Notes from the Carl Verheyen Clinic, February 5, 2001

Guitar Monster and session great Carl Verheyen, along with bassist Cliff Hugo and drummer Steve (didn't catch the last name!), held a great clinic at the Musikschule in Viersen, Germany on February 5, 2001. Located at 82 Gereonstraße, the school has a small auditorium for the standing room only clinic.
Carl played a Tommy’s Special swamp-ash strat-style guitar through a Hot-Rod Fender Twin. He was using his standard pedal board – I apologize for the upside down photo below but you get the picture. His bassist was using a Music Man 5-string Stingray and a Tommy’s Special semi-hollowbody 4-string bass. Great sound.

Note -- the guy with the light colored shirt in the extreme left of the photo is Tommy of Tommy's Guitars.


Any questions not from the American guy....
This photo of Carl's board shows a pretty compact layout, and not a lot of exotic effects.  It sounded awesome, and his wah technique was just great.

I'm not "board" with this at all....

The following are notes from the clinic, and they are rambling because Carl’s subject matter jumped around a great deal during the clinic.

Starting at 7:30 PM, Carl started with some "war stories" about his early days of playing. One of the good ones was when Carl loaned Mr. Eddie Van Halen a Les Paul, and VH dropped it. Carl was horrified, as I would be. I think this shows Eddie’s workmanlike attitude toward guitars.

Like me, he stated that seeing Steve Morse and the Dixie Dregs changed his outlook on guitar. Carl was a hardcore jazz guy until he saw the Dregs. Steve Morse’s versatility was humbling, and I couldn’t agree more.

Carl described his personal style as a "melting pot." His biggest lesson is to be versatile because the music business is a big pie. If you play country only, that is a piece of the pie. If you are a metal guy, that is a piece of the pie. If you want to make it in the studio business, you have to be conversant in as many styles as possible – grab as much of the pie as you can.

Carl has 46 guitars, and has about 24 delivered for each session by his cartage company. He actually mentioned that he does use a POD in addition to many, many amps.

In answer to a question about reading music, Carl stated that reading music is critical because confidence is so important during sessions. He said only about 30% of the sessions he does have notation that must be read. However, once the word gets out in the studio community that you don’t read you won’t get many sessions.

His technique for improving his reading was getting a partner and sight-reading pieces everyday. He would play several hours daily, and he stated the improvement was dramatic and quick. His favorite duets were by Bach (not the guy in Skid Row).

He learned during the duet period that you have to read in the position of the key. This allows you to play in an easy position. Because a lot of the music was written for the piano, it takes a little analysis to figure out where to play it on the guitar. For example, rather than starting on the root C on the A string, third position, start on the C on the E String, eighth position. He played several examples, and he made it look really easy.

He also stated that reading music is more about getting the rhythms correct. There are only so many ways to play an eighth note, and he showed the audience the different rhythms you’d see in 4/4 time. A very interesting perspective.

He recommended that guitarists keep a "music notebook" to write down ideas in. This was a similar theme to his clinic in July 00. Taping is not very practical, and he spoke a great deal about this.

After the reading section, he and the band played a killer version of the country classic "Six Days on the Road". He did some awesome "chicken pickin" with some impossibly wide intervals. He made the Strat sound so Tele-like!

Practice. He likes to pick a particular key and just jam. He said he would play for hours in just one key to explore it. He also said he likes to play lines and alter them by changing the 3rd and the 7th. He played some examples – a great way to get some spice back into those scales.

He played a killer version of "The Wind Cries Mary" by Hendrix. He was showing how he moved chords around the fingerboard. He then talked about rhythm playing, which accounts for about 80% of his studio work. Both inventive and innovative, his favorite rhythm players are Steve Cropper and Curtis Mayfield. He played several examples, and it was impressive how he could quote the great players.

"Here's somethin' happenin...."

He played several examples of Andy Summers from The Police. Playing a 16 bar  rhythm part in Em, he built a chord from the root, 5th, and the 9th, then worked the shape up the neck like a scale. Killer. This was very relevant because it make the rhythm part so much more interesting. Listen to Andy Summers and it is pretty clear that he is one of the underrated guitarists in recent memory.

At about the one-hour part he started playing some extended jams, letting the bassist take some solos. The questions kind of thinned out by this point. After the first song, Carl stated that he loved in-ear monitors because when the sound of the band and guitar are bad on the stage that it is not inspiring at all. A bad sound really affects your playing, and I agree with him! NOTE: Remember that Carl is the lead guitarist for SuperTramp.

Carl stated he likes to mix up styles. He stated that Albert King is his favorite, but "the world didn’t need another white guy playing like Albert King." Good call. He played a great shuffle in G, pointing out that if you start the solo conservatively, you could "get away with murder" further into the solo. He played some standard blues licks, then started playing these wild arpeggios and scalar gymnastic licks – but it worked. A great illustration.

Carl said he is a big fan of single coil pickups. While it is harder to get a good distortion sound, he felt that single coils let more of the personality of the player come out when compared to humbuckers. He did state that he loved 335s, though. He also wires his Strats so the bridge pickup has its own tone control (the bottom one). He played some Chet Atkins at this point – I believe he could make any guitar sound great!

On the Strat bridge, he keeps the tops of the individual saddles parallel to the top of the guitar, even though the strings are in an arc that corresponds to the radius of the neck. Saddles should not be "canted" because it makes the strings slide around. He likes high action, and he feels that action that is too low makes the Strat "sound plinky."  Speaking of Strats, he said that Jeff Beck is great, and should never be missed if he comes to town for a concert.

The band then played a killer version of "Solar" by Miles Davis, and the jazz roots really came out. After the song, a guy asked a question about miking amps. Carl responded that he uses Shure 57s close, then an ambient mic some distance away. He points the 57 off-axis toward the paper, not the center of the cone.

When asked about the studio environment, Carl and the rest of the band agreed that producers always want studio players to "play down" and not to overplay. I recall a friend of mine who played guitar on several of country great Bobby Bare’s albums said the same thing. Shredders take note – not everyone loves all of those notes.

About two hours into the clinic he played his final song. It was one of the Carl Verheyen originals, and it really was great. You could really hear the Jeff Beck in his playing.

After the last song, I spoke to Harry, a guy that works for Tommy. Harry stated that he felt a great deal of regret that he didn’t practice more as a young man. Harry is not alone – so do I, but it is hard to get motivated sometimes, particularly to practice. Well, Carl practiced and still practices, and his reward was a great careers as a guitarist, the only real job he has ever had. Young guys, start practicing. Old guys, it is not too late to practice. I believe it is all about setting goals, and being the best you can be.

In conclusion, another great clinic from Tommy’s Guitars. Thanks to everyone for an informative, enjoyable evening!

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