By Strings Direct – 29 August, 2023
"Learning should never end. You should be learning up until your last breath"
Lenny Kravitz for Squaremile_com
This week's Spotlight can only be perceived as a description of the epitome of the word ‘Cool” 😎
Let’s introduce this incredible musician with a monumental fact: In 1998 through to 2001, he won the Grammy Award for 'Best Male Rock Vocal Performance', setting the record for the most consecutive wins by a male artist in a single category at the Grammys.
A truly unbelievable achievement and something you may not know about this incredible guitar player, singer, producer, actor and epically exciting songwriter. 🎶
On the 26th May 1964 the vibration changed in Manhattan aka 🏙 “The City” when it embraced the next generation of the soul of Rock 'n' Roll in the spiritual form of Leonard Albert Kravitz 🎸 ⚡️ 🎸 💥
“‘COOL’ IS ONE of those funny concepts that should be subjective but often isn’t. When you’re hot, you’re hot; when you’re cool, you’re cool – and there can be no arguing the fact. Samuel L Jackson in Pulp Fiction? Cool. David Bowie from Space Oddity onward? Cool. Lenny Kravitz; Lenny Fucking Kravitz to name the man in full? Inarguably, objectively, cool.
Samantha Fraser - squaremile.com
Pots, Pans, Soul & A Whole Lotta Rock 'N' Roll. 🤘
As it always goes with naturally talented geniuses the bug started early and at just 3-years-old Lenny was consistently banging away on pots and pans in the kitchen, at five years old he had decided he wanted to be a musician - a decisive young man.
His parents were two very interesting characters who would - somewhat unintentionally - influence his choices growing up, Roxie Rocker was an actress and his father an NBC television news producer.
You could say that the stars were perfectly aligned 😉
"I’m a person who is always trying to experience new things and constantly change my perspective. I really try to keep things ‘alive’ and expose myself to different people and different influences."
After many years as a young man experiencing great music all around his environment he obtained his first guitar...
Kravitz describes his beginnings as a musician perfectly here for guitarworld.com …
“There was a piano in the house when I was a kid, and I started banging on it when I was about five or six. My dad had an acoustic guitar that my mom had bought him; I think she was hoping he would learn to play it and serenade her, but it just ended up sitting in the corner, getting dusty. So I used to bang on that too. When I was around 10, I got my first guitar from Manny’s music store here in New York City. It was a Yamaha acoustic that you could plug in. I wasn’t as happy as I could have been because what I really wanted was an electric guitar.
Later, my family moved to L.A., and I started playing the drums when I was in junior high school. Back in New York, we lived in a little apartment, so I couldn’t have a drum set, but I had always wanted to play the drums. When I got to high school, I bought a bass and began to play that. I never dreamed I would end up making music this way—playing all of the instruments— I just liked switching around from instrument to instrument.”
This guy is not just one mean Guitarist he is a multi-instrumentalist and can literally jump from instrument to instrument with great integrity and ability.
His journey as a musician is quite iconic and runs full circle to the fact that he played all of the instruments and parts on his debut album (Let One Rule - 1989), he always had a full band idea in his head and drafted in many great players to the sessions, but under the advice of his now long-standing producer (still to this day) he himself laid down all the parts to track as it just had the right vibe and the more we learn about Lenny the more we know the vibe is everything.
He truly encapsulates the title - Artist. 🎨
As we are well aware, all guitar players perceive the six string differently. Everyone has their own approach, their own touch, and their own personality.
This is more true than ever here with cool cat Kravitz. A player of taste and more set on the vibe and most importantly the feel.
“When I was coming up in junior high and high school, there were these guys that could play all of the licks, and everyone was trying to play as fast as they could. I was always the guy that couldn’t play as fast or as much as the other guys, but I had feel. I didn’t really know what I was doing, but it turned into something.
Most of it is just simple stuff, really. For me, it’s all about the groove. I grew up listening to soul music and funk, artists like James Brown and Earth, Wind and Fire, where it’s all about locking into a groove and staying there. Plus, there’s always an element of funk in my rock and roll. So if it’s a simple lick, which a lot of my songs are built around, it’s about where you “lay” it that’ll make it sound thick.”
The above statement perfectly paints a picture of Lenny as a musician of expression rather than a man set on tricks and wizardry, he lets the soul convey into the creativity and it truly shows.
That's not to detract though! Lenny Kravitz is an absolute riff machine!!!!
This track perfectly showcases his vibe and gritty rock 'n' roll pop and soul individual approach to playing, one of the most incredible tracks you will ever hear supported by the legendary Slash with a ripping riff and solo section, with some unforgettable saxophone 🎷 from Karl Denson & Co.
This track really shows the mutual respect and monumental creativity when great minds meets and sparks fly ⚡️.
“We started to jam, and that riff to ‘Always on the Run’ ended up coming out,” Kravitz recalled.
