Even famous players can have their limitations.

Slash Blows it Big Time on National Television

Is he really the great guitar player that everyone says? A lack of music theory knowledge makes it impossible for some famous guitarists to play more complex and sophisticated music. So how great are they really?

Many rock and blues guitar players have huge reputations and can sound incredible when playing in one narrowly defined style, but lack the knowledge and discipline to become truly great musicians in the broader sense. They are often totally incapable of playing more complex and sophisticated music. So are they really the great guitar players that we've been lead to believe? The Rock n' Roll media is owned by the record companies and they often deify these average guitar players in order to maximize return on their investment. In our consumer driven society, music is as much a commodity as it is an art form. Without a solid knowledge of music, folks can easily fall prey to these fabrications and loose sight of the great guitar players who do truly advance the art form.

In my humble opinion, Slash is one of these over rated guitar players. Don't get me wrong. Guns n' Roses had some OK tunes. Slash can sound pretty impressive when he's in his idiom...that old hard blues rock kinda' thing. But this style of music really isn't all that complicated and guitar players who only play that way won't ever be on my list of great guitar players. And maybe we shouldn't be surprised. I remember when G n' R were first in Guitar Player Magazine, the great quote from Slash was something like "There's only two things I like to do in life ... drink and play guitar." YIKES!

Here's a glaring example. I was watching TV one evening a couple of years ago and the tease came on for that evening's Late Night With David Letterman show. It said "Tonight on Dave's show...Carol King with special guest Slash!". I'm going "What? How can this be? Oh my god, I gotta' see this!"

Do you all know who Carol King is? You don't hear a lot about her these days, but she is one of the greatest female singer/songwriter/pianists of all times ... the very model that so many current artists (Sara Mclachlan, Alicia Keys, Nora Jones etc) might be following. She (along with her partner/husband, Gerry Goffin) has written so many of the great slick, jazzy, pop tunes (many made famous by other artists) of the last 40 years that it makes your head spin ... Take Good Care of My Baby, Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow, Some Kind of Wonderful, Chains, The Loco-Motion, Go Away Little Girl, One Fine Day, Up on the Roof, I'm into Something Good, Don't Forget About Me, Goin' Back, Pleasant Valley Sunday, You Make Me Feel Like A Natural Woman, Wasn't Born to Follow, It's Too Late Baby, You've Got A Friend, I Feel the Earth Move, So Far Away, Jazzman to name only a few. Her album Tapestry was one of the most successful and highly regarded albums of the 70s. She has been inducted into both the songwriter and rock n' roll halls of fame.

Love or hate this style of music, it doesn't matter. All taste is acquired. With the sheer number of hits she's had, you would have to admit that Carol King is one of the all time geniuses of modern popular music. Her ability to control such a broad variety of different styles and textures indicates a great musical maturity and intimate knowledge of the art form. She can rock hard. She can play soft. She can write funny. She can write sad. The whole range of human emotion is in there and that, to me, is the mark of a master.

So when I hear she's going to appear with a hard rock hack like Slash, I gotta' see this!

I have to say, as I tuned in, I wanted to give Slash his due. I was desperately hoping I might find there was another side to his guitar playing...perhaps a true musician in wolfs clothing. Maybe I would find that he really could play the broader styles that Carol's music demands...someone to restore my faith in Rock guitar! Come on Slash. Rock my world!

No such luck. I have to tell you, it was the most god awful "train wreck" I have ever seen on big time TV. It was even worse than I might have expected ... no exaggeration. It was as bad as the worst junk I've ever seen on my local access channel. I was embarrassed for everyone involved. Didn't they see how bad this was going to be at rehearsal? Paul Shaffer is one of my all time musical heroes. Couldn't he have done something? Oh my god it was awful. Here's Carol singing one of her cool, slick, jazzy numbers, and there's Slash beating it to absolute death with his same old distortion drenched rock guitar drivel. He didn't understand the song. He didn't know what scales to use to solo with. He didn't have a clue. It was a totally amateur performance.

People ask me "Would the general audience have been able to notice how bad this was?" I say god I hope so! I have a young private guitar student named Sam. He likes hard rock and metal. He likes Slash. I was telling him this story and it turns out he actually saw that show! I said "What did you think of the gig, Sam?" He said (and I quote) "I could tell that something was going terribly wrong."

I tried to find out when this show actually aired. I could find reference to it but no actual date. It turns out that Slash played a couple of tunes on one of Carol's albums back in 1994, but I know it wasn't that long ago that I saw it. It must have been a rerun. Can you imagine? They actually broadcast that disaster a second time?

Again, I'm not here to tear down Slash... honest. I'm here to tell you that with knowledge and discipline, you could play circles around these guys. I can. You can think Slash is the all time guitar god if you want to ... and maybe I'm just some "schmuck" from Cape Cod. But I'm telling you, I coulda' kicked Slash's ass that night and so could you.

You'll come to understand that music is very much like a language. It takes hard work and time to master any language to the level where you can do the truly interesting and creative things with it. Free your mind and rise above the hype. Learn what's really possible with this language. Knowledge is power. Find a good music education program and stick to it. You could become the guitar player you always wanted to be.

-Scotty West, guitar teacher and creator of the Absolutely Understand Guitar Video Lesson Program

 

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