INSTRUMENTAL INQUISITION!
Guitar Techniques|October 2021
Guitar instrumentals have supplied some of music’s most evocative moments. Jason Sidwell asks top guitarists for their take on this iconic movement. This month: Snarky Puppy’s guitarist, plus producer and composer, Mark Lettieri.
Mark Lettieri

GT: What is it about guitar instrumentals that appeals to you?

ML: As a writer especially, I’ve always been comfortable in the genre. I wouldn’t consider myself a singer, nor am I much of a lyricist, so the idea of expressing myself with the guitar as my voice has always felt the most natural.

GT: What can an instrumental provide a listener that a vocal song can’t?

ML: While lyrics can certainly have multiple meanings and layers, language generally offers some kind of initial direction as to a song's message or story. Without the words, I think there is a greater chance for multiple interpretations of the subject matter. Five people can listen to the same song, and have five completely different emotional connections to it, or ideas as to what the song is about.

GT: Any tendencies with instrumentals that you aim to embrace or avoid?

ML: I’ll use whatever techniques or musical elements that I feel will best convey the theme I want to express with the song. The focus is always on the overarching arrangement, and I’m very aware of how it includes and uses all the instruments involved. My goal is for the music to feel like a complete composition, and often this is achieved by keeping the guitar as just a ‘member of the band’, and not always the centerpiece.

GT: Is a typical song structure intro, verse, chorus, middle, etc always relevant for composing an instrumental piece?

ML: No, I wouldn’t say it’s always relevant. You could argue that one of the things that makes instrumental music special is that it doesn’t have to conform to any typical form. Personally, however, this is a form that I use often as a starting point. I’ll then take some liberties with it, if doing so helps the composition. Because I’m a fan of so many different kinds of pop music that use this structure, it seems to fit well with the way I write.

GT: How useful is studying a vocalist's approach for creating guitar melodies?

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