Wednesday, December 19, 2007
Cymbal Systems and Simple Symptoms
Mike called me today. He wrote a song last night and had recorded the drums...would I come over and play guitar on it?
Sure. That sounds fun.
I went over to Mike's and set up my guitar- he gave me some headphones to put on. Mike clicked a button and the 'phones filled with the sound of drums...an odd beat he'd recorded earlier.
I started playing.
Sour notes and shattered chords spilled everywhere. It was a mess.
Stop. Rewind. Try again.
Again...I was getting nowhere. Something was wrong.
"Mike", I said," I have no idea at all what you want me to play. Can you give me at least a hint?"
He looked at me as if I were crazy. What did I mean? Just play something...ready? Rolling.... Chaos ensued...chaos and failure. Everything I tried sounded terrible.
"What the fuck?", inquired Mike.
"Just make something up," he explained(doing air guitar), "like do veet veeeet veeet during this part and then whhooom slowly here, where the vocals sound like they should be (even though they aren't) , then go sorta dunn duuuun dun dun- all downs, y'know? in the third part ...and then hit the accents on the break and go back to veet veeeet veeet -and again to where the vocals should be- and then go whhhaaawhooooh....go whhhaaawhooooh four times at the end- there's a solo there and then end on veet. Got it?"
"Dude, I have no idea what the hell you just said."
I was stumped. Mike stopped the song.
"Man, you used to be able to make songs up...just make something up. Damn, you used to do that all the time- what the hell is wrong with you?"
I didn't know. I was frustrated. I'd been itching to play- I've had a lot of time to practice and I have a lot of fancy new guitar tricks to show off...without thinking, I started playing a manic, crazed improv, sans drums...hey check this out, I betcha didn't know I can play ten zillion notes per second...boodeley-boodeley-boodeley...whaawhhoooh! Shameless, it was.
"There! That's exactly what I want!", exclaimed Mike.
"You want heavy metal histrionics ? I'm cool with that. That stuff is a lot more fun to play than it is to listen to."
"No...not that stuff... jam like you just did, except with veet veeeet veeet etc instead of the Van Haleney thingie."
Then it clicked. This sort of thing, veet veeeet veeeet, used to make perfect sense to me...I would just make something up and repeat the process until there was music. For years I did this...one really shouldn't need more than a solid beat, some absurd pantomime and a few whaaawhooohs to make rock and roll.
How could I forget that?
After a few hours we had the arrangement for the whole song worked out...I can hear the parts, it's just a matter of rehearsal and time. Veet, dunn duuuunnn , whahhawhhooom and all the rest still make sense to me- more than ever, really...contrary to popular legend, drugs and alcohol do not generally improve one's playing...I am much better at going veet veeeeeet veeet than I used to be- a good thing- I mean,what's the point in having an electric guitar if you don't go whahhhawooom boodeelee boodelee boodelee boowheeew?
It's not difficult or complicated, it's just a matter of attitude really.
How could I forget that?
"Jeez", said Mike," I told you it was easy."
Yeah. It is. I keep forgetting that.
A month or so ago, I was invited to ...uhm...play music with a female friend that I have wanted to , ah, er... jam with for a long time...finally, I had my chance. I hadn't played music with anyone for a long time and I didn't know what sort of tunes that this particular person favored, so we found ourselves playing a standard 12 bar blues improv- again, it's a lot more fun to play than it is to listen to, if you hear what I'm saying...anyway, this was a good start except for one thing:
I couldn't get my....er...guitar to um...stay in tune, if you know wot I mean. My bar had no whammy...I had a form of stage fright, I think.
Finally, I had to admit to her that I was baffled. It had been so long since I had played music with another person that I had forgotten how to do everything, including tuning. Especially tuning. I would need some help.
"Don't be ridiculous," my friend said. "You just go like this...and this...there. Seems familiar now, doesn't it? Why don't you try singing a cappella for a while?"
Well, I put my mouth on that money and hummed a heavy metal version of the Star Spangled Banner until Old Glory saluted again, ya know what I'm sayin?
Playing music is easy. How could I forget that?
Fuck the blues- we wrote some new songs...it's not complicated. Just make something up, oh yes...use your imagination. Whahhwhooohaoobweee! Repeat until music.
The difficult part comes after the song is over. By the time my friend and I had, um, rehearsed a few times, I thought we were a band. In my head, I started making plans for shows, tours...new CDs of songs yet unwritten- I was convinced that I had some great ideas and we were gonna make it big. I shared these dreams with the person I thought was my new band-mate, my star-in-the-making.
That's nice, she said, but she is a solo act. I could 'sit in' on a song here and there, but she didn't want me-or anyone- in her band right now. Too busy and all that...there were a lot of very valid-sounding reasons given.
That's fine, I said. I even believed myself when I said it.
And I might have still believed it if I hadn't been told that she is currently auditioning guitarists.
Some very bad ones, I might add. Not that I'm bitter.