The World of Guitar According to Joe Bonamassa
Joe Bonamassa could serve as a great example for all aspiring players. Opening for B.B. King at the ripe age of eight, Bonamassa has since approached his career with workmanlike steadiness, touring relentlessly and often cutting multiple albums in a single year. His latest, An Acoustic Evening at the Vienna Opera House, will be followed by a new studio album slated for release later this year. Below, we present highlights from several recent interviews.
On how to construct a great guitar solo, as told to Guitar World (2012):
Solos are basically 16-to-24-bar marathons. If you run a marathon, you can’t start sprinting, but at the start people need a bit of fireworks to grab their attention. Then you have to back off and say something with a melody before you start barnstorming. And then there’s pacing. A lesson from the old blues guys is they were never in a hurry to get to anything musically. They were like, “It’ll happen when it happens.” I love that idea.
On how the blues continually evolves, as told to M – Music & Musician (2012):
I think Zeppelin is as much blues as Robert Johnson. How would you describe Robert Johnson? Well, that would be traditional blues, the way it first started. Then 40 years later that would be Zeppelin. How would you describe the blues I play today? It’s blues updated for 2012. It’s like a car—and cars don’t look the same as they did in 1926.
On his favorite guitars for studio and stage, as told to Guitar World (2012):
Besides the [Les Paul] Goldtops, Gibson also did some in sunburst for me, and they painted one black, so I’ve been playing those a lot. I also have three real ’59 Les Paul Standards, and I’ve been playing two of them onstage. Over the course of a concert, you’ll see a ’61 dot neck ES-335 … a Firebird I and two ’59 Les Pauls.
On his single favorite instrument, as told to Guitar World (2012):
I have a 1959 Les Paul Standard sunburst, serial number 90829. It’s the first ’59 that I bought. That guitar is perfect for me. The neck shape, the way it plays and responds—no matter how good you are, that guitar doubles back and says, “Is that all you’ve got for me today?”
On the versatility of the ES-335, as told to Guitar Center (2012):
You can play all sorts of music on it -- rock and roll, straight-up jazz and bebop, country. It's a very versatile guitar, but to me it's the quintessential blues guitar. The first time anyone sees B.B. King playing guitar, what kind of guitar is he playing? An ES-335. He's also played ES-345s and ES-355s, which are essentially the same guitar with different appointments.
On the importance of tone and volume control, as told to Premier Guitar (2013):
There are so many sounds on the guitar itself. People forget about the tone control, they forget about the volume control. There are so many different sounds you can get just from the guitar, and it doesn’t need to be cranked to 10 all the time to get the big, weighty tone. Sometimes I solo on the Les Paul with the volume at 7 or 8, because it’s cleaner, it’s weightier and a bit more articulate. Working the volume knob is a critical thing to get into your head.
On his continuing to grow as an artist, as told to Blues.About.Com (2010):
You do your best not to repeat yourself over and over again. The more albums you do, the more experience you get, and hopefully you grow. Some artists flourish; some artists, their best work is their first album. I like the fact that our later records have been getting better.
On the Gibson USA Joe Bonamassa Les Paul Studio guitar, as told to Gibson.com (2011):
It’s a cool guitar. It’s one of those guitars that makes you want to play it. I think it will be good for the kids out there who don’t have $4,000 to spend on the Custom Shop one and the ones who didn’t get the thousand Epiphones that were sold extremely quickly. So I think it’s a good opportunity. They used a lot of the specs from the Custom Shop one – you know, the neck size and the dish and everything else.
On the inspirations behind his new acoustic album, An Acoustic Evening at the Vienna Opera House, as told to Premier Guitar (2013):
Eric Clapton’s Unplugged is pretty much the benchmark for how to rearrange one’s catalog. The thoughts going on in my head were, “What would Ry Cooder do? What would Peter Gabriel do?” That was kind of where the arrangements came from, and it really boiled down to picking the right guitar, the right key and hitting the vocal—if you anchor it around something that works, then you can add to it.
On inspiration a new generation of guitarists, as told to Rocksquare.com (2012):
If [I can] inspire kids to get out there in a van and put a band together and get their [butts] kicked for 20 years and then you come out the other side and you’ve made it, that’s a source of great pride. I was the cat who was inspired by all these other guys, so I’d go out and buy all their guitars and want a guitar to look just like that guy. I’m about to turn 35 years old, so to see kids who are 16, 17 holding Joe Bonamassa model Epiphones and Gibsons, it’s a tangential shift from where I thought I was going to end up.