“The song just wrote itself. To cut the track, he played the riff, I was on the drums. So it was just guitar and drums – that was it – and we got through the take and then I played my guitar part, which is the counter-rhythm part. Then I played the bass. He played his solo and then I wrote the horn arrangement, had the horn players come in and that was that. Did the vocals. It was a great session. Really fluid, it was very quick and spontaneous.”
This incredibly talented individual not only created records with great fluidity and grace he continued to shake up popular music with riffs that now run through our historical timeline as legendary. ✌️
Now we all know the next riff... it’s up there with the best of them, it’s one that hit instantly and is just as good now as the first time you heard it.
A great and long-standing rock 'n' roll feel which is not about the complexity and more about its genuine simplicity as a melodic hook built around the groove!
“I’ve always said that I love the extremes,” Kravitz says. “It’s the middle that I don’t do very well. Of course I can do it, but it’s not as appealing to me. I don’t get an energy from that. I feed off of the extremes.”
Lenny Kravitz - Jason Newman rollingstone.com
One thing that Lenny Kravitz has always been good at is flawlessly showmanship, he is accompanied by the best of the best during his live performances and has found a guitar partner in the exquisitely talented Craig Ross.
The live shows are something truly astonishing and should definitely be on your bucket list of artists to see live!
Rock “N” Roll Tools For The King 👑 Of Cool.
We can all appreciate a nice guitar and we can even more appreciated a nice vintage guitar and this is none more true than with rock 'n' roll stars of course.
Lenny Kravitz has a craving shall we say for vintage instruments, he also takes New and Vintage re-issued guitars out on the road but his vintage collection is quite astonishing.
He is reported to have over 300 guitars! This is exactly the sort of myth and legend we expect to hear from a rock 'n' roll star of his calibre.
“There are so many; I’ve got flametop Les Pauls from ’59 and ’60, and some goldtop Les Pauls. I have one particular Goldtop… it’s the best-sounding guitar that I’ve got. I’ve played it on all the records, but I can’t remember the year it was made.
I’ve got a whole collection of custom-colour Strats that are great. I love seeing them all lined up with all the different colours like the powder blue, root beer, champagne, Olympic White and Fiesta Red. I don’t know all the proper colour names, but they’re just beautiful.
I’ve also got some vintage Flying Vs – one with a tremolo, like my new signature model V I designed for Gibson – I think it’s a ’60s model. It’s the one in the “Are You Gonna Go My Way” video. Those are the ones I like best. I do have an original Korina one, too.”
Lenny Kravitz for Lisa Sharken - https://www.vintageguitar.com/2914/lenny-kravitz/
Strings For Vibrations 🎼🎶
So, true rock 'n' roll machines like Lenny magnetise 🧲 towards feel and overall vibe. So where does that leave his string choice? 🤔
Well this is best explained and handed over to his tech at the time Alex Alvarez of 16 years and this was shot back in 2009.
Now what’s really interesting here is the theory on the gauge preference D’ADDARIO EXL140 Nickel Guitar Strings 10-52 Light Top Heavy Bottom
And how it compensates for the variable scale length between Fender and Gibson guitars being utilised, which of course would affect the tensions and overall output > pickup to string mass relative. (Long statement I know mind 🤯)
Personally I would be really intrigued to try this and A / B the situation.
As the video also displays the “top wrap” is standard procedure on the Gibson Les Paul Flametop. Something we tend to see as common place now in the modern generation of players, it’s almost standard with the Les Paul community.
So we discovered that Kravitz and his road crew are very much D’Addario loyalists.
There is definitely a mention of the use of D’ADDARIO EXL115 Nickel Guitar Strings 11-49 Jazz Rock at some stage but it appears to be less favourable.
Lenny also conveys that in the studio anything’s possible and all options are wide open. It’s good that as a player and creative artist he has such an open mind to achieve the sound in his head, any gauge or construction, flatwounds are clearly mentioned 👌
The acoustic choice is simple and consistent EJ17 Phosphor Bronze Acoustic Guitar Strings 13-56 Medium.
The now discontinued EXP range from D’Addario are mentioned, but if you’re seeking that same long life coated string look no further than the succeeding product in a set of D’ADDARIO XT Coated Phosphor Bronze 13-56 Acoustic Guitar Strings.
Or, take things to another level with the most innovative treated string yet. D’ADDARIO XS Phosphor Bronze 13-56 Acoustic Guitar Strings, Medium.
So those chunky riffs and funktastic rhythms are carved out on D’Addario strings through and through with a very interesting and justified gauge across all the electric guitars.
In conclusion, we discover that as a musician his string choice is methodical, as a creator his methods are all about the feel.
Let's not forget this incredible man is a multi-instrumentalist and is just as much a bass player as he is a guitarist, maybe he could be our first artist to double feature in the now iconic