Print Story Holiday aftermath: two good things
By LodeRunner (Tue Feb 28, 2006 at 08:07:11 PM EST) music, guitar, memory (all tags)
Carnaval: four days dedicated to celebrate partying itself; the most self-referential holiday ever. I'm not a carnaval person by any measure. Like many, I usually take the opportunity to make trips, or just rest, as a "four day vacation" in the middle of February.

One year, though, (2000 or 2001, can't remember precisely) I decided to spend those four days recording music like crazy, to make up for the time I haven't been able to dedicate to that hobby -- to get that feeling of "I have all this stuff written that would be nice to have recorded if only I had the time" behind me. Since that feeling is kicking back, I decided to try to do the same this year. It did not work, but two music-related events made for a positive outcome.

  • Making amends with the guitar
  • The long missing chorus

Making amends with the guitar

One thing I said en passant to a friend these days kept hammering in my head: "nobody respects me as a guitar player". The friend in question was the bass player in a band in which I played keyboards.

Even though I am not teh keyboard shredder -- in particular, my left-right hand independence is terrible because I have no piano background, which always makes me shy when playing keyboards to someone who knows piano -- I can usually hold my own and learn whatever tunes the band wants to play, and I'm fairly creative at improvising (a treat I've come to realize is rarer than should be, at least in rock circles). So, I never had major problems playing keyboards with anybody.

On guitar, however, things seem to be different, because everything seems to be measured on "speed". Yes, I know it's childish and ridiculous, but that's how it goes in the guitar world. In the end, it's one of the things that turned me off from guitar. I can't do the blazing fast guitar solos, and I can't be bothered to the hours of boring scale practice necessary to attain that speed. (I realize that in indie/punk/etc circles speed on guitar is as passé as a citrus green suit with shoulder pads, but still a "good guitarist" is always one who can do "complicated/crazy stuff", so it's just the same thing on a smaller scale).

But I do like to play guitar. So I thought, why do I neglect it then? Why do I only look for keyboard playing gigs? I came to the conclusion that even I don't respect myself as a guitarist.

To shake that feeling, I realized I needed to do something about it. I decided to pick my favorite guitar solo (maybe "favorite" is too much, but one of the all-time favorites, definitely) and learn it. And I did.

So now I know that I can play the kind of thing that really interests me on guitar if I really want to. I had a simple theory I formulated when learning those fancy keyboard solos when playing in bands, which has proven true again on the guitar: it's not in your fingers, it's in your head. I could only play the fast sequences of that solo after I could think them through -- mentalize the series of notes, each of them individually, as fast as they went by in the song. Once you can do that, the fingers just follow.

Another conclusion: the frets of my guitar are borked. This instrument will celebrate its 10th anniversary with me this year, and it was second-hand already. It's so beat up that refretting isn't worth it and I would never get a decent price selling it (plus, I'd like to keep it as my "first official guitar"). I'll see if I buy a new guitar by the end of the year, or early 2007.

The long missing chorus

I came up with a chorus melody for a song that I wrote when I was 16 years old and that was left unfinished to this day, complete except for a chorus melody and lyrics, the latter missing because the former was on the critical path. I had already given up on the song, to the point that I had reused a riff from it in a later one (which is coincidentally also unfinished to this day... and is now farther from completion as the riff finds its way back to the original song).

It came to me while walking on my way to the supermarket, humming stuff like I do sometimes, while trying to do this discreetly enough so that it doesn't look like I'm talking to myself (even though I'm not sure if I succeed at that -- at least now I try; in my teenage years I'm pretty sure I looked like those crazies on the streets... maybe they are composers as well!?) For whatever reason, I remembered this old song and started humming it. When I got to the missing part, I just kept humming and it seemed to complete itself. Gotta love when that happens.

As my mind flipped channels to focus on what was missing in the fridge, I simply forgot about the thing altogether. Came back home, had dinner, and a while later I was browsing around and read this: "a series of thoughts clicked into place". I immediately went: "OMG! The chorus! What was it like!?!?" I hurried up to the guitar to try to remember it, but no game. I could only remember the general feeling of it. So I wrote something else that tried to capture the essence but it didn't had that little magical thing that melodies that come to your had all at once have.

Then, the next day, out of nowhere, the melody comes back to my head. Just like that. I picked whatever was closer at the moment to record it before I'd forget it again: the digital camera -- shot a movie of myself whistling the melody. Now I have both sequences, the chorus I came up with on the way to the market, and the variation I wrote yesterday. I may end up using both. Now, all I need is lyrics for it.

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Holiday aftermath: two good things | 9 comments (9 topical, 0 hidden)
ObPlsPostMP3KThnx by TPD (2.00 / 0) #1 Tue Feb 28, 2006 at 11:47:40 PM EST
I must try your Zen like solo learning technique - but I'm pretty sure in my case it's both brain and fingers (with a little of tone deaf ear thrown in for good measure) that's hindering my ability to play the solos I'd like to.

why sit, when you can sit and swivel with The Ab-SwivellerTM
I actually did record it... by LodeRunner (4.00 / 1) #3 Wed Mar 01, 2006 at 08:48:05 AM EST
Didn't link in the diary because I recorded it just to send it to my brother. But what the hell... here it is. I messed up the last note but didn't want to rerecord it because of the driver annoyances. It also ended up sounding a bit dull because I avoided the vibratos due to the fret problem.

