I am many things, but deep inside I am a true, bona-fide guitar nerd.
It's interesting how things shift though. 5 years ago I was totally gear crazy, spent countless hours researching, dreaming and scheming, all in search of the perfect tone.
Now I care much less about the gear. I have barely changed my guitar rig at all in the last year or so, or even really tweaked my settings. My focus has shifted to how I play.
I realized that the last few worship sets I've played, I've only used two pedals, an OD and delay. But I haven't just used one tone, I've been flicking between pickups, rolling off tone and volume knobs, playing with my fingers and generally enjoying really playing the guitar.
These are the guys who inspire me, the guys who I steal riffs and vibes from.
(1) The incredible delay master himself, Mr. The Edge
Most people peg him down to being a one trick guitarist who covers up his playing with tons of delay.
Well, that's probably true. He doesn't have a huge pile of great guitar technique. His lead playing is certainly limited.
But this guy's timing and feel are absolutely OFF-THE-CHAIN. He brings to the band a strong supportive layer that the singer can build off. And he is always, always tasteful in the way he does it.
The truth is that he's a genuine sideman. He don't care what he's doing, and he can do it all.
Piano? sweet. Guitar, no worries, Drum, Bass? yep. Produce a record? sure. Write a song that sells millions of copies? all in a days work. Run a hotel? Get married in a beanie? Manage a band? Make being bald cool? Sing better than Bono?
So what really inspires me about the Edge is not his guitar playing. It's the scope of his skills. He's a man who has never stopped working and learning. He's THE MAN.
(2) Keith Scott
This is not really a guitar hero list as you may have figured out by now!
Keith Scott has been playing guitar for Bryan Adams since the 70's. Like The Edge, he isn't the band's star. He's there to support Bryan. Like The Edge, he's a great singer and producer too.
If there's one guitarist I try to emulate more than any other, it's this guy. He's technically a better player than the Edge, but he still doesn't have to be the star - he's there for the songs.
(3) Mark Knopfler
I'm a rhythm player at heart. Marky isn't. But he has a totally unique style of lead guitar playing. It's more like singing than anything else. Every time he plays a note, I feel like it's as integral to the song as every lyric, unlike the guitar 'heroes' I.E. the hugely overrated Slash, Jimmy Hendrix, Stevie Ray Vaughn, and Jimmy Page types. He's an amazing songwriter, and not a terrible singer, all though his vocal style take some effort to appreciate! His last record was incredible too.
I'm totally guilty of trying to steal his right hand finger technique.
(4) Derek Trucks
I love the slide guitar. I remember my friend Nick Watson learning fretless bass years ago. I asked him what the appeal was, and I still remember him saying 'There's a lot of beauty in the in-between notes'. And I agree 100%.
So although I'm not great at it, I try to have a slide at the ready for a different sound and vibe.
I reckon this guy is the best slide player I've ever seen. Like Mark Knopfler, he doesn't use a pick.
(5) Nigel Hendroff
Nigel Hendroff pulls together a whole pile of influences into amazing guitar parts that carry the emotion and spirit of the songs. Like every other player in my list, he's there to serve the song, and in his case, to serve the vision of the worship leader and the serve the church.
This is a great example of some solid guitar playing. He's doing the Edge thing with dotted 8th note echo, but he's taking his note choices way further than The Edge ever has. He's nailing every single note, perfect timing, perfect feel. He's providing a big wall of sound, but still threading melody through it all, never playing too much but always there.
So those are my favorites, and why, in no real order.