Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Matt Schofield Blues Guitar Artistry | DVD Review

I recently got my hands on a copy of Blues Guitar Artistry by Matt Schofield.  Published by Hal Leonard, this dvd gives us a glimpse into the creative process of one of blues guitar's rising stars.

Matt Schofield Blues Guitar Artistry
Choosing to present his material in the style of a guitar masterclass rather than your typical 'here's-lick-number-14'-type instructional video, Matt Schofield covers a variety of topics in a casual conversational style.   

And Schofield proves himself to be a modern blues master of the highest order. Backed by his 4-piece band, Schofield's emotive solos on the live performance sections are downright beautiful and worth the price of admission alone.

Citing a video performance of BB King, Albert Collins and Stevie Ray Vaughan as the catalyst for his picking up the guitar, Schofield started jamming along with his father's collection of blues records.  He states that he was never one to learn entire solos note-for-note, choosing instead to build his blues vocabulary through improvising and playing along with records, transcribing only the occasional lick or melodic idea.

Nevertheless, he maintains that it is important to have a working knowledge of the blues tradition and language as it pertains to improvising over a 12-bar structure.

In the Tone and Technique chapter of the dvd, Schofield treats us to some really cool licks that contain some very interesting but subtle inflections, one of which is a succession of descending raked triplets he uses to punctuate the ends of phrases. Tonally, the guitar simply purrs in his hands.

Discussing his right-hand technique -- he plays with the rounded end of the pick, throwing in some fingerpicking to get certain notes to pop -- Schofield talks about pick angle and the technique he uses to getting notes to 'bloom'. If you're an advanced player, and you aren't already hip to this concept, you owe it to yourself to check out this chapter of the dvd!

As Schofield says, "If you like a player's tone, you might be better off asking them how they hold a pick and what kind it is rather than what amp or pickups they use."

Taking us through his personal guitar setup, Schofield talks about how he prefers it when he has to work the intrument. He feels this adds to the vibe of the music, and allows him to extract more tonal range out of the guitar.

I should mention also that this dvd is completely devoid of any notation or tablature of any sort so you're pretty much on your own as far figuring out what Schofield is playing. This might be fine for the intermediate or advanced players who have mapped out their scales and fingerboard patterns.  But most of the lines and ideas that Schofield demonstrates will more than likely go right over the heads of the novice player expecting to learn some hot licks note for note.

The decision to omit any form of transcribed notation from this dvd is probably a reflection of Matt Schofield's own philosophy and approach to music.

As he puts it, "Remember, your ears are your first instrument, so the bigger they are the better. Really listening to great music more deeply is one of the greatest things you can do for your own playing..  study everyone from Robert Johnson to Eric Johnson and all points in between"

I really hate to compare players of this calibre with the more established cats, but just as Joe Bonamassa digs quite heavily into Eric Johnson's bag, Schofield's Robben Ford influence is quite apparent.

But he is thoughtful enough to fuse Robben's stylistic phrasing with the standard blues influences of BB and Albert King, Albert Collins and Stevie Ray Vaughan.  Whereas Robben spices his blues playing with diminished and melodic minor ideas from the jazz realm, Schofield's approach is simpler while still giving him access to some of the more sophisticated inside-outside ideas.

I'll leave you to check out the rest of the dvd where Matt Schofield thoroughly explains his harmonic concepts and how he uses them in both his comping and soloing.

Definitely a must-buy for any serious student of modern blues guitar.

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