Ibanez JEM-EVO & JEM 70V Review


There are only 100 Ibanez JEM-EVO guitars being made – each one a hand-crafted replica of Steve Vai’s own legendary guitar – issued to commemorate the guitarist’s 25 year association with the company. Now, for the first time, Ibanez is also offering a more affordable version of the Vai masterpiece, the JEM70V. iGuitar was privileged to be loaned one of the only two JEM-EVOs coming to the UK. We also borrowed a JEM 70V to compare the two.Tom Quayleput them side by side and let them shoot it out!

Before teaming-up with Ibanez to produce the JEM series of guitars, Steve Vai was using typical ’80s super-strats like Charvels and Jacksons. He often customised these early instruments with modifications to the whammy bar cavity, scalloped the upper frets and added deeper cutaways for easier access. Once his career began to take off a few years later, it was inevitable that such a stunning player would be snapped-up by a major guitar brand and the honour, when it came, went to Japanese guitar masters, Ibanez.

Thus, the Ibanez JEM was born in 1987 and it certainly didn’t disappoint, being the perfect accompaniment to Steve’s radical and creative technique and creative and featuring all of the innovations that Vai had attempted on his previous guitars such as the Monkey Grip, Lion Claw bridge cavity, super-slim 24-fret neck, scalloped upper frets and deeper cutaways. 25 years later, it has proved to be one of the most successful modern designs and the inspiration for a whole generation of new players and guitar builders.

Over the years there have been many iterations of the JEM series but for 2012 Ibanez has released two really interesting variations that add something new to the design, guaranteed to excite both the collector and the more budget-minded player. The JEM-EVO is an incredible artistic pursuit to create a carbon copy of Steve’s original EVO guitar, complete with every ding and scrape, crack and flaw. It is a real marvel to behold and represents the highest level of Ibanez’s Japanese output. The JEM 70V, meanwhile, is a little closer to the other end of the price scale, occupying territory that a JEM has never previously entered, being a budget-friendly Indonesian made ‘Premium’ model, attempting to match the quality of the Japanese models at a more affordable price. Before you reel in horror at the idea of an Indonesian-made JEM, rest assured that some of the best factory produced guitars iGuitar has seen in the past year or two have been made in Indonesia. Several major brands are now being produced there and we have seen some stunning results.

As you can imagine, we started by checking out the EVO model (I was too excited not to!) only to find out that we had model 1 of 100! Well, that’s how it seemed. Later, we learned that to avoid disappointment, Steve Vai has ordained that every one of them is being numbered one out of a hundred. Oh well!

There is always a sense of occasion when you are confronted with something as rare as this and you know, as soon as you see the included heavy-duty case, that something amazing awaits inside. Just to prolong the suspense, let me add that this is easily the best Ibanez case I’ve seen and would survive a direct hit, so it’s perfect for the collectors, at whom I assume this guitar is aimed.

And once you finally pluck-up your courage and open the sarcophagus? What you find within is a guitar that looks exactly, stunningly, like Steve’s original guitar, in every way possible. Exactly as you’d hope, the EVO features an alder body, maple neck and rosewood fretboard with the iconic abalone/pearl ‘Tree of Life’ inlay. But those are just the bare facts of the matter. Ibanez has surpassed itself here in the level of detail in this re-creation. Every single scratch, dent and flaw has been reproduced in painstaking detail, right down to a simulated neck joint crack that matches the actual crack on Steve’s guitar. It even has tape appearing to hold the neck pickup in place, in honour of the original!

Whether you’re into the idea of aged/stressed guitars or not, you have to appreciate the sheer craftsmanship and artistry that has gone into this guitar. All the hardware is exactly as you would want it, from the monkey grip, the DiMarzio Evolution pickups in an HSH configuration, the original Edge tremolo with Lion Claw (some say this is the best version Ibanez ever released and I agree), a locking nut, scalloped frets, jumbo Dunlop fret wire and back stops to support tuning stability. The EVO logo is present and for the sake of detail Ibanez has even used Velcro to attach the back plate and pick holder as on Steve’s guitar. This is a JEM through and through but not just any JEM – this is Steve Vai’s actual guitar, or as close as you’re ever going to get to it! What’s more, Mr Vai has even signed every single one, in the exact place on the guitar where his own bears the signature of the late Les Paul, enscribed on the latter’s 95th birthday.

As you would expect, the EVO’s playability is supreme, thanks to a super low action, matched with the slimmer than normal neck profile and a fantastic set-up. The EVO almost plays itself and feels just like a well-worn friend that you’ve known for 25 years. Ibanez has left the neck finish as close to bare as possible, simulating years of use and as such it feels fast and smooth. The Edge bridge stays in tune perfectly, thanks to the back stop, and performs all of Vai’s whammy bar dives and squeals with perfect accuracy. The Evolution pickups are tight and aggressive sounding, with a clarity that gives almost a Hi-Fi like tone. The neck pickup is creamier and allows for a full range of sounds from warm cleans to thick, saturated leads, all the while retaining clarity. This is a very versatile guitar thanks to the HSH set-up and can reproduce both Strat and Les Paul like tones in addition to a wide range of sounds of its own.

