7 Guitarists Who Have Played Impossible Music & Pulled it Off

I have a secret fascination with avant garde music, and music that is extreme or just far out on the edge of what most people will listen to or tolerate. It's the kind of stuff I listen to with headphones so others don't have to put up with it–or wonder why I'm so weird. It's cool with me though. this list is inspired by that fascination. but, it's not just about music on the edge… to me it's also a testament to the glory of amazing music, and of course the musicians that reach across impossible limits to create that music.

Most of these tracks I've selected for you are picked for their outstanding technical ability, ground breaking moments, or just plain how-do-they-do-it-ness. while I've tried to give you some informative background for each piece of music below, ultimately it's the music that speaks for itself. enjoy!

In the early 1800's Niccolò Paganini composed his magnum opus. the 24 Caprices. the caprices are mostly unstructured musical compositions exhibiting studies of technique, speed and musical brilliance. I've been inspired by this body of music for a very long time and it still gives me chills listening to it. It's true that Paganini was considered to have super natural abilities in his life time, his technique was so amazing. while he was also a guitar composer, his 24 Caprices were played on violin and are fresh and ground breaking even today–combining incredible speed, multiple voices, arpeggios, string skipping, leaps, bowing of multiple stings and exciting compositions. in 1992 Eliot Fisk a classical guitarist of renown set out to arrange and play all 24 Caprices on guitar, a feat that was not done until Eliot pulled it off, and one that was supposed to be virtually impossible!

Here's Eliot playing Caprice #24. the speed and agility needed to pull this off on a guitar is simply incredible and I believe right at the edge of human ability.

Some trivia: Classical guitarist Andreas Segovia's crowning achievement was that he legitimized and popularized the classical guitar as a stage instrument throughout his life, taking Spanish piano pieces and transcribing them for guitar such as Isaac Albeniz's beautiful Asturias. Prior to this guitar was considered a lowly parlor instrument, though there were many great compositions for it already. Years later in the 1980's a 20 year old Swedish lad named Lars Johan Yngve Lannerbäck (aka Yngwie Malmsteen) would arrive on the music scene with an album, an attitude to rival both Beethoven and Bach put together, and his own fully developed style merging classical music with pyrotechnic guitar skills and some classical song structures fully legitimizing classical guitar in the world of rock music.

Tiago della Vega earned the Guitar Speed Guinness World Record 2008 with the Flight of the Bumblebee played at 170 beats per minute, then 230, then 260, 280, then 300, and finally a whopping 320 beats per minute! to give you a sense of how fast this is one of Metallica's fastest songs is Dyers Eve at  194 beats per minute. Honestly I didn't think this was humanly possible until I saw this guy–I've seen this video a few times already and I still I don't believe what I'm seeing! this is a man of extremes. I'm pretty sure Tiago either has a pact with the dark side or is one of God's chosen rockers.

Want to cut to the best part? Fast forward to 7:40 to hear him play at 320 beats per minute! It's not video editing!

if that's no nuts enough he then goes on to play at 370 bpm on Tokyo TV (around the 3:20 mark). Check out his insane entrance onto the stage here:

New Tiago's CD available at www.sgrecords.it

While playing a Tom Petty tune may not seem impossible to you if you're a guitarist with some average skills, imagine playing it with your feet. That's just what mark Goffeney does here. this isn't just a testament to mark, but to everyone or anyone who's overcome the odds or who has overcome a handy cap to still play music and create art. How much more inspiring is music to us when someone like mark refuses to be put down, marginalized, or give up? to me this is far more rock and roll than a guitarist who plays cheesy blues solos from the rafters.

Mark has his own band and plays regularly. Check out Mark's band "Big Toe".

Steve Vai is a guitarist with an awe inspiring ability to become one with his guitar like almost no other guitarist I know. most guitar players play their guitars, with Steve the guitar seems to play him. as with most of the impossible guitar playing in this list it's something you have to see and experience to fully appreciate. Because in Steve's hands the guitar reaches its full potential as an expressive and creative instrument there are many of his tracks that are worthy of this list. I've chosen this one because I love his "Passion and Warfare" album.

If you like that, you can also catch a glympse of Vai dueling two violinists at top speed on YouTube.

You may have seen demonstrations of 4 handed guitar before like the famed Four Hands Guitar video on YouTube, but you've never seen one like this. most performances fall into the category of so-so since the guitar parts are so distinct that the two guitarists playing one instrument seems to be having an easy time at it. this isn't the case with Cecilia and Fernando. they pull off a classic Brazilian track by both playing intricate parts in close proximity and then switching off by playing one hand of each others parts and their own parts at the same time. It's astonishing. they have been playing together like this for years, and it's almost like watching two highly trainer acrobats perform impossible stunts.

To learn more about Cecilia and Fernando visit their site at http://www.duosiqueiralima.com.br/.

I have to admit, I'm a Leo Kottke fan boy. Here's why. in 1969 at the age of 24 Kottke (that's pronounced Kot-key) released his first studio album 6 & 12 String Guitar. an album of instrumental guitar music like non that had ever been released before. Building on the work of his contemporary John Fahey he infused his acoustic finger picking with fire, rhythm, melody, speed, and technical proficiency that had never been seen our heard on acoustic guitar before. the album was ground breaking and changed the face of guitar playing spawning many copy cats and practically inventing a new genre of guitar and making Kottke a legend.

Listening to some of Kottke songs it sounds like 2 or 3 people playing guitar at once, or at the very least you'll be thinking to yourself how it is possible for one guitar to make that much music, and many of these songs are played on a 12 string which makes them all the more unlikely. Kottke's use of the 12 string guitar was born out of his desire to hear more notes and harmonics than the 6 string could produce. Here at the age of 63 he plays the song he wrote at 24, still standing the test of time now as his recording career reaches the 41st year in 2010. Don't think for a second just because he's in his 60's he can't shred.

For more astounding 12 string Leo Kottke video's check out "Air Proofing" and "I Yell at Traffic".

If you'd like to recommend a video for the honorable mentions section please do so in the comments below.

Observant – Joe Haley of Psycroptic –  Incredible hybrid picking techniques on display providing Joe with very fast, and clear as a bell technical speed metal chops. not for the weak of heart.

Tamacun – Gabriela of Rodrigo y Gabriela – Fastest right hand syncopated guitar hits on the planet? keep your eye on her right hand.

Santana Track – by Lucciano Pizzichini – 7 year old child guitar prodigy. it just doesn't seem natural that a 7 year old can play this well!

Technical Difficulties – by Paul Gilbert – Impossible speed, and chops woven into metal riffs. Paul is known for his speed and perfect technique.

Two Handed Arpeggios – by Chris Broderick – Chris playing 5 octave tapping arpeggios, with two hands, on a 7 string. enough said.

Send me a link to your favorite impossible guitar video below in the comments–if I like it I'll add it to the list!

As a guitarist I love when other musicians share the music they love because that's how I find new music myself. So is there anyone in the list above that you found inspiring enough to learn more about? Anyone totally knew to you and impressive? please let me know in the comments below. Thanks!

7 Guitarists Who Have Played Impossible Music & Pulled it Off

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One Response to “7 Guitarists Who Have Played Impossible Music & Pulled it Off”

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