• Learn the correct way to steal
from the classical masters.
• Understand the “real” way to
• Create long, flowing baroque-inspired
lines using “outside”
Click here to download the accompanying mp3 audio examples.
The biggest hit I’ve ever had a part in is
the Mr. Big single, “To Be with You.”
It went to No. 1 on the charts all over the
world, and I continue to brag about it
whenever I have to write a bio for myself.
I do feel that I did a solid and respectable
job of strumming the chords, singing some
harmonies, and playing a theme-reinforcing
guitar solo, but I did not, I repeat, I
did not write the song. I wish I had. It’s a
great tune. But I have to give credit and
gratitude to Mr. Big’s vocalist, Eric Martin,
for making that happen. Thank you, Eric!
When it comes to hits, I have not had
many outside of Mr. Big. Certainly nothing
that has climbed the charts and sat
next to Mariah Carey and Right Said Fred.
But among the people who like to listen to
guitar music, I’ve had the good fortune to
have penned a couple of ... let’s call them
“favorites.” The Racer X song “Scarified”
would be one of those. And if my math
is correct, the song is 25 years old now.
Happy birthday to it!
“Scarified” began its life as a furious
and deadly accurate double-bass drum riff
by Scott Travis. I heard him playing it in
rehearsal and did my best to attach some
notes to his rhythms. That gave us the
instrumental equivalent of a verse, but to
complete the song, we needed more.
At the time, I was enamored with the
fact that classical music of a certain age
was legally considered “public domain” and
could be plundered with wild abandon.
Bach, Mozart, Beethoven. All that creative
genius was (and still is) available to any
writer who cared to borrow or steal from
it, for the same price as a breath of air.
So steal I did. Or at least tried to. I was
listening to my favorite harpsichord concerto
(credited to J.C. Bach) and I began
to learn my favorite sections of it by ear.
This wasn’t easy! The notes were quick
16ths, and they were sometimes buried
while competing with the accompanying
orchestra for space in the mix. Also, these
phrases had never been played on guitar
before. Licks that might be a breeze on a
harpsichord can be distinctly challenging
when translated to another instrument.
But I did my best, and came up with
something that worked for the next section
of the song. The result was a classical/
metal onslaught that became an immediate
crowd-pleaser at our live shows and still
rewards me with millions of YouTube hits
from my solo version of the tune.
But one thing always bothered me
about stealing these classical licks. And
that is that I didn’t steal them correctly. So,
after much creative hunting, I finally managed
to locate the sheet music of the original
harpsichord concerto. This was back
in 1998, and I was feeling so ambitious I
actually recorded the entire first movement
of the concerto, using guitars to cover
not only the harpsichord parts, but also
the violins, violas, cellos, and string bass
parts. I named my recording “Gilberto
Concerto,” and after completing the
recording, I promptly forgot all the parts
due to the impossibility of remembering
that many notes.
Fast forward to the present, and I found
myself preparing for a gig and looking at
“Scarified” in the middle of my set list.
I thought it might be nice to finally take
the correct notes that I briefly learned
in 1998, and practice them until I could
actually perform them live. So I dusted off
the score, asked my wife—who sight-reads
much better than I do—to play the notes
slowly on the piano. I recorded her playing
so I could easily learn the notes by ear
(without having to battle fast tempos or
competing orchestras). After a couple of
weeks, I had it, and now I give it to you
in Fig. 1.
The key to making this playable is the
fingerings. Some fingerings make the lefthand
part easier. Some fingerings make the
picking easier. Some fingerings make the
shapes easier to remember. Some fingerings
make the notes easier to keep clean
without string noise. I’m pretty sure I tried
every possibility and every combination.
After much practicing and tweaking, I
finally had a fingering that my brain could
see, my fingers could navigate, and my
ears approved of.
And live … I nailed it. Proof that
A couple notes about technique. I did
not include specific markings to show
where I am picking and where I am using
hammer-ons and pull-offs. If I included
that much notation, the end result would
be cumbersome and counter-productive.
The general hints that I’ll give you are
these: I am not picking everything.
Whenever I switch from one string to the
next, I will always pick that transition—
with outside picking, if possible. (With
outside picking, your flatpick comes across
a string from its outer edge. For example,
if I was playing two notes on the 3rd and
2nd strings, I’d strike them with a down-up
move. This means after plucking the 3rd
string, I’d sail over the 2nd string and then
hit it with an upstroke. For an in-depth
explanation, see my “How to Practice Pole-
Vaulting” column in the June 2011 issue.)
But otherwise, I am using hammerons
and pull-offs as often as I can. I have
covered this “juggling” of techniques in
previous columns, so I encourage you to
look back and practice some of my simpler
exercises to build this technique into
Finally, I would like to thank J.C. Bach,
his famous dad, J.S. Bach, and all those
amazing writers 250 years ago who may not
be getting royalties on their tunes, but who
continue to shake the air with the awesome
music they wrote. They were so good that I
am terrified—in fact, scarified.
purposefully began playing guitar
at age 9, formed the guitar-driven bands Racer
X and Mr. Big, and then accidentally had a No.
1 hit with an acoustic song called “To Be with
You.” Paul began teaching at GIT at the age of
18, has released countless albums and guitar
instructional DVDs, and will be remembered as
“the guy who got the drill stuck in his hair.” For
more information, visit paulgilbert.com