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“Vivian Campbell: Lead Masterclass” is a 2007 DVD which was
originally shot and released on VHS during 1986, as a part of
the “Hot Licks” series produced by Arlen Roth. In his three-minute
introduction, Roth mentions that this was originally filmed in
1984 when Vivian Campbell (1962 – ) was with Dio. However,
based upon Campbell’s remarks during the course of this lesson
and the date printed at the end of the disc, this tape couldn’t
have been made during 1984. Clearly, it was shot in 1986.
The correct date was further confirmed by Campbell’s mention
of his “new” three-piece band, “Trinity,” which as noted in the
bonus features was formed in 1986, after Campbell left Dio.

Now that I’m done “nit-picking,” I’d like to commend Arlen Roth
for obtaining Campbell’s services for this series, because he
definitely had a lot to offer. I’ve personally seen Vivian Campbell
perform in 1985 while he was on the “Sacred Heart” tour with Dio.
I’d long been aware that Campbell was supposedly one of the
more respected guitarists in the “metal” firmament; however,
after watching this DVD, I have a new-found respect for him,
both as a player and a teacher.

In an informal setting, armed with his B.C. Rich guitar, Campbell
demonstrates various techniques including pull-offs, split
harmonics, using the palm of the right hand to “catch” harmonics
while doing pull-offs with the left, playing “full” chords but with
various voicings, and many others. He emphasized the
importance of playing scales for students at all levels, and
mentioned that while with Dio, he would play scales for five
or six hours per day (!), leading up to a concert. He also
emphasized the importance of strengthening the fingers
of the left hand. When I watched what Campbell could play
just using his left hand, it truly relegated his right hand to
secondary status. In fact, he mentioned and illustrated how
a player needn’t pick every note with his or her right hand,
because the left hand was accomplishing so much by using
these various pull-off methods.

Campbell was also not above indicating that he had to
continually practice his technical skills, which included avoiding
pressing the thumb too hard against the back of the neck,
versus wrapping the thumb over the top, ala Eddie Van Halen
or Jimi Hendrix, thereby providing greater relaxation and
ease of playing.

These are just some of the “tricks of the trade” addressed by
Vivian Campbell in this 55-minute DVD. His informal, relaxed
style of teaching belies any intimidation an aspiring rocker
might feel after watching Campbell demonstrate his
considerable skills!

In addition to the aforementioned biography, other bonus
features include a selected discography and suggested
listening tracks. All of the exercises Campbell demonstrated
during the course of this masterclass were also indexed in a
special bonus chapter, which included “slow-motion” options.
The actual notes that were played were superimposed over
the images, courtesy of transcriber Fred Paterno. As with
the other entries in the “Hot Licks” series, even a tuning
menu was provided.

Admittedly, the techniques in this lesson were primarily aimed
at aspiring “metal” guitarists, but many of the principles
discussed were nonetheless universal and beneficial for any
guitarist. I’m not a guitarist, but I feel much richer after watching
this disc. I’m looking forward to viewing other DVDs in this series.

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