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Anyone who has seen the 1986 film Crossroads has likely wondered whether Ralph Macchio is playing the guitar parts. After all, the film contains some extremely complicated guitar lines.
If you’ve ever wondered this yourself, you’ve come to the right place. All of your burning questions will be answered here!
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What Does Ralph Macchio Play At The End Of Crossroads?
The epic guitar duel at the end of Crossroads between Steve Vai and Ralph Macchio is unforgettable. This scene perfectly emulates the setting in which it takes place. The devilish folklore inspiration behind the scene is also very prevalent during the duel.
Ralph Macchio’s character inevitably beats Steve Vai’s devilish character with an insane performance. The piece that he plays has come to be known as Eugene’s Trick Bag.
Eugene’s Trick Bag showcases quite a number of different techniques. It eventually breaks into a classical guitar-style performance. This classical section features phrases from Caprice No. 5, by violin virtuoso Nicolas Paganini.
Interestingly enough, Paganini has quite a bit of mythology of his own. His violin skills were reported to be very superhuman. Rumors began to spread that Paganini had in fact sold his soul to the devil for such skills.
Paganini even wrote what has come to be known as the Devil’s Trill Sonata. This piece of music was written to capture the notes that the devil played to Paganini while he was sleeping.
No doubt, adding phrases from a Paganini piece is a definite nod to the film’s Faustian folklore. Caprice No.5 is quite the difficult piece in its own right. After all, it did help Ralph Macchio’s character beat Vai’s devilish character.
Who Played Ralph Macchio’s Guitar Parts?
Ralph Macchio did play some of the guitar parts throughout the film. However, most of the advanced pieces were actually performed by other guitarists.
Arlen Roth was one of the guitarists who played much of Ralph Macchio’s parts. Blues guitarist Ry Cooder, who was in charge of the soundtrack, also had a role to play in Macchio’s parts.
For the final showdown, Arlen Roth played a good portion of the scene. However, when it came time to play the classical guitar part, this was left up to guitarist William Kanengiser.
During the shooting of the film, Ralph Macchio effectively mimed the playing of the guitar. However, that isn’t to say that he didn’t take the time to learn how to play the guitar.
Can Ralph Macchio Play Guitar?
Just as Ralph Macchio studied karate for the Karate Kid films, he did spend time learning the guitar for Crossroads. In fact, quite a bit of effort was put into this, which did pay off, because it certainly looks real.
In preparing for the film, Ralph Macchio worked with guitar instructor Arlen Roth for a few months. The two would meet nearly every day and work together for a couple of hours.
Ralph certainly learned quite a lot to be able to effectively mimic the guitar playing in the film. His acting has fooled millions into thinking it was actually him performing the guitar parts. In reality, it’s just a good actor doing his job very well.
Because he only had a few months to learn, it was not enough time to play most of the film. Years and years of dedicated practice are required to perform the film’s pieces. Unfortunately, this amount of skill cannot be condensed into a few months of practice.
In later interviews after the film’s release, Ralph has said that he does play the guitar in his free time. He finds it pretty relaxing although he is certainly not anywhere near professional level.
When asked whether karate or guitar was harder to learn, he responded that the guitar was without a doubt. He also said it took him a little while to not feel so awkward having a guitar strapped on his shoulders.
Where Can I Hear The Music From Crossroads?
The official soundtrack as written by Ry Cooder is still available and can be found on streaming platforms. While much of the film’s songs are on this release, it does not have Eugene’s Trick Bag. Steve Vai’s guitar parts are also missing from the soundtrack.
If you wish to hear Vai’s playing, be sure to seek out the album Elusive Light And Sound, Volume 1. You’ll find his playing from the duel on this release.
Interestingly enough, the original duel was proposed to be between Arlen Roth and Ry Cooder. Vai’s character was originally going to feature music by Cooder.
However, Arlen Roth and Ry Cooder have recorded a version of the original duel as was intended. Roth had released it on his SoundCloud page, but unfortunately can’t be found there anymore. It remains to be seen whether it will be released again.
Does Ralph Macchio Play Guitar, Final Thoughts
If you’re a guitarist and you haven’t seen the film Crossroads, do yourself a favor. Set aside a few hours and watch this classic. You won’t regret it.
This movie effectively portrays the delta blues landscape as well as some common lore that’s been prevalent throughout history. Heck, it might even inspire you to pick up the guitar. If nothing else, you’re sure to enjoy yourself watching a movie that many guitar greats had a hand in creating.
Side note, do you want to learn to play guitar songs the easy way? Learn how here – results are guaranteed!