From Thin Lizzy to Solo Success: How Gary Moore Defined His GUITAR Legacy

The Ultimate Guide to Gary Moore's Most Memorable Guitar Moments

Who was Guitarist Gary Moore?

Gary Moore, born Robert William Gary Moore in 1952, was a prodigious guitarist hailing from Belfast, Northern Ireland. He first picked up the guitar at the age of eight and quickly showed a natural affinity for the instrument. 

Moore’s early influences included guitar legends like Eric Clapton, Peter Green, and Jimi Hendrix. 

His professional career began when he joined the Irish rock band Skid Row at the age of 16. After three years, Moore left Skid Row and joined the well-known Irish rock band Thin Lizzy, filling in for Eric Bell. 

Moore’s tenure with Thin Lizzy was marked by several departures and returns, and he contributed to some of their most iconic Gary Moore Thin Lizzy songs such as the almighty Black Rose and Waiting for an Alibi.

As his fame grew, he embarked on a successful solo career, releasing multiple albums and collaborating with a variety of artists, such as Phil Lynott, George Harrison, and B.B. King.

Gary Moore's Signature Guitar Style

Gary Moore Guitarist
Image: Björn Söderqvist

Gary Moore’s unique guitar playing style was characterized by a seamless blend of blues, rock, and hard rock. 

His emotional intensity, lightning-fast guitar licks, and soulful vibrato earned him a reputation as one of the most expressive guitarists of his time.

Moore was known for his ability to convey a wide range of emotions through his playing, from melancholy to ferocious aggression. 

His guitar solos often featured a combination of blazing speed and technical proficiency, along with the use of pinch harmonics, bending, and slides.

Moore’s memorable riffs, such as the ones in “Parisienne Walkways” and “Out in the Fields,” showcased his innate sense of melody and musicianship.

Gary Moore's Guitar Technique

Gary Moore Guitar Technique
  • Legato runs -Moore often utilized smooth, flowing legato runs in his solos, as demonstrated in the song “Still Got the Blues.” This technique involves using hammer-ons and pull-offs to create a fluid, connected sound between notes.
  • Pinch harmonics – Also known as artificial harmonics, this technique involves lightly touching the string with the thumb while picking, creating a high-pitched, bell-like sound. Moore used pinch harmonics effectively in songs like “The Loner” to add color and character to his playing.
  • String bending: Gary Moore was a master of string bending, a technique where the guitarist pushes or pulls the string to raise the pitch of a note. His expressive bends, as showcased in “Parisienne Walkways,” allowed him to convey deep emotion and intensity.
  • Slides – Moore often employed slides, both in his riffs and solos, to create a smooth, gliding sound between notes. One example is his use of slides in the intro riff of “Out in the Fields.”
  • Tapping: Though not as prevalent as other techniques, Moore occasionally utilized tapping, a technique popularized by Eddie Van Halen, which involves using the picking hand’s fingers to hammer-on and pull-off notes on the fretboard. A notable example can be heard in the solo of “End of the World.”
  • Vibrato: One of Moore’s most recognizable techniques was his wide and expressive vibrato, achieved by rapidly bending and releasing the string. This can be heard prominently in songs like “Empty Rooms” and “Separate Ways.”

How to play like Gary Moore

Here’s a breakdown of the key techniques used by Gary Moore, along with specific advice on how to practice and improve them:

  • Legato runs – Gary Moore often used legato runs in his solos, which involve smooth transitions between notes using hammer-ons and pull-offs. Practice basic hammer-on and pull-off exercises to develop finger strength and dexterity. Incorporate legato runs into scales and arpeggios to make them more musical. Start slow and gradually increase speed while maintaining clarity and accuracy.

  • Pinch harmonics – Moore was known for his use of pinch harmonics, which add a distinctive high-pitched “squeal” to the notes. Hold the pick so that a small portion of your thumb is touching the string as you strike it. Experiment with different picking locations along the string to find the “sweet spot” for producing harmonics.Practice pinch harmonics with various degrees of gain and volume to achieve a consistent sound.

