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osoz

So is Jimmy Page a 'sloppy' player?

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Well it is often said, that Jimmy Page is a 'sloppy' player.

What is really meant by this? Did he constantly fluff notes and mess up?

The more I listen (and I mean actually slow the stuff down and listen very carefully to parts) the more 'sloppy' begins to sound like the work of a rhythmic genius. Listening to later guitarists it all gets very clean and accurate but seems to lose some of the raw appeal to me.

I had a guitarist friend once say when I was learning the strumming parts in Stairway 'you are just spending hours learning Jimmy Page's mistakes' - I still don't think he was right about it. When I play it I see it as a festival or rhythmic variations which give the song that very page-esque signature - nothing like the youtube instruction videos where I guy says 'well do like this' or 'some people do it like that' - in reality every bar has it's own rhythmic alterations and changes. I found it worth the time to learn the transcriptions bar by bar and doing so added new dimensions to my playing in general.

So what do people think, was Jimmy actually sloppy or has some of the expression and ability to hold rhythmic ideas through a piece been somewhat lost by more technically perfect guitarists which followed? I'm thinking a lot for example of finger style blues, where nobody gives two hoots about the exact melody, just so long as that rhythmic pattern in the bass just keeps on rollin' and it stays (mostly) in key. It would die a total death and sound bland if attempted by a technical guitarist with no concept of holding onto that bass line at all cost.

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Well it is often said, that Jimmy Page is a 'sloppy' player.

What is really meant by this? Did he constantly fluff notes and mess up?

The more I listen (and I mean actually slow the stuff down and listen very carefully to parts) the more 'sloppy' begins to sound like the work of a rhythmic genius. Listening to later guitarists it all gets very clean and accurate but seems to lose some of the raw appeal to me.

I had a guitarist friend once say when I was learning the strumming parts in Stairway 'you are just spending hours learning Jimmy Page's mistakes' - I still don't think he was right about it. When I play it I see it as a festival or rhythmic variations which give the song that very page-esque signature - nothing like the youtube instruction videos where I guy says 'well do like this' or 'some people do it like that' - in reality every bar has it's own rhythmic alterations and changes. I found it worth the time to learn the transcriptions bar by bar and doing so added new dimensions to my playing in general.

So what do people think, was Jimmy actually sloppy or has some of the expression and ability to hold rhythmic ideas through a piece been somewhat lost by more technically perfect guitarists which followed? I'm thinking a lot for example of finger style blues, where nobody gives two hoots about the exact melody, just so long as that rhythmic pattern in the bass just keeps on rollin' and it stays (mostly) in key. It would die a total death and sound bland if attempted by a technical guitarist with no concept of holding onto that bass line at all cost.

Yup - he was/is a super sloppy player.

He often made mistakes and fluffed notes - the more so towards the end of Zep. It seems there were times that his picking hand, his fretting hand and his brain were all in different places at the same time.

But.

He gets away with it (generally), because for him the guitar is more about feel than technical ability. There are times you can hear he's playing beyond the limits of his technical ability, and sometimes it's awful and other times it strays into absolute genius.

From the beginning of Zeppelin up until the end of 1973 his playing did nothing but improve - the constant touring and constant playing did absolute wonders for fluidity and lyricism in his technique. After that the long lay-offs and the drugs & booze, and most importantly lack of practice didn't really do him any favours at all. He seems to have spent most of the latter years of Zeppelin relying on muscle memory and the many years of touring beforehand to carry his playing, and, yes he continued to have moments of genius, but the lack of proper practice translated into sloppines and lots more fluffs and mistakes and some out-and-out dreadful playing.

Technical ability isn't everything, but if you don't practice and don't play enough you get rusty. Complacency - the 'I know that so I don't have to practise it' attitude is death to progress as a musician.

You can see a similar curve in his playing throughout the Page/Plant project - at the beginning he was playing decently, but by 1998, after extensive touring his playing was finally almost back to his 1972/73 level. He's a great player, but as far as I can see he doesn't practice (enough) and this has held him back.

