often referred to as the Hendrix chord) are also extremely common, as are any number of variations on the basic dominant 7 chord. Another crucial element to John's style is the percussive 16th-note muting he applied to many of his progressions, another hallmark of funk guitar playing. John's recent playing, however, borrows more from contemporary styles than it does from funk, and utilities more common major and minor chords. This is not to say he doesn't experiment with more outside chords in his compositions, especially in his solo work which beautifully incorporates more dissonant sounding chords into his repertoire. Here's an example from his 2004 solo album "Curtains", from a song called "The Past Recedes":
Intro (7/4)

G D - Am - Em (x7)

G D - Am - B7(#5)

Chorus

C - D#dim - Em - D (x2)

C - G/B - Am - B7(#5)
The progression that makes up the majority of the verse is a fairly basic I V ii vi| in G major, nothing out of the ordinary so far. However, in the last repetition we have a B7 chord with a nice sharp 5 extension, a dissonance used to build tension leading into the chorus. The second chord of interest comes as the second in the chorus progression, a D-sharp diminished, which provides tension that is nicely resolved step-wise into the following Em chord. The Hendrix Effect Another crucial element of John's style is his thumb over fretboard technique and unique chord voicings, ala Jimi Hendrix. The most example of this is without doubt "Under The Bridge", an excellent song and the Chili's most celebrated. This technique has already been looked at in some of the lessons on Hendrix's style so I won't go in depth about it here. However, it is still important to John's personality as a guitar player and it has featured on such key tracks as the aforementioned "Under The Bridge" and "Dani California". Comping When John wasn't playing funky extended chords he was complimenting Flea's bass lines with a fresh "less is more" comping style inherited from Hillel Slovak, helping propel tracks without doing a whole lot to get in the way. Perfect examples of this are such bass heavy tracks as "Give It Away", "The Righteous And The Wicked", as well as the more recent Chili's track "Hump De Bump", where this less busy approach was required to allow room for Flea's busy bass lines to take center stage. "Give It Away" - from "Blood Sugar Sex Magik" (1991) Verse
|----------------|------------|----------------|------------|
|----------------|----------5-|----------------|------------|
|----7-6-5-------|------7-8---|----7-6-5-------|------7-5---|
|-7--------5-5-5-|-7--7-------|-7--------5-5-5-|-7--7-----5-|
|-0--------------|-0----------|-0--------------|-0----------|
|----------------|------------|----------------|------------|
Notice the use of the blues scale for this lick, with the flat-5th, or "tritone" featuring in the 2nd variation. "The Righteous And The Wicked" - from "Blood Sugar Sex Magik" Verse
Bm7              Bm7
|-14-14------------14-14----7---7-|
|-15-15------------15-15----10--9-|
|-14-14------------14-14----9---9-|
|-x--x-----7--9----x--x-----------|
|-14-14------------14-14----------|
|---------------------------------|
The Bm7 chord could also be played by omitting the root on the A-string, as Froosh would often voice chords on the highest three strings. Soloing One of the most praised aspects of Froosh's playing is his remarkably expressive and emotive style of soloing, once again often making use of the "less is more" aesthetic that permeates much of his playing. While the roots of his soloing style are found in the blues and pentatonic scales, it's his unique and expressive phrasing that sets him apart from most other players. "I Could Have Lied" - from "Blood Sugar Sex Magik" Solo
|-------------------------------------------------------------------------|
|-------------------------------------------------------------------------|
|-----------------------------------------11--11--11-11-9-11--11-9-11-----|
|-------------7-9b11rb9----------9-9/12-----------------------------------|
|-----5---7/9-------------10--10------------------------------------------|
|-/7----------------------------------------------------------------------|

|-----------------------------------------------------------------------|
|-/10--8---------------------------------------12----/10-12-10----------|
|--------11--7--7-9-7-9---/11-11-/11-11-/11-11----11-----------11-12p11-|
|----------------------(9)----------------------------------------------|
|-----------------------------------------------------------------------|
|-----------------------------------------------------------------------|

|-----------------------------------------------------------------------|
|-----------------------------------------------------------------------|
|-11h12p11-9-11-----------12-11-11h12p11-----------11-------------------|
|---------------9-7-9-9-9----------------12-9-9-12----12-9-/9-9-7-9-/4--|
|-----------------------------------------------------------------------|
|-----------------------------------------------------------------------|
"Dani California" - from "Stadium Arcadium" (2006) Solo
|--------------------------------------------------------|
|--------------------------------------------------------|
|-------10-----------------------------------------------|
|----10----12~-------------------------------------------|
|-12------------10p8-10p8-10p8-10p8--------------------5-|
|------------------------------------10-10\---3--1-3-1---|

|-----------------------------------------------|
|---------------------------------------13-15~--|
|-------10---------------------------14---------|
|----10----12----10----10----10-12~-------------|
|-12----------12----12----12--------------------|
|-----------------------------------------------|

|---------------------------------------------------------|
|---------------------------------------------------------|
|--------10-----------------------------------------------|
|-----10----12~-------------------------------------------|
|-/12------------10p8-10p8-10p8-10p8--------------------5-|
|-------------------------------------10-10\---3--1-3-1---|

|-----------------------------------------------|
|---------------------------------------13-15~--|
|-------10---------------------------14---------|
|----10----12----10----10----10-12~-------------|
|-12----------12----12----12--------------------|
|-----------------------------------------------|

|----------------------------------------------------------|
|------13----15-13----15-13----15-13----15-13----15-13-----|
|---14----14-------14-------14-------14-------14-------14--|
|----------------------------------------------------------|
|----------------------------------------------------------|
|----------------------------------------------------------|
Well that's about it from me for this lesson, I hope you enjoyed taking a look at the style of John Frusciante and I hope this is useful to anyone interested in his playing, which has influenced countless guitarists and musicians alike and has certainly had a profound effect on my own playing.
More ARMAGEDDON_IT lessons:
+ Using Non-Diatonic Chords To Spice Up Your Progressions Minor IV Chord Chords 05/01/2012
+ Tips For Writing Melodic Bass Lines. Part 2: Inversions Chromatic Tones Bass Lessons 04/30/2012
+ Tips For Writing Melodic Bass Lines. Part 1: The Basics Bass Lessons 01/16/2012
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