Saturday, 16 April 2011

When in doubt, medley it out!

I've had a few opportunities recently to look at arranging some new stuff. Since I've got quite a few songs on the back burner half finished, rather than start on something new, I've revisited them with an aim to finishing. Well, not quite...

Rolling Stones - classic stuff, everyone knows a bit of 'stones. They are however not arranged for fingerstyle very often...certainly not as much as Beatles, Queen, Pink Floyd and the like. My theory is that the songs are, erm, "simple". What made the 'stones popular was more about Mick's singing, Keith's guitar playing and their general antics. The bulk of the songs are melodically simple. Good 'ole simple rock'n'roll.

But converting that to fingerstyle is a challenge, because there isn't much going on, it becomes kinda dull. Okay you get a verse sorted, you mix one up with some arpeggios, you percussify up another one...but really, some great songs are plain boring in fingerstyle (I generalise; the super-music-savvy types will do something with anything, I'm talking about mere mortals such as myself.)

The solution? A medley! 3 songs from the same band - maybe same album, maybe same era, maybe across an era! Do two verses and a chorus, say up to 2 minutes, then morph into another song.

I've focused a bit on Aussie classic stuff over my time, and a while ago I worked a cool arrangement of an AC/DC song. But it suffered from repetitiveness. So I grabbed another AC/DC classic and had a go at that aiming for medley. Even better, Iggy P had already done a cool arrangement so I've borrowed heavily from his one. (Interestingly, if you look at the youtube version of his "You shook me all night long" he has actually pitch shifted the song down two steps - unless he detuned the whole guitar down a tone, which I doubt. Interesting.)

The one other great aspect of medleys is you only have to learn a verse, chorus, maybe an intro...but you don't *need* to put any effort into bridges or solos. Unless you are a natural improviser, like Naudo, I find I spend just as much time - if not more - working on the bridges, refrains, solos - than I do on the chorus and verse!

I wouldn't like to medley everything, but when in doubt, and when after a few cheap attention grabbers, medley! :)
JAW

9 comments:

  1. I dont medley because I dont know how to make smooth changes between songs with diferent keys and tempo

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  2. So Jaw you went full circle, from the all so common half-finished song syndrome, to the fully arranged and well polished song, and now you are back with the medley!
    I'm not a fan of medleys, I know T.Emmanuel does it a lot, even Naudo has been known to mix two songs in one occupationally. I think it can be good provided there is still enough material in each.

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  3. Ha, you may be right Rom! I like to think that you'd only medley because there just isn't enough material to make a single well arranged song...not because you are too slack to put in the effort! I've had two Rolling stones songs, and one AC\DC song on the boil for years, but I just can't create anything more interesting enough to fully develop them. I'm not a huge fan of medleys - and especially not a fan of half songs - but in this case I think I'm justified. Maybe lazy? :)
    JAW

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  4. There's a guy named freddegredde who's done more medleys than you can imagine. His 32 songs in 8 minutes was impressive, Also has a lot of cartoon songs, as well as a nice tab for fur elise, check him out.

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  5. I just listened to the Pink Floyd arrangement....it really sounds great. I love playing fingerstyle because I can't sing. And I agree that there a lot of songs that just don't translate well to this type of playing...I think what you've done is created arrangements that incorporate the best accoustic guitar from each of these songs!!

    Thanks so much for sharing...looking forward to learing a few of your arrangements.

    Susan B
    Elk Grove, CA

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  6. Ryan - 32 songs in 8 minutes? That's just silly :)

    Susan - thanks for stopping by! It's good and bad (as a solo artist) not being able to sing; I've got the same problem. It's bad because you have to play really interesting and challenging pieces on the guitar in order to catch the attention of listeners, which takes years of practise to get to. It's good because you end up playing really interesting and challenging pieces on the guitar that catches the attention of listeners! :)
    JAW

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  7. Maybe you could give some tips on how to switch from one song to the next fluently? Because Im playing a bit with this idea but changes feel harsh

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  8. Great idea. I realised I know too many beatles songs. If I played each one as a single piece, half of my repertory would be beatles. Medley is the way to go!

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  9. Anonymous - to start with, don't try anything too fancy. Just slow down tempo at the end of song 1, and then ramp back up into song 2. Slowing down tempo is generally a sign to a listener that the end or a change is coming, so it's an easy way to cut from one to another without actually stopping.

    More advanced would be immediately starting into the next song if it is in the same key, giving a few intro measures so that the listener can get the hang of what's just happened. Most advanced, for different keys, you could build up a bridging key change riff; say a couple of chords that do the change, or running through scales in those chords.

    A good challenge! :)
    JAW

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