Barry Gibb as a guitarist

Discussion in 'Music Corner' started by Cookary02, Jun 13, 2018.

  1. Cookary02

    Cookary02 Forum Resident Thread Starter

    I must confess I'm a lot more aware of keyboard playing than of guitar, but I've been listening to a few Bee Gees recordings - both live and in-studio, and I've been astounded by how simplistic and bad he sounds. As someone with more than 50 years of experience playing guitar on albums and live, why hasn't his playing improved? He honestly sounds like a hack "strummer" rather than a performer on #1 records. Doesn't look like he's ever played electric, so that's interesting. Am I mistaken, is there something more to his playing? I just don't get it.
  2. Rick Bartlett

    Rick Bartlett Forum Resident

    Ha! he has always been a rhythm player, not a lead guitarist.
    I don't believe that was ever his focus to be an exceptional guitarist, more a songwriter, followed secondly by performing.
    He has said, along with his brothers, that was their main interest, was writing and producing material.
    He has indeed played electrics, but again, only as a rhythm player.
    Barry has also faced having back problems and arthritis in his hands for decades, which may indicate some
    of those things you hear and see. Also note, he has always used an alternate open tuning all his life, which is a odd for
    most players.
    I'm sure he has never claimed to be a super hot guitar player, nor has he pursued being so.
    He's done pretty well, along with his brothers, even with his playing the way it's been.

    edit: I actually learned open D tuning from Barry's playing. Thoroughly enjoyed learning it.
  3. Cookary02

    Cookary02 Forum Resident Thread Starter

    I thought the arthritis might've had a part in it. Still think his playing derails a couple of their tunes. Always disliked his part in "Fanny".
  4. mcchocchoc

    mcchocchoc Forum Resident

    Portland, OR
    I think he's a fine player for his/Bee Gees music. He's played electric guitars, here's a great clip . . .

  5. Rick Bartlett

    Rick Bartlett Forum Resident

    I think it's in 'One Night Only' DVD?? he wears an wrist band or is it 'by request' DVD???
    I can't recall now, but he actually plays an electric in that 'live by request' DVD.
    Somewhere it's mentioned, he liked the thin body acoustic/electrics because they were lighter
    and easier to manage with his back problems on stage.
    The open tuning thing is interesting, he's been using it since the late 50's early 60's.
    I'd like to know more about how he came to use that particular tuning.
    Don't think I've ever seen him use normal EADGBE tuning Ever!
    mark winstanley likes this.
  6. Atmospheric

    Atmospheric Forum Resident

    Newberg, OR USA
    Rick Nelson also used open E tuning almost exclusively.
  7. chacha

    chacha Forum Resident

    mill valley CA USA
    Wow, I always dug his guitar playing. Especially on the early stuff. He plays lots of electric rhythm. Good groove. Works for me.
  8. Mai Tem Baht

    Mai Tem Baht Forum Resident

    Could you be more specific about what is bad about his playing? You mention Fanny. I don't hear anything other than a perfect rhythm guitar on that. (Do we even know if that's him playing, for sure?)

    Any other examples?
  9. beccabear67

    beccabear67 Musical Omnivore

    Victoria, Canada
    I'm a big Barry admirer, but I can't say anything particularly for the guitar. Pleasant, open tuning, mostly rhythm, supportive without drawing attention. Lots of tremendous songwriters are maybe just adequate instrumentalists. Did Smokey Robinson ever play much piano in the studio or even live?
  10. Rick Bartlett

    Rick Bartlett Forum Resident

    Yes, I'm glad you said that, cue my favourite artist......
    Brian Wilson, could really play piano, but he is not known primarily for his piano skills.
    In most cases when you hear him play, he uses it as a demonstration as to what and how he wants
    things to go. Even on record, he's more of a 'chunka chunka' player!
    The dude could play, but he will be remembered as a writer, producer, arranger, singer and somewhere down
    the list will be his Piano and early Bass playing.
    beccabear67 and jwb1231970 like this.
  11. Chemguy

    Chemguy Forum Resident

    Who the flip cares? His singing is superb and his music is wonderful.