There's no doubt he was a great player - but I think he could've been so much better.

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Mostly when people say that they are referring to his live playing.

if you get a chance to hear some of the isolated guitar parts from the Led Zep II sessions, you might think differently!

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Yup - he was/is a super sloppy player.

He often made mistakes and fluffed notes - the more so towards the end of Zep. It seems there were times that his picking hand, his fretting hand and his brain were all in different places at the same time.

But.

He gets away with it (generally), because for him the guitar is more about feel than technical ability. There are times you can hear he's playing beyond the limits of his technical ability, and sometimes it's awful and other times it strays into absolute genius.

From the beginning of Zeppelin up until the end of 1973 his playing did nothing but improve - the constant touring and constant playing did absolute wonders for fluidity and lyricism in his technique. After that the long lay-offs and the drugs & booze, and most importantly lack of practice didn't really do him any favours at all. He seems to have spent most of the latter years of Zeppelin relying on muscle memory and the many years of touring beforehand to carry his playing, and, yes he continued to have moments of genius, but the lack of proper practice translated into sloppines and lots more fluffs and mistakes and some out-and-out dreadful playing.

Technical ability isn't everything, but if you don't practice and don't play enough you get rusty. Complacency - the 'I know that so I don't have to practise it' attitude is death to progress as a musician.

You can see a similar curve in his playing throughout the Page/Plant project - at the beginning he was playing decently, but by 1998, after extensive touring his playing was finally almost back to his 1972/73 level. He's a great player, but as far as I can see he doesn't practice (enough) and this has held him back.

There's no doubt he was a great player - but I think he could've been so much better.

This pretty much describes it, but c'mon, if you listen to BBC sessions and How the west was won, you hardly hear any sloppines at all! We all know how he sounds, when he messes up, but on those two releases it's just very rare and they sum up the early years very well!

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Thanks for the comments so far, I think perhaps we should make some distinction between technique and the drug/booze damage that is all too obvious in later Led Zep performances.

I do think that as both rhythm guitarist and lead for Led Zep it left Jimmy's playing massively exposed, there are plenty of lead guitarists that get away with much worse as they can fall back on a second guitar to keep it going. It's not easy switching between rhythm and lead parts at all in my experience either and have to practice that in any Led Zep song I learn over and over.

It sure took some balls to take big chances in the live sets (effectively 'jamming' with the band) I guess we all could crash and burn in that situation so I feel pretty inclined to ignore some of the live fluff-ups more often than not.

I can hear a lot of the studio recordings are not so polished either, I'm sure I read it was generally two or three takes and use the best as Jimmy wanted the spontaneous aspect of the performance to be preserved. Practice is important, I'm returning to playing after a two and half year break (back problems meant I couldn't tolerate playing for more than a minute or two at a time), but it's also true that going over the same piece over and over it can start to lose some of the feel and spark, so I guess Jimmy was in an awkward balancing act, trying not to lose spontaneity, yet at the same time perhaps sacrificing the consistency needed to be under the spotlight of an audience with massive expectations night after night... ... particularly with nowhere to hide!

Edited by osoz

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Playing the same piece over and over is not the kind of practice I meant, and that can get pretty boring. The sort of practice I meant is stuff to improve strength, accuracy and coordination.. For instance: whilst Jimmy is known for his blistering lead runs, his picking hand is actually pretty inaccurate a lot of the time, and later on got less synchronised with his fretting hand. It sound like he learned how to pick those lead runs pretty early on in his career, but once he'd learned the 'trick' he didn't feel the need to refine it or improve upon it. In fact he actually got worse at it - if you watch him doing that fast picking repeated run he does in the 'let that boy boogie' bit of WLL in TSRTS, he's actually picking the notes using his wrist. Watch him doing the same lick later in his career and he starts using a scrubbing motion which comes from the elbow, which can either mean he's got arthritic issues with his wrist, or more likely he doesn't practise that motion enough at speed, so when it comes to playing it in a live situation he's forced to do it from the elbow because he just hasn't trained his wrist to move that fast! He's similar to a lot of people who play instruments in that respect - they get to a certain level pretty easily, but then the jump to the next stage involves a lot more hard work than they anticipate so they get stuck at the stage they're at. It takes a lot of dedication, determination and single-mindedness to get through that, and if you've got there to find you're a world famous millionaire then there are many other distractions to stop you even wanting to try to get past that hurdle!

