Guitar Lessons by Chip McDonald - May 2019

Wednesday, May 15, 2019

Solos of the Unknown Guitar Heros

 As mentioned in the previous blog, a lot of my favorite solos are not by my "favorite" guitar players, and not even by "known" players.

 In fact, embarrassingly not even known to me, really! I'm horrible with names unless they're odd/atypical, and the music is primary to me: in some of the cases below I've had to look up the names to remember them.  Just so you know.

 "My Love" - Paul McCartney/Wings, 1973 Henry McCullough. 

  A perfect song and a perfect solo.  I like knowing McCartney's... wing man... He had played behind Hendrix and Pink Floyd - so I suppose it shoudn't be a surprise I like this a lot?  Denny Laine heard me play this solo in the Beatles tribute band I was in, and approved of the rendition.  I wish I'd had more time to do it properly, since it's at the top of the list eh?

 "Goodbye to Love" - the Carpenters, 1972.  Tony Peluso

   An odd name and I still can only barely remember it, he was well known back then as a studio guy I believe, but I was just 4 years old when I first heard that.  It's simple, a recapitulated melody, executed perfectly with great inflection.  A perfect solo IMO to a perfect song.  A sort of revolutionary one to some people at the time, since the Carpenters were considered "soft rock" and a CRAZY, DISTORTED GUITAR SOLO was considered a WILD THING TO DO in 1972.  That was like, Pink Floyd, man... or some sort of attitude was given regarding it from Some People at the time I gather.

 I didn't care, I was 4, I liked the song a whole lot.

"Easy" - Commodores, 1976, Thomas McClary.  

 I'm going into Speculative Musical Anthropology Mode here and say... I think this was inspired by the _Goodbye to Love_ solo.  Maybe.  I don't know, of course.  Regardless, I think it's a brilliant solo, the inflections are quirkily perfect and expressive.  Listening to his solo record right now - there was a part on one song where the vocal arrangement  echo Queen, and the one solo I've heard so far sound Brian May influenced?  Curious.  Huh, on the song "Whatsoever Things" there's a bit that definitely sounds Queen inspired. This is interesting to me, because I'm wondering if he has similar tastes to me (although the style music is not my taste at all), or does he happen to listen to some people I like a lot (Queen) and that's coming out?  Curious.  It even seems he's using sort of a Brian May sound on certain parts.  It's like bipolar R&B / Queen?

 Hmm, now he's got a song that sounds Kings-X influenced?  Hmm.  Solo in this song:  yeah, he likes Brian May.  Staccato phrasing.  Hmm.. (looking up Mr. McClarey) I would seem Mr. McClary's net worth is over $74 million????  THAT'S A GUITAR SOLO!  Maybe this should be at the top of the list???

 Listening to another song by McClary (sorry to detour this blog post, I didn't expect to listen to this - see, this is HOW YOU SHOULD USE SPOTIFY, blast it!!!  Do your research, people!).  Hmm.  I would guess I'm hearing a Line 6 product as well.

 Wow, that was a detour, sorry.   Now I'm thinking maybe the "Easy" solo was actually possibly a sort of Brian May influenced approach?  One of the bends I now think could be indicative, but in 1975 - the same year Bohemian Rhapsody came out - that would have been very, very novel.  Interesting!

 Now I'm completely derailed from the original intent of this blog post.  Great.

"I Won't Hold You Back Now" - 1982, Steve Lukather.  

Well, here's an outlier: I know it's Steve Lukather, but outside of the Guitar Hero community it's "Toto, soft-pop rock".  It was music acceptable to my mother - I remember hearing this song on my parent's alarm clock going off to wake them up to "wake" me up for school in 1982.  This is before I played guitar, but I loved the solo section to this song.  It's like a lost Pink Floyd song - it's a solo Gilmour would be proud of.  The horn arrangement is sublime, so it's a great bed for a great solo.  But it's a perfect example of simplicity combined with subtle, perfectly nuanced execution.  There isn't much to it except perfect taste.

 I wish Spotify allowed playlists based on A-B looped offsets.  Oh well.

 I think I've failed on this blog post after the derail, sorry to the reader, but perhaps it was entertaining...? 

Wednesday, May 8, 2019

R577X Polymorphism α-actnin-3 "Speed Gene": I was at least 70% Wrong In My Last Post!

  Ok, well... maybe speed isn't 100% up to how patient you are.

 I'm different than at least 30%, perhaps in a tiny fraction of the population.  When I was a kid there were some anomalies.  

 I could always run faster than anyone in the 3 schools I went to.  Not for long - but in 30 meters I would definitely be ahead.  The coaches wanted me to be on track team seeing me zip around playing football during p.e., but I knew I had zero endurance capability - doing 50 laps around the football field was always grueling.

 In BMX I never won any races.  In fact, I found it insanely difficult to keep power going through a whole race.  One of the few times I've passed out in my life was between heats in a BMX event.  BUT - I was always ahead of everyone into the first corner, despite having a very steep "wrong" gearing on my bike.

 In 5th grade I could leg press the entire amount of weight on the machine - at least 1 time. Which was more remarkable given I was almost the smallest guy in the school.  BUT - I did not have any special endurance at "normal" weights.

 Skateboarding came easy to me.  Anything fast and quick.  

 When I started playing guitar, I was instantly "fast".  I didn't find speed to be particularly challenging on guitar.   Playing an entire Sor piece from an endurance standpoint was different, probably a big reason I didn't pursue classical guitar, but preferred learning passages from classical violin pieces.

 My wife recently got us the 23andme genetic testing service for my birthday.  As it turns out I carry the R577 alpha actinin-3 "elite power athlete-sprinter gene": my muscle composition likely is more like 80% fast twitch/Type II fiber instead of 20%, versus "slow, endurance" Type I.  

 So it would seem I have an advantage that I suspected, but had no direct evidence of.  Additional bonuses of this polymorphism are recovery time and training response.  As an aside, I have always found my wife's muscle cramps to be rather... disturbing, kind of surreal.  Because - I've never had a muscle cramp.  I haven't read that that has something to do with R577X alpha-actinin-3, but I would suggest it probably does ("everyone" has muscle cramps?  Where the muscle just.. does stuff... by itself...?  Yikes).

 The flipside to this: I'm at a disadvantage for muscle fatigue!  So it's more likely doing those bar chord exercises are more difficult for you than me!  Then there is the variant that bestows endurance; which favors the classical guitarist greatly I would imagine, being able to do multiple hours of bar chord-form based effort. 

 All of this would follow my observations of giving guitar lessons. Of the Famous Guitar Players you know, there are the few that are in that "upper .1% speed" bracket. But here's the takeaway: it's more useful in a pragmatic, musician sense, to NOT have this gene!   

 Speed is not inherently artistic.  Nor is it particularly special today, as it has been allowed to become a trite gimmick. The person with the endurance variant is more likely to find that trait useful.  And given that the fatigue I get from holding bar chords for a long time is probably greater than the average population - that's a great disadvantage as a guitarist. 

 You now have an excuse not to be able to play "ultra fast", maybe... BUT - for the rest, you probably have an advantage over me!  So go practice!