Govan’s unique style of playing is characterized by his use of many alternate tunings and string-picking techniques. His speed is just OFF the charts! But how did he begin?
Guthrie Govan is is the 1993 winner of Guitarist magazine’s “Guitarist of the Year” and instructor with the UK magazine Guitar Techniques, Guildford’s Academy of Contemporary Music, Lick Library, and the Brighton Institute of Modern Music, known for his work with the bands The Aristocrats and Asia (2001–2006).
In this article, I’ll take a closer look at Guthrie Govan’s career, his musical background, and how he became a highly sought-after studio musician for albums by artists such as Steve Vai, Michael Jackson, and Carlos Santana.
The Story of Guitar Prodigy Guthrie Govan
Guthrie Govan is a guitar prodigy who has been playing the instrument since he was three years old. His father, a music enthusiast, introduced him to the world of rock ‘n’ roll and encouraged him to learn guitar.
Govan was exposed to a variety of music styles as a child, from Elvis Presley and Little Richard to the Beatles and Jimi Hendrix. He learned chords and solos by ear, and at the age of nine he and his brother Seth performed on a Thames Television programme called Ace Reports.
Education and Career
Govan went on to study English at St Catherine’s College at Oxford University, but dropped out after a year to pursue a career in music. He sent demos of his work to Mike Varney of Shrapnel Records, who was impressed and offered him a record deal. Govan declined, and instead focused on transcribing music from records professionally.
In 1993, he won Guitarist magazine’s “Guitarist of the Year” competition with his instrumental piece “Wonderful Slippery Thing.” He also began teaching at the Guitar Institute in Acton, Thames Valley University, and the Academy of Contemporary Music. He has since published two books on guitar playing: Creative Guitar Volume 1: Cutting Edge Techniques and Creative Guitar Volume 2: Advanced Techniques.
Asia, GPS and the Young Punx
Govan began his involvement with Asia playing on the album Aura. He went on to play on the band’s 2004 album Silent Nation and wrote an instrumental song, Bad Asteroid. In 2006, Asia keyboardist Geoff Downes decided to reform the band with its original 3 members. Govan and two other band members, bassist/singer John Payne and Jay Schellen, along with keyboardist Erik Norlander continued under the name Asia Featuring John Payne. Govan left in mid-2009.
Guitar Legend Guthrie Govan’s Influences and Techniques
Guthrie Govan’s guitar playing was shaped by the greats – Jimi Hendrix and Eric Clapton in their Cream days. He’s got the blues rock thing down pat, but he’s also wary of the ’80s shredding scene. He looks up to Steve Vai and Frank Zappa for their creativity, and Yngwie Malmsteen for his passion. Jazz and fusion also play a big part in his style, with Joe Pass, Allan Holdsworth, Jeff Beck and John Scofield being major influences.
Govan’s got a style of his own that’s hard to miss. He’s got smooth runs that use chromatic notes to fill in the gaps, his tapping is fast and fluid, and he’s got a knack for funky slapping. He’s also not afraid to use extreme effects to get his point across. He sees the guitar as a typewriter for getting his musical message out there. He’s so good at listening to music and working out riffs that he can visualise playing without even picking up the guitar.
Govan’s Got Game
Guthrie Govan is a master of many styles, but he’s got a signature sound that’s all his own. He’s got smooth runs, fast tapping, and funky slapping. He’s not afraid to use extreme effects to get his point across. He’s so good at listening to music and working out riffs that he can play a song without even picking up the guitar. He’s the real deal – a guitar legend!
Guitar Legend Guthrie Govan’s Discography
- Erotic Cakes (2006): This album was Guthrie’s debut solo album and it’s a collection of JTC backing tracks.
- Aura (2001): This album was Guthrie’s first album with the band Asia.
- America: Live in the USA (2003, 2CD & DVD): This album was recorded during Guthrie’s tour with Asia and features live performances of their hits.
- Silent Nation (2004): This album was Guthrie’s second solo album and it’s a mix of rock, jazz, and blues.
- The Aristocrats (2011): This album was Guthrie’s third solo album and it’s a mix of rock, jazz, and funk.
