Categories
General Music

My interest in guitar, Top 100 Greatest Electric Guitarists of All Time

Well, after all these ranking lists (like the 100 greatest NBA players ever), its time to talk about guitarists because well, I’m a guitarist and I’m self-taught so I’m influenced by a lot of different guitar players, and I want to make a list of the top 100 electric guitarists who I think are the best.

Beginnings
I started playing guitar after high school when I was 15. I remember starting with acoustic guitar, but then hearing a classmate play electric guitar was amazing, the first time I heard it, I thought wow I really want to have a tone like that. So my first guitar was a starter guitar package by Behringer back in 2005. I practiced for 2-3 hours every day after high school, so much so that my mom at one time (being a strict Chinese mother), locked away my guitar and laptop because she was so worried about me not studying. I played in two coffee houses events at my high school, at that time I was hugely influenced by Jimi Hendrix (clips downloaded off of Kazaa) and Jimmy Page (I watched the Led Zeppelin DVD numerous times) so I started trying to play guitar with my teeth, behind my back, behind my head etc for showmanship. This got me a lot of fans in my high school, and the first time I performed at the freshman talent show at the University of Toronto, I put on a display by doing all those tricks while playing Hendrix’s Voodoo Child. I would play in several battle of the band type shows after that, but haven’t really done many public performances since.

Influences
I had a few bands in high school and university, but didn’t perform that often. I played once in Barrie, Canada at a show and performed with university friends at a show at my university, but thats about it. 2005-2007 I was hugely influenced by blues and rock guitarists like Jimi Hendrix, Eric Clapton, Stevie Ray Vaughan and Jimmy Page, then started playing piano in 2008, and was influenced by classical composers like Chopin and Liszt. Around 2009 I bought an acoustic and started to play more pop songs. I was hugely influenced by John Mayer, my favorite contemporary electric guitarist. Around 2010 I was obsessed with the Beatles and played a lot of Beatles songs, 2012 John Mayer’s Born and Raised came out and I was quite influenced by that as well. And from then on I played a mix of pop/rock/fusion/jazz songs whatever I like to listen to, I like to play. Recently I’ve been quite into jazz guitar, the likes of Larry Carlton, Django Reinhardt, Wes Montgomery and finger picking styles used by Chet Atkins.

Gear

My guitar of choice was and still is, the Fender Stratocaster. I first started with a Behringer beginner guitar in 2005 (which I painted to look like Hendrix’s Monterey strat sometime in 2006), then 2006 moved onto a G&L Tribute S500. Around 2009, I got myself an Ovation acoustic, my first acoustic guitar. Around 2010 I got myself a Fender Roadworn Stratocaster and swapped out the pickups first for Tonerider pickups (quite good value), then for actual handwound pickups from a guy in Virginia (Rumpelstiltskin Pickups). In 2012, I bought myself a really good acoustic guitar, the Martin OMJM. Then in 2014, I bought a Gretsch White Penguin. In 2015 I bought a Boho Moonshine (unique oil can guitar). You can see these in all my Youtube videos. But I think out of all my guitars, I will keep just the Fender and the Martin, those are the ones I play the most.

As for Amplifiers, of course I prefer tube amps like many people, but more specifically small Class A vintage style tube amps for their nice clean tone and easy breakup and portability. In 2005 I started with the Behringer practice amp, then in 2006 got a Vox Valvetronix 30, which was also a solid state amp but had a pre-amp tube to simulate tube power. In 2009, I got my first Tube amp, a Class A Epiphone Valve Jr, but the tone wasn’t to my liking, so in 2010 I switched to a Traynor YCV40 which is an actual Class AB big Tube amp which in 2011 I swapped out the speakers for Celestion Alnico Blues to make it more vintage and clean sounding. In 2012, I bought a Swart Atomic Jr, which is still the amp I use today. It’s perfect, small, portable, hand-wired class A tube amp that only weighs 14lbs and has a built in reverb which is nice.

I’m not going to talk too much about pedals, because I’ve used so many. But I have owned various pedals from Digitech, Boss, Electro Harmonix, BBE, Visual Sound (now Truetone), Dunlop, etc. Since 2014, I have used mostly boutique pedals from the likes of Xotic, Maxon, Keeley, Wampler, Seymour Duncan, Catalinbread.

