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• Learn how to “hammer-on from nowhere.”
• Create long, legato phrases.
• Develop a deep appreciation for prog-rock keyboard solos.
This month, we'll delve into all things progressive. Well...at least one thing.
Now, it's no secret that I loves me some prog-rock. Particularly of the old school variety–Yes, Jethro Tull, ELP, Rush, and Genesis have had a predominant position on my listening list and a profound influence on me as a musician. I mean, I can't get enough of dudes in costume with high voices singing 30-minute songs about elves, the plight of humanity, black holes, and the purple flying wolfhounds they saw while tripping. Some call it nerdy. I call it awesome.
But the metal-head-guitar maniac in me also longs for a little taste of a little weedily-weedily guitar stuff, too.
It wasn't too long before I noticed a lot of the keyboard parts in some of my favorite prog tunes were kinda crazy! So, I started figuring them out and playing them on the guitar for a challenge, both in technique and in ascertaining how to get them to sound right (i.e. position, technique, fingerings, etc…).
This month, I bring you an excerpt I transcribed from the keyboard solo to the Genesis tune "In the Cage,” off their landmark Lamb Lies Down on Broadway album as played by Tony Banks. If you don't own this disc, go immediately and buy it. This is from a time when men were men, my friends. Even if they did dress up in red dresses and fox heads.
Anyway, a few notes on this keyboard-turned-guitar solo. Two techniques we'll be using profusely throughout will be traditional tapping and the "hammer on from nowhere" with the left hand. There’s no right-hand picking to be found. A “hammer-on from nowhere” is simply done by striking the note with your fretting hand, thus sounding the note. All string crossings will be with this technique or with a tap, as notated.
The style of tapping in my version of this solo is one that I attempt to employ in my own playing and improvising, as well, which is to say, I really don't like to use tapping to sound tricky or as a "look at me" lick. In this adaptation of the Genesis keyboard solo, I think it's cool to use tapping in more of a melodic way and not to let the technique outshine the music it makes. The music always must come first. Our version of the "In the Cage" solo works wonders for adapting this mentality towards your own playing.
I used these particular techniques to execute the solo because I felt they sounded most like the original keyboard, an ARP Pro Soloist. Or about as much as a guitar can without being totally effected. Finding the right technique and positions and fingerings is probably the most difficult part of transcribing music from other instruments and translating them to guitar. I think it's a very valuable endeavor for everyone, and after you master this one, get out there and try a few prog-rock keyboard solos yourself!
So, grab your elf ears, Dungeon Master's guide, and 20-sided die, throw your pick to your Hobbit roadie and enjoy “In the Cage!”
Terry Syrek has been teaching guitar for over 25 years and is a senior faculty member of the National Guitar Workshop. He is the author of Shred Is Not Dead and continues to punish all comers with a combination of blistering speed, over-the-top distortion, and boyish charm. For more information, visit terrysyrek.com.