Premier Guitar features affiliate links to help support our content. We may earn a commission on any affiliated purchases.

Adam Levy On Becoming a Better Player: “Go on a Guitar Fast”

Jazz guitarist Adam Levy joins Dipped In Tone for a philosophical talk about playing voices, the dangers of overanalyzing your set, and why going on a “guitar fast” can help your playing.


On this week’s Dipped In Tone, Rhett and Zack are joined by contemporary jazz guitar legend Adam Levy, the thoughtful, soft-spoken accompanist known for his work with Norah Jones and his own jazz trios. Levy’s new book, String Theories, which he co-authored with fellow sideman-to-the-stars Ethan Sherman, collects a series of tips, challenges, and reflections for guitarists to deepen their playing.

“I need it to sound like Solomon Burke is singing,” Levy says of his style and philosophy, centered on leads and mid-register tones. His formative playing experiences were on a Gibson ES-335, and Zack and Rhett wonder why the semi-hollow remains Levy’s go-to over, say, a Les Paul or T-style guitar. “[We] kind of put guitars in buckets: ‘This guitar does this, this guitar does that,’” says Levy. “But a lot of it is just what you do with your hands anyway. I feel like the instrument itself is maybe just a third of all that stuff.”

Thanks to Sweetwater for sponsoring this episode! Head to sweetwater.com for your musical gear needs.

Levy says that as the years go on, he gets “more like myself” when playing. A piece of that, he says, is stepping back from guitar music altogether. “Go on a guitar fast for a month,” he says. Levy says that removing the distractions of analyzing for specific tones and gear can create a clearer relationship to music. “All you can really notice is, ‘What’s the mood? How does it make me feel?’” Similarly, Levy warns of the dangers of overanalyzing your playing: “A little bit of reflection can go a long way,” he says, but “you don’t want to get so reflective that you shut yourself down.”

Finally, the trio dips a high-class vintage rig complete with a Gibson ES-125 with a floating wooden bridge—which shocks a sense-memory out of Levy. “It’s beyond, ‘I can hear that guitar,’” laughs Levy. “I can smell that guitar.”

DØVYDAS & John Bohlinger Busk in Downtown Nashville
DØVYDAS & Bohlinger Busk in Downtown Nashville Before We Give Takamine Guitar & Fishman Amp to Local

Then we give a Takamine guitar & Fishman amp to an up-and-coming Nashville musician.

Music City is always swirling with top-notch musicians performing anywhere they can, so Takamine and Fishman challenged PG's John Bohlinger to take his talents downtown to—gig on the street—where he ran into YouTube sensation DØVYDAS and hands over his gear to rising star Tera Lynne Fister.

Read MoreShow less

George Benson’s Dreams Do Come True: When George Benson Meets Robert Farnonwas recorded in 1989. The collaboration came about after Quincy Jones told the guitarist that Farnon was “the greatest arranger in all the world.”

Photo by Matt Furman

The jazz-guitar master and pop superstar opens up the archive to release 1989’s Dreams Do Come True: When George Benson Meets Robert Farnon, and he promises more fresh collab tracks are on the way.

“Like everything in life, there’s always more to be discovered,”George Benson writes in the liner notes to his new archival release, Dreams Do Come True: When George Benson Meets Robert Farnon. He’s talking about meeting Farnon—the arranger, conductor, and composer with credits alongside Frank Sinatra, Tony Bennett, and Vera Lynn, among many others, plus a host of soundtracks—after Quincy Jones told the guitarist he was “the greatest arranger in all the world.”

Read MoreShow less

The new Jimi Hendrix documentary chronicles the conceptualization and construction of the legendary musician’s recording studio in Manhattan that opened less than a month before his untimely death in 1970. Watch the trailer now.

Read MoreShow less
Rivolta Guitars' Sferata | PG Plays
Rivolta Guitars' Sferata | PG Plays

PG contributor Tom Butwin dives into the Rivolta Sferata, part of the exciting new Forma series. Designed by Dennis Fano and crafted in Korea, the Sferata stands out with its lightweight simaruba wood construction and set-neck design for incredible playability.

Read MoreShow less