september 2012

Grab your elf ears, Dungeon Master''s guide, and 20-sided die, throw your pick to your Hobbit roadie and dig into some prog-rock shred.

Chops: Advanced
Theory: Intermediate
Lesson Overview:
• Learn how to “hammer-on from nowhere.”
• Create long, legato phrases.
• Develop a deep appreciation for prog-rock keyboard solos.

Click here to download a printable PDF of this lesson's notation.

This month, we'll delve into all things progressive. 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!”

Read More Show less

A snapshot of a stylistically unmatched guitar giant who not only has chops galore, but knows when to take his foot off the gas and tug on your heartstrings with tone and taste.

Jimmy Herring
Subject to Change Without Notice
Abstract Logix

No other guitar player has weaved through the jam-band scene quite like Jimmy Herring. Starting with Aquarium Rescue Unit, Herring has cranked out twin-guitar rock with the Allman Brothers, explored spacey jams with The Dead, and is currently with Southern rockers Widespread Panic. Although his previous gigs showcased a down-and-dirty Americana approach, his personal tastes lean more towards jazz/fusion. On Subject to Change Without Notice Herring takes his spot next to Beck, Morse, and McLaughlin as one of jazz-rock’s guitar royalty.

The core of Herring’s group revolves around a virtuoso rhythm section consisting of drummer Jeff Sipe, bassists Neal Fountain and Etienne Mbappé, and keyboardist Matt Slocum. On “Miss Poopie,” Sipe, Slocum, and Fountain lay into a groove that would make it difficult for Sly Stone to sit still. No matter the direction—from faux-Gypsy swing (“Red Wing Special”) and chicken-pickin’ country (“Curfew”) to the Beatles and McLaughlin covers—Herring leads through every musical challenge with authority, taste, and conviction.

Read More Show less

The USAF Redeemer guitar that Guilford built in their honor features a bound, poplar body covered with United States Air Force camouflage, and it’s finished in gloss nitrocellulose.

The United Service Organizations (USO) began its star treatment for U.S. troops during World War II, when Bob Hope took the stage at March Air Force Base in Riverside, California, on May 6, 1941. Since then, celebrities—from musicians like the Zac Brown Band and Toby Keith to comedians and actors such as Stephen Colbert and Jon Stewart—have entertained and participated in thousands of USO shows across the globe. The aim is to lift troop morale through laughter and song, regardless of the political affiliation of the star. But for Lillian Axe lead guitarist Steve Blaze, it went further than that.

“I’ve always had a great appreciation for our military at all levels—from the guys at the desks to the guys in the field—for what they’ve done for this country,” says Blaze. “When my friend Major Henry C. Cecil asked me if I thought it’d be a good idea to get luthier John Guilford to build a guitar to benefit the U.S. Air Force … [laughs] before he could even finish his sentence, I said, ‘Yes!’”

Read More Show less