    The guitar playing is completely irrelevant.
    siveld and apesfan like this.
  12. Rick Bartlett

    Rick Bartlett Forum Resident

    I'll admit, I loved it when the three of them sing together around one mic with Barry's guitar.
    My favourite part of all of their performances.
    apesfan likes this.
  13. Cookary02

    Cookary02 Forum Resident Thread Starter

    I see that he played electric on ESP according to allmusic. Listened to a nice acoustic version of "to love somebody" on YouTube, the guitar playing was a bit rough but it's obvious he's struggling with arthritis (looks like he can barely move his fingers)

    I guess I understand why he started playing for them - it was probably because they wanted to be taken seriously as a cohesive band, not just as a vocal harmony group. On their early records I see Robin was credited with Keyboards and Mellotron, and by having the whole group playing they could appear the equals of the Beatles musically and artistically, rather than a novel fad, and I certainly prefer most his playing to John's rough early efforts. I agree the acoustic moments where they harmonise are brilliant, never meant to knock his ability as a strummer.
    bpmd1962 likes this.
  14. Mai Tem Baht

    Mai Tem Baht Forum Resident

    I have no idea why you think his playing on this is "rough".

    To my ears, it is excellent.

    And, for what it's worth, I have had only one job in my whole life: I was a professional guitarist for 30 years, now retired.
  15. BadJack

    BadJack Forum Resident

    Boston, MA
    Sounds like a pretty good, driving rhythm part to me:

  16. winders

    winders Music Lover

    San Martin, CA
    Barry's playing was just fine. Was he the best? No way! I am sure there are worse players too. The good news is that until this thread I never really thought much about his playing. Probably because it was good enough. I was in high school and a young adult for the BG's really big years and always enjoyed their music. Was it technically perfect? Heck no. But it sure was great to listen to!
    Last edited: Jun 14, 2018
    John Rhett Thomas likes this.
  17. belushipower

    belushipower Forum Resident

    Wouldn't want it any other way. What do you want? Fiddly diddly tricky dicky chords? He doesn't need to be "better". He's one of the best. And, you'll hate this OP, he still plays the banjo chords he learnt as a kid!
    BadJack likes this.
  18. Castle in the air

    Castle in the air Forum Resident

    new york
    Barry has never put himself forward as a master guitar player,he has his style with the open D tuning he always used and has created/co created 16 US #1 hits around it.
    It is not intended to be the front sound but the body of music.

  19. delmonaco

    delmonaco Forum Resident

    Sofia, Bulgaria
    I’m not an expert, and I couldn’t recognize if Barry or someone else is playing certain guitar part on a studio recording. When it’s obvious that he’s playing (for instance, during the acoustic medley the Bee Gees always performed during their live shows), to me he sounds just fine (it doesn’t distract me from the glorious vocal harmonies)

    As for why he didn’t improve as a guitarist over the years – I believe this was never his priority. He was more interested of writing songs, playing with his voice (actually – his several voices) and blending it in harmonies, to be involved in the sound production, etc. As far as I know, after the Bee Gees became huge in the 70’s, his vision for the band was they to continue as a strictly vocal trio, hiring the best session players available for their recordings and tours. So obviously he was not interested in perfecting himself strictly as an instrumentalist.

    That said, I think (I might be wrong though) that recently, and especially around his last solo album, he was inspired to play more guitar parts (as far as I remember during the live presentation of the album he played guitar during the whole show, if I’m not mistaken – both acoustic and electric, and quite competently). So possibly these days he’s more interested in the instrument than in the past.
    beccabear67 likes this.
  20. Rfreeman

    Rfreeman Forum Resident

    Lawrenceville, NJ
    Pretty perfect if you ask me. And the foundation for some of the best guitar playing on a pop smash I can think of. Yes I'll take the playing on Stayin' Alive over Beat It by a country mile.
    BadJack likes this.
  21. Abbagold

    Abbagold Working class hero

    He plays better than me!
    Cookary02 likes this.
  22. pool_of_tears

    pool_of_tears Music Appreciator

    Eastern Iowa
    Sounds good to me, his playing serves the song. That makes a big difference
    BadJack and Rfreeman like this.
  23. mark winstanley

    mark winstanley Pick up a fast car, burn my name in the road

    i'm not sure how much of Barry's guitar i hear in the songs, but i have never cringed when listening, and I am a guitarist
    MRamble likes this.
  24. mark winstanley

    mark winstanley Pick up a fast car, burn my name in the road

    In the early days it was just Barry playing the guitar and the three harmonizing. So, no, it wasn't a prop. He isn't Steve Vai, but it is doubtful that mega tech guitar would have suited their stuff
  25. Folknik

    Folknik Forum Resident

    Barry is strictly a rhythm guitarist and never aspired to be a virtuoso on the instrument. However, the intricate chord progressions in many of the songs he wrote attest to the fact that he knew much more than 3 or 4 basic cowboy chords. His open and alternate tunings may have had a lot to do with how he found such amazing chord progressions. All 3 Bee Gees were brilliant songwriters and their vocal harmonies were pretty impressive as well.
    MRamble likes this.

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