A Lick for Fraidy Cats

Discussion in 'Tab, Tips, Theory and Technique' started by Larry F, Nov 20, 2012.

  1. Larry F

    Larry F Doctor of Teleocity Vendor Member

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    See the lick here? Let's say its in an A blues. Let's say you've got a little gain and sustain. Remember my personal narrative, where I used to play 25 years ago, quit to go into academics, became paralyzed, got better, bought a guitar, started playing blues again.

    My plan at first was to train my hands to do certain kinds of reflexes that would help me think, feel, and play in a blues kind of way. I avoided things that were not bluesish, as I defined it. Scales were out and some blues-rockisms were out.

    At some point early on, I hit on the lick shown here. I immediately recognized it from blues-rock days of yore. My first impulse was to think that the only people who would play this were wannabes. Scared wannabes.

    I was watching on of the first King of the Blues final competitions. Three guys were introduced. Two younger and fresher, and one guy in his 50s, like me, wearing a Hawaiian shirt (not like me). He didn't have a lot of mobility, and, sure enough, here it is, in the first 30 seconds of his solo. That reinforced it for me, that this was a lick to avoid.

    A little later, I happened across a video clip of Stephen Stills jamming with a stage full of musicians at a Rock and Roll Hall of Fame concert. I don't think he was with C,S,&N, but he could have been. When it came his turn to solo, right off the bat, he plays this lick. I immediately think he is nervous.

    On to me. When I started playing out and in rehearsals, I was sometimes very strongly lured to this lick. When I finally would give in (rarely, I'll have you know), I always played both notes together, and often bent up the higher string as well. I also did a version on strings 2-3. The benefit of this was it served to put a pause or hold into the flow of the solo. Additionally, it was an unusual color, compared to the single-note stuff I was also doing. I liked the effect of holding a high note, while the note a whole-step lower bends up to meet the high note in unison. It is a very nice color.

    But, music is sometimes about more than changes in color, or interesting acoustical effects. It is also about how the performer is feeling. If I am feeling good, flowing, and creating, making myself happy with what I am hearing, then I have no need to play a lick that I usually use strictly for utilitarian purposes. Since I have associated this lick with fearful, hackneyed playing, there is no way that I am going to lay that out there. Fear and knee-jerk responses to fear are very bad ju-ju for me. When I am afraid, I lock up and hang onto a sound for dear life, practically pinching the neck in half. What a great lifesaver this lick is when my fingers are frozen in fear. Heck, I can even ride this pattern out for a good half of a 12-bar cycle. Or at least play it long enough for me to take a couple of deep breaths, regroup, and settle down, all while gradually peeling each finger away from the fingerboard one by one. Then I'm OK, as I feel like I have established by authority and confidence.

    But I feel cheap. I still associate it with hack playing, fearful playing, frozen in place playing.

    Does anyone know the feelings I am describing? Do you see why I can feel something, pre-hear something, but have to deny its right to be heard? Not everything that comes out of our hearts, brains, hands, etc. is equally true and pure. Ask any composer. You write something, accept or reject it, fix it up, etc. but none of that matters if it is coming from a place of insecurity, fear, lack of confidence, wishing you would rather be anywhere than on this stage at this time in your life. You've given yourself an out as far as the audience of Joe Blows might know, but the band will know, other musicians will know.

    Does anyone know the feeling that I am describing?

    PS. This lick is used in a different form in the Beatle's "Get Back." They used it beautifully, as one would expect.
     

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    Last edited: Nov 20, 2012
  2. Jupiter

    Jupiter Telefied Silver Supporter

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    Where is this lick of which you speak?
     
  3. jmiles

    jmiles Friend of Leo's

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    Try this. B7th to E major.

    1st string-11th fret (Ring finger)
    2nd string-10th fret (Index finger)
    3rd string-11th fret. (Middle finger)
    A B7th, without the root.

    Pluck all three strings and bend together
    1st string 1/2 step (1 fret) up to E
    2nd string 1 whole step up to B
    3rd string-1 whole step up to G#
    An E major chord.
     
  4. Mjark

    Mjark Doctor of Teleocity Silver Supporter

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    This is about unison bends? Everyone plays them. Hendrix used them frequently. I understand in principle what you're saying but you have to go with what you know. Limitations can serve as pathways to brilliance, perhaps just as often as very great technical ability.
     
  5. slowpinky

    slowpinky Tele-Afflicted

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    Oh yeah. Its not the actual lick - its what it represents to the individual... I call it the Exit Gesture.

