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Thread: Technically Difficult Guitar Parts

  1. #1

    Technically Difficult Guitar Parts

    Anna Meredith has said that she has written one of the most difficult guitar lines around and watching Jack Ross handle it from the 2:00 minute point on (minus the comping in the middle), I can believe it. This seems hellishly difficult. Any ones even tougher? There must be...

    I'm not lazy. I just work so fast I'm always done.

  2. #2
    Not sure how it compares since I don't play guitar myself, but Steve Vai did some difficult stuff with Frank Zappa in the early 80's, like "Moggio" (and some stuff from the Halloween 1981 shows that were filmed). Mike Keneally replicated some of that in 1988 and in other projects.

    Then there is stuff like the parts from Trout Mask Replica.

  3. #3
    The guitar solo is written out and it's definitely the kind of solo which needs to be worked out so that once you master it ...it has finesse.

    Depending on who the guitar player is specific sections of that solo may have to be played slow and evenly with a metronome daily until gaining the proper speed. It's pretty common for a great guitarist to spend 5 and 6 hours on a particular section of a solo.

    Then once the solo is second nature to you...you then begin practicing the solo start to finish to gain more endurance and confidence.

    Some guitarists don't have to spend a solid 3 days working out a solo like that. It may come easier to them, but then they'll have problems and struggle with a different aspect to music and guitar playing. Everybody's different..( of course) which is why there are certain guitar players in history that most people wouldn't suspect being virtuoso players... It's because they don't want to in music all that much. One day you see them pick up a guitar in a dressing room and play the most amazing stuff and you feel confused as to why they never play like that on stage.

    I believe Nori Bucci could play this particular solo with no problem. You should check her out on YouTube playing "Reoccurring Nightmare" live. She's amazing!!

  4. #4
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    Well, wrote all this so might as well post it, why not:

    I play the instrument occasionally and as an amateur (since the 80s) not pro but fairly well, and happen to not often discuss difficulty of guitar parts but hey here's feedback to your comment why not:

    Difficulty-related elements in that solo of vid are things like

    - the horizontal fret-span the fingers are reaching for / taking care of (see 2:17, the 5-fret span seen here is not hugely difficult in that part of the neck where the frets are narrower – any intermediate-level player has that span, even sometimes on an acoustic guitar that's harder to play for multiple reasons, but executing at some speed may alter difficulty),

    - and sudden moves/jump of hand to a "far away"ish fret (see 2:08-2:09ish and two back-to-back around 2:27),

    - and general picking speed (as per the tempo of song).

    In all of these 3 categories, seems that although there's *some* difficulty here (sure, of course) in that solo, seems things wouldn't be hugely difficult upon at most a few hours of practice if you're already an intermediate+ player…but I can change my opinion after I actually try. :-)

    For instance, take category 2: jumps seen here, other than the abovelisted ones, are perhaps easier than they look — in 2:11-2:12 that whole jumpy movement is really much eased by the fact that you're actually *repeating* the same chordal fingers-placement pattern 2-3 times in a row (in other words your fingers, without having to re-orient, are landing in the same orientation they were in before the jump, which is really not that hard if it's a jump of say 2-5 frets only), like the 2:22 one (which even comes with a long-enough helpful pre-jump pause!) For examples of some sudden huge/far-away jumps, much more difficult than the one in your video, see 4:20-4:33 of
    https://youtu.be/CqdL36VKbMQ
    (yes the actor isn't actually playing that but I believe the guitarist who recorded it for him did)
    and the jumps in the 2nd half of
    https://youtu.be/zo1gHSdIWLA

    On category #3: Some parts in your vid that don't look that hard can be hard, given the fairly high tempo, like when he's hitting many notes in 2-3 neighboring strings – it just depends on the phrase he's playing…Visuals can be misleading…though doesn't look hugely difficult.

    There are many examples of more difficult guitar parts than this. I hear King Crimson's Fracture is very very difficult, for example. Two other hard ones above in the URLs. Others can mention others.

    Noticed you only said she "wrote" but is she a guitar player, and one skilled at playing difficult parts, or simply composed the part…I mean you might want to look into that if her guitar prowess not compositional prowess is what you're trying to assess…to me difficulty of her composed part really doesn't matter much btw. Along that line, also didn't specify whether it was her or someone else who arranged it for guitar the way we see it played here and I only say this to say that often a piece of music is written without intention that someone would play it on the guitar, and, so, if that's the case here then the actual context here should be compositional skills not guitar skills. And if that's not the case, in other words she wrote a part for guitar deliberately and knew it'd be hard to play, well okay good for her, congrats, though I believe many know there are things about a piece that count a lot more than how difficult it is to play it.

