Recently, my career as a web development engineer has taken a huge turn for the better. But it has also affected my ability to set aside some time to play guitar. Because of my weird schedule this past week (luckily it’s an anomaly), I haven’t picked up a guitar since Tuesday, and I’ve got serious emotional withdrawals going on!
My home office doubles as my studio, and I’ve gone in there to follow up on personal e-mails each night, and look longingly at my axes sitting pretty in their stands. But duty calls, plus the bed, since I’ve actually been too tired to play – can you imagine that?!!!
Oh well… such is life, and while I know from past experience that things go in cycles, it doesn’t mean I like it just the same…
Just wrote this one today. While a love song, I wanted to be careful about the lyrics because it’s easy to get cheesy. But at the same time, I didn’t want to get really cerebral like Sting because I can’t do it as well – sounds way too formal and contrived, whereas Sting can almost always pull that stuff off.
For equipment I used:
Fender Stratocaster for main rhythm riff (set to middle/bridge position)
PRS SE Soapbar II for the solo (used the bridge pickup and ran it through my vibe pedal).
Mic’d my Fender Hot Rod Deluxe. I just love that amp!
Whether or not you write songs, there are times you might be noodling on your or just plain thinking, and suddenly, out of nowhere, a riff, or a way to play a certain phrase pops in your mind. If you’re lucky, you’re nearby some recording equipment. But more likely than not, like me, you’re driving in your car, or doing something that is not guitar related.
This has happened to me so many times when I’m driving to or from work. When I can, I’ve pulled off the road, and work out and write down the riff. But oftentimes, when I finally get back to my notes and start playing the riff, it just doesn’t have the same vibe as when I originally wrote it down, and I have to spend quite a bit of time recapturing that feeling. If I only had a way to record the riff as a reference, then I’d be able to capture the chord progression or phrase, plus at least some or most the tonal subtleties.
It turns out, there are some pretty good ways to do this. I’ll cover a few here:
Did you know that most cell phones, especially later models have the ability to record both audio and video? My LG Shine records both audio and video, and I’ve used it twice now to record a riff I came up with while driving down the road. The second time this happened, I pulled into a rest area, pulled out my guitar, got my phone out and started recording. Some passers-by thought I was on a video scavenger hunt… yeah, I admit, it was rather weird, but I didn’t want to lose the riff. It didn’t help that I was also trying to hum the melody, so I sounded like a retard making noise. But then again, like I said, I had to capture that riff… It actually turned into this song. For those of you who read the original article about the song, I talked about what triggered the song, but I didn’t mention how I actually captured it… In any case, I’ll admit that it’s not the most optimal alternative, but it certainly works in a pinch.
Lots of digital point-and-shoot cameras also have both audio and video recording capabilities. I usually have my camera with me, so that is an alternative as well.
I just read a great article on Guitar Jam Daily by Carl Verheyen (this dude has a really smooth style!) about the art of layering guitar parts in a song. Essentially, the article covers using a variety of guitars, and approaches when recording a song. For instance, using clean to slightly distorted guitars for rhythm and then distorted guitars for leads. As Carl says,
…I believe the state of the art in guitar playing has more to do with layering and orchestrating and less to do with shredding and the blatant displaying one’s chops.
You may not have a huge collection of guitars at your fingertips, but you can orchestrate the tones and colors of the ones you do have. Getting these elements “on tape” and into a musical tapestry can be a very creative process…
That passage really spoke to me because as a working stiff with limited time and resources, I have to rely on the gear I have, and use them in combination to create the songs I record. From my own perspective and technical abilities on the guitar, I don’t really consider myself a good improv guy, so I try to make up for that by layering different guitars or rhythmic approaches to the guitars I use in my songs. If you listen to the individual guitars, the parts aren’t all that complex or sophisticated, but the result of “stitching” those parts together creates a really interesting tapestry of sound – at least to me.
