The­ory God­mother

Guitar Techniques - - Q&A -

Post your play­ing posers and tech­ni­cal teasers to: The­ory God­mother, Gui­tar Tech­niques, 30 Mon­mouth Street, Bath, BA1 2BW; or email me at info@david­mead.net - ev­ery wish is your God­mother’s com­mand!

Ska Face Dear The­ory God­mother

I’ve been asked to join a trib­ute band that cov­ers the best of ska, Two-Tone and other reg­gae-in­spired mu­sic. It’s great fun, but to be hon­est it’s never been a style that I’ve spent too much time lis­ten­ing to. I’m hav­ing trou­ble with the off­beat rhythms in that it’s very fast paced and has to be re­ally tight in or­der to work ef­fec­tively. The other guys in the band are be­ing pa­tient, telling me that it will just click after a few more re­hearsals, but in the mean­time, I was won­der­ing if you have any tips on how I could im­prove my rhythm?

Chez The Two-Tone sound is, as you say, pre­dom­i­nantly based on an off-beat rhythm. That means that you’re play­ing on the sec­ond eighth note of ev­ery beat (Ex 1). Nor­mally, this would be played with an up­stroke, so your first task will be to sit down with a metronome and prac­tise hit­ting the off­beat squarely ev­ery time. If this proves dif­fi­cult, set the metronome to eighth notes – two clicks per beat – and play on ev­ery sec­ond click. Try this slowly at first and don’t ex­pect to get it on the first go. Once you can con­fi­dently play on the off­beat, in­crease the metronome speed grad­u­ally un­til you reach the tempo at which you’re ex­pected to play live.

Ex 2 is a good test for your rhythm abil­i­ties. It’s a mix of straight rhythm plus a cou­ple of reg­gae vari­a­tions. Once you can play this at a fairly up­tempo BPM, the rest will be down to some fine tun­ing in the re­hearsal room with the other mem­bers of the band.

Ex­otic Scales Dear The­ory God­mother

Some­times, GT ref­er­ences scales as ‘ex­otic sound­ing’. As­sum­ing this counts out the Ma­jor and Nat­u­ral Mi­nor scales, what ex­otic scales tend to be favoured in ar­eas like metal or jazz? And what scales do you con­sider as be­ing the most ex­otic, and why? And where can I hear them in a record­ing?

Ryan The equiv­a­lent of ‘vanilla’ in terms of mu­sic scales would be the Ma­jor and Nat­u­ral Mi­nor. Th­ese fea­ture in ev­ery­thing from folk tunes to hymns, nurs­ery rhymes, pop mu­sic and rock ’n’ roll. Even the Blues scale, with its dis­so­nant flat 5th, has be­come ‘nonex­otic’ since it hit the UK dur­ing the 1960s. But when Dick Dale brought out Miser­lou in 1962, it chal­lenged Western ideas about melody. Miser­lou used the Dou­ble Har­monic scale (Ex 3) which fea­tures the dis­tinctly East­ern flat 2nd in­ter­val also found in the sim­i­larly flavoured Phry­gian mode.

Other ex­am­ples of ex­ot­ica in rock and pop in­clude Frank Zappa and King Crim­son quot­ing the Whole Tone scale (Ex 4); Zappa used it dur­ing so­los and Crim­son based a whole com­po­si­tion – Frac­ture from the 1974 al­bum Star­less And Bi­ble Black – around it. When Yng­wie Malm­steen in­tro­duced his brand of neo-clas­si­cal

EEEx 5 metal in the early 80s, the Har­monic Mi­nor (Ex 5) sounded new and ex­otic, de­spite hav­ing been around for years. Joe Sa­tri­ani ex­per­i­mented with the Phry­gian on his song War, miss­ing out the 3rd so that it hints at the Phry­gian Dom­i­nant as well (Ex 6), while jaz­z­gui­tar legend Jim Hall wrote a blues based on the Di­min­ished scale (Ex 7) called Care­ful; and Duke Elling­ton em­ployed it on his tune Car­a­van.

Pos­si­bly the fur­thest that you can get away from con­ven­tion in Western har­mony, jazz pi­anist Bill Evans wrote 12 Tone Tune, us­ing a ‘tone row’ where all the tones of the chro­matic scale are writ­ten out in a cer­tain or­der, and this forms the ba­sis for both melody and har­mony through­out the piece.

So mu­sic at all lev­els and styles is full of ex­otic scales. In the mean­time, you might want to invest in a scale book and au­di­tion some of mu­sic’s wilder melodic ve­hi­cles for your­self.

Gauge Re­ac­tion? Dear The­ory God­mother

I suf­fer from a weak, jan­gly vi­brato. A friend said a lighter gauge would help me move the string more eas­ily. It sounds log­i­cal, but be­fore I mess around with dif­fer­ent strings, I won­dered if you have any in­put?

Barry Some play­ers favour light gauges (Billy Gib­bons likes .007s, and Brian May used .008s in Queen). Oth­ers like it heavy (SRV and Jeff Beck with .012s); while blue­sers Robert Cray and Joe Bonamassa play .011s. All have great­sound­ing vi­brato! Each has set­tled on a string gauge he likes, with tech­niques like bend­ing and vi­brato in­cor­po­rated ac­cord­ingly. My ad­vice would be to book a few lessons with a good teacher, say­ing you need work in that depart­ment. With tar­geted help your vi­brato should im­prove dra­mat­i­cally.

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