Ritchie Blackmore was born Richard Hugh Blackmore in weston-super-Mare, Somerset, on the 14th of April 1945.
At the age of 11 Ritchie received his first guitar, he took classical guitar lessons for 12 months at the insistence of his Father who permitted Ritchie to own a guitar provided he learned to play it properly.
Ritchie was initially drawn to the guitar for it’s aesthetic beauty, he also wanted to play like english rock n roll star Tommy Steele.
Having always disliked school Ritchie left at the age of 15 to start an apprenticeship as a radio mechanic at Heathrow Airport. During this time he received guitar lessons from legendary session guitar player Big Jim Sullivan.
By 1963 Ritchie began working as a session guitar player for various music productions by Joe Meek, during this time he also began performing in many different bands. One of these groups was an instrumental band called “The Outlaws”.
During his time as a session guitar player Ritchie played guitar on several notable recordings including “Just Like Eddie” the top ten hit by German singer Heinz. He also offered his talents as a live backing guitarist playing with such notable acts as “Screaming Lord Sutch” and “Neil Christian”.
In 1968 Ritchie received an invitation by Chris Curtis to become the lead guitarist of “Deep Purple”.
Ritchie began his musical career on a Gibson ES-335 but from 1968 onwards he has relied primarily on Fender Stratocasters.
The Stratocaster he favours has a middle pickup that is attached but not connected and the frets are scalloped. Ritchie is one of the first rock guitarists to play an electric guitar with a scalloped fret board.
Ritchie added a strap lock to the headstock of one if his main guitars in the 1970’s which did nothing, Ritchie refused to tell people the purpose of the strap lock which caused curiosity and confusion.
Ritchie has used a variety of different amplifiers most of which where Vox, ENGL and Marshall. Ritchie used Marshall Stacks that were modified to sound like a Vox AC-30 with the volume turned full up.
Musical Techniques, Concepts and Approaches
Ritchie is continually cited as one of the most important figures in the development of the heavy metal genre. He is also celebrated for introducing the rock guitar world to classical inspired soloing and compositions, which later became known as “neoclassical rock”.
Though Ritchie is renowned for his stinging vibrato he never used vibrato much at all in his early playing. Inspired by Eric Clapton, Ritchie began working on his vibrato by the late 1960’s. By around 1968 Ritchie’s trademark vibrato began to appear in Deep Purple recordings.
Ritchie had three pickups in his Stratocaster like normal but never used his middle pickup, in fact it wasn’t even attached. Ritchie would frequently change between his neck pickup and bridge pickup during solos, sometimes changing up to twenty times.
Influence In Rock Guitar Playing
Ritchie Blackmore is one of the most influential rock guitarists in history.
His rock guitar virtuosity raised the bar for guitar players world wide and he is widely regarded as one of the key contributing members to the genre of heavy metal.
Ritchie introduced the rock guitar playing world to classical phrasing with the electric guitar which later become known as “neo-classical rock”.
Ritchie’s mastery of the blues together with his fast, classical inspired minor scale runs, smoking vibrato and wild wammy bar stunts have cited him as a prominent figure in the development of advanced rock guitar and have earned him the adoration of such guitar playing virtuoso’s as Eddie Van Halen, Randy Rhoads, Steve Vai, Yngwie Malmsteen, Joe Satriani, Joe Stump, Paul Gilbert and Uli Jon Roth.
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