  • String bending – Gary Moore used string bends to add expressiveness to his playing. Begin with half-step and whole-step bends, ensuring that you’re accurately hitting the target pitch. Practice bending with different fingers and on different strings. Incorporate pre-bends, where you bend the string before striking it, and release bends for added variety.

  • Note Slides – Slides are a key aspect of Moore’s playing style, providing smooth transitions between notes.Practice sliding between notes on a single string, both ascending and descending. Work on sliding between chords and double stops to add interest to your rhythm playing.

Gary Moore Iconic Guitars and Gear

Throughout his career, Gary Moore was closely associated with the Gibson Les Paul, particularly a 1959 model known as “Greeny” that he acquired from Fleetwood Mac’s Peter Green. 

Greeny is the iconic Gary Moore Guitar!

This guitar became synonymous with Moore’s signature sound. 

Additionally, he played Fender Stratocasters and other guitars like the Hamer Standard and the Ibanez Destroyer. 

Moore relied on a variety of amplifiers and effects to shape his tone, including Marshall amps, Ibanez Tube Screamers, and MXR effects pedals. 

His impact on guitar equipment extended beyond his personal choices, as he collaborated with manufacturers to create signature gear, such as the Gary Moore Signature Gibson Les Paul and the Marshall JMP-1 GM preamp.

Gary Moore's Influential Albums

Gary Moore’s extensive discography features numerous iconic albums that showcase the evolution of his sound and style. 

His early solo work, such as “Back on the Streets” (1978) and “Corridors of Power” (1982), leaned heavily on hard rock and featured his powerful guitar work. 

Moore’s transition to a more blues-oriented sound became apparent with the release of Still Got the Blues (1990), which featured collaborations with legendary blues musicians Albert King, Albert Collins, and George Harrison. 

Other noteworthy albums include “After Hours” (1992), “Blues for Greeny” (1995), and “Close as You Get” (2007), all of which further solidified his reputation as a premier blues guitarist.

Gary Moore Memorable Live Performances

Gary Moore’s live performances were known for their energy and raw emotion. His powerful stage presence and ability to connect with the audience through his guitar playing made his concerts unforgettable experiences. 

Moore participated in numerous high-profile tours and concerts, such as the Montreux Jazz Festival and the Monsters of Rock festival. 

His live renditions often showcased extended solos and improvisations, which provided fans with a unique experience at each show. One of his most memorable performances was his 1990 appearance at Montreux, where he delivered a stunning rendition of Still Got the Blues

This performance is often cited as a prime example of Moore’s emotional intensity and technical prowess on stage.

Play along to this customisable backing track of Gary’s classic Still Got the Blues Backing Track

Gary Moore's Legacy and Influence

Gary Moore left an indelible mark on the music industry, inspiring countless guitarists and musicians with his unique style and virtuosity. 

His innovative blending of blues, rock, and hard rock has been emulated by many contemporary artists, while his emotive playing and soulful approach to the guitar have become a gold standard for aspiring guitarists. 

Moore’s influence can be heard in the playing of artists like Joe Bonamassa, John Sykes, and Vivian Campbell. 

Since his passing in 2011, numerous tributes and covers of his work have been performed by both famous musicians and dedicated fans, ensuring that his musical spirit lives on.

Gary Moore Guitarist
Image: Livepict

Gary Moore's Life Offstage

Away from the limelight, Gary Moore was a private individual who cherished his personal life and family. 

He had children and was known to be a loving and dedicated father. 

Moore was also an avid collector of guitars and other musical memorabilia, with a collection that boasted more than 100 guitars at one point.

The official Gary Moore Biography is well worth a read – check out an official Gary Moore Biography review HERE!

Top 10 Gary Moore Songs Every Fan Should Know

Gary Moore’s extensive catalog includes numerous memorable tracks that showcase his exceptional guitar skills and songwriting abilities. 

