Jeff Beck Discusses Gear, Technique and Hendrix in 1985 Guitar World Interview
Here's part one of our interview with Jeff Beck from the January 1985 issue of Guitar World. He discusses his gear, technique, Hendrix and more.
And it's got that wang bar that you take such advantage of.
Well, that's it, that's what it's there for [laughs].
Do you have it customized?
No, it's standard.
Do you find it going in and out of tune?
Yeah, you’ll hear that going out of tune, all right [laughs]. It's a constant source of annoyance, actually, but I love the Strat and what more can you do? I've lived with it for long enough, it can stay.
Where did you develop your fingerpicking technique from? I hear you almost never use a pick any more.
I used to listen to Chet Atkins and copy him, but it was a dead-end street, really, because after all that labor and heartbreak trying to learn what he did, everybody would go, "Yeah, great, great copy of Chet Atkins." I just definitely put the foot on that straightaway. I can play country-style within reason, Merle Travis kind of stuff, but that isn't really the way I play now without the pick. It's more like bluegrass style with rock and roll in mind. If I break a fingernail, then I have to use a pick, but otherwise I never touch one.
What are the advantages to using your fingers? Speed?
If you use a pick, you’ve got several fingers which are just redundant, they're not doing anything. But with five fingers you can do all kinds of stuff you can't properly get at with a pick. You can do railing figures like bluegrass, you can pick out notes of a chord and twang them, push them, bend them, anything you want. I think the more people drop out the pick the better because [pauses) you’ve got all these fingers hanging out in the breeze. You want to use them. But people don’t; they pick up the guitar when they're kids and they've got thumb and first finger and a pick and that's it, and they stay with that… I mean, if you start playing guitar when you’re ten years old with all your fingers, you’re going to be incredible by the time you’re forty. Obviously, there are some very fast guitarists like McLaughlin who use a pick, and I can't even get anywhere near the speed he gets. But that's not what I'm looking far: I'm looking to use as many notes, chordal things, bends, whatever, that you can't really do that easily, with the same articulation, that you get with all separate fingers.
How about effects?
I'm trying to stay away from them as much as possible. You can't keep up with them-you can spend all your money on effects that you wind up chucking in the dustbin. And especially for live playing, you have to play as loud and as clear as you can, without being too loud; and if you put an effect on that sounds amazing to the player but not to the people out front you’re wasting your time. The effects are best left to the guy on the deck [mixing board). Obviously you can use distortion and sustain, but these things have been around for years. I don't use anything much more than that, really.
Like a Colorsound Tonebender?
Yeah, that kind of thing. And I've got a couple of Roland Choruses in stereo, which sound great. But there again, when you walk twenty paces into the audience you wouldn’t know it's in stereo. You'd have to talk to the sound guy out front to know what it sounds like, because I never know: I'm up there playing [laughs]. Y'know, if the tune is fairly soft, you can use your boxes with more effect; but if you’re playing wild flat-out stuff you’re better off dry, really. Just turn up the wick and go.
How about your amps?
I've got a Seymour Duncan which is amazing. That will probably be the one that we mike up, a pair of these, each with one twelve [-inch speaker]. Then the rest will be my standard two Marshalls, that's all. They never go wrong, really. If you use the monitor system properly you shouldn’t have to overdrive them to the paint where they're going to blow up.
You've lived and toured through several generations of electronic advances. Do you find that today’s more sophisticated PAs make life easier than when everybody just plugged in and bashed away?
Well, there was same fun in that. I still prefer to do all I can do on one guitar, for instance. I hate to see those bands with rows and rows of guitars on stands that never seem to get played [laughs]. I like kids to see you get different sounds out of one guitar -- it gives them something to get excited about. If they've got a Strat and you've just made same sounds come out of it that they can't get, then that's one of the best parts, isn't it - the beauty of going home and learning what some guy's just shown you.
Stay tuned for Part 2 of this interview, which ran in the following issue (March 1985) of Guitar World.
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