UG editorial team. A group of people who are passionate about guitar and music in general.
Posted on Sep 20, 2013 04:05 pm
The technique vs. soul discussion has been around guitar aficionados for almost as long as the modern axe. One side likes their heroes skilled in all forms of guitar shredding, while others only care for the soul aspect. But ultimately, it all comes down to basic music preferences.
So right now we'll check out some of the less skilled guitarists icons who still managed to reach superstardom. We'll also add some top-notch technical axemen with great skills who found their way to guitar proficiency using the most peculiar, you might say weird techniques. Anyhow, join us for the rundown below.
It's always fitting to kick off lists with early greats or proto-rock icons, and what better example than legendary Robert Johnson. By today's standards, Mr. Johnson's skills were bare minimal, but back in the day they were enough to spark the story about Robert selling his soul to the devil in exchange for out-of-this-world guitar skills. His technique didn't prevent him from delivering a solid set of true blues standards either.
The fact that he wasn't much skilled in neither guitar playing or singing didn't stop Bob Dylan on his road to superstardom. He firmly stands as one of the ultimate music icons, but his skills were far from advanced nevertheless.
The Rolling Stones axeman Keith Richards comes from the time when advanced guitar technique was an entirely different term. So by today's standards, Richard's technique comes as mediocre at best. However, pretty much the same can also be said about The Beatles and their playing.
Late great Kurt Cobain irreversibly changed the music world with Nirvana, that's just a fact, but his guitar skills weren't exactly masterful. Cobain is often bashed as an amateur-skilled guitarist and a sloppy player, which takes things a bit too far, but the fact remains that playing technique just wasn't his strongest point.
At one point of their career, Oasis were at the top of the world, selling out arenas and dominating the music industry. Having a guitarist with merely average technique didn't slow them down and in all fairness, Noel Gallagher's technique can only be described as such.
With his frequently-bashed live guitar solo off "Swallow This Live" record, Poison axeman C.C. DeVille earned his spot on the list. Often described as amateur shredding, the solo even earned C.C. a No. 1 spot on Guitar World's list of "100 Worst Guitar Solos."
Billie Joe Armstrong
When you think of bad musicians in terms of playing technique, punk is likely to pop up to your mind first. And one of the guys who took the pop punk genre to somewhat of a new level is Green Day frontman Billie Joe Armstrong. He delivered numerous hit numbers despite not being too skilled on the axe in the first place, deserving nothing but kudos.
Another punk rock great. You probably know Johnny as the axe-wielding Ramone holding a guitar way down, almost on his knees while playing and jamming away in a manner your guitar teacher specifically told you not to, but the guy still made the big league and achieved superstardom in his own manner.
"Honorable" mention: Jimmy Page
This one's a bit of an iffy matter, but Jimmy Page is occasionally mentioned as a poor player in terms of guitar technique. There's no doubt that Mr. Page is perhaps the greatest of the greats, but several examples of his sloppy playing do exist, even on Led Zeppelin's studio recordings.
Just check out "Heartbreaker" solo off "Led Zeppelin II" (around 2:00 in the clip below) - the sloppiness is truly undeniable. You might have come across people defending the song's middle section as "raw" or "recorded on the go" and therefore not technically sloppy, but in all fairness, most just seem childish and simply denying the obvious.
Now that we've covered the low-technique domain, we'll focus on the peculiar players. These guys are all virtuosos in their own right, but just seem to have discovered their own ways of properly wielding the six-string.
The man who delivered some of the finest solos in the history of metal, Megadeth's Marty Friedman, has a really weird way of holding the guitar. It comes as strikingly obvious at the very first sight, as Marty curves his hand in a strange manner, but still never fails in delivering some monster chops.
The late Slayer mastermind Jeff Hanneman looks like a guy who stood up against every guitar teacher's advice to loosen up his arm while playing and just went for the stiffest possible approach when it comes to the right hand. But at the end of the day, Jeff managed to include some of the fastest riffs of all time to his rich opus.
Michael Angelo Batio
How can Michael Angelo Batio deliver super-speed shredding while anchoring his right hand ever so firmly remains an unsolvable mystery to this very day.
Can you think of any other big-name guitarists with weird or plain bad technique? Let us know in the comments.