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Video Value

Hotlicks team on silver screen.

Forget your videos of Texas Chainsaw Massacre, The Collected Monty Python and Blue Peter - What The Censor Cut! Here come the Hotlicks Videos - one hour tuition films led by Arlen Roth & John Entwistle. They're available for hire, too! IN TUNE checks out Arlen's 'Learning Rock & Heavy Metal Guitar'.

Back in the days when I was regularly interviewing musicians, one of my greatest frustrations was not being able to physically show readers the techniques and playing styles which characterised the players I was talking to. Words are all well and good for describing what a player uses, or what he or she thinks - but to tell you how they move their hands, only a film will do.

Arlen Roth, founder of the superb Hotlicks audio cassette tape teaching system, agrees, and he's been planning a video version for some while now, the first examples of which have just been released in the UK via distributors Labtek International. Fortunately, the cost of buying video films being as ludicrous as it is, Labtek have arranged for a number of leading music stores to start a tape hiring service for these new cassettes, the charge being just £5 per week, per tape. It seems a fair enough price compared with a 'live' lesson.

The first tapes in this new series are mostly by virtuoso player/teacher Arlen Roth himself, the subjects including Learning Rock & Heavy Metal Guitar, Advanced Rock and Lead Guitar, Hot Country Lead Guitar, Slide Guitar and Chicago Blues Guitar. Also in the series is a film version of the exceptional John Entwistle 'Master Class' bass tutor (which we reviewed as an audio tape in Issue 6). I borrowed a copy of the Rock & Heavy Metal Guitar video for a quick test burst on my VHS.

As with Arlen's audio tapes, this video version follows his familiar (and highly sensible) practice of beginning with a chance to tune your guitar with his. There he stands against a black background, his beloved red '57 Strat plugged into something suitably meaty (we don't see it, but it's possibly his Seymour Duncan combo), ripping out licks and tricks like nobody's business. Thankfully, he soon slows down and begins to run through a series of tuition steps which are clearly and closely filmed. It's not hard to see exactly where Arlen's fingers are placed on any of his steps, as he moves through right and left hand positions, and ideal pick holding, straight into an extensive session on two and three note power chords. Any experienced player will obviously have already got these sussed, but for a beginner who's baffled by the difference between a clangy, weak, open chord and a nice fat 'n tight three-noter, the lesson will prove invaluable. Wish I'd had this tape when I began learning! Equally useful is the tablature scale which appears at crucial points, illustrating (for those skilled in following this system) what you should be playing.

After these vital basic chord shapes, Arlen moves straight into some really handy extras like the old Townshend favourite D-over-an-A-base shape and its fretboard relatives. Street Fighting Man never sounded easier! As ever, Arlen injects a note of humorous humanity into all this study material by admitting that 'my fingers are killing me after all these bars!' - I know what he means! Seriously, though, it's this sort of 'well, if it hurts him then it's not surprising it hurts me!' feeling that helps a beginner gain confidence.

From here we find ourselves starting to look at hammer-ons and pull-offs before launching into the foundation matter of so many HM and Rock solos - the good ol' Blues Scale. Justifiably, Arlen spends a lot of time on this subject before developing the theme to include right hand hammers (he admits it's a modern cliche, but says it's worth learning; I have to agree with him) and then goes into a short expose on the subject of the tremolo arm - perhaps a bit too short for today's fashions, but the essentials are there.

Throughout this tape, Arlen's approach is always beautifully sound. He gives useful tips (like using a higher string gauge, emphasising the importance of bends on low strings), always highlighting typical weaknesses with his excellent analytical approach to today's HM styles. And yet the overall feel is always relaxed and very friendly, much like a lesson from a good 'live' teacher but with the advantage that you can freeze frame, go ever points time and time again, and watch it whenever you feel like it.

If I have a criticism, it's really a very small one; that Arlen does have a tendency (understandable though it is) to run a bit beyond his lessons' subject matter when demonstrating ideas. He uses a lot of what I call 'clipped harmonics' (pick harmonics if you prefer), but doesn't explain how they're obtained, and there may be times when Arlen's prowess may leave some slow learners a bit daunted. Nevertheless, there's a lot on this tape, and it certainly proves the old adage about one picture being worth a thousand words. It's ideal for the young player who has mastered a few basic chords, got himself a solid guitar and a small amp, but can't see how to even begin building up solos, finding power chords and so on. No doubt Advanced Rock & Lead Guitar caters for the more advanced player, and there will certainly be more tapes to follow this first foray into film. I can't wait to see them. Especially for the struggling beginner, stuck without friends or teachers to help develop a true Rock sound and the basics of translating Blues scales into Rock solos, this tape is going to be invaluable. If that sounds like you, I'd suggest you drop a line to Labtek (address below) and find out who is the nearest retailer offering this series for hire. You'd find it hard to spend a fiver more wisely!

More info from Labtek International, (Contact Details).

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Sound Advice

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Premier Class

In Tune - Copyright: Moving Music Ltd.


In Tune - May 1986

Review by Gary Cooper

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