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The Guitar World of Richie Sambora

Daniel Eriksson
|
05.30.2013
Richie Sambora

Richie Sambora is responsible for writing some of the best-known rock songs of the past thirty years, together with Jon Bon Jovi. Sambora’s fast bluesy solos and infectious riffing is half the fun at a Bon Jovi show. Richie, who is attending to a private matter, won’t be on stage with Jon and the boys when Bon Jovi tour Europe this month. Here we present some interesting thoughts from Sambora on guitar playing, song writing, and music in general.
 
In an interview with Guitar.com in 2000, around the time Bon Jovi released their album Crush, Richie talked about his first guitar:
“A $10 guitar that was returned to E.J. Corvettes, which used to be a big department store in New Jersey. My dad used to work there part-time in the music department and he brought it home for me one day.”
 
Sambora talked about how he learned to play guitar in an interview with M Music & Musicians Magazine:
“I approached it a bit backward. I would put on something like the Live Johnny Winter And album—which has lots of fast lead solos—and try to move my fingers as fast as I thought he was playing. I didn’t know which notes I was playing; I was just trying to get the same type of phrasing. I did that for a long time with lots of different albums. That created a kind of muscle memory in my hands. By the time I tried to actually put notes to what I was doing, I was already pretty good.”
 
Even though Sambora is self-taught according to the previous quote, he revealed in the same interview that he has recently started taking guitar lessons:
“I walked into Norman’s Rare Guitars in L.A., and there was a guy playing acoustic guitar. He sounded like two players at once. I asked how he was doing that, and he started showing me all these alternative tunings. He turned out to be [former Wings guitarist] Laurence Juber. I said, ‘Would you teach me how to do that?’ It was fingerstyle playing that had passed me by when I was learning to play. So I took my first guitar lesson at the age of 53. I’m still taking lessons from him. It’s been a gas.”
 
Richie talked to Guitar World about deciding what guitars to bring out on tour:
“When we tour, I don’t bring a lot of my expensive, vintage guitars out with me, ’cause I’m afraid they’ll get stolen. Leave a 1959 sunburst Les Paul in a hotel room? I don’t think so!
 
In an interview with MusicRadar, Richie spoke on the subject of songwriting, whether it is something innate or if it can be learned over time:
“You just gotta keep at it. Songwriting is something that's very daunting until you have your first successful song, I think. And you can measure success by a couple of different things: Finishing a song first lyrically and looking at it yourself and saying, 'OK, now I have some cohesive lyrics.' And then the other part of success is obviously making a record and having it be accepted by people, having it touch people and actually mean something to people. ‘Livin' On A Prayer’, ‘Wanted Dead Or Alive’, ‘It's My Life’ - I'm lucky to have written a bunch of those.”
 
In that same MusicRadar interview Richie reveals the rather primitive way that he and Jon Bon Jovi go about recording demos:
“I swear to God, we still do it the same way: we used to do it on cassette decks, and now we've been backing it up on our iPhones. Big technology guys, me and Jon.”
 
Sambora told Guitar World how he goes about recording a solo. Turns out most of them are invented on the spot:
“When I plot them out, I just try to get a general framework of how they should go. Otherwise, they tend to sound stale and clinical. Usually I walk in with a basic idea in my head of what the song needs. [...] Sometimes I get lucky and I’ll be a one-take guy; other times, I have to build solos, particularly if they’re long or if I’m trying to find a specific kind of tone. All solos are different, though. They all lead you down new path.”
 
Richie was asked to describe his guitar playing style by Guitar.com:
“I think I'm a utilitarian. I like to play many different styles and different tones. I like to look at songs as sonic paintings, and lucky enough for me, I'm such as guitar collector and all the guitars have different tones. You stick 'em with different amplifiers and then you make your own colors.”
 
Richie Sambora was good friends with Les Paul. He shared some of his memories of Les with the readers of Guitar World:
There are a lot of great memories. Most of all, I treasured our conversations, whether they were at my house, his place or in hotel rooms. The friendship we had was very special. I could write a book with the incredible stories he told me. Of course, jamming with him was unbelievable. [...] I played with Les many times, and every time meant something. He was an amazing guy. He was a legend, and he lived long enough to realize he was a legend. What more can you say?”
 
Richie shared his thoughts on how the music industry has changed over the past decade in an interview with ShawConnect:
“With the whole advent of the social media thing it’s harder for new bands to make it because of all the file-sharing that’s going on. Being in a band you know you’ve got to make some money, people have to support families. I think for new bands it’s harder to keep it up because of that reason. I think they’re losing an income stream right there from albums and songwriting and production. That money is essentially for some people 75 per cent gone. It’s hard to get a leg up when you’re just starting out and trying to move that way.”
 

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