High School Poll: Who Was The Best Guitarist In The World??

When I was at high school the big topic that we would discuss and debate about (sometimes it got heated!) was “who was the best guitarist in the world”?

We took our Rock Music very seriously. This was a question that was very important to us and one we felt that needed to be resolved.

Ritchie Blackmore got a lot of votes while John McLaughlin was my pick.

Ritchie Blackmore
John McLaughlin

It seems silly today…why didn’t we just enjoy the music?

but the competition between the bands and their featured “guitar hero” was quite intense and of course that competition pushed them to a higher standard.

Musician Rivalry Alive And Well!

In the Jazz era the big rivalry was for the title of “King Of Swing” and Downbeat Magazine (the Jazz Bible) conducted its readers poll regularly. It was to be fought out by the two great clarinet playing bandleaders Benny Goodman and Artie Shaw.

Both superior musicians with incredible bands behind them so they would each be on the hunt for something to give them that slight edge over the other.

For example Artie Shaw at one point hired the great singer Billie Holiday, while Benny Goodman hired the guitarist Charlie Christian (the Hendrix of his generation) all to gain that advantage.

In the 1800’s Paris was a piano crazy city and if we consider that two of the greatest pianists of all time, Liszt and Chopin, living together there in the same town, then it is of little wonder that Paris should produce so much great piano music.

Tracking Debussy’s Inspiration

We know that Debussy met Liszt on three occasions during his “Prix de Rome” days and we know that Liszt heard Debussy play but sadly we have no record of their conversations.

On the other hand… Chopin died more than a decade before Debussy was born.

Debussy had access to Chopin’s musical mind, however, because one of his early piano teachers “Madame de Fleurville” had been a student of Chopin.

Later, while studying at the Paris Conservatoire, Debussy’s piano teacher was Antoine Marmontel who had been a friend of Chopin so due to his teachers he was given a great insight into Chopin’s music.

Chopin wrote a cycle of 24 Preludes and Debussy also wrote a cycle of 24 Preludes.

My Arrangement “The Girl With The Flaxen Hair”

My arrangement of “The Girl With The Flaxen Hair” is from Debussy’s first book of Preludes.

As the name suggests a Prelude is a piece of music that comes before something.

During the Renaissance the “Prelude” was meant to give the musicians an opportunity to tune up but by the time Chopin composed his Preludes it had come to mean a stand alone composition- not written to a particular formulae with an improvised feel about it.

As I worked on my arrangement of “The Girl With The Flaxen Hair” I was stunned at how beautifully it worked on guitar.

We can only wonder at what great music we could have today had Debussy put his mind to composing for the guitar.