So is the JEM-EVO as good as we hoped it would be? Unquestionably! Whoever buys one of these guitars is getting as close to owning Steve Vai’s own guitar as it could be, without buying it off him and for a collector that accuracy is what matters.

It does, of course, come at a very substantial price, so what about those of us who would dearly love to own something like it, but don’t seem able to find that much loose change down the back of the sofa?

We were expecting a bit of a disappointment from the JEM 70V, to be frank. How could you not be a bit underwhelmed after playing a guitar as stunningly good as the EVO? But we were wrong. Very wrong. In fact I was surprised to find that this guitar feels almost as good to play as the EVO itself!

True, the Indonesian version features a different construction in order to save cost, so we have a sea-foam green basswood body with a five-piece maple/walnut neck and a rosewood fretboard. The rosewood grain is nowhere near as dark and tight as the EVO’s but it still looks great sporting the ‘Tree of Life’ inlay in matching sea-foam green. There’s no abalone or pearl going on here either, but the inlay work is still flawless. All the JEM’s hardware is identical to that on the Japanese model, too, featuring proper DiMarzio Evolution pickups, Edge bridge with lion claw and monkey grip. The sea-foam green finish won’t be for everyone but I loved it and it looks a lot better in person than in pictures. The fretwork, which can often be a problem on lower priced models, was also very good with no sharp or unfinished ends and whilst the neck is a little thicker than the EVO model’s, the set-up on our sample was very good, with a low action and even feel across the whole range. There were a couple of tiny finish flaws around the neck joint but nothing to cause any concern. This is undeniably a very well made guitar.

But the real surprise is in the playability and tonal performance. This 70V model is a superb guitar to play, featuring some amazing tones and a set-up that plays almost as easily as the EVO version. This is a real triumph for Ibanez and an impressive achievement, given that their Japanese instruments are as good as it gets. The neck feels incredibly comfortable and smooth and thanks to the same Edge Bridge and locking nut, tuning stability is perfect, even after very aggressive whammy bar antics.

Tonally the 70V is in the same world as its bigger brother and has a tight, aggressive output that is perfect for harder Rock and Metal material, giving a gorgeous tone for lead work that really responds well to pick attack and volume changes. The HSH set-up is very versatile and both guitars surpass their stereotypical image, being useful for many other styles too.

Both of these guitars represent the best of Ibanez’s work and it’s a real testament to the company’s commitment to quality that they can produce an Indonesian made JEM that feels so close to the real deal. Whilst I love both guitars I can’t justify giving the EVO a 4.5 or 5 star score as it is just so expensive. It’s really for collectors only, which is a shame in a sense, as it’s a supremely playable guitar that looks and sounds insanely cool too.

The 70V, on the other hand, seems like a complete no-brainer to me, providing you can live with the colour. True, it still isn’t a cheap instrument but it sells for a fraction of the price of the ‘real thing’ and it gets terrifyingly, impressively close to it!
Source: www.iguitarmag.com

Epiphone Joe Bonamassa Les Paul Goldtop Electric Guitar Review

Written by: Adam Perlmutter (www.premierguitar.com)
It’s more than creativity for a guitarist to forge his own musical identity within the confines of the minor pentatonic scale. Joe Bonamassa is one of the elite group of players who have managed to do so—often with the assistance one of his Gibson Les Pauls, from an original 1959 Standard to recent Historic reissues. To honor Bonamassa and his accomplishments, Gibson offers a costly Custom Shop signature model (MSRP $6491). But for those with thinner billfolds, Epiphone has released a special version of Gibson’s Bonamassa model—retailing for less than a fifth of the price and limited to 1,000 instruments.

Student of the Old School, a Foot in the New…
The Epiphone Bonamassa model is very much a traditional Les Paul, built around a solid mahogany body, a hard maple cap, and a thick mahogany neck with an old-style long tenon that extends well into the neck pocket for strength and sustain. Other traditional appointments on the Bonamassa include a rosewood fretboard with pearloid trapezoidal inlays and single-ply crème binding around the neck and the top of the body.

The Bonamassa departs from tradition a bit too. It’s got a black-painted back where the original Goldtop’s is natural mahogany. And while a ’50s Les Pauls has crème pickup surrounds, pickguard, toggle-switch washer and tip, those parts on this guitar are all black. Instead of Kluson tuners, with their green plastic buttons, the Bonamassa is equipped with higher-performance 14:1 Grovers. Other modern touches include Epiphone’s LockTone Tune-o-matic bridge, stopbar tailpiece, and strap locks. And the control panel includes the eccentric combination of two amber ’50s-style top hat knobs and two gold ’60s-style reflector knobs (though in this reviewer’s opinion, the guitar would look better with a matched quartet of black reflector knobs).

