Mail Call

YourName: Kennedy Connor

Subject: Jeff Beck

Message: After reading your article in GP i was moved by what you
wrote about Jeff. I recently saw a tv program with Beck and was simply
elated by his playing. I have always respected him as a great musician
but seeing it all up close in a small venue brought out a level of his
art that really has become what i can only describe as fully mature.
I thank you for pointing it out to the guitar playing community, The
only sad part is imagining what Jimi Hendrix or SRV might have become
if they had been given the time to fully evolve as musicians. again
thanks for your article.

That may have been Jeff live at Ronnie Scott’s in London.
It’s available on DVD. Highly recommended. Its hard to say what may have
happened- certainly Jimi and SRV had the potential to evolve in a similar way.
But JB’s the shining example. Clapton lived but lost focus, as he freely admits in
his excellent autobiography. SRV may have had to kick the bottle at some point,
but I imagine him growing and developing. But in the case of Jimi, he seemed to be
so damaged by all that acid towards the end, I’m not sure he would have recovered.
Of course if he had, there’s no telling what he might have been able to pull off.

YourName: Victor

Subject: Music and Life Quest: The things that are seldom taught in

Message: Hi,
I figure I’d give asking this a shot. It seems to me that, technical
ability aside, musicians who make an impact tend to have this certain
“polished” quality that makes them sound like a record rather than
just someone playing or doing a demo. What do you feel are the overall
aspects (including non musical) that make someone sound polished and

Second, Steve Vai (especially in more recent times) has been dropping
hints of following the law of attraction. Do you have any philosophies
for life that have a direct/indirect effect on music or how you
approach your technical ability on guitar?

I’ve been searching for the answers with different folks since I
realized that, although the music is the most important thing, many
other aspects come into play. It gives folks that “je ne sais quoi”
that never gets talked about in traditional music lessons.

I’m hoping you will have the time to answer.



Very interesting and unique questions, thanks.

First, I think someone who sounds professional has a focus on the big picture, not just the guitar. You can hear this in many ways, but especially the timing, the pitch and other interactions with other instruments. Non-musical aspects might include behavior that shows a respect for the other musicians and the audience. Self honesty is important- don’t act like the crowd is digging you if they’re not, earn their respect.

As far as philosophies, I’ve read a lot over the years and continue to do so. I think your knowledge affects your music and playing. Different beliefs work for different people, and sometimes you have to try out ones that don’t work in order to get to ones that do. In my own case, I’m a bit wary of ‘movements’ especially ones based on religion, but I’m very open to various aspects of belief systems. Certain books, like ‘Zen And The Art Of Motorcycle Maintenance,’ Effortless Mastery’ and ‘The Artist’s Way’ have been influential.

YourName: Eric Anderson

Subject: Marshall Mode Four

Message: Alex,
I’m glad you’re giving some well deserved “good press” to the Marshall
Mode Four. I’ve enjoyed mine for years. I’m curious to what settings
you are using. If possible, would you care to share some with me?

I agree they’re great, underrated amps. What I do is lower the gain, and balance that with a distortion pedal, it can be a tube screamer or whatever. I like a lot of presence and treble, medium mids and resonance and medium lows. I usually play stay on the lead channel, except for the clean channel. And I leave the ‘scoop’ button alone. Also, always run effects through the effects loop.

YourName: Ryan Fanucchi

Subject: Guitar Stuff

Message: Hi Alex:

I recently lacerated my pinky at the gym, so I haven’t been able to
jam at all or exercise.
Just wanted to say that you’re one of my favorite guitarists of all

Take care,

Hey Ryan- that’s AWFUL!! Sorry to hear. What you could do is practice your ‘ear training,’ without playing the instrument. There are a lot of great ear training books. And try dong cardio or running, any exercise without fingers. That way, you’ll still progress, even while healing. Good luck!

YourName: Tyson

Subject: Question

Message: Hi Alex

I know you are a busy guy, but I was hoping you could take a quick
second to answer a question I had. I have always admired the feeling
and level of musicianship that goes into your solos, especially on the
first few testament albums. So my question is to get to the level of
playing you did at such young age, what kind of practice routine did
you have and what areas of guitar did you study?

thanks and sorry if I bothered you

Never a bother! Sometimes I can’t answer but I do my best.

I was always working on learning from records. Its just like learning any advanced skill, you can’t start at the top. I wanted to learn solos by Van Halen but they were way beyond my abilities at the time. But reading that Eddie was a fan of Eric Clapton, I found some Clapton licks that I could handle. Even though it was Van Halen I really wanted to learn, Clapton’s playing grew on me as did his own hero, BB King. When I was finally ready for Van Halen, I picked it up much faster since I’d studied the ‘source’ music first.

