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Ten Tasty Riffs – Miyavi

Welcome, friends, to another installment of my Ten Tasty Riffs series.

For those who haven’t seen this before, Ten Tasty Riffs is my own personal outlet to rant for a little while about ten guitar riffs I personally find memorable from a specific artist. As a (fairly average if I’m honest) guitarist myself, these are the kinds of riffs that would immediately inspire me to just… play. Even if the chances of playing the actual guitar riff are slim, it didn’t matter: what matters is the inspiration.

This week’s Ten Tasty Riffs takes us into the fantastically versatile discography of Japanese visual kei/J-rock artist Miyavi, and it really cannot be understated just how versatile his material can be: throughout a long and successful year, Miyavi was dubbed the ‘Samurai Guitarist’ in praise for his excellent technical ability, but his continued interest in exploring new genres makes Miyavi’s discography extremely interesting.

At a glance, you’ll see heavier metal influence through 2005’s Miyavizm, blues rock/hip-hip influence within 2010 release What’s My Name?, and full on pop rock madness throughout 2016 effort Fire Bird. And, to be honest, that’s really only scratching the surface.

 

#10 – ‘I Love You, I Love You, I Love You, and I Hate You’ (Chorus/Bridge Riff)

This is a huge crescendo that happens twice in the song, first clocking in at the 1:36 mark. After a gradual build of pitter-patter guitar fuzz and minimalistic percussion, the emotional breaking point of the track is undoubtedly the chorus/bridge guitar riff. It completely dominates for thirty seconds, and for those thirty seconds your attention is Miyavi’s entirely.

 

#9 – ‘Viva Viva Be-Bop’ (Outro Dual Lead/Riff)

I won’t lie, this song is full to the brim of kickass guitar riffs. The main riff is irresistibly catchy, the distortion-heavy scale run that preludes the guitar solo is great, but the riff I can’t help but come back to is the final dual guitar lead that plays alongside the main riff. As the outro continues, the harmony builds higher and higher until one final open chord slowly rings out. It’s satisfying, to say the least.

 

#8 – ‘What’s My Name? (Intro/Main Riff)

This is probably the first time whilst listening to Miyavi that my jaw genuinely dropped. See, I got into Miyavi about ten years ago when What’s My Name? first dropped, and the blues rock/slap insanity of the main ‘What’s My Name?’ guitar riff completely blew me away. I couldn’t fathom how to even begin playing this song, with harmonics dancing all over the place and twangy slap guitar licks continuously smacking you in the face, and that’s not even taking into consideration the final forty-five seconds of the song…

 

#7 – ‘Raise Me Up’ (Slow Intro Riff) *Video unavailable in some countries.

Honestly, the guitar tones of Fire Bird are an absolute treat. This was around the time Miyavi swapped out his signature Taylor T5-C1 for a Fender Telecaster, and Fire Bird’s screeching guitar leads and distortion heavy rhythm licks take full advantage of it. With that in mind, ‘Raise Me Up’ is full to the brim of Miyavi’s classic finger-slap rhythm style, but honestly it’s the slow and steady intro riff that always stays in my head. Well, that and the delicious chorus synth. Mmm.

 

#6 – ‘A-Ha’ (Main Riff)

This guitar riff is pure swagger through a funky southern rock groove and thick bass tone. I’d listen to an entire album of this, especially when it gets completely bonkers around the 2:25 mark.

 

#5 – ‘Jikoai, Jigajlzan, Jiishikikajou (Instrumental)’ (The whole damn thing)

Yes, I’m cheating. I don’t care. This 60 second instrumental is one of the most effectively entertaining showcases I have ever seen of a brilliant musician having an blast. Picking a specific guitar riff here is basically impossible.

 

#4 – ‘Fire Bird’ (Screechy Lead Chorus Riff/Solo)

Remember when I said the guitar tones of Fire Bird were an absolute treat? This is exactly what I mean. I guess you could consider this a guitar solo, but honestly the tone is what I’m going for here. This is Miyavi’s experimentation at its very best, touching on similar territory to Jack White or Tom Morello if you had to compare and pulling it off fantastically.

 

#3 – ‘Horizon’ (‘Bouncy’ Lead)

This one comes in just after the weird glitchy section and again could be considered something of a solo, but most of this is a repeated hammer on/hammer off scale run that just can’t help but have you hooked when it comes in. It’s brief, but fantastic. But you know what isn’t brief? The six and a half minute live version of this song from the Live at Zepp DiverCity, Tokyo show. Seriously, if you ever needed proof why Miyavi is considered such an excellent performer, this video is it.

 

#2 – ‘Dear My Love…’ (‘Happy’ Bridge Melody)

This song is nostalgia incarnate. See, I may have gotten into Miyavi around the time What’s My Name? released, but this song has been floating around my music library for as long as I can remember. It’s honestly a beautifully written instrumental in every respect and any description I offer won’t do it justice, but the little melody that comes in at 1:57 always puts a smile on my face. Let’s just say fans of Ichika Nito or John Butler’s ‘Ocean’ will definitely find something worth listening to here.

#1 – ‘Futuristic Love’ (Uhh… @2:42)

Okay. This song is complete loop pedal insanity. Picking a specific guitar riff from this song is borderline impossible with how many different bits and pieces Miyavi throws in here. Do I go for the crunchy main riff? Do I go for the wailing guitar lead around the 1:35? Do I go for the funk-infected choppy riff at 2:29? There are too many to choose, but the most memorable for me is probably the cool little rolling guitar riff that comes back and forth across a scale several times at 2:42. Also the live version of ‘Futuristic Love’ at NAMM 2013 is amazing.

 

And there we go for this week. Picking Ten Tasty Miyavi guitar riffs is hard. The technical ability of his playing is staggering, especially with how seamlessly finger-slapping is incorporated into some of the coolest rock riffs I’ve ever heard. It’s so much fun watching the ‘Samurai Guitarist’ do his thing, and he doesn’t to seem to be showing even the tiniest inkling of slowing down.

Of course, Miyavi’s career didn’t start with his solo material…

Until next time, what are some of your favourite Miyavi guitar riffs?

M. Stoneman

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