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Jimmy was good in the studio, although not perfect. I think Presence has some of his best work on it. He was sloppy live, and as stated, there are many reasons for that, not the least of which was not being focused on his playing. Some guitarists are students of the instrument and are very committed to their interest. Jimmy approached playing from a different angle, and had a great deal of feel, but he certainly could be sloppy. He is still one of the greats though.

Edited by The Dark Lord

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Everyone has covered this pretty well, but I'd be happy to share my opinion on this :)

Jimmy Page's sloppiness is what made him into one of the greatest guitarists ever. If they played their songs exactly how they were written I would say he would've had few to none mistakes, but improvising different parts each night isn't going to have perfect results every night no matter who you are. The drugs during the later times really effected him with likely thinking of 10 different things during concerts causing him to just get lost, and also he already accomplished so many outstanding things so it's not like he was still trying to make a name for himself and Zeppelin, they were selling out everywhere without advertising much! Another thing to remember is Zeppelin didn't go out there looking like stiffs each night, they went out there drunk as can be, high as can be and had an awesome time with each other and the audiences, and remember 99% of live recordings were never meant for fans to listen to multiple times and notice their mistakes, but you can obviously tell in their official live recordings that when they needed to be 100% for fans to listen to multiple times on recordings they were 110%!! As for his studio playing, it's the same story. If he went in the studio and played everything perfectly then he would have only took 1 take, no matter who you are you will likely take multiple takes until you feel it's flawless, it takes time to warm up your fingers and get coordinated and also get in the groove! I've been playing guitar for about 10 years now and some days I play every song I know perfectly! Other days it sounds like I don't even know the songs.

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Oh absolutely. Jimmy is probably the sloppiest player out there. 1975 onwards he misses notes and everything. Technical wise, most other players will leave him in the dust.

However, Guitar playing is not about being technical. It's about feeling and conveying emotion to your audience. And in this regard, Jimmy is the best. He also makes passion bleed from every note. Even the Berlin 1980 Stairway solo. He is missing notes, going mega slow and generally out of ideas, but his passion and feeling is showing in every note.

Page plays every concert like it's his last. And this is why he's my all time favorite guitar player.

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It has been said that Jimmy could not play his studio solos note for note live, even if he tried, but I would like to think that this is not true. Sometimes I wonder though. But I think that a lot of the material that he played with the Black Crowes was reproduced very similar to the studio efforts.

Edited by The Dark Lord

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Page plays every concert like it's his last. And this is why he's my all time favorite guitar player.

So true. Jimmy said something like that, about how type of player he is : "I'm not technicly the best, but when i'm on stage i go for it..."

I will add that his sloppy phrasing often give birth to licks came from nowhere, which can only be played like this.

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Sloppy v Neat - whatever - From track one, side one of The Song Remains The Same to the closing with Whole Lotta Love - It's like a freight train that just keeps moving & I like it sloppy and all!

If people call Jimmy sloppy, how do they refer to Keith or Ronnie on the Stones forum?

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Everyone has covered this pretty well, but I'd be happy to share my opinion on this :)

Jimmy Page's sloppiness is what made him into one of the greatest guitarists ever. If they played their songs exactly how they were written I would say he would've had few to none mistakes, but improvising different parts each night isn't going to have perfect results every night no matter who you are. The drugs during the later times really effected him with likely thinking of 10 different things during concerts causing him to just get lost, and also he already accomplished so many outstanding things so it's not like he was still trying to make a name for himself and Zeppelin, they were selling out everywhere without advertising much! Another thing to remember is Zeppelin didn't go out there looking like stiffs each night, they went out there drunk as can be, high as can be and had an awesome time with each other and the audiences, and remember 99% of live recordings were never meant for fans to listen to multiple times and notice their mistakes, but you can obviously tell in their official live recordings that when they needed to be 100% for fans to listen to multiple times on recordings they were 110%!! As for his studio playing, it's the same story. If he went in the studio and played everything perfectly then he would have only took 1 take, no matter who you are you will likely take multiple takes until you feel it's flawless, it takes time to warm up your fingers and get coordinated and also get in the groove! I've been playing guitar for about 10 years now and some days I play every song I know perfectly! Other days it sounds like I don't even know the songs.

