Denny Ilett Knows What It Takes To Be A Top International Guitarist.

Denny Ilett is renowned on the world stage, not only as an excellent guitarist, but, for his masterful knowledge across a broad range of playing styles. Here, he talks us through his contribution to the JTC Degree, the Rhythm Studies module. This module develops an awareness of the authenticity and presentation of each style, with the emphasis based around the characteristic sound and use of certain stylistic techniques. An essential component for developing session skills, alongside rhythmic and stylistic versatility, this module provides a tour through a broad and diverse range of styles including Folk, Blues, Soul, Pop, Rock, Metal, Jazz, Funk, Flat-Picking and Fingerstyle.

What is your role with DIME ONLINE?
I have provided the lesson content for the Rhythm Studies module on the BA(Hons) Creative Music Performance – JTC guitar degree.

Who were some of your influences as you progressed as a musician?
My two biggest guitar heroes are Django Reinhardt and Jimi Hendrix; geniuses.

How did you establish yourself as a music educator?
I’ve been a professional musician for over 30 years; I’ve been teaching music, and guitar in particular, for over 25 years. I teach privately, in schools and on dedicated guitar summer schools. I also write a column and provide ‘style-files’ on various great players for Guitarist magazine along with backing tracks, solos and masterclasses for JamTrackCentral.

What was the first record you ever bought?
I can’t remember exactly, probably Are You Experienced by Hendrix, or Frank Sinatra and Antonio Carlos Jobim

Best experience in music?
Lots to choose from! Having the opportunity to travel abroad to various clubs and festivals is definitely a highlight. Seeing my diary full of a diverse range of projects is great, as is the moment when the invoices get paid!!

How did you approach writing the Rhythm Studies Module?
I considered the wide variety of sessions and gigs I play, and included as many of these playing styles as possible, focusing on the technical challenges and also to introduce students to musical genres they might not have explored before.

What’s your top tip for being a professional musician in the modern age?
Be versatile! Be able to play with conviction in a variety of styles. Learn some chord/scale theory, learn to read music, be reliable, have good quality gear, and be prepared to leave your ego at home! Listen to, and absorb, as many styles of music as you can.

How important is it that the modern guitarist develops versatility and a knowledge of all styles?
It’s 100% essential! Like any vocabulary, the more you have at your disposal, the more varied ways in which you can express yourself.

Can you talk us through how you developed your craft?
I come from a musical family and grew up around a lot of Jazz and Blues. From these two, one can spread out to absorb all aspects of 20th Century music. I was thrown into musical situations at a young age and learned the hard way, on stage.

What is your professional background?
I was lucky enough to be taken under the wing of some older musicians when I was a teenager. They taught me how to play musically, with taste and discretion. From there, I’ve been lucky enough to have a 30 year career that is still going strong.

How did you develop as a professional musician?
One thing I learned early on was to play as part of an ensemble. It’s one thing to be a killer guitarist with great chops. It’s another to be able to fit into any musical situation and play your role. Listening to what’s going on around you and reacting accordingly is the most important aspect of music, in my opinion.

What gear are you using?
I use a variety of guitars for the varied styles I play and work in. I use a Les Paul Studio, a Fender custom shop ‘69 Strat, a G&L ASAT and an Aria Pro II TA-DLX for Blues, Rock, Funk and some Jazz. For dedicated Jazz stuff, I use an Aria Pro II ES-650 (a 175-style archtop) and a D’Angelico Style-B acoustic archtop. For amplification, I use a Two Rock Studio 35 combo, a Polytone Mini-Brute and a Marshall Vintage Modern combo.

Any last words?
Strive to be a musician, not just a guitarist. There’s a big difference between playing the guitar and merely operating one! And, remember listening is the most underrated form of practice.

To read a detailed analysis of the JTC Degree, check out this article by Head of Guitar, Martin Goulding.