    Good work.

  5. #5
    Jumping positions when playing a jazzy chord melody was based off what I knew as the "jump system" in the 60s and 70s. It required the development of technique that I acquired from playing Johnny Smith and Charlie Byrd pieces in my youth along with 5 hours a day of Andrea Segovia book of scales.

    Segovia book of scales really conditions your fingering hand to jump around the fretboard in awkward positions which often occur for the guitar in Classical and Jazz.

    If you can deal with repetition for 5 hours a day and be patient you can develop a different perspective of the fretboard. Chromatic too. It takes about a month to hear the difference in your playing. You can develop a beautiful style of improvisation after you begin using some of the connecting positions derived from Segovia book of scales.

    This is without conscience thought and literally not thinking about anything at all. That's really when you start sounding good. You can't think about how you're going to use the scales. You don't need to be aware of details regarding your technique and You are now conditioned by the repetition of those scales in all 12 keys. Thats when you start having fun.

  6. #6
    Member clivey's Avatar
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    There seems to be a bit of a tendency in the "Legit" rock/jazz scene to want to emulate the sonics produced by computer and in particular sequenced and arpegiators .
    I really don't get it at all.

    For years they wanted their music machinery to sound human .We appear to be going full circle.

  7. #7
    I believe Nori Bucci could play this particular solo with no problem. You should check her out on YouTube playing "Reoccurring Nightmare" live. She's amazing!!
    I LOVE Nori's playing. And there was a time when she probably could; when she was younger her clarity and tone were perfection and she could play with McLaughlin-like dexterity. I've seen her playing from a memorial for members of Gamalon and I think she has mainly been playing acoustic for some time, and honestly, some fairly Christian music. But still.



    There are many examples of more difficult guitar parts than this. I hear King Crimson's Fracture is very very difficult, for example.
    This is a good call. Fracture is incredibly difficult to play and I've seen videos, including ones from Fripp, describing how hard it is.



    Noticed you only said she "wrote" but is she a guitar player, and one skilled at playing difficult parts, or simply composed the part…I mean you might want to look into that if her guitar prowess not compositional prowess is what you're trying to assess…to me difficulty of her composed part really doesn't matter much btw. Along that line, also didn't specify whether it was her or someone else who arranged it for guitar the way we see it played here and I only say this to say that often a piece of music is written without intention that someone would play it on the guitar, and, so, if that's the case here then the actual context here should be compositional skills not guitar skills. And if that's not the case, in other words she wrote a part for guitar deliberately and knew it'd be hard to play, well okay good for her, congrats, though I believe many know there are things about a piece that count a lot more than how difficult it is to play it.
    Anna Meredith is a composer. She mainly works in the classical realm, but she leads this electronic band as well- which includes drums, cello, tuba, guitar and herself on clarinet, keyboards, percussion and electronics- all instruments are heavily modified. In watching videos with her in discussion, she works unusually, visualizing pieces graphically, charting them by hand on paper, converting it to composed music using digital notation systems and so on. She does not write parts to make them hard; she writes parts because she "sees" them in her music. It is not about whether or not she has the skill to play guitar; she writes for every instrument in a symphony, for example. All of the musicians in her band- Jack Ross, Sam Wilson, Maddie Cutter, Tom Kelly and herself, are all classically training musicians.

    Last edited by Dana5140; 2 Weeks Ago at 01:59 PM.
    I'm not lazy. I just work so fast I'm always done.

  8. #8
    Anyway, the my answer to the initial question would be, that there are literally hundreds, or rather thousands of prog-metal and fusion guitar players who could play the above parts (also in unison, and also written out beforehand), and more cleanly, too. And then, some.