    When I do it - I know Ive deserted every (good) reason for playing. Disconnected myself from the moment and suddenly Im somewhere else waiting for the gig to end - while my hands do this thing. I had a late regular graveyard shift gig in an all night restaurant when my children were very very young, and sleep was very hard to come by. As much as I love playing- as the gig went past midnight(I was working during the day too) , I'd actually doze off and keep playing! Except that I'd instantly go into a turnaround on the actual tune as my body went into "lets wind this up and go home" mode

    But I guess the thing that Larry is getting at here is really about fear and insecurity - and the Exit Gestures give that away. I know there is hope. All improvisation is a dialogue with the music , the other musicians, the audience and the self. Recognizing the gesture might mean that you are not having a great time - (my own one is a scale ascending and descending through - you guessed it! - a turnaround) - but once you recognize it - its all about overcoming it and getting back to the task at hand. In improvising - there's no going back - you cant undo the gesture , but you can build on it and leave it behind.

    My personal struggle with the exit gesture actually produced a Phenomenological paper on "Unsettling Habits" some years ago. Teaching in a University - dealing with performance majors and also the nuts and bolts of music means that your mind is forever analyzing and assessing, trying to make the round pole of music fit into the increasingly square hole of academia. Writing a paper like this - a very revealing experiential exposé on the mental game of improvising - while quite personal, has been very beneficial for many of my students - because the exit gesture is there in everyone's playing somewhere - you just have to know it - live with it , and carry on.

    It looks something like this - it can change a bit depending on the tune- but - it doesnt swing groove or have any dynamic- it is in effect - a musical zombie...:D
     

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  6. Leon Grizzard

    Leon Grizzard Friend of Leo's

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    Ouch, Larry. That's how I feel about that lick. Played it last weekend. Twice.
     
  7. klasaine

    klasaine Poster Extraordinaire

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    Sometimes I feel that way about every note I play on the entire gig.
    Everybody has cliches but it's when you hear it, know you should reject it and then don't reject is when they sound like cliches.
     
  8. Mjark

    Mjark Doctor of Teleocity Silver Supporter

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    I agree Ken but I wonder if there's any musician who doesn't have those lapses. Some of us less talented folks more often than others of course. We seem very hard on ourselves generally speaking as well.
     
  9. Larry F

    Larry F Doctor of Teleocity Vendor Member

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    No, this is a bend from a 4th (C above G) to a minor third (C above A).

    I like unison bends, though. I sometimes will play something like the following. Let's say we are bending from G on the 2nd string up a whole step to A. The unison of that note is the A played on the 1st string. In the examples below, the rhythms are all equal and played pretty fast. The number 2 represents the note A bent up from G. The number 1 represents the note A on the fifth fret of the first string:

    2 2 1 2 2 2 1 2 played as 16ths

    2 1 2 1 2 1 played as 8th or 16th triplets

    1 2 1 1 2 2 1 2 played as 16ths

    A variation is to do this on strings 2 and 3 to produce the unison E. But every time you play E on the second string, you also play the note A on the first string. This is Chuck Berry influenced by T-Bone Walker. There is a marvelous YouTube clip of the two onstage together, sharing one guitar: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dampex4f4is

    I thought there was also a clip where they each had their own guitar, but I don't see it.

    But this is a huge diversion from my intended point, which Slowpinky and Ken have recognized.

    Here's what I want for Christmas: software that I can tell to look at all of the major electric blues guitarists (easy to define) and tell me all of the variations of a unison are out there. And notate each variation, then tell me how many times (or percent of times) each variation is used. And by whom. And by solid body vs thinline hollow body. And by clean vs OD. To be sure, the results would vary depending on how one defines clean vs OD. This would add more steps to the definition, but would still be feasible. I am not sure how software that make with someone would travel out there in internet land and sample music. I'm a huge fan of YouTube for making all kinds of music accessible. I would like to know from others if they would be comfortable having YouTube be the sole source of music that I would analyze. I find all kinds of obscure album tracks, live performances, and recent classical music compositions on YouTube. When I teach composition and electronic music, I quite often go to YouTube for an example that just came up in conversation in class. That is a very, very powerful tool for a teacher, or anyone in music, to have.
     
  10. Jupiter

    Jupiter Telefied Silver Supporter

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    Even polar bears gotta crawl up on an iceberg from time to time.
     
  11. klasaine

    klasaine Poster Extraordinaire

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    We ALL have those lapses. Even John Coltrane had those lapses. It's part of being an artist. It isn't all great all the time.

