Ask Dominic

This is where you have the chance to ask Dominic a question. Please contact Dominic under contact@dominicmiller.com. Please understand that Dominic has a busy schedule and although he would love to answer all of your questions, he can only manage a few per month.

Question:

How much did your classical playing affect your electric guitar sound? -from Mateusz

Answer:

Very much so. This has worked both ways. My electric approach works on classical. But in the end, its just a different sound. The most important thing is to try and service the song or music you are playing. The attack of electric works wonders on a classical and the softness and purity of classical can work on electric.

Question:

My question is - what was it like to co-headline on the tour with the Grateful Dead? Did you get a chance to jam with Garcia and Weir? What did you think of Jerry's playing? - from Ron

Answer:

I was the only member in Sting's band who was and still is a Dead Head. I have been a fan since I was fifteen. I particularly like the 'Blues For Allah' album. Of course it was an honour to share the stage with Jerry Garcia. He is one of my all time heroes. I love the way he plays (played). No one sounded like that. He has an instinctive way with modes. Doing those shows was like a dream come true because I felt I had a connection with their audience. Unforgettable experience.

Question:

Just bought the collection of JW's guitar work. I must say it is stunning. Have you ever met him or worked with him or are you in a way influenced by what he does because he plays J S Bach too? - from Peter

Answer:

I am a great admirer of John Williams' playing. He is the tone and technique meister. For interpretation on Bach I always preferred Julian Bream.

Question:

I was just wondering if your music has been influenced at all by Arabic music? I know Sting has recently (well a few years now) introduced Arabic sounds to his music and songs such as Mad About You & Desert Rose a great testament to this successful music combination, your guitar work on these songs is absolutely amazing. Have you attempted to combine these unique sounds in your work? - from David

Answer:

I am partly influenced by Arabic music. There is something very deep and spiritual about music from the region. There are many styles of music I find myself subconsciously and sometimes consciously bringing in to my music. Arabic is one of them. I am very happy to hear you find some meaning in my music

Question:

We would like to know how it was to work with Kenny Kirkland? - from Mel & Aischa

Answer:

There isn't enough memory on my computer or anyone else's to even come close to expressing my admiration for Kenny Kirkland. I couldn't possibly answer this question casually. I will say this. He was a genius, an inspiration, a gentleman and without doubt, the most fascinating soul I have ever met. Life isn't the same without him. I put him up there with John F Kennedy, Lennon, Jobim, Mother Theresa and many others.

Question:

In your session work (most notably with Sting), I appreciate that fact that the your guitar parts always seem to compliment the lyric or verse. Although sometimes quite subtle, the method in which your voicings weave in and out of the songs remind me quite a lot of Lindsey Buckingham. Does your feel that your classical reference point has contributed to your ability to express or restrain your session guitar work (as you always seem to 'play for the song')? - from Chad

Answer:

Thanks for this. Lindsay Buckingham is one of the most creative song accompanists on guitar. His parts always sound perfect to me. I am flattered you should put me in the same paragraph as him. Yes I do in some way model my approach on his, but there are also many others. Classical playing has been of some help, mainly with technique which I sometimes use on electric and visa versa. But my main instrument is musicianship. I like to be true to the song and complement it as much as it deserves, if not more. Having some classical background and listening to people like Lindsay Buckingham helps make this possible.

Question:

I wanted to ask you about the development of one's own voice, and the journey to get there. There are only a handful of guitarists that I can name, who I can identify after 1 or 2 notes. Much like we can immediately tell Bing Crosby's voice from James Taylor in milli-seconds. You are one of those guitarists who I can tell immediately. I wrote you a while ago regarding your chords and arrangements of songs, and you replied back that chords are like the colours on a canvas, or the adjective to a phrase. I hear that in your playing in such a way that I know it is you. How did developing your own voice happen, when did you realize it was happening, and what did you do to nurture it? - from Jonathan

Answer:

This may sound odd but to create your own voice as an instrumentalist, I think the last thing you should do is try. If you believe in the laws of practice and patience it will come. This is why I don't consciously remember any point at which this happened with me. I never tried to have my own sound, it just evolved that way and still is. What makes everyone unique is what they listen to and practice. This is your fingerprint. But if you only listen to one style or very few you are decreasing your chances of having any identity of your own. It's only logical. If anyone wanted to set out to create a style I would tell them to open their minds and hearts to as many genres as possible and then try and understand their respective disciplines. It's the combination of these styles and how you use them that will eventually make you stand out. People will start to talk and then work will come. I don't believe any real successful guitarist can say they have arrived. The ones who have their own styles are constantly raising the bar and trying to grow. Their styles are evolving the same way they are.