- Culture Clash (2013): This album was Guthrie’s fourth solo album and it’s a mix of rock, jazz, and fusion.
- Tres Caballeros (2015): This album was Guthrie’s fifth solo album and it’s a mix of rock, jazz, and Latin music.
- You Know What.? (2019): This album was Guthrie’s sixth solo album and it’s a mix of rock, jazz, and progressive music.
- The Aristocrats With Primuz Chamber Orchestra (2022): This album is Guthrie’s seventh solo album and it’s a mix of classical, jazz, and rock.
- UNKNOWN – TBD (exp. Sept. 2023): This album is Guthrie’s eighth solo album and it’s a mix of rock, jazz, and experimental music.
- Boing, We’ll Do It Live! (2012): This album was recorded during Guthrie’s tour with Asia and features live performances of their hits.
- Culture Clash Live! (2015): This album was recorded during Guthrie’s tour with The Aristocrats and features live performances of their hits.
- Secret Show: Live in Osaka (2015): This album was recorded during Guthrie’s secret show in Osaka and features live performances of his hits.
- FREEZE! Live In Europe 2020 (2021): This album was recorded during Guthrie’s tour with The Aristocrats and features live performances of their hits.
- With Steven Wilson:
• The Raven That Refused to Sing (2013)
• Hand. Cannot. Erase. (2015)
• Window to the Soul (2006)
• Live in Japan (2006)
- With Various Artists:
• Jason Becker’s Not Dead Yet! (Live in Haarlem) (2012)
• Marco Minnemann – Symbolic Fox (2012)
• Docker’s Guild – The Mystic Technocracy – Season 1: The Age of Ignorance (2012)
• Richard Hallebeek – Richard Hallebeek Project II: Pain in the Jazz, (2013), Richie Rich Music
• Mattias Eklundh – Freak Guitar: The Smorgasbord, (2013), Favored Nations
• Nick Johnston – In a Locked Room on the Moon (2013)
• Nick Johnston – Atomic Mind – Guest Solo on track “Silver Tongued Devil”(2014)
• Lee Ritenour – 6 String Theory (2010), Fives, with Tal Wilkenfeld
• Jordan Rudess – Explorations (guitar solo on “Screaming Head”) (2014)
• Dewa Budjana – Zentuary (2016) – (Guest Solo on track “Suniakala”)
• Ayreon – The Source (2017)
• Nad Sylvan – The Bride Said No (second guitar solo on “What Have You Done”) (2017)
• Jason Becker – Triumphant Hearts (guitar solo on “River of Longing”) (2018)
• Jordan Rudess – Wired for Madness (guitar solo on “Off the Ground”) (2019)
• Yiorgos Fakanas Group – The Nest . Live in Athens (guitar) (2019)
• Bryan Beller – Scenes From The Flood (guitar on the song Sweet Water) (2019)
• Thaikkudam Bridge – Namah (guitar on the song “I Can See You”) (2019)
• DarWin – A Frozen War (Solos on ‘Nightmare of My Dreams’ and ‘Eternal Life’) (2020)
• ANYWHEREDOOR – Observables (All guitars on ‘Too Phart Gone’) (2021)
- With Hans Zimmer:
• The Boss Baby – Hans Zimmer OST – Guitar, Banjo, Koto (2017)
• X-Men: Dark Phoenix – Hans Zimmer OST – Guitars (2019)
• The Lion King 2019 – Hans Zimmer OST – Guitars (2019)
• Xperiments from Dark Phoenix – Hans Zimmer – Guitars (2019)
• Dune – Hans Zimmer – Guitars (2021)
Govan is a guitar prodigy who has been playing since he was three years old. Now you know why is a TRUE master of the guitar and has worked with a variety of bands, including Asia and GPS, and has published two books on guitar playing.
Govan is the man to learn from! So don’t be afraid to take a trip to the nearest music store and pick up one of his albums. Who knows, you might just become the next Guthrie Govan!
I'm Joost Nusselder, the founder of Neaera and a content marketer, dad, and love trying out new equipment with guitar at the heart of my passion, and together with my team, I've been creating in-depth blog articles since 2020 to help loyal readers with recording and guitar tips.
Check me out on Youtube where I try out all of this gear:Subscribe