Thursday, 31 December 2009

Fusion Master Derryl Gabel

Most afficionados of virtuoso guitar have long been familiar with Derryl, be it through his guest spot on George Lynch's Sacred Groove album, his series of instructional products, or his solo fusion albums. He was kind enough to provide us with a short interview on gear, technique, and his personal musical evolution...

First off, thanks for your time Derryl!

Thank you for the interview!

Can you pinpoint when you first began your transition from neo-classical shredder to fusion player?

I would read interviews from some of my favorite players and a lot of times they pointed back to jazz and fusion players as influences and mentors. I suppose during my brief lesson period from Richard Medel he got me into listening to horn players like Parker, Coltrane, and Cannonball. That was back in the very early 90s.

How did your studies with Derek Taylor influence your style?

Derek and I became friends through mutual admiration but I have to admit he was a lot better than me at the time (While he was practicing all day I was having to work a day job outside and come home exhausted). We were doing similar things because we were studying the same Shrapnel players and just putting our own touch to it. He showed me the two-fingered tapping approach initially. He was doing these Paul Gilbert-inspired string skipping arps and extending them by tapping the two notes on top. I took that idea and started using it with pentatonics on every string and scales as well as arp sequencing. Just last year I saw an old video on Youtube of Steve Lynch from Autograph using the technique back from the mid 80s.

In terms of your legato technique, do you tend to use the Holdsworthian 'all hammer-ons' style, or the more traditional 'hammer-ons and pull-offs' approach?

I think the all exclusive hammer-ons thing is misunderstood. I personally don't use that technique exclusively. I don't pull-off as hard as maybe a rock player like Paul Gilbert would. It's more subtle. I do however use hammer-ons in places where one might think I'm using pull-offs though. This type of thing kind of happened naturally though through just the pure physics I suppose. As an example, if I were decending a pentatonic scale using the 313313 concept at a very high speed the descending hammer-ons would just naturally occur. It's not something I sat down and worked on.

What guitars are you currently using?

A Steinberger GM4-S, Carvin H2, and a DC145.

What about amps and effects?

Currently I'm using a Vox Tonelab, PS Systems Power Tool, and a Digitech 2120. Actually my 2120 just died and I bought a GSP1101 to replace it. Haven't got it yet so I don't know if I will keep it. If I can't get it to sound like the 2120 I'm thinking about maybe a TC Electronics G Force.

What sort of setup do you favour on your instruments (strings, pickups, action etc.)?

I like the action to be as low as possible. My action is .025 of an inch at the 12th fret. I use .09 guage strings. I use the Labella on the Steinberger and D'Addario on the Carvins. For picks I use the purple Dunlop mini stubby 3 mm.

Have you been tempted to go the seven or eight-string route at any time?

I tried a seven-string and liked it but had to sell it for financial reasons. I will get another eventually when I can afford it.

How much of your practice time is currently devoted to pure technique compared to theoretical study and improvisation?

I mainly just practice improvisation. I don't really work on technique for technique's sake anymore.

As a teacher, what are the most common problems you encounter when students first begin delving into fusion playing?

Typically I find students don't practice with backing tracks enough. They are still hooked on the metronome. Also, they tend to think more scalularly and not chordally. Meaning that they haven't memorized all the arps all over the neck in short forms and in sequential, cyclical forms.

What musicians (guitarists or otherwise) have caught your ear recently?

I really like Tom Quayle, Alex Hutchings, Daniele Gottardo, John Stowell, Pat Roos, Nick Kellie, Patrik Berggren, Scott Jones, Marshall Harrison, and Floyd Fernandes... I'm sure there are more just can't think of any more at the moment.

What are your plans for the future?

I plan on making a few more DVDs and an album.

I just got a Roland GR-20, M-Audio 2626 and have been experimenting with having the computer notate what I'm improvising in realtime. Still trying to tweak it though and get the bugs out.

Derryl, thank you once again and best of luck!

Thank you!

For anyone interested in developing their grasp of modern guitar technique and advanced fusion concepts, I'd highly recommend you investigate Derryl's series of instructional products. See his website for details.