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Eric Johnson has had a lifelong battle with perfection. Its made him one of the most revered and imitated guitarists out there. Its made him take apart regular guitar chords and reform them his own way, even if that makes them impossible to finger easily. It makes him walk around with a small tool kit, so that he can constantly adjust his Fender Stratocaster. (He claims he can even tell the difference between paint jobs on guitars.) Its made him a flawless fingerer on the fretboard.

Eric Johnson is fighting perfection. He wins a lot.

At this level of musicianship, I think its obvious that he is a versatile session player. But his 1990 Grammy winning album Ah Via Musicom was a platinum album and a massive hit, changing the landscape of instrumental rock guitar albums. It was no surprise to anyone that heard his previous jazz fusion work and subsequent solo albums. He already had numerous awards, the respect of his peers, and a previous Grammy nomination. Recently he has continued his solo career, joined the G3 tour and had several signature guitars.

Despite his speed, Johnson is not a shredder. Every note is tasteful, executed in a way to eliminate the sound of the pick, so that the runs sound like violin tones. Johnson is a musician in the purest sense, taking even the simplest of progressions and adding extra notes and sounds. Although he uses effects and elaborate guitar setups, he doesn’t need them, Johnson can produce a plethora of string tones and sounds just with pure technique.

Every serious rock guitarist has probably studied some Eric Johnson. It is immediately obvious who they are imitating and when, as his style is so distinctive he does not even have to be seen for it to be recognized. The overwhelming majority fail miserably, but even those failures elevate you has a player. There’s no shame in it. You’re not Eric Johnson.

No one is.

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