During a recent conversation with Music Radar, Guns N’ Roses guitarist Slash was asked to single out his main weakness as a guitar player. He replied:
“Playing rhythm is one of the main ones. There are specific things I practice before a show; for the first 20 minutes, I won’t do anything too outrageous and just loosen up. I think it’s important to remember those techniques are a key part of what I play.
“You don’t want to be stiff when it comes to those right-hand patterns, so I might play any number of songs. ‘Pinball Wizard’ is always a good one!
“And then for lead stuff, I might try to find things that move up and around the neck, random patterns I’ve picked up from other players that sound interesting.
“It’s about finding the things that help you do whatever it is you do before you walk out there and play. Don’t think about set rules or anything; just try to focus on your weaknesses.”
All guitarists have a tendency to overplay – what’s remarkable about you as a guitarist is that you know when to go for it and when not…
“It’s similar to BMXing or skating or other freeform sports. I remember it was all about pure expression when I was a kid. I’d watch other people going for it and it would always be this emotional thing despite the technique and tricks involved.
“That concept of just going for it and doing something wild in the moment. Then the technique aspect comes in and starts to evolve and evolve… 30 or 40 years later, people will find they can do shit that’s just mind-blowing.
“Guitar playing has become like that for a lot of people, too – where it becomes about the accents to the melody or theme of a song, putting in statements that actually extenuate that idea.
“Suddenly, this great platform for people to express all kinds of shit becomes so technical, it gets harder and harder to explain to people. You don’t have to go there.
“Art forms don’t have to be about all the cool techniques, even if they’re really, really bitchin’! Someone who knows how to sweep through all the right notes can be really impressive and cool to listen to, though emotionally it won’t do much – at least not for everyone.
“Technique can become the main aspiration for people, and I don’t want to rain on their parade, but for me, it’s more about expressing some sort of emotional content and finding melodies that fit the whole thing.
“It’s important to have that side as well as the technical side… it’s all about how you mix it all together, you know?”