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SurfGuitar101 Forums » Surf Musician »

Permalink One guitar in a band: filling the gaps?

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Our music project is a two piece and you have to be a lot more conscious with song writing. We play originals so we are aware of this every time we write something new. If we were going to play covers, I think not having a bassist or second guitar would be detrimental.

I agree, the "empty spaces" in a composition are just as important as trying to fill the spaces. I feel the challenge is trying to write balanced songs and this leads to sometimes breaking out of the traditional formula of a certain genre. If you are okay with that, you can have a lot of fun as a two-piece or a three-piece!

I am lucky that the drummer is a musician and understands that he does a lot of the filling in with colorful drum play. I mess with my tones as well as use different guitars and amps depending what song or where we are going to play. It just takes a little initial planning, but it can be done!

Onedin Giraldo - Reverb, set, go!

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Last edited: Mar 25, 2020 06:52:54

I would like to expand on my original post. I think much of this discussion is based on what type of surf you are playing. I prefer to play high paced and high energy surf but anyone that is a fan of The Merman know that there is a whole other world that can be explored within this genre as a three piece. Dave Wronski described his use of echo in a way that makes that echo another bandmember that he plays off of. That space everyone is referring to can be filled with artifacts and echos. A three piece band can do incredible music. Look at Rush for guidance! Big Grin

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There's a middle ground between playing lots of chords and single note melodies, it's called the 'double stop'. Learn all the positions, there's a scale for them just like for single notes. There's all kinds of hammer-ons and slides you can add as well. It will sound less sparse while still allowing for melodic flow.

I also echo what has been said before about bassists, they need to step up. They can't rest on the tonics and fifths, and they can't be merely a tuned bass drum. They need to combine rhythmic structure as well as harmony or counter melodic support.

I also notice that my favorite players in 3 pieces go back and forth from the top 3 strings to the bottom 3 strings, but rarely play across all 6. The movement between the 2 provides a lot of sonic complexity without getting too muddy

Danny Snyder

aka El Gringo Viejo of Combo Tezeta
aka Mycroft Eloi of The TomorrowMen
aka Shecky Shekels of Meshugga Beach Party

It was the best of times, it was the blurst of times

Last edited: Mar 25, 2020 10:01:17

DannySnyder wrote:

There's a middle ground between playing lots of chords and single note melodies, it's called the 'double stop'. Learn all the positions, there's a scale for them just like for single notes. There's all kinds of hammer-ons and slides you can add as well. It will sound less sparse while still allowing for melodic flow.

I also echo what has been said before about bassists, they need to step up. They can't rest on the tonics and fifths, and they can't be merely a tuned bass drum. They need to combine rhythmic structure as well as harmony or counter melodic support.

I also notice that my favorite players in 3 pieces go back and forth from the top 3 strings to the bottom 3 strings, but rarely play across all 6. The movement between the 2 provides a lot of sonic complexity without getting too muddy

That’s an interesting thought, in your last paragraph. Among other things, I play some Joe Pass style solo pieces and that is very much what you do, likewise for Chet’s fingerstyle approach. In these cases, the thumb and the fingers of the right hand, function as the left and right hands do on the piano (respectively), allowing the lower range notes to sustain beneath the upper register notes.

When playing bass, I have occasionally employed a similar approach using the 1st and 3rd beats as the bass line and the 2nd and 4th as counterpoint.

The artist formerly known as: Synchro

When Surf Guitar is outlawed only outlaws will play Surf Guitar.
My Guitar WebSite
Dead Thread

DannySnyder wrote:

This is only my opinion, but I believe a good gretsch guitar works best in a 3 piece. In fact I don't like it at all in 4 piece bands, but it's awesome (in the true sense of the word) when it has the sonic space to do it's thing.

When we went from a four piece to a three piece, I switched from a solid body (either a Jag or a Duo Jet with Dynasonics) to a hollow bodied Gretsch, preferably one with trestle bracing. Trestle bracing was developed as an anti-feedback method and it’s basically a quadruple sound post, tied directly to the parallel braces under the top. The result is much greater focus and excellent treble clarity.

