I was hired for a hip hop session on Saturday afternoon. Yes, that’s right, a hip hop session - they had asked for some Spanish guitar over this mash-up/cover. It actually ended up being a fun challenge in a couple of different ways.
When we sat down with it, they had a programmed drum groove, and a programmed nylon guitar pattern looped over it. That’s it. We were building the song from scratch. I quickly learned the guitar pattern and they asked me to go in and record a pass of that over the drum beat. That was challenging because the harmonic minor nature of it makes for some stretches and on a nylon string, you’re already trying to avoid squeaks. Stretches makes squeaks inevitable but it ended up being alright when all was said and done. It was a 4 bar progression so I basically played that 4 times and they looped it from there.
Next, they had a male BGV rapper come in and lay down some parts which started to give some structure to the tune. From here (and this is what I’m getting at with this post), they wanted me to go in and lay a bunch of Spanish licks down over it. They said they’d slice and dice the ones they wanted so don’t worry about form or anything, just free flow. One one hand, I thought “well, this isn’t particularly organic”, but on the other I realized after doing a pass that by free flowing I was really starting to come up with some interesting licks. I could see how they could grab a few of them and have some really cool stuff. It ended up being a great practice. In fact, I highly recommend finding an electronic drum beat or a fully produced rap song online, and just playing licks over it. You’ll find it’s challenging trying to find the holes, consistently play compelling melodies, and otherwise keep the ideas fresh.
I think anything that challenges us as musicians, whether it’s perceived to be organic or not, is actually beneficial. Something like this is a great way to get off a plateau.