Brad Whitford

Groupology

  • Aerosmith
  • Whitford St. Holmes

Jurassic

Watch Brad Whitford in Action at the bottom of this page!

Famous / Infamous for

Famous for: For being a fairly normal guy in a band filled with lunatics and addicts. Having a guitar collection that rivals most guitar superstores. Being one of the most underrated guitarists in rock. Being considered the second guitarist in Aerosmith when his chops are better than those of Joe Perry. Brad is definitely a more accomplished player, yet he has taken a constant backseat to Perry throughout the band's career. Doing a God-awful side project when he got fed up with Aerosmith. Writing the legendarily nasty, Last Child. Wearing goggles onstage.

Influences

Obvious: Eric Clapton, Jimmy Page, Jeff Beck, Peter Frampton, Steve Marriott. Brad claims he joined Aerosmith because he really wanted to be in a two guitar band like Humble Pie.

Not-so-obvious: John MacLaughlin, Wes Montgomery and Charlie Christian. Whitford was a Berklee graduate, and some of that fusion-ish style crossed over in his playing. Whitford also likes a lot of Classical Guitar Players, such as Segovia. He's also a fan of Billy Gibbons and Carlos Santana.

Strengths

Complementing Joe Perry perfectly. In most bands with two lead players, the guitarists are usually of similar abilities. But the talent split in Aerosmith is unusual. Joe and Brad have different strengths and abilities. Whitford has the musical knowledge and technical superiority. Perry's has the ideas and the attitude. Neither guy has the total package ala Page or Beck. It's more like one guy is left-brain, and the other is right-brain, and between the two of them, they comprise a whole, dino style giant.

Rhythm guitar. Brad is an accomplished rhythm guitarist. Both he and Joe Perry are high on the list of great two guitar teams because of their seamless rhythmic interplay and uncanny ability to blend one another's playing styles (see technique section below for details).

Work Ethic. As producer Jack Douglas once said "Brad was the guy who would stay in the studio and work with me all night. Joe would come in lay down six tracks and know he could leave. Then Brad would work on a specific part, and if it took all night of constantly punching in, no problem. He loved doing it." Brad's attention to detail shows in his playing. Check out Nobody's Fault from Rocks. It's Brad on both rhythm and lead and, is a good example of what Douglas is talking about.

Weaknesses

Defining his career by complementing Joe Perry. Brad hasn't done nearly enough of the writing or the soloing in Aerosmith. He's always been content to stay in the background. The Aerosmith autobiography, Walk this Way, suggests that for most of the 70s, the band sat around waiting for Joe Perry to come up with the riff ideas. Sure, Brad had some ideas of his own, but for the most part, he waited to see what Joe would play, then Brad played off of — or in reaction to the ideas that Joe came up with. And that's Brad's role — or forte — to make musical sense of Perry's ideas, rather than to come up with his own ideas. Brad swears that "Joe Perry is the Lightning Rod." Brad, Joey Kramer and Tom Hamilton refer to themselves as the LI3 — the Less Interesting Three. I don't know how fair this characterization is, but Whitford and Aerosmith have always been content to foster that impression. And Brad's importance has never been officially equated to Perry's by the band. This, despite how much Perry discovered — and stated repeatedly — that he missed Brad's presence when he had to carry the whole load in the Joe Perry Project.

So to play devil's advocate, one might say that outside of Aerosmith, neither Brad or Joe would bring enough to the table to hold anyone's interest. One could contend Brad doesn't have enough viable ideas; and Joe doesn't have enough knowledge to make good songs out of his riff ideas. Certainly the Joe Perry Project and Whitford - St. Holmes prove that point. Fortunately, in the context of Aerosmith, the two guys comprise one complete guitar entity that works perfectly.

Tone

Brad has always had a warmer and bassier tone than Joe Perry. In the early days Brad's parts were panned hard left and quite a bit lower in volume then Joe's parts. However, the combination of these two sounds produces one massive wall of guitar. Later on their approach changed a great deal to the point where it has become increasingly hard to figure out who does what on a given tune. Brad has experimented with many different instruments throughout the years, but for the most part always returns to the Les Paul - EL34 (usually Marshall) combination. Brad has stated: "The Les Paul Marshall combination that Clapton used on the Bluesbreakers album will always be my frame of reference." During Aerosmith's comeback in the early 80s both Joe and Brad were using the New Hampshire built Bedrock amps. Brad's amp choice has remained fairly consistent down through recent years, for live performance these days he uses a combination of a 1974 Marshall MKII and Marshall JCM2000 heads in conjunction with a Harry Joyce head through Bogner 4x12 cabinets.

