Here is one of the lamest arguments in rock in roll.
Geddy Lee is often criticized as a singer because he doesn’t write his own lyrics. Critics ask, ‘How can he put his heart and soul into words that he didn’t write? Umm…Classical musicians/opera, jazz standards, great cover tunes in all genres…and of course actors too. How can anyone expect an actor to put emotion into his script if he/she didn’t write it?
Another sign of music critics who take themselves a bit too seriously.
An ABC Award has been bestowed on yours truly and this humble blog, ’12 Notes & the Truth!’ Thanks so much to my blogging colleague on the other side of the pond…Heavy Metal Overload…a true music fan if ever there was one…make sure you pay his blog a visit!!!
Without doubt the hardest part of this ABC list was deciding on a topic. I have been so busy, performing, teaching and networking that I didnt have a lot of time to devote to this spot for a while. My first and favorite idea was to write a description of each musical key, A, B, C…. Even the novice can see the flaw in that theory. The musical alphabet ends on letter G what would I do with H-Z? And what about the ‘#’ & ‘b’ keys??…scrap that idea.
Went through a host of other blah ideas before it hits me! Why I am trying to be so cute just write about what I know…the guitar!!!
So here it is the A-Zs of the worlds greatest instrument…the guitar!
A, AXE- Ever heard the term axeman? Well unless it is some crazy Jack Nicholsonesque dude it refers to a guitarist(no jokes please)….the axe being his guitar. Of course every other instrument has had to steal the idea…there’s just something uncool about hearing a saxophonist saying he “needs to grab his axe.” Here is Michael Schenker an axeman supreme on, “Attack of the Mad Axeman.” BTW the ‘axeman’ on the left of the video doubling on keyboards is San Diego’s own Wayne Findlay and one of my music buds back in our younger days. Have I ever mentioned that? Haha, well guess I am just proud to see one of us San Diego kids living the Rock n Roll dream!
B, BLUES- Sure, blues is not necessarily a guitar term, but, can you imagine the world without blues guitar? No Robert Johnsons who influenced the BB Kings who influenced the whole Jimi Hendrix, Jimmy Page, Eric Clapton generation who influenced the whole Eddie Van Halen generation who influenced me and my generation…I would be calling my saxophone an ‘Axe’ if it wasn’t for this lineage. Oh yeah don’t forget Stevie Ray Vaughan!
C, Capo- A capo is a small clamp that guitarists place at different frets on the neck to change the ‘key’ of the guitar which facilitates easy transitions to other keys.
D, Dreadnought- A Dreadnought guitar is a style/body shape made famous by C.F. Martin. The term ‘Dreadnought,’ was used in reference to the British Navy’s large battleships of the day, early 1900’s.
These guitars are characteristic in having large ‘squared’ bouts and a booming sound.
F, Fifth-Now some of you are really interested! No not a fifth of Jack…the musical interval of a perfect 5th. The fifth is the skeleton of all chords(Maj. & Min.) and for rock guitarists extremely important for the formation of power chords which are made up exclusively of the interval of root & 5th.
G, Golpe- Golpe is a technique stemming from the Spanish/Gypsy Flamenco tradition. The guitarist strikes the top of the guitar creating a percussive sound while strumming with other fingers. Note the use of the previously mentioned capo in the video, as well.
H, Harmonics- Harmonics are not exclusive to guitar by any means but they do play a large role in playing guitar. The technique actually cuts off part of the overtone series(lower end) which make up a musical note. The resulting sound resembles a high, thin, bell like texture. The intro of Van Halen’s “Top Jimmy,” uses this technique.
I, Inlay- Inlays are part of the artistic design of a guitar. Inlay can be placed all around the sound hole(rosette) soundboard, front, back and sides of a guitar. Some of the fanciest inlays are put into the neck of a guitar. Sometimes just dots and sometimes elaborate as seen here.
J, Jimi Hendrix Chord, The ol’ Dominant 7#9 chord! Also called a V7#9. To build this chord you would take your root chord say C7 and add the note ‘#9’ which is the 9th note above C -C, D, E, F, G, A, B, C, D and raise that note one half step to D#. The chord symbol will appear as: C7#9, etc., for any root note. I call it the Jimi Hendrix chord cause he used it a lot and when I was a kid learning his songs is when I was first introduced to the chord. Check out Foxy Lady or Purple Haze for examples. The sound is a bit bluesy and has some dissonance with the #9 against the Major 3rd.
