Tuesday 18 May 2010

Thumb, finger, brain...independence

I've mentioned before that I'm working through the Def Leppard song "Hysteria" as kind of a dare, well basically it's done. There is a short solo in the middle of the song, it would be fairly recognisable if you were a Def Leppard fan, so I took it on. It is all straight forward except for a little bit where it plays like a polyrhythm 3 beat on 4 beat. Have a listen to it, it's in the first two bars of this little snippet:

Def Leppard Hysteria solo snippet.mp3

The easiest way to play a guitar solo in fingerstyle is to just be thumbing a bassline while you, erm, shred. Keep the bassline finger position handy to where you are in the solo, usually up high. In this case it was quite easy, the first two bars are A, second two bars are D. Open string basslines are great for fingerstyle! To keep the thumpy bassline feel I just blasted off 8 quavers per bar. And that is where the only mental difficulty occured during this arrangement - trying to get something that sounded like a 3 beat on a 4 beat.

Here's what I came up with:

Hysteria tab snippet

So remember each bassnote is 1/8th, but where the high A note starts in bar 1 begins the little polyrythm styled phrase, where your thumb independence - or in this case _finger_ independence - needs to kick in.

I knew the notes for the solo, and I knew the bassline, but I absolutely could not connect them together on the guitar. I actually worked it out *in tab* before attempting to play it. Once I saw that the solo notes were one and a half the length of a bassnote, I played it slowly through until the brain finger independence kicked in and took over.

Note that I think the actual solo does not line up 1.5 notes, I think it truely launches into it's own timescale for that bar and a half, reconnecting at the 3rd bar. But that would require a thumb/finger independence far superior to what I currently possess...

Have a listen to powertab play these notes:

Powertab Hysteria solo snippet.mp3

I admit I must have played it at least a hundred times before it started to gel. Slowly at first to get the fingers used to what I had planned for them, eventually going into autopilot.

You might think this sounds like effort overkill for one and a half bars. But what I've found is in the past when I have persisted in learning even a single bar that is so strange in it's indpendence you end up with a bag of tools for future strange independence techniques. In fact I think the reason it "only" took me a hundred times to bed it in, is from the past strange stuff that has given me a leg up on playing strange stuff.

Here's how I went - recorded into iphone so it got a bit distorted, sorry about that I'm still working out the new pickup plugged directly into the iphone:

JAW Hysteria solo snippet.mp3

If you listen carefully you'll see that I'm not quite there yet, the tempo is inconsistent (brain anticipation of what's to come) and first bassnote after the start of the syncopated rhythm came in maybe a 64th too early. It's not easy stuff, but what I like about this challenge is that it's not so much a _guitar_ challenge as a _brain_ challenge. My fingers don't stuff up because they are too slow, or too inaccurate, or let fret buzz through - they stuff up because they are simply confused!

Anyway, maybe have a little try on that, slowly, and perhaps what I'm saying might make some sense ;)

Monday 17 May 2010

Should I give my tabs away for free?

A few weeks back Vic Jazzguts posted a video talking about free lessons; he only left it there for 2 days so it's gone, but it did get me thinking. I've got a lot of random thoughts about my free tabs, in no particular order:

  • I like to arrange songs by other artists, so I don't own the copyright. Even though arranging requires additional effort on your own behalf, and results in the creation of something different - really, you should seek permission before selling something you don't fully own, and some sort of cut should go back to the artist.

  • Producing a tab is a result of how I think. I don't work things out totally from ear, and I like to write things down as I work them out. Where "writing down" means typing into tab editing software - pencil and paper are so twentieth century. So once I've arranged a song, a tab exists. I can either do nothing with it, or do something with it.

  • I've got a day job, my livelihood doesn't rely on making money from tabs. However I wouldn't say no to making money from tabs, hence why I put a donation button on my tab page, for people who want to saying "thank you" with a dollar sign.

  • Some people's livelihoods _do_ depend on making money from tabs. By "doing it for free", I am taking potential income away from them. Okay that's a whole world of arguments and debates, akin to movie piracy, but the bottom line is if I had a tab to Naudo's "Stand By Me" for free, and somebody else had a similar transcription that they were charging for, where do you think the average punter would go?

  • I take a lot from the internet for free. Free software, free information, other peoples free stuff. I'm putting something back into the universal cookie jar. If there was nobody putting stuff into the universal cookie jar there wouldn't be anything to take, right?

  • I'm quite passionate about the guitar as a hobby, almost to the point I can't understand why every person on the planet wouldn't want to play the guitar, or at least some sort of musical instrument. So every time I get a "thank you, you inspired me to start playing/keep playing/re-sparked my interest in the guitar" I get a warm fuzzy. I get an even warmer fuzzy when somebody posts up a video of them playing something they learnt from my tabs. Then when I see they have modified the way they play from mine I get new ideas and new directions...and when I see they have played it better than me I force myself to swallow any pride and ego, and celebrate in their joy and success.

  • I've maintained that when I am doing public performances I won't do it for free - I won't do other musicians out of a job. Even if I don't need the money, and I just do a gig for the enjoyment. This is tied into me earning an income from a day job, and the struggling musicians trying to make a living. If I won't "undercut" other musicians at gigs, isn't tabs the same deal?

  • Sigh, I'm going to have to say this one out loud, and you probably won't like to hear it. I knew that if I put tabs out I would become popular. It's about value adding, giving just a little bit more than the next guy. Seeing a video you like _and_ being given a free tab is always going to be more popular than seeing a video you like "no tabs available". For guitarists of course; non-guitarists don't care about tabs. This is by no means the primary reason I started doing tabs - in fact, the primary reason I started posting them was that I was constantly nagged to. Perhaps somewhere in me is ego that still needs to be squashed and put back into its place.

Well that's about all that springs to mind just now on the subject. At the moment I'm still posting free tabs (one went out yesterday in fact); and generally I still need to make them as part of the arranging process, but not so much anymore. I'm secretly keeping all my Dark Side of the Moon tabs to myself (the ones on YouTube are woefully out of date) thinking that one day I might make an instructional DVD/book. Do I (a) keep putting up free tabs; (b) stop giving out tabs; (c) charge a fee for tabs that are legally released with copyright holders consent; (d) charge a fee for tabs on the sly without the copyright holders knowledge or even (e) give them out only by email when people ask?

It's a tough one.