Thursday, October 04, 2007

Guitar Progess, Sorta

So, I got a license that will allow me to play El McMeen's arrangement of Jay Unger's Ashokan Farewell on my SoundClick! music page. But I've been lazy in learning it and the clock is running. (You have to renew them every year.)

I don't quite have it down yet, and my recording technique, via GarageBand is less than perfect, too, but I figured I'd post it, clams and all, to spur myself to learn and record it right. When I get a better version, I'll replace the rough version that's up now.

("Clam" is a technical term here, for a badly-hit note ...)

It's a beautiful tune. It gives me something to work toward. When I get this one, along with The Water is Wide and Dixie down, assuming I live that long, that will be a fine trio to play together.


Anonymous said...

This is beautiful. Well played. You have good fingering and some of those changes aren't particularly easy.

If you ever want inspiration, check into the 80s shredder Jason Becker.

Becker was shaping up to be one of the most amazing guitarists ever when he was diagnosed with Lou Gherig's disease. He didn't give up. Now he composes music using only his eyes-- that's all he can move, he can't talk or breathe on his own. And the music he makes is beautiful and amazing.

Much of guitar is just repetition. With chordal pieces like this, you're going to want to isolate parts that are difficult, and practice just those chord changes until you have them really down. Usually for me, running a chord change 100 times, or 1000 times, is enough to get it smooth. Then go on to the next. 1000 times sounds like a lot but really isn't that much.

Steve Perry said...

Like the old joke about a guy in New York asking somebody on the street for directions:

Hey, you know how to get to Carnegie Hall?

Practice, man, practice ...

My general method isn't complex. Get the music -- I tend to use Tabs rather than standard notation because I can't read music worth sour owl poot, my lips get tired.

Learn a section, add a section, until I get get through it all. Then I try and memorize it measure by measure so I can do it without the sheets.

I go through it over and over until it starts to smooth out. Add or subtract personalized bits, a trill here, a slide or hammer-on or -off there, and then play it every day.

Since I'm slow and not very adept, that takes a while. A piece most people can probably learn in a few days will take me weeks.

McMeen, who did the arrangements for The Water is Wide and Ashokan Farewell, does those in Dropped-D, and since I'm usually down a full-step, that makes it Dropped-C.
Nice deep drone, though you have to watch how hard you hit the basses or you get buzz.

McMeen's arrangements are actually pretty simple -- he's really good about using just as many notes as he needs and no more. He does tend to use the whole neck, octave stuff and double-stops on repetitions, so that's good practice for me.

McMeen taught a live-in how-to class with Michael Chapdelaine a couple years back. I wish I had been good enough to go and take it -- both of them are outstandingly good guitarists. Not shredders, but acoustically soulful.

Anonymous said...

"Since I'm slow and not very adept, that takes a while. A piece most people can probably learn in a few days will take me weeks."

Most people can't play this song at all and would be incapable of learning it at all, and even if they did they wouldn't be able to even attempt playing it. This is not exactly "easy guitar."

Personally, I have the misfortune of only liking stuff that's at the guitar equivalent of Yo Yo Ma difficulty, like Malmsteen. I am starting to suspect that 8 to 10 hours daily is not enough practice time to get to the necessary level of skill, and then you have to take into account lost opportunity cost and whether it's really worth it at all at the end of the day.

Also getting interested in what Ritchie Blackmore is doing with his newish band "Night." Lots of medieval-style gypsy stuff in there. Along with some clinkers, but that's ok.

Steve Perry said...

The current issue of Acoustic Guitar Magazine has a piece/interview with El McMeen, on his Celtic tunings.
He has a low-C thing that sounds great on a steel-string guitar.

In this, he talks about *rubato,* which is a slowing, or sometimes speeding up of a musical piece in spots, away from strict time, for dramatic effect. I really like this, and do it. (Plus it makes a great excuse for not being able to keep time. Somebody says, "That's not 4/4, you're off," you can say, "Nah, I'm doing rubato, dude ..."