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First Inventions (Year Three)

This may very well be my obligatory end-of-year recap-style post. I honestly felt that there wasn't going to be a great deal of recorded work that I'd want to encapsulate here. But there seems to have been much more than I thought. One of my hopes for the past year was committing more time to learning some cover tunes. I made a dent on that, but nowhere near as much as I'd hoped for.

A lot of the other work that I cataloged as truer "First Invention" collection material turned out better than I'd recalled. There's still an aching need for more practice time to get my playing as clean as I'd like. But some of the items below suggest a bit more growth than I'd sensed this past year. I'll take it.

Two new things that I'm happy to have recently are a new guitar and a few new effect pedals to give the stuff I play a bit more sonic range. Hopefully, they come in handy for much of what I decide to record next year.

Second Takes
I had set out to record more cover tunes this past year and only did a modest job of that. Among the songs I did get around to, a few turned out good and the rest remain "works in progress". The relatively good ones I ended up with were Rick Springfield's "Jessie's Girl" and to a lesser extent, Pat Benatar's "Hit Me With Your Best Shot." Somehow, I ended up with an alternate guitar solo idea for "Jessie's Girl." Other than that, it's no accident that these two songs have the same guitar player performing the solo: Neil Geraldo. Given that the other cover tunes I did in years past were with guitarists from England and Canada, Geraldo qualifies as the first American guitar player that I've covered.

My first effort of the year was actually to cover a favorite of mine, "Since You Been Gone." The song was originally performed by it's writer, Russ Ballard. But the versions I grew up with were from Blackmore's band Rainbow and the cover of that version performed by Yngwie Malmsteen in Alcatrazz. I realized early on that I had a problem of trying to cover the Blackmore version after playing the Alcatrazz version about a million times as a guitar-playing teenager. So I ended up improvising the solo and dropping the arpeggios during the verses that Blackmore played. I'm content to chalk this up as a warm-up for doing more cover tunes.

This cover of David Bowie's "Heroes" came about later in the year after a little disappointment that I hadn't done more cover tunes. I decided on this song because it was relatively easy (and hence, quick to record), plus there was a spacey Mick Ronson guitar part that I wanted to see if I could record well. In the end, the playing and recording are easy. The mixing ... I still need to find more time for.

Scandal's "Goodbye to You" was slated as my next project after Rainbow, Springfield, and Benatar. The wall I ran into was that I've always wanted to play the keyboard part on guitar and play the overall song a bit heavier than the original. The keyboard parts, I've found much more challenging than I wish for. Playing the song heavier than the original is easy enough. As for the solo, I'd probably prefer to take another shot at. The result here is a snippet of the song since I had hoped to re-record or re-mix the rhythm guitar part (and never got around to).

This is a repeat effort of an instrumental version of Beth Orton's "It's Not the Spotlight" (which is a cover of Rod Stewart's cover of Bobby Bland's song). I did this with two different tones after I moved onto a period of seriously chasing guitar tone. Nothing special about these two. But they both turned out ok, which is another way of saying I haven't settled on a tone for this song yet.

This came about after a lengthy hiatus of cover tunes. This is a snippet of a cover of Rush's "Working Man." The song wasn't originally on my list of songs to cover, but it came about after hearing the song somewhere and realizing that trying to cover a fairly easy Rush song wouldn't be a bad idea. I'm not a fan of the solo on the original, though. So I'd probably need a lot of time to think up something of my own to play for that part.

First Inventions
This recording was early in the year, so it matches a lot of the work I recorded in the first two years - a sort of mini-song that might one day be attached to another mini-song. Also, I did a lot less harmony guitar recordings this past year, so the fact that the technique is used here makes it fun for me to listen to. There's also a section with a tapping technique that I don't know how I stumbled onto, but I truly love. I'm sure that all of the ideas I end up playing are ripped off from someone that I heard during junior high or high school. But I'll be darned if I know where I got the idea for it now.

I'm not sure this truly qualifies as a Joe Satriani rip-off, but a lot of the slower melodies I play like this tend to come from some form of inspiration caused by listening to Satriani. I don't think this is as good as the one I created in the first year. But it never hurts to have multiple ideas from the Satriani section of my brain.