Question:

I was wondering a bit about you experience with Sebastiao Tapajos - what he taught you, what songs of his you still play live, did you keep in touch afterwards? - from Julian

Answer:

Sebastiao taught me about the possibilities with a guitar. He taught me the concept of using the instrument as a small orchestra playing different parts together. He taught me how to put emphasis on melody and how to support it. He lightened up my world and I still apply his principles to my playing. I haven't been in touch except for when I saw him last time we were in Rio de Janeiro with Sting.

Question:

Curious what inspired you to pick the guitar over any other instrument? - from Seika

Answer:

My sister (Julie) and father were always playing the guitar since I was a baby so it seemed a natural choice of instrument. We were listening to The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, Bossa Nova and a lot of Argentine folk music which is all driven by the guitar. Eventually Julie taught me. She is a natural.

Question:

What is your opinion on the guitar playing of the Edge, Joe Satriani, and Steve Vai? Do you like their music? - from Adrien

Answer:

I think the Edge is one of the most influential guitarists today. He has a real talent for complimenting the song with great parts. He is a huge influence on me. I am not a big fan of Joe Satriani nor Steve Vai. Although I think they are great guitarists I cannot make a connection with their music. This doesn't mean they aren't great. It's just that I find it hard to identify with their approaches.

Question:

I was wondering if you've heard music from Yngwie Malmsteen and/or Uli Jon Roth (heavily influenced by Bach and other classical composers however, interpret them in a different non-traditional context) I'm sort of stuck in the middle of playing this style and traditional and your style has now crept up on me ( Especially the way you arrange), and if you have any tips on going for more originality? - from Anthony

Answer:

I haven't heard either of these. I will look into them. More originality? I always find it helps to listen to the way other instrumentalists tackle Bach. I don't learn much by listening to the way other guitarists interpret. I am more interested in the way Glen Gould plays this music on the piano. He manages to make every single note mean so much. We guitarists focus too much on just managing to play the notes. This is fine but there is so much more there. Listening to others has helped me with phrasing ideas. It has also helped me with timing. I must recommend you listen to Glen Gould. Then perhaps take any piece of Bach that you may already be working on and see if there is any improvement.

Question:

Is there any artist you haven't performed with yet, but really would love to? And what about performing with orchestras - there are, for example, some very nice pieces by Joaquin Rodrigo that I would love to hear in your interpretation? - from Arthur

Answer:

Joni Mitchell is an artist I haven't worked with whom I would like to. I would love to do the Rodrigo with an orchestra some day but I fear I will never be up to it unless I devote at least a years practice.

Question:

How has your tone, technique and touch changed (if at all, including equipment) from pre-Sting, then throughout your years with him, as well as your solo records? - from Jonathan

Answer:

I don't think my sound has really changed that much from pre Sting to now. It's more of an evolvement. I am still trying to alter it and experiment. For instance now I am playing the Les Paul, not the Strat. This makes the amps sound different which I am adapting to.

Question:

I was wondering if you liked Minimalist music at all. I finally took it upon myself to listen to Steve Reich's Electric Counterpoint for electric guitar and tape, which I love. It occurred to me while listening that, were you interested, this piece would sound good under your fingers. - from Allison

Answer:

For some reason I don't get that kind of music. To me it feels ugly or painful. I have trouble seeing the beauty in it but I know it's there. I just can't feel it. I suppose my relationship to minimalism could be comparable to listening to a poem recited in Japanese without understanding the language. I will look into it more now you have mentioned it.

