May 12, 2009

Leo and Harmonics

The use of harmonics in guitar music is common, to be sure. The contrast of the bell-like tones, against the percussive and vibrating timbre of the strummed or plucked string, can offer variety in an arrangement (and a different sonic fingerprint).

Rarely are they used to convey an entire melody, as the challenge of working with natural and artificial harmonics (and executing them cleanly enough to transcend being gimmicky) shouldn't be underestimated.

Leave it to Leo Kottke to offer a lovely example of presenting a tasteful melody with harmonics. Leo playing "Little Martha"...

May 5, 2009

Joe Pass...on a Fender Jaguar???

The archtop guitar is the six (or seven) string machine of choice for jazz players. Jim Hall, Wes, Grant Green, Tal Farlow...see a picture or a clip of one of these guys, and you'll see a large, curvy, thick archtop guitar cradled lovingly in their arms.

Sure - there are also the guys that turned to the solid-bodied Telecaster. Ted Greene comes to mind, as does Bill Frisell and Toronto's Ed Bicker.

Fender's solid body Jaguar - and similarly shaped, but differently appointed Jazzmaster - found early favor with the surf rockers on the West Coast. Later, they became the guitar of choice for indie rock shoegazers and avant-garde musicians like Thurston Moore or Nels Cline.

Here's a clip of Joe Pass cutting it up on a Fender Jaguar. Listening to that tone, I can't help but remember the old adage - it's all in the hands.