Magazine article Guitar Player

Hot Guitarist Alert!

Magazine article Guitar Player

Hot Guitarist Alert!

Article excerpt

Name: Robert Lowe Home Base: Detroit, Michigan

HEARING ROBERT LOWE effortlessly tear through funk grooves, bebop heads, fluttery chord-melody passages, and lead guitar riffs with fat, fast notes film each hit you soundly in the chest, it'd be easy to conclude this guitarist is one of the hottest pickers in the Michigan area--but you'd be wrong. "I never could hold onto a pick," says Lowe, who started playing guitar at the age of nine. "Whenever it came time to play, I couldn't find one, or I'd break 'em and have to use the side of fire pick."

Lowe's solution? Using just his thumb, he grooves just as hard as any flatpicker. "It's hard to describe how I developed this style," says Lowe, who won BET's Jazz Discovery contest in 1998 and performed four songs live on the network. "You might as well ask a two-year-old how he learned to walk [laughs]. I do remember one particular turning point, though. It was when I was involved in a program teaching kids how to play jazz here in Detroit, and one of the other instructors was James Blood Ulmer, who was also playing with his thumb. We became friends, and, at the time, I was playing all downstrokes. Looking back, I really don't know how I was keeping up! But James took an interest and said, 'You're playing pretty well like that. If you played upstrokes, too, you'd be a hell of a guitar player.' So I had him show me how. It's a lot like playing with a pick, especially if you get a callous going on the lip of your thumb. Most of all, you need to keep that thumbnail almost nonexistent, which is why I always keep a nail file with me. The nail should never touch the string."

For many guitarists, playing downstrokes with the thumb feels quite natural. Upstrokes, however, usually seem clumsy and alien. To get a feel for this mode of attack, try plucking a few random notes freely using all upstrokes of your thumb. …

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