This came about after I decided to practice a diminished minor scale. I swear, I used to do this back in the 80s and couldn't really hear that "Egyptian Sound" in it. This time around, I hear it. So I combined a basic scale run with sortofa-arppegio backdrop and came up with what may be the closest I'll ever get to an Yngwie Malmsteen rip-off.

One of the frustrations I ran into recording Benatar and Springfield tunes was that my guitar was way too heavy-sounding no matter what I did to get something more suitable for an 80s pop sound. This songlet is nothing more than me taking my new guitar (a low-end Fender Strat) out for a ride. It's not accident that I put a rhythm track on it that lends itself more to a poppy, strat sound.

This is actually the most recent thing I've recorded. It's all kinds of raw, but I wanted to start laying down some tracks for the idea in case I ever get around to finding the right tone for it and practicing it more. I do plenty of noodling around with lead lines or melody lines. But I've always been a complete slacker when it comes to rhythm playing. So this was an outgrowth of my effort to do a little something about that.

One of the substitutes for practicing rhythm parts is doing stuff like this. I don't doubt that this would sound good if I found another idea to attach this to.

When I had felt as if I'd recorded less music this year than in the past, a later realized that a lot of what I did end up recording were ideas that I wanted to make sure I didn't lose after a quick practice session. As a result, some items such as this were recorded on my phone placed on the top of my amp. This conserved time for me and removed some mixing headaches I've run into with my recorder recording both guitar and drum machine. The sound quality is noticeably worse, but most of the stuff I end up recording this way is nowhere near the point of trying to work into something like a song structure. These tracks are some of the better ideas I think I've captured. Now to find some time to do something with 'em.

This combination of phone recording and multi-track recording demonstrates what can happen from keeping an idea handy. The Pablo Pentatonics lick came about after realizing that I couldn't play a lesson from Paul Gilbert as fast as he could. But I thought it sounded good played slow. So that warranted a phone recording. By the time I had an idea for where that lick could come in handy, it worked out pretty nicely.

Among the lessons I've picked up online are some modal/melody lick collections from Robbie Calvo off of Never heard of the guy before I bought the lessons, but I like what he does with scales and modes. This is a pure rip-off of one of my favorite lessons. It's faster than I might of liked - this recording came about pretty quickly, so there wasn't a lot of time on my side to get it just right.

Both of these songs grew from my attempt to learn the chords to the 1982 MTV classic, "You Don't Want Me Anymore" by Steel Breeze. I'm not able to isolate the guitar track out of the MP3 to take a stab at covering it and I'm not about to try to rebuild the rhythm patter on my recorder. Besides, the guitar solo on the song is impossible to play. That's right ... impossible. But taking the chords in a different direction was plenty of fun.

One other thing I got from trying to play the Steel Breeze song and Paul Gilbert lick was an appreciation for the pentatonic scale. I completely despised it during my Yngwie-induced guitar snob teen years. But I've managed to find a few pentatonic licks that are becoming a bit of a cliche in my playing.

And occasionally, I take a pentatonic lick and try to combine it with arpeggios and a few Yngwie-inspired licks. Not sure that the overall combination here is great. But it was fun.

Another reason why it hasn't felt as if I've done more "real" recording was because I spent some time recording a lot of drills without trying to stretch them out. This is an example of that. I'm basically doing an A-minor scale run taken from Richie Blackmore's solo to the Rainbow song, "Death Alley Driver." And, again, there's some harmony in there. I may make it a New Year's resolution to do more harmony parts.

One thing that felt very common over the past year were lengthy stretches of time where I didn't pick up the guitar. A lot of times, that made for some frustrating practice sessions to get my fingers back in working order. But a few times, I landed on something fun like this shortly after rolling out of bed.

Pure drill recording here. I like the way it sounds when the guitar part clicks over to the distorted fast version of the drill. That is all.

This may have been recorded in 2011, but I never really did anything with it then. Unfortunately, I haven't done anything with it in 2012 other than posting it to facebook. I like the idea of combining disco and some shred guitar parts, though. One day, I'll do the idea justice.

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