My student gets a huge kick from working the notes out himself. Read about the common things that can happen during practice, a few things I see students experience during the week. Unusually I had a couple of hours free this Saturday afternoon and took the bass for an unexpected workout…and what a workout! In my sun lounge, which was very sunny for once and with both neighbours out for the afternoon, I worked on and rehearsed Kevin Kendle’s“Dance of Electra”, Ozric Tentacles‘“Lost in the sky” and the new attempt at their song, “Papyrus”. Whilst the left hand was generally accurate, the right was far too trigger-happy again but calmed with tenacity and some self-restraint. The thrill of
getting it right (the accompaniments) was difficult to contain so I sought out two additional pieces that would have some additional energy, namely Simple Minds“Themes for great cities” and then a surprise encounter….
With Amazon Music on my smartphone, I stumbled upon a very energetic old favourite and, within sixty seconds, unbelievably, worked out the D# and F theme with its D#, C, B, A coda.
For years I’d imagined it to be very complex and at some sweat-inducing pace. Not so. In the end, I’d discovered and played, with real gusto, the introduction to “Baila mi hermana (Dance, sister, dance)” from the Moonflower album bySantana. It was a serotonin and adrenalin hit simultaneously! I worked it out. I had done it…and with no one to hear me…performing with all the potency and rhyming hyper-salsa of this 70s Classic…to my thudding hearts content. AS
A nondescript overcast morning in the dull old
West Midlands....was completely
transformed by a new interpretation of "To be over" by Yes (Relayer 1974) on the bass guitar.
Whilst, in part, elevated once more by the Roger
Dean artwork on the CD cover (with a scene of ancient Oriental riders trekking through
the harsh, wind-eroded landscape), I was challenged by Gavin to work through the more demanding C and A
scales first so that I would recapitulate on existing skills which Steve Howe, the songs principal composer, would have used when constructing the overriding theme. Gavin doesn't just give it away: through worked understanding and practice, the reasoning comes to the fore, prior to the metamorphosis and the release.
The metamorphosis comes in the form of seeing and hearing the shape of the theme trying to emerge from
the aforementioned scales from the guitar and the fledgling guitarist; certain recognisable notes which, in time, pitch and volume, are just beginning, like planetary fragments, to coalesce into gradually recognisable melodic repeats and refrains.
The release occurs when the apprentice finally traces over the notes with accurate
timing and pronunciation (given the guidance and motivation from the composer, the band recording and
imparted experience of the craftsman), finally enabling the enunciation of the theme in unison with the
recording and the mentor...and he, the novice, gasps in momentary gleeful achievement.
From the stone egg, lying dormant on the grey earth of the Relayer cover, has
emerged the performance, replete with the kaleidoscope of atmospheres, gleaned on
the first hearings some 42 years ago, now re expressed in person and a once
forgotten song rises again on the warm wings of remembering.
Set list: Cast Adrift - Steve Hackett (postponed); Starless - King Crimson; To be
over - Yes; Prairie Angel - Steve Hackett; Owner of a lonely heart - Yes; The Fish -
Yes/the late great Chris Squire.
Guest list: Andy, Chris, Holly and the
animal chorus. Jo & Shirley had gone out to
the Indigo fusion restaurant.
Wine list: Enville Ale, Fruit Shoots.
The journal begins. My fingertips, on both hands, are so sore after two hours of
almost incessant practice, rehearsal and "performance". The tunings needed repeated
amendments, largely to Chris's six string leads. Even though we were essentially
performing to camera (Holly was doing her own viola stuff and Facebooking in the
front room, not in the "studio"), I ended up learning, leading and accompanying
Chris on "To be over".
Chris is NOT a teacher. He likes to play anything at random and rehearse his own
stuff too. Yours truly has to bring him into line, position him to face the
potential audience at home and get him to stop riffing wildly so that I can follow,
accompany or, at least, get the timing right. When dealing with a tetchy yet
accomplished younger sibling (of only 53 & a half), from the position of a far less
proficient performer, the gloves could have been off. However the MUSIC was always
Despite this being a performance, Chris and I complimented one another during the
"To be over" piece so that I was actually learning it then playing it "for the
record". His tablet memory is now full but I hope that both producer brother Chris
and engineer Holly (12 & a quarter) can transfer all the takes to their PC then
AirDrop them to me by email. If so, I'll send them over to you after some pretty
Actually, I'm quite happy with the first results before any editing. My confidence
got quite a boost, lastly, from the improvisation section from "The Fish
(Schindleria praematurus)" by Yes [Fragile 1971] on which the lead loop of the
six-string guitar lays the foundation for the bass to improvise in E. Thanks to my
mentor and teacher's unfaltering patience and motivation, I took confidence from my
learning so as to then incorporate the minor notes I'd practiced into my ramshackle
attempts e.g. E minor, B flat minor etc, in order to add variation and colour to the
piece (probably outshone by the ceiling light reflecting off my Gianni
Infantino/Telly Savalas/Yul Brynner coiffure)!!
One final aspect of the event/experiment was the refreshing reconnection which Chris
and I felt about performing, in future (on or off camera), the wealth of material
that we still mutually appreciate from our adolescent years...and well beyond!
As an experiment, we now know that we need more than thirty minutes rehearsal time!
As a performance musically, it was pretty heartwarming. We'll arrange another "gig"
before they all head off to Mexico for the Easter holidays. Caramba!
Have a top night, maestro!
For part 1 clickhere