Following TG203's Richie Sambora interview, Total Guitar's Music Editor, Chris Bird, explains the method behind the moose.
I've always loved Richie Sambora's playing - he just makes it look so effortless. At the height of the grunge era of the early 90s, when hair metal and bands wearing leather and/or spandex were seriously out of fashion, Richie's playing was a guilty pleasure of mine. Bon Jovi were often tarred with the cock-rock/hair metal brush back in the late 80s. This may be fair comment, but some pretty handy guitarists emerged out of the genre and Richie was among the best.
His guitar parts in Bon Jovi could never be described as just 'accompaniment'. His riffs are as integral to the band's songs as Jon's lead vocals. His solos always transform the direction of a song and take it somewhere new. Richie's ear for melody means he solos with the bare minimum of widdly-ness, but still with the odd searing lick thrown in for good measure. Examples? 'Livin' On A Prayer', 'You Give Love A Bad Name'. It seems pointless to make a list [err, we did any though, see the links - playlist Ed] - it's just Richie's thing. It's what he does and it's what makes his style so exciting.
I think it's easier to like a band's ballads - they appeal to all. Richie's melodic style is perfectly suited to them and - although admitting in a public forum that I rather like Bon Jovi's ballads isn't something I ever thought I'd do - they feature some of my favourite Sambora solos. The gorgeous tone in 'Lie To Me' and the bluesy acoustic 'Diamond Ring' (both from the 'These Days' album) spring to mind.
Image: © Tim Mosenfelder/CORBIS
Given time, with a modest amount of commitment and practice, most players are able to play a few solos and improvise their own. Few rock guitarists manage to grasp Richie's knack for seamlessly integrating their solos into their songs, though. It's an art and Richie is a master. Of course, he's a multi-instrumentalist and maybe this explains his style.
So, if you want to get as good as Sambora go and bone up on your bass chops, take up the saxophone, the piano and the drums, and learn to sing, too. Richie's mastery comes from understanding every instrument in the band and playing in a way the complements every part. Oh, and it helps if you play with the same group for 27 years, too.
Total Guitar issue 203 (on sale now) features a three page Richie Sambora interview in which he talks influences, techniques and gear.