Charlie Hunter, playing drums on guitar


Platinum Member
Interesting interview with Charlie Hunter in the online Premire Guitar magazine. The interview is called "Life in the pocket".

For folks who don't know of Charlie, he plays a fairly unique instrument that has 3 bass strings and 5 regular guitar strings. Each has separate pick up arrangements and he feeds them into separate amps. Playing fingerstyle, he plays both the bass lines and the guitar lines at the same time. Even more amazing is how he manages to have distinct grooves going on each part at the same time. The bass is usually back in the pocket while he tends to play angular and on top of the beat Scofield like lines on the guitar strings.

Some interesting quotes:

Your interpretations sound honest. You really made those songs your own.

Thanks. That was the idea. I spent a lot of time every day playing drums to really understand how the groove really functions. I try to bring that to my instrument. That’s what the solo thing was about—are the drums being represented enough here.

You mean the percussive way in which you attack the strings?

Not just that, but also the time and the pocket. There should be a pocket to all of those songs. It should have a groove that’s always there and the groove is paramount. Everything needs to be sublimated for the groove.

Did you play to a click track?

No, I didn’t. Unlike most people, I enjoy playing with a click. I practice with a drum machine or a metronome. I spent so much time dealing with the finer points of time and feel. Playing behind the beat, playing ahead, but always having that forward motion and always having that intensity of the groove. I think like a drummer when I’m playing my instrument. That’s the thing, you want to think like that because that’s what holds the music together. Music without a pocket and time is just not very alluring.

Do you think guitar players would be better guitarists if they played drums?

Oh yeah. I think that it’s an almost absolute necessity. If a guitar player came up to me and said, “I want to learn what you do.” I would say, “Ok, you are not going to play guitar for at least a year. You are not going to touch it. You are going to play drums. [Laughing] And then when you come back, you will automatically go to the 90th percentile of good guitar players because you’ll actually be a bonus to people on stage, rather than just kind of there making sounds.”

Do you feel that the unique nature of your instrument and your playing style distracts some people from your music?

Maybe. On the whole probably not. I went on YouTube and looked at all the guitar players who had the most hits. One thing really resonated with me. They all were very good at getting around on the instrument but they had almost zero musicianship. They had a very shallow understanding of music in the grander sense and how music works. It was just very shallow. I feel like many guitar players fall into that kind of category.

They’re able to play flurries and things that are exciting to the average listener, but when you scratch the surface there’s very little substance there. But that seems to be part and parcel of the guitar industry. I can’t tell you how completely uninteresting that is to me. There are very few guitar players I’m even interested in hearing. Most of the time when I hear it, it’s just like somebody force feeding me massive amounts of salt, MSG, sugar, and candy all at the same time. There’s just nothing I can use in there.

I understand when you’re a sixteen-year-old boy. When I was sixteen I could use all of that, but it’s just too much. There’s just very little of interest in there. But people like that because that’s where they’re at in their evolution and I can’t fault them for that.

As I got older I wanted it to be more about the sound and not so much about impressing people with guitaristic flights of fancy. It’s great when you’re young, but as you get older and you get more of an understanding of music, it’s kind of silly. I never really wore tight pants, but I certainly am not going to be wearing tight pants when I’m seventy. [Laughing] Know what I mean? It’s embarrassing for everybody!


Platinum Member
Interesting, Aeolian. I like his attitude - the search for depth and honesty in musical expression. Like this:
That’s ok if the music that they’re doing isn’t about that. We were listening to some Van Halen the other day and going, “Wow, his rhythm playing is great, but the band is not able to actually play rhythm with him and they don’t sound so good.” Then he starts doing solos and it just all goes out the window. It’s like wow, I can’t even really listen to this. It’s so all over the place.

Then we put on ZZ Top and it was just like a breath of fresh air. These guys play time beautifully. Same with AC/DC. For these guys I have the utmost respect. It may seem strange for a guy like me who plays the kind of music that I play, but I find that to be so much more gratifying to listen to than a lot of jazz stuff today. Reverence for the pocket, groove, time, and soul you can’t really learn in school. You have to learn by learning them yourself.
I respect that view a lot but I find myself caught between two stools. On one hand I enjoy rootsy purity of purpose - the down-to-earth approach ... I think of it as musical fruit and vegetables (with the right spices they can be delicious).

But then again I also enjoy my fair share of shallow musical glitz for its base visceral appeal - musical chocolate and chips (US translation: fries).

I want both.

Today was Father's Day here and I bought my elderly Dad a heap of top-of-the-line chocolates - the sort that chocolatiers create almost as a work of art. Not healthy for the body but a tonic for the soul. They gave Dad a bright spot in what he often finds is a dreary time when most of his friends are dead, and he's no longer able to pursue his lifelong interests.

Having said that, I can happily live without McDonalds, KFC and Cadbury ...


Platinum Member
That Jon Grom is totally cool. Like someone mixed Tuck Andress and Stanley Jordan together and added singing.

Hunter is a whole different bag though. If you dig modern groove jazz, he is one of the monsters. The fact that he plays both bass lines and regular guitar lines at the same time is incidental to the music. It is the way he grooves the bass line that kills. And then because he is doing the whole bit, he can turn it into whatever he wants.

Here he is just funking it up letting the drummer have some. Then at the end he is jamming all these hits with the drummer while the bass line goes on unabated as if there was another person holding things down while the guitar and drums had fun.

Way out version of If 6 was 9.

Then he goes off and cowrites a song with John Mayer