Desert Rose (Eric Johnson) - Solo 2 Improv & Cover by Peter C

Well, after Solo 1, I couldn’t really stop.

Again, proof that these lessons really do work in my humble opinion.

Having said that I think I may take a week or two off because of all the fingertip pain and blisters underneath my fingernails (sorry for the imagery). How on earth EJ managed to compose and comp all these solos and toured with them non stop I will never be able to comprehend.

Anyhow, please enjoy :slight_smile:

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Great job! That’s no easy feat.

Eric went off on this solo when playing live. The live versions can be utterly spectacular.

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wow, Peter, you are on fire here! Great work :love_you_gesture:

I wonder, do you re-arrange EJ’s solos from the official tabs (which are often inaccurate, as to the groupings we have learned from CtC) or have you found a resource that has already done that for you?

Again, great work !:guitar::guitar::guitar:

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Thanks so much :slight_smile:

I gave up on tabs (official or not, EJ or any other artist for that matter- but especially EJs) very early on and made it sort of a personal journey to watch and listen to him ad infinitum.

After a long while the faster passages I hear sort of in slow motion and if I can’t, I can at least memorize the melody-

With Troy’s lessons, because I paid a lot of attention to visualizing faster runs and patterns, I can see in my head what EJ’s doing when I hear him play. Kind of like for easier passages- let’s say Cream-era clapton you know you’re hearing a 1st position box pentatonic lick. Same deal with EJ but with a more notes.

I think the real beauty is that the framework is incredibly structured (or chunked rather) that once you get a couple down you can basically link them together and play them in different positions all over the fretboard, or not strictly play down down up down, but cheat a little and throw in a pull off or slide which makes it sound less scale-ly. It’s both taxing but very liberating.

So the “tab” for desert rose is all ear- the piece is difficult enough that I don’t think I’d be able to both sightread and pay attention to my fingers at the same time.

However, in retrospect, I think I should revisit the old “wrong” tabs that most likely have 3 note per string transcriptions instead of the more general 2nps- if applied correctly it will probably have some musical use and make for some neo-EJ licks :slight_smile:

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Late 80s/Early 90s peak EJ I would gladly give up guitar just to be able to witness it live.

Pity I was only 2 in this video. I would make that choice any day.

I only have bootlegs and word of mouth from old timers but he was a freak of nature. That video is just one example- vhs quality be damned.

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I was also two years old when that video was recorded.

Eric was an absolutely terrifying guitar monster. Not in such an obvious way as the way Shawn Lane was, but still one of the scariest players ever.

Even knowing how his playing works, and being able to imitate his mechanics and play a great deal of his vocabulary has never diminished how impressive his playing is to me. That’s even before considering the mastery of the nuances of note shaping and tone production, which is almost unparalleled.

Also, he was possibly the most well rounded guitar player ever. Such a diverse and eclectic collection of recognizable influences in his playing, and the capacity to play multiple styles.

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Great playing :+1:t3::+1:t3::+1:t3: What I also find cool is that you do it with your own sound and not mimicking the violin tone all the way.

I have gathered all of the EJ tabs in existence (so to speak) some are more accurate than others, but none has the picking/legato spelled out correctly and the fingering with EJ is also tricky. I noticed the same with EJ as with Marty Friedman, if you don’t have the exact fingering pattern they use for a particular sequence, it’s very difficult to play it effortlessly and up to speed. In that aspect Troy’s analysis helped a lot and I wish we could put a live version of say Trademark under the microscope in CTC or get EJ in the studio (that would be amazing).

Do you play with the EJ/Yngwie picking approach yourself when playing fast (sweeping ascending and pulloff descending)?

I would love to hear if you have discovered chunks in terms of picking/phrasing that EJ uses over and over again, apart from those that Troy found. I found for example that he simplified upward pentatonic runs by using blocks of three strings, two notes per string and repeating it in octaves. He does that in the first fast solo of “Gem”.

Would love to hear your findings after your EJ immersion :grin:

Wow, thanks for all the compliments- really makes the videos worthwhile :slight_smile:

I will answer as best and honestly as I can- because of your detailed questions and the reverence (both of us have) for EJ.

“What I also find cool is that you do it with your own sound and not mimicking the violin tone all the way.”

Yes I really believe this is a misnomer :slight_smile: It’s the playing that makes it sound like a violin, not the gear.

