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Composing Secrets 4: Guitar sounds Composing Secrets 4: Guitar sounds

Topic started by rjay (@ on Tue Sep 5 13:59:00 EDT 2000.
All times in EST +10:30 for IST.

Let us continue our familiarising with the form
and function of instruments. We will now look
at 2 groups Guitars and Basses.

Guitar itself is one of the most important
instrument in western music, classical as
well as pop, rock, etc. It is also one of the
instruments used by lots of artists around
the world, including Africa, India, and
every country in Europe.

It is also one of the most adapted instruments
as you might see electric, muted variations and
pedal effects such as wah wah, compression.

To understand the guitar, learn to listen to
the styles of guitar: it can play
lead melody, strums, complex chord
progressions, and arpeggios.

Here is the list of 8 guitar sounds that
come in MIDI soundset.

24. Acoustic Guitar (Nylon String)
25. Steel String Guitar
26. Electric Jazz Guitar
27. Electric Guitar
28. Muted Electric Guitar
29. Overdriven Guitar
30. Distorted Guitar
31. Guitar Harmonics

24 and 25 are the acoustic (unplugged) versions
of the guitar. Nylon string is by far the
softest sound on the guitar. Steel guitar
is also a sweet sound.

These two are used in classical guitar playing.
Pop slow songs (ballads) use the guitar to
provide the harmonic (chord) backing.

In TFM, the celebrated Ilaya nila is an illustrative
example of guitar usage. In the intro, the singer
sings Ilaya Nila, guitar plays an arpeggio (chord
notes played separately). When he sings, ulappogum
neram, the guitar plays chord strums (all notes
hit at once). In the first interlude, guitar plays
a lead melody, which is called as a solo. You can also
see an electric guitar playing chord accompaniment during
the singing. I will upload the parts individually. You
can also download a midi version of this song from our
MIDI site.

I will also upload some good arpeggios, chord progressions,
and strums which I have created using MIDI. The challenge
of trying to play the guitar on the keyboard is that in
guitar when you play a chord, the notes dont attack at
once like a keyboard. There are both upstrokes and downstrokes,
during upstroke, the bass notes are played first and then the
higher notes. A good midi programmer must imitate this to
bring the effect. I will upload an example where the guitar
solo is played like a keyboard solo, and then improved using
this technique.

A Rahman example, is July madham vandhal. It
uses a flamenco style playing. THirakkadha kaatukullae
is a very nice use of the electric guitar. Prasanna
who played both of these, is a maestro of the guitar
and is amazingly conversant with Jazz, pop and carnatic

Pachai niramae has a nice arpeggiating guitar, though I
suspect it to be a synthetic guitar!

26 and 27, Jazz guitar and Clean guitar are electric
versions. They are obtained by placing an electric pickup
just beneath the strings and amplifying the sound. These
were first introduced in the early 60's, and immediately
were a big hit in West, because they made the sound so
powerful. The box (which was functioning as the natural
amplifier in the acoustic guitar) was taken off and the
amplification was done by an external amplifier.

Jazz guitar has been used quite a lot in tamil film,
even during MSV's time. I can think of 'varavu ettana
selavu paththana'. MSV later used it heavily in
Ninaithalae inikkum. Raja used the electric guitar a
lot too, Ennadi meenatchi is a good example.

Srinivas's mandolin in its playing style, resembles
the electic jazz guitar, but the way he plays
carnatic gamakams is mindblowing. I was recently
taken aback when I discovered an african artist
called Ali Farka Toure, who plays African
folk tunes on the guitar. His style is
same as Srinivas, Prasanna and Raja in that
the melodies and gamakams are so carnatic! I will
upload a sample piece. The piece I am talking about
is in carnatic classical. I am sure Ali Farka did not
listen to carnatic. It is much more older relationship!

The clean guitar is very effective in providing chord
accompaniments. I will upload good examples.

28, Muted guitar, is when you dont allow the guitar to
resonate, so you get a pulse or a woodblock like
sound dying down immediately. It is used heavily in
techno, house and other styles. I will try to think of
uses in TFM and request others to do that too.

29, 30 and 31 are innovations in the electric guitar.
When first electric guitar users did not know how to
operate their new amplifiers, it distorted their sound
and they somehow liked it and so the sound became a
new instrument on its own! These sounds are the basic
blocks of heavy metal and hard rock style and not easily
appreciated by people who are not under drugs ;)
The first time I heard this sound was in Kalaignan
song. Second time was in Mustafa Mustafa intro solo,
which is a good showcase of the expressiveness of the
sound and for the first time, it provided a mellow

A good guitar player can be extremely expressive, because
guitar provides ways of playing slides, dampened sounds,
soft and hard tones and chords or solos and rhythms.


Listen to any five TFM songs which use the guitar
and try to point out
guitar by tone(acoustic, electric, distorted) and by style
(solo/lead, chord, arpeggio)

Next, we will look at Bass.



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