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Rock Guitar Lessons: Paul Talks with Dweezil Zappa - Part 1

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>> Ladies,
and gentlemen, it's Dweezil Zappa.
>> Hello.
>> Here at my studio.
Thanks so much for coming today.
>> Thanks for having me.
>> It's an honor and a pleasure.
And I've got lots of questions to ask you,
and hopefully some jamming as well.
>> Let's try it out.
And where to begin.
I guess I'm gonna start in the middle.
>> Okay.
>> Where we are right now.
And I'm gonna ask you what you're excited
about at this moment,
about music and guitar.
>> Well, you know, there's so
many things with the guitar that you could
just keep learning and, and improving on.
And me personally,
one of the things that I've been trying
to, to do in my own playing is.
There's certain techniques I've trying to
develop to get better at, but
there's a certain concept that I'm working
towards, which is
trying to think more like a drummer might
think in terms of filling up some space.
Because guitar players typically.
A very linear in terms of you know,
ascending, descending scales and the.
>> Yeah.
>> And the rhythmic variation for
most rock guitar players is pretty
>> Yeah.
>> So, I have been trying to actually
learn drum fills on guitar.
>> Yeah.
>> And, and sort of look at the guitar,
sort of differently like you know, the low
strings being the low, you know,
like kick toms or whatever the high
strings being.
The you know, other kind of information
that you would get from the symbols or
high hat and stuff.
>> Yeah.
>> And, and so
it's leading me to rhythmic variations
that are, are good.
And it's helping in an improv situation
you know, so.
That's, it's hard to explain without some
examples which we can get into at,
at some point but.
>> Yeah.
Well, I've got a question about
drummers then.
>> Yeah.
>> Is, is there a particular.
Drummers that you listen to and
you go like I got, I got to get that
filled working on my guitar.
>> Well, I mean, there's certain drummers
whose fills
make more sense to me in terms of what I
would like to try to do with the guitar.
>> Yeah.
>> And oddly enough one of them being
Terry Bozzio,
because the way he, plays.
He does a lot of stuff where he separates
what his feet are doing and
what his hands are doing.
So he'll do something where he'll do this
and then he'll do this with his hands.
>> Yeah.
>> So you can kinda hear the things.
So the rhythmic variation in what he does
is also really cool.
And it's based on.
>> So it's not just rhythms.
It's also like sort of aiming at pitch
>> Right.
>> This is the high part.
This is the low part.
You know, on guitar we've got notes, but
on drums there might be notes too,
I know Terry.
>> Yeah.
>> Is into that.
>> Yeah.
>> With any drummer you've got the high
things or the snare drum, and
then you have the low sound.
>> The thing, the key to trying to make it
work on the guitar is trying to have it
follow the contour of what the original
So if it has repeated notes,
there's different ways you do that instead
of just playing on one string,
you know, like if you had to play,
you know,
you could do that this way,
>> Oh yeah.
That's gonna have
different dynamics to it.
Yeah, and so that kind of thing is
technique I'm sort of trying to develop,
is working out different ways to like even
have attacks on the same note,
that make it seem like a different note,
because of the dynamics, and all that.
And the same thing on a drum.
You know, if you're hitting the snare
drum, and there's.
You know, the, there's all the different
textures of the way it's being
hit that make it sound like it has some
>> Yes.
>> So that's.
>> So what lead you to this?
For this, was there, realized one day,
like, I wanna get more drums in my playing
or how did that happen?
>> Well, it, I mean it was really kind of
a, it comes from, the desire to have.
More variation, in an improve setting, to,
to break free from whatever, is my comfort
>> Yeah.
>> And so
first it started with simple patterns that
I could.
Apply to the guitar.
So for example, like if we take a five
note pattern,
like a quintuplet type of thing, but you
put a subdivision in it as one,
two, one, two, three, one, two, one, two,
three, one, two, one, two, three.
>> Gimmie, gimme the tempo, so I got a
starting place.
>> Well, I mean it, it, it really depends.
Like I'll, I'll play it for you, so you
have the, like this is, this is the,
the sound that I'm going for.
Now, is that the groove of the song, or?
>> Well, it, it doesn't have to be.
You know, so the thing that I'm,
what I'm trying to do is, is be able to
have this thought in my head of one, two,
one, two, three, one two, one two, one
two, one, two three.
And then figure out different ways I could
attach notes to that.
>> So what might be, what might be a kind
of groove that that could fit over?