In fact, the gear is quite inconducive to getting a smooth sound (at least in that era)- plexi marshalls and fuzzes through dumbles are inherently very strident and not the easiest of tools to “ride.” The beauty is in taming the beast so to speak, because I fully concede it is actually much easier to achieve fluidity from using other gear.

In addition, the album recordings of AVM especially are not what you would call an inherently smooth tone- studios and low volume listening will play tricks on the ears like nobody’s business. Venus Isle is a different but similar case. Live era of ACL 1988 and recent tours with his darker lead sounds should not be the end all of generalizations about his tone.

On the topic of originality, I usually play more inspired stuff on my les paul which goes to show which aspect I prioritize over the other. I got into EJ because his music was the thing that stopped me from quitting and getting over a difficult period. On my sns accounts I post many of his covers and occasionally get the weird hate mail of “soulless EJ copycat” when I actually have three studio albums to my band and name but I digress. I play his songs out of reverence and the joy I get from his songs and above all, it really helps me creatively composition wise and sonic-texture wise.

It might sound weird, but he is really underrated.

“I have gathered all of the EJ tabs in existence (so to speak) some are more accurate than others, but none has the picking/legato spelled out correctly and the fingering with EJ is also tricky. I noticed the same with EJ as with Marty Friedman, if you don’t have the exact fingering pattern they use for a particular sequence, it’s very difficult to play it effortlessly and up to speed.”

I cannot emphasis how true this is. I tried playing lonely in the night without proper EJ mechanics and while it does work to an extent, it’s only to an extent. I finally buckled down and paid a measly chump change for Troy’s lessons which have more than paid back in dividends- and I still always have his lessons open on a separate desktop on my computer.

“Do you play with the EJ/Yngwie picking approach yourself when playing fast (sweeping ascending and pulloff descending)?”

I have huge respect for YJM as well but if I may, the reason why I picked up the guitar was to get away from the classical tonality since my short lived five years of violin training were wearing me down. As YJM is the embodient of this style just applied to electric guitar- I never attempted to cover his material, but I am very familiar with his catalogue and the role he played in this genre and I have so much respect for artists and pioneers like him. He is a legend.

Also I realize both have more in common than it seems in terms of the way they bring economy into their picking. The fluidity in string skipping really only comes from two things- a certain slant to the pick and playing quick notes in succession with one motion, and throw in pulloffs and legatos just to cheat or embellish the phrasing.

In my playing I use whatever elements I feel suit the song. Learning EJ helps tremendously because the whole scale opens up. It’s not just straight pentatonics that are repeated. However when I do EJ, I do stay close to the original and leave just the appropriate amount of room to do what I wish or even dare I say, play more notes than he did.

“I would love to hear if you have discovered chunks in terms of picking/phrasing that EJ uses over and over again, apart from those that Troy found. I found for example that he simplified upward pentatonic runs by using blocks of three strings, two notes per string and repeating it in octaves. He does that in the first fast solo of “Gem”. Would love to hear your findings after your EJ immersion.”

This is a rather roundabout way of answering your question, but while the fundamental A minor descending pentatonic DDuD pattern is mechanically correct, he doesn’t always stick to it, and there is often a deceivingly large amount of alternate picking, legato pulloffs and consecutive upstrokes for box shape ascending licks in his playing that the strict DDuD won’t get you there all the way.

However, if you see the movement for what it is, a tool and not the musical instrument in itself, it opens up new avenues. For example, I am a terrible alternate picker in ascending scales and I don’t like the easy way around with hammer ons and whatnot, so the descending DDuD lick in reverse, would actually become my sort of ascending lick that I could play at fast tempo- compared to had I been forced to alternate pick it.

Troy’s lessons on legato turnarounds and 7th pickups are great applications of this EJ-ism that break out of this 1st position box.

The most important thing it taught me in terms of this context was that basically everything is downpicked and the upstroke is just an excuse to go for another downstroke- meaning the upstroke is a wasted movement so why not just shove a note in their while you’re doing it anyway.

What that meant for me was that I could do DDD u D, even if I can’t say for sure EJ has done it (though I do “hear it”). Basically two more times and it is essentially a sweep. For example, I play the last quick ascending lick in this sweep fashion (which I just see as extended economy picking) even though I hear and know for sure EJ doesn’t do this. Right in the middle of sounding EJ and YJM sweepish, but makes it sound like “me” for lack of a better word.

