Randy Rhoads profile
Randy Rhoads was born on December 6, 1956, in Santa Monica, California, and left us, all to soon, on March 19,1982. His tragic death was the result of a private plane crash in Leesburg, Florida. During his brief musical career, he practically redefined the vocabulary and scope of hard rock music and set new standards for guitar virtuosity, and compositional technique.
A flamboyant performer, Randy was equally outstanding in concert and on vinyl. He brought a class and elegance to rock guitar that had been lacking in the medium for years. His musical experience began with early encounters on the guitar at about age six. He progressed remarkably and, after a few years, began to form a direction towards rock music. From simple blues and pentatonic scales, Randy went on to forge a powerful and mature style which embraced elements of heavy metal, blues, classical and futuristic musics. Randy Rhoads played in the L.A. band Quiet Riot just prior to joining Ozzy Osbourne's Blizzard of Ozz group. He recorded two Lps with that band, Quiet Riot and Quiet Riot //, both on CBS Sony in Japan. The musical setting was radio-oriented hard rock and Randy displayed the beginnings of an awesome guitar style which at this point was still in the growing process. Randy Rhoads joined Ozzy Osbourne's band in 1980, and, under the auspices of the Blizzard of Ozz, grew quickly into the amazing musician we now so vividly remember. He used a great deal of harmonic, melodic and rhythmic vocabulary which had never before been integrated into heavy rock. Much of his classical flair and melody came directly from his obsession with classical guitar and style. It never sounded affected when Randy spoke from his classical background; in large part, this was due to his sensitivity and taste as a complete musician. Pieces like "Diary of a Madman," "Revelation (Mother Earth)" and "Mr. Crowley" all share this unmistakable Randy Rhoads stamp. Randy developed his sound progressively throughout his career. Each composition had a little more of his feeling than the one before. This giving quality was part of his personal makeup and came through in everything he played. He experimented with, and successfully incorporated, multi-tracked guitar work - both lead and rhythm - sound effects both natural and electronic - and rhythmical diversity into his style. His desire to grow musically was perpetual and constantly regenerating itself. His contributions to the world of music will long be revered.
Randy Rhoads had an extremely accurate and powerful picking technique. His ability to create a variety of attacks, from lightning-fast fully picked runs to smoothly executed legato phrases, was uncanny. In order to achieve this fluidity and confidence, precise synchronization of left and right hands is mandatory. This means they must be as one.
Randy's choice of plectrum was a standard medium gauge pick. This was held between the thumb and index finger with the rest of the fingers slightly fanned out over the strings. He would vary his point of balance from resting on the bridge or low E string to playing free-hand with no palm support whatever. By varying his pick hand posture, a selection of attacks was possible: fully picked lines, muted tones, arpeggiated movements and flowing hammered passages. Much of the time, Randy played with the pick angle at 45 degrees to the string length and employed maximum pressure for clarity. He used strict alternating picking for quick scales and patterns unless a special pick effect was desired (gliss picking for example). Muting, an important stylistic aspect, was accomplished by lightly resting the palm and lower edge of the hand against the string surface(s).This requires a fine degree of control to produce a staccato tone without deadening the note's vibration entirely.
LEFT HAND TECHNIQUE
Randy Rhoads’ left hand technique could be described as particularly effortless (the result of years of practice) in his execution on the fretboard. He had a thorough knowledge of the fret board and the ability to move scale and pattern formations from position to position in a variety of ways. Essentially two basic hand positions were used: 1) a "broom-handle" grip with the thumb wrapped around the fingerboard edge for support when bending strings or shaking them for a wide vibrato, and 2) a "classical" posture for quick scales and patterns with the thumb supporting the hand by resting on the back of the neck near the center and the fingers well-arched. The wrist was brought out to be perpendicular to the neck for wide finger stretches and complete finger independence. Every finger of the left hand was used.
Randy Rhoads was a wizard of effects combinations and applications, utilizing an almost infinite number of colors to enhance the guitar's role in Ozzy's music. His pedalboard (which was used both in the studio and on stage) housed the array of boxes and pedals that were frequently an integral part of his musical statements. A closer look at his setup will shed some light on his use of signal processors and the resulting sound. FIG. 1 is a line drawing depicting the appearance of the custom pedalboard. This rendering shows the placement of the assorted effects. The pedalboard is laid out as follows: 1) Cry Baby Wah pedal; 2-9) indicator lights for effects mode and status; also 2-9) selector switches for bringing effects in and out of the signal path, as follows: 2) on-off switch for Cry Baby Wah pedal; 3) on-off switch for MXR 10-Band Graphic EQ (equalizer, which was generally set for an extreme mid-range boost); 4) on-off switch for external effects ("outboard" devices could be incorporated into the pedal board by patching an auxiliary loop here); 5) on-off switch for master by-pass mode (the entire board could be removed from the signal path providing a straight-to-the-amp line; effects could also be held in a standby mode); 6) on-off switch for MXR Flanger; 7) on-off switch for MXR Stereo Chorus; 8) on-off switch for MXR Distortion Plus; 9) on-off switch for echo unit (various echo units were utilized in this system, most commonly a Korg tape echo, though, on occasion, a Roland tape echo was used); 10) Roland volume pedal; 11) MXR Flanger controls: (left to right) manual, width, speed, regeneration; 12) MXR Stereo Chorus controls: (I to r) manual, width, speed (this unit provided a stereo output which split the signal to two different amps); and 13) MXR Distortion Plus controls: (I to r) output level, distortion. (Of all these effects, Randy Used the distortion unit most; it was chiefly responsible for producing the thick, overdriven tone associated with his sound. Often, the distortion was combined with heavy midrange boosting from the EQ and/or filtering, from the Wah pedal.) In addition to the main board an "outboard" rack contained the echo unit to be included. This rack sat to the immediate side of the board and was brought in and out of the signal chain by means of a switch (9) on the main board. Furthermore, an analog delay (Yamaha or MXR) was sometimes added to the stereo output (dry side) of the MXR Chorus to deepen the "stereo imaging" of the final signal. An example of a typical Randy Rhoads signal path can be seen in FIG. 2. Notice the stereo split and its subsequent delay processing. 100-watt Marshall stacks (master and non-master volume types combined) delivered the final sound. It is important to point out Randy's thoughtful and tasteful approach to effects; the processors were always used to add dimension and complement the guitar sound. Sustain, controlled feedback, boosting and filtering, and delay/doubling/stereo simulation tributed to musical statements and distracted from or diluted the impact of melodies that originated from his mind, feeling and fingertips. A rare blend of intellect, spirit and physical techniques joined technology.