Friday, July 31, 2009

Advice to guitarists from Richard Thompson

The Q&A from Squid Ink favourite Richard Thompson's website has appeared on this blog before. Since Squid Ink only wants you to improve, we share him sharing his advice on how to play a guitar solo.

Richard: I am a guitar player who wonders how you keep your solos so fresh and new? I seem to hear myself playing the same runs in some shape or form despite efforts to break new ground — I have been playing awhile, am considered by peers to be not too shabby, but can't get free of my entrenched soloing habits. I particularly admire your complete freedom from the pentatonic cage and unique timing and phrasing. Any thoughts about how one can work on expanding and improving note selection and phrasing without woodenly forcing “new notes” into solos? Thanks

Charlie Parker never repeated himself, but everybody else does, to some extent. I comfort myself with the thought that those clichés are really “signature licks”. But we all must try to expand the envelope, so here's some thoughts:

It's all about scales, so practice weird ones — minor 7 flat 5, 13th scales, 11th scales, whole tone scales. Try double octave scales.

Change the emphasis when you play a scale — push the off beats, put the notes into groups of 3 or 5 or 7 or 10.

Put your guitar into a bizarre tuning, and then play a familiar fingering. Write down any interesting sequences, and try to play them in regular tuning.

Try to sing a solo instead of playing it. Try to sing along with a solo as you play it.

It's all about the heart, so at some point, if you've done your homework, empty your mind of everything, and let your heart, not your brain, play a solo. Your fingers will know where to go.

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Monday, July 27, 2009

Forty Years Ago Today

Forty years ago this month the Beatles were in the studio recording their Abbey Road album.

There were splendid songs on this album. I'm thinking of the delightful ‘Something,’ ‘Come Together’ which I've written about on another forum, and ‘I Want You (She's So Heavy)’ which is a wonderful collision of what is basically two different songs edited together. The bluesy I Want You verses were recorded during the White Album sessions and the crazy-arse 6/8 She's So Heavy refrains were spliced in to make a tour de force which, as far as running time is concerned, was topped only by ‘Revolution 9’ in the Beatles canon — and, of course, ‘Revolution 9’ doesn't count because it is stupid.

There were duds too, of course. Yes, I'm looking at you ‘Octopus's Garden,’ that godawful ‘Her Majesty’ drivel, and ‘Maxwell's Silver Hammer’.

Ringo Starr said ‘Maxwell's Silver Hammer’ “was the worst track we ever had to record.” John Lennon called it “Paul's Granny Music” and refused to take any part in recording it. The story is that his only contribution was to drop his trousers in the studio and moon Paul McCartney as he was recording the line “So he waits behind” (you can hear McCartney laughing at it as he sings the next line “Writing fifty times ‘I must not be so…’”)

It is encouraging to note that in, for example, the goodtime rocking tune ‘Polythene Pam’ Lennon copies the patented Squid Ink song form of

|Verse|Chorus|Verse|Chorus|Solo|Sudden end|

While we're talking about ‘Polythene Pam’ allow me to point out that you can hear Lennon counting out the bars in the left channel during the guitar solo. For those who don't know why that would be done, they would have recorded the backing tracks — that is, the drums, the bass and the acoustic guitar — at the same time (my sources tell me they recorded the backing tracks for this song on 25th July 1969 — they played it no less than 39 times before they had a take everybody was happy with). They would also have recorded somebody doing a guide vocal so that the musicians know where they are in the song but there is a long stretch in this song where the musicians are playing the same thing over and over (D-A-E chords) where the solo will go in later. You need to know when this is going to end which is easy enough if you're in the same room looking at each other but you need to have something on the recording to help those who will later do some overdubs. The Beatles did this by having somebody, usually Lennon, count the bars into a microphone as they go. You can hear this counting throughout the Beatles's œuvre.

I bring this up only because, on the evidence of the previous post on this blog, perhaps we in Squid Ink ought to get into the habit of counting the bars in songs like ‘Deadpan.’ Or, at least, we should get John Lennon in to do it for us.

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Thursday, July 23, 2009

The Squid's Navel

I thought I would review Silky Come Home. I thought about sending it just to the dudes but then how would Jodie ever get to read it? If Paddy is in anyway inclined he could link to some of the better tracks. It might be nice for some to finally hear Sibella in all its shambling off-key charm (and Thommo might check the blog and be chuffed...or sue). There is an unashamed focus on my bits as I find me quite quite interesting.

Not a bad start. In time and largely in tune… crucially we get most of the changes. Slows down somewhat. Happily the lyrics are remembered. The guitars in general are too quiet but this could have been my room mic.

We fairly nailed this one. Guitars chime. The rhythmn bounces along. Nice tight drumming. The first appearance of some amusing vocal reverb deployed by the clearly bored Jodie on the night. Again lyrics remembered. Guitar solo is excellent considering I could not hear a note of it. Good commitment from the entire band… we sound like we mean it.

Thin Walls
This one came out way better than I remembered. Even my guitar fiddly bits, though way too weak, are not a disaster. Paddy struggles manfully with vocals and comes out on top. Crafty provides excellent harmony… and we sound like a band. Guitar solo if anything is better than usual.

Absolutely smashed it. Better than the album version. Great drums. Great bass. Great guitars and great vocals. Good speed throughout. The only criticisms I can make is me losing my place on the fretboard in the middle chorus and illness preventing me from performing one of my few harmonies and instead doubling Paddy (and don't try and tell me I usually double Paddy anyway… I am sure I don't).

Loose as a goose but nice tempo. Fine backing vocals and Paddy expertly handled my reversing of the verses with his usual aplomb. Pissweak guitar solo. Great drums… perhaps my favourite drum-wise. My vocals are all over the place… which is where they usually are.

