The TWANG! To Be Con­cise

steely Dan’s El­liot Ran­dall waxes mu­si­cal on sim­plic­ity, solo­ing and the ‘space be­tween the notes’

Guitarist - - Opinion -

As you might have guessed by now, I very much en­joy mus­ing on the myr­iad top­ics of ‘Guitarism’. So, for this month’s in­stal­ment, I thought it might be in­ter­est­ing to ex­plore the sub­ject fur­ther. In my ini­tial Gui­tarist col­umn, I of­fered this phrase as food for thought: “Hey, take it easy – you’re not get­ting paid by the note.”

And we’re off...

When I was a young fella back in NYC, like so many of my gui­tar-play­ing peers, I wanted to be ‘the fastest gun in town ’(and the loud­est too). Maybe it had to do with age and in­ex­pe­ri­ence… To be clear, most of the play­ing I do th­ese days is re­lated to the gen­res called‘ Rock’, ‘Blues’,‘ Pop’ and ‘Jazz’. In all of th­ese, I have found a cer­tain type of sim­plic­ity works beau­ti­fully. For me, it’s not about daz­zling the au­di­ence with vir­tu­oso speed and com­plex­ity. What it is about is find­ing the path to the lis­tener’s heart, leav­ing them with a mem­o­rable melody or two af­ter the event. I’m not tak­ing away from the in­cred­i­ble writ­ing and play­ing of com­plex mu­sic. It all has its place. It’s all valid. In the de­vel­op­ment of one’s style, there are choices to be made. I’ve made mine. Of course, if I’m hired to do a record­ing in which the gui­tar parts have been writ­ten where I must be uber-speedy and ac­cu­rate, that’s not a prob­lem (I prac­tise!). That said, I have my own per­sonal pref­er­ences, as I’m sure you do. Our pref­er­ences may be on op­po­site sides of the de­bate, but that’s what makes the world go round. I love lis­ten­ing to Man­i­tas de Plata, Se­govia, Wes Mont­gomery – all of whom can blow the lis­tener away with in­cred­i­ble tech­nique and speed. Bless ’em all!

The dif­fer­ence be­tween light and sound is re­ally in­ter­est­ing. They are both about vi­bra­tions. Sound is mea­sured in Hz through kHz (Hz denotes vi­bra­tions per sec­ond; kHz denotes thou­sands of vi­bra­tions per sec­ond). Light and colour are sim­ply mea­sured in a higher part of the fre­quency spec­trum – in mHz (mil­lions of times per sec­ond). This should give us a new in­sight into The Beach Boys’r ecord­ing of Good Vi­bra­tions… I also think about the artist Rothko. His body of paint­ings, in my opin­ion, is a mas­ter­class in sim­plic­ity. His shapes are usu­ally de­cep­tively sim­ple, al­low­ing his bold vi­brat­ing colours to cre­ate ver­i­ta­ble sym­phonies!

“Mu­sic is the space be­tween the notes ”is a quote gen­er­ally at­trib­uted to Claude De­bussy, though some schol­ars might ar­gue that the phrase was ut­tered by Mozart or Ben John­son or Miles Davis. Au­thor aside, it’s one I find my­self re­quot­ing some­what fre­quently.

It’s in­ter­est­ing to an­a­lyse the so­los of Jimi Hen­drix. Most were not full of speed – but they were filled with a rain­bow of tone. He’d of­ten hit one note, find its feed­back coun­ter­part from his am­pli­fier, then let it sing. David Gil­mour is another ex­am­ple of this mind­set.

Please don’t mis­un­der­stand me – there’s noth­ing wrong with an in­spired cas­cade of com­plex and speedy solo­ing, but as I like to say: ‘It’s all about ap­pro­pri­ate­ness’. Hey – I’m still in search for the per­fect one-note solo.

…And away

And, with that, I sign off for an un­spec­i­fied du­ra­tion, as my pro­duc­tion work­load will be dom­i­nat­ing my life for a while.We are bak­ing, digi­tis­ing and remix­ing some cool mu­sic from another era. I very much look for­ward to com­ing back and shar­ing more views with you all. In the mean­time, keep up that search for the lost chord!

Ciao for now and... twang!

The sim­plic­ity con­jured up by Gil­mour is hard to repli­cate

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