What Chet Did Best

Discussion of history's greatest guitar player.

What Chet Did Best

Postby Doug Working » Tue May 29, 2018 5:24 pm

I like to work on arrangements of tunes I like. I have a penchant for catchy melodies. I've arranged scores of them over the years for my own liking, but I'll admit, I'm sure not the best. Far from it. Oh, I do ok, pat myself on the back. I can usually find the chords and turn them into the melody and do a decent job, but there are sure a lot of players who are worlds better.

And really, when you come right down to it, isn't that the bottom line? Isn't that what it's all about? (Arranging that is.) If you have good arranging chops, you have a ton of freedom on the fretboard. You can say what you want, musical wise. Lots of freedom of expressing your musical self.

And that's where I think Chet excelled. He must have had such a profound working knowledge of the fingerboard, that no good tune/melody was out of his reach. I know Chet admired and had a fabulous ear for melodies.

Today I was working on "Please Release Me." I wasn't copying Chet, I was simply playing it like I myself would play it. Trying to make it unique...put my own stamp on it. That's what a guitarist is SUPPOSED to do, right? But it's one of those tunes where there is not a lot of wiggle room. Not a lot of musical range in the melody. The same tune repeats over and over, which is understandable, since it was written to sing, and not written for guitar. But there are a lot of tunes like that. Just one simple melody repeating over and over, most of them written for the lyrics/ vocal element, not with guitar in mind.

And that's where the challenge comes in. How do I vary the arrangement or melody while still keeping it recognizable, and keep it interesting for 3 and a half minutes? Another way of saying it is : How do I come up with a really good, (if not killer) arrangement? *

We all know the basics. Arpeggiate chords, play block chords, play the melody in thirds, sixths, octaves, play the melody on the bass strings, modulate the key, and several other tricks of the trade. Even then, it's still a challenge.

I think I do recall Chet saying that exact same thing, once. (About keeping it interesting for 3 and a half minutes). Anybody familiar with that interview/quote? And he was SO GOOD at it! Never got stuck in a rut, always found a way to vary the melody to keep it interesting. Thinking about "Please Release Me", his arrangement on the album "Chet", is a great example. He finds several variations within the allotted time, and just really does an amazing job of it. He finds ways of playing the basic melody that I would have never dreamed existed. He was definitely the MASTER, and I, little grasshopper, am and ever will be the student.


* I have a friend who set up a small recording studio in his home. I have long been talking to him about recording a CD of my playing, but now he's been really on me about it, itching to do it soon, so I'm getting more "serious" about coming up with good, recordable arrangements.

Working at it every day.
Doug Working
 
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