Another question that's been puzzling me for a while.

I love Steve Gaines playing but I find it impossible to improvise in his style, especially the style he plays in I Know A Little.

I also love the style of Ed King, who, at least to me, is similar to Steve Gaines. The solo he does on Sweet Home Alabama is part of what drove me to play guitar...

What are some of the things about those 2 guys that differ from most Rock Guitarists? Is it the country influence? Is it the mixolydian touch?

Thanks for any insight.

In response to one of AbstractDissonance's comments, here's a spot where Ed King is improvising over the opening of I Know A Little. Listen to the section from 14 to 30 seconds. I can play that stuff if I really work on it. I'd like to be able to improvise in that style with as little bumbling as possible. :)

Here's a nice backing track for the song.


2 Answers 2


It's everything! Your not those guys so don't expect to be able to emulate them without a lot of work(Depending on how far away you are from them).

Now, if you don't mind things like "Hey, that was an awesome solo! It reminded me of Steve Gaines" said to you every night you perform then...

Learn all his solos inside and out. Analyze what he is doing(try to figure out why he did what he did). "Steal" his ideas by playing them with slight modifications/variations to make them your own(not the whole solo but fragments of it).

It's all about practice though. Just sit down and play with those guys over and over and over. Eventually you'll start to hear things that they do such as how they bend and release, vibrato, slide, etc...

What makes guitarists different is the how they choice the notes in the solo and how they phrase them. Since you are starting by copying the notes you have to learn how to phrase it like them.

It is analogous to trying to copy an accent. You can learn the "words" relatively easy but what is hard is the accent which is the "phrasing". No matter how many "words" you know, you won't sound authentic until you get the accent down. Once you get the accent down you can then learn the words as you like. The "accent" tends to be the hardest for most people.

There is also a stylistic aspect you should have. If your going to play country you gotta have a fiddle in the band! Oops, I mean, you gonna play in Texas... damn, I mean you gotta have some experience with it.

So go practice their solo's over and over and over then start trying to incorporate their ideas into yours. Make sure you can do a lot more than just their solo's though. You need to be able to solo over a country progression too(you can copy the songs to start), etc...

Just go for it dude! It's really simple but just hard work! It will take you months, if not years to get it down pat.

BTW, just so you know, what I mean by analyzing is to look at the solo's and try and figure out what they did over chord X. What notes did they use over that chord, with respect to it, and how? Did they bend from the 2nd to the 3rd or the 3rd to the 4th? All guitarists have key things they do that make them who they are.


Ok, here is a clip of me trying to imitate the sound and phrasing of a guy I liked -


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I wrote up a long description of what the differences were and such but instead of posting it now I'll ask you what you hear. That clip was my "tone quest" a few years ago when trying to understand why what I played sounded dead and why what he played sounded so good. I was given all kinds of answers through the years mostly from people that didn't have a clue and hence gave the most "obvious" answer(to anyone that didn't have a clue).

When I hear the two licks back to back I hear a huge difference. I can hear a difference in phrasing but IMO it's surprisingly close(of course I spend a lot of time trying to play just like him). But I now know the real difference that's going on and why(it's quite obvious now but wasn't back when I was trying to understand it).

Now, the differences may not be a big deal to most people but to me, when trying to sound just like him mine version is obviously off(it sounds lifeless to me). Maybe it's just in my imagination but there is objective differences. Phrasing has little to do with it.

Anyways, you can see both visually and aurally the differences... can you tell me what they are? In any case this is more of an example of how I worked on my quest to emulate the tone of someone else(not necessarily the style).

If you post some clips of an "A/B" comparison then we can discuss the differences and someone might know exactly what the problem is(similarly someone might know exactly the problem with my clip... although I think I already know the answer I could be wrong).