Electronics include Gibson’s Burstbucker 2 and 3 pickups in the neck and bridge positions, respectively. The 2, which has a medium output, is wound in the range of Gibson’s ’57s Classic and patterned after the original P.A.F. humbucking pickup. The 3 is over-wound for a slightly hotter sound that works well in concert with the 2. Both pickups are controlled by a standard three-way switch.

Bonamassa’s Epi comes inside a very cool case patterned after the classic Lifton “Cali Girl,” brown on the exterior and pink on the interior, but featuring sturdy modern construction—a scheme that Gibson Custom ought to use in its Historic line of ’50s reissues. It also includes a certificate of authenticity hand-signed by Bonamassa himself.

Craftsmanship on our Chinese-made test model is quite good. The fretwork is super tidy and the slots for the nut and saddles are cleanly cut. The neck is situated solidly in its pocket and the binding is tight and flush throughout. A hint of an orange-peel effect can be found here and there on the finish, which seems just a bit thick, but then again it is not uncommon to find this subtle irregularity on guitars at many times the price.

Heavy Feel, Heavy Sound
When I removed the Epiphone Bonamassa from its case, the first thing I noticed was that it was pretty heavy at 9.5 pounds. (Most Gibson Historics, for reference, weigh in at less than nine.) The neck, with its rounded ’50s “D” profile—the contour that Gibson Custom features on the 1959 Historic Reissue—also felt pretty massive. I generally find this neck to be exaggeratedly large and not very comfortable, but it didn’t take long before it felt pretty natural given the overall heft of the guitar.

The guitar came from the factory with smooth, low action. The 24.75-inch scale neck was comfortable from the open position to the 22nd fret and was hospitable to barre chords with big stretches and rapid-fire single-note lines alike. However, the guitar felt slightly stiff when I bent some strings more than a half step, and the tuning was sometimes negatively affected by the bends.

(2 of 2)

The Joe Bonamassa Signature Les Paul features aesthetic departures from a traditional goldtop that include black pickup rings and pickguard, and a black painted back rather than the traditional natural mahogany.

No Bones About the Sound
To test the guitar, I used a Fender Pro Junior amplifier and, in certain contexts, a Freyette S.A.S. distortion pedal. With this streamlined setup the Bonamassa sounded great, and it’s unlikely that a blindfolded listener would be able to identify it as a $700 import.Overall, I find the combination of Gibson’s 1 and 2 Burstbuckers seen in the Historic Les Pauls to be a little smoother than the 2 and 3 package, but the latter really shone in the context of the Bonamassa model. On the neck pickup, it was easy to get a sustaining violin-like tone for blues-rock riffing and soloing. With the tone and volume rolled back, the pickup sounded just warm enough for jazz and worked nicely for some single-note bebop lines as well as some Wes Montgomery–style octaves and chord melodies. In a completely different direction, I was able to get a massive metal sound with an ample amount of clarity by tuning the guitar to drop D and dialing in a crushing amount of distortion on pedal, even with the Junior, a super compact amp.

When played in tandem, the neck pickup took a little of the edge off its bridge-position mate but didn’t blunt the attack. This was my favorite setting; it delivered excellent rhythm and lead tones

The bridge pickup had a nice bite and none of the muddiness sometimes associated with humbuckers. While slightly edgy on account of its higher output, it accurately reported every little detail and worked equally well for a cutting solo in A minor pentatonic, a bit of Brian Setzer–approved soloing, and some crunchy rhythm work in both standard and open G tunings. It sounded great for some slide playing in the latter, though the action was of course a bit low.

When played in tandem, the neck pickup took a little of the edge off its bridge-position mate but didn’t blunt the attack. This was my favorite setting; it delivered excellent rhythm and lead tones and, with adjustments on the S.A.S. pedal, proved impartial to genre.

The Verdict
Epiphone’s limited-edition Joe Bonamassa Les Paul is a smart, affordable guitar that borrows certain features—like a long neck tenon joint and Burstbucker pickups—from its more costly Gibson counterparts. It retails for a fraction of the price of a top-of-the-line Les Paul from Gibson’s Custom Shop but plays and sounds superb. And, given the guitar’s scarcity, it would make an excellent investment for the diehard Bonamassa fan. But whether you’re as Bonamassa loyalist or fan of great affordable Les Pauls, you should plan on moving fast if you’re interested. 1,000 guitars this good, this inexpensive, won’t last very long.

Buy if…
You want a nice Les Paul but can’t afford a USA or Historic model, or if you’re way into Joe Bonamassa.
Skip if…
you only play American-made guitars or you’ve got a stable of Historic Les Pauls.

Read more: http://www.premierguitar.com/Magazine/Issue/2011/May/Epiphone_Joe_Bonamassa_Les_Paul_Goldtop_Electric_Guitar_Review.aspx?Page=2#ixzz2DblqLO1d

Review: Jon Lord’s studio account of the Concerto for Group and Orchestra

Exclusive review by Vincent Budd for JonLord.org. Previously, Vincent wrote ’The Gemini Man: an Introduction to the Orchestral Works of Jon Lord’ published in 2003.

