Guitar Lessons by Chip McDonald - August 2016

Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Practicing Karen Carpenter Phrasing on Guitar?

New Series: "What Do You Practice, Chip?"

 People are always asking me "yeah, but what do YOU practice?" - as if there is some Secret Guitar Kata that, if I were only to tell them, everything would be easy and wonderful.

 Which isn't the case, and in addition to that I always seem flummoxed, because I instantly have a flood of mental incongruities I momentarily think I can reconcile into a coherent sentence.  I can't, because it's either a diffused, abstracted thing I'm practicing or something so extremely mundane that to convey it would seem to be condescending.

 Usually it's something extremely specific.  Part of what I teach is how to learn to practice effectively, instinctually.  Or something in between, or combinations.  Things that don't easily translate into a pat, single soundbite-sentence.

 So along those lines I'm going to try to periodically post some of the things that people may find interesting that I practice.  For instance, a few days ago....

 I wanted to know what Karen Carpenter was doing with her vibrato on the first line to the song "Goodbye To Love".  By that I mean, I want to get a similar effect.

 What is going on is that she uses a lot of resonance on the words "I'll say", into the word "goodbye", which then trails off into vibrato.  More specifically, once she says "bye" she begins her vibrato, which begins with the crossing point being flat, 3 beats later on pitch.  As that is occurring it goes from having a wider bandwidth - more low mid resonance, slight top end harmonic with a dominant 2K-ish peak that gets wider in Q as the end of "bye" approaches, then settles into a thinner timbre, as the vibrato narrows as well.

 Also note in my crude diagram she's releasing her pitch bend faster than the attack.

 "Chip, you're crazy".  Maybe so, but it's a nice effect.  I practiced this slowly with a whole step bend, and it only works on guitar based on the nature of the sound and gain you use, and the pickup selection.  I did this for about half an hour, until it became a reflex.

 Then I stopped.  It may or may not show up in my technique later.  I'll probably revisit this "shortly", but there is a fine line between "reflex" and "habit"; I want that to be available if I imagine that effect is appropriate in my mind in the "midst of battle", but I don't want it all over everything. I also don't want it to be "the Karen Carpenter lick".  I want it to blend and coagulate with everything else I've learned.

 Should a student try to practice that?  I don't know, does that line strike you as an important melody/phrasing?  I'm a huge Karen Carpenter fan; if you're not, it won't serve much purpose.  On the other hand, one should become aware of what moves one musically and why it's effective in my opinion....