by Bobby Steel

I am constantly being influenced and shaped by the music around me. I think any artist worth his or her salt is always taking in the sounds that surround them and making it a part of what they do. Once you stop learning or trying to better yourself, you might as well just pack it in.

In my early days of playing, I listened to everyone I could. I devoured music and did all I could to play like my heroes.

Of course, I developed my own style, as we all do, but three ax men had the biggest impact on me in those formative years.

I salute them here.

Alex Lifeson: What’s not to love? His expressive use of bends and tremolo bar acrobatics is awe inspiring. His quirky phrasing, choice of notes, open string chords, unique crosspicking riffs, catchy rifes, hypnotic sequences of notes, landscapes of sound, chordal solas and shimmering melodies of pure natural harmonics was my master class of guitar playing. Not to mention that the man can shred at will (actually in Freewill). He’s so distinctive. You hear a few notes, and you know who’s playing. No confusion there. Alex is the king daddy-o in my book.

Steve Howe: Consummate virtuoso and guitar master. Steve has an astounding ability to fluidly switch between multiple genres of music, often within the same song. He has impeccable technique. His work on lap steel is stunningly beautiful and otherworldly. His fingerpicking is jaw-dropping. I particularly love the way his melodies leap octaves, sometimes midstream during a solo. That was a tremendous influence on me (check out my solo in Ft Misery). His sense of chord voicing and harmony is second to none. To this day the man blows my mind. I still say “how the hell did he do that?” when I listen to Close to the Edge. What a magnificent musician.

Jimmy Page: The riff meister. The king of swagger. He is just bad ass. Not the most perfect technician but he more than makes up with it with his choice of notes and his emotional inflections. His blues solos cut right through my soul and make me want to weep with joy. But I particularly love his use of open tunings for certain songs. That’s not something I hear about often when others describe his playing, but it’s something that was an influence on me. And using a violin bow with a wah pedal? Insanity or genius or perhaps a mixture of both. And memorability? Go ahead TRY to imagine a different solo for Stairway to Heaven . I dare ya. Yeah Jimmy is the MAN.

So there’s my big three. I have many others. But when I started playing at the tender age of 9, these three guys were basically my guitar teachers. I played drop the needle on so many of their LPs. Yep. I had the best teachers.

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