By Strings Direct – 29 August, 2023
“EVERYBODY WANTS TO BE A LEAD PLAYER, BUT IF YOU’RE A WORKING MUSICIAN, 95 PER CENT OF IT IS RHYTHM”
CORY WONG - Guitar.com
As we continue this trend of discovery we progressively understand the intricate variables that formulate a modern day guitar hero. The player under the spotlight this time around really does define the new wave future generation guitar hero, a player that has used platforms along with traditional avenues to bring his unique playing to the forefront of the guitar community.
A key detail about the guitarist in question is the fact that he likes to bring the rhythm guitar into focus and convey that you can still be a guitar hero by making intricate and interesting rhythm chops the main hook.
An incredibly exciting player that really does look like he's enjoying himself on every performance, generally associated with the word "Joy" as he is such a positive player with boundless enthusiasm; a real positive player that's on a continuous Disney sugar rush. 🐭
The man with a rubber wrist with funk, soul & rock 'n' roll all rolled into one jazzy delivery. The unmistakable and instantly recognisable Mr. Cory Wong 🤘
The Roots Of A Rhythm Maestro 🎺
I believe it's genuinely hard to find another musician with such exuberance and such excitable creativity so continuously. As musicians and artists progress through the waves of their creative careers they generally struggle to maintain the level of enthusiasm they used to find natural, many search for variable inspirations either through the creative process working with other artists and musicians or generally through discovering new equipment and instruments to keep things ignited.
This appears to be something that Cory Wong excels at and is unaffected by.. 👍
Born in Poughkeepsie, New York but raised in Minneapolis, Minnesota Cory Wong took direct influence from his father, as many do. His initial exposure to music was through his father's passion for classic rock music & jazz.
Again as we have so frequently seen a solid record collection never fails to genuinely inspire generation after generation. Drawn into the sounds of his father's record collection certain bands and sounds started to stand out for Cory, he was fascinated by The Red Hot Chili Peppers and Primus initially.
As with many young children he started out with piano lessons but this was more of a formality than a decision and the long for a stringed instrument soon took over.
"You’re widely known for your guitar playing, but you actually started on bass first, right?
I did! I’m actually a bassist at my core. When I was in 6th grade my favorite bands were Red Hot Chili Peppers and Primus. So what instrument do you think I wanted to play? I begged my parents for a bass guitar and I promised that I would put the work in and do it right. They still weren’t sold on it, so I told them I would learn all of the Chili Pepper’s Blood Sugar, Sex Magik and One Hot Minute front to back, every note. I came home from school one day and my mom told me to go look in the closet. Sure enough there was a white 4-string Fender MIM Jazz Bass, which is the one that I still use today. That was the first instrument I ever owned. It sounds so cheesy and cliché, but as a kid I felt like I had my weapon, my sword, and I had to start training."
Excerpt - bassmagazine.com
Starting out on the bass guitar really did lend an interesting avenue into the six string, Cory longed for a guitar in the process was persistent to say the least. 😉 “[Learning how to play bass and guitar] taught me how the parts weaved together, how they functioned a little better”.
“Well, my first ever instrument was a Mexican-made Fender Jazz Bass that I still have to this day and it’s still the bass that I use when I record a lot of my records. I love it. Guitar wise, when I had to buy a guitar to start my band, I bought a little Traveling Wilburys Gretsch guitar. It had one pickup.
I don’t even remember where I got it, but it wouldn’t play in tune. It’s a cool guitar, but the one that I had was just not set up right."
"Eventually, I saved up all my shovelling money - I grew up in Minnesota, so we had to shovel the snow for our neighbours to get 20 bucks or whatever - and bought a blue Stratocaster. It was, ‘Dad, I need a real guitar.’ He said, ‘All right, tell you what, let’s get you a Stratocaster.’ It wasn’t like, ‘Let’s go see what they’ve got.’ It was, ‘All right, you’re ready. Let’s get you a Stratocaster. Take a look at the lineage: Jimi Hendrix, Eric Clapton, Jeff Beck, Nile Rodgers... ’
I said, ‘Okay, yes, let’s get me a Stratocaster.’ I’ve been a Strat guy ever since.”