    Trust me, all those 'previously' unreleased tracks (and even whole albums) from artists as diverse as Jimi Hendrix to Jerry Mulligan were un-released for a reason - they didn't hold up to the artists standards. Those tracks may seem cool to us but the originator of them obviously didn't think they were all that great. That's why they didn't make the cut.

    *It's good to be hard on yourself. It's makes you do better. That doesn't mean "don't try" or "don't release" material. It means be able to see it for what it is in relation to what you know you can do. Also, there's no crime in saying, "it isn't perfect or my best but I think it's cool so lets go with it". Just don't bull$h1t yourself.
     
  12. slowpinky

    slowpinky Tele-Afflicted

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    Yes indeedy - it does make life more difficult ...But I'd rather be a reflective practitioner - somewhere, a long way from my ideals - than deluding myself that Im even close!



    :D
     
  13. boneyguy

    boneyguy Doctor of Teleocity

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    I like that lick. I do a funked up version of Get Back from time to time. It kind of defines that tune.

    But lately, and I don't know why, I've been using it fairly frequently in blues soloing. I'll bend up to the root and have that m3rd on top (in your example an A blues, like you've suggested). But I don't think I ever hang on it or repeat it. I use it as a little device that grabs the ear and is only part of a longer phrase.

    It is an easy grab though and I now that I think about it, unless I've embeded it into a phrase that I think is creative and interesting, it does feel like I'm just playing a tired cliche rather than really making music.

    Intention, confidence and commitment will take any tired old lick and make it sound like you're the first one on the planet to play those notes though.
     
  14. klasaine

    klasaine Poster Extraordinaire

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    I actually do that exact lick but bend up to the 5th (2nd string) and hit the b7 (1st string) with my pinky. Pretty meaty and aggressive way to start a rock/blues solo.
     
  15. boneyguy

    boneyguy Doctor of Teleocity

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    Yeah I like that one too. I will also bend from the 5th to the 6th and grab the R on the top string. In fact I'll often string all those '4th bends' together if I can get away with it. Hell, it's a guitar, it's suppose to get 'bendy' from time to time. :D
     
  16. basher

    basher Tele-Afflicted

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    It's all about your facial expression. If you look bored or stare off into space while you're playing the lick, it's a dead giveaway. Better to close your eyes, lean back, and look ecstatic. Or smirk knowingly, as if to say "ha, listen to this hackneyed little lick I'm playing."
     
  17. Larry F

    Larry F Doctor of Teleocity Vendor Member

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    I also have a variation that I use: 3rd finger on D on the third string and 4th finger on G on the second string. Then I bend both up. This is one of the few bends that I do where I don't necessarily shoot for a target. I like to wiggle the dyad in 4ths up and down, slower and faster, etc. This is what I do when I formerly had the impulse to do the original lick I described (I use it more on the second and third strings). So, the problem persists, then, insofar as it is a knee-jerk reaction to being afraid or stuck.

    This is actually similar to the well-known story of how George Harrison would cover mistakes onstage by shaking his head. This would elicit a fresh round of screams, which covered up the mistake. You can see this in one of the songs the Beatles did in Japan that is on YouTube.
     
  18. jazztele

    jazztele Poster Extraordinaire

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    Doesn't the "Get Back" lick take the fifth on top and bend the ninth towards a maj. 3rd?

    This example here, in A, I do not like...Then again, my ears can't take a m3 over the I in a blues...I have to play with that note...tug it up a little bit, or hammer or slide to M3...
     
  19. boneyguy

    boneyguy Doctor of Teleocity

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    Yes.

    As I mentioned earlier we do a funked up version of Get Back and one thing I've found myself doing is 'transposing' the actual lick from the song into various other positions. So the lick still sounds vaguely familiar but I'm using different notes such as the lick Ken mentioned, grabbing the b7 on top and bending the 4th up to the 5th, or the R on top and bending the 5th to the 6th or holding the 4th on top and bending the R up to the 9th. Even bending the b7 to the R while holding the M3rd on top. Because they all have the basic motion of the actual lick it sounds familiar and it doesn't create panic among the listeners but is off kilter enough that it adds a bit of interest (for me at least).


    There's a bunch of them that you can grab. If I'm grabbing one that doesn't have a chord tone on top then I tend use it as a way to get other places rather than laying on it as a stand alone lick.

    But it's interesting that you can just suggest the actual lick with imposter licks and you still maintain the basic character of that song, to my ear at least.
     
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