Steve Lukather

Groupology

  • Toto
  • Steve Lukather
  • Los Lobotomys
  • a bazillion sessions.

Jurassic

Watch Steve Lukather in Action at the bottom of this page!

Famous / Infamous for

Sessions, sessions, and more sessions. The man we call "Luke" has been a top session guitarist for over 20 years. He has played on over a thousand albums, and has recorded with too many "famous name" (and I might add very wimpy) pop artists to attempt listing them all.

Fantastic guitar solos, and quite possibly the biggest effects rack and pedal board on the planet.

Influences

Obvious: Luke is "Old School." He grew up listening to the pioneers of rock guitar: Hendrix, Beck, Beatles-Stones, Page, Clapton. It's not so much that you hear these influences directly in Luke's style (though he's covered Hendrix and Beck songs). It's more of a sense that he listened to all the right stuff growing up, applied those influences correctly, and became a monster of a player in his own right. And despite the British influences, Luke still sounds like an American guitarist — which of course, is what he is. His contemporaries are the second generation heroes rather than the 80s metal players. Guys like Gary Moore, Van Halen, and Neal Schon.

Not-so-obvious: Larry Carlton, Jay Graydon, Jimmy Wyble. I don't know how much of these influences manifest themselves in Luke's actual playing style, but there is a definitely a jazzy, swing element to many of Luke's compositions that sure didn't come from the rock guys listed above.

Strengths

An all-around fantastic guitarist. He's a terrific rhythm player but is really known as a soloist-and for good reason! Lukather's lead work combines attitude, emotion, feel, and melody, with amazing chops. What more could you want?

Diversity. You can't really pigeonhole Luke's music into one genre. He's capable of totally rocking out on 80s metal, doing progressive fusion style music, or sappy ballads. Most of the time he's somewhere in between and his solo recordings usually contain a smattering of everything. Left to his own devices, Steve surrounds himself with killer musicians and creates guitar-oriented music that is diverse enough to be interesting, and ballsy enough to put a tent in your shorts!

An all-around fantastic musician.  Lukather can play keys, and has a decent, melodic singing voice. He doesn't have a big range, but he knows how to get the most from what he has.

Weaknesses

For a guy who is such a total monster and a true Dinosaur Rock Guitar Hero, you might never realize it, because the bulk of Lukather's recorded work falls outside of the Hard Rock and Metal genres. If you happen to like Toto, you're in luck! Of course, if you like Toto, you're probably not here reading this! If Toto isn't on your radar, you'll have to work to find Luke's work in the context of ballsy material. The stuff that's in the Recommended Listening section below is not always easy to find. I suggest trying to track down a copy of Candyman or better still, the 1994 Steve Lukather: In Concert DVD. Good luck!

Tone

I think Luke has had some of the most processed tones I've ever heard. Though he claims to use far less these days, he used to use harmonizers, delays, choruses and compressors in a huge effects rack that's tied into a Bradshaw pedalboard. In the past, he used Marshalls and high-gain Rivera amplifiers (the two-channel Knucklehead, and the three-channel Bonehead with the Los Lobottom bass cab system which he helped develop). However, Luke's association with Rivera has ended, and these days he's back using Bradshaw CAE3+ preamps through VHT poweramps. The thing to know about Luke is that his quest for tone never ends. He's always looking to improve things. So while the components change, what's safe to say is that Luke's rigs always let him get a wide variety of clean rhythm tones and dirty lead tones.

Steve has many guitars including some vintage Les Pauls and Strats, but has historically preferred a variety of super strat variants — especially for live work. Since the early 90s, he's faithfully used Musicman Luke Signature guitars — essentially a super strat with EMG pups (HB/SC/SC), originally with Floyd Rose tremolos, but now with a non-locking Musicman tremolos.

Add up all the factors: high-gain, tons of processing, active pickups, a Floyd, and you get a tone with virtually no wood tone from the guitar left in it. It's certainly not a bad tone, but it's definitely "high-tech modern" rather than vintage. To my ears, Luke's recorded tone (at least that of the late 80s and early 90s) comes across a pretty wet, and his live lead tone has been especially buzzy.

Guitar Style

Unless he's in the middle of a prog-style jam-fest, Luke favors composed solos and likes to take you somewhere with them. On his solos, he usually mirrors the feel of the song. He's wonderfully melodic on slower numbers, and he often creates hum-able themes. On faster numbers, he'll inject a more aggressive attitude and go for blistering flash.

While Luke is well-versed enough to play just about anything, he's a predominantly pentatonic guy whose lead style is firmly grounded in blues rock. This keeps a sexual, rock element in Luke's music even when the song itself may be quite jazzy or progressive.

Particular Lukather trademarks include ascending/descending 8th note triplets, and chromatic passing tones in the blues scale. He also likes to use the trem to slide into a target note by releasing the depressed bar into its neutral position as he's picking the note. In a live setting, Steve is not above some judicious two-handed tapping and a bit of whammy abuse, though it's never enough to be obnoxious.

Steve has a fantastic right hand, is a great rhythm player and one of the most amazing pure alternate pickers I've ever seen. He can shred with the best of them. Very little legato. Just on a few of the more stock blues licks.

Vibrato

Steve has a few vibratos. My favorite one is his, slow, wide one he uses on ballads. Great control.

Steve Lukather in Action

Recommended Listening

Steve Lukather

Los Lobotomys

Steve Lukather/ Larry Carlton

 

Profile By Dinosaur David B. Copyright ©2002 All rights reserved.