“I think it’s the challenge right now, as it is for a lot of musicians”: Pete Townshend pinpoints the one thing Instagram players get wrong – and reveals who his favorite social media guitarist is

Pete Townshend
(Image credit: Katja Ogrin/Redferns / Getty Images)

Social media has been at the core of the guitar world for several years now, emerging as the go-to platform for players to demonstrate unparalleled feats of electric guitar brilliance – but according to Pete Townshend, not everybody is doing it right.

As the Who hero explains in the latest issue of Guitarist, there’s one key aspect of music making that many Instagram players fail to take into consideration when creating their content, and a crucial element of musicality that the majority neglect.

But, fortunately for those who may find themselves guilty of failing into this trap, Townshend also offered a solution.

When asked whether there was a trade-off between playing fast and playing lyrically, Townshend mused, “Well, Prince could shred and he often would play a really soulful blues track, and then in order to get from one bit of blues to the other, he would do an extraordinary shred. So it was a bit flashy [vocalising]. Maybe it was just to show he could do it. So, I don’t know.”

To that end, Townshend went on to discuss the “disconnect that has happened sometimes”, saying that playing fast without an appreciation for melody or lyricism stems from an inability to appreciate and play naturally with other musicians – something that solo content creators often overlook.

“A lot of them are just solo musicians that have mastered their craft and got really, really fast,” he said of Instagram players. “So, I think what needs to happen is they need to be fitted into the music world, somewhere other than Instagram. 

“That’s the challenge for them. I think it’s the challenge right now, as it is for a lot of electronic music musicians: they are very isolated, working on their own.”

During the discussion, Townshend identified one guitarist who has mastered both aspects of playing – a player that both technically excels and has a deep understanding of what it means to play out of isolation, and who just so happens to be one of his favorite Instagram guitarists.

“There are many on Instagram – one of my favorites is a guy called Angel Vivaldi, who’s a brilliant, brilliant player – but when he works with other musicians, he changes,” he revealed. “He actually listens to them and fits in. He can play anything that he wants to play.”

Vivaldi is deserving of such praise from Townshend. The New Jersey progressive metal maestro has been at the forefront of the instrumental guitar scene for a while now, with a couple of Charvel signature guitars and highly celebrated instrumental releases to his name.

The US virtuoso is, it should be clarified, much more than just an Instagram guitarist, whose music is defined by his penchant for mind-boggling solo shreds, larger ensemble work and melodic sensibilities.

Speaking to Guitar World recently, Vivaldi reflected on his ability to combine electrifying fretwork with emotive sonic storytelling as heralded by Townshend, and cited his latest EP, Away with Words: Part 2, as evidence of his approach.

“These days, I’m much more influenced by events in my life than other artists,” Vivaldi explained. “If something makes me feel a certain way, I’ll let that seep into my writing.”

“I often focus on the relationship between the human psyche and my guitar,” he continued. “Each of the five songs on this EP has a unique color. And once I had them in place, I proceeded to my studio in those colors. It’s something I also did when I recorded [2017 album] Synapse. Having a concept in mind helps express my artistic expression as an instrumental songwriter.”

As for the pros and perils of social media, Vivaldi had his say in an older video: “For guitarists and musicians, the internet is a vast sea of inspiration and information that’s constantly pushing us to better our craft.

“But sometimes after seeing the immense talent that’s out there, it may make you want to hurl your instrument into a spiraling pit of flames.”

Elsewhere in his interview with Guitarist, Pete Townshend revealed a notable piece of praise he once received from Leslie West, and admitted he recently bought his first-ever Jackson, which had him playing three times faster than usual.

To read the full interview, head over to Magazines Direct to pick up the latest issue of Guitarist.

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Matt Owen

Matt is a Staff Writer, writing for Guitar World, Guitarist and Total Guitar. He has a Masters in the guitar, a degree in history, and has spent the last 16 years playing everything from blues and jazz to indie and pop. When he’s not combining his passion for writing and music during his day job, Matt records for a number of UK-based bands and songwriters as a session musician.

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