    <Although I have to note that the arpeggios are played with alternate picking rather than sweeped/economy picking technique, which is more difficult, but easier to control rhythmically.>
    Also the kinda grungey sound is possibly also aesthetically requested, to avoid an overly triumphant ‚rawk’ type of expression (I believe this is called rockism in more intellectual indie-type of environments)

    Nota bene, this should not come across as any sort of criticism of the composition or the composer, but you specificaly referred to manual dexterity in the title of the thread.
    τί ἐστιν ὃ μίαν ἔχον φωνὴν τετράπουν καὶ δίπουν καὶ τρίπουν γίνεται;

    εἰσί κασίγνηται δισσαὶ, ὠν ἡ μία τίκτει
    τὴν ἑτέραν αὐτὴ δέ τεκοῦσ` ὑπό τὴσδη τεκνούται
    τίς δὲ κασίγνηται δύο;

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    Quote Originally Posted by Dana5140 View Post
    she works unusually, visualizing pieces graphically, charting them by hand on paper, converting it to composed music using digital notation systems and so on. She does not write parts to make them hard; she writes parts because she "sees" them in her music. It is not about whether or not she has the skill to play guitar;
    If her "graphical" etc compositional process does take into account that the part that is then given to the guitarist is indeed intended for the guitar all along, in other words she makes the process make decisions accordingly, then great; otherwise, if one gives a guitarist a part not specifically intended for the guitar (including what tuning it should use) it can end up having arbitrary level of high difficulty, which the guitarist probably wouldn't particularly care for really.

    The thread started out being about ability to write a part that's difficult to play on guitar, and for that it is indeed relevant whether or not she has the skill to realize it is difficult for the guitarist regardless of whether or not she has the skill to play the part on guitar herself.

  10. #10
    Nota bene, this should not come across as any sort of criticism of the composition or the composer, but you specifically referred to manual dexterity in the title of the thread.
    No worries. I just think this is an interesting discussion, and in the end, I also think that any talented guitarist can play most written lines with practice, but I also think this particular line is difficult. From my perspective, perhaps the two most knowledgeable guitarists, at least those people know of, are John McLaughlin and Frank Gambale- both have extensive knowledge of theory, modes and so on and both have phenomenal technical dexterity. Steve Vai is certainly up there; you have to be to play some of Zappa's material. Maybe a bit lesser known, but I got to meet him years ago, is Mick Goodrick- he is a superb guitar teacher. Just in passing and of no particular importance is that I am honestly not much of a fan of shredding-style playing, whether by metal, prog or fusion guitarists. A lot of that- to me, mind you- seems to be basically showing off technical prowess. For example- for bass, not guitar- I love Charles Berthoud- he is the most gifted bassist I have ever seen, to me even more so than Vic Wooten, but I have never seen him actually play bass in a band- each video is him demonstrating phenomenal technique solo. I'd like to see him in support.

    The thread started out being about ability to write a part that's difficult to play on guitar, and for that it is indeed relevant whether or not she has the skill to realize it is difficult for the guitarist regardless of whether or not she has the skill to play the part on guitar herself.
    We may be talking a bit past each other. I can only say that she has acknowledged to audiences that the guitar line of R-Type is indeed a very difficult one. in fact, if you watch the full 3-song concert from which I posted that first comment to open the thread, just before the shorter clip I posted begins, she mentions it. Thus, she wrote the guitar part for the guitar, taking into account Jack Ross's ability to play that part.
    Last edited by Dana5140; 2 Weeks Ago at 02:00 PM.
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  11. #11
    Member Zeuhlmate's Avatar
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    Most of Holdsworths music is stuffed with difficult parts

    Here is one


  12. #12
    Member Steve F.'s Avatar
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    i would just like to comment that speed is only one aspect of difficulty. Nori may be a fabulous player - I don't know her work at all - but that's just a fast, 'shreddy' solo and it features a lot of typical guitar pyrotechnics that everyone uses in fast 'shreddy' solos.

    That's not a 'part'. She doesn't have to do it the same way each time.
    Steve F.

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    “Remember, if it doesn't say "Cuneiform," it's not prog!” - THE Jed Levin

    Any time any one speaks to me about any musical project, the one absolute given is "it will not make big money". [tip of the hat to HK]

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    please add 'imo' wherever you like, to avoid offending those easily offended.

  13. #13
    I find the combination of speed, dynamic variations on timbre vs. tone and the specific control of this combination to form the most demanding gestalt in "difficult" guitar-playing. Christopher Arp (PsyOpus) and Mick Barr (Orthrelm/Ocrilim) are absolute masters of this, but their chosen domains of genre have effectively seen to distance much of their work from public recognition - although both are held in extremely high regard with those who know, formal institutions/academies/conservatories included.