For a Surf sound, I find that the Supertron pickup suits my tastes best. Supertrons have great articulation. I also found that a treble bleed helps.

The artist formerly known as: Synchro

When Surf Guitar is outlawed only outlaws will play Surf Guitar.
My Guitar WebSite
Dead Thread

Okay, I needed to sort my terminology a little on this to make myself understandable, so here it goes: I have been playing in a trio for most of my surf music time, minus a short period where my old band also had a saxophone, but never a second guitar. In this time I came to the conclusion, that the most crucial point of making a trio work lies at the nexus of songwriting and arranging (which to me are two sides of the same coin in the trio context). When it came to writing new songs I started analysing tunes, of which I knew that they worked for a trio and stumbled upon something, which I dubbed "the Podolor model" because it first became obvious to me in songs by Richard Podolor (aka Richie Allen), most notably "The Quiet Surf" and "Casbah". But I'm pretty sure, that Podolor himself got it from Link Wray.

What is this model? If you look at a song as a sequence of parts (intro, verse, chorus, bridge etc.), every new part should have a different "texture" than the previous, by which I mean a combination of the melodical/harmonical content of a phrase with a certain sound from the instrument.

As an example, in "Quiet Surf" the intro consists of chords played as string harmonics, the combination of which is the first texture. The first verse has a melody as single notes on the upper strings interchanged with notes from the open e string and a little phrase on the lower strings at the end. The second verse repeats the melody but in a higher register and without the open e and with a few chords at the end, so it's the same melody with a different sound and thus not the same texture as before. The bridge has another single note melody but on the bass strings, yet another texture. (Note: So far we had three distinct textures (four if we count the chords at the end of the second verse) without even resorting to double picking or any pedal switching! The cleanish surf guitar sound really helps us in this case.)

So, even if the parts all differ in their chord changes, it really are the different textures that stress variety in a song, which definitely comes in handy when you just have one lead instrument. (I hope anybody can make sense of that all...)

I am not saying this is to be followed slavishly or that it's the only way to do it, but it has proven to be a very good starting point for me!

Los Apollos - interplanetary surf music trio (Berlin)
"Postcards from the Scrapyard Vol. 1" NOW available on soundcloud and other platforms!
"Chaos at the Lobster Lounge" available as LP and download on Surf Cookie Records!

Last edited: Mar 31, 2020 13:54:03

Excellent info Simon, thanks!

Danny Snyder

aka El Gringo Viejo of Combo Tezeta
aka Mycroft Eloi of The TomorrowMen
aka Shecky Shekels of Meshugga Beach Party

It was the best of times, it was the blurst of times

Samurai wrote:

Sonic_Blue wrote:

Thoughts on using a looper? Any shame in it?

while playing live? Dont no, never tried one.

Playing with a looper is tough if you've never done it to nail the loop rhythms. Also, while it's great at home as a practice tool, if the rest of the band can't hear your loops clearly, the whole thing falls apart, kind of like playing to tape/sequences - you're locked in.

While I don't play surf, our band flexes from 3 to 7 band members. Echo can help fill the spots, but it's contrast - if bass is busy, guitar can be more sparse or single lines, but if bass is simple, you'll need to fill it up more.

Also try changing it up from song to song or even in the songs to let them breathe...


65 Fender Tremolux, 74 Princeton; 77 Princeton Reverb
Dr. Z MAZ 18 Jr. + 1x12 Cab
Various Telecasters and noise-making pedals
Farfisa Compact Duo

simoncoil wrote:

Okay, I needed to sort my terminology a little on this to make myself understandable, so here it goes: I have been playing in a trio for most of my surf music time, minus a short period where my old band also had a saxophone, but never a second guitar. In this time I came to the conclusion, that the most crucial point of making a trio work lies at the nexus of songwriting and arranging (which to me are two sides of the same coin in the trio context). When it came to writing new songs I started analysing tunes, of which I knew that they worked for a trio and stumbled upon something, which I dubbed "the Podolor model" because it first became obvious to me in songs by Richard Podolor (aka Richie Allen), most notably "The Quiet Surf" and "Casbah". But I'm pretty sure, that Podolor himself got it from Link Wray.

