If you were to take a stroll down our block at just the right time . . . could be day, could be night, could be any day of the week . . . you might hear the sound of a woman screaming from one of the smaller houses on the street.
No, we’re not having sex. We are neither screamers nor scratchers. We moan and talk dirty in three languages, and the music from one of my fuck playlists drowns all that out anyway.
If you were fortunate enough to bump into one of the locals before you rushed to the rescue of a damsel in distress, they would likely stop you and say something like, “Ce n’est rien. Arielle fait encore du bruit.”
Translation: “Don’t sweat it—it’s just Ari making noise.”
I’m not used to people calling me by my full first name, but my neighbors insist on it. When I lived in the States, I encouraged people to call me Ari because Americans had a hard time with Arielle. Either they went full American and pronounced it “aerial” or tried to show off their high school French and wound up almost choking themselves by trying to gutturalize both the “r” and the “ll” (only the “r” is guttural). After a while it got tedious trying to correct people and I resigned myself to the typically hard pronunciation of the “r” used in the western U. S. You can find the proper pronunciation here.
You may have noticed that my father calls me “Sunshine,” which has more to do with his lousy French than my sunny disposition and blonde locks. He wanted to name me “Catherine,” but because my mother always wins, he had to settle for second place. Given my personality and nasty habits, Arielle is certainly more fitting than Catherine, which means “innocent and pure.”
Arielle translates into “Lion of God,” and when I’m making noise on my guitar, that’s exactly how I feel.
I began making noise in my teens when I was seriously into punk, banging away with a low-end Strat, a Boss distortion pedal and a Pignose amp. I’m happy to report that I have upgraded my setup and now make a ruckus on a gen-u-ine American Strat while plugged into a remarkable device called an Apollo Twin X from Universal Audio, a recording interface that gives me access to several software plug-ins that emulate the sounds of an array of high-end amplifiers. My favorite is the Fuchs Overdrive Supreme 50, but I also use a Marshall Plexi Classic and three amps from Friedman (BE100, DS40 and Buxom Betty). Though I’m sure the Apollo is a wonderful recording interface, I’ve never used it as such. Instead, I just plug in my guitar, open iTunes, slip on my headphones and play along to a carefully-chosen set of songs that help me develop my rhythm guitar skills while getting my rocks off at the same time.
I have two distinct practice playlists: one for making noise and one for practicing vocals. The most noticeable difference between the two is that most of the songs on my making-noise playlist come from the music of my generation (18 out of 22 come from the ’90s and ’00s) while most of the songs on the sing-along playlist come from the ’50s, ’60s and ’70s. You might snarkily conclude, “Yeah, millennials are pretty good when it comes to making noise,” but I think the data hints at the declining importance of melody in popular music, as demonstrated by the ascendance of rap and hip-hop. As for the noise factor, there was a vast improvement in guitar-related technology in the ’90s, resulting in more effective and more diverse forms of guitar distortion.
Without further ado, I’ll take you through my current making-noise playlist and identify those moments where the excitement of rocking out becomes so overwhelming that I entertain the neighbors with a near-orgasmic scream. Links to YouTube have been provided if you’re in the mood.
Warm-Up Songs: These are generally simpler songs in manageable tempos that get my fingers moving around the fretboard. Comparatively screamless.
- “How Do You?” Radiohead: This two-minute number from Pablo Honey consists of five chords and a raucous fade involving A major variants—sort of like a warped version of “Feel a Whole Lot Better.” I always open my session with this one because I can bang away on A-chord alternatives without ever making a mistake. Anything goes!