  • AD: I've been working on Ed and Steve since I was 15 years old, off and on. That's roughly 35 years! :) It's something I thought I'd get other opinions about as I do not do a good job with their stuff. Another guy that's in that category is Roy Nichols, who played for Merle Haggard for a long time. I can't even get close to him despite being a fairly capable player.
    – Anonymous
    Commented Feb 13, 2011 at 19:46
  • It may just not be your style then. If you've actually spend that much time really working on it and haven't figured it out then chances are no one will be able to help you. Of course you might actually be a lot closer than you think. Maybe record your favorite lick and give us the song/position and then it might be easier to have some idea what the difference is.
    – Anonymous
    Commented Feb 13, 2011 at 22:17
  • @AbstractDissonance: Is that Andy Timmons in the clip? Very nice tone in both cases. The only difference I hear in the clips is how the notes are picked. Otherwise, there's not much difference.
    – Anonymous
    Commented Feb 15, 2011 at 22:17
  • Of course it's Andy. The difference is not so much in the picking but how the amp responds to the picking. Different amp, different response. In Andy's case he has set the right point to get a nice breakup and the Amp response very nicely. It has proper EQ. In my case the amp is not breaking up nicely(at least in the same way) and there is not a presence to it. I also rush the first few notes a bit. Sure there are some minor differences but as far as the tone is concerned it is almost all amp/eq/effects. I know this now because I have played on a decent amp and was able to get that sound.
    – Anonymous
    Commented Feb 16, 2011 at 1:46
  • @AbstractDissonance: Of course its Andy? I guessed, from hearing one song from him and the fact that Andy was in the filename... It's not obvious to everyone. I'd like to know what song it is and from what album if you're willing to spill the beans. That is what I think of as killer tone. I have an early Ibanez that was eventually turned into ATs signature. RG550EX I think... The tone that comes from it is nowhere near that good. :)
    – Anonymous
    Commented Feb 18, 2011 at 23:54

I would have made this a comment, but since I rate that yet...

I would back up what AD has said on the subject, except to say that it is a mistake to think that any expert-level player really makes conscious decisions about bends and slide etc. I expect that when composing a song or take after take of a track for recording purposes, there is some thought going into the piece perhaps even down to the note level, but in general, for experts in just about any endeavor or domain, there is a point where the skills are handed off to an almost autonomic process.

As an artist and a musician working in the art field for many years, I believe that the essence of style is in the things which the author has little personal awareness of.

  • +1 for putting into words what I had a hard time with. I'd like to be able to play in the style of the 3 guys mentioned without thinking about it. I haven't achieved even close to that goal yet. Ah well...
    – Anonymous
    Commented Feb 15, 2011 at 17:41
  • I didn't say that the original players had to think about it did I? Just like you don't think about your accent. But unless your a natural at it, which you aren't cause you wouldn't be asking the question/having the problem, you are going to have to work at it and think about it. Eventually it will be subconscious but not until you learn it. There is no easy solution. It's going to be hard work and maybe that is the real issue?
    – Anonymous
    Commented Feb 15, 2011 at 18:44
  • For example, Suppose you wanted to learn to dance like MJ. Suppose you spent 5 years "trying" and are not much closer than when you started. Obviously your going about it the wrong way? If your method is through "osmosis" then that isn't working. But suppose every day for 10 hours a day you study his moves exactly and attempt to recreate them perfectly. Don't you think after 5 years you would have made some progress? If you really enjoy what you are doing then don't you think eventually you'll be able to dance like him without thinking about it?
    – Anonymous
    Commented Feb 15, 2011 at 18:46
  • It might not be as good as MJ but you'll be able to fool most people. In any case if you can't do it already chances are you won't be able to by using the same "method". Most of us generally take the easy method. You have 3 choices: 1. Gives up on trying to sound like them and try to sound like yourself. 2. Find a different approach to sounding like them. 3. Continue on the same path and hope one day it will pay off.
    – Anonymous
    Commented Feb 15, 2011 at 18:48
  • Can you play almost every famous solo note for note of these guy's? If not and since you don't already sound like them then maybe it's something to try? It's hard work of course but if you were going to learn it through osmosis don't you think it would have happened by now?
    – Anonymous
    Commented Feb 15, 2011 at 18:50

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