Does being able to play another guitarist's parts really put you on equal footing with the original guitarist?

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324
I've noticed over the years that many threads about well-known guitarists, such as Hendrix and Clapton, contain remarks along the line that any intermediate guitarist could play their guitar parts, as though that puts the guitarists on equal footing with the original. It seems to me that view doesn't take into account several factors.

1. Guitarists like Chuck Berry, Eric Clapton, Jimi Hendrix, and Eddie Van Halen developed very unique musical voices that were innovative, highly recognizable, and hugely influential. So, even if you could copy their work verbatim, much of their importance was in the development of their unique musical voice.
2. In the cases of Hendrix and Clapton, much of their work is off-the-cuff improvisational musical statements. For someone like Hendrix, that includes much of his rhythm playing as well. So, learning something note for note is quite different than being able to create something on-the-spot at gig tempo, that is unique and musical night after night.
3. Also, not being able to copy something by another guitarist doesn't mean you are destined to mediocrity. There are some amazing guitarists that arrived at a unique and influential musical voice, in great part, because they were not able to copy others exactly. B.B. King comes to mind.

A final thought. If you could paint a copy of a famous painting, it might indicate an advanced skill level, but it would not, in any way, indicate that you were on the same level as the original artist. Reciting a famous poem is not the same as writing the poem.
Moving outside of guitar-based music, there are virtuoso pianists who can play Bach's Goldberg Variations or The Well-Tempered Clavier from memory, evoking joy and awe in the listener. But then there was Bach, the genius who wrote--and could play--the pieces in the first place.

Back to guitar-based rock-related music, I'm astonished by some players' ability to play note-for-note renditions of guitar gods' songs, but I'm always going to be more impressed by the people who wrote the songs in the first place. As you noted, often those musicians were doing something groundbreaking at the time. On top of that, I've always been wired to care more about the song itself than someone's technical proficiency. For instance, when I see somebody absolutely shredding on Instagram, I think, "Damn! That's impressive!" and then more often than not forget just about every note I heard within five minutes.
 

Kill 'Em All

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477
You know you're right , he didn't NEED to but it was a major oversight on his part not to because the fact remains that Eddie fits the definition of a player who is " Off-the-cuff improvisational" more than anybody else on the planet past or present .

That's not being a fanboy little man that's being dead honest .
like i said, you guys are completely intolerable.
 

micycle

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4,026
Heck no it doesn't put you on equal footing. It's great to learn their parts for your own inspiration and ideas, but every time I come across a Youtube video of someone regurgitating a famous part or blazing solo on any instrument, I can't pass it up fast enough. It's technically impressive, but also boring and uninspired. Especially when there's mugging at the camera involved (I'm looking at you, suggested Facebook/Instagram Reels). I don't ever need or want to see a video of someone who can play a Yngwie Malmsteen solo... I'd much rather watch Yngwie unleash the fooking fury himself.
 

WesDocJimi

Silver Supporting Member
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1,580
You know you're right , he didn't NEED to but it was a major oversight on his part not to because the fact remains that Eddie fits the definition of a player who is " Off-the-cuff improvisational" more than anybody else on the planet past or present .

That's not being a fanboy little man that's being dead honest .
Louis Armstrong, Charlie Parker, and John Coltrane would like a word...
 

ChampReverb

Gold Supporting Member
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12,598
Just because you can play “Yesterday” or “Walk On By” or “God Only Knows” or “Wichita Lineman” does not guarantee that you are destined to be a great songwriter.

-bEn r.
 

MrTAteMyBalls

Member
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4,701
No, it doesn't put them on equal footing just because they can play the licks Being able to shred doesn't make you a good musician, either.

Some of the worst guitarists I have ever been in bands with were the best lead players. One guy, in particular, was incredible....AT LEADS. he just had no idea what to play to make a song sound good unless it was "insert shred here." Then he was your guy.

Solo guitar is only like 15-20 percent of the equation.
 

DGDGBD

Silver Supporting Member
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7,718
No, it doesn't put them on equal footing just because they can play the licks Being able to shred doesn't make you a good musician, either.

Some of the worst guitarists I have ever been in bands with were the best lead players. One guy, in particular, was incredible....AT LEADS. he just had no idea what to play to make a song sound good unless it was "insert shred here." Then he was your guy.

