From Windy and Warm to Khamenkule

 

Transcription and Video Lesson available

Level: Int/Adv Tuning: Standard

Includes Transcription (notation and tablature) + 30 minute Video Lesson + Reference Video

From the album
The Voice in the Grain

The Voice in the Grain

Khamenkule is a piece I wrote as a tribute to John D. Loudermilk’s fingerstyle guitar classic Windy and Warm.

In the world of fingerstyle guitar music there is a small group of pieces that have endured over the decades and become part of a core repertoire that almost everyone who plays fingerstyle seems to dip in to at some point. Windy and Warm is certainly part of that group, along with other classics, like Freight Train, Classical Gas, and Blackbird.

Loudermilk wrote the tune, but it was Chet Atkins’ 1961 recording that turned it into a classic. It was actually written at Chet’s request. Chet was concerned his previous two albums had become too pop, jazzy and slick. He wanted Loudermilk to write him something that was more down to earth. Windy and Warm was the result.

The piece became a signature tune for Chet and he continued to perform it throughout his lengthy career. Because of Chet’s influence, it wasn’t long before thousands of guitarists — and over the past sixty years, perhaps millions — were learning to play it.

I was part of that multitude, having learned Windy and Warm in 1972 from a Doc Watson album, and as with so many other guitarists, it became a staple of my own repertoire. After playing it for some thirty years I had the idea of paying tribute by using it as the seed for one of my own compositions. Khamenkule was the result.

At the time I was playing around with a composing trick of taking a melody and turning it upside down to inspire something new. I decided to try applying this technique to Windy and Warm’s main theme to see what I might come up with.

It turns out it’s kind of hard to turn a melody upside down in your head – at least it certainly is for me. What I wound up doing instead was inverting the general shape of the melody, rather than the specific notes. So, for example, if the original melody was ascending, mine would be descending, and vice versa. The final result loosely followed this idea, but that was the seed it sprang from.

There are a few other similarities; the descending line at the end of the main theme from Am down to E7 is similar to W&W’s line ; the modulation to A major for one section is another idea inspired by the original. I was trying to maintain the tone and character, but melodically and harmonically the rest deviates quite a bit.

When it came to naming the piece I followed a similar approach, this time inverting Loudermilk’s original title. So Windy and Warm became Calm and Cool. But that seemed a bit too obvious for my liking. So, I tweaked it a bit and for a while its working title was Kalm and Kool. In the end that didn’t sit right with me either. So I succumbed to my whimsical side and my attraction to word play, and in a stroke of self-congratulatory genius it morphed into Khamenkule.

Unfortunately, from a marketing perspective Khamenkule proved to be too smart by half as audience members would always come up confused as to why they couldn’t find Calm and Cool on any of my recordings. (Hot Tip: It’s on the album The Voice in the Grain.)

Such is the burden of genius, particularly the self-congratulatory kind.

Incidentally, Loudermilk eventually wrote his own follow-up to Windy and Warm. I have always felt he missed the bus when he called it Cloudy and Cool. But I was happy to pick up the slack from his missed opportunity.

John D. Loudermilk talks about writing Windy and Warm

Chet playing Windy and Warm

And of course we have to include Chet playing Cloudy and Cool

The Beatles – You Can’t Do That

 

Transcription available

Level: Int/Adv Tuning: Open G

Includes Transcription

Also featured on the album
4 On 6 – The Beatles for Solo Guitar 4 On 6

Also available on iTunes

“You Can’t Do That” is an early rocker written by John Lennon. I first heard it sometime back in 1964 on The Beatles’ Long Tall Sally. I still remember this song standing out as having a darker, edgier colour than a lot of their other early songs. Harrison’s ”Don’t Bother Me” stood out in a similar way for me.

Per usual, my one man band arrangement of it is an exercise in reducing a four piece band with drums and vocals down to an instrumental arrangement for one guitar.

In addition to compressing the usual guitar, drums and bass, the very prominent cow bell had to be dealt with. As a matter of fact, I sometimes wonder if this wasn’t the original “We need more cowbell!” song. Fear not. This arrangement contains not a single cowbell clank, proving that, yes, you can do that.

It is credited as the first song they recorded featuring Harrison’s new Rickenbacker 360 Deluxe 12 string. This 12-string was used sparsely on a relatively small number of songs, and yet it provided an iconic and influential sound in their early catalogue, also being featured on songs like ”A Hard Day’s Night“ and “Ticket to Ride”. In my arrangement I try emulate the 12-string’s call to arms in the song’s introduction on my 6-string guitar.