Question:

At the moment I am writing about the connections and influences of Art and Music. I talked briefly with Jazz musicians like Anthony Braxton, Uwe Kropinski or Steve Lehman and get really nice meanings. You know the art-music-thing is very old at this point: Kandinsky-Schönberg-Libeskind, Picasso-Miles, Rothko-Feldman, Boulez-Klee, Rodin-Maler, Warhol-VU... the examples could be endless... My question: How did art (painting, architecture...) take an influence on your music? - from Toni

Answer:

Art and Music? I think there is a strong connection with in the structure and form. Colour contrast is like chord contrast. Picasso was the master at this. Unexpected variations with colour. A colour is only as interesting as the one next to it. Then there are the Dutch masters who focus on detail. Listening to great arrangers like Ravel or Stravinski achieve this. There are a lot of similarities with art and music. As many as you want there to be.

Question:

I am a big Jobim fan as I know you are. I love the way he can take an often simple melody, and then harmonize it with some unexpected chords that give the piece fabulous colours. I find this same type of...I don't know...excitement, in Steely Dan tunes as well. Their voice leading reminds me of Jobim. Both composed in part on guitar maybe? Anyways, I'm not very familiar with Bach, but having read some of your comments on his music, I was wondering if you find any compositional parallels between these artists? - from John

Answer:

I am in total agreement with you. Bach's music can be found in anyone who is serious. It's hard to ignore. He was the first real modern user of chords. I hear a lot of Chopin in Jobim. Check out the piano preludes. Steely Dan are incredible. I love Aja!

Question:

What do you think about Miles Davis, F.Moreno Torroba and John Scofield? - from Nicole

Answer:

I love Miles Davis. Torroba I am not very familiar with and Scofield is, of course, an incredible guitarist. I will never be able to play like that.

Question:

Do you follow many acoustic artists like Pierre Bensusan or Michael Hedges? Unfortunately, Hedges died a few years back, but I was lucky enough to have seen him in concert a few months before. He created some fascinating works, and was an interesting fellow. I'll have to investigate Egberto Gismonti - I love the feeling of Brazilian music. Any suggestions on a first CD to buy? - from Sandy

Answer:

I like Michael Hedges too. There are other guitarists who play like that (who Michael would have been influenced by): John Abercrombie, Ralf Towner, Bert Jansch and a lot of Celtic folk singer songwriters like Dick Gaughan. A good introduction to Egberto Gismonti's music would be 'Solo' on the ECM label.

Question:

Who are the artists you aspire to? (Besides J.S. Bach, of course!) - from Sandy

Answer:

When I was younger I had huge aspirations to Stevie Wonder. He had the full package (songwriter, instrumentalist, singer, star, cool dude etc). I love the musician Egberto Gismonti from Brazil. His compositions have been and still are an enormous influence on my harmonic growth. The guitarist Jeff Beck is the living daddy of electric guitar. Jimi Hendrix would be if he were alive. I love Earth Wind & Fire. Just love funky American music. They were the best! And many more. How long have you got?

Question:

Have you been thinking about what style you'll be playing on the next album? Are you going to continue putting new life into Bach or focus more on creating new material? - From Trish

Answer:

I will be playing more Bach on the next album, for sure. I also want to delve into Chopin, Villa Lobos and Ravel.

Question:

Coming from such a varied musical background as you do, are there any artists/bands that your fans would be surprised to hear that you're into? I'm on a blues kick right now...which blues players have influenced your playing besides Hendrix? - From Kevin

Answer:

I think there are two types of blues players. Those who only play the blues (BB King, Robert Johnson, Muddy Waters etc) and those who incorporate blues in their playing. I am more interested in the latter. Players like Jimi Hendrix of course but also, Jeff Beck, Jimi Page, Robin Trower, Eddie Van Halen, Mark Knopfler and even some Jazz players like John Mclaughlin and Pat Metheny.

Question:

I started playing the guitar at 7 as my dad taught me how to play Apache by The Shadows. How do you rate Hank Marvin as a guitarist and who was your main influence? - From Chik

Answer:

I do rate Hank Marvin as a guitarist with a unique voice. My main influences are Jimi Hendrix, Jeff Beck, Jimmy Page, John Mclaughlin and Eddie Van Halen. There are others too.