Solo guitar is only like 15-20 percent of the equation.
I've come across several guitarists like you describe over the years. Can shred like crazy, but yet a simple rock n roll rhythm is beyond their playing ability.
 

rykus

Gold Supporting Member
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544
I think people just say things like that to make themselves feel better or ?

The thread questioning Hendrix's technical ability that popped up really blew my mind. For me he wasn't always the cleanest player live but the soul and techniques are second to none, even some of my other heros playing Hendrix too me is just a tribute, not even trying one up or anything. They definitely aren't "better" too me as no one sounds like he did.

Having an original voice in music is hard, having a original voice that others recognize and regard with high praise and universally agree is original and "good" is extremely rare and imo is a sign of immense talent.
Doing all that and creating a style people emulate for 50 years all before age 27 is God status. There is very few people in existence ever who have this talent on any instruments and their names are remembered for hundreds of years in some cases.

I find the whole subject kind of amusing but I am happy if they are happy. Lol
 

SoulTrip

Member
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665
Playing someone else's parts is the guitar equivalent of karaoke. Some do it better than others, but it is never as good as the original. You are only mimicking the original, not adding to it or making it yours.

I'd rather write music in complete anonymity rather than play covers for tons of money. I have my own voice, as limited as it may be; I am going to use that voice.
 

SoulTrip

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665
Social media has severely warped peoples’ minds (on more fronts than just guitar :noevil). You have absolute monster players on tap 24/7. Are they innovative? Pushing the instrument forward? Emotionally expressive? Who has time for that? If they don’t grab your attention in 3 seconds they’ve failed.

I agree with everything you said. People don’t take into account the historical context of players like Hendrix. He made Clapton and Page want to throw in the towel.

Now young players want to throw in the towel because they can’t play 16th notes at 8 million BPM.
I agree with this take. I can't play fast or super flashy, and this somehow makes me less of a player than someone who can? Not by a mile. People have their own voice, and they should tap in to the uniqueness of themselves instead of worrying about 'competing' with other axemen. That is how advancements and innovation exist; pushing the boundaries of one's own personal flavors.
 

SoulTrip

Member
Messages
665
I've come across several guitarists like you describe over the years. Can shred like crazy, but yet a simple rock n roll rhythm is beyond their playing ability.
I'm trying to teach my son this. He tries to play Satriani music but cannot even strum the chords to Hotel California correctly and cannot even alternate pick yet. He has been playing for a couple years now. I keep telling him that solos don't exist without backing tracks/rhythms, and that the songs, not the solos, should be his focus.

He is noodling aimlessly as I type. Whatever, I guess.
 

Schlep

Silver Supporting Member
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716
Quick story from when I was a young and naive lad... a pretty great drummer in town, who later went on to record a few albums, was able to cover Neal Peart lick for lick. I said to him that he was as good as Neil Peart to which he replied 'No way am I as good as Neil Peart because I could not have written those parts / songs myself'.

Light bulb moment : )
 
Messages
3
This can't be a serious question C'MON LOL.

If somebody says it does they clearly don't have just a few screws missing they're missing the entire screw package.
I’m really not sure the point of this thread. He is countering an argument that no one appears to have actually made?
 

MBreinin

Silver Supporting Member
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5,364
No, because I did not write it. Yeah, I can figure out a song, or let someone on YT teach it to me. It is fun to play someone else's song yourself. But, they wrote it and you are just imitating them.
 

coltranemi2012

Silver Supporting Member
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5,993
You know you're right , he didn't NEED to but it was a major oversight on his part not to because the fact remains that Eddie fits the definition of a player who is " Off-the-cuff improvisational" more than anybody else on the planet past or present .

That's not being a fanboy little man that's being dead honest .
I mean, really? Ever listen Allan Holdsworth? When they jam together, it’s clear who the lick player is.
 

bugzapper

Member
Messages
2,253
No, certainly not.

I am not on equal footing with Eddie Van Halen when I play Ain't Talkin' Bout Love.

But, working out Eddie's parts brings me inside the song in a way I wasn't just listening to the original recording. Playing it with a band, even more so. It's fun, and I learned a lot in the process.
 




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