In the early days Brad's main axe was a 50's Gibson Goldtop Les Paul. However Brad like Joe has always been a major guitar enthusiast, a self described, guitar salesman's dream. Brad used some early B.C. Rich and Hamer guitars in the 70s which is probably one of the reasons why these guitars came to be so fashionable among metalheads in the 80s. Brad was also an early collector of vintage guitars and at one point owned an impressive collection of vintage Gibsons and Fenders. Most of those he had to sell off at a fraction of what they'd be worth today due to his financial trouble during Aerosmith's disbanded period. In the 80s during their comeback Brad was a Paul Reed Smith endorsee, but that relationship didn't last long. These days Brad takes a staggering array of Custom Shop Gibsons, Fenders and reissue Gretsch guitars on the road but still prefers to use his vintage stuff in the studio. Brad says that these days his two favorite guitars are his Red Gibson Custom Shop Les Paul with Bigsby tremolo, and his Fender Custom Shop Triggs neck through Tele with P-90 style pickups. Brad uses a what ever works best for the particular job. One cool thing to note: Despite having an impressive guitar collection, Brad does turn over guitars he doesn't use. If you find yourself in a New England guitar store, and you hear that a guitar on the wall was once Brad's — by all means, play it! If Brad owned the guitar, you can bet it was a great sounding guitar. It's the only kind he owns.

Brad has always used a large pedal board, filled with an ever-changing array of high-end stomp boxes.

Guitar Style

Brad is a 70s style, blues-based guitarist. His contemporaries would be guys like Joe Perry, Scott Gorham, Brian Robertson, Pat Travers, and Ace Frehley. As stated above, Brad is a schooled player who possesses harmonic and theoretical knowledge. Joey Kramer sums up Brad Whitford's guitar style as neat and tidy. Kramer said that the band felt that Brad's more controlled and tighter style would be the perfect contrast to Joe's sloppier, more rhythmic type of playing.

Rhythmically, both guitarists use a lot of 7th, 9th and 13th chords and double stops. However, in most Aerosmith tunes Brad holds down the bottom end playing root-based power chords, and lower register riffs while Joe outlines the upper chord tones or plays funky stabs and licks up top. Despite this division of labor, I suspect that these funk-based chords came to Aerosmith from Brad's schooling. In any case, Brad tends to write much heavier riffs then Joe. Songs like Nobody's Fault, Round and Round, and Last Child are some of Aerosmith's heaviest and most metal sounding songs. Brad was responsible for those riffs — relying on lower string riffs that drive along hard with the drums. Brad and Joe usually play separate complimentary or harmony parts, and only double certain riffs in order to drive them home. In general, Aerosmith don't do as much guitar harmonies as most of the two guitar bands. When they do them, it's usually in one of Brad's tunes.

As a soloist, Brad relies primarily on the Minor and Major Pentatonic scales in the traditional blues box patterns. He uses classic Jimmy Page-style repeating licks and sequences, played in time with the song. Although these are the same building blocks used by Perry, Brad's style reflects his schooling. Brad is a very orthodox, controlled player in all aspects of his style. Brad's schooling is apparent in his fluid, and rhythmically precise style. To my ears, a major Clapton influence is evident in his attention to meter. Where Perry tends to play syncopated and behind the beat, Brad tends to divide time evenly and phrase on-the-beat. Similarly, his bends and vibrato are more in tune and precise than Joe Perry's.

Telling examples of Joe and Brad's differences can be heard on One Way Street from Aerosmith. Brad takes the first guitar solo. It's well composed and his touch, intonation, and tempo are perfect, and in the pocket. The second solo is Perry. It is a cool solo, but it's all over the place. Joe's and intonation, timing and overall touch isn't as together as Brad's.

Vibrato:

Like the rest of his style, Brad's Vibrato tends to be very controlled, usually medium width, either very quick or medium speed. When Brad bends it's usually to a chord tone and it generally stays there with a nice little shake to it.

Brad Whitford in Action

Recommended listening

Aerosmith

 

Profile by Joe Todaro. Copyright Dinosaur Rock Guitar ©2005 All rights reserved.

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