It wouldn’t be too much of an exaggeration to say that the guitar hero Eric Clapton’s 55+ year career has inspired millions of players.
We’ve searched YouTube for some recent uploads and caught up with fellow Ernie Ball artists about the impact the man known as ‘Slowhand’ has left on them.
Let’s reflect on the legendary Ernie Ball artist and our longtime friend, Eric Clapton.
EB: In your video, you talk about the language of music and how Clapton adds something to the guitarist’s vocabulary. Care to elaborate?
RC: It’s a misconception that rules in music need to be broken like there’s a right and wrong way of doing things. It’s more like DNA and evolution. The unusual happens as you try to express what’s in your head. You don’t have to stick with what you know. Clapton embodies that across his varied career, he keeps adding to the language.
Whether it’s his early wilder music or the more laid back songwriter, it sounds cool and I want to speak the language.
EB: What has Clapton added to your vocabulary?
RC: It’s a lot to do with style, feel and expression. You can hear it in his vibrato. His dynamics and tone say it all. It’s about how natural, effortless and free guitar playing should be.
The right tools for the right job has a lot to do with that. The strings are no exception. Slinkys feel natural, they don’t get in the way, they’re reliable for me to just get on with it. Bring it all that together and I can communicate what’s in my head.
EB: What’s the quintessential Clapton song for guitarist’s dictionary?
RC: People never tire of hearing or playing Layla, for loads of different reasons. Whether it’s the transition from the opening riff or the catchy, punchy chorus. Or just the sheer emotion he put into the song and the song’s meaning, it continues to inspire guitarists, songwriters, lovers, leavers, heartbreak, happiness… and probably more.
Ross pays tribute in a lesson featuring Eric’s work on the song ‘Steppin’ Out’. He explains some of the techniques Eric used and how you can use them in your playing.
EB: Your performance of ‘Old Love’ strips everything back to just one guitar and vocals. Could you tell us why you decided on this song and approach?
MB: There’s been so many different ‘Claptons’, you know what I mean? Bluesy, folk, rock, reggae, pop, acoustic. Mine was early to mid-90s Clapton, where he was writing great songs and great solos. ‘Old Love’ is just a song that got to me. It’s bluesy, personal, deep feeling. And it’s what a proper song sounds like, not about trying to fit a lick in.
I was thinking about using a looper and overdubs but I wanted to test myself. Keep it musical and exciting. Kind of like Clapton’s done over the years, being brave to try new things.
EB: What are the 3 things that are uniquely Clapton to you?
MB: His vibrato. You can’t teach that. It’s so vocal, and how he uses it with the tone from the pickups! Amazing. The way he writes and plays his songs and solos are also reflections of his personal life – you can really feel it in how he plays. Can’t get more unique than that.
Then probably for me – cheesy as it sounds, Slinky’s. When I started out, seeing his name on the back of the pack I thought “if I can get close to Clapton’s sound, these are the strings for me”. They’re as much of his sound as is his ‘Blackie’.
EB: If you had to play one Eric Clapton song to someone, who had never heard him before, what would it be?
MB: One song? Can I say an album? ‘Journeyman’. You can hear that influence in all modern guitar music, just listen to John Mayer, in particular, ‘Continuum’. But one song? Maybe ‘Bad Love’, it’s got it all. ‘Crossroads’ should probably deserve a mention for all the guitarists – over 50 years old and still as inspiring today.
Mike performs his rendition of ‘Old Love’ which appeared on Eric’s 11th solo studio album ‘Journeyman’.
From his time with The Yardbirds, John Mayall’s Bluesbreakers and Cream in the 1960s, through the 1970s with Blind Faith, Delaney & Bonnie, Derek and The Dominos, plus his solo work, Eric shaped the sound of the electric guitar and music to the modern day.
Eric plays Ernie Ball Regular Slinky electric guitar strings.
Check out our recent blog for more information about the Eric Clapton Crossroads Guitar Festival.