Guthrie Govan answers your YouTube comments on tone and technique…

One of the greatest guitarists on planet Earth takes on YouTube

Last time we caught up with Guthrie, we filmed him putting an earlier Charvel prototype through its paces.

We put it up on Guitarist's YouTube channel and, such is his popularity, it's been viewed nearly 300,000 times.

The comments section soon filled with your thoughts and questions about his gear and technique. So, seeing as we had Guthrie cornered, we thought we'd put a few of the best to him directly...

"I met Guthrie at NAMM this past year: he was an extremely humble and friendly man. His advice to everyone on how to be a virtuoso is: 'Take it is that makes you, you; and exaggerate it'…" [posted by James Erickson]

GG: "I'm intrigued if I said it in exactly those words, because I think Steve Vai said something very similar, so I'm not sure I should take all the credit for that. In some ways it's an obvious thing to suggest: everyone has certain strengths, and you can either be ashamed of them because they make you sound different, in the same way that a lot of people don't like it when they hear a recording of their own voice. Or you can say well this is something only I can do – maybe I should embrace it."

"He's playing with a coin, lol" [posted by ronoc931]

GG: "Playing with a coin? I have never done that – you're thinking of Brian May or possibly Billy Gibbons. Playing with a coin will shave your D-string in ten minutes. Also, a coin has no point, so there are a lot of things you can't do. My thing is, I generally use these Red Bear picks now: I'm actually working on a special pick that has a modification now – it's something I've done for 25 years.

"Twenty-five years ago, I would buy these purply-pink Tortex 1.14mm picks and I would kind of kind of file the point. Because I've always hated the blunt thing at the end of a pick: I want something sharp there. So I would file a little bevel, so there was a 30-40 degree angle there. And then at the top on the blunt part, furthest away from the point, I would scratch some little notches. So that when you flip the pick round and scrape the pick, perpendicular to the string you can play high notes.

"You can probably get two octaves above the 22nd [by using grooves in the pick's back edge as a movable 'nut' - Ed] provided you're using the bridge pickup, of course. And there were always shrieking notes way up in the Stratosphere that I liked. I wanted to be able to hear them and I couldn't do it with the amount of frets provided.

"So yeah, that scraping thing has always been part of my pick. It's kind of fun now with the red bear guys – we're trying out some stuff where we tell the CNC machine to put these little serrations into the blunt end of the pick so I don't have to spend all that time with the file."

"Saw him [Guthrie] with Steve Wilson 2 weeks ago, never heard of him before, he couldn't have played any better, he was like a newer version of Holdsworth…" [Posted by GuyQ1975]

GG: "I can understand why someone drawn to Steven's music might hear someone playing a lot of notes and think: Allan Holdsworth, that's my reference point, because he's the obvious guy with a lot of technique who played in that genre of music with Soft Machine.

"But Allan has his own planet – he's really taken everything that's unique about himself and exaggerated it, to the point where he's playing scales that he's invented working over chords that he's invented. Allan's world is very hard to adapt to any other music – he's like this self-contained musical universe.

"There are a handful of people in the world now who are doing passable imitations of what Allan was doing 30 years ago. And it's obviously taken years to do it, and they just sound like Allan clones: I don't see the point.

"There are other players where it's easier to borrow some of the things that you've seen them do, and say: that player has shown me the way. For instance, Eric Johnson made me realise that it's okay to try and use this sound and play that kind of chord voicing. And that stuff is maybe easier to adapt into your playing. But Allan…I wouldn't dare."

"Didn't you play a guitar you'd never even seen before on the astounding solo of 'Drive Home' on Steven Wilson's recent album 'The Raven That Refused To Sing'? [extra question from Guitarist magazine]

GG: "That was a guitar that somebody mailed to Steven while we were in the studio – it just turned up in the studio one morning. It was the day on which we were meant to record 'Drive Home'.

So Steven said, this guy's just sent me this - it looks really well made, isn't it a pretty thing and it was indeed. Kind of a like a Jazzmaster that's they'd done strange sculpting things to the surface of the body. I think it was a solid rosewood neck, which is always cool and I'd never used a Sustainiac before.

So I said 'Can I have a go?' and he said 'Of course – tell me if it's good or not [laughs]'. I was still getting used to it really when Steven came back and said, I think we're ready to start tracking the song.

And it was just one of those idiotic impulses that we all have from time to time – I said, 'You know what, I think I might try playing the song with this guitar. And if it doesn't work after a couple of takes I'll go back to the known quantity that is my own guitar that I brought'. And I think it was a first take – certainly it's a flawed take: there's a part where you can hear the E-string pops out of the saddle towards the end – you start hearing some of the bends are choking a little bit."


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