Tuesday 19 January 2010

What's happening January 2010

It's been a while since I've What's Happening'ed, I think I mentioned before that I am moving house; well, I've moved house. It has, and will continue to keep me busy for quite some time. But not so busy that I don't have a little bit of time for guitar :)

I recently did an arrangement of "Sunshine of Your Love", it came together pretty quick and not too bad. It's quite groovy to play, check it out on youtube. I say it's "quick and dirty" because that is all that I have time for - there are no embelishments - there is no solo, no bridge or break, it is just the guts of the verse and the chorus and that is it. I figure that I don't have time for all the fruit, and it is better to finish something to a point, than to never finish something at all. Maybe one day when I have ample time on my hands I will revist these things, and give them the proper embelishments they deserve.

Doing that song was an inspiration from seeing another guitarist play it on youtube (jazzguts), and that I had once attempted it without success. These days my arrangements are becoming a bit more formulaic, which is good and bad - good because it is easy, good because I'm starting to have a more distinct style, good because I'm enjoying myself...nup, can't think of anything bad! :)

Last Friday I had a bunch of mates over, and after a few amber muscle relaxants I invariably pull the guitar out and play some tunes. An old mate of mine, whenever this occurs, _always_ says " all you play is old stuff no-one can sing to, you should play some Def Leppard." Okay, so he's a Def Leppard 80's diehard, I've never held that against him, I can't talk I'm a 70's Pink Floyd tragic.

To be honest, many years ago I learnt the Def Leppard song "Hysteria". However it was a long time ago and it was a "normal learning of a song by a guitarist". This means you learn the main riffs, the solo, and maybe some chords - but it isn't an arrangement, it doesn't hold itself together, it's just pieces of a song you can play. One could almost say it is a waste of effort except that you need to do these things when you are young to get the years of playing that sort of stuff behind you.

So last night, I googled a tab for the song to re-aquainted myself with the chords and riffs and set about arranging it, to spite my mate th enext time he pipes up ;)

Straight up I recognised it's going to sound best in Drop D tuning, being very D-centric. The main riff is the hook into that song, but by itself just doesn't fill up the guitar - a song needs to be completely balanced throughout; you can't play a riff, then strum, then go back to the riff, it just sounds stilted; there is no fluidity and continuity. So I threw in a very basic bassline, just the chord root note 4 beats a bar to beef it up. It will be enough, considering I'm going to be playing the melody on top of the riff as well.

As with most things, the song is in chords, but the main verse/theme chords aren't a normal chord, Dropped D tuning helped a bit and playing it in the non-open position helped a bit as well. Once I had that sorted the melody basically played itself, all the melody notes were right there somewhere nearby. I was pleased :)

But now here's the rub - my missus was in the room at the time (and tolerating me playing the same thing over and over and over again) so I asked for some feedback.

I had isolated two ways of playing it, one was very classical/thumb independence, the first thing I nutted out, basically all the notes required, plucked individually. The second was in the style that is starting to become more of a signature in my arrangements; rather than just plucking out notes I flick downstroke across partial pieces of chords on the on-beat. To me it adds a nice percussive direction, rather than a bass-bass-bass-bass it is more like bass-snare-bass-snare; but at the same time it has the notes required. To me it adds a huge dimension to the sound of the arrangement, creates so many more subtleties to just the primary fundamental frequency of the note you are playing - and performing it is starting to come quite natural to me.

"I like the first one. The second sounds wishy-washing."

Arghh! How can you say that! It's the direction I'm heading, and you don't like it! (It's not the first time when asked she's always picked the non-JAW style version).

"It sounds like you are turning it into a country folk song or something. The first one accentuates the main feel and emotion of the song."

Now I'm just hurting ;)

So, here is the two versions of the signature riff. Unfortunately flicking the strings doesn't tab out well, I've gone with 045xxx meaning a light downstroke flick with your three fingers, basically each finger on each string, giving a slightly percussive sound but still striking the right note/chord in the riff:
Drop D tuning


So, to the 3 people who will read this blog entry, which one appeals more to you? :)


  1. I'd go for the second, gives the sound of two guitars playing sort of slightly off. Though it does look 'folksy' on tab atleast ;)

  2. You are very very very lucky, Jaw. Thanks to the magic of the internet, I was able to do the test with my 'missus'. It was easy enough to play both version from the tabs in no time (I don't know the original song), and here is the result, I will quote the exact words:
    - Missus:I prefer the first one
    - Roman Age: Why?
    - Missus: The second one sounds like it's 'to much'
    - Roman Age: anything more?
    - Missus: it's like it's 'added', it sounds like it's 'forced'

    So there you go. As for myself, the more folky it sounds the more I normally like it. However, this particular song doesn't sound like pop/rock (which can easily be turned into acoustic folk), it's more dark and definitely has a 'metal' feel, which may be doesn't suit going folky

  3. Ha, you're a good man Rom! You are right, the song is more on the metal end of the rock scale...according to wikipedia they are new wave British heavy metal, circa 80's. This particular song is a quieter one for them.

    As for the style test, perhaps it is a guitarist vs listener thing - a guitarist likes #2 whereas a listener likes #1. Or maybe it's purely a girl vs bloke thing!

    I think what I'll have to do is play it #1 style to start with, and somewhere in the middle switch to #2 "as I'm gettin' into it" - best of both worlds :)

    Thanks for doing the missus test for me!

