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Alive In An Ultra World (Naked)

Tracklisting:

01. Giant Balls Of Gold (Naked)
02. Burning Rain (Naked)
03. The Black Forest (Naked)
04. Blood And Glory (Naked)
05. Whispering A Prayer (Naked)
06. The Power Of Bombos (Naked)
07. Incantation (Naked)
08. The Reaper (Naked)
09. I'm The Hell Outta Here (Naked)

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Naked Tracks
Alive In An Ultra World

Record Rap

The concept for Alive In An Ultra World was to record a live record with each song being performed in a different country, and then to write a song specifically based on the traditional music of the country it was to be recorded in. In some instances, the timing worked out to actually record a song in the country it was written for. Sometimes, however, a track written for one country may not have necessarily been recorded in that country. If I could have pulled that off, then I may be as good as some people think I am.

Some of the music that made it on this record was spontaneously improvised on tour and then tweaked a bit and performed in the shows that night where they were recorded. Sometimes they were captured in sound check and tweaked.

 

Song Rap

As heavy, as simple, or as complex as the performance of music can get, care should be taken that it is always performed as a piece of music. There are various processes that we go through when learning the skills to play an instrument. There’s the practice of technique, the study of music theory, the spontaneous improvisation we may have with others, or just sitting and playing something. It’s a process.

In learning a complete piece of music and performing it without any mistakes, the first stage is familiarizing ourselves with the piece, then getting it under our fingers, and then really getting it under our fingers, and then getting it so under our fingers that we know it by heart.

Once we are at the stage of almost knowing something by heart, I have found that it’s not uncommon to forget everything in a flash and wonder, ”Where the heck did my brain go?” That’s when you can’t give up. You just gotta keep pushing and eventually it all comes back (usually pretty quickly). At that point it’s usually there for good.

That’s the time when we must start to focus on making whatever we are performing sound like an actual piece of music. This is all in our head and is a direct reflection of how we perceive what we are playing compared to how we can imagine it sounding at it’s best. Try to hear it in your head better than the way you’re playing it and eventually it will come out that way.

At this point your confidence will increase and your emotional investment in the piece can be cultivated and elevated.

These naked tracks can assist in your technical, emotional ascent up the ladder of performance bliss.

I suggest that all musicians have at least one such piece of music under their command at all times, and revisit it now and then to keep it fresh while working on another. The more you do this, the easier it gets. That’s when the fun really starts––when you become the music you play.

 

1. Giant Balls of Gold (Naked)

Form: The form of this naked track is the same as the original recording with a few extra solo passes.

Key: E Lydian.

What was I thinking?: This one just spontaneously combusted. I saw this Indian mandolin player perform and he was extraordinary. His name is U Shrinivas. He has this technique of sliding his fingers along the strings, creating this slinky melodic kind of portamento-type approach. It’s truly beautiful. Seeing him do this inspired me to try it on the guitar, while using a sustainer. Some of that technique is used in the solo section of this track.

What could you be thinking?: Look for unorthodox ways of finding inspiration to approach the guitar with a new technique. For instance, create a phrase in your head that you repeat as you play, making each note you play go along with the phrase in your head. Something as simple as this will cause you to play in a way that you have never played before. Try to write down a few of these different type approaches each day.

Look for inspiration from a different instrumentalist. There are virtuoso violin, saxophone, keyboard players, etc. who could influence you to approach your own instrument in a totally different way than you are used to doing.

Some other ideas may include the following:
1. Look for rhythmic phrases in the way people talk or a particular sentence they say;
2. Find the pitches on a touch tone phone for the number of various friends and see if you can get them to make sense musically;
3. Try putting on a blindfold and playing to this track. The list is endless, limited only by what your creative process can come up with.

 

 

2. Burning Rain (Naked)

Form: The form of this naked track is the same as the original recording. (Sorry for the guitar leakage in this one, impossible to control really.)

Key: The scale that this song is based off of is a relatively traditional Japanese scale, that contains the scale degrees 1, 2, b3, 5, b6.

What was I thinking?:This song was based on a traditional Japanese scale (above). Scales are more than selected notes in a row that can be played up and down the neck. They are colors and textures. They create the tonal axis that the harmony revolves around.

I am especially fond of the tonality that this track uses and I found it to be very reminiscent of traditional Japanese melodic colors.

What could you be thinking?: In the solo sections try staying in the parameters of this scale and you will see how it can help to create an approach that is very different from what you may be used to playing. Sometimes we have to use discipline in order to get to a higher ground and have little breakthroughs.

 

 

3. The Black Forest (Naked)

Form: The form of this naked track is the same as the original recording.

Key(s): F# minor, but it moves all over the place.

What was I thinking?: This is another track that spontaneously erupted in a sound check and was then captured live. One of the most common harmonic techniques found in what I do is what I call a melodic pivot table. It’s basically where you have a root note and set-up various tonal colors on top of it, by changing the scales while keeping the bass or root motion the same. This track is a very good example of that, as the chords that float over the top of the bass ostinato create vastly different tonalities.

