John McClellan

September 20, 2006

Yep, you guessed it: From legato single-note tags to galloping slurs to Travis-style thumb-picked licks to country cascades to fingerstyle flurries, this double DVD delves deep under the hood of the Chet Atkins style, and provides more than enough nuts-and-bolts Chester tactics to keep you busy for months. But what sets this tutorial apart from the hordes of instructional videos on the market is that it does not merely plop a boatload of new licks in your lap. It aims higher—much higher—by reminding you of basic but imperative lifelong lessons all musicians should (but don’t always) focus on every time they pick up their instruments. Rhythm, phrasing, and tone are just a few of the fundamentals instructor John McClellan zeros in on—crucial aspects of musical performance that are easy to put on the back burner in this hectic, attention-deficit age.

The glue that holds Chet’s playing together, says McClellan in one such reminder, is not his mind-boggling technique, but his impeccable, perfect time. This is a truism that riff-hungry, impatient guitarists often miss when attempting to nail Atkins’ challenging licks. “Chet also got a consistently beautiful sound,” says McClellan, “by controlling the beginning and end of each note.” It’s easy to spot guitarists who, despite being able to play complex guitar music at tempo, haven’t worked on these and other basics, because their playing sounds, well, only two-dimensional. (Mel Bay.)
—Jude Gold

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