This studio account of the Concerto for Group and Orchestra is Jon’s final statement of his prized composition.  It is a glittering new take on his glorious opus and, for those of us who have taken the work to our hearts, we have here another superlative version to cherish. It is a deeply moving experience made even more affecting by the composer’s passing.

Guy Pratt (bass), Jon Lord, Paul Mann during the Liverpool recording sessions. Photo: Mick Gregory


Taking the Concerto on the road around the world with Deep Purple and hearing various other renditions over the years have clearly enabled Jon to refine the orchestral parts even further. There are some delightful additions and modifications to the scoring but, rest assured, they do not interfere with the original integrity of the work. Although, there is a certain inevitable loss of immediate, edge-of-seat tension that becomes a live presentation, conductor Paul Mann and the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra conjure up an outstanding, vibrant, luminous orchestral display: it is a beautifully expressive and passionate performance. The group/orchestral dynamics are wholehearted and finely judged. The tutti sections are lucid and, vitally, the finer points of the scoring are fully resonant. The recording is full, sharp, and delightfully dynamic – the sound of the band and the orchestra together is simply breathtaking at times.

The most obviously divergent elements of the studio version are the performances of the new instrumentalists and vocalists. These will delightfully surprise some and disappoint others. To be sure, there are certain aspects of the band’s contributions which may take time to appreciate fully and crucial moments that do not quite bear favourable comparison to the previous accounts involving Purple. However, with due acquaintance, you will, I’m sure, soon become accustomed to the differences and happily embrace the latest members of the ’group’ and their contrasting take on the work. Very pleasingly, Jon’s Hammond provides some telling augmentations to the overall instrumentation.

That radiant clarinet melody which has become so familiar, as always, immediately brings a smile to the face and with the inspired horn statement against the strings the heart begins to quicken. The pizzicato is a joy. All is well! The opening orchestral exposition gleams majestically with fabulous new nuances. When that delightful, chirpy clarinet tune arrives and the strings marvellously reply you will, no doubt, await the entry of the band with some anticipation. Of course, Ian Paice is a virtually impossible act to follow but Brett Morgan performs exceptionally well.

Darin Vasilev very much makes the decisive first guitar passage his own. It has a highly charged, spontaneous feel yet is consummately constructed and – unlike Ritchie’s long, though exhilarating, 1969 self-indulgence – is more in proportion with Jon’s patent orchestral priorites: in fact, it is probably now a tad too short. The return of the orchestra is an astounding moment. Jon’s solo is also slightly more succinct than before but he still provides his riveting segue with the orchestra. The guitar cadenza is an unexpected, fret-melting extravaganza which, after initial misgivings, I have come to consider a major plus here. The clarinet cadenza, following the grand false ending, has now become a real tour de force. The triumphant finale is glorious as the band and the orchestra fight out for the final say. Simply awe-inspiring.

The slow movement was always a remarkable achievement. Jon’s compositional crafting and the way he movingly integrated the band and the orchestra produced a dazzling enchantment from start to finish. This studio version probably presents the most elevating orchestral rendering of the Andante yet heard. Paul Mann takes it a little slower than previously and really brings out the grace and splendour of the orchestral writing. Steve Balsamo’s more refined, delicate, less rock ‘n’ roll voice offers a highly pleasing departure from previous versions, and the addition of Kasia Laska’s female harmony adds a brilliant new dimension to this section as the two wonderfully combine.

That important moment when Jon transfigures one of his themes into an opulent Tchaikovskian gesture is magnificently played – romantic grandeur without the faintest hint of filmic bombast. Bruce Dickinson appropriately pulls off his parts duly balancing aggressiveness and finesse: indeed, he affords a glowing contrast to the proceeding vocals from Steve Balsamo and Kasia Laska and this provides a major bonus to this recording. The guitar contributions of the one and only Joe Bonamassa are stunning, and Jon’s cadenza is superbly expressive. The pastoral string quartet coda is quite wondrous. The slow movement is perhaps the most significant and gratifying departure from previous interpretations.

The third movement is one of the greatest musical excitements of our time. I never cease to wonder at this dazzling integration of the two musical forces. In terms of the new recording, this will probably be the most familiar to those who have followed the work’s progress, though there are some delightful new touches. The orchestral playing here is magnificent: the percussion and brass are stunning with telling bravura inflections. Steve Morse provides another unforgettable contribution and the organ with the accompanying strings really makes for a special moment. Sadly, the drum cadenza is little more than a brief solo and now far too fleeting. The finale where we hear themes combined in a phantasmagoria of matchless musical wonderment remains a glory of twentieth century music no less – some of the rock/orchestral interaction is here probably the most pulsating yet heard on CD – but, oh, the movement now passes all so quickly. When it finishes it is very strange not to hear a roar of approval. The silence is, as they say, deafening.