>> Well, before, before you even get to
the groove part, the,
the idea is how do you get your fingers
to naturally have this thing work out, you
So, that you don't have to think about a
million shapes or patterns, and so
what I came up with this concept.
There's different ways you can do it.
The easiest way is on one string [NOISE].
So, [NOISE].
So you get this idea of one-two,
one-to-three, one-two, one-two-three.
>> Yeah, you can definitely hear the
>> And so but that's different than if you
are doing yeah, so then if you wanted
to change the accent to one-two-three,
one-two and then flip flop between them.
right there you have all these accents
that are happening.
>> [INAUDIBLE] sixteenth note.
>> Right, but you can tap your foot
through, you can be in four four, but
>> Inside it [NOISE] or whatever.
>> Yeah all of those things are in there,
and so what I was trying to do
is give myself these rhythmic devices that
I can attach notes to.
>> Yeah.
>> And so
another way of doing that was to do this
kind of thing where
I would hit one down beat or one
And then I would do three notes, like I'm
strumming a chord.
You know, so, if we're in A minor here,
I'm gonna hit the C.
I'm gonna pull-off the A.
then I'm gonna hit the top half of a B
minor chord.
this enabled me, once I said, oh well that
works, I can take that pattern,
I can move it across the strings and do
something like.
It's cool.
>> So then, now I have this context to use
a couple of these shapes.
And then if I want to start taking a
random shape and
applying, you can do like.
You can move things around.
Now what it is, as you're thinking, one,
two, one, two, three, one, two, one, two,
three and the notes don't matter.
It's the contour.
And when you finally get to the note that
you want to end on, to.
>> Make sure that's a good one.
>> Yeah.
And so, so you have all these elements.
>> You
can just have this, flowing rhythm thing,
and, and getting back to drums, you know,
the, the contour is what gives you the,
the ride, through the, what they're doing.
>> Yeah.
>> There's no real pitches, so.
>> They've got the great, you know,
luxury of not having to worry about if
they're in the right scale.
>> Right.
>> And maybe.
Maybe that's helpless.
Maybe we worry about that too much?
>> Yeah.
>> It's like, that's okay!
>> Cuz that became one of the other parts
to this puzzle, was, if you had contour,
the notes don't really seem to be the
thing the listener is so concerned with.
They'll take the journey.
I mean you listen to Allan Holdsworth, he
plays all kinds of crazy things.
But there's a rhythmic flow to what he's
doing, so you can take that journey, for
the most part.
>> Yeah
>> You know.
>> As long as the beginning and
the end make sense.
>> Yeah.
But even.
>> You can do your.
>> Yeah.
>> And in between there,
if you just took it out of context it may
sound strange, but
the whole thing makes sense.
>> Right.
But even, even,
that chromatic thing will make sense to a
It doesn't matter what the notes are,
because they can tell what the movement
>> Yeah.
>> And it's going a certain direction.
>> [MUSIC]
>> [LAUGH] Yeah, but
so if you get into weird things, like.
[SOUND] You know
these weird kind of intervalic things and
you're still in the key of A or something.
[SOUND] These kind of little sounds are
these kind of things that
I'm playing with now that I'm where I'll
mess with stuff like.
>> Yeah.
>> You know so that you would get to your
root at the end but there's
this strange falling down the stairs, kind
of feeling of what's happening.
>> So how much, you know, be, between, you
working that out and in your studio and
getting that on stage, working.
Well, I guess my, my question is, are you
able to improvise and change those on
the spot or do you to work them out pretty
much in advance, or a little bit of both?
>> At, at, at first I have to just play a
little bit to see
what technique is involved you know, with
the picking and.
>> Yeah.
>> And with my, the,
the fingerings of the stuff, but then
there's a pretty good amount of freedom in
an improv situation to be able to just try
them out and see what they sound like.
>> So, from the ones that you've worked
is there one that comes to mind as being
the most indestructible, it always works,
it's the easiest one for you to play?
>> Well, the one basic one that I sort of
outlined, I use a lot.
And then you can move it around.
This, this idea.
You know.
That one is, is one that,
that can be used because you know, you can
use it diatonically.
Like right now, I'm looking.
>> Is that what you've, you've sort of
molded it to be inside a.
>> Yeah but you know, you can have it move
around and
you can change the rhythm of it so that
it's not all fives.
And add an extra thing, that's seven or?
>> Yeah, yes.
>> Yeah.
>> Yeah, so it's really easy to go one,
two, one, two, three, one, two,
>> Yeah.
>> one, two, one, two, three, one, two.
Or you know, you can think about it
different ways.
