SMG Profile: Guitar Virtuoso Steve Howe

Such a virtuosic and revered player must be from the South Side of the Sky!

Howe About It!

So many contemporary guitarists cite Steve Howe as an integral influence on their playing. Why you ask? To begin with, Howe is so proficient that you’ll find him playing styles such as: classical, flamenco, country, jazz and rock. As a result, his compositions incorporate all of the various styles into a sound that can only be called progressive.

Steve Howe was born in London, England in 1947. The youngest of a very musical family, he took influence from his parents. Howe reports his early influences consisting of the legendary Les Paul, Barney Kessel and Chet Atkins to name a few. These influences are quite evident if you listen closely to how Steve Howe winds in and out of various chord forms. This early jazz influence is also evident in his choice of guitar.

The legendary Gibson ES175

If my memory serves me correctly, this is the first guitar to feature that sexy Florentine cutaway!

Perhaps Steve Howe is most famous for his tenure in the archetypical progressive/fusion band YES, but he is also well known as a studio player and a solo musician. Howe has played with the likes of Lou Reed, Joe Meek, Queen, and the Dregs.

For guitarists who are not familiar with Steve Howe or YES, you need to get familiar and listen to the album Fragile in its entirety. There are some incredible and timeless guitar songs, Roundabout, Mood for a Day, Long Distance Runaround, and a personal favorite of mine, South Side of the Sky.

YES – Fragile – South Side of the Sky

At 6:42 pay attention to a variation that is absolutely diabolical.

Steve Howe’s solo albums are essential listening for any guitarist wishing to develop their style. The Steve Howe Album is the zenith of what a master of stringed instruments can do.

Steve Howe-Meadow Rag 1979

Steve Howe is still around today and has had his bouts in and out of touch with YES. Howe is still putting out solo material with the help of his son who is now an accomplished jazz musician.

So, to recap…. go listen to YES – Fragile, then if you can handle being humbled any more, go buy The Steve Howe Album on vinyl. Yes, I said on vinyl because there are pictures of every instrument he played on the album in the inside cover along with a chart labeling which tracks belong to specific guitars.

I feel like it is quite essential to post a video of Howe playing Mood for a Day, as it is one of the most famous of his solo compositions for classical guitar. I will leave you all on this note, and by next week, I want everyone to have a YES tune under their belt!

Steve Howe – Mood for a Day

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  • Stan

    I LOOOOOOOOVE “Yes” and obviously Steve’s work plays an integral part in overall “Yes” sound. I very rarely find myself listening to Howe-less “Yes” incarnations, however “Fragile”, “Close to the edge”, “Relayer”, “Tales… (disc 2)” and a couple of other “Yes” albums do not leave my car (I do most of my listening in the car…).

    Got to see “Yes” on their 35th Aniversary tour twice. I consider myself extremely lucky in that respect, considering that the band is 5 years older than me… 😛

    Simply amazing is all I can say.

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