Saturday, 6 September 2008

Eric Roche

On a slightly more sombre note, today marks the anniversary of the death of acoustic guitar... there's no other word for it but genius, Eric Roche.

For those who don't know, and that remains far too great a number, Eric Roche was one of the most complete acoustic guitarists of his lifetime, managing delicate celtic fingerpicking, perfectly controlled jazz, and all out percussive acoustic workouts with equal aplomb. He could switch from the sort of things associated with Pierre Bensusan or Adrian Legg to blasting through the sort of pieces more associated with Michael Hedges or Preston Reed without a blink. Along with some truly beautiful original pieces, he did a particularly inventive line in covers, with instrumental versions of everything from Van Halen's Jump to Stevie Wonder's Higher Ground, to Nirvana's Smells Like Teen Spirit. And if the rock numbers in there make you think 'oh no... cheesy acoustic versions' don't. Thanks to his mix of percussive and arranging skills, the covers have all the punch and more of the originals. I'm a Van Halen fan, and I still prefer Roche's version.

Almost more important, though, is what he achieved as an educator at the ACM and as a writer for Guitar Techniques Magazine. Guitarists such as Austrian acoustic virtuoso Thomas Leeb studied under him, and so did the multi-something selling singer songwriter Newton Faulkner. On a personal level, his columns in Guitar Techniques are one of the main reasons I got back into playing the acoustic guitar after a long spell playing only electric. One of my regrets as a guitarist is that he did a workshop in my home town, and I forgot about it.

For anyone who wants to know more, check out the website mantained by his family.

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