RED HOT CHILI PEPPERS Parallel Universe
Join Steve Allsworth as he navigates a parallel universe while honing your alternate picking accuracy. It’s got a fabulous Fx-laden solo too!
Steve Allsworth has transcribed an awesome Chilis’ single, also featured on their classic album Californication, for electric guitar.
Parallel Universe first appeared as a promotional single on the Red Hot Chili Peppers’ album Californication (1999) and has since become one of the band’s most enduring live tracks. It’s something of a departure from their trademark funk-laden grooves and instead features a repetitive ostinato pattern played by harmonised bass and guitar. The album was produced by Rick Rubin and is seen by many fans as a return to form after the commercialy disappointing One Hot Minute (1995).
Its artistic and commercial success was in major part due to the return of guitarist John Frusciante, who had previously appeared on Mother’s Milk (1989) and Blood Sugar Sex Magik (1991). He had shockingly left the band mid-tour in 1992 after becoming disillusioned with their global status, but after his replacement Dave Navarro was fired in 1998, was asked to return to the fold. He had recently completed a drug rehabilitation program for heroin addiction and was clearly in a healthier place. The resultant album spawned hits such as the title track, and the Grammy award-winning Scar Tissue.
On Blood Sugar, I focused on Jimi Hendrix. On Californication, I went to the side of Bernard Summer [Joy Division] or Mathew Ashman [Bow Wow Wow]; people with colourful styles that did not use notes significant to the blues. John Frusciante
The latter is well-known by guitarists for its use of the minor and major 10th interval, and a similar approach to diatonic harmony is taken in this month’s featured track. Bass and guitar generally harmonise in 3rds, but the 10th interval gap is quite large between the two instruments, which is more pleasing to the ear than close 3rds. The track is also in a minor key, so the classic ‘borrowed’ V chord from the harmonic minor scale is used to provide a stronger cadence at the end of each eight-bar phrase in the verses. This essentially turns a weaker diatonic minor chord into a stronger dominant 7 chord (you can hear this when Frusciante hits the major 3rd of G, which is B natural). This track is all about rhythmic coordination between bass and guitar, so you should pay particular and constant attention to maintaining even pick strokes. A slightly loose and fluid wrist will help to avoid the pick getting ‘stuck’ under the strings, but keeping the pick fairly flat through the downstroke will help to avoid any undue heaviness.
Another common fault can be a slight swing rhythm rather than the nice even 16ths we are after. This is usually down to unwittingly playing longer downstrokes and shorter upstrokes, often because palmmuting causes an unexpected change in technique. These movements obviously need to be exactly the same, so it can be useful to watch your playing in a mirror to avoid any unnecessary angles or untoward movements in your picking hand.