250 Years of “scarified”
BY Paul gilBer T
Paul Gilbert purposefully began playing guitar
at age 9, formed the guitar-driven bands Racer
X and Mr. Big, and then accidentally had a No.
1 hit with an acoustic song called “To Be with
You.” Paul began teaching at GIT at the age of
18, has released countless albums and guitar
instructional DVDs, and will be remembered as
“the guy who got the drill stuck in his hair.” For
more information, visit paulgilbert.com
• Learn the correct way to steal
from the classical masters.
• Understand the “real” way to
• Create long, flowing baroque-inspired lines using “outside”
would be one of those. And if my math
is correct, the song is 25 years old now.
Happy birthday to it!
“Scarified” began its life as a furious
and deadly accurate double-bass drum riff
by Scott Travis. I heard him playing it in
rehearsal and did my best to attach some
notes to his rhythms. That gave us the
instrumental equivalent of a verse, but to
complete the song, we needed more.
At the time, I was enamored with the
fact that classical music of a certain age
was legally considered “public domain” and
could be plundered with wild abandon.
Bach, Mozart, Beethoven. All that creative
genius was (and still is) available to any
writer who cared to borrow or steal from
it, for the same price as a breath of air.
So steal I did. Or at least tried to. I was
listening to my favorite harpsichord con-
certo (credited to J.C. Bach) and I began
to learn my favorite sections of it by ear.
This wasn’t easy! The notes were quick
16ths, and they were sometimes buried
while competing with the accompanying
in 1998, and I was feeling so ambitious I
actually recorded the entire first movement
of the concerto, using guitars to cover
not only the harpsichord parts, but also
the violins, violas, cellos, and string bass
parts. I named my recording “Gilberto
Concerto,” and after completing the
recording, I promptly forgot all the parts
due to the impossibility of remembering
that many notes.
Click here to hear
sound clips of
The biggest hit I’ve ever had a part in is the Mr. Big single, “To Be with You.”
It went to No. 1 on the charts all over the
world, and I continue to brag about it
whenever I have to write a bio for myself.
I do feel that I did a solid and respectable
job of strumming the chords, singing some
harmonies, and playing a theme-reinforc-ing guitar solo, but I did not, I repeat, I
did not write the song. I wish I had. It’s a
great tune. But I have to give credit and
gratitude to Mr. Big’s vocalist, Eric Martin,
for making that happen. Thank you, Eric!
When it comes to hits, I have not had
many outside of Mr. Big. Certainly nothing that has climbed the charts and sat
next to Mariah Carey and Right Said Fred.
But among the people who like to listen to
guitar music, I’ve had the good fortune to
have penned a couple of ... let’s call them
“favorites.” The Racer X song “Scarified”
I was enamored with the fact that
classical music of a certain age was
legally considered “public domain” and
could be plundered with wild abandon.
orchestra for space in the mix. Also, these
phrases had never been played on guitar
before. Licks that might be a breeze on a
harpsichord can be distinctly challenging
when translated to another instrument.
But I did my best, and came up with
something that worked for the next section of the song. The result was a classical/
metal onslaught that became an immediate
crowd-pleaser at our live shows and still
rewards me with millions of YouTube hits
from my solo version of the tune.
But one thing always bothered me
about stealing these classical licks. And
that is that I didn’t steal them correctly. So,
after much creative hunting, I finally man-
aged to locate the sheet music of the origi-
nal harpsichord concerto. This was back
The key to making this playable is the
fingerings. Some fingerings make the left-
hand part easier. Some fingerings make the
picking easier. Some fingerings make the
shapes easier to remember. Some finger-
ings make the notes easier to keep clean
without string noise. I’m pretty sure I tried
every possibility and every combination.
After much practicing and tweaking, I
finally had a fingering that my brain could
see, my fingers could navigate, and my
ears approved of.