Vincent Budd is the author of ‘The Gemini Man, an Introduction to the Orchestral works of Jon Lord’

The original 1969 Malcolm Arnold/Royal Philharmonic Orchestra recording of the Concerto for Group and Orchestra is a historic, prized and beloved musical moment. It remains a remarkable achievement and still sets the pulse a-racing. The 1999 30th anniversary London Symphony Orchestra concert version was an absolute triumph for all concerned. Paul Mann’s obvious love of the work shined like a mighty lighthouse beacon and Marco de Goeij’s reconstruction of a score from the LP and the video is one of those remarkable individual endeavours for which we must be truly thankful. The essays written by Paul and Marco for the forthcoming CD will no doubt provide a fascinating and revealing read.

Some critics have deemed the Concerto for Group and Orchestra a failure. Well, if Jon failed then all I can say is: he failed quite gloriously! May God bless Jon Lord for using his musical talent and generous heart to unite different musicians and integrate contrasting musical forms into one joyous and glorious whole. The Concerto remains a unique, major, and indeed heroic contribution to twentieth century music. This was indeed ‘the best of both worlds’. It is perhaps fitting that Jon’s first orchestral work should also be his last. All those who worked on the the studio Concerto have bestowed a fabulous and fitting memorial to the composer.

This review is an edited extract from a longer piece on the history of the Concerto by Vincent Budd.

Guthrie Govan’s Freadboard Tapping – Tapper’s Delight

Tapper's Delight: 20 Tapping LicksGuthrie Govan guides you through 20 challenging tapping licks!

Fretboard tapping has earned a bad name in certain sectors of the guitar community. Some players dismiss it as a technique suitable only for perpetrating the worst possible kind of overblown, unmusical histrionics, preferably played through a wall of amps that “go to 11.”

If you feel that way, then you probably haven’t even managed to read this far. But for those of you who are still undecided about tapping, I would urge you to view the technique simply as an easy way to play notes you could never reach otherwise. If you think of your tapping fingers as extensions of your fretting hand, you’ll find it easier to imagine how this technique can benefit virtually any style of playing.

Track Record

In the world of rock, Van Halen’s self-titled 1978 debut album heralded a tapping craze that soon caught on like wildfire. In the years following the album’s release, gifted guitarists such as Randy Rhoads, Joe Satriani and Steve Vai used the technique in their own landmark recordings. If you want to hear tapping taken to new heights of invention, check out Freak Kitchen by Mattias Eklundh and Normal by Ron Thal (a.k.a. Bumblefoot).


For tapping, many players opt to use their guitar’s bright-sounding bridge pickup and a heavily distorted, or at least overdriven, tone, which serves to compresses the dynamic (volume) range of the electric guitar’s signal, amplifying the quieter notes and increasing sustain, although players like Stanley Jordan manage to tap with a very clean, neck-pickup sound. When tapping with a clean tone, you’ll find that a compressor can even out dynamics and add sustain.


Most tapping is performed on one string at a time using either the middle or index finger of the picking hand, depending on if, and how, you’re holding a pick. Some players will momentarily tuck the pick into their palm or cradle it in the crook of one of their knuckles when they go to tap and maneuver it back into its normal position (typically between the thumb and index finger) when they go to pick again. This magician-like sleight-of-hand can take a bit of practice to attain, and for this reason many players prefer to just keep the pick in its normal place and tap with the closest available finger, typically the middle. Experiment and use whichever technique works best for you. Eddie Van Halen holds his pick between his thumb and middle finger and taps with his index finger, and Rhoads tapped with the edge of his pick, which produces a very distinct articulation. (Listen closely to Rhoads’ classic solos in Ozzy Osbourne’s “Crazy Train” and “Flying High Again” to hear the subtle difference in his tapping attack.)

Your speed and proficiency will increase if you minimize your movements and keep all relevant fingertips close to the strings when not in use so that they never have far to go at any given time. Depending on whether or not you’re holding a pick when tapping, you may find that resting, or “anchoring,” the thumb or heel of your tapping hand to the top side of the fretboard helps stabilize and steady the hand and increase the accuracy of your tapping movements.

The easiest way to train the fingers of your tapping hand is to learn from the way you perform hammer-ons and pull-offs with the more experienced fingers of your fretting hand. The following principles hold true for both hands:

• If you’re hammering a note, the force of your hammering motion will dictate its volume. The harder you hammer/tap, the louder the note.
• If you’re pulling off to a note, its volume is a function of how far you flick the string sideways (either toward the floor or ceiling) with the finger responsible for fretting the preceding note. This sideways flicking, or pulling, motion actually serves to pluck the string again and is what keeps it vibrating. If you were to just lift the finger directly off the string, the following note would be weak and barely audible. (Note that when tapping with a pick, the “pulled-off” note tends to be louder than normal due to the pick’s hard surface striking the string.)


Distortion amplifies the sympathetic vibrations of unfretted strings. When tapping, you should make a concerted effort to dampen any idle strings with various parts of both hands, something that requires a bit of practice and experimentation to figure out and master. To that end, many players will place a piece of foam or fabric against the strings in front of the nut. In addition, a cheap elastic-core hair tie stretched over the headstock and positioned over the fretboard is convenient for damping the open strings.

