GtrOblq's Egotronics

What we're going to do is introduce some disruptive techniques called 'Egotronics' into the guitar world with an eye toward going beyond the typical scale and arpeggio sounds associated with rock and metal guitar music by blending in some tweaked approaches from country (chicken pickin') and finger style guitar.

Call it what you will: alt shred, hybrid, fusion, avant-garde, whatever, but the results are crazy speed and atypical phrasing to spice up our love of pretty melodies. Why do we want faster and crazier? Well, we can easily fall behind the times with nostalgia and history but we also need to be able to keep up with a world that gets faster and crazier every day.

Here's my way of looking at the situation: in 'shred' mode, rock and metal guitarists are simultaneously too fast and too slow -- playing lines that are too fast to have much musical validity (cartoonish) and, at the same time, too slow to really get into mind-blowing territory, that weird region where sound transforms into extra-sonic mental experiences, where sound becomes geometry, texture, and colors.

To me, the world of 'shred' and neoclassical rock (where you find most shredders) is about as appealing as, say, champagne with hotdogs. But, hey, if a cotton candy foie gras combo sounds appetizing, knock yourself out. But that kind of music is not my thing. Yet, there are some guitarists that manage to combine extreme velocity in ways that push the guitar into more interesting directions.

For me, rock players like Vernon Reid, Arthur Rhames, Shawn Lane, and Mick Barr are or were heading in the right direction. Warning, half these guys died young, so proceed with caution! Oh, and I cannot forget to mention Buckethead and his tenure with Praxis -- he's one metal guitarist that redefined the parameters of fast and furious playing. And I can't skip over Eddie Van Halen. Though he's not really much of a speed demon, his popularization of two-handed tapping really got everyone's ears attuned to a new form of phrasing that emphasized large interval leaps.

Ripping around on the guitar as fast as you can is undeniably fun, however, it grows old quickly, especially if the player is just following the same old recipe that every other shredder is using. I grew up emulating players that didn't really dabble in the fast and the furious -- I was, and still am primarily into players like Jeff Beck, Jimmy Page, Jimi Hendrix, Neil Young. Beck: quirky phrasing and making the most out of the whammy bar; Page: the contagious riff and punk-slop soloing; Hendrix: the vibe, feedback, and deep groove; Young: the simplicity of bashing out chords through a little tweed amp on the verge of melting down. No extended-range instruments or high-gain amps here. Just Fender and Gibson guitars and cranked power amp distortion. These guys did about everything you could with the blues scale, but, really, there's more to life than the blues scale!

It wasn't not until I got into a lot of country players that things took a weird turn for my playing. And this is where things get interesting: where rock, metal, jazz, and country intermingle, both musically and technically. Reid turned me onto horn players like Coltrane and Dolphy and Danny Gatton got me into chicken pickin' and banjo music.

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