(Top photo by Baptiste Lacroix)
Failure to Fracture, Anthony Garone’s book, is providing an interesting roadmap toward my revamped approach to guitar. Robert Fripp’s methods provide an interesting roadmap to solid fundamentals.
That being said, I can already see the first speed bumps.
While I have nothing but respect for Robert and Anthony, theirs is not the guitar style I wish most to fully emulate. When I’m asked for my favorite guitarist, I point to three.
Jimi Hendrix for inspiration.
Jeff Beck for expression.
Adrian Belew for innovation.
None of these players are rooted in Fripp’s fundamental approach to the guitar. And therein sits the point.
This is not to say I play these three guitarist all day, every day. There are tons of other players I admire. But when push comes to shove, Jimi, Jeff, and Ade are whom I lean to first. They are the root of my Tree of Influence.
Can I reconcile the precise methodology of Fripp with the occasional carefree abandon of my Top Three, I wondered? I also wondered if anyone else dealt with such an issue.
On a whim, I texted singer/songwriter/guitarist Rob Fetters to see if he could offer some insight. I figured he’d get back to me in a day or so. Ten minutes later, my phone rang.
I told Rob what I was doing and how I was thinking about doing it. Then I explained my dilemma. Our FaceTime wasn’t working, but I could hear his guitar. He, too, appreciated Fripp’s methodology, but he also told me how Beck bristled at such a thing. “He said, ‘Why would I do that when I have all these other fingers to use,’” Rob told me.
Rob himself uses a method that combines flat- and fingerpicking, often during the same riff. In the end, he offered a simple and logical piece of advice. “Just do what feels comfortable,” he said.
Makes sense to me.
There are definitely places where Fripp’s methods will come in handy. I don’t aim to play a lot of lightning-fast single-note runs, but I can definitely see arpeggios becoming easier. I can also imagine improved rhythm playing and comping during jazz pieces.
But for leads, I’ll have to stray outside of the Fripp box. Adrian has solid picking technique, but often lets his bottom three fingers open up so he can grab and manipulate his tremolo bar. Jeff often doesn’t use a pick at all, which is how he’s able to wring such beautiful dynamics out of his Stratocaster. While Jimi was just on another plane altogether (though he had a deep admiration for Fripp’s abilities).
In the end, I believe I’m looking for a hybrid of these styles, depending on what is being played at the time. Call it regimented recklessness. Not that I consider non-Fripp styles reckless, per se. They just seem a bit more … open-ended.
Somewhere in there lies my style. It’ll take a little doing, but I’ll find it.
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