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The Ultra Zone/Real Illusions: Reflections (Naked)

Tracklisting:

01. Building The Church (Naked)
02. Glorious (Naked)
03. Firewall (Naked)
04. K’m-Pee-Du-Wee (Naked)
05. Freak Show Excess (Naked)
06. Lotus Feet (Naked)
07. Midway Creatures (Naked)
08. The Blood And Tears (Naked)
09. The Ultra Zone (Naked)
10. Oooo (Naked)
11. Frank (Naked)
12. Jibboom (Naked)
13. Windows To The Soul (Naked)
14. Fever Dream (Naked)

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Naked Tracks
The Ultra Zone/Real Illusions: Reflections

Record Rap

Real Illusions: Reflections is the first installment of a three-part series of records that comprise a rock opera of sorts. The story is broken up and presented in song form, however, not in a final linear sequence.

The music represents a bit of a departure from the past stuff but there are tracks that are still great to jam to if they are naked, and here they are.

 

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. Building the Church (Naked)

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

Key: D Minor. The rhythm guitar is tuned down a whole step with the low string tuned to C. Drop C tuning.

What was I thinking?: The songs on Real Illusions: Reflections are all based on elements of the story line. Creating a story concept for a song before it’s written can influence the way you structure the song in every way. Instead of just fishing around on the instrument for ideas, you have a mental picture to use to create an audio backdrop.

For every song I record, I try to incorporate some kind of new technique or riff. The hammering section in this song was something I had done before, but not to the extent it’s used in this track. By hammering three notes with the fingers on the right hand and two with the left, this creates a sort of offset note grid that takes 4 beats to come around. You can also cover the span of a 5 note chord. This is the concept I used in building the tonality of the middle section.

What could you be thinking?: It may be quite ambitious to try and replicate the hammering sections of this song but if you can it would help lead your technique in directions that may be unique for you eventually.

Try looping the end vamp and solo over it for a long period. Think about starting very sparse and soft and slowly, slowly building the intensity until by the time you are at the climax you are giving it virtually everything you’ve got.

 

 

2. Glorious (Naked)

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

Key: G Minor. The main rhythm guitar is tuned down a whole step.

What was I thinking?: I had this very suave looking double neck guitar that Ibanez made and thought it should be put to use. It had a fretless neck with a sustainer and a regular 6 string neck on the top. I built an odd-sounding patch as a main melody for the verses. I was looking for something that spoke different than anything I had heard and I certainly found it.

What could you be thinking?: I would suggest trying to come up with something totally different than what is on the original by erasing it from your memory bank, if it’s even there in the first place, and then sing your own melody over the track, and then find it on the instrument.

Phrasing is important. It’s the thing that gives a melody the inflection in its voice. Try various degrees of striking the note, bending it and sliding in order to get the melody to speak the way you are hearing it.

 

 

3. Firewall (Naked)

Form: The form of this naked track is the same as the original recording. There’s a 4 beat count-off in the front that brings you right into the track.

What was I thinking?: This track, and its lyrics, are based on a scene in the Real Illusions story. One particular band concept I always imagined was a rock rhythm section with 8 to 12 horn players. This song fit so well into that audio/visual that I hired a horn section for it.

What could you be thinking?: It’s easy to get comfortable with one type of guitar tone. Maybe every time you pick up the instrument and plug into your amp you go for the same old settings. For me that usually means a generous amount of distortion mixed with a bit of stereo chorusing, doused in a boatload of stereo delay. When jamming over this track try setting up a tone and sound that is contrary to what you usually use. Try to come up with several. This will encourage you to play differently. The more different sounds you work within, and get comfortable with, the easier it will be to adapt to various expressional opportunities.

 

 

4. K’m-Pee-Du-Wee (Naked)

Form: Same as prerecorded record. There’s a two bar count in before the guitar starts. The first little drum fill is the cue.

Key: For the most part E Lydian.

What was I thinking?:This is one of those little riffs that was laying around on the “Forever shelf”. I was very eager to record this one as I felt it was going to turn out very sweet.

For this track I used my signature Carvin Legacy head and my signature Ibanez Jem guitar, Evo. This is about as close to my tone as it gets.

What could you be thinking?:This track is wide open and you can approach it completely different from the original. Developing your ears is the most important aspect of being an effective musician. There are some techniques you can try to help get the cobwebs out.

Try singing everything you play. Don’t worry if you don’t think you have the voice for it, just sing. Then try singing harmony to what you play. Then play something and then sing it. Then sing something and then play it.

If you use some discipline and do these exercises, you will find that your ears will grow. It may take a while for them to be big enough to help you to fly, but you will…eventually.

 

 

5. Freak Show Excess (Naked)

Form: The form of this naked track is the same as the original recording. In this naked version there is no reprise of the melody at the end.

