In this conversation Frank and Rick discuss various topics including sweep picking, playing fast, how to be original and the importance of originality with your harmonies.
Sweep picking tips (1:30)
For sweeping it’s a rolling motion, utilize all areas of your finger.
Creating courses (2:15)
It’s a way to give back to the community, give back to future generations of players.
“When I’m writing courses, I’m always trying to find the easiest way to get to the result, whether it’s a technical thing or a harmonic thing, I describe myself as water rolling down the hill, it will seek the easiest path…”
Playing the blues (4:40)
“I love it, I think it’s the way to learn the emotion on the instrument, all the subtleties and inflections, and you learn how to make your instrument scream…”
“So many sounds on the guitar, and you learn them from playing the blues…”
After 10 years of playing the blues, reached a point where he was satisfied with what he had learned in the blues. Wanted to expand harmonically.
Exploring harmony (6:15)
“Hearing Steely Dan the first time, man, this is considered rock? This is the kind of rock I want to play…”
References the Steely Dan song “Green Earrings”. His ear was drawn to the triads over bass notes, the richness of the harmony.
“I loved the bands that did hip stuff but a little different…”
Jazz and Electric Guitar (7:00)
The jazz critics/purists haven’t received the electric guitar as well as other traditional “jazz instruments”.
“That’s why I have always loved Chick Corea. There’s very few jazz legends that dig the electric guitar, and it’s power and the way it can be used in a jazz fusion context…”
Considers himself a Fusion guitar player, not a Jazz guitar player. Fusion, originally called Jazz Rock Fusion, has the best of both worlds, the intellect of Jazz combined with the power of Rock.
Incorporating Fusion into Blues playing (9:00)
Similar to how rhythm players like to add transition chords (such as a half-step between the main chords), will incorporate that approach into melodic lines.
Utilize your intellect.
A great exercise: when improvising alone see if you can outline the chord progression with your improvisation while still soloing.
Original sound (13:50)
“I’m always looking for stuff that I haven’t heard before when I play. I don’t want to sound like anybody. There’s tradition, good places to start from, learning a Charlie Parker song won’t hurt you…”
“There’s millions of guitar players, and I love them all, but I didn’t want to sound like anyone in particular, I wanted people to put on the record and know it’s Gambale right away…”
To develop your own original sound, it’s totally fine to learn the licks of your favorite players. But if you only have one or two players you learn from, you’ll sound too much like them. Broaden your horizons. Learn solos from many different sources.
Learned Michael Brecker (sax) solos, Terumasa Hino (trumpet) solos, and various horn players. Loves to learn melodic playing from horn players.
Original harmonies (17:00)
Be original in your harmonic compositions. Get beyond the typical chord progressions (e.g. I-IV-V). It will help you sound different, stand out and possibly break through.
“We shouldn’t underestimate the public and what they will accept…”
“You don’t have to do dumb stuff, you can write some cool chords, people will take anything as long as it has a strong beat, a strong melody, you can stretch our harmonically, why not…”
Conquering guitar technique (19:00)
“This is a beast to overcome, I don’t want to be limited by the instrument, when I play I want to be thinking way beyond that I’m playing the guitar, I’m actually thinking music…”
It takes a lot of work, but you can get past the hump. You’ll need to get organized. Then eventually you’ll be able to play fast comfortably. Like a BMW in 6th gear flying down the freeway, but feels like 20 MPH.
Alternate tuning instrument (20:37)
Utilizes a double-neck guitar where the bottom neck has an alternate tuning.
Allows Frank to play very rich (keyboard type) of chords on the instrument. Play certain voicings that wouldn’t be possible on a normal tuned guitar.