Question:

I find it very interesting the way you play because you seem to play every song as if it were the first time even though you may have played it many times already. How can you do that? I would like you to tell me what inspired you to write Shape of my Heart because it is one of my favourite songs. - from Myriam

Answer:

I try to imagine I am playing every song for the first time. That's what keeps it fresh for me. 'Shape of my Heart' is inspired by the chord sequences of Chopin. The difference is adding a Latin beat.

Question:

I just wanted to tell you how much I love the video on your news page, (Adagio in G Minor). I love that song...beautifully written. I wonder sometimes what gives you the inspiration for a new song. People, places, things. - from Laura

Answer:

That is the only solo video I have done. I hope to do more. The things that inspire me to play and write music are not music itself. It's people, places, feelings, experiences and emotions. I study music always which helps me to translate the above to music. I hope this makes sense.

Question:

I wanted to know about the inspiration in your works. Does it arrive in some kind of casual way or is it the result of the discipline. - from Kristina

Answer:

What inspires me to write music is not music, but experiences with family, friends or just day to day stuff. My role is to interpret these experiences into music or a sequence of notes. Music is a language that most people understand. Using words is not my forte. I hope I see you soon!

Question:

I was wondering if you have you ever been curious as to what Andy Summers thinks of your interpretations of the guitar parts for Police songs? Have the two of you ever discussed playing those songs? The other thing is that I noticed your Space Your Face Sticker on your guitar during the Ten Summoners Tales era. I pretty much worship the Dead, and always thought it looked awesome, so I stole your idea and put one on my guitar. - from Megan

Answer:

I think Andy Summers is a very influential guitarist who I admire a lot. When doing Police songs I like to play them as much as possible the way he did not only as a tribute to his role in the Police but because the really work. Plus I want the audience to know that I appreciate his playing. I put the Dead sticker on my guitar during a show in front of Dead fans while we were on tour with them in '94. The fans went nuts. I have kept it on there ever since. I too am a fan so it was a dream come true to be jamming with Gerry Garcia!

Question:

In jazz there is always talk of tradition, I can imagine that in Brazilian music it is the same, can tell me what your thoughts are on the tradition (bossa etc), who they are and any landmark recordings. - from Dan

Answer:

Bossa Nova and Jazz have a similar chord language or vocabulary. What makes Bossa Nova different is the rhythms. Any Jobim albums from the early sixties are landmark recordings. This music is a huge influence on my style of playing.

Question:

My question is about the song Do You Want Me on the First Touch album. What was the inspiration to this beautiful song? And the second question is: why do you use an electric nylon string on your records? Is it a matter of getting a good sound when not recording in a big studio or what? - from Fredrik

Answer:

The inspiration for this song (or tune) was exactly what the title says. It's about loving someone and not knowing if they love you back, wishing they did. I guess it's about assurance. I used the electric because I recorded these albums at home where there was always the sound of kids, traffic phone etc. Also I like the sound. On 'Shapes' I used the 'real' one because I was in a proper studio.

Question:

Out of all the musical styles that you can play. Which one do you most enjoy playing and listening to? - from Nic

Answer:

I still don't have a favourite style to play or listen to. I still love composing and the style comes from everything I listen to.

Question:

Which kind of music do you listen to relax yourself or to take inspiration from? Do you listen to music while you are on tour or while you are recording a CD? - from BettyBoop

Answer:

I like listening to all kinds of CD's while I am on the road. At the moment I am listening to Bach on the piano. It relaxes me and is very deep. Music doesn't inspire me to play or write music. It's other things like family, friends, experiences and all kinds of emotions. I use my experience as a musician to translate these feelings into my language.

Question:

You have discussed some of the art and music from which you derive inspiration (or just pleasure), but what do you like to read? Do you have a favourite author or book? - from Kavita

Answer:

I like to read biographies, mostly about artists, musicians or world leaders.