Often times I hear uninitiated folks say technique/knowledge limits and pidgeonholes, and while I understand the spirit of the advice, for me I find that it gives me another musical tool. That by definition is not limiting.

I have various other versions of the EJ-isms I learned from Troy and while mechanically consistent with EJ and Troy’s methods, I have no idea whether EJ actually uses them.

For example in descending licks all the way down the fretboard I’m pretty sure I do it in a different way because I slide down to the next note which also allows me to squeeze another note in there- not just for the sake of it but because I like the sound and originality. Another is the ascending variations, another is the ascending and then quick descending and not ending on an octave directly but bending it a full step up to add tension and then continue playing. Also at very high speeds I also play “wrong notes” because of the interesting sonic effect and go from 4 note DDuD to 3 note triplets to build up momentum.

I am pretty sure that’s why this DR cover while having the ethos of the original, still sounds like me because I approach in this middle of the road way. I want to do his music justice, improvise a little and hopefully add to the song, while getting better in the process.

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Not much to add, this is great playing. What exactly is the backing track here, sounds like a live concert performance of this with the guitar tracks removed?

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Thanks :slight_smile:
This is the backing track: https://youtu.be/w-nBy_GBFTE
It’s not EJ-recorded.

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Could have sworn i heard him singing at the start, lol

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Definitely- I wish I knew who sung it- he did a great job- as the rest of the band.

Thank you for your very insightful and clear reply. How you described achieving the sound is exactly the thing that I admire in certain players, and I have used the exact phrase myself: “taming the beast”.

You can hear that in EJs playing and also in your playing where you can hear a real guitar sound, the interaction between guitar and amp and a sound that breathes, wants to feedback, and that you have to control with right and left hand muting and with none of the crutches that so many shredders these days use (high gain, overly compressed, digitally modelled, super-low-action etc) that immediately have a negative impact on the tone. SRV has the same vibe in that respect.

Your comments on the EJ playing technique are very helpful and recognizable. I have noticed that when you play guitars for hours on end you get in this special zone where things feel effortless. When I want to learn an EJ piece, the first thing I do is go on YT and check out how EJ plays it live and also how people such as yourself cover it and how it sounds.

I then sit down with the guitar and I think of the easiest way to play a certain passage. 9 times out of 10 it is the way EJ plays it (I found that with the Gem solos). He has put in 1000s of hours and he knows automatically how to play a certain passage.

What I admire about EJ is that his playing is always very melodic and has an unpredictability and spontaneity to it, even at break-neck speeds.

I will continue to try to decipher what EJ does; my wish is that someday Troy will make a note-for-note hyper-accurate transcription (including fingerings, phrasing, picking indications etc) of complete EJ songs like Cliffs, Lonely in the night, Desert Rose etc. That would help tremendously.

Until that time I am grateful that you cover his playing in such a great way; it is always inspiring to hear great playing.

Thanks for your insights and I look forward to more EJ covers if you are planning to. :+1:t3:

PS. edit: silly gear question: what kind of brand and gauge strings do you use? 9s? 10s?

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I can’t add any more to that really. Well said :slight_smile:

For brand, either EB or Daddario whichever is available, usually 10 46 on strats and 11 48 on les pauls but recently I stepped half size down on les pauls so 10.5 to 48 it is. For half step down, then up a gauge so that the tensions even out. I go through strings quickly so I buy them cheaply in bulks,

I’m quite picky about gear when it comes to fundamentals like picks, guitar setup, and amps, but less so for pedals (as long as it’s a derivative of a circuit I’m familiar with) & strings (as long as the gauge is alright).

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^^This!!! I so wanna see EJ in the CTC studio… or Troy in EJ’s saucer studio…

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Peter your playing is phenomenal. I am one of those lucky bastards that got to see Eric live from 1986 through 1991. I was in college at the time and a friend and I were obsessed with Eric, so we’d go wherever he played in Texas. Often we were right at the stage, EJ and his Marshalls taking our heads off. Pure heaven! I would almost (almost) trade those experiences to be able to play EJ like you do. Thanks for inspiring me to keep trying! -angel

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Thanks :slight_smile: That’s very kind of you. In the same vein, just as you would trade experiences, his music is why I didn’t quit playing.

I wasn’t even born in that era then so I only got to see him in 2012 when I was still living in NYC. I wish there were more bootlegs available online because I think I’ve exhausted most. I can only imagine how surreal it all felt. He deserves all the respect in the world.