This is probably the hardest solo I have ever attempted to play in my life
I say “attempt” because there are still a lot of rough edges to straighten out, but it’s a start.
This is also a solo that would have been literally impossible for me to play if I wouldn’t have come across CTC. Thanks to @Troy, the CTC Cascade (Eric Johnson playing analysis) material and the CTC forum members, the veil that surrounds the incredible playing of EJ had at least partly been lifted.
Still, this particular solo has not been dissected in the Cascade material (you can’t expect Troy to analyze dozens of EJ solos note-for-note, although it is on my Christmas wish list, as is trying to get EJ to do an interview with Troy, that would be the ultimate ) and it had lots of spots where I was left scratching my head. Like, “How on Earth do I manage to cram 32 notes into 1 bar of music without hurting myself?”
Another tricky part is that this solo has most likely been recorded at a slower speed (around 65bpm, 440HZ) and then sped up to 73bpm (445Hz), which is 12% faster, and at some spots you can hear that there has been comping going on.
So not only is this solo incredibly challenging to play at the speed it was originally recorded at, but I was also expected to “outperform” EJ in terms of speed, to reach the 73bpm mark.
To say that this was a tall order, is an extreme understatement to say the least.
However, thanks to CTC I knew that if a person on this planet existed that would be able to help me (besides Troy and Eric Johnson himself), it would be the EJ-wizard @Peter_C, who had blown me away with his incredibly soulful covers of EJ solos that I couldn’t even play in my dreams.
So I took the step and contacted Peter. I asked him if there was hope for someone like me. Fortunately, Peter didn’t laugh in my face at having the audacity of aspiring to play EJ solos note-for-note and kindly took on the challenge of teaching me all of the gems he had discovered after years of blood, sweat and tears of living, breathing and playing the EJ catalogue.
Now, three months later, this is the result. So basically this is a huge thank you towards Troy, the CTC community and of course my teacher/mentor/guitar-guru/friend Peter C., who took my playing and especially the joy that I feel while playing to a level I couldn’t have had imagined even 2 years ago. The good news is that I feel I’m just at the beginning. But before I get too overly emotional, let’s continue to the technical stuff.
Now about the solo. The most difficult part about playing EJ stuff for me personally is the fact that you have to get so many aspects right to be able to even come remotely close to doing EJ’s playing justice.
The tone, the phrasing, the mechanics, timing, chord playing, lead playing, insane speeds, fretboard knowledge, note choice, dynamics, inflection, vibrato, bending, sliding, the guitar set-up, the way of practicing, the strings, the pick, how to mix picking with legato, the right hand and especially the left hand…EJ has mastered all this at such a high level that attempting to play his stuff feels like trying to paint a Rembrandt painting while all you can do is draw stick figures. That’s how it felt for me.
Fortunately, Peter has been able to teach me slowly but surely to make the transition from drawing stick figures to painting, which is a sometimes frustrating, but very rewarding process.
There have been days where I would play a certain EJ lick, say the first speed run at 0:12 seconds in the video, for literary 1-2 hours straight, and still at the end of it I was left wondering if I would ever be able to play it at speed. Fortunately, having someone like Peter showing the way, correcting my mistakes, adjusting my technique and encouraging me to keep at is invaluable for making progress, especially when the going gets tough. The reward is that mastering such a lick unlocks certain synchronization skills and subconscious mechanics that make playing many other similar licks much easier.
One of the most important things I have learned is that having a community/course collection like CTC is incredibly important to have some consensus and proof about how stuff works, but if you add a real life guitar teacher to that you get to a whole different level.
I am a guitar teacher myself, but it took being in the position of a student again to really appreciate how important one-on-one guidance is from a real life teacher, especially if you feel stuck, but even if you feel confident you can bet on it that there are many aspects of your playing that can be improved while you are not even aware of it.
My advise to all struggling CTCers/players out there, like I was/am myself when attempting EJ solos, is to find a teacher that can show you the stuff you want to learn. Not only will you be able to learn the stuff you want, which is super enjoyable, but you will also learn tons of stuff you didn’t know you were missing and be able to correct mistakes you didn’t even know you were making. Just make sure it’s a good teacher In that regard I couldn’t have wished for a better one than @Peter_C
Enough talk, back to woodshedding, grtz, Niko