Freaky Friday: some reflections on electric guitar

Published online 24 February 2012.

Welcome to the Team DFH Freaky Friday Music party.

Because Team DFH operates more or less like a herd of cats, this diary series doesn’t actually have a formal name but we’re here on Friday Nights, at roughly 9PM Eastern, to let our hair down, maybe light up a fattie, and get some groovy on.

The electric guitar is not quite like an acoustic guitar, which is what I play.  An electric guitar makes a lot of noise when attached to an amplifier, and this noise is the object of artistic play.

I know there’s a huge discography of electric guitar, and so I’m not really going to go into all of the things that can be done with one.  Suffice it to say that these are some of my favorites, and feel free to chime in with suggestions of your own.

I think it’s a good idea to start this diary with a short bit by Frank Zappa.  Zappa was one of the best electric guitarists of all time.  I saw him in 1984 in Santa Cruz, California: he played with bewildering speed.  Steve Vai was also on stage with him, doing about the same thing.  I like this video because it’s more orchestral than most performances of this song: also, you can see his choice of notes because the camera shows him playing the guitar.

One of the ways I am nascently learning how to convert piano logic (which I understand) to guitar logic (which I am learning) is to practice scales, arpeggios, and just general up and down movements on the guitar strings.  Joe Satriani enjoys this activity a whole lot.

I’ve always liked the electric guitar work on this Sarah McLachlan piece — oh, sure, there’s one big crescendo here, but it’s a good one.

Now as for the noise aspect of the electric guitar, there’s always Sonic Youth — I’m going to submit two of them, of the same song, because you can hear them doing significantly different things with noise live and in the studio.


From another, rather different genre of electric guitar music you have Roy Buchanan, who is also interested in the instrument’s ability to produce noise, especially of the whistling and crackling sorts.

OK, Prince is also one of my favorite electric guitarists, and this is one of my favorite Prince solos.  It kicks off about 1:40 into the video.  I suppose the older folks here are also going to want to hear what Prince played at the George Harrison tribute:

Classic rock, for the traditionalists among us.

Perhaps playing electric guitar should be a group activity.  Typically I like to listen to the Bangles for the vocal harmonies, and for Debbi Peterson’s drums.  But here they seem to be having fun with electric guitar, with the help of an audience being filmed for MTV.  (Yeah, this was done in 1986 — you’ll have to excuse the hairstyles.)

I am going to conclude with this song from Jimi Hendrix’ BBC recordings.  This is with Mitch Mitchell and Noel Redding.  Hendrix was crisp, and ultra-mellow.

Please join in comments with your own contributions. Here’s HOW: To add vids in comments: Click on “share”; then the “embed” button; change the size of the video graphic too, so when it posts, it is smaller. Use 300pixels in the custom parameters (last one on the right) under the embed code. {h/t joanneleon}

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