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The Nora solo

Posted: Fri Oct 19, 2007 11:41 am
by Patr!ck
I have to start off with this: the solo is epic. Every time it's different and you can tell John puts a lot of heart into it (past anger bubbling at the surface???). The way he's gets up from the piano and plugs in the guitar, all that feedback going and he just SLAMS into it!

There are a couple parts I'm particularly interested in. They can both be found in this YouTube clip

The first starts at 2:13 and ends at 2:23. The beginning of this part can also be heard on the record if you listen very closely, but over all this part just sounds cool as hell.

The second section starts at 2:26 and ends at 2:58. It involves moving your picking hand as fast as possible (I think) and doing something with your other hand too. Does anyone know what's going on here?

Not trying to rip off or anything, but my friend and I are finishing up an EP soon and I want to learn how to solo like this so when we play shows up at Michigan State I can blow people away.

Posted: Fri Oct 19, 2007 12:37 pm
by Patr!ck
Update: A friend of mine says he's barring harmonics and just playing one note for the fast swiping part.

Posted: Sat Oct 20, 2007 12:24 am
by John

Posted: Sat Oct 20, 2007 6:29 am
by Patr!ck
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Posted: Sun Oct 21, 2007 9:05 am
by zach
John wrote:false.


Posted: Sun Oct 21, 2007 3:20 pm
by Harvey Winters
John wrote:false.


Posted: Sun Oct 21, 2007 8:47 pm
by sour29
John wrote:false.
Please -- share your guitar-wizardly with us lowly serfs. It's been a while since you chimed in, friend! :)

Posted: Mon Oct 22, 2007 1:10 am
by John
That whole Nora solo business started as self-mockery. My finger dexterity is surprisingly limited for a musician-- my digits are clumsy and slow-- and despite years of playing guitar I couldn't even begin to play a "shredding" guitar solo properly. I'd meet kids who'd been playing guitar for four months and could pull off decent renditions of Stevie Ray Vaughn solos while I was still struggling to clam through the solo of Bad Moon Rising.

So I had all this guitar emotion I wanted to express, but finger dumbness stood in my way. Nora was a song where the emotional content was pretty accessible, pretty close to the surface, and one night I just blew up, or overflowed, and basically broke everything on stage. I liked the effect and kept doing it, and pretty soon realized that the guitar solo tropes worked about the same whether you're playing seriously accurate scales or just ham-fistedly mocking the look and feel of a "big rock solo".

Those tropes, like the melodic octave chords, the finger-tapping, the low F# bent up to G, the Chuck Berry cliches, the kneeling in front of the amp, and the furious fast-picking while the fretting hand hits every note on the scale, these work when placed together in almost any order. They aren't Key or Scale dependent and they can be strung together in chains by sustaining single notes in between, which can be any note on the guitar as long as you hold the guitar up in the air. If you string at least four tropes into a sequence, you can also just blatantly bang on the guitar for a minimum of half the total time playing aggressively atonal chords, sometimes staring at the crowd in direct challenge. "The emperor has no clothes!"

Amazingly, the experience is incredibly cathartic. Not only does the crowd almost universally respond as though you were playing an actual "awesome guitar solo", but you feel like it too. It's impossible to hit a wrong note, so you can concentrate on the emotional swell, the drama, and the psycho danger. Best of all, it doesn't take much to actually become slightly unhinged. The guitar is making sounds like you're fighting fifty sables in a shipping container, and you start to really attack it and try to kill it.

I won't deny that I've heard new, exciting chords in the most atonal intervals, and realized the power of crazy syncopations I'd never have thought of otherwise, but I try never to duplicate what I learn. It's a big part of why we don't always play Nora, or even play it that much. I have to really feel up to doing it, otherwise it has no power. It's not enough to just string tropes together, you have to simultaneously hate the tropes and feel incredible resentment at not being able to play them properly.

Posted: Mon Oct 22, 2007 5:13 am
by Patr!ck
Thank you.

Posted: Mon Oct 22, 2007 6:37 am
by sour29
Fuck yeah. Another reason to love Nora! The anti-solo! :D Thanks John. You may not know what you're doing, but you could've -- and did -- fool me.

Posted: Mon Oct 22, 2007 3:12 pm
by Patr!ck
Although I couldn't have asked for a better answer, I'm slightly terrified to try this. Seems like one of those thing you just have to do.