11 Things I Learned From The Guthrie Govan Kuala Lumpur Guitar Clinic (2018)

Learning from a guitar genius during his Asia Clinic Tour

Photo from a previous guitar clinic last year (March 2017)

It was the 3rd guitar clinic with Guthrie that I attended and it was awesome. Thank you Guthrie, Live Fact, jellybeard, Adieu and André for the epic experience. Here are 11 things I learned from the experience.

1. Learn songs by ear

Guthrie learned rock and roll first as a kid, then learned song from his dad’s record collection. He felt this was a good progression for him rather than if he started from Giant Steps right away

2. Play what suits the music

When he played for Hans Zimmer, Guthrie was entrusted with figuring out what to play. He worked with the music and recordings to find what he could add with the guitar. Sometimes it was a textural slide guitar part with volume swells.

3. It’s okay to like many styles of music

For Guthrie, his familiarity of different styles of music has helped him play all kinds of gigs from jazz, country, rock, blues & more. At the heart of it, he is really a rock guitarist but he takes from every style he’s played.

4. Different tones should make you want to play different things

He played on the neck pickup & I heard jazz blues lines ‘ala George Benson. Then, he played on the bridge pickup & he played snappy country guitar lines. It’s important to know the sounds your guitar can make!

5. Learn scales and modes in context

Use a loop of the appropriate chord so you can hear how a scale works in a musical context. Also, listen to music that uses these scales to learn how to use them.

6. To sound like you’re playing slide guitar without a slide…

Listen to the idiomatic or cliche sounds and learn to imitate those first. For example use common major shapes because open s tunings are often tuned to major triads.

7. To find your sound, learn what you like

Guthrie gave the example of Eric Johnson who combined his influences Eric Clapton, Cream, Chet Atkins and more into his own sound.

8. If you want to do music, don’t do it — If you HAVE to do music, do it

He paraphrased a quote from Steve Swallow that basically said that music is really something that you should do it you cannot see yourself doing anything else at all.

9. Play fast lines because it’s what is needed (not just because of chops)

Musicality is key, you gotta learn what the music needs and then use what is needed to express or make the song better. Guthrie plays many notes because that is what he hears and needs to play for the music.

10. Get the most sound from your guitar

Sometimes people feel they need another guitar just because they see something new. Guthrie encouraged everyone to find all the possible tones from their existing guitar and use it to the max.

11. Use the guitar/gear that fits the gig/situation

Guthrie tours with his Charvel guitar, a small Victory amp head and his Fractal FX8 Multi-Effects Pedalboard. This is what is needed for the clinic tour so he uses this. He emphasised that we need to use what is needed for the situation we’re in, in context.

[BONUS] 12. To learn modes, you can start with a pentatonic scale

Between dorian, aeolian and phrygian modes, the main difference is between the kind of 2nds and 6ths in the scale. You can start with a minor pentatonic:

1 b3 4 5 b7 8

and add:
2 and 6 to get Dorian
2 and b6 to get Aeolian
b2 and b6 to get Phrygian

I thought this was SO ELEGANT! Thanks Guthrie!

He didn’t mention the next part but I’m deriving this from the same logic.

With a C major pentatonic:

1 2 3 5 6 8

You can add:
4 and 7 to get Ionian
4 and b7 to get Mixolydian
#4 and 7 to get Lydian
#4 and b7 to get Lydian(b7)

Pretty cool way to think about it I think!


These are some of the main things that I learned from this particular clinic. It was great and I am grateful for this opportunity. I strongly recommend attending Guthrie’s clinics and performances whenever you get a chance, I know I will!

Read my 2015 post about the first Guthrie Govan workshop I attended here:
10 Things I Learned From The Guthrie Govan Kuala Lumpur Workshop

Wanna listen to a podcast about this event? Listen here:


Thanks for reading!

I just released my 4th book, JAZZ GUITAR LICKS & ETUDES 2. Check it out if you want to learn jazz guitar and want ideas you can use immediately.

Guitarist-Composer-Educator Az Samad has recorded with Grammy Winners Flaco Jiménez & Max Baca; graduated & taught at the prestigious Berklee College of Music; performed in the United States, Europe & Asia; and appeared on 22 CDs ranging in styles from Tex-Mex, Contemporary Jazz to solo acoustic guitar. His works have been described as “richly textured, poetic and atmospheric”. His first book, Jazz Improvisation Uncovered received critical acclaim from jazz guitarist Julian Lage and Berklee professor Abigail Zocher.

An experienced performer, Az has performed with virtuoso violinist Roby Lakatos, former Guns N’ Roses guitarist Bumblefoot, singer-songwriter Zee Avi, funky fingerstyle guitarist Adam Rafferty and percussive fingerstyle guitarist Mike Dawes. Az also frequently performs as part of the Malaysian Philharmonic Orchestra and was the classical guitar soloist for the Distant Worlds: Music from Final Fantasy Kuala Lumpur concert conducted by Arnie Roth.

Az has been exploring Malay jazz including the music of P. Ramlee, Jimmy Boyle and most recently Singapore’s Zubir Said. As the musical director and guitarist for A Zubir Said Tribute, Az lead 5 shows at Esplanade Outdoor Theatre, Singapore with an 11-piece ensemble performing brand new arrangements he wrote.

Previously based in Berkeley, California; Az now lives in Kuala Lumpur.

Az Samad’s Books