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Back In The Saddle Again !
By Mick Polich - 09/14/2010 - 03:09 PM EDT

Hello folks - Mick Polich here, and I'm back.

In more ways than one.......

I'm sitting in our music room, typing away, overlooking the lake in the "City Beautiful", Storm Lake, Iowa. Weather forecasts out of Sioux City predict lows possibly into the 40's tonight, with a clear, crisp sky. It’s only September 7th.

I love it.

 All of our stuff made it up here from storage in Dallas back on August 7th, pretty much in good shape. In midst of starting up my electronic repair shop and music studio, we're scurrying to get the house set up, start some renovations, and find JOBS. Yep, we're far from being retired........

I've been writing this comeback column in my head all summer, since we drove up here from Dallas back at the end of June. What to do, what to write, what to do........

Armed with my wife's Takamine acoustic/electric guitar, and a Fender Mex Strat (no amp - couldn't fit it in the Kia Rondo with my kid, and two dogs), I followed my workout/run each morning from July through August with some finger exercises, then decided to challenge myself by working on simple melodies off the top of my head before I surrendered to the 'Ultimate Guitar' website for material. After studying theory for years, but being a 'riff' guy for a long time, I decided quite awhile back to study melodic exercises to boost my lack of expertise in that field. Seems all my favorite musicians are extremely melodic players - Hendrix, Jeff Beck, Coltrane, Jaco, Miles - not to mention the cornucopia of singer/songwriters that I've admired for forty years (yes, Bob Dylan, too, punkers....). I worked out the barest of chord melody arrangements to most of the numbers, which to the uninitiated, are very ‘piano’ like. Single notes, then a chord, more single notes – of course, this is my interpretation in the most scantily – clad of musical set-ups (i.e. – very easy).Quite fun, and a huge ed – ji – mah –cation. When you don’t have all yer danged plug – ins, amps, and digital loopers, you gotta be forced to get ‘real’..

Here’s my summer song list of tunes that I dissected the melody on:

“ It’s Too Late” – Carole King

“ Lost Highway” – Hank Williams ( thanks to jazz guitar great Bill Frisell for the inspiration)

“ All Blues “ – Miles Davis ( thanks to long time guitar bud Wade Krieg for the arrangement back in the day)

“ Black Dog” – Led Zeppelin

“Chitlins Con Carne” – Kenny Burrell

I tried to change up the arrangements, and refine each song, but kept careful not to lose the melody. Why was I bent on making sure the melody came thru, even in the simplest of song arrangements? Because the melodies are the hearts and souls of these songs – in some people’s minds, ANY song.

I think people get scared off from learning melodies, even on one string, or plunking out non – harmony based lines on the piano, because of several reasons:

  1. Too simple, and not even close to being hip ( beginner stuff)

  2. Their minds are too ‘riff’ based

  3. Where do I start, and how can I get some help if I get stuck? For the guitarist, bassist, violinist, or any string player, consider utilizing one string to start. Doesn’t have to be your highest or lowest, just pick a string. Trying transposing the melody, IN THE SAME KEY, to each string, for a great ear training exercise. The easiest thing is to change strings, and just start playing the melody, regardless of key. The harder thing (thus the BETTER approach) is to stay in the same key.

As a kid, I used to play guitar while watching t.v., and try to transpose everything from the commercials, background music on a program, and the t.v. theme shows. I had forgotten about this exercise until recently, and decided to re-up that program once again.

The basic tenants of music theory, again, always apply, regardless of how dissonant or atonal the music is – harmony, theory, and melody: log it, and keep it in check, kids.

I knew long ago that some day, some way, in order to explore further into music, that I needed to delve into melodic playing and exercises .And really, to get into it, you start simple, and simply start. You can build your confidence up thru melodic exercises not only from a music theory standpoint, but your ears will get fine tuned thru dissecting simple melodies.

See? There’s a reason that schmuck who wrote those stiff – shirted guitar methods a hundred years ago wanted you to learn to play “Happy Birthday” and “Yankee Doodle”. It’s early ear training, peeps!

Thanks for sticking with me thru our move back home, and props and shout – outs to all the new customers and students jumping on board at this time. We’re gonna have some fun, kidlets!



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