The Journey’s Neal Schon Explains His Secret Weapon To Guitar Playing

The Journey guitarist Neal Schon recently joined Premier Guitar for an interview and admitted that he uses melody as a secret weapon while playing guitar.

Neal Schon came from a family of musicians since his mother was a band singer and his father was a musician, arranger, composer, and multi-instrumentalist who played and taught all reed instruments. Growing up in such a family, he began playing guitar when he was ten and dropped out of Aragon High School to pursue a music career.

In 1971, Schon joined Santana when he was only 17 years old. At that time, Eric Clapton asked him to join Derek And The Dominos, but he joined Santana instead. Improving his guitar playing rapidly as a quick learner, Schon was inspired by iconic guitarists such as Muddy Waters, Jimmy Page, John Lee Hooker, Jeff Beck, and B.B. King.

In an interview with Premier Guitar, Neal Schon revealed that his secret weapon is melody, and melody wins over everything. He then said singing with perfect pitch and vibrato creates that melody, and he assembled his guitar style by listening to great singers such as Aretha Franklin.

Schon stated that he used to try to emulate Franklin’s vibrato, her note choices, and when she would hit chords on the backside. According to the guitarist, Franklin would stay on the backside of all the chord changes while singing. He then said not playing on the beat, singing on the backside, using blues notes, hitting notes with intensity, or lightly is his secret weapon.

During the conversation, Neal Schon said the following:

“I think people can hear that my secret weapon is melody. Melody wins over everything every time. Knowing how to make that melody 2is singing with perfect pitch and perfect singing quality vibrato. I based my guitar style and how it turned into my style was from listening to many really great singers.

Growing up, I loved Aretha Franklin. I used to sit down with the records and try to emulate her vibrato, what choice of note, and when she would hit it on the backside. Aretha was so on the backside of all the chord changes. The chords would hit, and she would be singing. The chord would readily be into the new chord and the progression, and she would be still lingering in the change that was beforehand.

So, not playing on the beat, singing way on the backside like the greatest soul singers of all time is what I’ve always done. And, melody choice of blues notes, the way you hit that note with intensity or just lightly hit it to make a cry, and then the vibrato that follows. That’s the secret weapon.

You can watch the interview below.