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Jeff Beck has the Touch, Live in Japan: What Every Musician Should Strive For
There are certain musicians who understand precisely the effect the smallest change can make in their musicality; it's all about subtlety. I use the term subtle in terms of rock and roll a lot (and often in reference to sounds most people would NOT call subtle), despite the fact that describing a musical genre that almost requires being played far louder than anyone would deem sane. It may seem even less appropriate to talk about subtlety in guitar playing to some people, but that's really what it's all about for me. Subtlety doesn't necessarily mean not shredding the heck out of the guitar blasted with the amp on eleven... Instead it's more about touch and knowing what nuances to add, when to scream and shred, and when to lay back.
I doubt there are many guitarists who would disagree that when it comes to subtlety, precision and nuances, Jeff Beck near the top. I've been listening to a lot of Jeff Beck music recently, especially the classic albums done with the ill fated Jeff Beck Group, back in the late 60s... Truth and Beckola, and I continue to find new things that I like in the overall musicality and especially the guitar playing, on every listen. Even back in the Yardbirds he seemed to have that special touch on the guitar that put his playing in another realm and on these albums it is very evident. He'll subtly bend a note just a little, bit or add the perfect vocal inflection with the wah pedal that just adds that much more to the song than just a lead melody.
I've mentioned this kind of subtlety of technique in previous guitar related articles, but it can be difficult to wrap your brain around if you've never heard it. To make it easier and as sort of a small tribute to Jeff Beck and his amazing guitar work, I thought I'd include a clip or two that might help to get across what I'm talking about. Unfortunately, videos of songs from the Jeff Beck Group era can be a little hard to come by, at least clips of the band actually playing... and of a decent quality.
So instead, I thought I'd include one of my favorite clips from the more recent era of Jeff Beck playing live, this one from Japan in 2006 where he plays fantastic versions of "Goodbye Pork Pie Hat/Brush With the Blues".
As always thanks to Youtube and marks6338 for the clip.
Although his style has certainly changed since back in the 60s, and his music is now far closer to jazz fusion than straight rock and roll, his playing exudes even more subtlety and nuances than ever before, unlike any other guitarist or musician. Screaming when necessary, but laying back when not, it's all about surprises, both letting and causing what happens naturally with sounds, voices and other instruments, to happen on guitar.
What I like most about Jeff Beck's guitar playing I think, (from back in the 60s till now) is the way he treats the notes. He adds more than just a simple vibrato, often bending the note just ever so slightly in a effect that seems very reminiscent of the way horn players or vocalists bend notes in jazz. Other moments require other techniques, check out the bending trill in this clip, but they're all there for a specific effect, not just for show. It's as if every note just gets that extra special treatment, with no throwaways or filler the whole way through; every sound, effect and technique, even if completely spontaneous, is there for a reason... And no matter what the technique is used, it always seem to work and push the song to a new level that sounds very organic and natural. That kind of attention to detail, originality, depth and ability to push the soul of the music to a new level is what every musician should strive for within their own style.
This clip is a great example of why Jeff Beck is a musician that I think has that special touch and is as an inspiration for all musicians, not only guitarists. Although this is only a short discussion of Jeff Beck, there is tons more to say. He has been a huge inspiration for me as a musician, as well as to thousands of others that in the future I'm sure I'll write a more in depth article on Mr. Beck to further discuss his guitar work and musicality from Yardbirds to solo career.
In the mean time though, I'll just encourage you to further investigate his legacy for yourselves as there is a lot of great music, musicianship, guitar playing and soul. There are plenty of great albums, including the two I mentioned Truth and Beckola, as well as a few DVDs, all worth checking out as any music that involves Jeff Beck is a cut above the rest.