If you’re new to tapping, allow your fingertips time to toughen up and develop the necessary calluses. Hopefully, the rest will become clear as we go. We have a lot of licks to look at in this lesson, ranging from classic hard rock and metal lines to sequencer-like patterns and bluesy runs to jazzy arpeggios, so let’s dive in.

This is arguably the most versatile approach to tapping. A lick like this could sit comfortably in any rock, metal, blues, country or fusion context without necessarily invoking visions of Eighties-era spandex fashion statements. The recorded performance of this example on this month’s CD-ROM may sound reminiscent of Eddie Van Halen’s tone, but players of diversely different styles, ranging from Billy Gibbons, Brian May and Larry Carlton, have all dabbled in this approach.

There’s a strong argument here for using the middle finger of your pick hand to tap. By doing so, you can retain the pick in its conventional position and easily revert to picking at a moment’s notice. You can improve your accuracy if you anchor the heel of your tapping hand to the wound strings. This will also help mute unwanted string vibration while it allows you to keep a grip on the pick.
One tricky aspect of tapping a bent note like this is that the string moves closer to its neighbor (in this case, the D string), so you have to be extra careful to ensure that your tapping finger only makes contact with the G string. Try to bend the G string with your fret-hand ring finger while you simultaneously push the D string up slightly with the tip of that hand’s middle finger. This can help create more clearance between the two strings and provide a little more margin for error.

The following five examples serve as a great tapping primer, and there’s no other way to play arpeggio ideas like these with the same level of fluidity.

FIGURE 2 presents a classic Van Halen–style single-string triad tapping lick. This is the famous “Eruption” triad. To make this sound effective, the tapping finger must execute a strong pull-off as it leaves the ninth fret, thus ensuring that the Cs at the second fret rings out as prominently as its predecessor. You should also attempt to preserve a strict triplet rhythm, with every note equal in duration and volume.

Incidentally, there’s no single “right” way to execute a pull-off with the tapping finger. Some players prefer to flick the string upward, while others find it easier to flick it downward. Experiment with both approaches to find out which integrates more easily with the natural angle of your tapping hand and allows you to dampen the idle strings more effectively.

FIGURE 3 is a variation on the previous figure. Here, the order of two notes played by the fretting hand is reversed. It’s important that you become familiar with both approaches so that you can move on to ideas like the one shown in FIGURE 4, where the arpeggio goes all the way down and back up again, enabling you to move away from the ubiquitous triplet rhythm and phrase licks in even 16th notes.

Here’s another twist, reminiscent of Van Halen’s tapping licks in “Spanish Fly” and “Hot for Teacher” and Satriani’s “Satch Boogie.” In this lick, the first finger of your fretting hand has to pull off to the open A string, preferably without disturbing the D string in the process. As ever, careful attention to damping and accurate timing of each note are the keys to making this lick flow clearly. To sound the very first note, pluck the open A string with your tapping finger. Once you’ve gotten the string moving, all the subsequent open A notes are pulled-off to with the fretting hand.

FIGURE 6 demonstrates how you can outline a chord progression with triad inversions. Notice how the lick lets you arpeggiate four different chords without moving either hand far from its starting point. This is done by analyzing the component notes of each chord and placing them so that they all fit into roughly the same area of the fretboard.

The tapping sequence is similar to that found in FIGURE 5, but since we’re tapping the highest note twice, the sequence is now six notes long. Players such as Rhoads and Nuno Bettencourt have used this variation to great effect.

This next example isn’t reminiscent of any rock players and is intended to show how you can use tapping to create something a little bit different. If you start by looking purely at the B-string notes, you’ll see that the tapped notes outline a rhythm known in Latin music as the 3:2 clave: if you’re a fan of the bossa nova style, you’ll have heard this rhythm before. In this example, the fretting hand essentially does whatever is needed to fill in the gaps between the all-important tapped notes.

Once you’re familiar with the phrasing pattern, include the notes on the high E string, which adds a harmony to the B-string notes. Try tapping with either your index and middle fingers or the middle and ring (on the B and high E strings, respectively). The trickiest part here is arching your fret-hand fingers sufficiently so that the open E string is not muted by the underside of your index finger. Try to think like a classical player, keeping the thumb of your fretting hand based around the middle of the back of the neck.

FIGURE 8 demonstrates how you can use tapping in conjunction with finger slides to cover a lot of the fretboard in a short amount of time and achieve a smooth legato effect. The note choice here is derived from the A Aeolian mode (A B C D E F G), but you can design similar licks using the notes of any seven-note scale.

At slow speed, it can be tricky to squeeze seven evenly spaced notes into each beat—most of the popular music we hear tends to divide the beat into twos, threes or multiples thereof, so a grouping of seven might sound a little unfamiliar—but you’ll find that this becomes less of a problem at faster tempos. Simply aim to nail each new beat with a tapped note, and you’ll find that the notes in between will tend to distribute themselves evenly as you speed things up.

