Reading - March 2018

4:50 From Paddington by Agatha Christie (1957)
A Miss Marple mystery that potters along quite amiably. An easy read.
The Guitar Magazine (Vol 29 No 07)
Wyrd Sisters by Terry Pratchett (1988)
I like the witches, particularly Granny Weatherwax, and I haven't read this for ages. The Discworld books are often described as making people laugh out loud, but this is the first time I've read one that I remember finding genuinely funny in places, as opposed to gently amusing. The snippets of scripts that are written by Hwel, the playwright (a dwarf) are really well-done parodies.
Men At Arms by Terry Pratchett (1993)
I fancied reading this because I know it quite well, and I always enjoy re-reading books. However, I've probably over-done this one. I enjoyed it, of course, but I knew what was going to happen too much.
Maskerade by Terry Pratchett (1995)
So, onto another Pratchett, this time one I hadn't read in a while. This features the witches again, and a good-natured send-up of opera and theatre-folk. It feels a little insubstantial though, for some reason. I'm going to give myself a rest from the Discworld for a little while now.
Call The Midlife by Chris Evans (2015)
The third and least interesting volume of Chris Evans's life; less of an autobiography this time than an extended pondering on lessons learned as he enters the "second half of his time on earth". I found it rather shrill, particularly towards the end, as we hear again and again about how great his life is. He's very keen to air his new-found wisdom - such as "everyone should run a marathon!" - without apparent consideration that while such knowledge is right for him, it won't necessarily be right for everyone. Still, much of interest and pretty readable. It finishes with the announcement that he is taking over Top Gear, which is a bit of a shame since it means we don't get any analysis of that whole episode - but maybe that's for the next book.


Solo of the Month #34

There are only three chords in this month's backing track, and the third one only crops up twice anyway. That doesn't mean it sounds monotonous though, it's a jazzy, minor feel vamp, loosely based on the progression from "Unchain My Heart".

The root key here is Gm, but the other chords bring in other notes and scales and - as ever - I don't have the theoretical basis to be clear what would be "right" here. I little improvisation over it shows that keeping in Gm pentatonic sounds about right, but a bit dull. The other approach is to work out what notes are in the chords and work with those (in fact, B, whose knowledge of music theory is better than mine, suggested this as well). I probably should have done this to advance my knowledge and understanding, but I didn't have the time and couldn't really be bothered.

I experimented for a while with variations of the chords at different positions to see if the transitions inspired anything, but couldn't quite make it work to my satisfaction (one of the other participants did the same and ended up with a gorgeous sounding spy theme, much better than I would have been able to do). However, during this, I hit on the idea of playing with octaves, and decided to make this the basis of my solo.

I played through the track multiple times and eventually the shape of the solo worked itself out. So I suppose we could consider it "composed" rather than improvised. I recorded it in sections so I wouldn't forget it, and then played along with myself to get the whole solo in my head. I liked the sound of this, so I decided to have two guitars at points. The important thing there is that the two guitars are two different takes, not just the same take duplicated, because the tiny differences in timings and intonations is what gives it a sense of space.

The final take is a single pass through, since I'd learned the whole thing, and the second guitar is used to "pop" some of the key notes, as well as providing a harmony in the last four bars. Both guitars were recorded dry, just through the amp. I added a bit of EQ and compression in Reaper, but no reverb since it sounds nice without it. I used a touch of reverb to the harmony guitar to give it a slightly different position in the track. Finally, when it got to the harmonies in the last bars, I panned the guitars slightly left and right, to emphasise the change.

This was a bit of a struggle, mainly because I couldn't hear anything over the track for a long time. But the end result, a product of a solid three hours right at the end of the time allowed, is something I'm rather pleased with. It's understated and works with the track rather than sitting on top of it, I think.