On Wednesday 22nd of March I was lucky enough to jam with one of my biggest influences and guitar hero’s Paul Gilbert. A massive thank you to Ben Robinson from UK Guitar Masterclass who is a fellow student at Paul Gilberts Artistworks Guitar Lesson website for making this amazing experience possible. The event was promoted and put on by him in association with Guitar Academy UK.
Paul gave as usual a fantastic masterclass in which he played some covers and discussed various approaches to note choice, groove and chords. Inspiring as always. He was joined by some fantastic local musicians who supported him on bass and drums, I was fortunate enough to catch soundcheck before the event was opened up to the public, they were jamming songs and learning them on the fly, and they did an amazing job!
Halfway through the masterclass Paul announced the time had come to jam with some audience members, I knew I was already on a list however everyone who had come to the event had the option of putting their name down on a piece of paper to be pulled out a hat at random. I was first up! I knew I was jamming so I was already quite nervous…I am fortunate to have a job where I play to a few 1,000 people a week at Holiday Parks around the UK, I have a fair bit of gigging experience (160 gigs in 2016 alone!), I am not usually afraid of going on stage and doing my job, but this time it was very different for me. Not only was I to be jamming with Paul Gilbert himself but the audience was packed full of Paul’s fans, most of whom play guitar! I also knew there were a fair amount of well known local musicians in the audience who I really respect as guitarists. The pressure was very different from what I am used to…I got out my seat, got my guitar out the bag and climbed onto the stage!
Paul was running a JCM800 Marshal head into a 4×12 cab, he had his usual array of pedals, a bright purple signature guitar and bright orange pants to match. He was super smiley and accommodating straight away. He gave me a few moments to sort out my sound. Turning around I noticed I had been bestowed a 1×12 single channel amp, it was a clean amp with a tone, volume and nothing much else. Someone had borrowed a bluesy style overdrive to slightly boost the amp..I am no stranger to this kind of basic set up, I am a fan of going direct into an amp…but today I feel I may have needed a bit of comfort from some familiar gear, which I didn’t have…but no time for excuses! Paul set up a cool jam that moved between a C# major and minor tonality during the chord sequence, straight away we started jamming… Whilst I am clearly nervous (you can tell mostly by my vibrato and rushed phrasing, especially towards the end) however during the jam I felt a sense of calm…I remember at one point listening to Paul and looking over and thinking to myself ‘I’m just jamming with Paul Gilbert’…then suddenly it hit me..this really was happening! It was a really fun jam and I had some nice compliments from him, his road manager and some people in the audience. Safe to say I drove home that night on a high!
I have studied Paul’s playing for years, and I know how versatile and experienced he is as a musician, showman and guitar player. But when you share a stage with someone like that, the experience is electrifying, its something that only those who have jammed with someone of his calibre would understand. Paul’s playing is indestructible…he has scary chops, and he execute them on a low slung guitar, whilst making guitar faces and most importantly make it groove and make total sense in the musical situation. It made me realise that I have a lot I need to clear out of my playing and re-evaluate how I focus on my practice and performance. Which is much needed for me as I have been feeling a bit directionless recently. I already started realising this a few years back when I started gigging REGULARLY in front of large numbers a few years ago, but listening back to my performance with Paul I can hear it and see it in plain sight. I know I can play better than I did in the jam…but its not about that, its about the fact I was able to get on stage with one of the worlds greatest guitarists and get the opportunity to communicate with him and jam.
Thank you Paul!