Compositions for electric guitar gas turbine


I’m in this as well, a composer and guitarist. I’ve only been at it for 1.5 years, so if I were to write a virtuoso piece right this minute, I’d have to have someone else play it for me :/ All is well, no point in starting out composing grand symphonies and concertos if you can build up your orchestration and composing skills more efficiently by writing smaller pieces. once I am able to play whatever my mind thinks up, that’s when I’ll be able to write the stuff of my ‘dreams’ so to speak.

Glad to see I’m not the only one interested in this. However, I felt like Yngwie’s "suite" was less than good (plus he had an orchestrator). there was hardly ever more than one texture, it was shallow, meaningless virtuosity (I’ve heard it 3x and can’t recall a single melody or note). I’d like to see the guitar done more justice than that, the piece itself needs to be good and more involved than the first violin sections playing the tonic and dominant while a guitar plays random box shape scales as fast as possible….should’ve took a note from Mozart’s clarinet concerto, a solo piece doesn’t have to be virtuosic to be good, a beautiful melody will suffice.

Many thanks for all the input so far. I decided to leave it a while before I replied to let the ideas and people’s experiences trickle in. I also wanted to make sure that the thread wasn’t hijacked for some crass debate about which of the current virtuoso electric guitarists were more ‘valid’ than the other from the point of view of a classical context.

Essentially, I am quite open minded about the form and instrumentation of pieces written for the instrument (or at least including it). But I take the other contributor’s point that there are good, fundamental reasons why it is not likely to be a substitute for a string section. Sustain is, under normal conditions, fairly poor for an electric guitar (and guitars in general), and similar to that of a piano in that the notes continually and unavoidably die as soon as they are created. The low mass of guitar strings exascerbates this problem greatly. As such, I think it partly lends itself to faster, more virtuosic parts where single-note melody lines are concerned.

As an important aside, I am very interested in the historical musicology concerning the development of genre and in particular in relation to the electric guitar. For various socio-political reasons the instrument was not initially well received, essentially it didn’t arrive in the right place at the right time. Furthermore, I fully take the point that it has been used in a banal and stupid way. It is fascinating too that in spite of this very few people saw that this said more about the individuals bashing out 3 chord tricks at ear-bleeding-inducing volumes, rather than the instrument itself.

However, there have been a small handful of exceptional individuals who have, as far as my evidence would suggest, seriously advanced instrumental and compositional technique for the instrument, and in some sense, irrespective of the instrument. Granted, this has been ‘on their own terms’ rather than within an established ‘school’ but it is non-the-less a valid contribution. In terms of instrumentation and genre, the ability to amplify (electric) instruments creates a need for us to fundamentally re-appraise our perceptions of what is necessarily popular and/or classical. For example, although a small ‘band’ consisting at its core of bass, drums, and guitar is a typical popular band arrangement, it is nonetheless perfectly viable unless a very ‘thick texture’ is desired for any form of music. I would tentatively suggest the reason why orchestras consist of ‘sections’ was inititally to create greater volume levels – but the ‘chorused’ sound was also desirable.

Another important consideration, as mentioned by another poster, is that of notation. A considerable amount of expressive inflections on the instrument do have special, standard(ised) notation. However, the minutiae invloving how the string is ‘treated’ by the fretting and picking hand, especially in relation to the amplifier’s characteristics do often define the particular results intended and therefore the composer’s interpretation, as recorded (aurally), becomes the best representation of the music, rather than the score. This is a paradigmatic shift away from traditional ‘classical’ thinking in terms of the interpretation-transcending validity of the score. Moreover, it begins to seem clear why even more ‘serious’ electric guitar music is often simply retained by memory, and subsequently recorded; after all, there is not the burgeoning requirement to assimilate a composition in notation if recordings exist, you know the piece off-by-heart, and you do not see the obvious validity in trying to express your music more abstractly, although arguably, less exactly.

Basically, there are three discussions going on here: one about transcribing classical repertoire for the electric guitar, another about who the current guitar greats are, and lastly, what would be a good means of working with the instrument in a classical context. I was principally dealing with the latter. However these are all worthwhile topics.

Of those mentioned Yngwie Malmsteen and Shawn Lane are two who’s work I am very familiar with. I think Yngwie is always difficult to contend with because the fact of the matter is he has worked seriously in both classical and rock contexts. He laps up the attention of rock and metal fans, yet also likes to stand proudly with an orchestra and recite his concerto…essentially representing two cultural niches, which I think leads to a certain distrust from both camps. I think his contribution to both settings should be valued on its own terms. I think the fact that he has brought virtuosity to the instrument and has placed the instrument in a neo-baroque setting with his concerto is to be respected and praised. It is also not a very worthwhile exercise to eschew his efforts because he worked with an orchestrator: most electric guitarists and orchestrators (and conductors) are not familiar with this sort of synergie, so I think it is well worthwhile and an essential interaction.

Shawn Lane fascinates me particularly, because his music is so rich in its geneology. His music is probably properly described as ‘fusion’ although this term is pressumed to be short for jazz-fusion. Lane composed rhymically,melodically and harmonically sophisticated music on both the piano and guitar. His technique was also world-class, and unique. Lane seems to have drawn primarily on a classical approach to composition, rock-derived instrumentation, jazz-influenced harmony, and Indian classical music’s approach to improvisation. In my opinion, he is the consumate musical master – composer and improvisor: always open-minded towards different musics and approaches, constantly absorbing them and fashioning them according to his own creative ‘muse’.