Monday, July 13, 2009

Carla The Postmodern Groupie

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I don’t know which is more science fiction/fantasy sounding —

Imagine: Star Wars


Imagine: Groupies who dig guitarists who play slowly

Like every other guitar player in the world, I guess, for most of my guitar life I was focused on doing everything faster. Transition from chord to chord faster. Play scales faster. Use hammer-ons and pull-offs and partial picking to play phrases faster. Faster, faster, faster.

My heart was never really in it, though.

Just recently I made a conscious decision to indulge my heart and do the exact opposite of the whole classic faster, pussy cat! pick! pick! thing. Instead of trying to be a classic guitar god, the next McLaughlin / Satriani / Vai, I decided to just enjoy myself and play slowly.

I’ve decided, in fact, to make that my musical quest: To become the world’s slowest guitarist.

(So, you know, let’s really hear it for postmodern groupies out there!)

When you play slowly you can concentrate on intonation and building cool, supporting rhythms around the melody without worrying about anything getting lost in a blizzard of—to use Zappa’s phrase—educated gnat notes.

Now, the two videos I’m posting today are not great examples of playing slowly. To be honest, I wasn’t thinking of those things Saturday morning when I recorded these videos. (I’m new to this whole questing paradigm.) But I’ll get there. If you want to swim from England to France, at some point you just have to jump in the Channel and get wet.

I’m at that just getting all wet stage right now . . .

And today’s post is something of the opposite of what I’ve often done in the past. Often I’ve put up lyrics for songs without putting up the music. Today I’m going to put up music without putting up the lyrics.

Since I’m not including the lyrics, I’m going to put up two separate videos. First I will play the melody. Then I will play the song properly, with the melody harmonized.

In the first video, I am playing the melody with a pick. What the kids call a ‘plectrum.’ I don’t really like picks. Basically—in my world—picks are artifacts from the faster/faster/faster era. I’m phasing out my whole thinking about picks. Probably this is the first and last time you’ll see me holding a pick.

One down side of doing these little videos is that instantly, as soon as you do it, you see half a dozen ways it could have been better. I’m getting more relaxed at these videos every time, but I still tense up, still fail to do some cool things that I should have thought of before I started or even while the video is in progress. I’m trying to remember that it’s all for fun and I’m not going to obsess about them, I’m not going to re-do them trying to make everything perfect

There’s always next time.

So, here are a couple of rest stops along my journey, my trip, my quest to become the world’s slowest guitar player.

Both of these videos are me playing the song, “Shadows of Paris,” by Henry Mancini. The song has great lyrics but just to be different from what I normally do I’m not going to post the lyrics. If you want to hear the official version of the song, lyrics and all, check it out here at YouTube.

This first video is me playing the melody, with a pick. I should have finger-picked it, should have played slower, should have paid much more attention to intonation. [sighs] But I’ll get better.

This second video is me playing the song the way I enjoy playing, harmonizing the melody with 7th chords. I like this version a lot, but when I was preparing the video for uploading to Impossible Kisses a whole different rhythm scheme occurred to me. I wish I’d played slower and I wish I had thought faster and worked out the different rhythm scheme first. I budget my time, even on weekends, and I didn’t want to go back and re-do this once I had this version made. But, again, I will get better for my next video.

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