“That’s one of the dangers of the faster, trickier stuff – it’s so easy to get pulled away from the vibe”: Paul Gilbert discusses the drawbacks of playing fast

He also stresses the importance of getting the balance right between technical proficiency and personality.

Paul Gilbert of Mr. Big performing live

Image: Scott Dudelson/Getty Images

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Paul Gilbert has spoken about the “dangers” of playing the guitar fast in a new interview with Positive Grid.

Gilbert, the co-founder of LA rockers Mr. Big, is known for his shredding and fast, virtuosic style of playing the guitar, but admits doing so isn’t always the easiest.

He says that playing fast or slow doesn’t matter as long as you have a “cluster of notes acting as a vehicle for emotion”.

Gilbert, who was also a member of metal band Racer X, continues, “That’s one of the dangers of the faster, trickier stuff – it’s so easy to get pulled away from the vibe because you’re like, ‘I just want to get it right. I just gotta metronome this for the next five years, and then maybe, meanwhile, it’s all the rock and roll’.

“The force of the emotion has left the building long ago. That’s so precious, you gotta keep that at all costs.”

He goes on to say that it’s important to keep a DIY ethos, and strike a balance between personality and technical proficiency. He explains, “To me, that’s the cool thing about the rock ‘n’ roll do-it-yourself method with a lot of my guitar heroes — if you hear Yngwie [Malmsteen] or Eddie Van Halen playing fast, they don’t play the same. It’s not like, ‘Okay, we both are doing exactly the same patterns’.

“No, that’s the method. They’ve all got their own fingerprint and when they get to that level, whether their own physiology and their influences gave rise to this particular way of approaching the faster stuff. And the same thing when you hear [Journey guitarist] Neal Schon play fast, and it’s a whole different animal…”

In the interview, Gilbert is also asked if he has any differences in his songwriter approach between his Mr. Big work and his solo instrumental material.

He replies, “Well, if you write vocals first, everything goes smoothly if you build around your melody. And it’s the same thing with the instrumental, I’ve done it every which way. But if I can start with a melody, then sometimes the melody will come from a lyric.”

You can watch the full interview below:

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