In case you don't know the song, it's not a flashy solo speedwise (only 2 bars in sextuplets), but it has a great melody (the reason why I like it so much) and in the process of learning it I picked some of the little flourishes that really make it click for me, like the quick 17\9 slide and the 14^15^13^12 sequence. Details that make the difference... hats off to Nuno Bettencourt.

As for the Zen like technique (cool name for it, btw :) ), to me it works as a good measure if the piece is "in me" yet or not. The idea is to play it as in air-guitar, but only in your head without actually moving your hands. Usually, if I can "play" it this way, then I can play it on guitar/keyboards.

[ Parent ]
Nice! by TPD (4.00 / 1) #5 Wed Mar 01, 2006 at 10:42:18 AM EST
I'm not really that up on Extreme, beyond the little I have heard always makes me think I should investigate them some more.

why sit, when you can sit and swivel with The Ab-SwivellerTM
[ Parent ]
Thanks :) by LodeRunner (2.00 / 0) #8 Thu Mar 02, 2006 at 11:06:11 AM EST
I can't recommend enough their third album, III Sides to Every Story. Don't know what kind of stuff you're into, but I think that's a fantastic album -- one of those that should be listened to as a whole, with the lyric booklet.

[ Parent ]
Need for speed... by Breaker (2.00 / 0) #2 Wed Mar 01, 2006 at 01:00:08 AM EST
Muscle memory works for me, which does indeed come from playing scales, scales, scales.  That gives you the strength and dexterity in your fingers you'll need.  No way around this I am afraid.

When you get to playing really fast, you stop hearing notes and start hearing phrases.  Those phrases you will have to practice to get them quick enough.  If you like, think of notes as letters, phrases as words and solos as complete sentences.

Other good solos to learn:
Alright Now - Free.  Nice question and answer bit in there.
Phantom of the Opera - Iron Maiden.  Ascending runs on the fretboard, lots of twiddling and harmony guitar parts.
One Shot At Glory - Judas Priest.  Unusual starting point for the solo, good across-the-strings style soloing.
Mr Scary - George Lynch.  Heh.  Good luck!

Also, get a new guitar if your current's borked.  Even a cheap one will be better.  As you start playing quicker, the clearance between the frets and the strings will become more important.  Start incorporating a proper warm up into your practice sessions; wash hands in warm water before playing, stretch and take it easy for the first 5 minutes (sorry if I'm teaching you to chew cheese here, but it's important if you want to avoid RSI).

Oh and IAWTTPD; plspstmp3s!  Even incomplete stuff; if you've not been following much of the last 6 months this has been a good place to get constructive feedback. 

Thanks for the advice by LodeRunner (2.00 / 0) #4 Wed Mar 01, 2006 at 09:10:50 AM EST
Muscle memory works for me, which does indeed come from playing scales, scales, scales.  That gives you the strength and dexterity in your fingers you'll need.  No way around this I am afraid.

Yeah, I hear this all the time. But I've come to the conclusion that, except maybe for the truly physically taxing stuff (Shrapnel Records offspring and the like), it's not the fingers that lack speed, it's the head that can't keep up. After all one can play the simple stuff fast, so it's not like the fingers can't do it. I've heard the letters/words/phrases analogy before, and I think that has to do with that (less elements for the mind to keep track when playing).

Thanks for the advice on the other solos, but I can't stand Judas Priest and I'm not really into the pyrotechnic George Lynch stuff. :) I might give it a try at some Van Halen stuff, though.

Once I had a long long discussion with my brother on a rather heretical statement I made that "70% of all guitar solos are unnecessary". Too much formulaic stuff out there for my taste which don't really add to the songs. IMHO it's a minority of guitarists who often have "something to say" with their solos (Eddie and Nuno being two examples; interestingly the second being a 'disciple' of the former -- that probably says more about my tastes than backs up my hypothesis ;) ).

Oh and IAWTTPD; plspstmp3s!  Even incomplete stuff; if you've not been following much of the last 6 months this has been a good place to get constructive feedback.

Cool :) I posted the link in the reply to TPD. I'm new to HuSi, just migrated from K5.

[ Parent ]
Oh right! by Breaker (4.00 / 1) #6 Thu Mar 02, 2006 at 02:27:49 AM EST
By fast I thought you meant "really fast" ^^

re: Good solos to play: I suppose that you have to dig the music you're trying to play, so if you hate JP then stay away!

Will have a shufty at your MP3's and post in a bit - thanks for the link.

[ Parent ]
Good effort lad! by Breaker (4.00 / 1) #7 Thu Mar 02, 2006 at 03:58:51 AM EST
The fast bits were played really well, with Nuno-esque muting and phrasing - I'm guessing you really worked hard on them?

The long slide down was nicely executed too - they're a bit tricky once you get over 5 frets.

On some slow bits you seemed to get a little lost, I thought.

Also, lead tone was good, possibly might have benefitted with a little reverb.  Or more OD/distortion.

You likely to go for any of the various MFCs that we have here? 

Thank you! by LodeRunner (2.00 / 0) #9 Thu Mar 02, 2006 at 11:55:36 AM EST
I didn't even think much about my right hand, that went naturally. I agree about the slow bits, I blame that on the double-thinking for avoiding the vibratos (even if they cut the sustain 5% of the time, gotta watch them every time when recording... you're so right, I need a new guitar) and the usual stiffness that kicks in when the red light starts to blink.

The lead tone was a PodXT preset (the guitar is an Epiphone Les Paul). Yeah, could be souped up a bit, thx for the tips.

And sure, I plan join in the MFC craziness :)

[ Parent ]
Holiday aftermath: two good things | 9 comments (9 topical, 0 hidden)