What was I thinking?: I read a review of one of my shows once and the journalist called it a “Freak Show Excess.” I thought that would be a cool name for a song as it conjured the idea of a track that was pretty over the top in regards to musicality and chops. It’s also inspired by Ivo Papasov and his Bulgarian wedding band. Those guys really burn it up.

As difficult as this song was to perform and record, after it was done I thought… “Hmmm, I can get even freakier than that.” So wait till next time.

What could you be thinking?:The performance nuances in this song are all about stylistic articulation and phrasing. If you are really up for a challenge I would suggest learning this song exactly the way it is on the record, with the exception of the solo sections perhaps.

Sometimes, if we push ourselves to do technical things that we are unaccustomed to, or are just a little out of our reach, it can propel us into another dimension of development with our own technique. Give this one a shot if you have the stomach. Just don’t hurt yourself.

 

 

6. Lotus Feet (Naked)

Form: The form of this naked track is the same as the original recording. Unfortunately there is bleed-through of the main guitar in some sections of this piece.

Key(s): C# minor

What was I thinking?: As with the other songs on Real Illusions, this one has a story that goes along with it. A young girl is searching within herself for complete peace and liberation. She stares into a pool and reflecting back at her she sees the answer to her prayers. It has to do with surrender, and that’s the story of this melody.

What could you be thinking?: You could always be thinking whatever you want on these naked tracks. These are all just some suggestions.

Dynamics and sentimentality is the driver of this track. The solo section has various chord changes to play over. Make a loop of this section and play it over and over, just trying to find the notes with your ears. Don’t try to overplay if you don’t know where to go. Try to make the notes that sound good to you work.

 

 

7. Midway Creatures (Naked)

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

Key(s): E Minor.

Instrument/FX: An octave divider was used on the rhythm guitar sound for this track, and the Roland GR-88 Guitar Synthesizer is used on the melody guitars.

What was I thinking?: One of the things I was trying to achieve on this track was to make the guitar sound like it was speaking with the way I was phrasing the notes, but also making sure that the notes made melodic sense. The call and response section of the chorus is a good example of this.

What could you be thinking?: Bending notes effectively is actually more difficult than it sounds. Most guitar players have terrible intonation when they are bending notes more or less than two frets. Going for one fret or three fret (or more) bends can get tricky if you’re not really using your ears. The melodies in this song are all about bending notes. Try playing over this track and specifically focus on bending notes. Try multiple one fret, 2 fret, 3 fret and more bends. This will also help you to get your finger calluses together. Be forewarned, it can hurt!

 

 

8. The Blood And Tears (Naked)

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

Key(s): F# Mixolydian.

Instrument/FX:A Digitech whammy pedal was used on the main melody guitar during the chorus section. The setting is set a fourth above the concert pitch note and when the pedal is flexed down the note moves up a whole step.

What was I thinking?: The chord changes to this song came very quickly and then I listened in my head for a melody. For the chorus, I was looking for something unique so I broke out the whammy pedal and dialed in a setting that I had been meaning to fool around with.

The whammy pedal lets you move the harmony note around by depressing the pedal. It’s sort of an audible illusion to play a melody and negotiate the pedal in such a way that the fingers do not look anything like what the melody is saying - sort of like a movie that has been dubbed and the words are obviously out of sync with the visual.

The character of the melody has an Eastern-type atmosphere to it when played against the chords so I started to search for Indian vocal samples and after much tweaking, stretching, and manipulating with the timing and pitch, I got them to work with the track.

What could you be thinking?: Although it’s nice to have a Whammy pedal for this one, it’s not necessary. The only thing that is necessary is to be in the frame of mind that the ambiance of the track creates. You may want to consider having a nice tandoori for dinner before attempting this though.

 

 

9. The Ultra Zone (Naked)

Form: The form of this naked track is relatively the same as the original recording with the exception of the intro being cut down a bit and the breakdown solo is longer than the record.

Key(s): A Blues.

What was I thinking?: When this track was created, techno was very popular so there are elements of this piece that resemble the period. I was basically looking to create a track with a cool melody and some room to stretch out.

What could you be thinking?:Try looping the solo breakdown sections and play through them while limiting yourself to using only one finger. Do that for 30 minutes and try it again for another 30 minutes using a different finger, then 30 with another, etc.

You will be surprised at how you can add dimension to your playing by doing this exercise.

 

 

10. Oooo (Naked)

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

Key(s): Rhythm guitars are tuned down a whole step and the low string tuned down to C (Drop C tuning). The key is all over the place.

What was I thinking?: I’m a big fan of non-conventional melody and chord changes that may seem outside but find a place in your ear as comfortable and accessible. This is one that scratches that itch that nothing else can get to.

