Who knew Loudon Wainwright III was so damn hot!?
Okay, so maybe a little back story on that. This weekend I was out with S who I’ve seen a few times (and have actually written about here). Last time I was at her place I noticed she had an acoustic guitar stuck behind her couch.
I was a bit too distracted to pay it much mind then, but this time I asked about it. I hadn’t previously mentioned to her that I play a bit. She told me a while back her brother had started teaching a little but she gave it up after a few attempts and lost interest. I picked it up and sat on the floor fooling around with it.
It was a cheap guitar, but not an awful one, a Jasmine (a budget line from Takamine) with some old decrepit strings. The saving grace is that since it had barely been played, the strings weren’t decayed from finger sweat and oils so much as they were just a little dead sounding.
Still, I can’t help myself. I tuned it up by ear, not perfect, but good enough to play a bit and started strumming with just my fingernails (couldn’t find a pick). She asks me if I can actually play. I tell her I sing and play some, but not great.
So she asks me to sing her a song.
The truth is… I dread that moment. Put me on a stage with lights in my eyes and I’m good to go, but right there in front of someone looking at me I lose my nerve for some reason. I’m on the spot now, though, so I say okay.
The twerp sat her iphone next to me, recording it.
My mind goes completely blank. I mean, if I’m going to play a beautiful woman a song I want it to at least be something mildly sexy. I can usually throw out Just Like Heaven by The Cure without halfway trying, but nope… I blanked. Suddenly the only song that will come to me is “Daughter” by Louden Wainwright III.
To make matters worse, this song is played with a capo on the second fret. I don’t exactly carry a capo around in my pocket.
If you are not familiar, a capo (pictured to the left) is a little device that clamps across the fret board of a guitar to change the tuning to a higher key. It has a noticable effect on the tonal quality as well.
So now I have to transpose chords really quickly to accommodate playing it without a capo. It’s not brutally difficult, but on the fly, and considering I kind of suck, it’s a pain in the ass.
To give you some idea, I’ll use a metaphor. Here are the seven standard colors:
Red Orange Yellow Green Blue Indigo Violet
You have something that goes:
Red Red Green Violet Red Blue
Except you have to transpose it 2 steps over. So Red is now Yellow, which means the other colors have to shift as well and you end up with:
Yellow Yellow Indigo Orange Indigo Violet
Not so difficult, but you’re going to be singing too, which means you need that finger memory doing it’s job, but you’re now playing completely different chord shapes and positions. Also, the colors would be more like Red Red LimeGreen Lavender Red Blue since we have sharps (#) in between some notes/chords, but not all.
Luckily it’s not a terribly difficult song to play. For example, in the verse the capoed chords have the same shape and relative position as G D C Em, but they are actually A E D Fm#. Therefore without the capo I have to play the actual A E D Fm# chord shapes and positions. Again, not super difficult, but you end up fighting against the way you learned to play it (for the record, I just realized while writing this I was actually playing F# instead of Fm# in the recording, oops! See what I mean?)
Oh, and between 2:08 and 2:27, that’s me forgetting the words :p
So, keep in mind, I’m banging away on a cheap guitar with crap strings, in a different key than I’m used to, in front of a beautiful woman, and all I can remember to play is a decidedly unsexy song by a guy who is best known for his song Dead Skunk (in the Middle of the Road)*.
Ladies and gentlemen, this is what it’s like inside my head.
Move over, Barry White. Loudon’s in the house. Who knew?