On Saturday June 15, The Dudley Manlove Quartet will be performing at The Crocodile Cafe in Seattle, along with our pals “Halloqueen” for an evening of Queen + Bowie. DMQ is polishing up a solid set of Bowie songs and it’s been interesting to work on these transcriptions. I’ve stated in the past how important I think it is to completely understand the song in order to perfectly recreate the recorded performance, and for me the best way to do that is to make a painstakingly accurate transcription of the guitar part(s) and then memorize my transcription. Over the past few weeks I’ve finished writing out the entire night of material including some great solos by Mick Ronson, Carlos Alomar, Stevie Ray Vaughan and Robert Fripp. Bowie’s rotating cast of guitarists included some fairly incredible players, and transcribing these idiomatic guitar parts is the key to decoding the style of the guitarist.
As we get closer to our first full-band rehearsal for this material I’ll be dialing in tones to match the parts. This show is going to require both my Les Paul and Strat, as it will likely be impossible to conjure all those tones from a single instrument. This is the other aspect of recreating the sounds of the original recordings. I’ve made extensive notes in the transcriptions for the timbre and effect settings for each section of the songs, and in a few cases I’ll be doing some creative tap-dancing on my pedalboard to rapidly jump back and forth between settings.
I strongly encourage other musicians to work on transcribing music that you want to really understand. It’s a very powerful mechanism for analyzing song structure and playing style. I frequently notice new aspects to songs as a result of writing out charts and it gives me better insight into my own playing style, including some mannerisms that creep into my playing as a result of muscle memory. As always, hold up the mirror and pay attention.