The melody guitar in the verses may sound simple but it’s important, and deceivingly convoluted.

I love playing this one live, a real lot.

What could you be thinking?:Looping the solo section chord changes and jamming over them is a good way to work on playing over changes. If any of these changes are unfamiliar or uncomfortable for you, try starting out by just looping each chord, then add a chord change to the loop, etc.
This one will tell the tale.

As mentioned above, the melody is important and however you decide to negotiate it, it needs to speak clearly in the original bizarre tongue it was spoken in.

In attempting to play the fast ending melody many of you will fold. Don’t worry. Just keep trying. It’s not normal to play this way. Geez, I would only get it right once every 4 nights, and that’s only when I had a large plate of pasta the night before. It’s the triple flip on ice.

Something tells me there will be a few of you who rise to the occasion.
If you can get it, you win the game.
Ha, then what?!

 

 

11. Frank (Naked)

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

Key(s): C Mixolydian

What was I thinking?: This was one that just came out spontaneously. I was fortunate enough to have worked for the great Frank Zappa in the early 80’s, touring, recording and transcribing his music. Although this song is far removed from anything that may sound like Frank’s music, there was something very touching about the melody and whenever I would hear it I would fondly think of Frank and how uplifted I would feel whenever I spent time with him. He was special.

For the solo section of this song I decided to make every note a struck harmonic and perform a melody by manipulating the bar. It’s like walking a tight rope while balancing a watermelon on your head.

What could you be thinking?: Getting distorted notes to ring together sweetly is all in the way you hit them and think about what your hearing when you listen to what you’re playing. If you imagine the notes resonating together clearly then your fingers will subconsciously attempt to make the notes sound the way you’re imagining them.

Whether you decide to learn this piece in its original form or to create a whole new one over the rhythm track, try to use two and three note, heavily distorted chords, but make them hum beautifully and clearly when played together.

 

 

12. Jibboom (Naked)

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

Key(s): E blues

What was I thinking?: Every now and then a high octane blues progression can help level things out.

What could you be thinking?: Make something unique with this track. This track was once used in a contest where the contestants had to use their imagination to come up with their own creative interpretation over the track. I was pretty stunned at the variety of things that I heard. My version actually sounded kind of pale in comparison to some of the things I heard.

 

 

13. Windows to the Soul (Naked)

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

Key(s): A Minor

What was I thinking?:The time signature of this song is 11/8. It’s sort of an odd one, but when an unconventional time signature has a natural flow to it, it can be hypnotic and satisfying. It makes us move in a different way than what we are used to.

When this song was constructed I set out to create an arpeggiated figure that flowed effortlessly in an odd time. Then it came time to create a melody on top of it.

I listened to the figure and let my inner ear hear a melody. Then I played it on the guitar over and over, trying every articulation and phrasing I could find within myself, making it speak as many ways as I could. I played those notes until I felt that the melody was closer to me than my own breath. I think I died while I stood there.

What could you be thinking?: Try your hand at exploring the melody. For the solo, the idea is to create a flow that fits in seamlessly in 11/8. This can feel a bit awkward at first, but eventually your inner rhythmic body clock will conform. It feels good. The more natural the phrasing becomes, the more effective the notes will be.

 

 

14. Fever Dream (Naked)

Form:Since the intro is solo guitar on the record, I plugged in a 2 bar count-off and some percussion hits to play over for the intro. Then it kicks into the 1st verse.

The breakdown section after the solo is edited out with the exception of several bars of melody, over the airy space harps, before it kicks back into the last up-tempo section and then the outro.

Key(s): E Everything

Instrument/FX: Triple neck heart guitar

What was I thinking?:During my stint with David Lee Roth I had Ibanez make me this ridiculous, gigantic, three-neck guitar shaped like a heart, (whatever). It had two necks sticking out of the left side and one on the right.

Back in the 80’s it was not uncommon to go to the wall to do the silliest things you could muster up for a video, and MTV actually played it. I had this guitar built specifically as a video visual, even though it was a functioning fire-breathing hydra that could only throw up an ocean of vivid oil paints.

It always bugged me that I never utilized this instrument to do something unique and original so I started to imagine, how can I play this thing? The idea for Fever Dream immediately came to vision. In it, I have each neck set up with a different sound and tuning and I use all three necks for playing this piece.

There is something special about this melody that resonates with me.

What could you be thinking?: Well, not performing on a triple neck heart-shaped guitar unless you’re the young man that owns it (he bought the winning raffle ticket on the Ultra Zone tour.)

Because of the chord structures that flow through this piece, the written melody is tailor-made for it. But I would recommend still trying to come up with something unique. The solo section is a good opportunity to stretch out over some unorthodox scales and chords.

 

 
   
     

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