Here’s an interesting twist on the single-string scalar tapping approach. The first 10 notes look normal enough, but by the 11th you see that the fretting hand has leapt past the tapped note, to the 12th fret to perform a fret-hand tap, also known as a “hammer-on from nowhere.” The tapped note needs to be held at the 10th fret as the fretting hand quickly zooms up to the 12th fret, and you’ll need to be careful to ensure that the two hands don’t collide.

This lick won’t be for everyone, and it’s not particularly easy. On the other hand, it’s a useful approach whenever you’re trying to work out a fingering for something and it feels like you simply don’t have enough strings. This bypassing technique also has a certain flamboyant visual appeal, so it should come as no surprise to learn that Steve Vai was employing it as far back as the early Eighties.

This example is inspired by Bumblefoot. The important part here is the first half of bar 1; the lazy approach would be to play two evenly spaced groups of five, but you get a wholly different effect if you prolong the two D notes (at the 10th and 22nd frets) and squeeze all the other notes into a shorter space of time. If you’re having trouble with the seven-fret stretch here, you could instead play 13-15-16-17 on the first string instead of 13-15-17-20. It doesn’t sound quite as cool to me, but it’s still a great lick.

Regarding the rhythmic phrasing of this lick, in FIGURE 8 we saw how an odd number of notes tends to be distributed evenly throughout a beat as you increase speed. Sometimes, however, it can be fun to resist that tendency and preserve a more distinct rhythmic contour, as we do here. The ear can still identify distinctions between the rhythmic values of the notes even when they are played at ridiculously high speeds.

Here’s something a little more conventional. The idea is to play a blues lick with the fretting hand while highlighting certain notes by tapping them an octave higher. This is somewhat reminiscent of Nuno Bettencourt’s or Mattias Eklundh’s soloing styles.
The most challenging aspect of this lick is that you have to clearly and loudly hammer the first note on each new string with your fret-hand’s index or middle finger. This may feel a little weird at first, given that the index finger spends the bulk of its time acting more like a fleshy capo rather than as an independent hammering digit, so focus on executing the first-finger hammer-ons as cleanly as possible. This will be time well spent, as some of the subsequent licks will require much the same skill.

With regard to the final bent note: your tapping finger’s only role here is to hammer the note and then keep the string pushed down onto the fret while the fret-hand middle finger bends the string. As indicated, hammer the last note in the bar 1 with your middle finger, but once the tapped note has been initiated, there’s no harm in enlisting the fret hand’s ring finger to assist with the bend. As always, do whatever it takes to perform the job with the least amount of effort, pain and intonation issues.

Now for some more Van Halen–style fun. This lick is loosely modeled on a famous lick from “Hot for Teacher,” and it’s based on the A blues scale (A C D Ef E G). As with FIGURE 5, there’s a strong argument in favor of plucking the first note of the lick with your tapping finger. After that, each new string is greeted by a hammer-on, courtesy of the fret-hand’s ring finger. Hopefully you’ll find this easier than the first-finger hammering required in the previous example.

FIGURE 13 illustrates a scalar fingering approach favored by players like Greg Howe (who is featured in this month’s Betcha Can’t Play This, page 32). The fingering doesn’t incorporate any particularly wide intervals, and you could feasibly play the whole of the first two bars using strict left-hand legato, but by using the tapping hand to share some of the work you should be able to get more volume out of the lick while sparing your fretting hand from undue fatigue.

Here’s the downside: the tapped notes often fall in unusual places within the bar (rather than, say, on the downbeats), so this approach may feel a bit unnatural at first. Having said that, Howe’s exemplary playing is ample testimony to what can be done with this approach if you devote some time to it.

Here’s another scalar tapping concept. Most players would simply hammer the first note on each string with the first finger of the fretting hand, but the approach suggested in the tab here is based on the way Reb Beach (of Winger, Dokken, Night Ranger and now Whitesnake) would do it. Reb taps with his middle finger, so for ascending sequences he’ll use the ring finger of his tapping hand to pluck the first note on each new string. This may feel odd at first, but it undeniably gives you more volume and definition, particularly if you prefer not to use a lot of distortion.

If you go to any guitar show or music fair and head toward the “pointy guitar” booths, you’ll hear a veritable army of players churning out the following lick furiously and repeatedly. It’s a simple example of a “sweep-and-tap” arpeggio, which can be viewed in three sections.

Section 1 (the first five notes) involves dragging the pick downward across the strings in a single stroke to outline the first five notes of this C major arpeggio. Ideally, each fret-hand fingertip should relax slightly at the end of its designated note to ensure that only one note is ringing at a time. By moving the whole picking hand downward as you sweep, you should be able to utilize your palm for a bit of extra string damping. High-gain settings are pretty much de rigueur for this kind of lick, so you can never be too careful when it comes to muting unplayed strings with both hands.

Section 2 (beginning with the sixth note) requires that you hammer the G at the 15th fret while bringing your tapping finger into position. The first three notes of beat two should then remind you very much of what we did back in FIGURE 3.

