Argument Paper-Best Guitarist Essay, Research Paper
The Best of the Best
The best guitarist, who is it? This is an argument that has been amongst many musicians for many years. But who is the hands down best guitarist? From my viewpoint the answer is obvious. Joe Satriani without a doubt is the best guitarist alive today and perhaps the best guitarist ever. I can already hear the responses from the crowd. What about Jimi Hendrix, Eric Clapton, Jimmy Page, Eddie Van Halen, or perhaps Steve Vai and Eric Johnson? All of these players are good guitarists, but they are not the best. Compare each guitar player to Joe Satriani, and you will clearly see who is the best.
First off, one of the biggest misconceptions among guitarists is that Jimi Hendrix is the best guitarist to ever live. Granted he is good, but without a doubt he is not the best. Lets face the facts; Jimi Hendrix is a legend because of his untimely death. The performance he is most remembered for is the playing of the Star Spangled Banner at Woodstock. Was this performance technically hard? Not at all, the Star Spangled Banner is one of the easiest songs for a musician to play. What Jimi Hendrix is most remembered for was his experimentation with sound effects and being one of the forerunners of the rock guitar. The thing is, Jimi Hendrix was mainly a one-dimensional guitarist, and he knew few other styles besides rock. Satriani on the other hand, is known for his versatility. Besides his hard pounding riffs he is also known for his knowledge of jazz. In 1974, he studied with two modern jazz masters, Billy Bauer and Lennie Tristano. Also, Hendrix cannot match Satriani’s finger speed and the clarity of the tones he plays on his guitar. Hendrix will always be a classic guitar player, and he is known for being one of thee best, but he lacks the skills to be considered better than Satriani.
Another guitarist who many people consider to be the best is Eric Clapton. Nobody will ever forget his performance at MTV’s Unplugged; it shows his talent at being able to play both the electric guitar and the acoustic guitar. However, most guitarists will know that Clapton is known for incorporating various blues scales into his music. Granted Clapton plays the blues guitar very well, it is a trait of his guitar playing that he is well known for. However, most guitarists should also know that blues is one of the easier forms of music to learn how to play. Blues guitar is simple, and often uses the simple pentatonic scales in his solos. It may sound pleasing to the ear, but most musicians should be able to pick up the fact that his solos are missing the complexity that most guitar solos contain. In comparison to Eric Clapton’s solos, Joe Satriani’s solos are very complex. As a matter of fact, one of the things that Satriani is famous for is his pitch axis theory. It is his style of playing guitar. A basic overview of the pitch axis theory is his use of different tones. For example, if he is in C major he will use C Dorian scales, C phyrgian scales, and c mixolydian scales on top of the rhythm and the other players in his band. He uses these combinations of scales to mix up his sound but they will all revolve around the same harmonic center, C. In comparison to Clapton’s use of pentatonic scales, it is obvious to see that Satriani’s solos are much more complex than his counterparts.
What about Jimmy Page? Surely Stairway to Heaven is one of the greatest guitar songs ever written. As a guitar player, and I am sure other guitar players will support me, Page’s songs are not that hard to learn. Most guitar players should be able to play Stairway to Heaven by the third year they are playing the guitar. However Satriani’s songs are much more complicated and takes years of mastery of the guitar to learn his music. Page’s music was complex, and he is a very talented player. But once again he lacks the talent that Satriani has and Satriani’s understanding of music in general.
Another common name that is brought up during this debate is Eddie Van Halen. Listen to one of Eddie Van Halen’s compositions such as Eruption, and you might begin to think that Van Halen is the best guitarist around. However, Van Halen does not have the solo collection of music that Joe Satriani has. Eddie Van Halen is in a band, and he has never released his own work by himself. Joe Satriani however is a solo artist. He writes all the music by himself, including bass lines and lyrics if there are any. Plus, Satriani has also had experience in playing in bands just like Eddie Van Halen. He has played lead guitar for the Rolling Stones during one of their tours and his known for his very successful G3 tour. (The G3 tour featured Steve Vai, Eric Johnson, and Joe Satriani touring together.) When it comes to speed, Van Halen and Satriani might be tied. The debate between these two is tough, but the toss up has to go to Satriani. This is because Satriani beats Van Halen when it comes to clarity of his music, and the melodic tones his songs often contain.
For the hardcore guitar addicts out there, many of them will bring up the names Steve Vai and Eric Johnson. Steve Vai’s solo works are more known for his fast movements and his experimentation with different guitar sound effects. However one must remember this, Joe Satriani taught Steve Vai. Steve Vai was one of Satriani’s first students, and even though Steve Vai is good, he does not have the same amount of talent concerning melodic tones that Satriani has. Eric Johnson on the other hand is known for his knowledge of tones, and he might be able to match Satriani’s knowledge of jazz and harmonic scales, however Johnson is not as fast as Satriani and does not have the range of ability that Satriani has. Also, Eric Johnson cannot match Satriani’s mastery of sound effects the he also uses in his music.
Plain and simple, if you wanted to create the perfect guitarist, Joe Satriani would be it. The speed with which he moves up and down the fret board of his Ibanez guitar is simply amazing to watch. Plus, if you listen closely enough you can hear his different use of different types of scales and how he is able to connect them smoothly and efficiently in his solos. Very few guitarists can match Satriani’s knowledge of melodic tones and his ability to play his guitar with amazing speed and heavenly clarity. He taught many of the guitarists you hear today, such as Kirk Hammlet (Metallica), Larry Lalonde (Primus), and David Bryson (Counting Crowes). His knowledge of guitar is endless. No guitarists can match Joe Satriani’s range of guitar playing methods, and none can match his speed and clarity of sound. So if you were going to give an award for the best guitarist alive, without a doubt it would be Joe Satriani.