Eric Johnson- Venus Isle Solo Cover by Peter C

[Edit: Re-uploaded with louder guitars.]

Hey all,

If there ever was an archetypal EJ solo from a composition/tone/phrasing/speed/duration standpoint, out of all his pieces, I’d have to pick Venus Isle above any other.

I had attempted this before (like many others) but I felt I had half-assed it with lazy chops and used whatever I had, so this time I felt like doing it justice so that I don’t have to redo anything in the near future.

The more and more I get the picking mechanics under by fingers (at least the relevant ones for EJ style playing), the more liberating it is in terms of the rhythm and swing it offers (in that you can break up notes, rush and drag target notes etc.) and it is an incredibly consistent mechanical tool that it’s there even on a bad day.

Yet with this realization I am also reminded that no matter the technical mastery of some guitar technique, one is always at square one so to speak, that still the notes have to speak, and to this day above speed or any other aspect of playing, the little inflections and tone of the note is the most difficult of all to nail down on a daily basis. I guess the little things keep you honest.

In terms of playing the piece, oddly enough, I dreaded the slower arpeggiated parts and couldn’t wait until the speed runs came along since it’d be somewhat automated (it’s basically DWPS and a combination of slide/pull-offs). Venus Isle as an album has much more dynamic playing than Ah Via Musicom I feel and thus it’s so much more difficult that it sounds.

The gear is just a reissue strat through a ts-808 and a marshall on 10, both channels jumpered.

As always thanks in advance for watching and it’s always cool to discuss and share EJ anecdotes with you CTC folks.


Wow, great playing, you nailed it !
One of my favourite EJ solos too, great choice. How long have you been working on it ?


I had the first few bars for at least a good year or two but it really was only very recently that I buckled down and cleaned up the rough bits and learned it all the way through :slight_smile:

Thanks for the kind words


Great job as usual :slight_smile:

Totally agree! For me the worst “red light syndrome” occurs when I’m doing bendings and vibrato (or attempting to hehe!). Or generally anything that needs to be phrased meaningfully.

Of course I also tense up for difficult/fast passages, but slightly less so!

As I press record, i turn into : “yes he makes many mistakes, but he also has no feel” :stuck_out_tongue_winking_eye:


The red light syndrome is much worse than stage fright- at least there usually won’t be a legally binding record of the latter. For me, the idea that something is left behind really makes me paranoid- and the very thing that led me to “enjoy” stage fright for it’s only a passing moment.

What I’m trying to do is sort of a middle of the road approach to straight up speed + economy, which is basically another way of saying I want to incorporate “swing” into speed licks via slides, hammer ons, and the occasional burst which takes it from a triplet to a 5. That way I don’t always have to go so fast and even the “wrong” inflections get buried. More musical, more spontaneous, less effort, win win all around for me :slight_smile:


I have to say, that you have really inspired me to try and buckle down and hammer out EJs techniques. I have been a big fan of his for a number of years, but was always into the 3 notes per string styles of Yngwie or Paul Gilbert. Because of you, I signed up for a year (they should give you a discount!). Thanks for posting your videos and explaining the process so well. In the short month that I have been a member, I have gone from an upward pick slanting elbow picker, to being able to play from the wrist and getting a lot more consistent. The bonus is that when I switch back to 3 note per string riffs, I’m so much cleaner and articulate. It’s like carrying that precise EJ sound to Yngwie licks.

Regarding your playing and process, what are you using for recording, are you micing, or are you going through a two notes? I know it’s in the fingers and technique, but you have captured his tone as well.


That is awesome. Thanks for signing up and glad you’re seeing some solid progress! And big thanks @Peter_C for the inspiration with your fantastic show and tell posts. Per above suggestion, happy to give you a free month subscription or one of our downloads as referral bonus :smiley: (email us if that’s of interest!)

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Thanks for the kind words- it’s the highest praise one can receive when someone tells you that you are the reason for them being inspired to get better (and achieving it).

