Andy Summers Guitar Instructional Video

Andy Summers Guitar

Andy Summers not only teaches some great guitar parts from his years with The Police, he demonstrates some more advanced playing plus jazz and blues styles. You’ll learn about chord group memorization and clusters, special suspensions, visualizing the root, mapping out the neck, modal interchanges, “squeezing” the chords, and a whole lot more. Plus some great live performances by Andy playing with his band!

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From Just Jazz Guitar,
Video Review, p.100, February, 1998

Produced and Directed by Arlen Roth
Hot Licks Video (2-video boxed set, w/44 page booklet, 2hr. & 45 min.The new Hot Licks video, “Andy Summers Guitar,” provides an in-depth look into how one of contemporary music’s most influential voices achieves his unique sound. The video unlocks many of the mysteries behind the complex chord patterns Andy Summers has employed both in The Police and during his solo career, and that alone is certainly worth the price of admission. Add to it refreshingly forthright explanations of chord substitutions and improvisation and you have a presentation that will undoubtedly demand repeated viewings.

One of the pleasures of ANDY SUMMERS GUITAR are the live performances by Andy’s new trio, featuring Jerry Watts on bass and Bernie Dresel on drums. Having seen the trio in concert a number of times it is a treat to now have a video document of what is surely one of the most exciting instrumental groups currently on the scene. The transitions from discussions to performances were seamless and the live music made the nearly three hour experience more like a private concert than a regular guitar lesson. The first of numerous performances, ‘Afro Blue,’ springs directly from the discussion of chordal color, providing an illustration of the choices of voicings Andy made in his new arrangement of the Mongo Santamaria classic.

As a musician whose first influences were Wes Montgomery, Jimmy Raney and Tal Farlow, Andy Summers is recognized as having brought a jazz musician’s sensibility to the pop music of The Police. He illustrates how two pop songs, ‘Roxanne’ and ‘Message in a Bottle’ were completely transformed by employing sunspensions and dropping the third in chord progressions. We learn that the C#sus2 chord was integral to much of The Police’s music. If you are unfamiliar with 7, 9, 11, and 13th suspended chord movements, you certainly will have a taste of it after working through the examples in the booklet which accompanies the video. Among many interesting anecdotes are Andy’s mention of the chordal influences for ‘Every Breath You Take’ (Bartok violin duets he had been playing with Robert Fripp) and ‘Bring On The Night’ (Villa Lobos guitar etudes)!

On the equipment side, Andy discusses his use of effects, which is minimal these days, expressing a preference for analog rather than digital devices. The trio performances feature Andy using a vintage 60’s era Stratocaster and a 1960 Gibson ES-355. During the lesson and discussion segments Andy employs an emerald green Benedetto archtop, which was on loan from the luthier’s daughter, Gina Benedetto. This was the guitar Andy performed with during concerts at the 1997 Classic American Guitar Show, including his appearance with The Benedetto Players. Andy owns the blonde Benedetto Cremona which was exhibited at the Smithsonian during last year’s guitar symposium.

The production quality throughout the video is first rate, with effective use of two and three screen images during the lesson segments. Non-studio film footage is smoothly interwoven with many of the performance. The program booklet contains chords and transcriptions of the musical passages discussed in the lesson portions. For future reference it would be helpful to have video cues for these in the booklet. Although not VHS Hi-Fi, the audio is excellent as evidenced by the fact that one of the trio performances, ‘The Big Thing’ warranted inclusion on Andy’s new album, THE LAST DANCE OF MR. X.(RCA) The trio performs another song from that fine album, Horace Silver’s haunting ballad, ‘Lonely Woman,’ to close the video. This video is one of the best of the genre and the skillful interspersion of discussion with live performance will make it something which fans and students will return to frequently.

Arlen Roth’s Hot Licks video series is becoming as much an instructional library as it is a musical history of the world’s great guitarists. With the passing of such seminal figures as Joe Pass, Danny Gatton, Emily Remler and most recently Tommy Tedesco, Hot Licks will prove significant to understanding the contributions of the masters to the guitar legacy. JJG will continue to look at “Hot Licks” and other instructional videos in upcoming issues.


For those of you who have been living on Mars the last twenty years, I’ll fill you in: Andy Summers was the guitarist for a band called The Police. It was the biggest act in the world in the ’80s and revolutionized the sound of pop music. Andy’s guitar playing was a signature of the power trio’s sound: weird atmospheric chord pads and percussive guitar skronk that set the stage for punk rock and ska guitar that is so common now.

What few know is that Andy is an extremely creative and serious guitarist who is rooted in the Jazz tradition. The famous and not-so-famous sides of his playing some perfectly into focus in this brand new Hotlicks video release. The aptly titled 2-volume video reflects Andy’s eclectic view of guitar playing and music. Footage of Andy playing live with his new trio appears liberally throughout.

The video opens with Andy discussing his favorite chord voicings. This proved fascinating to me as I once spent several years dissecting his chords from my old Police tapes without success. Here is a trasure trove of unique and unconventional voicings that give new life to the chords. He then shows the guitar parts he played on all the Police hits, such as “Message In A Bottle”, “Roxanne”, “Every Breath You Take” and a bunch of others. This will probably be the most popular subject on the tape, as I know few guitarists who don’t like learning these parts.

Andy also discusses aspects of jazz improvisation, talking about scale choices and licks. Much of this material will be familiar to serious jazzers, and Andy wisely avoids going into too much detail here. It is surprising to watch him rip though bebop licks on the green Benedetto archtop he’s playing. Andy, we hardly knew ye.

The remainder of the video is taken up largely with the discussion of the original pieces on Andy’s post-Police solo albums. The idea of composing on the guitar is also covered. Andy’s dark humor pops up here and there and the brooding aura of his music make the live performances enjoyable.

While I wouldn’t call this a “jazz” guitar video per se, it is an excellent product with lots of useful information for jazz players presented with a fresh perspective. This will be one of the most unique videos in your collection. Recommended.

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