“They play too many notes”: Twisted Sister’s Jay Jay French on the problem with young guitarists

“What’s happening is the hyper development of the shredders.”

Jay Jay French

Image: Mark Horton / Getty Images

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According to Twisted Sister’s Jay Jay French, less is often more when it comes to the guitar. In a recent chat with Extreme virtuoso Nuno Bettencourt about the evolution of “shredders” over the years, French shares his thoughts on how young guitar players often lack an understanding of the value of playing fewer notes.

Reflecting on his own journey with the six-string, French says [via Ultimate Guitar]: “I was 13 years old, jamming with a little band in my neighbourhood, and the guitar player Nick Katzman owned a Telecaster. And he said, ‘Let’s do a song by Paul Butterfield.’ I was playing bass at the time. And we did a song called Blues with a Feeling.”

“He played this guitar solo that was on this record, and I became obsessed — like, obsessed with this guitar solo. I needed to understand what the hell was going on with this guitar solo.”

“And at the same time, I had a neighbour in my building who knew how to play Chuck Berry’s intro to the song Down the Road Apiece, as interpreted by Keith Richards, [The] Rolling Stones version of Down the Road Apiece. So he showed me how to play that little Chuck Berry intro. And that Chuck Berry intro of Down The Road Apiece is actually the foundation of every solo that I have recorded in my life.”

“I start out with that framework because it is imprinted in my brain at the age of 13 and it never is gonna leave me,” French continues. “So I went from this — Chuck Berry, Keith Richards, Mike Bloomfield, and then Albert King. And I wanted to understand how this guy made four notes sound like the best four notes I ever heard in my life.”

It’s a sentiment that doesn’t necessarily resonate with many of the younger generation of guitarists today, says French.

“If I have to complain about young guitar players and the shredding nature of the technology, it is that they don’t play less notes,” he says. “They play more because what’s happening is the hyper development of the shredders.”

“You [Bettencourt], of course, are the end result of learning the basics. Because you had to learn the basics to get to that. Now, these guys seem to me they have skipped… I don’t want to generalise and go, ‘Everybody does this,’ because I’m not saying everybody does it. But what I’m saying is — I see that the understanding of playing less seems to not be there.”

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