definitions, inspirations:

dB: decibel, a widely used measure of sound pressure levels

Ps. 98: make a joyful noise to the Lord, all the earth; make a LOUD noise

AC/DC: let there be rock!

November 28, 2010

CIGRG, Ch 4: She Got the Mercedes Bends

Over a month between posts - what a slacker! Well heck, life gets in the way, and I've got a dozen or so excuses, but whatever. Back to the rock!

Chapter 4 of the CIG Rock Guitar book is more technique-oriented than the previous chapters. It is basically devoted to two of the more commonly used techniques that can really spice up your playing: vibrato and string bending.

But while these are common, they aren't necessarily easy for a rock 'n roll newbie! I enjoyed the vibrato section, with its surf-style backing track. The bends were much tougher for me, especially the unison bends. Think of Jimmy Page's wild bending at the tail end of Stairway to Heaven as an example of unison bending.

I've mentioned before one of the big advantages of using this book is access to the author via the Guitar Noise web forum. I sent a note to David Hodge about my string bending difficulties, and he replied with some very helpful ideas. The key to bending, he says, is that it's all about the ear and not about "strength," which is where just about everyone puts their efforts. So I spent a lot of time listening to the bends, then playing the unbent notes I was trying to achieve, and going back and forth until I got it right. Well, as right as I could, lol.

Couple other things I noticed that I need to work on:

First, during bending my fingernails kept scraping or catching on the nearby strings. I clipped them extra short and that seemed to help.

Second, also during bending, if two nearby strings touched (say, for instance, if I bent the B string, I'd also push the G right into the D string), those strings would make extra unwanted noise, or they'd catch on each other and really make a mess of sound. Not sure what the right way is to avoid this, but I found that I could dampen those other strings with my right (picking) hand, without interfering with the main string I was bending.

Time for a Solo ... But Not So Low They Can't Hear It

By coincidence, I got to put both techniques to use a couple weeks ago while playing in the church band. We were doing a new arrangement of an old hymn (Mighty Fortress), and at one point during rehearsal our band leader turned to me and said, "then you'll add a solo over the next eight measures." WHAT?! I looked again at the lead sheet, and sure enough, in tiny letters above the section were the words "elec. gtr. solo."

I didn't know how the solo was supposed to be played, having never heard this arrangement of the tune before. We don't get tabs, and even sheet music is rare - usually it's the vocal melody line with guitar chords written over the top.

So I reached into my bass player bag of tricks and figured "root on the one" would be a safe place to start. Then I thought a little vibrato and a couple of bends would help flesh it out, along with some distortion and delay.

Here's what I eventually came up with:

The bends aren't perfect, and I'm not sure if you can even hear the vibrato in the mix, but hey, it's another step on the path to rock!