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November 15, 2018

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As a duo

November 15, 2018

 On Saturday, November 10, I did something I'd never done before - serve as the sole accompaniment for a full night of music. This is not something I'd ever done before, and kind of lies outside of the sphere of musical activities I usually practice. Musically, I feel my strengths are as an improvisor in a group setting, and as an arranger - and both of those require that I lean heavily on other musicians, and I am happiest when those other musicians are folks I have a hard time keeping up with - which is a large part of why I love playing in TheYeti Trio.

 

But this was very different. Excepting singing and some rhythm, I had to be responsible for all the notes.

 

My first obstacle - I definitely wanted avoid "strumma strumma" open acoustic guitar chords at all cost. I guess that kind of accompaniment has its place, but it feels lazy to me. None of the songs in the set could be best served by just chugging away at eighth note chords for 4 minutes. I always wanted to make sure there was rhythmic as well as melodic content to the music, and whenever possible at least 2 parts - bass and melody, bass and chords, chords and melody, or contrapuntal harmonies.

 

For songs on the acoustic guitar, this usually meant fingerpicking a bass line with the thumb and chords with three fingers, but there were some exceptions. I had suggested the Charlie Parker tune "Ornithology" primarily because I wanted to challenge Melody to play some jazz with me, but doing bebop style comping and bass line would not be easy to follow rhythmically, making the chances of a train wreck much higher. So instead I decided to do it Django style, playing La Pompe style chords into a looper, then playing the melody and improvisation over it. This was the only tune to have a looper track through the entire song. For a few others I would use it for a rhythm or backing track during a solo but as much as possible it was all live.

 

The next major hurdle was making the bass lines stand out, especially on the few funk / R&B songs in the set. For this, I ended up using the Yeti guitar and its bass pickup output, which was then routed through a volume pedal, octave, EQ, and reverb. This allowed me to have bass lines that actually sounded like a bass for our Stevie Wonder and Little Feat tunes.

 

I learned a lot in preparing for this show. I've gained some confidence in the role of sole accompaniment. Melody did an excellent job all around - not only with vocals but also maintaining the rhythm in a way I could follow. There are talks we may do this again - so keep half an eye out.

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