Surf Music? Dracula Hates Icicles

Emergence

Synchromatic
Gold Supporting Member
May 25, 2022
721
New York
I loved playing surf back in high school back in the ‘60s in a garage, or more like a basement band. We thought we were cool but we were just working class kids. Surfing was for rich kids with boards, cars, money in their pockets, and girlfriends who looked like Giget. I had a car in college but I also had a summer job. I took core curriculum courses at night during the summer to free time during the school year for extra physics courses not required by my major. I still played guitar, even for a few years after I graduated, but music lost out for 30 years to family and career.
 

Synchro

The artist formerly known as: Synchro
Staff member
Jun 2, 2008
26,707
Tucson
By the time I started playing, Surf was no longer hitting the charts, but Surf songs were still circulating among guitarists, and being taught to guitar students. So I learned Pipeline, Secret Agent Man, etc. when I was a guitar student. I play these two songs, to this day, along with a number of other Surf tunes.

To me, these songs are one of the best moments of Rock n’ Roll guitar. In Surf music, the lead guitar’s voice is front and center; clean, clear and pure. It is one of the things that made me want to play guitar, in the first place. There is something about the sound of a clean guitar playing over a bass line that I find very pleasing. Good rhythm guitar can add a lot, but the trio sound is my favorite. When I’m the one playing, I love the challenge of keeping the sound full, with just a bass and drums, and no chordal instruments playing accompaniment.
 

Seamus

Country Gent
Gold Supporting Member
Feb 25, 2011
1,141
New England
When I’m the one playing, I love the challenge of keeping the sound full, with just a bass and drums, and no chordal instruments playing accompaniment.

Back in my journalist days, I asked Taj Mahal about this very thing, because he does such a fantastic job of it. And he was exceptionally nice about it, but basically found the question incomprehensible, because his approach is so divorced from the chord vs. melody idea. He apparently doesn't really even consider that. Just sees it all as accompaniment. I found that fascinating, since it's so out of the mainstream conception. But it totally works if you can let go of the "need" for backing.

On the other end of the spectrum: Django Reinhardt apparently got annoyed that Stephane Grappelli got three rhythm guitarists behind solos, and he only got two.
 

Synchro

The artist formerly known as: Synchro
Staff member
Jun 2, 2008
26,707
Tucson
Back in my journalist days, I asked Taj Mahal about this very thing, because he does such a fantastic job of it. And he was exceptionally nice about it, but basically found the question incomprehensible, because his approach is so divorced from the chord vs. melody idea. He apparently doesn't really even consider that. Just sees it all as accompaniment. I found that fascinating, since it's so out of the mainstream conception. But it totally works if you can let go of the "need" for backing.

On the other end of the spectrum: Django Reinhardt apparently got annoyed that Stephane Grappelli got three rhythm guitarists behind solos, and he only got two.
I see good rhythm guitar as a very high expression of a guitarists skill, but notice that the word “good” is italicized. There are some great examples of rhythm guitar out there, but there are some very poor examples of rhythm guitar, as well.

When I play rhythm guitar. I tend to use three different approaches. One if the classic Big Band approach, using three note chords, and remaining in the lower register. Think of this as the Freddie Green approach.

The flipside of this would be the chord-melody approach, usually using four-note chords in the upper registry, along the lines of a tenor guitar or tenor banjo. The melodic aspect of this doesn’t necessarily refer to vocal line, or lead guitar melody, but instead to the fact that the chord voicings can be chosen to form a counter melody in the upper registry. Wes Montgomery did a bit of this.

The third approach involves using triads, usually voiced on tne 2nd, 3rd and 4th strings. I like this approach, because it is crisp and uncluttered. The four flavors of triads, major, minor, augmented and diminished, can be used to represent just about any chord, providing that the bassist is covering the root and/or fifth, and moving the lower bass register in a logical manner.

With that as pretext, accompaniment is anything that supports the forward motion of the song. B.B. King’s single note accents have been criticized by some and put forth as evidence that he wasn’t all that skillful as a player, but I disagree. B. B. King was a very capable player and capable of playing complex melodic lines, but the accents he played were not meant as displays of melodic prowess, but were more along the lines of a chordal accent, reduced to a single note.