K, Keys- The guitar has a handful of musical keys that are conducive to the instrument and a handful that are not! Guitarists tend to like sharp(#) keys vs flat(b) keys. Flat keys take away the open strings making the guitar harder to play as noted in the letter O, Open Chords. Popular guitar keys include C, G, D, A and E (as well as, their relative minor keys). Any key with more than one flat is often avoided especially by beginners.
L, Lick- This is a great guitar word somewhat synonymous with the term ‘Riff.’ Guitarists practice hours on end trying to create new ideas and phrases which are, ‘Licks,’ and ‘Riffs.’ Licks are more of short phrases placed in improvised solos while riffs are more like a composed guitar part think of the intro to “Smoke on the Water,” or “Iron Man.”
M, Mute- The most common type of muting is done by placing the palm of the strumming hand against the strings near the bridge of the guitar. Notation is often ‘P.M.’ for palm mute.
N, Nut- The nut is simply the piece of bone or plastic, among other possible materials, at the top of the neck. It has carved slots for the strings to rest inside which keeps them inline as they lead up to and wrap around the tuning pegs.
O, Open Chords- One of the nice things about the guitar especially for beginners is the use of open chords. They are somewhat simple to play as they make use of a combination of fingered/fretted notes and open strings. Bar chords are harder to play as all strings need to be fretted.
P, Percussion- Believe it or not the guitar is classified as a percussion instrument, not a string instrument(chordophone.) By definition a percussion instrument is one that is put into vibration by being struck and consequently the pitch fades away. Piano is another such ‘percussion’ instrument. Electric guitars fall into another category, that of ‘electronic’ instruments. Electronic instruments can have their sound altered and lengthened through electronic means.
Q, Quadrant- This is a term I use to differentiate parts of the neck. I divide the neck into sections for study. For instance I will play on the bottom three strings first 6 frets. In this territory I will work on as many permutations of a particular scale, arpeggio etc. Then move to the top three strings same frets. Then down to fret 7-12 on each side of the strings.
R, Rasgueado- Spanish term meaning to strum. Usually associated with Flamenco guitar playing. Rasgueado is a rhythmic use of the fingers and thumb while strumming a guitar. It is a percussive strum by nature. In the video watch how his fingers fire in succession.
S, Solo- The beloved guitar solo! Ruined forever since the demise of rock. This demise can be traced to the weak musicality typically displayed in late 80’s hair/glam metal giving way to Grunge. Grunge was a movement that sought to distance itself from the aforementioned Hair Bands.
Maybe ruined forever is a bit harsh, but, music sure has changed since the early 90’s. I grew up on the rock guitar solo and it is not something I want to see go away. It is often the most musically adventurous part of most pop music. My music heroes were the guitar solo shredders…Eddie Van Halen, Michael Schenker, Jimi Page, Randy Rhoads, Tony Iommi, Steve Vai, Joe Satriani…. Here is the quintessential rock guitar solo Eddie Van Halen’s Eruptions.
T, the ‘Thumb’- The Thumb is the nickname given to jazz guitar legend Wes Montgomery. His unique technique employed a drastically positioned thumb. One of my all-time favorite guitarists.
U, Upstroke- An upstroke is simply a strum across the strings in an upward motion. Typically, upstrokes happen on a weak beat. A strum of down-up-down-up etc. would sound as STRONG-weak-STRONG-weak.
V, Vibrato- Vibrato is a technique employed by stringed instruments where the string is actually moved in a controlled manner either ‘side to side’ or ‘up and down’ to add articulation to a note. As mentioned before the guitar is a percussion instrument. Vibrato is one of the few ways we as guitarists can actually manipulate a note after it is struck into motion.
W, Whammy Bar- Also called a vibrato bar, tremolo arm…The whammy bar is a short piece of metal(a stick) inserted into the bridge which can either lift or depress the bridge forcing the strings into some ‘unnatrual’ sounds. The whammy bar in the hands of an amateur becomes a gimmick. In the hands of a skilled musician it becomes a devastating way to command a guitar with unique and angular articulations.