YourName: Andy DiGelsomina

Subject: Great Blog, Alex!

Message: Okay I admit, I’m an unabashed, probably irritating Alex
Skolnick fanatic (going on 23 years now). But now I can be grateful
for more than “just” the music.

I think your blogs are absolutely terrific! You can actually GET
something out of them. Thanks again, Alex!

P.S. The website is looking excellent as well.

Thanks! I have high standards with writing, as I do with music. If its not something I wouldn’t enjoy myself, then it’s not worth sharing. Glad you enjoy!

YourName: Brian Asselta

Subject: Your P-90 Les Paul and Randy Rhodes

Message: Hey Alex, I saw you with Testament last month in CT at the
Oakdale. You guys sounded great of course. I also got to meet you a
couple of years before that when you played at cousin Larry’s with the
trio. Hey what year Les Paul were you playing at the oakdale the one
with the soap pickups on it. It sounded amazing. Also, I was reading
about Randy Rhodes, Im working on his solo in Crazy Train, I read he
worked with you at one point. Is this true? If so that is Awesome, and
what was he like? Thanks again. Always I admire your work. Be well.

I never met Randy. I was in 8th grade when he died, just a kid.
I did have a very brief experience playing with Ozzy in the 90’s. That’s
my Heritage signature guitar, made in the original Gibson Factory in
Kalamazoo Michigan. There’s a link to it on the home page.

YourName: Wojtek Maćkowski

Subject: Greetings From Poland!

Message: Hi Alex!
My name is Wojtek and I am a young guitarist, I play for 3 years. I
love your playing and You are one of my guitar heroes! Long live
Testament! What ideas do you use to write songs? how do you write
them? I allways wonder how you can sweep and play so easy on heavy
strings. I played in several rock bands, I love playng leads 🙂
Thank you for your attention, hope You liked my message.
PS. Great Blog!

Thanks, great to hear from Poland. I admit to being inspired by
other songs, I think everyone is. it often takes listening to existing music
to get into the groove to write parts for songs.But the thing is to get so
focused once you’re in the groove that you end up creating something new.


YourName: Marina

Subject: LOVE

Message: I love you Alex.

Thanks. : ) I don’t know you, but I love you too.

5 Responses to Mail Call

  1. I think fantastic, the channel that you opened for peoples with your blog – the possibility to send a message directly for you, without noise on way. And I imagine that this is have some problems too, when you dont have time to spend for all, for several issues, and I respect. You get up morning, have your breakfast – Between one or other coffe cup, one response ! – open your laptop, your email box: more of 30 or 50 emails ! some are work, other only fans, to need to say “hello”. for all is important your response. Several artist dont like this, with fear that to be very “acessible”….

    I would like send a gift for you, don´t worry, not a new album “that you need listen, because is very good” or book for your big list ! and yes, something for your use or enjoy, I hope. Your p.o. box from this site is secure for this?

    • I want to answer every message. The problem is, if I did, then that's all I'd ever do. But yes, the blog is a great way to communicate. PO Box is secure, our assistant checks it often.

  2. Nice to share and stay connected with your audience in life. To be successful and create a good one involves skill and soul, an emotional awareness of oneself and surroundings, as guitar played with skill and emotion has more impact and sincere hold on the listener that can leave a lasting impression and unique fingerprint/style all their own. One that brings deliberate touch of controlled abandon that's fluid, where fingers dance and glide to points of howling, screaming, or gentle weeping that seduces and captivates the listener with meaningful connection and chemistry that defines them. Regardless of genre or song, if played with a passionate spirit, remarkable skill and from the soul, a music lasting and memorable can be produced that listener wants to hear again and again. Leading guitarists seem to have a style that's easy and effortless, a seamless union of instrument and self, full of substance and joy, an interplay between head, heart, and soul that flows together through the fingers to interpret and create an elevated sound and crown them successful guitar artists like Jeff Beck and others, like you Alex.

    • Jeff Beck's a great example of an artist who is honest with himself and his audience and it shows in his music. I might not mention myself in the same sentence as him, but its flattering to read a sentence with both our names, so thanks.

  3. Nice to share and stay connected with your audience in life. To be successful and create a good one involves skill and soul, an emotional awareness of oneself and surroundings, as guitar played with skill and emotion has more impact and sincere hold on the listener that can leave a lasting impression and unique fingerprint/style all their own.

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