When children are young and musically enthusiastic or inclined, it isn’t a shocking thing to hear them wanting to pick up the (electric) guitar. Everyone wants to be at the centre of the stage, belting out some mean rhythms and riffs or ‘flying’ via six strings with speedy solos, gathering followers wherever they go. The guitar is and has always been the most versatile instrument that one can hone their musical skills over. And while there is no solid definition of a ‘good’ guitarist, these fine folks come in all shape and sizes.
Perhaps the first individual that comes to mind is the mighty talented and seldom heard of guitarist from Belgium, Django Reinhardt. This virtuoso guitarist invented a new style of playing jazz, often referred to as the ‘hot’ jazz technique. Born into a family of gypsies, Django founded co-founded the Quintette du Hot Club de France with masterful violinist Stéphane Grappelli. Known for many famous tunes, Django’s gypsy jazz is easily recognisable when one hears songs like Belleville, Minor Swing and Georgia on My Mind. What most people fail to overlook is the fact that when he was 18, Django’s caravan caught fire and he suffered first and second degree burns all over his body – even his hands. The third and fourth fingers of his left hand were left completely paralysed after the incident. Doctors believed he would never be able to play the guitar and wanted to amputate his bad fingers in case of infection but Django wouldn’t have it and left the hospital as soon as he was able to walk. Now when you hear him gliding all over the fret board of the guitar, remember that he is only using his index and middle finger to do it!
There are some guitarists who can ‘shred’ or play with virtuoso speed without missing a beat and then there are some who can take you to the highest highs and lowest lows with just a few notes. David Gilmour is one such individual. Everyone has heard of Pink Floyd – Gilmour joined the band in 1967 and a year later, replaced the LSD-addled Syd Barett to assume the lead guitarist’s position. He planted his roots firmly in the Pink Floyd school of rock and his solos are now renowned for their technique and his playing style speaks volumes for itself. Known for contributing shimmery, magical guitars to immortal songs like Breathe, Money, Time, Comfortably Numb, and others, Gilmour can sing beautifully as well. The songs Wish You Were Here, Goodbye Blue Sky and Coming Back to Life stand to reason him as a talented vocalist, sometimes overshadowed by the brooding figure of Roger Waters.
Sometimes, a precious and promising life of a musician is cut short by a terrible incident. Duane Allman, who was a primary co-founder of the southern rock group The Allman Brothers Band, passed away, at the summit of his powers at the age of 24. A reputed session guitarist, the legacy Duane left behind, however, is for all to hear and be amazed by. Blue Sky, is a song one should hear to feel uplifted every time they are in a rut, Duane’s heavenly slide guitar in the song stands as a testament to his mad skills as a musician.