Thursday, March 31, 2011

Guitar Workshop: I Fought the Law (and the Law Won)

We did an installment last September for Guitar Workshop, and this one in particular, what with all the recent talk about fighting the law, and the law either winning or losing, depending on whether you're Joe Sixpack or the President of the United States, and we decided, hey, let's do that one again, so here goes ...

“I Fought the Law (and the Law Won)” was written by Sonny Curtis in 1959. He recorded it with The Crickets that year, taking the place of Buddy Holly (as if anyone could, right?) after the latter's unfortunate demise earlier that year. But the most famous rendition came at the end of 1965, when the Bobby Fuller Four recorded it, and performed it on nationwide television, as seen here. (I know, I know, don't forget the version by The Clash in 1979. Whatever.) Notice the rhythm guitar break in the first clip. Any flattop flogger can play chords and call himself a "rhythm guitarist." It's the ones who can work the whole fingerboard who make the grade.

Watch this next clip for a closer view of the action, provided by some guy in a tee-shirt that says "More Cowbell." (NOTE: The previous demo has been removed from YouTube. It can happen.) There are basically three barre chords here. During the verses we see the F barre chord in the third position for the G chord, and the B-flat barre chord played in the third and fifth positions for the C and D chords, respectively. The third barre chord is the basic D chord, although it's not used much. Sometimes it is played for one beat, in the interlude between the verses, so the D will sound "lower" than the barre. It is also used once early on in the solo break.

But pay attention to the thumb of the left hand. Some guys will use it to finger the sixth string. Our subject is using it to dampen the sixth and fifth strings, which are not being utilized here. The result is a sort of "partial barre chord," which some players prefer. This is how Bobby Fuller does it for the most part (as you'll see when he does the break). Like I said, some players find it more convenient.

This is a good exercise for the intermediate player, one with a little experience working up and down the neck. If you're patient enough, it can be a good starting tool as well.

Rock on.

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