Guitar-based Instrumental Rock Music began long before the Metal sound years, back in the 60s, with Surf Music, a genre that was based on the typical sound made of tremolo (both with the whammy bar and the amplifier effect). Musically, they would sometimes be influenced by “spaghetti western” movie themes like Per un pugno di dollari -composed by Ennio Morricone and played by Pino Rucher
Typical examples of Surf music are
With a distortion created by natural ambience – Wray added spice to the usual rock n roll guitar sound and changed the usual chord sequences of the songs a little bit, his song Rumble (1958),is considered one of the first examples of the new rock n roll style. and Rock history, as it had an incredible influence on Pete Townshend (The Who) , Jimmy Page (Led Zeppelin) and many others.
Latin Jazz Rock
He’s one of the most recognizable guitarists of the planet, without a doubt…his style is a mix of blues, modal jazz and psichedelia, plus latin flavas, and an incredible and personal guitar tone – his phrasing, to me, is almost the result of an introvert person who’s afraid to play, at first, but he always delivers great phrases
listen to the exotic, dreamy, psychedelic and warm moods of Abraxas, one of his first albums, full of latin/tropical drums and grooves, where the pianos and keyboards of Gregg Rollie make us think of PInk Floyd’s Animals and also the Doors’ Manzarek’s jazzy work.
Listen to Samba de Sausalito and feel the warm vibes coming from its mix of latin grooves and jazzy instruments (many years later, this track will be played in chillout music mixes)
Santana’s music included jazz oriented music mixed with exotic flavas like Light of life
that brings the audience into a meditation state (in those years the penchant for India, Asia and all the Zen/Yoga pholosophies was at its maximum peak, soon the whole New Age music movement will be born)
Typical chord changes models are the (dorian) “Im – IV” progression, as in Let the children play or Oye como va– let’s not forget, also, the classic ballad Europa, one of his most important guitar works, played in a simple, but exceptional way…
And let’s not forget the liquid Aqua Marine with its amazing, chillout music moods
Mid-80s to present day
One of the most important, technical, and musically talented guitarists of the last 30 years. His sound is mainly a Rock sound, distorted, with clean guitars to do the arrangments, arpeggios, textures, sometimes the main themes. Beginning with an album that contains a wide range of musical imagery, starting with the title track Not of this Earth, where a series of chords played with a clean sound create an abstract picture, with modal atmospheres, ethnic moods. Musically speaking, this music is neither rock nor jazz, or fusion. When the record was in the shops, in the mid 80s, it was really something new and refreshing for the world of guitar-oriented music. Satch plays with a great sense of melody, modern and precise techniques (legatos, alternate picking, and so on…) and a liquid sound, in general. All this album is enjoyable, even for non guitar-oriented listeners, with rock guitars on funky-dance grooves like in The Snake, or classical influenced songs like Memories, where the ratio “Themes- solos” is very balanced and it’s a pleasure to listen to this album, even after all these years…check also Brother John, with its clean, flamenco/classical-influenced, melanchonic moods…and The Enigmatic, a composition based on the weird sounding scale of the same name (invented by Adolfo Crescentini and published in Milan’s “Musical Gazette” in 1888)
Satriani rocks hard, in the second album -where his composition skills add to his technique for a unique music experience: givin us Surfin with the alien: you can find all a guitarist’s repertoire of modern hyper techniques: fast legato runs, sweeps, pick-tapping…string skipping and so on…there’s even a moment when he plays some Chuck Berry-ish double stops in Crushing day…
In the 3rd album Flying in a blue dream the songs are still beautiful with more “rock meets new wave” approach and especially in the first song, a nice use of the Lydian mode and key shift. Another interesting track is WIth Jupiter in mind (from “Crystal Planet” album) and its peculiar chords.
Last but not least , in its album “Engines of creation”, released in the year 2000, he gives us his best musical imagination, with tracks like The Power Cosmic 2000 Part 2, melting electronic grooves’ beats with a super spacey liquid guitar sound, made of futuristic legatos and hyper tappings…
Tony Mac Alpine
One of the greatest neo classical rock guitarists, Tony is known for his balanced use of licks, runs and arpeggios, as opposed to the style of Yngwie J Malmsteen, that is way more self-indulgent and baroque. Mac Alpine’s music is mainly based on composition. Every track has got recognizable opening themes, development, and the solos are really part of his whole musical concept and not a way to show off…in his first album, Edge of Insanity, he shows this great gift of musical balance- and in particular, listen to the tracks Empire in the sky– which sounds like a soundtrack to a fantasy or science fiction movie, to me…or Agrionia, with his delicate melodies and diminished arpeggios…In the second album, Tony is even more focused and his compositions reach new levels of grandeur…listen to the romantic yet dark song Autumn Lords and his technical masterpiece Hundreds of thousands…years before Marty Friedman, Jason Becker, years before Greg Howe- Let’s not forget the wonderful ballad Tears of Sahara…and the wonderful Key to the CIty– a song that remids me of 80s videogames and typical movies-wow…this is a real musician, to me!
Yngwie J Malmsteen
Very important for the history of Rock guitar, this swedish musician re-invented neo classical rock in the early 80s, combining hyper-techniques as fast sweep picking, alternate picking, dimished arpeggios, a lot of harmonic minor scale fast runs…and songs based on sequences of melodic themes taken from classical musical models (Vivaldi, Paganini, Bach…) Listen to his masterpiece Far Beyond the sun and you will find all the neoclassical typical licks-say no more…
Black Star opens with a classical guitar intro, and soon he begins to play licks in E minor key…the good thing is that he starts at a medium speed, to increase it as the song goes on
Odyssey is a good album, too (with Joe Lynn Turner on vocals) – featuring all the neo classical techniques and great songs as well.
Modern Times (New Century)
Tobin Abasi (Animals as Leaders)
Tobin Abasi is an incredible guitarist: his style incorporates dissonant chords a la Holdsworth, Powerful Metal chords riffs, played with palm muting, complex guitar solos with hyper technical tapping using all his fingers