Whenever I go to shows or rehearsals with my actually good guitar-playing friends and acquaintances, I find myself observing some of their fascinating Guitar Guy Cultural Norms, and I’m slowly beginning to understand them.
Among the interesting habits of the Guitar Guys is the phenomenon I (inappropriately, I know) think of as Gear Wanking. They bond over the tools of the trade, which they collect and study and test and try and speak about in the loving tones one might use for one’s children. I love the looks on their faces while they have these bonding discussions: the rapt attention, the sort of simultaneously hungry and satisfied expression that comes from a particularly good pedal or wonderful instrument or juicy amp sound. It’s not just the special joy of playing with a new toy — it’s the joy of discovering a new sound to create with, and it’s quite wonderful. It never ceases to fascinate me, even when I don’t really understand what they’re talking about yet.
I’m slowly being corrupted by the Guitar Guys (or perhaps I’m just assimilating a bit). I’m learning to love amp noises and pedal effects, and it is fun. It is also enlightening, musically speaking, because it gives me tools to use that can change how I understand a song. I haven’t yet gotten truly adventurous, but I’m getting there.
Today’s cover is an interesting case in point (for me) relative to how the move to electric noisy fun can change how I approach a tune. The song I did this time is The Indigo Girls’ Kid Fears, a tune I learned to love back in the 90s. It’s got some gorgeous moments, especially near the end, as it builds to a trio round (the studio version features Michael Stipe on the third vocal) that can be just devastating. Here’s what I ended up with:
I struggled with this one. I tried to do it more or less straight at first (a month ago or so), replicating the acoustic sound and the vocal trio as the original does it.
Yeah. Total flop. Sucked. Didn’t work. Annoyed me.
I had decided to just let this one go, but then it occurred to me that I could make it work if I’d just let go of the original a bit. The trick was deciding what to let go and what to keep, and how to execute what was left. The first thing I changed was the guitar. Instead of going acoustic, I plugged my Classic 6 (the guitar you see pictured in the slideshow) into the Chorus Shimmer amp/pedalboard simulator in Garage Band and went for a wobblier electric sound (it involves a vibrato, a chorus, and a delay pedal). I think it’s a setting that really works for that particular guitar, and I liked the wobbliness (yes, that’s a technical term). I cranked two vocals instead of three on Epic Diva, and let some of the echo do the work for me.
It’s a little slow-feeling, I think, and I wish I could’ve figured out some percussion, but I still kind of like the result.
And I LOVE the pedals…