Submitted by HeadDino on Wed, 05/28/2008 - 22:01
Watch George Lynch in Action at the bottom of this page!
Famous / Infamous for
Famous for: Incredibly unorthodox guitar techniques described later under Guitar Style. Cool guitars with custom designs or paintjobs. Most notable are several variations of tiger-striped guitars similar to the one shown above, the Kamikaze design, and the infamous skull-and-bones carved guitar named "Mom."
Infamous for: That hair! See above. It was as if the band said: grab George by the legs — we're gonna dunk the top of his head in that bowl of peroxide. So what if the sides are black — it worked for Kajagoogoo, it'll work for Dokken! For much of the 80s George looked like Lamal's long lost twin brother, separated at birth. And as the above photo proves, George (like the rest of Dokken) was guilty of clothes shopping at the Merry Go Round store in the local Mall. This hurt Dokken, as they were perceived as a chick band and not taken seriously by many metal fans. People: If we, as a culture, don't acknowledge our past fashion atrocities, we are doomed to repeat them.
In a bizarre turn of events, George went from being the anorexia poster boy to the star of Muscle and Fitness magazine in recent years. George dropped out of the music scene for a bit in the early 90's, got seriously into mountain biking, and ended up breaking his back in an accident. As part of his rehab regimen, he got heavily into weight training (although rumors of a bully/sand-kicking incident at the beach also persist). At one point George had more workout tips and training plans on his website than guitar stuff. Bulking up also had its fringe benefits: namely, keeping lead singers in line!
George was also a notorious endorsement whore. When he was a high-profile guitarist, he lent his name to Randall amps, Aria Pro II guitars, Charvel guitars, Kramer guitars, ESP guitars, GHS strings, Peavey amps and other items (oddly enough Aqua Net wasn't among them) — and in many cases, he didn't actually use what he endorsed! But George has maintained a long running relationship with ESP, and designed the ESP Kamikaze guitar, which is still available today. He is also a longtime Seymour Duncan endorsee. The Duncan Screamin' Demon humbucker was specifically designed for George.
Obvious: Jeff Beck, Michael Schenker, Van Halen.
Not-so-obvious: Jimi Hendrix. I also hear a lot of European, and particularly German, flavors in George's songwriting with Dokken. Compare Back for the Attack to Accept's Balls to the Wall, for example. If you were to erase the vocals from just about any Dokken track, the underlying progressions have a lot more in common with Accept and Judas Priest than they do Poison or the other LA pop metal acts that Dokken was often lumped in with.
Attitude: George is one of the few guys out there who didn't sacrifice sex for technique. While possessing monster chops, George's playing absolutely reeks of sex.
Unique Identity: George's approach is so off-the-wall that it's very distinctive. He has a unique identity as both a rhythm and lead player and in his tone as well — particularly his lead tone. The sum of these parts make George instantly recognizable from the first note he plays.
Chops: Lynch possesses amazing chops and has continually worked on his playing to incorporate new techniques into his work. Although capable of blinding speed, he never lets it get out of control.
Tone: George has worked hard on his tone and it shows. His lead tone screams with an almost liquid sustain. See the section on Tone for more details.
Weak singers: Let's start with Dokken: Don Dokken is a decent pop singer, but for aggressive metal, his voice is about as menacing as a chipmunk protecting an acorn.
After leaving Dokken in 1988 to form Lynch Mob, George had a great opportunity to recruit a world class hard rock/metal lead vocalist and really put his career over the top. What does he do? He hires ex-Ferrari lead vocalist Oni Logan, a guy with drug problems whose voice can't take the rigors of touring. Net result: Lynch Mob is unable to capitalize on the buzz generated from their debut album, Wicked Sensation, because they can't tour to support it. George gets yet ANOTHER chance to fix things, and what does he do? He hires Robert Mason, a guy who is a pretty good singer in the Mark Slaughter vein, but still, nothing special and a guy who brings nothing to the table.
George has never worked with a singer who was able to keep up with him, with the exception of his Scared Groove solo album, where he brought in guest vocalists like Glenn Hughes and Ray Gillan. Imagine Ray Gillan fronting Lynch Mob or George as Glenn Hughes' guitarist. Yikes!
Constraints of pop metal: Don Dokken knows his voice simply cannot compete with heavyweight singers or guitarists, so he only plays in the lite metal market. George, on the other hand, was into massive, heavy riffs designed to tear your head off. This was doomed to fail from the outset. A typical Dokken tune starts very heavy, but as soon as Don's vocals come in, they change the mood to pop instantly (see The Hunter). The result is pretty emasculated compared to what the basic guitar tracks must have sounded like before they piled on the vocals. Such compromises between pop and aggressive metal ultimately miss the mark in both cases. Furthermore, in heavy bands like Dio, Maiden, or even Van Halen, the guitar is mixed very upfront, and in-your-face. There's an edge to it. But in Dokken, George's guitar sound was mixed the way the guitar is mixed in Bon Jovi or Winger — back behind pop vocal stylings. Worse, the aggressive, rough edges of the guitar sound have been softened in the mix, so as not to annoy your mom or your girlfriend.
Plenty of people enjoy(ed) Dokken, but Lynch fans have always fantasized about hearing George in the context of a heavier, less commercial band, competing with the likes of Dio, Maiden, or Ozzy. Instead, he's like a major league ball player stuck in the minors. Ultimately, Dokken were victims of this mismatch. They were too soft for the true metal-heads (Don's fault), and too heavy and aggressive for the Bon Jovi crowd (George's fault). So even at their peak in the mid to late 80's, they were relegated to support act status and never headlined a US tour.