Top 100 Greatest Electric Guitarists of all time
1. Jimi Hendrix
2. Jimmy Page (Led Zeppelin)
3. Eric Clapton
4. Eddie Van Halen (Van Halen)
5. Jeff Beck
6. Tony Iommi (Black Sabbath)
7. Stevie Ray Vaughan
8. B.B King
9. Keith Richards (Rolling Stones)
10. David Gilmour (Pink Floyd)
11. Pete Townshend (The Who)
12. George Harrison (The Beatles)
13. Chuck Berry
14. Duane Allman (Allman Brothers)
15. Albert King
16. Freddie King
17. Charlie Christian
18. Les Paul
19. Chet Atkins
20. Slash (Guns N Roses)
21. Carlos Santana
22. Frank Zappa
23. Buddy Guy
24. Buddy Holly
25. Kurt Cobain (Nirvana)
26. Brian May (Queen)
27. Ritchie Blackmore (Deep Purple)
28. Randy Rhoads (Ozzy Osbourne)
29. John Lee Hooker
30. Mick Taylor (Rolling Stones)
31. Muddy Waters
32. Rory Gallagher
33. Johnny Winter
34. Peter Green (Fleetwood Mac)
35. Wes Montgomery
36. Michael Bloomfield
37. Otis Rush
38. Dick Dale
39. Prince
40. Angus Young (AC/DC)
41. The Edge (U2)
42. Mark Knopfler (Dire Straits)
43. Dimebag Darrell (Pantera)
44. Yngwie Malmsteen
45. Larry Carlton
46. Gary Moore
47. Roy Buchanan
48. John Frusciante (Red Hot Chili Peppers)
49. Joe Perry (Aerosmith)
50. Hank Marvin
51. Ry Cooder
52. Eric Johnson
53. Joe Satriani
54. Billy Gibbons (ZZ Top)
55. Joe Walsh (The Eagles)
56. Robert Fripp (King Crimson)
57. Stephen Stills (Crosby Stills & Nash)
58. Carl Perkins
59. Allan Holdsworth
60. Alex Lifeson (Rush)
61. John Petrucci (Dream Theater)
62. Robin Trower (Procol Harlum)
63. Jerry Garcia (Grateful Dead)
64. Scotty Moore (Elvis)
65. Dicky Betts (Allman Brothers)
66. Elmore James
67. Steve Cropper
68. Tom Morello (Rage against the machine)
69. Link Wray
70. Steve Vai
71. Neil Young
72. James Burton
73. Johnny Ramone (The Ramones)
74. Joe Pass
75. Albert Collins
76. Allen Collins (Lynyrd Skynyrd)
77. Duane Eddy
78. Robby Krieger (The Doors)
79. Johnny Marr (The Smiths)
80. John McLaughlin
81. Eddie Hazel (Parliament/Funkadelic)
82. James Hetfield (Metallica)
83. Kirk Hammett (Metallica)
84. Dave Mustaine (Megadeth)
85. Steve Howe (Yes)
86. Mike Rutherford (Genesis)
87. Mike McCready (Pearl Jam)
88. Robben Ford
89. George Benson
90. John Mayer
91. Mark Tremonti (Creed)
92. J.J Cale
93. Peter Frampton
94. Paul Kossoff
95. Jason Becker
96. Steve Morse
97. Zack Wylde
98. Kenny Wayne Shepherd
99. Joe Bonamassa
100. Ted Nugent

Categories
Music

Blues Guitar

My biggest hobby is probably playing guitar, and if you’ve read some of my blogs, you’d know I like to attach some videos of myself playing. My favorite type of music to play on guitar is blues. This is interesting, because blues isn’t a very mainstream kind of music, not like rock or punk or pop. Blues music originally came from black musicians, near the Mississippi delta. Later on, there became different types of blues like delta blues, Chicago blues, Texas blues, etc.

A lot of people find this interesting because its very rare that an Asian guy like myself would listen to blues music, let alone play it. And to be honest, there’s very few Asian American rock musicians, and even fewer Asian American blues musicians. However, someday I hope I can produce and record my own album, that would be cool.

I love to jam, improvise and record without any constraints on my music. This video is a blues jam in A minor, I used a bit of overdrive here, with a looper for the background music.

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nU5zieonEHI

Here’s another funky blues jam that I fingerpicked, John Mayer style. I find this way you can get a lot of neat sounds and rhythm in. No backing track, but there’s a delay for a cool slapback effect. Both of these clips are near 10 minutes long, since I tend to lose track of time when I record >.< httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0_4lgFGb71w Blues will continue to be one of my favorite genres of music. Its especially suited to guitar, and the first scale I learned on guitar (I'm self taught) was the pentatonic minor, which is the basis of blues. To get a better feel for blues music, listen to some Robert Johnson, Howlin Wolf, Muddy Waters, B.B King, Albert King, Freddie King, Albert Collins, etc for some of that old 50s style blues. For 60s and more 'electric' type blues, take a listen to Jimi Hendrix, Stevie Ray Vaughan, Robert Cray, Eric Clapton (while he was in the Bluesbreakers), Mike Bloomfield, Roy Buchanan and Rory Gallagher. Those are some of my favorite blues artists.

Categories
Music

Tips on improving guitar tone, equipment

Jimi Hendrix
Jimi Hendrix

Alright, a break from politics for a while. Since I’m one of the rare Asians that can play guitar better than piano, some ask me for improving their tone on guitar.
Well, there’s several key guidelines to follow.

