Paul Gilbert on how YouTube could be killing classic rock vibrato

(Image credit: Future)

Paul Gilbert is well-known for his left-field sense of humour, but as anyone who has heard him play will agree, he has some serious vibrato. In a recent interview Gilbert made the well- if not slightly oddly - observed claim that YouTube poses a "dangerous trend" when it comes to players developing vibrato, and it all centres around the streaming site's 16:9 aspect ratio.

Speaking to Ultimate Guitar, Paul noted, "Well, I do a lot of teaching so I see those kids on YouTube and I see a trend that, to me, is really dangerous."

"I grew up idolising Jimmy Page and Alex Lifeson and guys who wore their guitars really low. So I did too. All my garage bands as a teenager, I was playing a Les Paul and I had it down by my knees, and you develop a certain technique of how you hold your guitar when you do that."

"I think a lot of people now are trying to fit into their little rectangle [on their computer screen], so their guitars keep getting higher and I see a lot of people holding their guitar like a classical guitar.

"If you're a classical guitar player, that's fine. I mean there's really no rule - the only rule is having a good ear. You can make anything work if you've got a good ear. But if you want to have strong '70s vibrato like Brian May, Uli Jon Roth, Eddie Van Halen, Jimi Hendrix, Jimmy Page, of course - all the cast from back then, you have to hold the guitar a certain way with your thumb over [the neck]."

"Most of the cats I see these days have their thumb behind [the neck]... It's kind of a funny arcane thing for me to get a bee in my bonnet about, but it is what it is. It's probably nice for people with small hands."

"I have these great big hands, so I can still reach stuff even when my thumb is over. But my thing is, I always want to be vibrato-ready. I never want to land on a note and not be ready to shake it. To me, that's just part of the dialect.

"It's like when someone comes in and they can speak the language but their accent is different, it is what it is, it's a different sound and a different feel."

"The most exciting day in my guitar career was when I learned how to do the Jimmy Page lick, *plays a part of Led Zeppelin's 'Heartbreaker'* you wouldn't believe how many people cannot put vibrato on that E note - it's unbelievably rare. I'm cetaceous about it.

"You know, I'm over 50. I'm self-aware enough to know that it's OK - not everybody has to be Jimmy Page. Sometimes I wish that everybody was."

While we can't see the widescreen format changing anytime soon, our advice for achieving vibrato while maintaining decent composition is to simply move back from your camera, or try a wide-angle lens. 

Stuart Williams

I'm a freelance member of the MusicRadar team, specialising in drum news, interviews and reviews. I formerly edited Rhythm and Total Guitar here in the UK and have been playing drums for more than 25 years (my arms are very tired). When I'm not working on the site, I can be found on my electronic kit at home, or gigging and depping in function bands and the odd original project.