When you see the Goo Goo Dolls and Johnny Rzeznik in concert, one thing that you will probably notice is the vast number of guitars used during a show. It’s not exactly that Rzeznik is a guitar connoisseur, it actually comes down to the fact that he doesn’t consider himself a guitarist at all.
Speaking with Scott McKenzie, Rzeznik admitted, “I’m not a very good technical guitar player. I never claimed to be. I always considered myself more of a writer than a technician. Which is what I consider more important in my world. To me it’s more important to be a writer, which is mostly relying on lyrics.”
For the singer/songwriter who is not a guitarist, tuning tricks are the way to go. “I kind of started winding up guitar strings and winding them down so that the instrument was much easier to play with two fingers or three fingers,” he revealed.
While Rzeznik has been with the band since ’86, he’s just now begun to take a slightly more technical approach to his playing. “I’ve just started to learn from the other musicians I play with, learning some scales and learning some stuff,” he continued. “I kind of like the challenge of feeling around in the dark. It intrigues me. Rather than understanding a mathematical equation that will bring me to the right notes. You learn to speak a different language every time you retune a guitar and play it in a different tuning. I use 14 different tunings on my instruments.”
But Rzeznik thinks it’s his way of playing his songs, including smash hits like “Iris,” that make them sound the way they should. “Occasionally I’ll run into someone who’s figured out how to play my songs in a standard tuning,” he said, “and they just never sound right.”
Rzeznik isn’t the first artist to approach the guitar in this fashion. According to Rzeznik he had plenty of notable role models. “I was really influenced to do that by guys like Jimmy Page and Joni Mitchell. Crosby, Stills and Nash did a lot of that and Ani DiFranco did a lot of that kind of thing. It was just really inspiring. It just expands the canvas you’re able to paint on.”
Magnetic, the 10th album from the Goo Goo Dolls, will be released on May 7th.