What is this model? If you look at a song as a sequence of parts (intro, verse, chorus, bridge etc.), every new part should have a different "texture" than the previous, by which I mean a combination of the melodical/harmonical content of a phrase with a certain sound from the instrument.

As an example, in "Quiet Surf" the intro consists of chords played as string harmonics, the combination of which is the first texture. The first verse has a melody as single notes on the upper strings interchanged with notes from the open e string and a little phrase on the lower strings at the end. The second verse repeats the melody but in a higher register and without the open e and with a few chords at the end, so it's the same melody with a different sound and thus not the same texture as before. The bridge has another single note melody but on the bass strings, yet another texture. (Note: So far we had three distinct textures (four if we count the chords at the end of the second verse) without even resorting to double picking or any pedal switching! The cleanish surf guitar sound really helps us in this case.)

So, even if the parts all differ in their chord changes, it really are the different textures that stress variety in a song, which definitely comes in handy when you just have one lead instrument. (I hope anybody can make sense of that all...)

I am not saying this is to be followed slavishly or that it's the only way to do it, but it has proven to be a very good starting point for me!

Thanks, that’s really interesting and I really was inspired by Quiet Surf “textures change” in this tune. You may see there three clear changes at least.

Waikiki Makaki surf-rock band from Ukraine

https://www.facebook.com/waikikimakaki/
https://soundcloud.com/waikiki-makaki

Last edited: Apr 01, 2020 03:02:34

For the last few years I have played guitar in a power trio. I have learned there's more to it than just filling space. If you have ever tried to play solo guitar versions of rock songs, you find yourself accenting beats two and four like a snare drum and adding bass notes. But when you play in the band, you don’t need to BE the band. Your rhythm section puts the power in ‘power trio’. Let them provide the rhythmic framework.

Less is more. I used to think I had to generate an endless stream of sound but it turns out I didn’t. The busy parts will stand out more if there are contrasting sparse areas. Give the bass and drums some space. Playing not-so-loud increases the relative strength of the bass and drums, which makes the band sound more ‘muscular’. Use chord-melody techniques. And hey! I almost forgot... REVERB!

ElBorko wrote:

For the last few years I have played guitar in a power trio. I have learned there's more to it than just filling space. If you have ever tried to play solo guitar versions of rock songs, you find yourself accenting beats two and four like a snare drum and adding bass notes. But when you play in the band, you don’t need to BE the band. Your rhythm section puts the power in ‘power trio’. Let them provide the rhythmic framework.

Less is more. I used to think I had to generate an endless stream of sound but it turns out I didn’t. The busy parts will stand out more if there are contrasting sparse areas. Give the bass and drums some space. Playing not-so-loud increases the relative strength of the bass and drums, which makes the band sound more ‘muscular’. Use chord-melody techniques. And hey! I almost forgot... REVERB!

Great points. It's not just about creating a wall of sound.

The artist formerly known as: Synchro

When Surf Guitar is outlawed only outlaws will play Surf Guitar.
My Guitar WebSite
Dead Thread

Last edited: Apr 02, 2020 18:24:45

hi samurai,
the razorblades have worked as a trio for more than 10 years

a few concepts are
chord melody ( check out barney kessel, joe pass, wes montgomery)
brian connelly is also doing great in a trio with atomic 7

bass notes in the empty spaces

open strings along with the melody on another string

in general i like to do overdubs on our studio recordings, but a lot of rhythm parts are not neccessary live and get drowned in the sound- unless you play in big venues with a great sound system/ mixer

i think it‘s cool if the live thing sounds a little different than the studio recording. did led zeppelin have a rhythm player ? no, same with hendrix and a lot of other rock guys...

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