From the songwriting standpoint, it’s the components of the song that make the song, not the individual pieces. I highly suggest reading that article. The cool thing is that if you’re in a band, you can also take that approach. Not everyone has to be playing distorted. Myself, I like to be presented with musical complexity and sophistication. To me, the sound is so much richer
It’s funny how the inspiration for a song comes. I started out writing out the idea of a song that evolved into a jam track that evolved into a completed song structure that finally evolved into a finished piece, replete with vocals and a guitar solo. For this piece, “You’re Stuck With Me” I was really struggling to find words for the song, when I remembered a conversation – more like a heated argument – I had with my wife a few weeks ago. She was PMS’ing, and she can be downright evil when she’s in this state.
For years, I’d just taken the abuse or yelled right back at her, but this time, I decided that I was going to stand up to her rants and foul tongue, and use a different tact. While she was getting all huffy for something I said, I stopped what I was doing, walked right up to her, put my arms around her, told her to look at me, and said, “Whether you like it or not, you’re stuck with me… I’m not going to let you push me away.”
This song is about standing up to your life partner, but doing it in such a way that assures them that despite all that they may do to put you down and push you away during their time of discomfort, you’ll always be there.
This is kind of new territory for me musically. I’d done some blues in the past, but I wanted to do something different than a regular I-IV-V progression. In other words, I wanted to be a bit unpredictable, but by the same token, retain some familiarity with the sound. This song has elements of blues and country and rock, that I wanted sort of meld together. I think it works…
Just finished the complete song structure for what’s tentatively known as “Mr. Chunky” for the chunky twang rhythm part in the song. I’m looking for drums and bass for the song as I kind of “faked” it with audio loops for the drums and input the bass with MIDI. I posted a Jam Track earlier that was based on this song. If anything else, if you just want to jam, jam to this:
Anyway, here’s the completed song:
Guitars: PRS SE Soapbar II and Fender Stratocaster
Amp: Roland Cube 60 set to Tweed, gain about halfway up to provide some chunk without going over the top.
I was working on a blues-rock song this morning, and came up with this riff that I cut out and thought I’d share because instead of working on the rest of the song, I found myself jammin’ to it. Thought I’d share it with the rest of the folks here.
I’m looking to collaborate on this song on iCompositions, but want to make the offer to collaborate on this song to anyone here. I think it would be a fun endeavor. You can download the MP3 here: http://www.icompositions.com/music/song.php?sid=91703. You can listen to the full song here:
If you want to collaborate on this, please send me an e-mail: thedawg at goofydawg.net, and I’ll point you to where you can download the GarageBand file.
Here’s the chord progression:
E-E7 A-A7 E-E7 E-E7
A-A7 A-A7 E-E7 E-E7
C#m7 F#7 A Eb 1/2dim – E 1/2dim
E-E7 A C9 B9 E-E7
Note that the E-E7 and A-A7 is just my way of notating the fact that I’m switching between the major and 7th pretty freely.
BTW, here’s the equipment I used:
Guitar: PRS SE Soapbar II (love them P-90′s) set to center position
Amp: Roland Cube 60 set to Tweed with Gain about halfway up (who said a solid state modeling amp can’t sound good?)
A couple of issues ago, Guitar Player mag published an interesting article entitled, “The Homogenization of Rock Guitar Tone” in which they interviewed a few top rock producers, and posed the question (paraphrased): Have we reached the point in guitar tone, where there’s nothing new to be heard?
Interesting question that… and if we were to look at what’s popular on the radio, I’d have to say that I haven’t heard anything new or really individual in a long while. I suppose that’s why I still listen to classic rock and classic heavy metal. Guitars played such a prevalent role in the era between the late 60′s and mid-80′s. Once glam rock, then grunge took over the airwaves, the once garden of guitar tones suddenly became a monotonous desert. That has continued today with most popular music. The guitars all sound the same – highly compressed, scooped, and over-processed.
You have really look to the indie rockers to hear some really good, individual guitar tone nowadays. But that’s not bad. It’s cool discovering new bands and great guitar work. For instance, even though he’s been around awhile, I recently discovered Warren Zanes. This is no-frills rock guitar with very little if any processing on the guitars. It’s the purity of the guitar sounds that I just love.
So I guess the crux of this entry is that I agree with the GP article to a point; at least from the standpoint of pop rock, but I certainly believe there’s hope for guitar. And while there are artists like Warren Zanes, good guitar tone will be alive and well in the future.
And if you’re reading this blog, you’re also one of the guitar faithful who will always be in search of great tone.