Guthrie Govan Visits BIMM Institute for an Exclusive Masterclass

6 December, 2021

At BIMM Institute Brighton, we were excited to host a Masterclass with Guthrie Govan, the guitarist and guitar teacher renowned for his performances alongside world-famous composer Hans Zimmer. Guthrie spoke about being influenced by his dad, his practice routines and his 18-month stint working in McDonald’s.

About Guthrie Govan

Guthrie started playing the guitar at just three years old and was encouraged to use his ear. His father taught him just five chords and then left him to his own devices.

After going through his father’s record collection, Guthrie fell in love with music. He first listened to Elvis Presley, Jerry Lee Lewis, and Little Richard. His taste then moved towards Jimi Hendrix, Frank Zappa and AC/DC.

Today, Guthrie works with multiple groups, including The Aristocrats (alongside Bryan Beller and Marco Minnemann), The Young Punx and The Fellowship. He also works on his solo project Erotic Cakes. However, Guthrie is perhaps best known for his work alongside Steven Wilson and Hans Zimmer.

He is a noted guitar teacher and has worked with UK magazine Guitar Techniques providing complex guitar transcriptions. In 1993, Guthrie was named “Guitarist of the Year” by Guitarist magazine.

Our BIMM Masterclass with Guthrie Govan

After an introduction by host and BIMM Guitar lecturer Damien Morris, Guthrie began talking about his early influences: “My first influence was my dad. I saw him playing, and it got me started. After a while, I realised that he only knew five chords, and I asked myself where I could go from here. I worked my way through my parents record collection and listened to different records that I wanted to learn eventually. I had nobody to show me how to play it, so I had to listen and teach myself.

“Around 13-14 years old, I realised that Steve Vai, Frank Zappa and John Scofield existed, and I became obsessed with their music. That was the time before the internet, and there was already so much out there to be inspired by.”

“Look at what you’re good at and try to build a job around it.”

Guthrie then spoke about transitioning to become a full-time musician: “I had two jobs outside of music. One was working at McDonald’s, the other, working in the reciting department at the Police. At that time, I could afford a multitrack recorder and was able to start recording my music. By then, it was obvious to me that music was the only choice. Look at what you’re good at and try to build a job around it.”

When asked about his writing and practice routines, Guthrie responded: “Sometimes, I have a clear idea of what I want to write. If you’re excited about the idea, then that should give you all the motivation to write a song. Other times, it’s just me sitting with the guitar and exploring, sometimes surprising myself in different tunings and that.”

“Sitting down with other musicians is essential for your musical mindset.”

He continued: “Sometimes, you can just have two chords and get excited about it, and it doesn’t matter as long as you enjoy it. But, recording and interacting with other musicians is essential for your musical mindset. You need to understand how other instruments function and how your parts fit into it.

“I never really had a practice routine. I learned music for the same reason and in the same way that I learned English.

“I’ve always tried to play what I hear – through listening to something on the radio or having a melody in my head and trying to replicate that on guitar. I always enjoyed improvised music and playing with other musicians, getting inspired by them.”

Guthrie touched upon how he improves upon his work: “I always listen with brutal honesty to what I play or record, and when I feel that something could sound better, I won’t let go until it does. It might be that it doesn’t sound good because of my technique or the sound I’m using.

“Before lockdown, we played about 60 shows in a row on tour and suddenly had to stop because of the pandemic. We recorded all the gigs and decided to listen to all the recordings to see if there was a live album that we could put together. I heard so many things that I didn’t like and tried to find a way to improve that.”

Cheers for coming back to BIMM Institute Guthrie – you’re a legend! Check out more from our fantastic, exclusive BIMM Masterclasses here.

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