digging deeper

Toto’s legendary guitarist can move from ear-twisting triplet licks to soaring bends at the flick of a pick.

Chops: Intermediate
Theory: Intermediate
Lesson Overview:
• Learn how to add chromatic passing notes to your phrases. 

• Decode Lukather’s unique bending technique.

• Develop funky rhythm parts over static harmony.

Click here to download a printable PDF of this lesson's notation.

Released back in 1982, Toto’s IV album yielded two chart-topping hits, “Africa” and “Rosanna.” This remarkable band and album featured a dream lineup centered around guitar legend Steve Lukather. For this lesson, I had the pleasure of breaking down some key aspects of his rhythm and lead playing on IV and then working them into my own example, which I’ve nicknamed “Joanna.”

Get the Tones
I’ve divided the example track into three main guitar sections: a solo, dirty rhythm, and some clean overdubs. I attempted to get as close to the original sounds on the album as possible using Positive Grid’s Bias FX plug-in. For the overdriven sounds, I used an amp based on a Mesa/Boogie Mark IV with a very light slapback delay and a room reverb. All the dirty rhythm examples are double-tracked and panned hard left and right to create a wider stereo sound. For the lead tone, I put an Ibanez TS808 in front of the amp with the drive turned down, but the level slightly boosted to increase sustain. I also added a fairly large hall reverb and a tape-style delay to create ambience. Combined with some chorus, these really expand the lead tone in a classic ’80s way. For the clean overdub sounds, I used a basic Twin-style combo with an MXR Dyna Comp in front of the amp, plus a little slapback delay after the amp to create space around the part. For the ambient clean sound, I added a large hall reverb and tape echo delay at the end of the signal chain, and then placed a studio-style compressor on the output to let these ambient effects really bloom.

Read More Show less

Get some slippery-sounding bends without reaching for the bar.


Chops: Intermediate
Theory: Beginner
Lesson Overview:
• Create simple and meaningful blues phrases in the style of B.B. King.
• Understand how to emphasize chord tones over a blues progression.
• Learn how to use repetition to build tension in your solos.


Click here to download a printable PDF of this lesson's notation.

To my ears, string bending is what defines the sound and expressiveness of the electric guitar. I’ll take any chance I get to bend, pre-bend, or release a note. While I’ve always liked hearing a whammy bar in action, I strangely never enjoyed using it myself. I wasn’t able to develop a taste for the whammy bar early on, mostly because of a frustrating introduction to it on my first real electric guitar, which was equipped with a bar and a locking-nut system, but also came with many tuning and string breakage issues. I quickly unscrewed the bar and gave it up altogether.

As years went by and I started playing professionally, I stuck to my stubborn decision to just not use it unless I absolutely had to—in recording sessions for a really specific sound like dive bombs or over-the-top vibratos. But in recent years, I’ve been working on a few Broadway musicals where the guitar books would require the use of the whammy bar, whether for a slight “rock flavor” or for a full-out “rock-God” effect. While experimenting with the bar during soundchecks, I’ve come to enjoy some of its more subtle, bend-like qualities ... so much so that I’ve started emulating those sounds on my whammy-free guitars. I’ve been incorporating these new techniques in more creative, improvisational situations, and they have become part of my guitar vocabulary now. They offer interesting, alternative ways of using traditional bending techniques.

Read More Show less
x