    Barr has even undertaken numerous tours solely as live installation feature in art foras all over the Americas, Europe and Japan - exposing his preposterous abilities and deranged diction of music/craft/time/movement as submissions to a "meta aesthetic" consistent with the freak-shows of old days. I saw him myself many years ago and it was simply chilling how the man had transcended into concept/tenet and "objective". He truly WAS to be reckoned as an installation!

    I never reached anywhere near the shore of virtuosity or rigor in command of finesse myself, but from early on I'd already settled for ideals and heroes whose signature styles and innovations sought the balance of a maximum adequate technique with strict/tight determination of individual language and instrumental instinct. Glenn Phillips' solo album Lost At Sea (1975) was as paradigmatic a discovery I ever did in regard to this, and that record still amazes me. Jeff Cotton does too, Manuel Göttsching at times, and Henry Kaiser.

    The greatest guitarists I saw in terms of force or authority as well as singularity in all imaginable quarters and dimensions of axe, were Bert Jansch, Nels Cline and Mary Halvorson. With these there's always that defining moment where you realize that what they're doing is simply theirs and theirs alone.
    "Improvisation is not an excuse for musical laziness" - Fred Frith
    "[...] things that we never dreamed of doing in Crimson or in any band that I've been in," - Tony Levin speaking of SGM

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    I've always thought this was just about the nastiest thing to have to learn on guitar. Vai got close, but its still a bit "questionable" in parts. It was originally a FZ guitar solo, then transcribed and played in unison on electric guitar, bass clarinet, and mallets. Yikes.

  15. #15
    I had forgotten Henry Kaiser, who was uncompromising in his abilities. Preston Reed is another person doing very hard stuff on acoustic. Mary is in her own world as a player, as is Bill Frisell. While I have on disc by Orthrealm I cannot say I know them well enough to comment on Barr.

    That's not a 'part'. She doesn't have to do it the same way each time.
    Fair comment; this is a solo, which can be improvised each time Nori plays. Jack Ross plays that same material pretty much note by note in the few live versions of R Type I've seen. There are times when Maddie Cutter echoes him on cello, and that is pretty amazing to see.

    Here is a short clip of her describing her compositional methodology:

    Last edited by Dana5140; 2 Weeks Ago at 02:01 PM.
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  17. #17
    Quote Originally Posted by chalkpie View Post
    I've always thought this was just about the nastiest thing to have to learn on guitar. Vai got close, but its still a bit "questionable" in parts. It was originally a FZ guitar solo, then transcribed and played in unison on electric guitar, bass clarinet, and mallets. Yikes.
    A great piece. Also after you've heard it a few times it is interesting to hear how Vai plays it "clean" without all of the feedback and string-scraping between phrases that FZ had.

  18. #18
    Member Steve F.'s Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Dana5140 View Post

    Fair comment; this is a solo, which can be improvised each time Nori plays. Jack Ross plays that same material pretty much note by note in the few live versions of R Type I've seen. There are times when Maddie Cutter echoes him on cello, and that is pretty amazing to see.
    Exactly. That’s why I didn’t question your including Jack and did question that bit by Nori.
    Steve F.

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    “Remember, if it doesn't say "Cuneiform," it's not prog!” - THE Jed Levin

    Any time any one speaks to me about any musical project, the one absolute given is "it will not make big money". [tip of the hat to HK]

    "Death to false 'support the scene' prog!"

    please add 'imo' wherever you like, to avoid offending those easily offended.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Dana5140 View Post
    I can only say that she has acknowledged to audiences that the guitar line of R-Type is indeed a very difficult one. in fact, if you watch the full 3-song concert from which I posted that first comment to open the thread, just before the shorter clip I posted begins, she mentions it. Thus, she wrote the guitar part for the guitar, taking into account Jack Ross's ability to play that part.
    Found that 3-song concert:

    https://youtu.be/T9NY_iTUaE4

    but she doesn't say anything during it about the guitar part being difficult (she only says "it's got an incredible guitar solo in the middle"), maybe you're thinking about another event of her talking about the piece. Here she also doesn't say she wrote that part for specifically the guitar, so maybe she said that at some other event too. In fact, here in this VEVO video below for the piece (which maybe is the official/album/studio version for the piece, not sure) the part we're talking about is being played on the keyboard not guitar:

    https://youtu.be/A4F2_cWk8cY

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  21. #21
    but she doesn't say anything during it about the guitar part being difficult (she only says "it's got an incredible guitar solo in the middle"), maybe you're thinking about another event of her talking about the piece. Here she also doesn't say she wrote that part for specifically the guitar, so maybe she said that at some other event too. In fact, here in this VEVO video below for the piece (which maybe is the official/album/studio version for the piece, not sure) the part we're talking about is being played on the keyboard not guitar:
    Possible, possible. I've seen so many videos by her I could be conflating them. And yes, the official R-Type video does have playing that solo on keyboard- which kind of makes the point that is is completely written out and given she first wrote it on keys, playing it on guitar is that much more difficult. Hey, it's a good argument! :-)

