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--- Mar 13 2001 Go to category
Subject: Solos
Category: Improvisation/Soloing
From: Steve Manion (USA)

I have been transcribing your solos lately (well, just playing by ear -- I'd spend the rest of my life trying to write them down!), then playing them along with the recordings. The ones I have got so far are Phase Dance, Jaco, End of the Game, Third Wind, and your latest version of All The Things You Are.

One thing I noticed was how efficient your fingering is. The 4th finger is used when needed, but your hand keeps shifitng on the neck. It is like you don't have to reach for the note, you just go to it. It seems completely obvious that music is always elevated above technical pyrotechnics. That is the one thing that always made me love to hear you play. Lots of guys play the guitar, but you play the music. It is amazing how easy it is to miss that.

What are particularly sweet are the trademark -- what are they called -- appogiaturas, the sliding into notes, the repeating of notes, and the spacing, not only in terms of register on the neck, but with time as well. I mean NOBODY repeated notes before you did. Maybe they did, but not the way you did. Everybody else was in such a hurry to get the next note! "Look Ma, I can play fast!"

But milking a note, repeating it, underlining it, sheesh, so elegant, and so basic to music, but you were really the first to play like that. It is no accident that you emerged as a standout amongst guitarists, because your emphasis on the music was preeminent above displaying your ability to play the guitar.

It seems to me listening to you that the message is "hear, listen to this music" but the standard for guitarists was often "hear, listen to me play the guitar" The musician is the messenger, and the music is the message. You found a way to deliver the message where others merely delivered themselves. The one people are drawn to, the other not so much.

Of course, you know all this, because you are the man. But for a guy like me that takes the time to learn what you are doing, after what, 25 years of listening to you play, wondering what is it about what you do that is so sweet, and so unique, and that has led to your unprecedented universal success all these years, to have it finally sink in that "it's the music, stupid" is a revelation.

And that is where your genius is. I have been playing the solo on All The Things over and over, and I keep wondering, "how the heck does this guy come up with this stuff on the fly like that?" The one thing that really awes me is your phrasing. It is how you tell a story with every solo. There is a begining, a middle, and an end. There are these little motifs that keep popping up. In short, a fully developed musical statement.

Getting beyond the 'right' notes, to actually saying something, taking the listener on a musical journey is something that separates the greats from the ordinary mortals. The irony is it doesn't take a devilishly difficult level of technique. It takes something even harder -- the ability to use the instrument for its intended purpose, i.e. make a musical statement.

It is a painstaking process picking these solos out, but it is the same thing as playing a Mozart Sonata. I'll never be able to create what Mozart did, but to play the music is the next best thing. I am going to get Are You Going With Me, and Go Get It and probably move on to something else. Thanks for all the great music.

One question. The End Of The Game solo (near the end) has this little phrase that blows up to an A flat that if my guitar had an extra seven frets I could play it as heard on the recording. As it is (my guitar has 22 frets and is a funky old Ibanez) I have to bend the heck out of the E string at the 22nd fret to get as much of the solo in the right register, but there are these sections where I have to switch registers (8vb), which is a pain.

Are you using a pedal that forces the notes an octave higher, or does the GR 300 synth setting automatically put it there for the duration? I am starting on the A all the way up on the 17th fret, but I am thinking you are actually playing an octave lower on the neck.

Last but not least, and I know this might be lame to ask, but what in your view is the difference between the Roland 300/303 thing you have and the Roland GR 33 gizmo they sell today?

Best Regards

Pat’s Answer:

hi steve,

wow, what a note! thanks for all the nice things you said, i really appreciate it.

transcription can be an excellent way to learn details, and i don't think there is anything better for ear training. it is flattering to have any of my solos looked at with that kind of close scrutiny and i hope you get some useful stuff out of the experience.

regarding the extremely high passages - yes, when i play the roland gr-300, there are times that the entire instrument is sent an octave higher - so don't hurt yourself trying to play it on a conventional guitar!

the difference between the old gr-300's and what the sell now is extreme. they really have nothing to do with each other - nor is the gr-300 really even qualified to call itself a 'guitar synth' - it is really this weird blip on the musical instrument technology timeline that was never fully developed - but it does offer something really unique and very powerful, at least to me. they are kind of hard to find now, but there are still some out there.

really glad you are enjoying the music!

best from pat