X, X Bracing- Have you ever dropped a pick inside your guitar? No problem you can just slide it out right? Nope. The top of a guitar, the soundboard, is braced underneath with a lattice of wood to help project the sound off the top of the guitar. One technique of bracing is called X Bracing.
Y, Yuquijiro Yocoh- Was a Japanese guitar composer (1925-2009.) Yocoh is most well-known for his variations on the theme of the traditional Japanese folk song, “Sakura.” I played the piece for my Senior Recital in college and still play it to this day. The video features John Williams on guitar. Listen for the previously mentioned palm mutes at :40 & 4:25 and harmonics at 2:25.
Z, The Flying Z- Most people even non guitar aficionados have heard or seen a flying V guitar. But, lesser known is the flying Z also known as a Destroyer.
This is a pretty cool infographic on the use of words in Van Halen lyrics from the David Lee Roth era. Yeah seems to have taken the top spot over Love and Baby. I think this is the appeal of Van Halen…high brow guitar work with party lyrics…a winning rock n roll combination.
If it included Sammy Hagar tunes Yeah Love and Baby probably would’ve tripled…
Another loss in the music world today with the passing of Donna Summer known as the Queen of Disco.
Although Disco was her claim to fame she deserves more credit for being a great singer and song writer as well.
I recently wrote about listening to music with my mom including while driving around town in the family’s Chevy Impala. I’ll never forget there was a local station 13K ,an AM sister station of KGB FM 101, who used to play Top 40 and in the 70s that definitely meant they were playing Donna Summer as we cruised around town. I will forever be thankful of soaking up her songs in my brains musical hard drive!
I have always heard that Michael Schenker turned down a stint with Ozzy Osbourne but it appears there were several other suitors who he gave the cold shoulder, as well.
I have been a Michael Schenker fan for 30 years plus. He has been one of my biggest influences.
Michael is one of those elite guitarists like Eddie Van Halen, Steve Vai, Stevie Ray Vaughan etc. Axemen of different styles that absolutely command their guitars. Guitarists that are known for spending incredible amounts of hours developing their craft to the point where every note displays their musical bidding.
Michael Schenker is very much a man on path. He is a man who has had to face many demons including substance abuse. One thing that you have to admire is that he has always seemed to know his path or perhaps where is path shouldn’t lie.
For that reason he has turned down some of the worlds biggest bands such as the Rolling Stones, Aerosmith, Ozzy Osbourne, Whitesnake and I am sure countless others that have sought his 6 string, Flying V services. Of Ozzy and the Rolling Stones I have heard him say he would be dead if he joined their ranks. Amazing insights from a man who has seemed to have troubles controlling his life the way he does his guitar.
Obviously he chose wisely. Schenker has been tirelessly recording and touring the world over the years. He has a huge cult following around the world from fans who have known him as a founding member of the Scorpions, bringing the band UFO to new heights and as a solo artist.
Click here to hear/see one of Michael Schenker’s great instrumental compositions, “Into the Arena”
This has always been one of my favorite Satriani songs. It has a super cool groove as you might guess from the title but also a lot of complex shredding and interesting compositional things going on, as well.
‘Shredding’-wise, he displays all kinds of guitar pyrotechnics. If you check out the video you will see/hear melodies with flying up the neck harmonics, acrobatic hammer-on arpeggios, right hand tapping and he even makes use of his right hand as a capo while his left hand is pulling and hammering arpeggios.
Compositionally, it is a great tune, as well. There is a simple groove which the song is based upon and interesting and well articulated melodies. The groove is at times interrupted with the aforementioned arpeggios. Satriani interjects some foreign sounds too using the harmonic minor scale that changes the bluesy riff into more of an Egyptian heavy metal soundscape. The highpoint of the composition comes towards the end when he overlaps two different arpeggio sections over each other creating the song’s climax.
Unfortunately, live he can’t quite duplicate this overlapping.
I included the link to the studio version, as well, which better represents all aspects discussed. However, I thought it would be more interesting to see everything going on live.
Listen for some of these items. Actively listening to music can make you aware of things you might’ve never heard before.
Here is the studio version. Listen for the overlapping arpeggios sections at 4:25.
Doesn’t every family do this on their drives, to their favorite songs? If you say no your probably lying! Happy Thursday.
PS the little guy in the car seat makes the video…cause even if this was contrived to get get millions of hits he doesn’t really know whats going on!