This month’s topic is entitled The Joy of Guitar, which is wonderful, because music brings lots of joy to lots of people. David Hodge’s original title was “My Favorite Things”, and since I already had an idea for that topic, I have appropriated the title.
The following snippets are items that I have come to enjoy when playing or listening to music:
- “Tutti” riffs, where as many instruments as possible play the same riff, either the same notes, or in tracking harmony. Stevie Wonder’s Superstition is a great example of this, with the bass tracking along. More recently, the riff in the Monkee’s tune I’m a Believer is performed that way in the movie Shrek.
- The “machine gun” snare in Elton John’s Saturday Night’s Alright for Fighting.
- Dynamic changes in a song. The wilder the better. From Shout (Otis Day and the Nights) to Bring Me Some Water (Melissa Etheridge), dynamics can really spice up a song.
- David’s attempts to get me to laugh and lose my place. I get a real sense of accomplishment if I can finish the song without succumbing to giggles. David “wins” if I drop a note.
- Playing with a full brass section. I finally got to do this last Spring, and it was better than I had imagined. Listening to them punch out the chorus riff in Get Ready, with the saxes building tension and the trumpet pealing out on top was just fantastic.
- Santana’s Europa. If there is a more sensual song out there, I don’t know it.
- Harmonies. I still remember a time in 1984 when 6 of us were sitting in our living room singing folk-rock songs, and 4 voices, a flute, 2 guitars, and my bass all hit the perfectly balanced note, resulting in a “chord” that no one wanted to end. The song is supposed to have another reprise chorus, but we stopped on that sustained magic. Now if I could just remember the name of the song!
- Clever lyrics. From Billy Joel to Aerosmith to Melissa Etheridge, a well-turned phrase is lots of fun. The Kinks probably wrote the best of all, including Lola, Victoria, and Superman.
- Rewriting lyrics. David and Laura are very good at re-writing lyrics. David’s rewrite of the Beatles’ Don’t Let Me Down is hilarious: “Nobody ever loves me like I love me…” Trust me, it works for the entire song!
- Playing with Laura. We don’t get to do it often, but sometimes we hit that “magical moment” in a song, and it’s wonderful.
- Playing with our kids and their friends. They are so trusting and eager to learn, and they are very good musicians as well.
- Learning a new song, and coming up with the “perfect” bass line, or at least one that fits well.
- Dragging an old song out of the closet after many years. David, Laura and I recently played Fleetwood Mac’s Rhiannon for the first time in almost 20 years, and we were all a bit surprised to discover we remembered it.
- Finding a new “tweak” to the bass line for a song that I’ve played for years. I recently found one for David’s Winter, and it was good.
- Playing fretless. My mentor was right: “Fretless and Free!”. I don’t think I can ever play Moondance fretted again.
- Playing an old song a new way. I’ve played several mid-tempo rock songs as reggae, but my favorite was playing Tush as a torch ballad – 1/4 speed.
- Jamming. From major productions like the Riverside Jams to casual gatherings in the living room, I love to play with others. Of course this could be due to the fact that I’m a bass player and I can’t sing…
In the spirit of the season, think about your own “favorite things” and enjoy the music hear, and the music you make. Feel free to post some of your own bits of joy on the forums.
Get out there and play!