- “Advert,” Blur: When you’re playing rhythm guitar you have to focus on the drummer so you can remain in sync, and it helps to have someone like Dave Rowntree who knows what the hell he’s doing. The song is a mix of two-note power chords and a couple of straight chords in the verse (on “You need a holiday”). That sounds pretty simple but actually requires a lot of discipline and patience because of several instances of extended repetition involving the A-G pattern. The longest pattern (in the instrumental segment) tricks you because a voice counts out sixteen measures but you actually have to repeat the pattern twenty-six times! As Paul Chambers discovered when Miles had him play the same bass part ad infinitum on “All Blues” from Kind of Blue, this is frigging hard. I try to get through it by repeating a quote from Ed O’Brien of Radiohead during each measure—“Rhythm is the king of limbs”—so I can remember why it’s important to keep things together. Instead of screaming when I hear Dave Rowntree give the snare hit cue that signals the end of the torture, I let out a big “whoosh” of heartfelt relief.
- “Ask the Angels,” Patti Smith Group: This is good practice because of the three key changes, but when the band settles on the F major of the fade and drives this baby home, I usually let out a scream . . . call it a practice scream.
- “Pills,” The New York Dolls: A solid rock ‘n’ roll classic to loosen up the fingers and get into the groove. I love it when I nail the rhythm and hear Johnny Thunders ripping through my headphones, but it’s more “satisfaction for a job well done” than a screaming moment.
Let It Rip Songs: It’s time to let the neighbors know that the Lion of God is on the prowl!
- “Listed MIA,” Rancid: “Fuck, yeah!” is how I opened my post on And Out Come the Wolves, and this high-speed punk romp with plenty of power chord action is one of nineteen reasons the album earned that honor. The scream comes in the last verse when the boys give it all they’ve got and throw in some handclaps to seal the deal—and I scream as if I’m taking the deepest plunge on the biggest, baddest roller coaster ever. Absolutely fucking relentless!
- “The Librarians Are Hiding Something,” $wingin Utter$: More Bay Area punk from a band I saw half a dozen times, this one has the virtue of an even faster tempo and hilarious lyrics. The scream arrives with the let-it-all-out finish when Greg McEntee absolutely destroys his cymbals.
- “Don’t Mess with Me,” Brody Dalle: The challenge here comes from the rapid B-C power chord slides; the orgasmic moments come every time Brody hits that long note on “I’ve got the feeling I can break” with plenty of Cobainesque sandpaper in her voice.
- “Clampdown,” The Clash: I’ve always wanted to emulate the sound of those propulsive power chords, and thanks to the Apollo I can now adjust my settings to sound just like Mick Jones! The real trial involves restraint—I tend to get too excited and play past the cuts instead of giving way to Topper Headon. You have to be an idiot to play over Topper Headon, and I qualify. Too many screams to count.
- “M. O. R.” Blur: This one involves a series of two-note power chord arpeggios followed by a let-it-rip chorus that serves as the scream trigger. Sometimes I’ll break off and try to emulate Graham Coxon’s screaming bends with little success.
- “Play You Out,” Mind Spiders: The Mind Spiders have two drummers, so I have plenty of cues to keep me on track as they alternate between all-out punk bash and a classic rock rhythm. Lots of screams on this one.
- “Things You Say,” Sleater-Kinney: I ignore both Carrie’s and Corin’s guitar parts and add a third rhythm guitar part of pure power chords, possible only because Janet Weiss is such a fabulous drummer. The varied syncopation serves as a refreshing stylistic change; the scream comes at the end of the song when Corin belts out the line, “It is brave to be alive!”
- “One More Hour,” Sleater-Kinney: This one is a lot of fun to play because of the three rhythmic variations and subtle downshifts. The scream moment arrives later in the song when they bring it down a notch for Corin’s agonizing lines, “Don’t say another word/About the other girl,” expressing lingering passion and rising anxiety echoed in the ascending chord pattern.
- “Richard III,” Supergrass: Frantic sliding up and down the fretboard sweetened by a dissonant six-half-step chord combination (A-Eb) makes for an excellent rhythm guitar workout and earns a scream every time they cut from A-Eb to C-Ab-G (what y’all know as the chorus). Perfect for the Buxom Betty amp emulator that features a range of nasty presets.
- “Cigarettes and Alcohol,” Oasis: Tony McCarroll wasn’t much of a drummer, but all he needed to do on this song is keep the beat and stay out of the way of the Gallagher Brothers. I like practicing this song because I have to spend a lot of time on the lower strings, thus strengthening my callouses.
