Very basic, basics...

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Very basic, basics...

Postby David Martin » Mon Sep 21, 2009 10:29 am

Over the years, I've heard lots of people playing Shads music on a variety of kit... I've heard guys playing my 40th Anniversary Hank Sig Strat (before I sold it) through expensive echo units and a vintage Vox - and sounding like a bunch of slack elastic bands. And I've heard others playing a £120 Strat copy through a cheap transistor amp sounding remarkably like the real thing. So what do we learn?

Even if you went and and bought the best kit (ancient or modern) unless you start out doing the right thing with your fingers, it won't happen for you... so here are the very basic, basics of getting that sound.

1) Strings: Nothing lighter than 10-46 strings will get the right sound, and there are those who insist that 12-52 strings with a wound third string are the only route. You may finish up there in the end (perhaps via 11-48), but it will require a new set-up on your guitar, so in the meantime just make sure your strings are a minimum of 10-46 and are fresh (I use Fast Fret to help maintain the twang but not everyone agrees...)

2) With minor exceptions, Hank plays holding his tremelo arm in his hand. (I hold it with my pinky and ring finger together, leaving the others and thumb for picking) The effect of this is to force you to pick the strings near the neck pickup at all times - which is why even the Strat's edgy bridge pickup can sound mellow. Hank's personal guitars have either a shortened standard arm (in the old days) or more recently the Easy Mute arm which is both shorter and has a shape which allows easier muting at the bridge (http://www.easymute.freeserve.co.uk/). The easiest and cheapest option is to remove the trem arm, remove the plastic knob, saw and inch off, and replace the knob... (or of course you could buy a spare and do it to that, or buy and Easy Mute ... welcome to G.A.S. - gear acquisition syndrome!)

The shortened trem will make you play just south of the neck pickup (where the head is north!)...

3) Plectrum: Don't use a wimpy thin thing... different pick material sound different, and what's good for rhythm isn't likely to be good for lead. Try a variety and see what's most comfy for you (I've used these http://www.jhs.co.uk/dava.html exclusively for years now - the simple green ones at the top - because I can get great tone and they allow flexibility for chords and stiffness for twang all in one pick... but you find your own way!)

4)Trem setting: Your trem should be set up to allow up and down bends of approx 1 semitone. This equates to a gap between the trem base plate of between 1.5 - 2.0 mm. There are many sites on the web which will go into the how-tos of adjustment (something of a black art) but try this for starters http://www.fender.com/support/stratocaster.php

Why all the fuss? Because when you use your trem, Hank style, don't waggle it up and down... it doesn't sound right! Very gently, use slight up-pulls to get the right effect...

5) Finally for today... you may know the notes but it still doesn't sound right? Are you playing it in the right position on the fretboard? When I came back to playing Shads music in 1996 I found that I had to relearn it all... the positions I used as a kid on my Hofner Colorama were all wrong. Listen carefully to the records and try playing your tune somewhere different... (Tabs are sometimes wrong you know... ;)

Hope you found this useful...
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Re: Very basic, basics...

Postby abstamaria » Tue Sep 22, 2009 5:12 am

Very useful, David. Thank you for setting it all down.

Now to practice ....

Andy
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Re: Very basic, basics...

Postby kipper » Tue Sep 22, 2009 7:37 pm

thanks david good stuff. basic but thats what it takes. peter
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Re: Very basic, basics...

Postby Mikey » Tue Sep 22, 2009 9:32 pm

David

Some useful reminders for establshed players plus top tips for those starting out.
I couldn't agree more about the fretboard (your point 5). Many's the time I've learned a number by ear or from tab and then seen it played by the original artist and thought, "that's not where my fingers are going"!
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Re: Very basic, basics...

Postby nigel » Wed Sep 23, 2009 8:23 am

Thanks David

Life is great you think you have your sound nailed :thumbup: ,then along comes the reunited album and you listen to the opening of the Young Ones or Summer Holiday and here we go again :? ( Now how can i justify a JMI ) Nurse ,Tablets !!!!!
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Re: Very basic, basics...