You nailed it

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Page was certainly sloppy on stage like Hendrix.Both masters in the studio honing their craft but they took it somewhere else on stage ,both hit or miss.But one quibble,Hot Dog is terrible and Over the Hills and Far Away solo is ........!Ok ,fire your guns!

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Playing the same piece over and over is not the kind of practice I meant, and that can get pretty boring. The sort of practice I meant is stuff to improve strength, accuracy and coordination.. For instance: whilst Jimmy is known for his blistering lead runs, his picking hand is actually pretty inaccurate a lot of the time, and later on got less synchronised with his fretting hand. It sound like he learned how to pick those lead runs pretty early on in his career, but once he'd learned the 'trick' he didn't feel the need to refine it or improve upon it. In fact he actually got worse at it - if you watch him doing that fast picking repeated run he does in the 'let that boy boogie' bit of WLL in TSRTS, he's actually picking the notes using his wrist. Watch him doing the same lick later in his career and he starts using a scrubbing motion which comes from the elbow, which can either mean he's got arthritic issues with his wrist, or more likely he doesn't practise that motion enough at speed, so when it comes to playing it in a live situation he's forced to do it from the elbow because he just hasn't trained his wrist to move that fast! He's similar to a lot of people who play instruments in that respect - they get to a certain level pretty easily, but then the jump to the next stage involves a lot more hard work than they anticipate so they get stuck at the stage they're at. It takes a lot of dedication, determination and single-mindedness to get through that, and if you've got there to find you're a world famous millionaire then there are many other distractions to stop you even wanting to try to get past that hurdle!

You just don't have a case, when you talk live 1968-1972! If you can point five significant mistakes from those releases, I will be very suprised! And studio? Yeah allright I'can't quit you babe and Heartbreaker were on purpose, but what else!??

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This perception of Page being sloppy was created by the post Van Halen era guitarists from the 1980s who all thought that they could become the Mozart of the guitar. Speed picking, scalloped fretboards, pointless sweep picking, pinch harmonics, quoting Paganini, etc. And yet, every single one of them cited players like Page as a huge influence.

The trouble was that instead of being influenced by the phrasing or feel of the music (as embodied by players like Page, Hendrix, Beck, and Green), you instead had decades of guys who dissected the playing of their influences as if it was a recipe for making a cake. Add one part excessive solo + hair + stupid raunchy guitar face + horrible outfit. This is why the guitar playing from the 1980s is largely soul-less, because you had guys who thought it could be done like a formula. Just sad.

That's where the "sloppy" comments came from, because that's exactly what a hack would say when they can copy everything else yet still not get it to sound "right". And this is why pretty much any stranger on the street can recall something that Jimmy Page played on the guitar while nobody has even heard of the likes of Eric Johnson, Joe Satriani, or Yngwie Malmsteen.

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You are certainly touching on my thoughts there pluribus, take Jimmy Page on one hand and then those that followed and one is reaching the average person with the music whilst the others generally are not. As a guitarist I do listen to the players you listed and I would add Steve Vai, I admire them for sure and would never in a million years of playing reach their technical abilities - so do they move me, nope, is there even one recording of Jimmy Page that fails to catch my attention or inspire me, well I've honestly yet to find it.

I'll check that out woz70, I know exactly what you mean by the locked wrist and one can see just how loose (in a good way) JImmy was with the right hand in early performances, very relaxed fluid and fast.

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Well it is often said, that Jimmy Page is a 'sloppy' player.

