Anyone who works out with their headphones knows how awesome it is when you get a big lift from your favorite song. Or hearing a cool tune you would have never picked shuffle through on your picturesque jog… With 1000s of songs on my iPod I almost always shuffle.
I’ve always thought it would be cool, interesting, perhaps even motivating to write about each playlist and the music’s effect on myself and the workout. Then I thought that might be kind of boring. Then I thought, “Yeah,” I was right…on both counts.
“Espiritu,” Pace De Lucia, John McLaughlin, Al Di Meola
“Humans Being,” -Van Halen
“Still in Love,” -Boston
The highlight of this run playlist without doubt was, “Humans Being,” by Van Halen. It came on right at the end of the 5 miles and I still had energy to burn and this song fanned the flames! It is one of the bands heavier songs, certainly, from the Hagar era and one of Eddie’s great solos.
The tune was written for the soundtrack from the movie, “Twister.” In the solo I’ve read, Eddie wanted to emulate a ‘twister’. He uses an extended ascending line coupled with a driving rhythm to bring it home. It is also one of the first truly soulful solos Eddie put to tape, before the ‘tornado’ the calm before the storm. Adding another element to his already legendary guitar style.
The two Bach guitar works also provide a great soundscape for running. Maybe too mellow for most during a workout, but, perfect for me. I’ve worked on these pieces and understand the Herculean task and effort it takes to perfect them. Much like the efforts of a long distance runner…very motivating! If you’re wondering why the ‘harp’ pieces are performed by a guitarist…the guitar didn’t become a legit instrument until the 19th century. So guitarist have had to transcribe the great works of Bach and others…essentially stealing them for the guitar from harp, lute, cello harpsichord, etc.
Other highlights; John Lord’s keyboards on the DP tune, AC/DC from “For Those About to Rock”(an underrated album in my opinion,) “Carnies,” from the latest Rush release , Fastway and “Espiritu,” from the guitar trio.
Gordon Lightfoot…I have to say I grew up not knowing much about his music. It is mellow and would have punched a hole in my Heavy Metal adolescent teenage musical psyche(is that really even English?) Have to say though Lightfoot has “IT”. Whatever, “IT,” is in music…the guy has it. AMAZING musicianship, its been cool to familiarize myself with his music recently. Also proud to say listening has not damaged my aforementioned psyche.
We all know about the Van Halen saga with singers. David Lee Roth, Sammy Hagar, the horrible stint with Gary Cherone. But what about Paul Shaffer on his Hammond organ??? Thank goodness this was just a jam session…Cool video to see but the Hammond is not my favorite sound in rock n roll history.
I did hear that VH was actually contemplating using a bunch of popular singers as replacements after DLR’s departure. An All-Star cast would have been interesting, but, I think the Sammy thing worked out ok for them. The only name I heard for the All-Star album was Phil Collins…hmmmm…
This album was 3rd in a line of alpha numeric titled Van Halen albums. The Roth era was ushered out with, “1984,” while the Hagar era began with, “5150,” this album, “OU812,” and then, “For Unlawful Carnal Knowledge,” which is really just an elaborate play on the words in the title’s first initials…..shhh I think it was a bad word, but, dont tell anyone!
How does, “OU812,” stand the test of time? Well, when I was a kid, I loved this album. As time has gone on I lost touch with this album, as well as, “5150.” I guess that doesn’t bode well for its longevity.
There are some great songs, “Mine All Mine,” “When It’s Love,” “Cabo Wabo,” “Feels So Good” and “Black and Blue.” There are some forgettable songs too… Van Halen reached a new ‘chic’ status with “Finish What You Started.” It displayed a kind of hip adult coolness that appealed to a whole new audience for the band.
The summer of ’88 was great and I remember cranking this album at the San Diego beaches and having a great time. However, the production on this album and the thin guitar sound Eddie utilized leave a little to be desired in the history of VH’s storied output. Time, in my opinion has not been kind to, “OU812.” Eddie reached back for a heavier sound for his recordings after this one. While not in the caliber of those amazing Roth Era recordings, the guitar sound and production on subsequent albums has been much better.
That said…a slightly lackluster Van Halen is better than a lot of other bands strongest efforts!
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.
It’s going to be a great week! I feel it in my bones. Thus I thought I would kick it off with a solid, good ol’ fashioned, rockin’ tune from my past. Van Halen’s “Runnin’ With the Devil.” Remember the days when bands actually had guitar solos?? Still one of the coolest album covers.
I can’t believe this song is 35 years old already…