I travel all over the world playing my music with my band, and on days off I’m often asked to do workshops or master classes in local music schools and conservatories. Sometimes the guitarists have prepared one of my songs to perform with me as their “featured soloist.” I’m always flattered that they’d go to the trouble of transcribing, learning, and rehearsing the challenging guitar parts I write.
At the Institute of Contemporary Music Performance in London, I was impressed with a class of five guitarists that performed a song I recorded with Joe Bonamassa called “Highway 27.” Not only did they cover all the overdubs—including baritone guitar, Rickenbacker 12-string, Tele and Strat melodies, and Joe’s Les Paul fills—they also played our solos note-for-note. The last two choruses were even harmonized! The amount of work that went into their performance was staggering.
Last night at the University of Southern California here in Los Angeles, the four guitar (plus bass and drums) group called SuperAxe performed two of my songs at their end-of-the-year concert. Besides transcribing the music from my CDs, they wrote and added very tasteful new parts to fill out the orchestrations. I was asked to be the “visiting soloist,” and when I rehearsed with them it was obvious that they had really done their homework. They knew my music as well or better than I did!
There have been other occasions too, where an individual guitarist will come up to me after a show with a self-made book of transcriptions of my solos. Guitarist Dave Hill teaches a class at Musicians Institute called “Fusion Masters” where the students are required to learn my (difficult!) song “Garage Sale” in week 10. All of this gives me hope and a feeling of confidence that the next generation of guitarists is working hard and taking the art form/craft very seriously. The music schools too have come a long way towards bringing the level and content of education into the 21st Century. If the next generation of guitarists are players, the job of passing on the knowledge will not be in vain.