Touch: He has the touch! He caresses the guitar like a lover, softly drawing out misty-eyed melancholy and beauty.
Feel: You can feel the pain as he coaxes the emotion from the instrument using the volume control, he is connected to an invisible force, something greater than all of us, something mysterious and wonderful that flows through him. Something that should never be known.
Individuality: He can’t play without sounding like himself. Radiohead said “anyone can play guitar” and if you imagine how many people there are in the world that can play guitar and how many chords and notes have been played on records or at shows, to sound like no-else is an incredible achievement. After all he is just playing a Fender Telecaster through a Fender amp. It’s all in the fingers and the heart.
Rhythm: Not just rhythm as in filling out the sound or supporting the lead player. Rhythm is crucial to lead playing and Roy Buchanan has a built in meter that allows him to know exactly when to play so as to rip your heart directly out of your chest. It’s a connection, an understanding, an effortless flow. It’s where musical chemistry ignites and magic beyond understanding inspires.
Tone: Perhaps one electric guitar sounds much the same as another, clean, dirty, effected. Tone doesn’t just come from the settings on your amp, the type of guitar or the effects you are using – it too lives in your fingers. It inhabits your body, connects to your soul and releases ideas out from you through the instrument to the listener. His control of the volume knob and pick up selector enlarges his tonal vocabulary without the use of effects allowing him to change mood and intensity naturally.
Space: Not playing can say more than filling in all the gaps.
Dynamics: Light and Shade. There’s a time to be operating on full throttle and there’s a time to be calm and sensitive.
Experimenting: Trying to let go of your knowledge, forgetting completely what you know and throwing everything to chance. Roy Buchanan is likely to venture down an unknown tunnel at anytime.
Listening: Listening to what is happening around you. The other musicians connect to each other and find mesmerising grooves that you can’t shake off.
Technique: Technique, doesn’t always mean someone else’s idea. You can learn skills, finger picking, tricky rhythms, dexterity – but in the end developing your own style is paramount.
Roy Buchanan died in a cell in Guildford, Connecticut in August 1988. He was found hanging from his own shirt – he was just 48 years old.