Magazine article Guitar Player

You're Playing It Wrong: "Satch Boogie"

Magazine article Guitar Player

You're Playing It Wrong: "Satch Boogie"

Article excerpt

THE LIGHTNING-FAST, BI-DEXTRAL arpeggios in the bridge section of Joe Satriani's signature "Satch Boogie" have been subjected to some pretty odd rhythmic interpretations since the release of his groundbreaking Surfing with the Alien album in 1987, when the song became a rite of passage for shredders worldwide. Interestingly, the discrepancies in this tapped tour-de-force tend to be rhythmic rather than melodic ones, and the madcap figure is often misunderstood as a haphazard series of hammer-ons and pull-offs, rather than a consistently repetitive rhythmic motif. It's an awesome display of muscular chops and musical ingenuity that also happens to be a textbook example of a neo-classically based compositional principle called "Pitch Axis."

In this case, the term applies to Satch's dizzying harmonic progression of cascading tapped, pulled-off, and hammered-on arpeggios, which fluctuates between A-based major, minor, and dominant tonalities, and is played entirely on the fifth string. Given the song's breakneck tempo, it's understandable that microscopic, half-speed inspection will reveal some rhythmic inconsistencies, but these are barely noticeable during Satch's real-time performance. To understand his true intention, start by establishing the basic rock-and-roll rhythm figure depicted in Ex. 1a and working it up to tempo. Next, adapt the same rhythmic motif to the tapped, 12th-fret A'S in Ex. 1b. When this feels comfortable, apply staccato phrasing as shown in Ex. …

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