If you’re heard of Minnesotan guitarist Cory Wong at all, it’s probably in association with retro-funk outfit Vulfpeck.
The young guitarist’s funky rhythm guitar chops can be heard on their latest album The Beautiful Game, including on a track named after Wong himself.
With his fresh-faced look, it’s easy to assume that Wong dropped fully formed onto scene. One imagines as a precocious teen he perhaps locked himself in his room with a load of Nile Rodgers’ albums and absorbed it all in minutes, the same way Neo learnt Kung Fu in the matrix.
But recently Wong dropped a track from his latest solo album called Clouds, and it surprised me. Check it out…
It’s a pretty spacey bit of fusion, which draws from funk but displays so many other influences, not least the kind intricate finger style pioneered by guitarists like Tommy Emmanuel and Laurence Juber.
After this discovery it didn’t take much googling to work out that – of course – Wong didn’t drop from the skies an awesome guitarist. Like everyone else that got good, he’s spent years in the shed, working on lots of different stuff, absorbing and synthesising all kinds of influences.
Wong’s journey is particularly interesting. He’s produced records in Peru, done time on the jazz fusion circuit with a little known quartet Foreign Motion, and been in the touring band of an American Idol contestant.
Perhaps most unusually, and maybe most tellingly, it turns out he had a song available as download-able content for the rhythm-game Rock Band II. The song UpStream, is a beguiling piece of finger style, which says a lot about Wong’s origins and journey as a guitarist. Check out the track (Rockband version of course)…
It’s right in the neighbourhood of that Tommy Emmanuel/Laurence Juber/Doug Smith etc finger style (compare for example Doug Smith’s Order of Magnitude). This music was obviously an earlier part of Wong’s development into today’s funk rhythm guitar god. It’s a style of guitar playing that can clearly serve as a great foundation, technically, harmonically and rhythmically.
In short. if you can more or less summon a whole band’s worth of musical texture from just your guitar, then you’re going to better understand your role as a guitarist in any ensemble or style you later play in (as long as you don’t use it as a license to overplay!).
With that lesson in mind. Guitarists might want to learn from the original masters by checking out the courses we’ve got on MusicGurus from Doug Smith and Laurence Juber. You can learn their classic arrangements with tab included, or learn how to create your own compositions and arrangements on acoustic guitar.
Remember, great musicians absorb and explore lots of musical genres. So start now!
Cory’s latest album can be found on Bandcamp here.