    I just thought of another guitar player who does play difficult written out solos- Dweezil Zappa. Yes, they might be his dad's solos but Dweezil has mastered them. And props to Wolfgang Van Halen for mastering the solo to Eruption. :-) And then there are all the acoustic guitar wizards, like Preston Reed, Kaki King and Vickie Genfan, with her incredible Atomic Reshuffle:

    I'm not lazy. I just work so fast I'm always done.

  22. #22
    Greetings,

    With all due respect, the guitar in this piece seems to hover near the tamer end of the "advanced" spectrum in regard to the technical virtuosity required (and displayed) in my experience. It certainly isn't easy and I'd actually be interested in seeing the score, as I think the part would largely work well as an exercise--and certainly a nicely musical one at that. There are so many aspects in regard to what can make a guitar part difficult and this example covers a fairly modest percentage IMO. (Navigating the picking seems like the most challenging aspect to me, but I also admit this may be harder than it looks.)

    Cheers,


    Alan

  23. #23
    Alan, could you list something you feel is toward the advanced end of the spectrum? I sincerely would love to hear it, for my own enjoyment.

    On bass, I find this solo by Mohini Dey on the advanced end- due to its chord changes, not just its speed.

    I'm not lazy. I just work so fast I'm always done.

  24. #24
    Quote Originally Posted by Dana5140 View Post
    Alan, could you list something you feel is toward the advanced end of the spectrum? I sincerely would love to hear it, for my own enjoyment.

    On bass, I find this solo by Mohini Dey on the advanced end- due to its chord changes, not just its speed.
    Hi. Thanks for your kind reply.

    First of all, that Mohini Dey video is very impressive. (I've been following her for several years and I think this is the most technically advanced example of her playing I've seen thus far.) In spite of the thread's topic, my primary focus is always on musicality and it's actually hard for me to think of what might be the best examples I've seen/heard in regard to sheer technical difficulty off the top of my head. That being said, I'll start by offering this one example by a couple of very talented friends, composer/keyboardist Eyal Amir and guitarist Alon Tamir:



    This one came to mind as I've been using the arpeggio section, that starts around the 2:17 mark, with some of my advanced guitar students (with permission from both Eyal and Alon). It's a lot more vertical that the original example you posted and approached quite differently in terms of right-hand technique in particular (my example really being an excellent exercise for sweep picking and a wide variety of arpeggio shapes). Though this arpeggio section is very difficult to play, I think there are probably other (written) guitar parts that I'd find quite a bit harder overall--especially those that leverage different techniques that aren't as commonplace (or in my specific wheelhouse).

    On a related note (and while I hadn't really thought about including any of my own music when I started writing this response), the first verse of Advent's "Ramblin' Sailor"--performed on acoustic guitar--is probably the hardest guitar written guitar part I've ever learned/performed/recorded. I included a transcription (score with TAB) when I solicited coverage at Guitar Player and am pretty sure it helped to get the album (Cantus Firmus) reviewed there. If you want to have a listen, here's a direct link to the tune on Bandcamp:

    https://advent-prog.bandcamp.com/track/ramblin-sailor

    The first verse starts around the 0:47 mark, by the way. It's a pretty challenging piece of music all the way around (complete with 164 time-signature changes), but I found that first verse to be especially tricky to master. As you'll notice, the nature of the complexity here is quite a bit different than the other offerings being discussed thus far.

    I'll try to think about other examples, though, and will post an update if/when I think of anything.

    Best wishes and thanks again,


    Alan

    P.S. I think Eyal still has an account here on PE, but am not sure if he still stops by too often.

  25. #25
    Studmuffin Scott Bails's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by StarThrower View Post
    No idea how difficult this is (I'm sure it's very difficult), as Lage makes it look so easy. But that was just lovely to listen to. Thank you.
    Music isn't about chops, or even about talent - it's about sound and the way that sound communicates to people. Mike Keneally

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