While we, guitar players, often enjoy some form of improvisation, not everyone around us would share that sentiment. At least that’s what guitar maestro George Lynch said, claiming that fans can be “resistant” to it in live settings, and often even band members as well.
Appearing in an interview with Chuck Shute, Lynch addressed the matter, explaining how live improvisation comes with its challenges. Admitting that his “favorite thing is to improvise,” the former Dokken and current Lynch Mob guitarist said (transcript via Ultimate Guitar):
“Not only do I find that some fans are resistant to that, but it’s also some band members. So, that becomes challenging if you can’t get them to go along with it.”
He also added:
“I find I have to force the issue sometimes. And they know what I’m up to, and some of the guys in the band don’t like it, if I’m being honest,” Lynch said with a laugh.
And it seems that George is persistent in doing what he loves. Don’t expect to see him play live without at least some improv in the mix there.
“I’ll just throw something in,” explains Lynch. “I turn up my guitar, and this riff comes out: ‘Hey, there’s something cool! Let’s do this!'”
But there’s also a somewhat funny aspect to it, as he explained:
“It’s funny, because if you ever watch us and I do this on stage, you’ll see that the No. 1 thing is that the rest of the band is acting like I’m not doing that. It’s this whole cat and mouse thing we’re playing.”
Lynch has been an on-and-off member of Dokken and is considered to be one of the “classic” lineup guys in there. But despite that, the guitar legend has been open about the band not being the best place for him to do what he really wanted. After all, it’s a classic glam metal band that exploded in the 1980s and they’re led by vocalist Don Dokken.
One thing that Lynch really felt like doing was relying on the blues side of things. And according to what he said in an interview from earlier this year, it’s even outright saying that “it was not the band I would have built,” despite appreciating all the work that they’ve done together.
It was great and people loved it,” Lynch explained. “It worked. Maybe that gives an indication that my instincts aren’t always the best to follow.”
“I was allowed the resources at that point, because of the position I was in, to build my dream band and write and record my dream album.”
However, he still couldn’t help it since blues is the foundation of what he’s doing:
“I’m a blues guy at heart and will always be one. It’s influenced all my music. It’s what rock ‘n’ roll was born from.”
Unfortunately, adding too much of the blues side of things wasn’t the way to go in that band. He continued:
“Dokken was not a good vehicle for that bluesy side. That’s not what we were. Don’s Scandinavian, we had this ultra-white feel to us. I had these tendencies though to bring in these organic, bluesy elements to it, and I think that’s what made us different than a lot of the other 80’s bands.”
“When I was able to unleash myself from those constraints, the world was my oyster so to speak. I couldn’t really do anything but what I did in Dokken, which was probably a good thing, because you don’t want to do something that doesn’t fit a project. When I was on my own, I was able to open up my musical vistas. It was just an outpouring of musical ideas.”
Speaking of blues and improvisation, the genre legend Robert Cray recently said that he has a completely different approach to the whole thing. As opposed to the usual “shredders,” Lynch included, Cray simply never practices a solo ahead of a live show. Instead, he just does whatever he feels like at a given moment and never plays the same solo twice. Well, at least not deliberately. He explained:
“Oh, I’m in the moment when soloing. Practicing a solo ahead of time puts you in a position of being unable to reach it later. I don’t subscribe to that theory or that way of doing a solo.”
Discussing the matter, Robert also mentioned the importance of the “meditative state” in live improvisation but also added that this practice “stems from doing live shows.” He continued:
“Because I’ll go into that state when playing live. The thing I’m always trying to get away from is playing the same song several times a week. If you do that, there’s no stretching of your imagination, which is not satisfying.”
But, at the end of the day, be it full-on improv or a meticulously planned out lead section that was practiced thousands of times — it doesn’t really matter. Both are valid options. It just comes down to what works best for you. What’s important is that you get your message across and, ultimately, just have a great time.