What Was Brought To Rock: Four Guitar Gods from the 1970s

 Music continuously experiences transformative breakthroughs each decade. This was especially true in the genre of rock and roll during the 1970s. The ’70s showcased an array of talent and rare techniques that all led to significant sounds we’ve come to know and love as an audience. 

Mike LeClair, a music buff who grew up during this era, explained that there’s a huge difference between a good guitarist and an innovator. Here is a list of guitarists featuring techniques they pioneered into the realm of rock music:

Tony Iommi

Tony Iommi, grinning on stage as he plays in the New Haven Coliseum (1978). Photo taken by Carl Lender (under CC BY 2.0, no changes have been made.)
Tony Iommi, grinning on stage as he plays in the New Haven Coliseum (1978). Photo taken by Carl Lender (under CC BY 2.0, no changes have been made.)

At age 17, future Black Sabbath guitarist Tony Iommi lost the tips of his middle and ring fingers on his right hand due to an accident that happened while working in a sheet metal factory, as stated by VH1 Classic. Rather than deciding to play guitar left-handed, he melted down a dish soap bottle to create make-shift thimbles for his fingers. He also replaced the heavy, thick strings on his guitar with banjo strings and then tuned it down. A heavier sound was the result of these modifications. Dylan Lesniewski, a DJ at WIRY Radio, credits Iommi with, “establishing your standard metal sound as far as musicianship goes.”“Every metal band kind of owes something to his style since a song like “Paranoid” really foreshadows a lot of future groups like Judas Priest and Iron Maiden,” says Lesniewski.

Jimmy Page

Jimmy Page, cigarette in mouth as he strums his guitar (1978). Photo taken by Susan Ackeridge (under CC BY 2.0, no changes have been made.)
Jimmy Page, cigarette in mouth as he strums his guitar (1978). Photo taken by Susan Ackeridge (under CC BY 2.0, no changes have been made.)

Led Zeppelin guitarist Jimmy Page, as explained by guitarist and lead singer of Adirondack Delirium, Franz Pope, is “one who would often challenge himself to create the newest sound,” and in turn, this determination “led to the use of new open tunings paired with chord progression and time signatures.” As a result, sounds like the thunderous rumble in the beginning of “Whole Lotta Love” and eccentricity throughout “Kashmir” came to be. Page is also widely recognized for his use of a violin bow while playing guitar to create a psychedelic effect; a rather bold move of openness and adaptability in that era.

Eddie Van Halen

Eddie Van Halen, shredding his Frankenstrat guitar live in concert. Photo taken by K. Todd Storch (under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0, no changes have been made.)
Eddie Van Halen, shredding his Frankenstrat guitar live in concert. Photo taken by K. Todd Storch (under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0, no changes have been made.)

Van Halen guitarist Eddie Van Halen popularized a technique called tapping in the late ‘70s. Tapping is where one uses both of their hands to hammer down and pluck on the frets of a guitar. 

“This increases speed, and if you add volume and crunch the sound on an amp, the desired sound has long sustained notes with a gravelly effect.” Pope said.

Eddie’s tapping can be predominantly heard in early Van Halen songs such as “Eruption and “Hot For Teacher.”

Angus Young

Angus Young, duck walking across stage during the Black Ice World Tour in Barcelona, Spain (2009). Photo taken by Ed Vill (under CC BY 2.0, no changes have been made.)
Angus Young, duck walking across stage during the Black Ice World Tour in Barcelona, Spain (2009). Photo taken by Ed Vill (under CC BY 2.0, no changes have been made.)

AC/DC guitarist Angus Young’s school-boy outfits and Chuck Berry-inspired duck walking have always made for a lively stage persona. It wasn’t so much a fashion statement he brought to rock, but a trademark. Even if you aren’t an AC/DC fan, you know who Angus is. Young’s energetic playing style is predominantly based on the foundations of a bluesy approach like most rock musicians.

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