Some essential songs for any fan of his work include “Parisienne Walkways,” “Out in the Fields,” “Still Got the Blues,” “Over the Hills and Far Away,” “Empty Rooms,” “Midnight Blues,” “Cold Day in Hell,” “The Loner,” “Oh, Pretty Woman,” and “After the War.” 

Each of these tracks highlights different aspects of Moore’s playing, from his melodic sensibilities to his blistering solos and emotive performances. 

They also offer insights into the various stages of his career, illustrating his musical evolution over the years.

Exploring Northern Ireland's Music Scene

Northern Ireland, the birthplace of Gary Moore’s immense talent, has a rich musical heritage and has produced many notable artists across various genres. 

Besides Moore, other famous musicians from the region include Van Morrison, Snow Patrol, Stiff Little Fingers, and The Undertones. 

The music scene in Northern Ireland is characterized by its diversity, with rock, punk, folk, and traditional Irish music all leaving their mark on the region’s cultural landscape. 

Northern Ireland has also been a breeding ground for up-and-coming talent, hosting various music festivals and venues that showcase both established artists and emerging performers. 

This vibrant scene has significantly contributed to the global music landscape and continues to do so today.

Moore Blues For Gary Les Paul

Gary Moore Guitarist Questions Answered??

Why did Gary Moore quit Thin Lizzy?

Gary Moore had multiple stints with Thin Lizzy, and his departures were due to a combination of factors, including creative differences, personal conflicts, and his desire to pursue a solo career.

One notable departure occurred in 1974, when he left the band abruptly during a US tour due to tensions with frontman Phil Lynott.

Moore’s final departure from Thin Lizzy took place in 1983, after which he focused on his solo career, which allowed him to explore his musical interests more freely.

Where is Gary Moore buried?

Gary Moore is buried at St. Margaret’s Churchyard in Rottingdean, East Sussex, England.

His grave is marked by a simple headstone, which bears the inscription, “Gary Moore 1952-2011 – Much loved father, family man, and musician – With love and fond memories from all who knew and loved him.”

How long was Gary Moore in Thin Lizzy?

Gary Moore had several stints with Thin Lizzy, with his first significant tenure lasting from 1973 to 1974, when he replaced Eric Bell.

Moore later rejoined the band for a short period in 1977 and then again from 1978 to 1979.

In total, Moore’s time in Thin Lizzy spanned over six years, although not consecutively.

Why did Gary Moore sell Greeny?

Gary Moore sold “Greeny,” his famous 1959 Gibson Les Paul, in 1995 due to financial difficulties at the time.

He sold the guitar to American guitarist and collector Phil Winfield, who then sold it to musician and collector Tom Wittrock.

In 2014, “Greeny” was acquired by Kirk Hammett of Metallica, who remains its current owner and often plays the guitar during live performances – check out Kirk Hammett using the guitar at Metallica’s concert at Slane Castle, Ireland below (Thin Lizzy were the first band to play a concert at this venue in 1981)

What pickups did Gary Moore use in his Stratocaster?

Gary Moore used various pickups in his Fender Stratocasters throughout his career.

One of his most famous Stratocasters, known as the “Fiesta Red” Strat, was equipped with Seymour Duncan SSL-1 Vintage Staggered pickups.

These pickups are known for their vintage tone, providing a warm, balanced sound that worked well with Moore’s bluesy playing style.

Check out Gary using his Red Strat at the Fender 50th anniversary concert in the video below.

What size strings did Gary Moore use?

Gary Moore used different string gauges over the years, but he was known to favor heavier strings, particularly for his Gibson Les Paul guitars.

It is reported that he typically used Ernie Ball RPS Slinky strings, with gauges ranging from .010 to .046 or .010 to .052.

The heavier string gauges contributed to his thick, powerful tone and facilitated the aggressive bending and vibrato that characterized his playing style.

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