Section 3 involves the last three notes of beat two. You could either sweep these notes with a single upstroke of the pick, or do what most players prefer and use fret-hand hammer-ons while repositioning the picking hand for the next big downstroke sweep on beat three.

Note that most of this lick involves techniques other than tapping, yet that one tapped high C note makes all the difference, adding a pleasingly soft quality to the top half of the arpeggio and contrasting nicely with the more percussive sound of sweep picking.

FIGURE 16 is an example of another approach to playing arpeggios, this one incorporating more taps, plenty of fret-hand hammer-ons and no sweeping whatsoever, resulting in a more fluid sound. Check out shredders like Scott Mishoe to hear this approach in action.
This example marks the first instance in which we’ve encountered a slid tapped note. You’ll find the key here is to slide with authority and to ensure the fingertip is constantly pushing on the string. Otherwise you run the risk of losing the note, particularly as you slide back downward. However, don’t press the tapping finger against the string any harder than is necessary, as doing so will create excessive friction that will slow you down and actually make the tap-and-slide more difficult than need be.

Here’s the same concept applied to a blues scale. Note that this and the preceding pattern are symmetrical, essentially featuring the same shape on each subsequent pair of strings.

This run starts out as a signature Paul Gilbert string-skipping lick, then moves into tapping territory. Musically, all the notes (apart from that pesky C in bar 2) are from a Gm7 arpeggio (G Bf D F), but the overall effect is closer to that of a warp-speed G minor pentatonic (G Bf C D F) blues lick. The slides toward the end of bar 1 span four frets, so they’re a little trickier than the single-fret slide in FIGURE 16, but the principle is the same.

Here’s another arpeggio-playing approach that incorporates string skipping and tapping. Michael Romeo of Symphony X is rather partial to this approach.

If you’re not averse to a bit of fret-hand stretching, FIGURE 20 offers a versatile approach to playing major seven arpeggios. It has the same symmetrical qualities as FIGURES 16 and 17 and incorporates string skipping by cramming each octave’s worth of Cmaj7 arpeggio notes (C E G B) onto a single string.

Steve Vai met ‘The Story of Light’ Tour, vrijdag 16 november in 013, Tilburg.

Vrijdagavond 16 november was Tilburg het podium waar gitaarvirtuoos Steve Vai zijn kunsten kon laten zien. In 1988 gaf hij al een acte de precense op het ‘Monsters of Rock’-festival in Tilburg, samen met Zanger David Lee Roth. Gisteravond was hij er echter solo. Met een succesvolle carierre gaf hij in het uitverkochte 013 weer blijk van zijn kunsten.

Vai speelt in Tilburg  materiaal van The Story Of Light en daarvoor brengt hij drummer Jeremy Colson en harpiste Deborah Hensen met zich mee. Verder bestaat de band uit oude bekenden Philip Bynoe op bas en sidekick Dave Weiner op gitaar. Zij leven zich allen lekker uit in het supersnelle Racing The World van de nieuwe plaat, waarmee een lange, dynamische show van start gaat.

Met ogenschijnlijk gemak bespeelt hij zijn instrument. Veel ogen van gitaristen, gitaardocenten en liefhebbers waren gericht op de man die nagenoeg alles kan met zijn gitaar. Op het podium speelt Vai de partituren schijnbaar moeiteloos. Ingewikkelde nummers als Tender Surrender, For The Love Of God en Building The Church vinden gemakkelijk zijn weg via het fretboard.

Bijzonder tijdens dit verder fenomenale hardrockconcert was de aanwezigheid van harpspeelster Deborah Henson-Conant. Met veel plezier ondersteunde ze het repertoire van de meester. Tijdens Whispering A Prayer krijgt haar harpspel een prominente rol. Hensen blijkt een prima toevoeging aan Vai’s band, meer nog dan bijvoorbeeld de twee violisten op de Where The Wild Things Are-dvd (2009), die niet altijd even goed in het geheel pasten. Na een overweldigend Whispering A Prayer volgt – kennelijk tot Vai’s grote verbazing – een opvallend hard en lang aanhoudend applaus.

The Audience Is Listening, een favoriet op de klassieker Passion & Warfare uit 1990, is zo’n track die het wildste in Vai naar boven brengt. Met zijn gitaar in handen rent hij over het podium doet de meest vreemde dingen met zijn gitaar, doe zijn mallotige danspasjes en maffe gezichtsuitdrukkingen.

Halverwege de show komt drummer Jeremy Colson op het podium (bewapend met een draagbaar doodskopdrumstel) en geeft een imponerende drumsolo. Vervolgens komt de extravagante gitarist op als een lichtgevende robot – hij lijkt wel een figuur uit Star Wars! – voor een spectaculaire versie van The Ultra Zone. Met een prachtige uitvoering van Frank, brengt de meester een ode aan zijn oude meester Zappa.

De show van Steve in Tilburg duurde drie uur; zeker na de helft van de show bleek dat te lang. Veel gepraat, grapjes en gedoe en bovendien ook het componeren van een nummer met behulp van een een dame en heer uit de zaal kon wat mij betreft weg blijven.