Excerpt - guitarworld.com
Going forward as a budding guitarist and exquisite musician it's the approach that Cory took as an individual, his unique influences are really what defines him as the standout rhythm player that is carving out the rhythm section as the lead hook.
“My biggest inspiration on guitar is Dave Williams and his stuff with Michael Jackson. There’s this interview with him from back in the early 90s, or late 80s that I once watched. And in it, he’s saying: ‘One of the things that I did is I took rhythm guitar and brought it to the forefront.’ And I’m thinking, ‘Oh, my gosh, that’s exactly what I had in mind!’
My other big inspiration is Paul Jackson Jr, who also played on a bunch of Michael Jackson stuff. I remember as a teenager, I had this old DVD, Paul Jackson Jr: The Science Of Rhythm Guitar.
He talked a lot about how everybody wants to be a lead player, but nobody realises that if you’re an actual working musician, you’re practising 90 per cent of your time on lead and only 10 per cent practising rhythm. But it’s completely the flip-flop of what the reality is in the real world! Because 95 per cent of the playing you’re doing is rhythm and five per cent is lead. And I really connected with that.”
Quote via - guitar.com
It's these very unique and interesting influences that have been the forefront of his guitar playing and the focus of his delivery, it's incredible that he has become such a notable name in music by focusing on the rhythms within the song and finding a way for them to jump out and be the main hook, the driving force to the point where a tune almost doesn't require lead guitar playing because he intricate rhythms and funky delivery keep everything exciting throughout the piece.
Career Musician 🎼 & Social Superstar 🎸
Cory Wong as an artist has really utilised all avenues to progress his now long-standing career, much like his approach to music and guitar playing he continues to evolve with the times and manages to continually stay current relevant and innovative.
“So I learned to take these percussive rhythm-guitar parts and make them catchy enough that they are hooks, and make them melodic enough that they’re hooks. And boom, I found my formula – that’s how we solve the dilemma of the rhythm guitar being the ‘lead’ instrument.”
Quote via - guitar.com
Another interesting factor is Cory’s cultural background, again he credits his unique playing style and approach to the heritage of his grandparents.
“A great example of your signature use of double stops in melodies. What inspired that?
My grandparents are Chinese. My grandmother would listen to this kind of music where there would be these pentatonic double-stop melodies. It was always very interesting to try and mimic that on the guitar. So I would start to do more of the double stops in my playing, and friends or producers and artists that I was working for would say, “Oh! Do that thing again,” or “Hey, on this track, I want you to do that thing that you do.” So pretty soon it became one of my signature things to producers and artists.
The stuff that I’m writing uses the rhythm guitar as a lead instrument in a lot of cases but is also very groove based.”
Quote Via - premierguitar.com
As a player he's widely respected and idolised within the guitar community, he is known as an elite guitar for hire along with his countless collaborations, his work with Vulfpeck is astounding along with countless other high profile collaborations.
Most recently Cory has been riding the social media wave (lockdown inspired) with his general social media and loyal Youtube following he has formulated an show “Wong Notes’ with relative spin-off Band of course - Cory Wong & The Wong Notes”.
Most recently we have seen a similar spinoff show developed in association with Ernie Ball, incredible stuff for a man that had an insight for funky, fast and fluent rhythm guitar to cement himself as a modern day guitar hero. 🎸
Check out episode 1 , great take on music in the metaverse.
Strings That Ring Clean 🔔
The untrained eye or ear may look at Cory Wong and believe that he is set up with the minimal basic and with little thought… you couldn't be more wrong if you tried!
This is a player that utilises a clean sound but to get such an articulate clean sound that is dynamic and the focus of the composition is a true art. The guitar and amp combination is quite straightforward, Cory between his long-standing Highway one Stratocaster and most recently his signature model Fender Stratocaster.
When it comes to strings, as a player Cory is looking to achieve a balanced sound and a rounded rich clean tone. He uses a standard 10-46 gauge which makes perfect sense, as we know from experience here at Strings Direct this seems to be the core gauge on electric guitar with the most balance between tone and playability.
If Cory opted for a lighter gauge he would start to see natural overdrive of the string in association with the pick ups due to the fast and strong attack required for his funkadelic rhythm playing.
For many years Wong has been associated with D’Addario NYXL 10-46 but has recently moved to Ernie Ball and reports using standard Regular Slinky along with the Paradigm series.
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