If you like this guitar lesson, be sure to check out Larry Carlton’s interactive guitar courses 335 Blues and 335 Improv.
Before Larry Carlton, session guitarists were a highly skilled, but anonymous subset of the 6-string community. A few studio cats—such as Howard Roberts and Tommy Tedesco—had developed name recognition through solo albums and GP columns, but it was Larry Carlton who first brought star power to the gig.
In the ’70s and early ’80s, Carlton’s sweet, singing tone and soaring lines inspired a generation of pickers to attend music school so they, too, could play rock and blues with a jazzbo’s finesse. Arguably, Carlton’s licks did more than any enrollment drive to entice guitarists to attend Musician’s Institute and Berklee College of Music.
Armed with his trademark sunburst Gibson ES-335 and a Sho-Bud volume pedal, Larry Carlton played on more than 3,000 sessions for artists as diverse as Michael Jackson, John Lennon, and Dolly Parton. Carlton’s phrases on Joni Mitchell’s Court and Spark, Steely Dan’s Royal Scam, Donald Fagen’s The Nightfly, and the theme for Hill Street Blues epitomize the golden age of studio guitar.
With his first major-label album, Larry Carlton, the fleet-fingered guitarist began a second, parallel career as a solo instrumentalist in 1978. These days, he tours, cuts his own records on his new record label 335 Records, and does very selective sessions. He has racked up 19 Grammy nominations over the years and recently picked up his 4th Grammy win for his collaboration with Tak Matsumoto on Take Your Pick.
Unlike scale-oriented guitarists, Larry Carlton typically builds his distinctive solos around wide interval jumps. In a May ’79 Guitar Player cover story, he touched on his “chord-over-chord” approach to soloing.
Now, more than three decades later, we take you deep inside his intriguing technique. Read on for the full guitar lesson including audio, tab, charts, and more…
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