When it comes to shred, few guitarists can rip like Paul Gilbert. As the driving force behind shred-progenitors Racer X and the chart-topping late-Eighties outfit Mr. Big, Gilbert dazzled with his unhuman fretboard range that included wide stretches and intervallic leaps.
One of the especially cool things about a guitar is the fact that there are almost always at least a few ways to play the same notes. This fact allows (and forces) us guitarists to explore the different possibilities available through experimentation with alternate fingerings, picking strategies and phrasing. Often, while there are many ways to play the exact same notes, there is usually a “magic” fingering and picking pattern that allows for the easiest and most effective execution of the phrase.
I first began having success picking on a guitar that wasn’t plugged in. I was picking really hard so I could hear it acoustically, and when I plugged into an amp, I was surprised that it didn’t sound very good. I discovered that the way I attack the string really affects the tone. Modifying your picking attack—for clean tone, distortion and playing on an acoustic—makes a huge difference in the sound.
Here are licks that will clean up any guitarist’s picking technique and give them the control and accuracy to improve their ability to achieve the speed and fluidity they desire. Though there are exceptions to this rule, make sure the alternating pick strokes are accomplished with firm, yet relaxed grip of the pick and a rotation of the pick hand wrist similar to that of turning a key in a door.
Paul Gilbert’s second annual Great Guitar Escape will take place July 8 to 12 at Full Moon Resort in Big Indian, New York. The camp, which will be hosted by the Mr. Big and Racer X guitarist and other instructors, invites guitar players of all ages, levels and styles to immerse themselves in the instrument and hone their craft. Full-day activities are planned with evenings culminating in intimate jam sessions.
Paul Gilbert combines technical proficiency with incredible musicianship and a deep knowledge of theory. Because he derives most of his tone from his hands and highly refined approach, he requires superbly balanced and quiet pickups that won’t present any barriers to his musical expression.