Wednesday, June 29, 2011

A Little Instrumental: Different Strings

I had a few quiet hours this evening while my wife and children were out, and so I recorded this.

It's an instrumental version of the Rush song "Different Strings," from the Permanent Waves album. Permanent Waves is the less-famous cousin of its successor, Moving Pictures. Where Moving Pictures is more coherent and polished, the songs on Permanent Waves are a bit more varied, from the big rock anthem of "The Spirit of Radio" to the epic prog-rock "Natural Science" -- but there is also "Different Strings." It's an unusual track for Rush, a soft and minor ballad, with piano, and a slower feel; it's in a lower vocal range. It also features one of the loveliest chord progressions I've ever heard. I recorded this in an attempt to capture the feel of that progression from the original song. It isn't a complete song; there's no vocal; it isn't perfect, as there are some timing gaffes -- but I think I did what I set out to do.

There's a book I own called Guitar Techniques of Rush -- it seems to be long out-of-print and copies scarce, but it's great, and contains a perfect transcription of Lifeson's solo called "Broon's Bane," which is on Exit, Stage Left. The book's claim to fame is that it features transcriptions "prepared under the supervision of Alex Lifeson." The transcriptions are great. They are not the overly fussy, often obsessively detailed, yet often inaccurate, transcriptions you find in tab books; they are structured by and for actual musicians. They don't show you every note of every overdubbed track, but they show the basic parts in extremely accurate tab and notes. I've been struggling a bit with this song, particularly a couple of chord positions that are hard on my hands (I have relatively small hands).

I recorded this using my Godin nylon-string SA guitar, one of the models with the narrow neck, and my Adamas 12-string acoustic. The bass is my Steinberger XP bass from 1985. All the instruments are run into a Radial JDV direct box, then to an Apogee Ensemble, and put together in Logic using Izotope Alloy and Ozone, and I think that's about it. The play-throughs are pretty rough. I had to chop up and edit the nylon string guitar far more than I would have liked, but I'm working on it. The 12-string is buzzing here and there because my left hand was too fatigued to get a good grip. Oh well. I gauge my progress, sometimes, by recording.

Note that the original song is copyrighted and so I am probably breaking all kinds of laws. This is why I normally record only Creative Commons-licensed material... I just don't want to deal with trying to record covers of copyrighted material. It's just too fraught with peril, especially after recent incidents in which someone used our public Wi-Fi and gained me a DMCA warning letter from my ISP. Sigh.

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