What could you be thinking?: Unless you study each of the chord changes and sections of this piece, you are on your own to react with your ears as you improvise over it. In other words, roll the song and just start to blow, but listen carefully to the changes and try to react spontaneously by what you hear.

 

 

4. Blood And Glory (Naked)

Form: The form of this naked track is the same as the original recording.

Key: Bb Major.

What was I thinking?: Another anthem, this time written with the spirit of Great Britain in mind.

What could you be thinking?:There is a delicacy in the touch when playing this melody. By working with a distorted sound, but turning your volume way down and playing with dynamics, you can get the notes to speak differently than if you are full-out all the time. As the song progresses, the dynamic of the melody becomes louder. This will obviously change the way the notes will react to your fingers. Having a command over the different touches (at these varying volume levels) is something to consciously work on.

Blending with the other harmony guitars and having it all work is a cool space to be in.

 

 

5. Whispering A Prayer (Naked)

Form: The form of this naked track is the same as the original recording. The intro is open and the two hi hat clicks are your cue to come in with the main melody.

Key(s): E Major.

What was I thinking?: One of my favorite cultural types of music is Celtic (lullabies in particular). This song is inspired by the simple beauty that is a Celtic lullaby. It was written for Ireland and recorded in Buenos Aires.

A beloved guitar toy for me at the time of this recording (and now too I guess) is the Fernandes Sustainer. This device is installed in the guitar’s pick-up and it creates a sort of resonant field under the strings, which causes them to vibrate forever… or until the battery runs out. This turns the instrument into something completely different than just a plucked device, because it offers infinite sustain. Now when you touch a note, it grows instead of dying out. I used this device to help launch me into altered states of consciousness… sort of.

The performance of the melody in “Whispering a Prayer” requires a balancing of level, touch, whammy bar specifics, and feedback control (all at the same time). The inflection of every single note matters. You can’t let one get by you without caressing it.

In order to get these notes to sound the way they do you have to become the note.

What could you be thinking?: Focus on becoming the note, whether you have a Sustainer or not.

 

 

6. The Power of Bombos (Naked)

Form: The form of this naked track is the same as the original recording. Sorry for the leakage in this one, too.

Key(s): This song is based on a Greek scale, which is basically comprised of the following scale degrees: 1, b3, #4, 5, (b7).

What was I thinking?: I was sitting on a balcony in Thessaloniki, Greece when the idea for this song came to me. I wrote it down and explained it to the guys right before the show. It was performed once and recorded that night. I thought it would be cool to put a narrated story over it to help it along.

What could you be thinking?: High energy. As mentioned earlier, setting up certain parameters to work within can help you push yourself into uncharted finger territory. Here are few things to try over this vamp:

  • Play as fast and as long as you can, keeping careful that it doesn’t get sloppy.
  • Try playing only the lowest handful of notes on the guitar.
  • Try creating melodies with harmonics only.
  • Try playing all double stops (2 notes at a time), then triple stops, etc.

 

 

7. Incantation (Naked)

Form:The form of this naked track is the same as the original recording. It was impossible to eliminate the main guitar in the 1st part. The drum solo and the Saz solo were removed from this version. Aren’t you happy about that?

Key(s): B Bulgarian
1st part- 1, b3, 4, 5, b7
Fast part- 1, b2, 3, 4, 5, b7

What was I thinking?:For me Bulgarian music has such an exquisite and diverse musical sensibility compared to American music. I’m drawn to it. On this track, I had the opportunity to immerse myself in the textures of this great melodious character.

What could you be thinking?:Try soloing and staying within the scale degrees outlined above. It may be difficult at first to get the neck under your fingers, so if you have to start with just a few notes in one register of the neck, that’s OK. Slowly expand your Bulgarian real estate and you will be pleasantly surprised with the variety of tuneful spices you start hearing.

The time signature of this track is 11/8. Soloing in an odd time (and making it sound natural and musical) takes a whole different set of brain muscles, than soloing over conventional time signatures. If you stick with it and don’t try to count, it’s likely that you will start to feel the odd groove internally.
This will turn on a whole new set of light bulbs.

Don’t forget to try a few passes playing fast rhythmic patterns.

 

 

8. The Reaper (Naked)

Form: The form of this naked track is the same as the original recording. It’s taken from the G3 live version. Sorry about the leakage and the ruff mix of it.

Key(s): A Blues

What was I thinking?: Originally written for a film called, Bill and Ted’s Bogus Journey. When writing a cue for a film, the form of the song can take some wild turns, because it’s necessary to underline the film’s visual. Much of this song is based on a scene in the film and then expanded upon.

This track gives a lot of space for getting into some bizarro situations.

What could you be thinking?: For this one besides all the conventional things you might do, if you have a Whammy bar, focus on it exclusively and see if you can come up with some bizarre new sounds.

 

 

9. I’m The Hell Out Of Here (Naked)

Form:This is the track from the live version of the song. It’s kind of messy, but perhaps that adds to the grime of it all.

The form stays true to the arrangement, until it gets to the middle breakdown section where all the guitars trade.

Key(s): G Blues.

What was I thinking?: What it meant to be an extreme player in 1988.

What could you be thinking?: The same, but with 21st Century standards.

 

 
   
     

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