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 ;)


  1. Interesting Jaw, I like your arrangement, it sounds very folksy, but not strictly fingerpicking, for two reasons:
    - the bass is not alternate
    - the melody notes sound very distinct from the bass notes, which makes a proper solo rather than the 'cascade of notes' (that sound all blended together) that normally characterizes fingerpicking.

    But I like it, it reminds me of Nick Drake, the intro of 'Cello Song'. Have a listen on Youtube, although it is a folk song unlike Def Lepard, you'll see what I mean.

  2. I see what you mean about Nick Drake Cello Song, well there you go :)

    Nah, I'd never call my playing fingerpicking. In fact I only know one fingerpicking song, and I don't play it properly! I've never been hooked by the alternating bassline, except the first time I tried playing it because it was so challenging. Overall I don't like alternating basslines, okay, it's quite cool a lot of time, but after you've heard a few they all come across a bit corny and formulaic.

    We'll stick with "fingerstyle", which means just about anything you do without a pick!

    Folksy, well I guess I do have folksy in me, not hardcore folksy, but deep down I think I'm more folksy than hard rocker :)

    Thanks for stopping by, as always,