Like you, as soon as I got the pick slant right and adjusted the grip, it became a joy for me to learn.

“Regarding your playing and process, what are you using for recording, are you micing, or are you going through a two notes?”

For this track, it was a 57 CS reissue strat with a ts808 set at noon, marshall 2061x head both channels on 10 jumpered, suhr reactive load, logic x torpedo WoS greenback 4x12 with a single sm57.

If I want more sustain, I add another ts808, or switch to my les paul, which is simpler, but I need very bright and clean sounds so the strat is on merits of versatility. Sometimes a loud amp on 10 can start sounding too loose on the lower end, so I dial the amp back to about 8 and then play around with various other dirtboxes. I also use an echoplex style pedal before the amp so that I get 3-4 repeats of 420ms delay that you hear ducking once I am done playing.

I also use a 65 fender princeton reverb, but it’s mostly clean- set around 3-4. Occasionally I run it at 6-7 with a lot of other dirt pedals if I want a slightly buzzier lead tone.

I like the ease of virtual micing through a home daw, but I still prefer the sound of micing through an analog console.


Wow! Thanks Brendan, I am totally taking advantage of that- will send you folks an email today :slight_smile:

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Thanks for the detailed response, it’s much appreciated. I have a pretty extensive setup, but am currently running a BB+ for distortion and my rack for delays. I have an EJ sig strat, which is a pretty sweet guitar. I’ve been looking at the echoplex pedals, for a front end delay/added distortion/boost. I have a Marshall clone that has a plexi channel and a hot rodded 800. Mostly, I’m using the plexi channel, which gets me close. I was debating on buying a fuzz pedal, perhaps the EJ signature, but hearing your take on his playing, it’s reminded me yet again that tone is mostly in the fingers.

When you’re recording, are you going straight from the reactive load into your DAW? Or are you using it as an attenuation and micing? I’m using Reaper with the NadIR for cabs, which has worked so far, but I’m always looking for newer/better.

Thanks again for all of the information and the inspiration!

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I think your gear setup should get you started. Only thing I might add would be the catalinbread BE (either standard or deluxe- standard is very cheap used), since it gets the bottom end thickness happening. I had an EJ sig myself- wonderful guitars.

The fuzz is more a personal choice and it’s not the most critical ingredient in copping the tones- but I do use it on my desert rose covers (on here actually). On albums, it’s very sparsely done considering it’s widespread reputation, but it’s nothing that can’t be done with his standard lead tone or the like. Live it’s a different story.

I use an analogman version of what he would have used in that era- I also put it after a ts808 so that the ts808 buffer does neat things to it. Purists will disagree but I wasn’t aware there was much purity associated with fuzz in the first place and there is also good evidence to believe EJ did this way too for this rhythm fuzz-lead setup. If any, the proof is in the tone; no way to get that fuzz lead without some mods (within the fuzz circuit, or the signal chain itself).

But if you’re going for that era fuzz tone, I wouldn’t get his signature. It’s too polite- the JH-F1 silicon teal blue one is better for that kind of thing provided you have the amp (or model) and the signal chain.

The dirt pedals I use most for this type of lead playing is tubescreamers, fet drivers (mxr or butler), and silicon fuzzes with very little bass. I also use a foxrox octron for the really noisy parts in desert rose. A wah wah here and there just to spice up repetitive lines.

The marshall 2061x is sent straight to RL into logic x where I can open up Two Notes WoS. The RL doesn’t have attenuation- it’s either silent or direct through (full volume). The virtual cab is just a 4x12 greenback with a single sm57. The recording process itself is silent. I monitor and record with pretty loud headphones though- just bog standard atm-50s or grados- which i usually only reserve for listening). I’m usually not micing with the actual cab and mic (though I do have them and should use them). I have not tried the other IRs, but I assume they’re all pretty good enough to get the job done.

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