“Which guitar players should I listen to?” “Who should I emulate?” I get these questions from students all the time.
Who floats your boat? Who tickles your fancy? Who do you wish you could play like?
The truth is, you are already drawn to the guitar players that you need to listen to or study. Whether it’s the tone they create, the image they represent or simply the way they make you feel when you hear them. We are all drawn to certain players, but that doesn’t mean it’s a relationship that’ll last the test of time. We grow and change, and so too does our taste.
I remember as a young child, I heard the intro to ‘Long Cool Woman in a Black Dress’ on a record at my parents house. It blew my mind! I just kept taking the needle back to the start of that intro and must’ve worn the thing out. The little hairs on the back of my neck stood to attention. My heart glowed. It was a strange feeling to get from music. I found a tennis racket and imagined myself playing that chuggy E minor blues riff to thousands. That was at seven! I didn’t even have a guitar for another 7 years.
You’re into what you’re into.
Don’t apologize if you don’t really get or understand all the fuss about Hendrix, or Jazz… or if you don’t like John Mayer.
At 7 years old, I heard the opening riff to this song and instantly connected with the guitar sound. 7 years later I finally got my first guitar.
I started out listening to my dad’s albums of ‘The Shadows’ and later got really into Dire Straits and Jimi Hendrix. I’d learn what I could by ear and from what an older school friend would show me. Then he would be like “Hey have you heard of Joe Satriani?” And Boom! I’m all into that. Then another friend would say, “have you heard the new Metallica album?” And on it goes.
I think it’s a good idea to listen to a large variety of music. I mean everything. Also play a little of everything too.
You are going to be drawn into certain aspects of playing. For example I loved the sound and feeling that Stevie Ray Vaughan had. I wasn’t a huge Blues fan, but Vaughan and Hendrix really exploded my head. I loved the wailing bends and note choices of Gary Moore. I loved the virtuosity and flare of Yngwie Malmsteen in my teens, and the way he controlled or played almost everything himself. But I’d also enjoy James Taylor and Stevie Wonder.
The characteristics of all of those players still live in my playing today, like genes in a bloodline handed down through the generations.
Your uniqueness is what determines the music you’re drawn to. Follow your heart and you’ll discover the musician you are meant to be.