John Casson is an English guitar teacher that lives and teaches guitar in schools in New Zealand. He started playing at 19 inspired by Joe Satriani, Martin Taylor, and melodic playing. Casson says that he doesn’t believe you need to have any particular talent for playing, just a passion for it and a bit of practice. “I was really awful for a very long time,” continues Casson, “and you have to be quite hard on yourself to get better. The best thing for your playing is that, no one really cares if you can solo really well, they just want to hear a song they know!”
And that’s exactly what John Casson does on the track “Castles In The Stars”. He plays a song you know…or rather, he plays a song you think you know, because he wraps his original layered guitar arrangement in so much nostalgic- sounding melody that it strikes a chord with your memory.
And the tune becomes one of those mind-bending dittos that will have you saying: “Damn, where did I hear this before!” but it’s a puzzle you won’t ever solve dear friends as our crafty old guitar teacher has simply tied your knickers in a knot with this one.
While many technical guitarists dwell in the realms of scales and techniques trying desperately not to compromise on feel, many melodic guitar players go ahead with what becomes their natural instinct on the guitar.
I consider some melodic guitar players poets in every sense of the expression; Jeff Beck for me is one of the few melodic guitarists that can bring an empty canvas to life. Another guitarist that can do this of course is Eric Johnson. His dexterity on the fret board combined with his tone and phrasing techniques create a hypnotic aura for listeners.
Melodic guitar players are mood changers and John Casson fits comfortably into this group. He has the ability to take you from emotional point A to emotional point Z in a song, it just happens, as it does on “Castles In The Stars”, if you know what I mean.
It’s obviously a misconception among many that technical guitarists are not melodic. That is not true, a number of technical guitarists play without compromising the roots of melody, but it’s more complex, hence complicated for the common ear to appreciate instantly. On the other hand, John Casson’s style is naturally melodic and inviting to just about any set of ears.