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Why Jeff Beck was this good on guitar


Jeff Beck live on stage on at the Symphony Hall, Birmingham.  · 

Source:
Katja Ogrin / Alma Stock Foto

Jeff Beck was both a genius and a virtuoso. His sudden passing has left a huge gap that no one will be able to fill any time soon. But why is that?

I don’t want to list and analyze Jeff Beck’s entire discography in this article. Rather, I want to explain why and how he was so special. Regardless of whether you are already a connoisseur of Jeff Beck and his guitar playing, or whether this article will tempt you to listen more closely for the first time.

A playing style as fine and mature as an excellent wine

Jeff Beck was a living legend and a source of inspiration for many. His technique was absolutely outstanding and excellent, and his sound was unmistakable. Jeff’s ability to master the guitar in so many ways never ceased to fascinate me. His dexterity, his vibrato, his bending technique, and his use of the tremolo arm were unique. Absolutely every detail in his playing is a kind of masterpiece.

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His style wasn’t always “easy listening”, but at times also quite exceptional and challenging to understand. You could regularly see people shaking their heads in disbelief in the audience in the face of what you could hear. It is near impossible to record his guitar playing in notes or tabs. Even if it were theoretically possible, you would rarely be able to play it anywhere near as well.

Tone is in the fingers

Jeff Beck always sounded like Jeff Beck, regardless of the guitar amp he was using. HIs sound came from his fingers. Every guitarist has heard this phrase somewhere, but it even more true with Beck. Only a few guitarists, or instrumentalists for that matter, have managed to convey their own unique sound and be unmistakable. Beck often played using just his fingers and without a pick. The way he worked the guitar strings was an interplay of plucking and strumming.

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Try it for yourself and play your guitar solos without a pick. In my experience, my solos immediately seemed more interesting and gained in character. Of course, this doesn’t work for every solo, but to my astonishment, it often works surprisingly well.

Jeff Beck and the tremolo

Jeff never played the notes with the tremolo arm in the same way. It seems like he had access to an almost infinite repertoire of ideas when using it. Moreover, he never played these notes in a colorless or even inflationary way.

With Jeff Beck, these sounds came from a higher being, and he just shaped them. He was like a painter who paints with endless colors and who is inspired by himself when he paints.

The musical journey was always the goal for Jeff Beck

What really set Jeff Beck apart was his creativity. He experimented with sounds, effects, and unconventional guitar techniques in a way that encourages guitarists to think outside the box and explore new avenues in their playing. His ability to fuse different genres, such as blues, rock, jazz, and fusion, shows that the boundaries of music are only set by an artist’s creativity.

In concert at the Bataclan, Paris
In concert at the Bataclan, Paris · Source: Philippe Gras / Alamy Stock Foto

His emotional depth and expressiveness through the guitar were impressive. Every note he played seemed to tell a story. His unmistakable sound and musical sensibility significantly influenced how I perceive the guitar. He was not just a guitarist, but a storyteller, whose guitar expressed the emotions directly.

The great B.B. King is said to have once said of Jeff Beck: “The notes Jeff Beck plays don’t come out of my guitar.”

Jeff let notes breathe

Jeff Beck had the unique gift of letting notes breathe. He paused at the right points in the solo and let the notes take effect, always resulting in a lot of dynamics. This interplay of quiet, almost whispered passages and explosive notes that leapt out of his guitar had a decisive influence on his style.

Jeff Beck’s playing had a depth and complexity that made it infinitely exciting to explore and understand his music. He was unique, a master of his craft who mastered the guitar in a way that has inspired generations of musicians and continues to do so today.

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To anyone who says that this is all adulation and that Jeff Beck wasn’t that special and outstanding, I, personally, would simply like to disagree. Fortunately, there were and still are exceptional guitarists on this planet. However, if you look at the whole issue in evolutionary terms, Jeff Beck made a major contribution to the development of what is possible with the instrument.

Finally, a wonderful quote from the master himself: “I don’t care about the rules. In fact, if I don’t break the rules at least ten times in every song, then I’m not doing my job properly.”

Jeff Beck passed away on January 10, 2023, at the age of 78.

His Signature Fender Stratocaster

The Stratocaster was his favorite instrument. A version of the classic Stratocaster modified by him has been in Fender’s roster for years. Pickups from various manufacturers also bear his name. Here is a list:

More on Jeff Beck

Originally published on Gearnews.de by Andreas, translation by Julian Schmauch.

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Jeff Beck live on stage on at the Symphony Hall, Birmingham.

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John Smith

My John Smith is a seasoned technology writer with a passion for unraveling the complexities of the digital world. With a background in computer science and a keen interest in emerging trends, John has become a sought-after voice in translating intricate technological concepts into accessible and engaging articles.

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