Paul Gilbert teaches you how to play new song That’s Too Much Like Work! – complete with power tools and opening 'Crazy Lick'

Paul Gilbert
(Image credit: Future)

Paul Gilbert exploded onto the 1980s rock scene with his exilliarating solos and powerhouse riffing, like a blend of Eddie Van Halen and Yngwie Malmsteen with extra bite. 

Since the days of his bands Racer X and Mr Big, he has maintained a fabulous solo career; his recent Christmas album, ‘Twas being a case in point. Furthermore, he is a busy educator both online and at his USA guitar camps.

This issue’s exclusive track, That’s Too Much Like Work! was created after he decided that a piece by Jason Sidwell had a few too many chords to navigate (too much like work!). So, due to a limited time window, he opted to record a new piece and played all the instruments, leaving Jason just the task of mixing. 

That’s Too Much Like Work! is constructed in two tempos. The first is a stomping shuffle and to keep things easy to read we have notated this with a 4/4 time signature and swung quavers. The solo section then goes to a slower tempo with a 12/8 time signature. 

After his jaw dropping performance (a Makita power drill was used too!), Paul starts his lesson with a handy tip for creating a memorable and melodic motif; vocalise a melody and then add lyrics. The lyrics help to establish an organic sounding rhythm and a sense of meaning. 

So, Paul’s main melody is driven by the words ‘That’s Too Much Like Work, Work Work Work Work!’. Elaborating further, it’s interesting to hear how a virtuosic musician can take inspiration from a simple melody; the nursery rhyme, Frère Jacques. The moral of this is; keeping things very simple (at least in the beginning) can often result in outstanding results.

The scale of choice for the melody section is E Major (E-F#-G#-A-B-C#-D#). This scale sounds great as most the chords used are diatonic to this key. For the solo section we shift to the relative Minor (C# Minor so the same fingerings will work).

Paul adds expression using different note lengths and articulations such as string bends, finger vibrato, finger slides and pick rakes (fake sweeps) to add attack, while double-stops help to thicken up the sound. The backing features bass and drums with occasional rhythm guitar so we are working largely in a power trio format. 

Paul also uses his guitar’s whammy bar, an excursion from his usual hardtail setup. The bar is used to add extra expression to open strings and harmonics. 

The use of a power drill to pick the strings was famously featured on Mr Big’s Daddy, Brother, Lover, Little Boy (The Electric Drill Song). Paul explains his Makita drill allows him to have the motor run down after the trigger is released. It has four picks attached and these need to be a light gauge to help preserve the strings. As he explains, clarity with the drill benefits from the use of fretting-hand muting to keep single-string melodies clear.

For his parting advice, it’s important to allow time to have fun on the guitar. While it’s important to drive forward to improve technique and learn new ideas, we should also keep it fun.

Our notation contains all of the fingerings, articulations and phrasing from the video performance. It’d be well worth taking a close look at the way Paul  fingers the phrases. Hopefully there will be a new technique, lick or phrase in here for you to perfect. If you find one you like then memorise it and use it in future where appropriate. 

Once you have mastered some of the licks in Paul’s solo, why not create your own over Mr Gilbert’s track? Good luck! 

Paul Gilbert We Wish You A Merry Christmas

(Image credit: Jason Quigley)

Get the tone

Amp settings: Gain 8, Bass 7, Middle 7, Treble 6, Reverb 3

Paul used his 1983 Ibanez RS315 (with DiMarzio pickups and locking tuners) into Marshall Origin and Fender Princeton Reverb amps. A bridge humbucker really suits this style of fiery playing so if you have one it’s the way to go. 

But almost any guitar will work well for this month’s performance, just dial up a modern sounding overdriven tone with plenty of sustain. Paul’s pedals (Supro Drive and either a JHS Haunting Mids or the JHS PG-14) provided his overdriven tone. 

Full piece: That’s Too Much Like Work!

Intro [Bars 1-2] The intro contains a vocal count-in and then a three-bar drum fill. The track is a super-fast pace. The opening ‘Crazy Lick’ is demonstrated and notated in more detail in Examples 1 and 2. However, Paul doesn’t play it quite the same for the performance so we have notated how it was delivered here.

Section A [Bars 13-68] This section features the tune’s motif which is repeated and developed and we have called this the chorus. There is a second section that we have labelled as the verse. 

The two sections are repeated and variations in the delivery are introduced. Paul adds expression with long and short notes and a variety of articulations including string bends, finger vibrato, finger slides, double-stops, whammy bar, semi harmonics and raking of the pick (fake sweeps) to add attack to the notes. 

It’s well worth learning this section verbatim, but that’s a big task so feel free to develop this into your own version. 

Section B Guitar solo [Bars 69-98] The B section contains a full-on wig-out in the new key of C# Minor. The tempo also shifts to a much slower one and we have notated this section with a new time signature of 12/8. The solo has a cavalier, go-for-it attitude with the emphasis on feel over precision. 

The use of a drill is more than a little unorthodox and we suggest readers ‘don’t try this at home’. To this end, we suggest you tremolo pick the melodies in this section. To make it easy to read we have notated the places you put your fingers as opposed to all the notes that are played by the drill.

[Bars 83-96] Much of Paul’s shredding here is either two note per string based or three note per string (3nps). Interestingly, much of it is pentatonic orientated with the 3nps playing (eg bars 85-86, bar 91) being reminiscent of what he famously played at the start of Mr Big’s Colorado Bulldog. If you’ve not looked into 3 nps pentatonics before, it’s worth the time and stretching so just take a few of Paul’s notes and practice repeating them.

Section D [Bars 134-end] In the outro, Paul lets rip with some classic rock style ending phrases. The drums are played live by himself so the timing has a human element and fairly fluid so we have notated this as free time. It may take a bit practice to get the ending hits in time. 

Backing track

Video examples

Example 1 Blistering Blues Rock Intro Have you ever wondered how to make the E Blues scale (E-G-A-Bb-B-D) sound really impressive? 

Example 2 Crazy Lick Here, Paul demonstrates the Crazy Lick from the intro. This is a six-note pattern that can be moved around the fretboard. Sometimes out-of-key notes will be in the pattern, but the lick is played so fast that this just adds extra colour. Aim to keep to the ‘outside picking’ directions.

Example 3 Phrasing With The Crazy Lick In this example Paul puts the Crazy Lick into context by playing some other licks either side. 

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Jon Bishop

Jon Bishop is a UK-based guitarist and freelance musician, and a longtime contributor to Guitar Techniques and Total Guitar. He's a graduate of the Academy of Contemporary Music in Guildford and is touring and recording guitarist for British rock 'n' roll royalty Shakin’ Stevens.