Hare Trigger
More shaky guitar work from me. Fine lead work from Silky. Does anyone, least of all me, know the lyrics to this one? Silky does a cracking Bryan Ferry impersonation during the alternate section. My wife commented particularly that she liked his style… and I love the commitment. Clearly a crowd live fav. My "improvising" in the outro threw everyone except Paddy… sorry.

What the fuck happened here? Poor Paddy's voice is finally giving up.

Who Loves The Sun
Much better than it could have been. The vocals are better than the instruments… in this way we are the same as the Beatles.

I like the way we roll here. After practising the twiddly bit solidly for four days (along with the twiddly bit in Thin Walls) I missed the strings completely the first time… the second was a much happier experience. The real star here is Jodie with an egregious use of vocal reverb. Paddy's voice responds enthusiastically to the lower register. Unfortunately his bass work may have shone but it is hard to hear throughout the entire recording.

A Family's Mistake
I love everything about it except my amatuerish breathing technique. I like the speed and I like the fury. We almost cracked the transition into the outro… but, true to form, not quite.

Tongue Tied
Absolutely freaking nailed it… despite there quite obviously being no lyrics to the chorus.

Easy To Do
From the sublime to the ridiculous. Though there are some cracking errors here, they are made all the worse by the slow and exposed nature of the song. Highlights include Paddy's crackling vocals which convey the heartbreak of the ordeal being narrated… pathos defined… and my chromatic solo work.

Hmmm… Paddy's larynx has left the building. The crowd sounds tired of us by the end.

Eutectic Point
Great work. Good thumping of drums and good cover for the missing stick. How hard is it to sing a repeated three note melody in tune… quite hard for me apparently.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Ink sinks the Pink

I am stuck at the Honda dealership waiting for my car to be serviced. When the service guy asked me how many "clicks" it had done I realised I had no idea, panicked and said -- slightly misogynistically but trying to cover up -- "dunno mate" (I like to put on a blokey voice at such times). "It's the wife's car, I never drive it, I'm just bringing it in for a service".

This piece of stereotyping was music to his ears and I then was treated to a five minute rant about how "it's always her car until something goes wrong or it needs petrol putting in it".

Anyway, while waiting I wrote some fragments of a new song about Pink. They have a free coffee machine in the dealership and I have taken full advantage. Consequently I am a little jumpy.

The diss song is an important part of any hip hop posse's artillery. We don't really have a diss song (unless I have misconstrued the hidden meanings in Tracy Says). Although I sometimes wonder whether Mrs Bun is not indeed quite harsh on Mr Bun.

If anyone needs a good diss, it is surely Pink. Fuck her, to be honest. I hope she sees this, fires back on stage and buys into a career-making public slanging match with Squid Ink.

10,000K Service

Man that Pink really knows how to party,
hot rock chick rocks out like Fugazi.
All of the dudes in my book club have seen her,
18 nights at Rod Laver Arena.

She's so crazy when she cuts loose.
Like Jessica Simpson but more obtuse.
Like Beyonce but short and not black,
with more tattoos and not such a nice rack.

I think her boyfriend's famous, but I don't really know
She puts on one hell of a show.
There's singing and shouting and even some dance
She's like Lady Gaga but wearing some pants

Sometimes I feel old when I rage about these things
I don't even really know what Lady Gaga sings

She's got spunk and a bad attitude
in certain lights she looks like a dude.
She's a rebel and a punk and she's born to be bad
She in an annoying Optus ad.

She sells herself better than PT Barnum,
Melbourne loves her like Germany loves Farnham.
I hate you pink and I hope you die.
Painfully, soon, and with no long goodbye.

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Tuesday, July 14, 2009

The Swans Living In The Park

Where is my badge? Has a question ever been asked more inexpertly? Have the lyrics ever been so clearly about nothing except support for weak rhymes? How do you lay your love on the table, let alone talk about it? Why are you telling me about the swans living in the park? Where is your badge? I don't care. Was George Harrison really everyone's favourite Beatle? Didn't his lame millionaire obsession with eastern religions kind of get up your nose? Was he the second luckiest man on the planet?

All of this is a feeble lead in to the topic of badges.

We should get two more but as Booker T says (he speaks with his hands) time is tight. All the ones I like are a bit oblique but I do favour "Silky Come Home" as Snoopy Come Home was my favourite Charlie Brown book, in fact I think I had the board game of the same name. "Squids Become Electric". "A Woman Of A Different Stripe". "Squid Ink 182". "Squid Ink Reunion Tour 2009". "Squink".

Any thoughts?

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JJJ top 100 songs of all time

Sex On Fire made the list.

Of the top 100 songs of all time.

Tion didn't even make a place and Kings Of Leon are in the top 100.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Short Stack

I have whole-heartedly enjoyed seeing this week's comical social-network-tiff between pop culture blogger Jess McGuire and the fans — and lead singer — of Short Stack.

McGuire posts a photo of the three lads wearing nothing but socks on their penises. When I was 15 I guess I thought the idea of the Red-Hot Chili Peppers wearing nothing but socks on their penises was kind of amusing as well. But I would have thought anybody who tried it now would be derided for being several decades too late.

McGuire, sadly, hasn't put the cream of the twitter traffic on her blog, most of it is badly spelt comments pointing out that, at 28, McGuire is too old to like Short Stack. This leads to my favourite which was from @nicoletosev saying “shes at home with metapores and hot flushs @jessmcguire just needs alil dick.” Metapores! That's adorable.

Metapores. That cheers me right up.

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