Gary Richrath, REO’s lead guitarist, is the king of string bending. The hardest part for me in this solo was getting the bends to the proper pitch, plus the very difficult 2 step bend at the very end of the solo, which was necessary because my guitar only has 22 frets, and Gary’s has 24.
I’ve very pleased with the pace that I’m learning these solos. It’s a side-effect of practicing every day — it’s accelerating for each solo, even though they are getting more difficult. Originally, when I planned this project, I gave myself an average of 1 month per solo, which would have taken me a little over 2 years for the whole project. I think it’s going to go faster, and that’s exciting to me.
So, I feel a little foolish. Yesterday, I posted a whiny rant about how long it’s taking me to learn this solo, and then one day and two practices later, I have it pretty much down. I hit one or two questionable notes in this performance, but nothing I would worry too much about if I were playing live.
What I love about the solo is it’s deceptive simplicity. There’s nothing intrinsically hard about each individual element, but the way they are put together requires constant thinking about what’s coming up next. I thoroughly enjoyed learning it, and feel a great satisfaction in the fact that I learned the entire song. In just two weeks, I’ve added a whole new song to my repertoire.
Now I can form that Mountain tribute band I’ve always wanted to start.
I have to say I’m in awe of Lindsey Buckingham. He makes a simple solo so rich and full of character, and he does it effortlessly. I could spend months on this one and still not approach the silky smooth transitions that he has. I feel good about it though. A full week of practicing 30 minutes to an hour a day got me to the point where I would feel comfortably performing this in public.
I admit that I played this with a pick. I practiced it with fingering for a while, but I have used a pick for years and it’s too much of a change just to learn this one song. It would have taken much longer to get it anywhere near this level. It’s also not an exact replica of the recorded solo, but given the way Lindsey improvises on stage, I felt I was entitled to a few small liberties.
I really feel like the techniques I’m learning at this stage are really going to pay off later, when I get to some of the really hard ones. On to solo #4, which I’ll announce tomorrow.
I enjoyed learning this solo a whole lot more than I thought I would. Not just because it’s fairly easy — I got the notes down in about an hour — but also because it has a such compelling feel to it that I enjoyed playing over and over. Getting it to performance-quality took about a week, or about 5 hours of practice, although I did spend a good portion of that learning the rest of the song.
I’m really glad to have this one done, though, so I can move on to the next one, which is a little more challenging. Take a listen and me know what you think.
Here is my performance of Solo #1, Queen’s We Will Rock You.
I have said before that my criteria for “completing” a solo is whether I would feel comfortable playing the solo live in front of an audience, and I feel I’ve satisfied that requirement. I’m never going to be able to play it as well as Brian May, but that was never my goal.
Here are a few thoughts about my experience:
I probably should have picked an easier solo to begin with. My goal was to start with fairly easy solos to build my confidence going into the harder ones. I thought this one wouldn’t be bad, and chose it mainly for it’s symbolism, but there are some pretty tough parts.
My index finger is really freaking sore. This solo makes heavy use of bar chords, especially the high A, and man does it wear out the index finger.
There are some intricate details that I’m sure I’ve overlooked. I could probably work another month on it and have everything better… but it still wouldn’t be perfect and if I shoot for perfection, I’ll never get through this. I feel like I captured the essence of the solo.
I’ll be announcing solo #2 shortly, so stay tuned…