Postby David Martin » Wed Sep 23, 2009 9:18 am

Nigel...

Relax! That wasn't recorded with a JMI...

As I understand it, all the instrumental parts except Hank were recorded at Honeyhill, Hanks parts were recorded in OZ (Matchless?) then appended by Warren. Cliff recorded the vocals elswhere (Miami) and Warren stuck the whole thing together...
Last edited by David Martin on Sun Sep 27, 2009 10:29 am, edited 1 time in total.
Reason: Correction
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Re: Very basic, basics...

Postby cockroach » Wed Sep 23, 2009 12:07 pm

That business about where you play the stuff on the neck can be a bit controversial...

I remember hearing a recorded radio interview with Hank and Bruce during the Final Tour in 2004, when the interviewer mentioned comments and critics on the net (possibly on the old site?) going on about Hank having changed neck fingering positions when playing some tunes...Hank and Bruce's reaction was howls of scorn and retorts such as 'get a life!' etc...!

Although I loved the Shads music and playing, I never really got into actually learning much of the Shads stuff early on, as I only really started playing in 1963/64 when I got my first guitar, well after the 'golden era' early stuff. At that time, I was more into learning chords and improvising lead lines etc.- and the going thing then, and the stuff needed to be learnt to join or form a band was R'n'B/Stones stuff etc....

Over the last ten years or so, I got more into working out Shads stuff, as the chaps in my band (bass and drums) knew all the stuff, and we enjoyed playing it for both fun, and for including more of it in our live gigs.

With about 40 more years playing experience and fretboard knowledge, I obviously found I could work the tunes out more effectively than as a learner, but comparing technique etc with other Shads lead players I found that I was playing many of the tunes in totally different positions and with different fingering... I found I was working out the tunes from the chords, rather than the melody lines. Obviously this makes a difference in the timbre, rather than the pitch of the notes..

A good example was Man of Mystery- I was playing it starting at the fifth fret position and working down the neck to the first position through the chord changes, hardly using any open strings as such...
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Re: Very basic, basics...

Postby roger bayliss » Wed Sep 23, 2009 7:03 pm

Me too I played MOM that way originally... then I picked up the right way after listening to others on this site after realising it wasn;t ringing out as it should... thats what a site like this does for you you share ideas and everyone benifits and it's a learning expierience..
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Re: Very basic, basics...

Postby cockroach » Fri Sep 25, 2009 4:57 am

It's a bit controversial this!

Is the position in which one plays a tune necessarily "right" or "wrong"?

Obviously, if you are seeking to exactly emulate (or copy) a tune exactly as played by Hank , then playing in the same position as he plays/played the tune is what you need to do...BUT, playing the lines in those positions isn't necessarily "right" or in fact the only way in which the tune can be played..and even Hank himself varies his playing positions at times...

I tend to feel that most people start off learning tunes and chords using basic chords and as many open strings as possible in the "first position"- meaning the open strings and the first three frets...

When you mature as a player and learn more about music, scales, harmony, technique etc, you can stretch out and play up the neck - to the extent that you can eventually play anything you want ,where you want to or need to..you aim to know where ALL the notes are in all chord positions and inversions etc.

I also found it was more rewarding to work out the tunes myself from the chord progressions as well as the melody lines- and you can also transpose keys easier this way too if needed..
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Re: Very basic, basics...

Postby Mikey » Sat Sep 26, 2009 11:07 pm

I have quite small hands and although normal barre chords aren't a problem I've struggled for years to master those 12 bar riffs that require the pinky to stretch up to the A and bottom E strings (think "Johnny B. Goode" etc). More often then not I fake it or play in in the key of E or A so that I can get the "Boogie" sound within the first 3 frets using the nut as the barre. I do persevere but my pinky refuses to cooperate! Anyone else have that problem?
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