Wednesday, 20 April 2011

But does it work with just a guitar?

I was rather looking forward to hearing the astronomically-and-quantum-physically-themed Sam Barber And The Outcasts play at the Wee Red Bar tonight.  Sadly though, I got a text last night from their guitarist, the estimable Ms Fi, to say that it had been canned, for somewhat obscure reasons.

A shame, as Sam's arrangements are good, and for me, the songs tend to suit the whole band setting, even though some of them can also work as solo acoustic numbers.

For some purists, that is a definition of a good song;  can it work as a song with just one acoustic guitar?  For me, that theory is a stinking, heaving mass of sweaty pig's knackers.

For a start, it totally ignores any tonal qualities of a song.  Would "Satisfaction" by The Rolling Stones sound good played on a beat up old acoustic?  i.e. without that rasping, echoing guitar?  The "one acoustic" theory also ignores any arrangement ideas. Wouldn't Johnny Cash's "Ring of Fire" be a tad tame without that horn section?  To attempt to replicate Bowie's "Space Oddity" on an acoustic would be somewhat empty, without the band, not to mention the iconic stylophone noises.

Anyway, I think Sam's got a good handle on all of that, so it was a shame not to experience it.


  1. When I first started playing at Out of the Bedroom, I sifted through my back catalogue only to discover that the vast majority of my songs relied almost completely on the instrumentation rather than chords or chord structures - most had only two discernable chords being used - and so my "canon" was useless for playing with one acoustic.

    I solved this problem by writinhg new songs, specifically to play at OOTB, completely changing my songwriting routine to actually writing on the acoustic and then embellishing thereafter whilst recording.

    But yes, you're right, that rule is indeed "pants" of the extra large variety.

  2. I know what you mean CBQ, I had a similar experience when I started performing solo at open mics too. And the reverse holds true as well: when once is used to composing for a single guitar and voice, it takes a while to adjust to having a whole band.