“It’s the business card of cool guitar”: Paul Gilbert on the key to achieving good vibrato

“As a kid… the thing I wanted, deep in my heart, was to be able to do Mick Ralphs’ Rock Steady vibrato, or Jimmy Page’s.”

Paul Gilbert

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Guitar legend Paul Gilbert has argued that the key to getting good vibrato lies in one’s wrist rather than the finger joints.

In a new chat with Rick Beato, Gilbert – who’s known for his blistering speed and technicality – reveals that contrary to popular belief, there are some things he finds hard to play.

For starters, “any finger-picking stuff,” says the virtuoso [via Ultimate Guitar].

“A lot of my picking comes from stuff I can’t do otherwise,” he explains. “That Eric Johnson thing that he does with hybrid picking… I’ve never learned to hybrid-pick, so I tried to struggle through with just a pick. I can’t do it as fast or as well, but it toughened me up. I wouldn’t want to put that song in the setlist — leave that to the professionals.”

During the interview, Gilbert also shares how one of his goals as a kid was to be able to nail a vibrato similar to that of his guitar heroes. According to the guitarist, the secret to getting it right is all in the movement of one’s fretting hand’s wrist.

“As a kid, even early on the thing that, to me, was the business card of cool guitar — as much as I wanted to impress the grandpas with classical stuff — the thing I wanted, deep in my heart, was to be able to do Mick Ralphs’ Rock Steady vibrato, or Jimmy Page’s, the Ace Frehley stuff,” he says.

“To do that — the wrist is just a bigger body part than the finger joints. Post ‘85 guitar players started trying to use the joints [which] doesn’t work, but some people could do it. But it’s such a weaker body part. I found that my even elbow will come out if I have to do like a big [vibrato].”

Watch the full interview below.

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