Firstly, tone is subjective. What kind of tone do you want? Hendrix? Metallica? Slash? Those all have very different tones. Personally though, my tone tends to go somewhere in between Jimi Hendrix and John Mayer with a bit of Eric Clapton on the side. Though I do play blues, it’s not the overwound, in your face, Stevie Ray Vaughan type. For this reason, I tend to play clean alot. Here is an overview of what equipment I use and what tips I can give people:

1) Amplifier: Your amplifier is probably what constitutes most of your tone. I recommend a good tube amp, because tubes sound more natural and organic than solid state, plus they can be driven louder. However, tube amps are pretty expensive. That’s why I suggest starting out with a solid state amp and then progressing to a tube amp. Good tube amps for clean tone include Fender Twin Reverb, as well as Fender Vibroverb, Fender Bassman, or any other Fender amplifier. Vox are also a good choice for that British sound. If you are looking for a more boutique amp, try Victoria Amp. I personally use a Traynor YCV20.

2) Speakers and Tubes: This kind of goes along with the amp thing. Speakers and tubes affect the amp, which affects your tone. Popular tubes include JJ Tubes, Electro Harmonix and Groove Tubes. 6L6 power tubes tend be a better fit for clean tones than EL84 or EL34s. For speakers, try Celestion, Jensen, Tone Tubby and Eminence. I personally use a 12″ Celestion Alnico Blue for my small amp.

3) Strings and Cables: Yes, the type of strings and cables you use for your guitar affects your tone. Use a good quality set of both. For strings, there’s Ernie Ball, D’addario, and Dean Markley. I personally use Elixir Strings because of their longevity and smoothness. For cables, there’s a bunch: Pro Co, Monster cable, Planet Waves, but personally I just use Fender cables.

4) Guitar: yes, obviously the guitar affects the tone. I prefer and have always used Fender Stratocasters for their versatility and gorgeous clean tone compared to any other type of guitar, but for clean tone, good calls can also be made for Fender telecasters, Epiphone Casinos, Gibson ES-335, Gretsch Country Gentlemens, etc. I usually prefer nitrocellulose finished guitars as opposed to polyurethane finished because the nitro lacquer is a thinner layer of paint, which gives the guitar more room to resonate, and therefore more tone. However, most new guitars these days will be poly finished, and the only way to get nitro finished would be to get a vintage guitar or a vintage reissue. I personally have a 1960s reissue American Stratocaster in sunburst with nitro paint and it plays wonderfully.

5) Pickups: Yes, guitar pickups affect tone. There is evidence that handwound pickups sound better than machine wound pickups because of their uneven wind and dispersed frequencies. Therefore, try to get handwound pickups, even if they are expensive. The big three pickup makers include Dimarzio, Seymour Duncan and of course, Fender. More modern pickups are Lace and EMG. However if you want handwound pickups, try Lindy Fralin, Lollar, Bareknuckle, Rio grande, and a whole bunch more of small pickups businesses.
Generally, Alnico magnets sound better than ceramic (Alnico II, III and V are most used for single coils). Either formvar or enamel wire is used for vintage pickups, and make sure they are staggered for your neck (ie. vintage radius 7.25″ should have vintage stagger and modern necks should have flat stagger pickups).
I personally use a set of custom wound Rumpel pickups, and they have been amazing.

6) Pedals: What I’m going to say is… try not to use too many pedals. Too many interferes with tone purity. If you are going to use alot of pedals, make sure they are true bypass so that they don’t color your tone when they are bypassed, and use an equalizer or compressor to smooth out your dynamics. A side note that analog effects tend to be warmer sounding than digital effects, but that’s just personal preference for me. It’s almost like a vinyl record vs a CD player. They sound similar, but the analog sound is created more naturally. You have many different effects makers today. Digitech, Boss, Dunlop, and most large gear manufacturers such as Ibanez, Vox, Marshall, Fender, and even Seymour Duncan. I personally use BBE and Tonerider (who also makes a great set of pickups), because they are cheaper, and are good quality. But if you really want the best tone, there are boutique effects makers such as Keeley, Fulltone, Teese if you really want to spend more money to get the best.

7) You: Most importantly, tone is in your fingers, so you can’t really improve this one with money. You’ll have to practice and get better, make sure notes have vibrato, smoother licks have legato, and quicker licks have alternate picking and staccato, and so forth. You can visit Ultimate guitar if you want tabs or tutorials.

And that’s it! I’ve been working on my tone for a while now, and I think it’s getting better and better. I will continue to post more videos as soon as I get some more songs recorded. I’m also thinking about getting a good microphone, studio monitors and mixer so I can do a professional video recording, but that will have to wait until my financial situation clears up.