But I like to think of them as small
things that I can add onto and so.
You know, a way to get yourself thinking
about those, those numbers as kind of a,
a, there's a funny thing, you could learn
a phone number.
>> Oh, yeah.
>> Like,
let's say you were gonna learn 867-5309.
>> Right.
>> So the easiest way to do something like
that, for
me, the way I look at it, is, the guitar
is set up for me where you have.
Each set of two strings,
provides you with an opportunity to have
like a cell of information, so if if you
got two strings there's four notes if
you're doing two notes per string.
[SOUND] So you gotta eight there you know.
So if you're doing eight six seven what's
the next easiest way for
a six would be three notes per string, so
you got eight.
[SOUND] And now, eight, six, seven.
Let's say we did that seven we were
talking about.
So now you have this sound.
If you, if you were gonna improvise
you have some complex rhythms.
But you're thinking about playing a phone
>> Well, that.
And I like that you were talking about
>> Mm-hm.
>> All of those are descending lines.
So, the listener is, is they, they, you
can kind of count easier,
cuz they're all starting from a high
point, going, you know, eight notes down,
starting from a high point.
Wh, eight, six, six notes down.
>> Yeah.
>> Seven notes down.
So, it's going.
[NOISE] And that,
that high note sort of a alerts the ear to
this is where the new accents begins.
>> And but you don't always have to do it
that way.
There's so much freedom in how you
>> I guess you could reverse it, [NOISE].
>> Yeah.
There's a lot of that.
>> [NOISE].
>> Yeah, yeah.
But the thing that's cool about it is that
it gets you out of the idea that you have
to play through scales, it gets you more,
sort of an intervallic kind of sound.
But it, it focuses you on having some
more, rhythmic variation.
>> Yeah.
>> You know, because, again the idea is
that you have small, small cells that,
that keep adding up into a bigger idea
cuz, you know, a lot of people will learn
complete licks and they'll think, okay,
I'ma throw my lick in there and then when
they mess up on their lick,
they're lost and so, they'll just go back
to like playing through a scale.
And so,
this kinda idea is like the small ideas.
You can, you can get yourself using those
put spaces between them and actually
breathe between them, you know?
>> Yeah.
>> And that's,
that's another big thing for me is, is
actually trying to play less and
put more space in between things like
>> It's a scary thing isn't it?
>> Yeah.
>> [LAUGH]
>> You know, it, it because it's so
easy as a guitar player to run your
fingers till you get to the next.
Melodic idea.
>> Well, also, if you use any amount of
distortion to play loud, you can't stop.
If you do, the amp picks up.
You have to dial in your gear, or be fast
with the fuzz pedal or the volume.
>> Yeah, it is a problem.
>> It's the opposite of a horn player, a
horn player has to breathe.
>> Or they die.
You know they die.
>> [LAUGH]
>> You know, if a guitar player breathes,
it's like oh my god, I gotta, I gotta do
something to make this not be a disaster.
>> I know and that is part of the reason
why we all
probably tend to play more than we need
>> Yeah.
>> And, you know, volume pedals and
expression pedals and that kind of stuff
help and I'm I'm.
Working towards a bit of that.
But there's also a certain maturity and,
and editing of, of your ideas.
>> Yeah.
>> That you eventually get to.
Cuz in the beginning, you're building
technique, and
you're trying to find ways to use it.
You know?
And sometimes it's really fascinating, and
sounds great.
And sometimes it sounds like a technical
exercise, you know.
>> Hm.
>> And depending on.
You know the, the interest level of the
How much are they gonna tolerate of, of
that kind of thing, you know?
So, that's the weird thing about guitar is
you know,
very technical minded people really
appreciate a lot of that stuff.
>> Yeah.
>> But then, you know,
the people that are just going for the gut
They don't care about all the, you know,
the athletic ability on the fretboard,
they just want to hear some notes that
make them feel something.
>> Yeah.
>> So how do you combine technique
with making you know an emotional?
>> [LAUGH] I think it should, that it's
screwing you up.
>> Yeah, yeah.
So that, that's, that's sort of the path
that we all have to find and
the balance that we all have to find as
guitar players, but
the great news is that there's so much
information available these days.
That people can really find something to
help them get on,
you know, task with what they're doing.
And so this stuff that you're doing is
great because you're,
you're able to help people really zone in
on what, what they want to do and.
>> Helps me [CROSSTALK].
>> Information.
>> In the meantime.
>> Yeah.
>> [LAUGH].
>> Technical information, you know, as
well as, you know,
theoretical information.