Martin Cooper looks at the style of Omar Ro­driguez-Lopez from mod­ern Amer­i­can prog­gers, The Mars Volta, now sadly de­funct.

Guitar Techniques - - Learning Zone -

Martin Cooper gets to grips with the proggy style of the amaz­ingly cre­ative Mars Volta.

The Mars VOLTA was a unique prog band from el Paso, Texas. Formed in 2001 from the rem­nants of an ear­lier band, at The Drive-In, the most sta­ble line up fea­tured omar ro­driguez-lopez on gui­tar, his brother Mar­cel on key­boards, Cedric Bixler-Zavala on vo­cals, Dean­toni Parks on drums and Juan alderete (for­merly with racer X) on bass. The band may not be house­hold names, but they won a Grammy for the song Wax sim­u­lacra in 2009, and were named Best Prog Band by rolling stone mag­a­zine the pre­vi­ous year.

The Mars Volta’s de­but al­bum, De-loused In The Co­ma­to­rium, was pro­duced by the leg­endary rick ru­bin, but the band felt that ru­bin had tried to over­sim­plify the songs to ap­peal to a mass mar­ket, when they ac­tu­ally wanted their mu­sic to be a more un­com­fort­able lis­ten. The record gained very strong reviews and re­mains their big­gest sell­ing al­bum, with over 500,000 copies sold to date.

Mars Volta songs and live shows have of­ten been chaotic and melod­i­cally chal­leng­ing, but they also gained some main­stream suc­cess, in­clud­ing a song used in the sound­track for the popular Playsta­tion base­ball game fran­chise, MlB The show.

Gui­tar player ro­driguez-lopez’s play­ing is dis­tinc­tive and char­ac­terised by play­ing in mi­nor keys and modes, high­light­ing dis­so­nant chro­mati­cism and use of the tri­tone. he has stated that his in­flu­ences in­clude King Crim­son’s robert Fripp, John Mclaugh­lin and Jimi hen­drix. he has also of­ten tried to make the gui­tar parts and tone not sound like a gui­tar wher­ever pos­si­ble, and claims that he only re­ally started play­ing gui­tar in his band out of ne­ces­sity!

This month’s track fea­tures lots of prog weird­ness! It’s in the key of a mi­nor (aB C D eF G) but has a lot of non-di­a­tonic notes. The track be­gins around a hyp­notic a mi­nor Pen­ta­tonic riff (aC D e G), and then has a lot of stac­cato a mi­nor tri­ads and sin­gle-note Di­min­ished scale lines. The scale here moves up a semi­tone, then a tone, then a semi­tone, then a tone and so on. so in bars 5-12 we have the notes a Bb C C# eb e F# G. I’ve mixed up sharps and flats as it’s eas­ier to think of Bb be­ing the b9, C# be­ing a 3rd, F# be­ing a 6th and so on in relation to the a mi­nor chord.

The solo has some fast 16th-note triplet mi­nor Pen­ta­tonic licks, and then a chro­matic run that moves up a fret at a time to­wards the fi­nal phrase.

They may not be house­hold names, but The Mars Volta are Grammy award win­ners, and have been named Best Prog Band by rolling Stone.

Omar Ro­driguezLopez with cool Ibanez sig­na­ture

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