We polled members of the Guitar Department at Berklee College of Music on their favorite guitar-based songs. We were going to suggest they reach out with their favorite guitar solos, but that felt too limiting. If their favorite guitar-based song was their favorite guitar-based song because of its solo, we encouraged them to write about that one, by all means, but we were thinking about Wes Montgomery’s “In Your Own Sweet Way,” which doesn’t feel like a solo, per se, as much as it is just really great guitar work.
We also let them know that their picks didn’t even have to be a virtuosic display, because “I Can’t Explain” contains an energy in its three-chord riff that some of the most talented players may never be able to achieve, right? For some of our instructors it was difficult to pare their selections down to just one, so if they asked for more, we let them send us more picks (no pun intended). Those additional tunes are on Spotify (and in the embed below this paragraph). We just wanted to share with our readers the songs that strike a chord with your instructors. (This time, the pun was intended!)
My entrant is Jimi Hendrix’s “Machine Gun” from Band of Gypsys. For me this performance defines commitment by an artist to the moment. It is one of the greatest examples of an improvising musician transcending the confines of their instrument and entering realms of pure emotion and spiritual energy. Hendrix perfectly captures the angst of the lyrics and the turbulent mood of the times. I’ve been listening to this since my early teens and it still gives me goose bumps, brings tears to my eyes, and makes my hair stand on end, particularly what many guitarists know as “the note” —the incredible sustaining bend that starts at 3:59.
My pick is “Girl Gone Bad” by Van Halen. One of Eddie’s most explosive solos, no one can play like he did on this track. His playing is so unique and he changed everything with the first album and “Eruption.”
On his version of “Georgia on My Mind,” Lenny Breau displays several of the techniques he developed, that become the foundation of Fingerstyle Jazz.
This is a tie! First, it’s Robben Ford “Blues MD.” Transcribe, learn, and memorize Robben’s amazing solo on this tune and you’ll have a tasty library of progressive blues licks, in time for next week’s gigs! Next, OZ Noy’s “Twice In a While” is a crowning achievement in a solo! Oz marries great guitar licks with motivic development in a fluid conversation that builds in emotion, takes you on an epic journey and then brings you safely back home!
Do we have to pick just one?! That’s so hard.
- Favorite solo: Denny Dias on “Your Gold Teeth II” by Steely Dan from Katy Lied
- Favorite riff on a turn-it-up rock song: “Can’t You Hear Me Knocking” by the Rolling Stones
- Favorite one-note solo: Neil Young, “Down By The River” (and many others by Neil)
- Life-changer: Wes Montgomery “While We’re Young” Chord solo
- Honorable mention for best acoustic sound and riff-based song “Hills of Morning” by Bruce Cockburn