Seriously, chords

How seriously should I take these arpeggios?

Well, they are kind of nice chords but when I see a page of chords like this with sixteenth note arpeggios separating them, I ask myself: How seriously should I take this?  What role are these arpeggios playing in the score?  Are they voice-leading or just pretty? Must I play these exactly note for note – similarly, must an actor be accountable for the difference between “Oh, thanks. Thank you.” and “Oh, thanks. Thanks a lot,” or between “terrible” and “horrible.”

After playing with them for a while I’ve decided to take them seriously, for beauty’s sake.  They are not voice leading, nor are they being closely syncopated with any of the other instruments.  They are simply beautiful enough to take seriously.  But they aren’t easy:

  • Reading the damn notes:  Normally I’d TAB out things like this but when I have the chord diagrams to look at, I can follow those instead.
  • Working up new muscle memory: I’ve played Dsus a million times but going from there to a Bm(add4) smoothly requires some advance preparation, specifically, setting up the D in such a way to allow easy access to the Bm.  It’s important for these chords to be smooth because of the way they’re being played – “harp like.”
  • Filling in the blanks: At the bottom of the page, I get abruptly abandoned by the removal of the chord diagrams.  The  “simile fingerstyle” note says smirkingly “okay we’re taking the training wheels off now so do everything we’ve done previously on similar chords to these brand new ones.”  I put the training wheels back on and that’s why there are blue chord diagrams drawn in on that part.

“Watch me nail this part.”

I was pretty excited when I finally got this section down.  So I had to take a picture of it.

Rockin’ this part (finally)

Putting on my hair-metal face…

I love seeing things like “With angry hair metal distortion” or “ala Beastie Boys” above sections of music.  On the tune “Conflict Resolution,” I’m in my comfort zone with Drop-D power chords, although I’m still on the fence about downpicking some of the faster riffs.  The common belief among metal heads – which I am not – is that unless you downpick EVERYTHING, you are a fag.  And while this sentiment is not clearly expressed on the score by the previous guitarist/jerk-ass who labeled TAB using the same derogatory slang,  I feel he would strongly agree.

Anyway, I indeed acknowledge the brightness and the “attack” that comes from the onslaught of palm-muted low end sixteenth notes when downpicking, I more often sacrifice technique and precision for groove and energy.  Maybe when I get good I’ll be able to do both.

My only concern for this song, and truthfully all full-blown rock out songs that we do at New Line Theatre, is how we can perform it with the amount of energy required by the genre of heavy metal while keeping our volumes at an “inside voices” level – specifically, that of cymbal crashes.  This will probably be one of those songs that Scot asks us to be careful on.

We’ll have our rockin’ out faces on for this one

Either way, I will be making a heavy metal face during this song – you know, that “something smells funny but I like it” kind of face.  Apologies in advance.

Author: aarondoerr

Owner of Fellow Musician LLC, a small music education business specializing in outreach and private study. I'm guitarist for musical theatre and production assistant at St. Louis Public Radio.

2 thoughts on “Seriously, chords”

  1. Why wouldn’t you play what was written? Last time I checked, you are playing a rock musical. Being in the pit for a rock musical isn’t exactly being a rock band. You shouldn’t improvise unless the score tells you to do so. Be true to the composer, man. Tom Kitt obviously knows (and means) what he writes. The guy was nominated for a Tony for his work on Next to Normal. It’s not your job to determine if something is worth playing. Seriously? Trust the composer, trust your director. The actors don’t get to improvise their lines. Don’t improvise yours.

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