He is sloppy, but he's sloppy with feeling. One of the most soulful guitar players around. Jimmy Page is a prime example of how you don't need to have incredible chops and/or technique to be able to move people with yer playing.

If people call Jimmy sloppy, how do they refer to Keith or Ronnie on the Stones forum?

Just as sloppy...Ronnie Wood in particular is considered one of the 'sloppiest' guitar players around- he takes a lot of flack from Stones fans just because he doesn't have the technique/finesse of Mick Taylor :lol: Keith Richards is considered sloppy -particularly in the 'modern' era- but that mainly comes down to his arthritis and falling out of coconut trees! Still, comparing the Keith Richards who gave us the kind of playing on Beggars Banquet and Let It Bleed (Keith's versions of Presence, if you will) to the guy who these days can barely string two Chuck Berry licks together is like night and day. Doesn't bear thinking about, really...

This perception of Page being sloppy was created by the post Van Halen era guitarists from the 1980s who all thought that they could become the Mozart of the guitar. Speed picking, scalloped fretboards, pointless sweep picking, pinch harmonics, quoting Paganini, etc. And yet, every single one of them cited players like Page as a huge influence.

And not only that, but the sloppy as hell solo in "Heartbreaker" says a helluva lot more to this guitar picker than the entire oeuvres of Vai, Malmsteen, Satriani and, yes, even Edward Van Halen. Those guys all come across as though playing a standard blues lick in a Pentatonic scale is absolutely fucking beneath them- fact is, nobody gives a shit if you're doing two handed tapping in a Mixolydian scale...I don't hear "songs" with those speed demon guitarists- I hear gratuitous vehicles for their showing off...it's all about the fuckin' song, man! Take Neil Young for example: the infamous solo in "Cinnamon Girl" is two fucking notes, tastefully tweaked with a Bigsby arm, that's all the 'technique' Neil needed. Two notes, and it is still considered one of the classic rock guitar solos fourty six years later. Who the hell is gonna be talking about Yngwie goddamn Malmsteen fourty six years from now?

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Mmmmmm....., reading this topic just now and I feel like quite a few people have good points.

Yes, maybe Jimmy could have been even better if he had practiced more/differently and yes, it's indeed a fact that certain (technically very skilled I may add) hard rock/metal players called Jimmy sloppy.

What it comes down to for me personally as a hobby-guitarist, is that yes, Jimmy can be sloppy, but he somehow does so with a whole lot of feeling.

A technically very skilled player may be able to play all the scales at lightning speed, but that doesn't move me. It's about the music, about the songs.

That is where Jimmy comes in, he may not always play a technically perfect solo, but he manages to somehow use a guitar solo to tell a story, to

bring up certain emotions. Think about it, isn't that what music is meant to be...., emotion?

Maaike

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You just don't have a case, when you talk live 1968-1972! If you can point five significant mistakes from those releases, I will be very suprised! And studio? Yeah allright I'can't quit you babe and Heartbreaker were on purpose, but what else!??

Read my first post again. I'm talking about a career overview - not a specific period. Sloppy playing does not necessarily mean making mistakes - it's also a stylistic thing, one example of which I gave in the above post. To clarify my point - '68 his playing was damn good for the time and the genre. By '73 his playing had reached its peak, after which there was a general decline in spite of some stellar moments. Up to '73 he really was working hard at his craft. After that his focus turned to the visual stagecraft (and the partying) to the detriment of his playing.

Again a case in point for sloppiness as a stylistic description rather than meaning a slew of mistakes is the Heartbreaker solo - it is sheer brilliance, but it is as sloppy as hell - especially in terms of his picking hand.

if you haven't already, see if you can listen to the available multi-tracks/separations for Heartbreaker from LZII. That solo in the middle section specifically. He tried that solo more than a few times - he tried during the original recording and couldn't pull it off convincingly The only time he really pulled it off in the studio was the version we hear on the record - and that was the first of many takes he tried in a session totally separate from the original recording of the song. The other attempts are a texbook in sloppy playing. The problem was - he had a loose framework for the solo but didn't really know what he was going to play until the moment he played it. Totally flying by the seat of his pants. The fact that he actually managed to pull off such a brilliant example is testament to his playing - BUT.... if he'd planned the solo a bit more, thought about what he was going to do and practised around those ideas a little more rather than winging it - I think he wouldn't have struggled so much in the studio with it (you can hear his frustration with himself in the outtakes), and may have played such a blinder that people just wouldn't mention the word sloppy in the same sentence as that solo.

