Randy Rhoads Guitar Clinic
A full transcription of a guitar clinic given shortly before the guitar legend's death.
Few musicians in the history of rock have been as beloved — revered, really — as Ozzy Osbourne’s late guitarist and musical soul mate, Randy Rhoads.
Only 25 when he was killed in an airplane accident in 1982, Rhoads managed in a few short years to establish himself as one of the most innovative guitar players in the world.
On landmark Ozzy songs like “Flying High Again,” “Crazy Train” and “Mr. Crowley,” the guitarist wowed the world with solos and rhythm playing that managed to be explosive and tasteful, and a classical sensibility that was his alone. His premature death only served to solidify his legend, and his many fans keep his memory and spirit alive.
Guitar World acquired a tape of a seminar given by Rhoads himself before an enthralled group of Randyphiles at Music City in Greensburg, Pennsylvania, on February 2, 1982, only six weeks before his death. Here is the transcription of the lesson presented that day, in which he reveals himself to be every ounce the dedicated — and utterly unassuming — guitar hero.
Whether fielding questions from the audience about the details of his rig or the complexities of his technique, Randy was the perfect gentleman. And as his opening statement to the audience reveals, he was modest and humble, qualities that, as much as his guitar playing, endeared him to his fans:
“This is only the second time I’ve ever done this, so please don’t expect me to just come out and handle things real well; I’m very nervous about speaking in front of people, so you’ll have to give me a hand by asking a lot of questions. I’ll do anything I can to help you out.”
What effects do you use when you play live?
I have a pedalboard that’s got an MXR Distortion +, an MXR 10-band equalizer, a chorus, an MXR stereo chorus, an MXR flanger, a Crybaby wah pedal and a Roland volume pedal. I used them much more in the past than I do nowadays, but now our sound man is starting to add a lot more up front. Sometimes I use them more for quiet rhythm parts, just to enhance the sound. I never use echoes or anything for leads.
Do you have a preamp built into your guitar?
No, I just have the Distortion + on the board, and I just keep that on all the time. My amps are Marshalls.
What speakers do you use in your cabinets?
I use Altecs. I prefer those to Celestions because they’re very bright, clean speakers. I found that Celestion speakers are pretty dirty, and if you add a fuzz box to them they’ll sound terrible.
Do you ever have trouble with feedback?
Yes, I have lots of problems there. For example, if you let go of the guitar for a second, it will feed back. You’ve got to play so that you’re covering your pickup. If I don’t want to do something quiet, I have to either use the volume pedal or click off the fuzz—otherwise my guitar will squeal. I’ve gotten used to playing that way.
Do you have a special tremolo unit on your Charvel Flying V?
Grover Jackson, who owns Charvel, builds the guitars himself for me, and I use his tremolo units. There’s no perfect tremolo, except for maybe a Floyd Rose, but Grover’s are very good. I have another Flying V, the polka-dotted one, but it isn’t a Charvel, and I do have tuning problems with it all the time.
What kind of music did you play when you first picked up the guitar?
I’m 25 now, so I don’t remember what I was playing when I was seven. I just played the guitar. One of the early things I remember was strumming [the flamenco guitar standard] “Malagueñia” on an old Spanish guitar. Later on I just started playing anything I heard on the radio: “Gloria” or “Louie Louie” or whatever.
What players did you admire growing up?
I get asked that all the time: “Who’s your favorite?” “What are your influences?” If you play long enough, your influences are bound to change. I never had a phonograph ’til I was, I think, 16, so I couldn’t just sit and copy my favorite players. I had to listen to the radio, and I liked whoever was good. One of my favorites was Mountain and Leslie West — those harmonics and that sustain. I just thought Leslie was the greatest. But now, I don’t have a favorite — I just like anybody who plays guitar.
Did you take lessons or were you self taught?
Mostly self taught. When I was young I took lessons—basic folk and classical training—then I started playing rock. I’m actually taking lessons now.
You’re taking lessons now?
I did when I was in England.
Who was your teacher?
Anybody. I just take lessons from anybody, like when I have a day off or something. I’ll find someone in town and just pick their brain.
Were you in other bands before you hooked up with Ozzy?
I was in a local band in L.A. called Quiet Riot for five years. I was still with them when I met Ozzy, so I had to leave. Other than that, I was just in some garage bands and other little things that didn’t work out.
Didn’t you put out a couple of records with Quiet Riot?
Yeah. We had a record deal, but we were very young and we lost the deal. It just fell apart. The records were later released in Japan. I was 17 years old and the producer wanted to make us sound very much like a pop band. I mean, if you hear it, there’s hardly any guitar on it.
What do you think of other guitarists, like Michael Schenker?
I think Michael Schenker is excellent, a great rock player. He’s very melodic and he plays with lots of feeling.
Are there any other players you’d put in that category?
Oh, I could name a hundred. I mean, everybody who’s out there is really good at what they do. Eddie Van Halen is fantastic, Ritchie Blackmore…
There are critics who accuse you of copying Eddie Van Halen. Are you influenced by him?
Well, we’re both from the same town and we were both in local bands. It seemed like everybody in L.A. was a lead guitar player, and we all played very similarly. Everybody used to say we all sounded very much the same.
What do you think of Angus?
Angus Young? I think what he does, he does great. He’s so into it.
I didn’t know too much about Black Sabbath when I met Ozzy. That’s probably why I get along with Ozzy—we’re different and come from different musical backgrounds.
Does he ever talk to you about why he left Black Sabbath?
Oh yeah, all the time. I guess they just weren’t getting along. They had been together a long time—14 years or something like that.
Check out Page 2 for the rest of the transcript, and some tabbed warm-up exercises from Randy
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