Tony MacAlpine Guitar Techniques
Wiggle your fingers and jiggle your brain cells in preparation for an arpeggio-tastic foray into the methods of technical guitar maestro Tony MacAlpine. Douglas Noble is your pilot
Tony MacAlpine began his musical studies on classical piano at the age of five, and later studied at Massachusetts’ Springfield Conservatory. For many years, guitar played a secondary role to piano. ‘The guitar was an outlet. My brother played guitar and it was something different to do at the time,’ he explained. ‘It gave me a chance to get away from the classical training.’
One of MacAlpine‘s main influences is the romantic period composer and pianist Frederic Chopin. MacAlpine‘s solo debut album Edge Of Insanity (1986) includes a piano rendition of Chopin‘s Prelude 16, Opus 28 (in fact, he’s included a solo piano piece on each of his solo albums to date). Another influence is the baroque composer JS Bach; MacAlpine has mentioned that the rhythmic repetitions in Bach‘s Prelude II from the Well Tempered Klavier lend themselves well to tapping licks on the guitar. MacAlpine‘s formal classical training and skills on piano add another dimension to his music, and help distinguish him from the post-Yngwie neo-classical shredders.
This highly accomplished guitarist has no trouble finding people to work with. He’s been a member of M.A.R.S (MacAlpine, Aldridge, Rock, Sarzo), Planet X, CAB, Ring of Fire and Devil’s Slingshot. He contributed keyboards to Vinnie Moore’s Mind’s Eye (1986) and Joey Tafolla’s Out Of The Sun (1987) and was part of Steve Vai‘s touring band The Breed, providing both guitar and keyboard parts and appearing in the DVDs Live At The Astoria (2003), G3: Live in Denver (2003) and G3: Live in Tokyo (2005). Most recently, MacAlpine has rejoined Planet X. Founder member Derek Sherinian’s intention with Planet X was to create a band that ‘played their instruments so fiercely, that they would strike fear in the hearts of all musicians.’
Exercises 1, 2 and 3 are finger exercises that can serve various technical ends; exercises 4 and 5 are scale patterns that can be used in solos. Exercises 6, 7 and 8 look at legato scales and corresponding harmonies. Exercises 9 and 10 look at legato arpeggios, eliminating the attack of the plectrum and using hammer-ons, pull-offs or tapping with a finger of the plectrum hand.
MacAlpine used to practise six to eight hours a day, so be prepared to put in some serious hours if you want to approach his formidable dexterity! While he’s worked hard on his technique, MacAlpine is also blessed with perfect pitch – he can hear any note and know exactly what it is.