Stuck in a Rut: George seems to be stuck in a rut he can't get out of. His style was so evolved when he debuted that he seems to have a hard time keeping it interesting without alienating his old fans. Whenever he tries to take his playing in a more modern direction, the results have been dreadful.
George relies on three primary tones:
His clean and rhythm tones are often heavily chorused in the mix. For leads, the chorus is kicked off and a lot of delay is used - usually 1 to three repeats in tempo with the song, somewhere between 325 and 400ms. George has also been known to use a Boss DS-1 to boost the signal for leads.
George has used a LOT of gear in his career but even so his tones have remained remarkably similar. For the classic sound of Under Lock and Key or Back for the Attack, 4 100W Marshall Super Leads were used powering various cabinets. Up to 16 different mics were employed to mic the cabinets; the resulting phase cancellations were a huge part of why George's guitar sounds the way it does. The Marshalls used 6CA7 power tubes and were goosed with an Ohmite variable transformer to boost the operating voltage up to 140V or so. His primary guitars were Charvel, Kramer, or ESP super strats with a Duncan Distortion humbucker in the bridge and Floyd Rose trems. These have maple bodies and maple necks with ebony fingerboards. George has also admitted to occasionally using a Les Paul for rhythm tracks. Many of his strats have a single coil in the neck position for cleaner tones.
His current live setup consists of two Peavey Triple XXX heads, a Boogie Dual Recto head, and a Bogner head through Genz Benz 2x12 ported cabinets. A Line 6 POD Pro is also prominent in his rack. He still relies on the DS-1 for boost when soloing, but he has replaced the Kamikaze's with ESP Vipers. His rhythm tone is a little cleaner and darker than it used to be, maybe a little chunkier, but not all that different than the old days.
Compared to other superstrat players such as Warren DiMartini or EVH, Lynch's tone is much more processed sounding, due to the chorus and other effects added at mixdown and also due to the micing techniques employed. His rhythm sound has more chunk to it and is not as gained out as either DiMartini or Van Halen, retaining a clear upper midrange honk (probably due to the maple bodies). His lead sound is very sustained and almost liquid, similar to EVH but with more gain and sustain. Even so, it never gets buzzy, which EVH is prone to.
Whatever works. Lynch has one of the most unorthodox styles out there.
When playing rhythm, Lynch tries to cover as much ground as possible, using a lot of open string chords and whacking all six strings to fill out the sound. Full barre chords are extremely rare, although he uses a lot of root-5 power chords. He likes tritones; you'll often hear him slide the 5th down to a b5, and he also likes to slide the root down 1 fret as well. The most interesting thing about the way George plays rhythm is to listen to what is going on with his picking hand. He employs a lot of accents, chirps, bends, etc., to spice things up. Being the only guitarist allows him to take a lot of liberties with the rhythm parts without shooting the band's wheels off. When playing clean passages, he relies on arrpeggios and usually tries to stick to open string chords, often employing some pretty unusual fingerings.
Scale wise, George often mixes major and minor scales in the same solo, changing back and forth as his ear dictates. He loves to emphasize the major 3rd, and tritone (b5) when soloing, which lends an Arabic sound to his leads without being purely Phrygian mode. He tends to alternate long sustained notes with bursts of speed similar to Allan Holdsworth, applying one of several finger vibrato styles (see below), or occasionally using the whammy bar. He uses a lot of string bends as well as the whammy bar to slide into pitches, ala Jeff Beck. His solos do not sound composed but rather have a that element of falling down the stairs and landing on your feet to them. In the earlier days of his career solos tended to be more worked out, and he would occasionally throw in some two handed tapping (i.e., Tooth and Nail, title track.)
George has a good balance of legato and alternate picking in his lead work. The very sustained lead tone he uses lends itself to hammer-ons and pull-offs, which he often takes advantage of in slower passages. When it's time to burn, George is a strict alternate picker.
George doesn't hold his pick in the conventional manner, but rather points the tip toward the bridge and uses the side instead. This approach lets him get great pinch harmonics. When picking fast passages, George alternate picks, and sometimes moves his hand below the strings and picks them from below. Ouch! (Professional driver — closed course. Do not attempt!) Important: if you didn't blindly stumble into this picking method out of pure ignorance when you first started playing, we recommend avoiding it. It puts your wrist at a 90° angle with your arm and it's virtually guaranteed to cause major tendonitis in us mere mortals. George also employs very wide left hand stretches between his 1st and 4th fingers, and will sometimes use his pick rather than his finger to tap notes on the fretboard ala Joe Satriani.
Among George's stylistic trademarks are several techniques cribbed from classical string players. For example, there's the "jackoff vibrato" — instead of applying vibrato to a note the way most blues based lead guitarists do, Lynch uses a technique similar to what a classical violinist might do, moving his fretting hand from side to side parallel to the neck, rather than perpendicular to it. (The Japanese press gave this technique its name and also invented a sperm shaped symbol for guitar tablature to indicate its use. Weird, huh?) George also will place his left hand under the neck with his thumb barring across the top of the neck, and then use his other 4 fingers to hit harmonics. This is an acoustic bass technique.
String gages are .009 - .038, and George uses a variety of picks, including a washer, a filed down quarter, Fender mediums, and graphite plectrums.
Varies greatly. George has clearly spent a LOT of time working on his vibrato and he has a huge arsenal of techniques. The jackoff vibrato described above is very fast and intense. Regular vibrato is sometimes wide and crazy, sometimes medium in width and intensity, sometimes subtle.
Profile By John Walker, additional material from Shawn Hoagland. Copyright ©2002 All rights reserved.
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