Hey friends, well I finally did it…I figured out how to fuse my solo guitar act with the funkiness of my past (grew up and was involved with some hip-hop).
I had been fooling around with Herbie Hancock’s “The Chameleon” on solo guitar – a formidable fingering feat in and of itself.
Throughout most of the tune, there is a very funky bassline, and various melodies come in over that bassline. It is the melding of the two lines that gives this tune such a “baddd groove!”
I initially thought that the gem and interest of this song would be the seemingly impossible nature of playing thee 2 lines simultaneously. But……
1) Music has to tickle more than “the mind”….it had to really sound good!
2) It would be a matter of time before other guys could do it too…
3) Is the music to this song interesting enough with just the 2 lines? I was not sold 100% on it…
An idea is one thing, but music is physicis and physical. It had to be good WITHOUT an explanation.
At just about every soundcheck I do, when there is a live mic I do some human beat box, as a “joke”.
“No”, I say , “that’s not really me. I am a serious guitar player…that’s just the echo of adolescence within me….no, I play on chord changes now…sorry that is just for the soundcheck. But it’s fun, huh?”
But wait!!! What’s this “not me” and “yes it’s me” going on internally? So the first “hump” to get over creatively was to be open to thinking “outside the box”. Can you see how not doing human beatbox, to keep the respectable image is in fact “the ego trip”?
So, I decided to give it a try. What if I could actually play “The Chameleon” and beatbox at the same time? It would be cool!
Adam Rafferty: The Chameleon
Much practice had to ensue…like riding a bike, or juggling. First I had to just figure out where snare and bass drums would hit. Next I had to get physical endurance. And it is easy to sing along with the bass instead of really “hit” the bass drum. I am still working on the independence of the parts.
Perhaps the hardest part was figuring out the “form”. The original is like 15 minutes long, with sax & synth solos and added sections. I finally decided on changing the texture every 4 bars, and maybe even every 2. I can’t do improvised solos like on the record, because too much is going on in the bass and drum parts.
So, to hold people’s attention, I had to think about form for the element of interest.
Let me start by saying that I am doing this because it’s fun and funky and from my heart! I want to reach people with my music, and intuition led me into this song.
But – from a promo / marketing standpoint it gives me a pretty cool unique selling proposition, too! (USP). I realized this in retrospect.
Instead of “Adam Rafferty is a really great guitar player” as verbiage to interest someone, you get “Adam is the freak who plays The Chameleon bassline and melody at the same time, AND Human Beatboxes while he plays both parts!”
A few years ago I went to go see a band once called “Mini Kiss” – midgets dressed up in all the makeup and garb of KISS. I was excited to see this!
Dissapointingly, all they did was lip sync to KISS cd’s and writhe around with all the outfits and makeup.
As a musician, I was let down – but I gotta give it up to them – they had their USP, and quite a following to boot! They packed NYC”s “Cuutting Room” just to lip sync!
What a great USP they had though.
Another was some lame singer on MTV who tried to do a sentimental guitar & vocal version of Sir Mix A Lot’s “I Love Big Butts”. Good idea, terrible product – the music sucked, but het, at least he went for a “twist” – macho sexist lyrics with a feminine, loving approach. Not really funny though.
Anyhow as a wise man once said “I might be dumb, but I ain’t stupid”. Straight ahead!