- “Lyla,” Oasis: This is one of two songs that are duplicated on my vocal playlist. It’s a song dominated by rhythm guitar (Noel’s solo is brief and to the point) and because the full chords sound better on an acoustic, I switch over to my Ovation for this one. I absolutely love playing along with Zak Starkey, a vast improvement over McCarroll and Alan White.
- “Gimme Three Steps,” Lynyrd Skynyrd: Allen Collins was one of the best rhythm guitar players ever, and trying to duplicate his timing on this song is a master class on rhythm guitar. I scream whenever I nail it, which doesn’t happen all that often because I get too damned excited.
Stretch Songs: These songs all involve arpeggios, the musical form that gives me the most trouble on the guitar. As noted in my Albert King review, I do better without a pick, but the thumb simply doesn’t produce the necessary edge you need in rock . . . hence the need to keep practicing!
- “Portions for Foxes,” Rilo Kiley: Lots of arpeggios all over the fretboard make this a challenge for me. Fortunately, there are several power chord breaks to restore my flagging confidence.
- “Words and Guitar,” Sleater-Kinney: This one frustrates me to the nth degree because it shouldn’t be that difficult. The arpeggios involve a simple chord change from A-flat to C-minor but my arpeggio anxiety tends to get in the way. I only scream when I get it right.
- “Supersonic,” Oasis: I’ve worked my fingers to the bone trying to master this one. The opening arpeggio involves five strings in the form of an F#m11 chord and I nearly always fuck it up on the downstrokes. The arpeggio leading to the chorus is played on an unusually shaped C#7 that hurts like hell. If I ever get to meet Noel Gallagher I want to study the fingers on his left hand to confirm my theory that his callouses extend beyond his fingertips.
- “Everyone Thinks I’m a Raincloud (When I’m Not Looking),” Guided by Voices: This is one arpeggio I get right . . . most of the time. I think it’s easier because it includes some open strings. Love the multiple variants on the E chord, ensuring that I get a lot of fretboard exercise.
- “Bodysnatchers,” Radiohead: When I first attempted this song I was stunned to learn that it demands much more speed than my ears led me to believe, adding to the difficulty of working with the bottom strings at the upper reaches of the fretboard. As is common with Radiohead, the chord changes are brilliant—and more complex due to the heavy use of alternative voicings. Even with the difficulty, I love working with this song and am absolutely determined to nail it someday. My scream moment syncs perfectly with Thom Yorke’s rebel yell after a series of quick chord changes resolve to a thunderous climax on the G chord—and I beat the living shit out of that chord while screaming my lungs out.
Special Bonus Warmup Song!
- Girls and Boys, Blur: When I haven’t played in a while and need to limber my digits and harden my callouses pronto, this is my go-to song. “Huh. That’s not much of a guitar song, is it?” you opine. Well, no, it isn’t—but the chord pattern is made up of a series of standard chords that are usually the hardest on the fingers (G7, C7, F, Eb, F#, F) . . . and the song demands that you play those chords over and over and over and over and over and over . . . well, you get the picture. I used to use “You Can’t Do That” by The Beatles (G7, C7, D7/B7, Em, Am, Bm D), as an alternative, but I tended to get pissed off by Lennon’s sexist control hangup so often that I’d miss my spots. My new backup is “We Used to Know” by Jethro Tull (Em, B7, D, A, C, G, F#, B7), which also allows me to practice my dynamic control.
I want to make one more point before I disappear into the ether—a consumer warning of sorts. I can usually figure out the chords to most songs by myself using either guitar or piano, but sometimes I’ll consult the various chord repository websites if I get stuck. This is a 50/50 proposition at best, but sometimes the errors guide me to the solution. The most common error (and it happens A LOT) involves transcribing minor chords in place of 7th chords. The transcription of “Girls and Boys” on Ultimate-Guitar.com features this mistake . . . and the transcription is rated 4.8 out of 5 stars!
Hey! I think I’ll go rock out right now! Back next week with The Jam!