Blackmore's father gave him his first guitar when he was 11. 'He said if I was going to play this thing he was either going to have someone teach it to me properly, or he was going to smash me across the head with it.' As a result young Ritchie took classical lessons for a year. 'It got me on to the right footing, using all the fingers and the right strokes of the plectrum and the nonsense that goes with it.'
This explanation is slightly confusing, since classical style and plectrum style are totally different. Blackmore expands slightly: 'It was plectrum, but what I call "classical plectrum style". It was a good grounding as far as technique went.'
Blackmore is most famous for coming up with ‘dur dur dur, dur dur dur-dur’ – the Smoke On The Water riff. 'That was just a riff I made up on the spur of the moment in Switzerland... It was a case of just keeping it incredibly simple. Pete Townshend told me "you've got to keep things simple and take the audience with you". That was very profound.'
Besides coming up with memorable riffs, Blackmore rates himself as an improviser. 'Everything I do is usually spontaneous. If I get told something was good and asked to play it again, I'm not able to do it. The only solo I've memorised is Highway Star (see Exercise 5). I like playing that semitone run in the middle.'
Blackmore left the hard rock world of Deep Purple and Rainbow behind when he formed the Renaissance-based Blackmore's Night. However, he sees similarities between the genres. 'It's those parallel kind of fourths and fifths… not unlike the Smoke On The Water riff which is in fourths, and some of the harmonic structure is similar. Sometimes if you hear some of the music played for royalty it's very brash and majestic or exciting, like today's rock shows, although 500 years ago.
'Funnily enough I'm not drawn towards the lute, even though most people would think I would be. My interest is in the wind instrument side of things. I love the trombone.'