Question:

What kind of Art do you like? - from Henric

Answer:

I am in to most kinds of art as I am with most kinds of music. I like solid structure and form and, of course, great technique and emotion. Some of the artists who do this for me are Monet, Rembrandt, Freud, Picasso etc. I like Frank Lloyd Wright's architecture and Henry Moore's sculptures. There are hundreds of others but these are fresh in my mind as I write to you.

Question:

I've heard that you are known for playing different styles of music. Is flamenco a part of your musical styles collection? What about influences from flamenco players like Paco de Lucia? - from Arturs

Answer:

Damn, you got me there! Flamenco is a style of guitar playing that I have NOT got together although I can 'fake it'. I am incredibly envious, amazed and dumbfounded with the incredible technique of some of these players. Paco de Lucia is one of favourite players of all time!

Question:

Did you hear any previous arrangements on Bach pieces (developed for guitar by other guitar players) once you decided to record Shapes? What do you think of Andres Segovia's several adaptations on Bach? - from Julio

Answer:

I have always listened to other classical guitarists. What I look for is more the sound than the interpretation. I don't play many tunes from the classical guitar repertoire because they have already been done better than I could ever dream of. Particularly Julian Bream. I think Segovia's Bach is great but sometimes too fast.

Question:

I would love to understand how you hear how much Bach must have loved his son from listening to Prelude No. 3 for Clavier. - from Donna

Answer:

The reason I think Bach must have loved his son very much is definitely in the harmony of that tune. It's filled with love. I totally relate to that having five children myself.

Question:

I'd like to ask you about your first musical memory? What song did you hear for the first time and think 'that's what I call music'? - from Andris

Answer:

The songs that inspired me to start playing were the Beatles and the music of Jobim.

Question:

Did you ever listen to Pink Floyd when you were learning the guitar? What do you think of Dave Gilmour as a guitar player? - From Matthew

Answer:

I did and still do listen to Pink Floyd and I think Gilmour is a fantastic and influential guitarist.

Question:

Have you been thinking about what style you'll be playing on the next album? Are you going to continue putting new life into Bach or focus more on creating new material? - From Trish

Answer:

I will be playing more Bach on the next album, for sure. I also want to delve into Chopin, Villa Lobos and Ravel.

Question:

Have you ever thought of recording a complete bossa or tango influenced album? It always seemed to me both styles suit your playing mood perfectly, and they've obviously been an important influence on your solo work. - From Julio

Answer:

I don't think I will do a Bossa/Tango record because in a way I already have with the three albums. Just my interpretations of the genres.

Question:

I was listening to Shapes just this morning while preparing some material for a college class I teach, and really got into it. Way back in the late seventies a really great guitarist I admired a lot at the time, named Bill Connors, did a few recordings for ECM records, and your recordings First Touch and Second Nature sort of remind me of those. - From Kirk

Answer:

One of my main influences is Egberto Gismonte who was (and still might be) an ECM recording artist. I love the space he creates in his compositions. I am also a fan of JS Bach. Perhaps the ultimate musical genius. Simplicity and complexity in harmony. Deep stuff. I was interested to hear you are a teacher. I believe it to be a great profession and if I weren't a full time musician I would be a teacher.

Question:

I heard in an interview about Shapes on Sting's web site that he gave you a book that changed your life, you mention the name of the book but the music comes in at the same moment and I can't get the title. Would you be kind enough to give me the name and the author? - From Marie

Answer:

The book was Partitas and Sonatas for violin. Author J.S.Bach.

Question:

I really like the stuff you are doing on the Shapes album. I also enjoy playing Bach's music (I play guitar). I have a book of transcriptions for guitar, of lute and cello and violin pieces. It sounds like what you have done though, is to work out your own transcriptions from the original music, which is another puzzle / challenge altogether I am sure. - From Brian

Answer:

I am glad you like Bach. In my opinion he is the first modern composer to come from Europe. It is virtually impossible to make his music sound bad (as long as you play the correct harmony). I also believe he is a kind of messenger from God. It's like math but with beauty. If one were to be even more obsessed with his music than me one might find some profound clues on how to make the world a better, safer place.