Don't get me wrong - Page is by far my favourite guitarist bar none. I just find myself frustrated that he came so far with his technique and kinda stopped, and even went backwards a bit.

Edited by woz70

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Read my first post again. I'm talking about a career overview - not a specific period. Sloppy playing does not necessarily mean making mistakes - it's also a stylistic thing, one example of which I gave in the above post. To clarify my point - '68 his playing was damn good for the time and the genre. By '73 his playing had reached its peak, after which there was a general decline in spite of some stellar moments. Up to '73 he really was working hard at his craft. After that his focus turned to the visual stagecraft (and the partying) to the detriment of his playing.

Again a case in point for sloppiness as a stylistic description rather than meaning a slew of mistakes is the Heartbreaker solo - it is sheer brilliance, but it is as sloppy as hell - especially in terms of his picking hand.

if you haven't already, see if you can listen to the available multi-tracks/separations for Heartbreaker from LZII. That solo in the middle section specifically. He tried that solo more than a few times - he tried during the original recording and couldn't pull it off convincingly The only time he really pulled it off in the studio was the version we hear on the record - and that was the first of many takes he tried in a session totally separate from the original recording of the song. The other attempts are a texbook in sloppy playing. The problem was - he had a loose framework for the solo but didn't really know what he was going to play until the moment he played it. Totally flying by the seat of his pants. The fact that he actually managed to pull off such a brilliant example is testament to his playing - BUT.... if he'd planned the solo a bit more, thought about what he was going to do and practised around those ideas a little more rather than winging it - I think he wouldn't have struggled so much in the studio with it (you can hear his frustration with himself in the outtakes), and may have played such a blinder that people just wouldn't mention the word sloppy in the same sentence as that solo.

Don't get me wrong - Page is by far my favourite guitarist bar none. I just find myself frustrated that he came so far with his technique and kinda stopped, and even went backwards a bit.

Yeah, but he wanted such a solo in the studio, he did it differently and far better live!

As for some people making a point about Vai and Van Halen, sometimes it would not be bad if besides the phrasing, Jimmy could also play as technical as Vai or Satriani

but he could be very technical in the early years, but still not as much as Vai and Van Halen!

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Yeah, but he wanted such a solo in the studio, he did it differently and far better live!

As for some people making a point about Vai and Van Halen, sometimes it would not be bad if besides the phrasing, Jimmy could also play as technical as Vai or Satriani

but he could be very technical in the early years, but still not as much as Vai and Van Halen!

You're missing the point a little bit. Going back to the multi-track separation - you can hear he's not totally happy with the solo (the one we ended up with), that's why he tried a number of different attempts, all less successful than the first. The solo we ended up with on the studio recording was literally the best he could do at the time - the sloppiness was an inherent part of his playing, it certainly wasn't sloppy by design. There's a lot of talk on here about 'Jimmy the perfectionist'. If Jimmy was such a perfectionist he would have had that solo totally worked out and practised it to the point where it was flawless before he even went into the studio. It's a good example of him pushing himself to the limit of his technique, and maybe just beyond, and getting away with it spectacularly.

Edited by woz70

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Here's a couple of clips demonstrating the difference between Jimmy's 'picking' and 'scrubbing' technique, as I mentioned earlier:

Watch his right hand playing the fast picky stuff at 8:56 (1973)


Now compare to a similar lick played at 11:17 (1988)



I know the Atlantic 40th is nowhere near Jimmy at his best, but it's the clearest example I could find quickly of the scrubby technique. This is a man who does not practice his picking, and is flying by the seat of his pants to play what has become a trademark lick. Edited by woz70

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