Last time I wrote about some things that inspire me as a musician, both guitar- and non-guitar-related. I really find nice melodies to be inspiring. So many players have great technique, but they don’t do anything that is enjoyable to listen to. I’m drawn to nice chord changes that can tug at people’s emotions. I like listening to musicians that don’t do stuff that others have already done. We all occasionally repeat ourselves or imitate things we’ve heard, but it’s so cool when people use different flavors.
Great guitar tones can also be really inspiring. For me, an early one was Clapton’s tone on the two Derek and the Dominos albums. I really liked how it cut and sounded badass. Then I got into Roy Buchanan and his squeals, especially on “The Messiah Will Come Again.” Then Stevie Ray Vaughan and his beautiful, smooth Strat tone, particularly on songs like “Lenny” and “Say What!” Eddie’s tone killed me, like it did most players at that time. From the first time I heard him, the brown sound has always been the ideal starting point for my own tone—not for every one of my songs, but generally I want that aggressive part to be there. Of course I know that most of the tone comes out of the fingers. My pickups have always had a slightly lower output than most people would expect from me. Seymour Duncan was very surprised at how low my output was. Most of my aggression and feel in my playing came from my fingers and attitude. I also wanted to be able to get slow and gentle if I felt like it, and if my pickup had too much distortion, I couldn’t do that. We designed my Seymour Duncan Perpetual Burn pickup to have a bit more output, however, so that my fans wouldn’t be bummed.
Guitar solos have obviously always been a huge source of inspiration for me. Man, there are so many I hardly know where to begin. It all started with Clapton and Robbie Robertson on “Further On Up the Road” from The Last Waltz. After that, some of the solos that hit me on a deep level were “Cause We’ve Ended as Lovers,” “People Get Ready,” and “The Final Piece,” by Jeff Beck; Roy Buchanan’s “The Messiah Will Come Again;” “Red House” by Jimi Hendrix; “Lenny” by SRV; “Eruption;” “Black Star” by Yngwie; “The Sky Is Crying” by Albert King; “Comfortably Numb” with Gilmour; and “Owner of a Lonely Heart” with that great harmonized solo by Trevor Rabin.
Later on, after I was making albums, I discovered one of the most beautiful solos: “Why?” by Uli Jon Roth on Electric Sun’s Beyond the Astral Skies album. The beauty of the note choices over the sweet chords and how he pauses just a little bit before playing some of the notes actually brings tears to my eyes almost every time I listen to it. Another song that I heard later on was Satriani’s “Always with Me, Always with You.” One of the prettiest melodies ever! Don’t always think about what you can do on guitar. Think about what you can make people—including yourself—feel.
Jason Becker is a composer and guitarist whose work can be heard on his solo albums, and with Cacophony and David Lee Roth. Check out this sexy man’s story in the awardwinning documentary Jason Becker: Not Dead Yet.