  4. What do the x's mean? o_0' ?
    after playing X X 0 4 5 X mute the three strings?
    P.S. found your videos on youtube today you play great =) started learning loosing my religion.
    P.P.S on that loosing my religion tab there are x's too that I don't understand how to play either so i just dont play them, could you please explain me how?
    P.P.P.S. just in case I'm not new to guitar I play acoustic for 2 years now and usually the x's mean to mute the strings but it doesnt make sense to me here, or maybe I was playing them wrong for some years))

  5. JAW, thanks for touching on your right hand technique on this entry.
    As I get deeper into your tabs, it seems (to me) that your right hand is really making all the difference.

    The left hand fingerings are really pretty straightforward, but the right hand strums and "flicks" really bring it to life.

    It's unfortunate that you make it look so easy and fluid! I'm working the tabs, trying to pick the notes cleanly, and now trying to work on letting my hand and wrist relax and "strum" as you do.

    Perhaps a "right hand" blog discussion is in the future?

    JAW, you make it look easy!
    Best wishes,

  6. A right hand technique blog is a great idea; you are correct, fingerstyle is mostly about the right hand. Unfortunately I'm not a very good guide, my technique is heading in the right direction but it is a bit awkward and a bit difficult to play cleanly.

    In fact you'd be able to trace my progress through the youtube videos; at first the stuff was solely plucked normal classical style, then it went through a really awkward percussive mode, now it is a more fluid semi-strum with plucking style.

    Naudo is the guide, I've watched his right hand technique and it covers everything you need. It has "the sound" you get from the non-standard fingerpicking, but is "more conservative", "more consistent" in execution. That's what you want, something that once you have mastered it is easily repeatable. Make no mistake however, Naudo's right hand work is extremely complex - otherwise I'd already be doing it :)

    Yep, I will put a note in my blog admin stuff to discuss right hand techniques. Everytime I think I've said everything I need to say up pops something else!

    Thanks Rich,

  7. X in tabs basically means a heavy muting/percussive stroke. It's hard to notate the specific sound I'm thinking in tab. Generally X on a tab string line means pluck that string totally muted so it makes a sound but you don't get a pitch - right hand palm muting or left hand finger lightly touching any fret muting - hence X doesn't need to show a fret. What I want however is a fretted percussive stroke; there is no tab notation to cover that inflection.

    But, like I said, treat the X's as a fretted note and just sort of downstroke flick/strum/chop, not quite a full strum, but not a proper note pluck because it is the back of your nails. It plays the note but not in a clean manner, it is done percussively. I was previously tabbing that sort of thing out with V's and U's above the note to indicate upstroke/downstroke, but I think that was even less obvious.

    Good Luck!

  8. @Jaw: You're welcome, my pleasure!

    I think it's great to share technics and ideas about fingerstyle guitar. Although you've said somewhere that you've tried different forums and it didn't quite work out as expected, I still think a forum is the best place for that. I have never created any forum, I'm sure I'd have the skill for that, but I have to admit I'm not ready to invest some time doing that, although I would absolutely enjoy participating actively as a user if there was one of this kind.

    For instance, although the music I have recorded and put on my blog is mostly just folk songs, not trying to take fingerstyle guitar in any new direction (I can't help it, I love folk music, I'm also very receptive to the words, especially when they are like poetry), I am very interested in instrumental arrangements and have also been developing that, and I would like eventually someday to start posting videos on Youtube. I've learned a lot from Youtube, and I can see that some technics that I came up with, without pretending that they are absolutely unique, I haven't really seen them used by other guitarists. I'm just talking about little tricks here and there, no big pretention, I think almost every guitarist has got his own bag of trick, all the more interesting when they are personal. And I'd like to share them, well now I have to be honest, I want to give it a try first, record something, see how it goes, see how people are receptive, then I will be happy to share if it is of any interest.
    I think that's what you've been doing Jaw, first trying, then with more confidence and appreciation from people, sharing.

  9. I like number #1 - simply because I can't bloody play #2! I'm still working on getting a good sound playing classical pieces - getting obsessed with playing with a nice tone! Is it possible to play the flicking/strumming stuff and also get the tone of a great classical guitar player?

  10. Ha, good one Oliver!  I don't think you can get that classical sound with a flick/strum.  Classical is very definate; each note and accent is carefully played out; this sort of playing I'm doing these days is hackier, sloppier, but "more complex" in sound.  Good to hear you are obsessing with a nice tone, I have also been obsessing with it.  It doesn't exist, but you can get close.  The main finding I have discovered is what you thing is a great tone others won't, and vicky versa.  I still can't believe the number of people who think the tone of me on my old steel string sounds fantastic - I think it sounds awful! 

    Sitting with a guitar on your knee with it playing forward is not going to help either, you'll never really know if it sounds "great".  I've packaged my obsession now into simply getting a good recording via a pickup.  I play like I play, I'm a bit set in my ways to change at the moment.  If I'm happy enough with how the pickup recorded, then that will do. (I should really be playing with the recorded sound being fed back into my ears as I play, so that I know what I am sounding like, and can adjust my playing real-time.  Really, what we need, is to forget about the sound and let someone else deal with it, and just play! )

    Good to hear from you Oliver. JAW

    On Fri Feb 26 1:54 , 'comment-reply@wordpress.com' sent:

  11. Well that's half the trouble - you can't let someone else deal with the sound, because it's all mixed in there with technique. So you have to find a nice way to play which sounds good as well as being "easy" - seems to be a mix of hand position, nails and how you hold the guitar.

    I'm still experimenting, but seem to have found something which is "passable".