This arrangement is played in the key of G in Open G tuning. I was trying to maintain some of the driving momentum of the original – but without drums … or the cowbell. In the end I settled for the thumb thumping out a steady, eighth note bass line on the root of each chord with the harmonized melody line over top. The open G tuning gave me access to several open strings for the bass notes, giving some freedom in the voicing and fingering of the melody and harmony lines. It also simplified accessing some octave fingerings on the ”12-string“ introduction as well as reinforcing a couple of bass lines with octaves.

Beatles Trivia:

As I mentioned, this song was featured on The Beatles’ Long Tall Sally. For those keeping score, in Canada The Beatles’ Long Tall Sally was their third album. If you were in the UK you would have heard “You Can’t Do That” on A Hard Day’s Night; in the US you would have heard it on The Beatles’ Second Album (that’s the album’s title, not a description) . The US and Canadian releases shared a similar album cover, but featured a different mix of songs. So it was with the early Beatles releases — different countries : different albums ; different mixes of songs. But that is a story for another day when grampa lights up his pipe and gathers the kiddies around the fireplace to reminisce.

Maple Leaf Rag – complete … at last

Transcription and video lesson available

Level: Int/Adv     Tuning: Standard

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Includes Transcription + 30 minute Video Lesson + Reference Video

Some forty five years ago I got caught up in the ragtime music revival of the early 70s. A combination of the success of Joshua Rifkin’s Nonesuch recordings of Scott Joplin’s works, the soundtrack of the movie The Sting – which turned The Entertainer in a major hit record, and probably the fact that Joplin’s music was moving into the Public Domain making it cheap to publish, all came together to contribute to resurrect the popularity of this musical style.

This revival generated a lot interest amongst fingerstyle guitarists in arranging the piano rags for guitar – or as Stefan Grossman liked to say, “playing them on the six string piano”.

As a young guitarist I jumped whole heartedly on this bandwagon and transcribed copious numbers of the piano rags for the guitar. Maple Leaf Rag was amongst these. I originally arranged the first two of the piece’s four themes back around 1973.

It took some forty years for me to get around to finally arranging the last two themes and then another four years to get around to recording it. Well, you know what they say about a fine wine.

Video Lesson for The Slippery Slope Now Available

Level: Int/Adv     Tuning: Standard Tuning

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Includes Transcription + 30 minute Video Lesson + Reference Video

From the album
The Voice in the Grain

The Voice in the Grain

The Slippery Slope is an original composition that celebrates a slippin’ and a slidin’ on the strings. It first appeared on the album The Voice in the Grain and has since been featured in Fingerstyle Guitar Magazine, as one of the selections in the Fingerstyle Repertoire Requirement for the Wilson Centre Guitar Competition (2017), and on the Mel Bay DVD Masters of Fingerstyle Guitar (now out of print).

A transcription/video lesson bundle is now available through the Acoustic Tonic Music Store.

Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas

Video lesson available

Level: Int/Adv     Tuning: Standard Tuning

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Includes Transcription and 30 minute Video lesson

This is one of my favourite songs for the Christmas season. The title says it all, although the original lyrics were a bit more ambiguous.

Have Yourself Merry Little Christmas was written for the 1944 film Meet Me In St. Louis, starring Judy Garland. Garland balked at singing the original lyrics because she felt they were too sad for the scene the song appears in. Hugh Martin, the lyricist, reluctantly rewrote some of the lines to make it more hopeful sounding. In subsequent years a couple of more tweeks were made as the song evolved into the version we’re familiar with today.

Here’s an interesting article that traces the evolution of the lyrics. Its interesting to see in recent years a number of artists rediscovering and recording the original lyrics. Perhaps this a sign of today’s pervading cynicism.

Regardless of the version of the lyrics you prefer, the melody always wraps me in a warm, cozy blanket of nostalgia when I hear it. So I chose to arrange it beginning with a slow, meditative tone. The change up to a jazz waltz feel at the bridge felt like a nice contrast and leads into a upbeat final verse before finally returning to a reflective mood for the ending.

If you find my arrangement a bit too laid back and need more of a kick in your eggnog, you might want to check out Twisted Sister’s version.

For the guitarists, a half hour video lesson and transcription of this arrangement is available.