Paul Gilbert, virtuoso guitarist for Racer X, Mr. Big as well as his own solo career, has been performing guitar acrobatics for more than 30 years. He has been voted the fourth-greatest guitar shredder of all time by GuitarOne magazine, in addition to being ranked among the fifty fastest guitarists of all time by Guitar World Magazine.
GIlbert sat down with us for an episode of Ernie Ball: String Theory. Here are the top six things we learned during the episode, along with a timestamp for each segment so you can follow along.
#1 – He’s been playing Slinky strings for more than twenty years. (0:01)
“Officially I began playing Ernie Ball in the mid-nineties, about twenty years ago. I tried the strings, I fell in love with them, and they just immediately solved all string problems.”
#2 – Paul switches string gauges frequently. (0:44)
Depending on the state of his finger callouses and how consistently he’s been playing, he’ll vary between .08s all the way up to .011s.
#3 – He loves playing in a bluesy style. (1:32)
“It’s so satisfying as a guitar player to play stuff that’s related to the blues, because if you’re not bending, you might as well be a harpsichord player. You get to pretend you’re a vocalist, even if you’ve got a lousy voice.”
#4 – His songwriting style is heavily influenced by ’70s pop music. (2:08)
He grew up in the ’70s listening to AM radio, listening to hits by the likes of Paul McCartney and Elton John. He does his best to balance that with the riff-heavy rock that he gravitates toward as a guitarist.
#5 – He tries to look past the guitar as a visual instrument. (3:12)
“As human beings, we’re visual creatures, and it’s so easy to play the guitar by looking at it. It’s a real challenge to go from that visual way of perceiving the guitar to getting back to that pure sound connecting to the instrument. The guitar is such a beautiful way to take what you hear in your head and make it real.”
Watch every episode of Ernie Ball: String Theory at our website, featuring such players as Don Felder, Steve Vai, Kirk Hammett and more. You can also enjoy some of Paul’s most popular songs in this Spotify playlist.
Paul Gilbert plays Ernie Ball RPS Super Slinky strings. Do you? Try a set.
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