Sunday, September 14, 2008

Chapter 7: The Gordian Method, or Bringing the Goat

I have Guitar Edge on my link bar. I got to forgetting why. Guitar Edge is more or less hard-copy tab distribution, and by typing tab ARTIST SONG into Google, I can pretty much find tab for most anything I want. (tab mudcrutch bootleg flyer didn't work, but mostly...)

I picked up a copy the other day, and I was reminded.

They have columns from John 5 and Pete Anderson. John 5 I've covered. Pete Anderson was lead guitarist and musical director for Dwight Yoakam. He's a Bakersfield twanger.

There's the text, where he explains the ideas, and the notation and sound files are online. This one, Pete explains how sometimes he'd have to play bluegrass songs without capo with chick singers who want to do it in Eb. The point of the lesson is that you carry a capo on your left hand. You sometimes point with it.

Ever hear of the Gordian Knot? I'll let Wikipedia explain, but the point is that Alexander the Great didn't say "What's the best way to untie this knot?" He said "What's the best way through this?", pulled out his sword and cut through it. If you think "What's the best way to get this tricky fingering?", that's a line toward suck. You think "What's the best way to get the sound?" Pete Anderson uses his finger as a capo and gets "open string" licks wherever he wants them.

Another example: John Doyle.

Not necessarily the best video, but this guy wrote the book on Irish guitar playing. Made the video, anyway. Even if you are a big hater of celtic music, it is worth your while to watch. Basically, what I get from him is chords. He strings a huge 6th string and will tune it as needed, and he'll use crazy forms. If you need to play an E, you don't necessarily need to play the form you saw in your Big Book O' Chords. Because of him, I find myself playing 775000 as an E minor on occasion. I find it sounds so much hugher with that B as the root.

Also, and this ties back to Anderson, consider the A minor seventh, x02010. One move and you get the C. x32010. There's a song I know that really uses that, but it's an obscure band nobody outside of South Dakota knows about that. Anyway, consider then a D minor seventh. x57565. I won't say it's something everyone knows, but I will say it's fairly common. Drop a pinky and you get x87565. You get your F major. And you know, that's exactly what, where and why I do that. Since I play behind chick singers a lot, I get forced into keys with F and D minor a lot, and if you capo 1 and play F like E, you lose the only good D minor. Everybody barres in E-shaped chords and A-shaped chords, but only a few barre C-shaped chords.

And, as a more fundamental thought, I leave with this. I hit a song with Gminor, and I was playing acoustic. I was working to get every bit of volume out, as I was playing acoustic when everyone else played electric. I figured an E-barred G at the third fret might as well be silence. So, I thought it through. G is G B D. G minor is G Bb D. So, where are the Bs? 320003. Not good. 320033 is better, fewer Bs. How can I get the last one? Fret it lightly, just enough to mute. 3x0033. So, you want a G minor? 3x0033. A G7? 3x0033. G6? G2? Gdom7? Gmin7#9? 3x0033. I'm usually playing with keys and another guitar. A singer, even. If the third is really needed, or the sixth, or the dominant seventh, or the flat second, the note will come from someone besides me, and I can rock out the rhythm. That concept I actually got from mandolinist David Grisman, who, when playing jazz chords, will likely not have the root or fifth anywhere. OK, I kinda reverse it, but hey, different instrument, and I'm not playing jazz.

Anyway, if you find a good way to do something, that works for you, that's a great way to not suck.

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