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Don Alder - Advanced Acoustic Guitar Part 1: Taiwan Traffic Jam Part 1

Lesson Notes

** As featured in issue 24 **

Welcome back to the Quiet Room, except in this guitar lesson the song were about to tackle may not be so quiet! The song is called Taiwan Traffic Jam and should be played with your acoustic guitar dialled up to 11. Electric players, I hope you join in for some acoustic guitar mayhem!

The tutorial for this song will be spread over two issues, however, the files contain the full song for those wanting to push forward. The inspiration for this song came from being in a crazy traffic jam many years ago on a Taiwan tour which included guitar sensation Andy McKee (pre-YouTube). My roots have been in Rock so I chose to detour on the traditional fingerstyle approach to see if I could inject some Rock and Metal influences. The chords and notes played with the left hand are fairly easy, the right hand techniques are more advanced which I’ll refer to as “Five Finger Right Hand Shred”. Big thanks to Canadian Virtuoso Dave Martone for the PDF (song analysis) and to Mark Grover for the tab.

The tab arrangement is slightly different but close enough. I encourage you to learn what you can then modify it and make it your own. When you get to be “You” onstage it’s so much better. When GI sent me the video clip I wanted to redo the song but decided that the video warranted some discussion about performance at the cost me getting to wear “The Cone of Shame”. Truth is, when we shot this video at the GI Studio in London I had just got off tour with the Fingerstyle Collective. I didn’t get to practice the song on tour, was extremely tired and just finished a wicked cup of UK Espresso, “Only made in Britain you say”!!

The performance is not all that bad as it has decent energy and feel. Perfectionists might disagree. On the audio files I lock into a tempo of 140 bpm (approx). Put a metronome against the video and I move between 138 bpm to 155 bpm. Yeah, thanks UK Caffeine, good thing the song subject matter is about mayhem!

Sometimes locking to a tempo can make a song sound a bit stiff. Tempo is a major consideration for your tunes and you need to take appropriate action to get your desired results for live or for recordings. So, here’s an an overview of the riff and pre-verse sections. I love heavy riffs but was coming up empty trying to write one in standard tuning so I tuned to BADGAD, (as a joke to be BAD). With a bit of luck this tuning gave me the riff I needed. Different tunings present you with non-traditional shapes and patterns. This can help trigger that child type creativity and put you in a more playful/experimental frame of mind. The resulting riff is pentatonic by nature, so a B Pentatonic riff. The song is chord based with a handful of licks to glue the piece together. I like the sound of suspended chords and many of the chords are in the key of Bm. I didn’t know the chord names. I just let my ear guide me. I found shapes that I liked and just used the tried and true method of guitar playing we call Cut and Paste!

I then injected a variety of right hand fingerpicking patterns to transition from section to section. That should get you started, see the video and reference files to work through the song.

Till next issue, have fun!


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