When arranging chord-melody solos of ballads (not to be confused with the chord-melody approach to rhythm which I mentioned above) the challenge reduces to availability of resources. There are only six strings, and sometimes you have time to fill for which there are few available resources. More than once, I’ve gotten out of a problem by playing a single note in the bass register to maintain continuity and flow, without adding clutter or abandoning the melody.

Accompaniment can work the same way, consisting of counter-melodies, arpeggios or accents. Another way is to lay down some simple sustained chords and adding single-note lines on top of these chords, which pretty much describes a keyboard part, and this somewhat circles back to the chord-melody approach to rhythm playing.

Basically, at the end of the day, if you advance the flow of the song, it will work, and that includes simply playing the melody over a bass line.
 

Synchro

The artist formerly known as: Synchro
Staff member
Jun 2, 2008
26,707
Tucson
I have always liked augmented and 7th chords. Do you not use 7th chords?
I use dominants frequently. If I was expressing a dominant as a triad, I would play a diminished triad a Major third above the root.
 

Seamus

Country Gent
Gold Supporting Member
Feb 25, 2011
1,141
New England
I see good rhythm guitar as a very high expression of a guitarists skill, but notice that the word “good” is italicized. There are some great examples of rhythm guitar out there, but there are some very poor examples of rhythm guitar, as well.

When I play rhythm guitar. I tend to use three different approaches. One if the classic Big Band approach, using three note chords, and remaining in the lower register. Think of this as the Freddie Green approach.

The flipside of this would be the chord-melody approach, usually using four-note chords in the upper registry, along the lines of a tenor guitar or tenor banjo. The melodic aspect of this doesn’t necessarily refer to vocal line, or lead guitar melody, but instead to the fact that the chord voicings can be chosen to form a counter melody in the upper registry. Wes Montgomery did a bit of this.

The third approach involves using triads, usually voiced on tne 2nd, 3rd and 4th strings. I like this approach, because it is crisp and uncluttered. The four flavors of triads, major, minor, augmented and diminished, can be used to represent just about any chord, providing that the bassist is covering the root and/or fifth, and moving the lower bass register in a logical manner.

With that as pretext, accompaniment is anything that supports the forward motion of the song. B.B. King’s single note accents have been criticized by some and put forth as evidence that he wasn’t all that skillful as a player, but I disagree. B. B. King was a very capable player and capable of playing complex melodic lines, but the accents he played were not meant as displays of melodic prowess, but were more along the lines of a chordal accent, reduced to a single note.

When arranging chord-melody solos of ballads (not to be confused with the chord-melody approach to rhythm which I mentioned above) the challenge reduces to availability of resources. There are only six strings, and sometimes you have time to fill for which there are few available resources. More than once, I’ve gotten out of a problem by playing a single note in the bass register to maintain continuity and flow, without adding clutter or abandoning the melody.

Accompaniment can work the same way, consisting of counter-melodies, arpeggios or accents. Another way is to lay down some simple sustained chords and adding single-note lines on top of these chords, which pretty much describes a keyboard part, and this somewhat circles back to the chord-melody approach to rhythm playing.

Basically, at the end of the day, if you advance the flow of the song, it will work, and that includes simply playing the melody over a bass line.

That's a veritable encyclopedia entry about adept rhythm playing! :) Part of what I really like about Gypsy jazz is that the rhythm playing is so much about percussive patterns, but at the same time, there's plenty of room for incorporating all the approaches you mention. Personally, I really like to use something in between Freddie Green and triads on the middle strings -- four-note voicings where the guitar is moving that bass note around as well. (Except when it's not, and you're throwing in a half-diminished as a sub for something or otherwise abandoning the bass note.)

I'd never been purely a rhythm player, but when I got an invite to fill that role in a trio with a Western Swing steel guitarist and a lead player who could play circles around me, I jumped at the chance. I think it made me a better player, just from figuring out how the heck to carry the bass and provide colorful voicings at the same time. I love playing with people who are better than me and working to get up to their level. Unless they're jerks, of course.

Given your knowledge, I would love to hear some of your playing! I don't think I ever have.
 


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