I'm (slowly) getting back into playing guitar, and so inevitably I've ended up watching lots of guitar YouTube. Most of it is intimidatingly good and some of it can be a bit too much about showing off or overly hawking lesson programs.
I want to share a guitar video that showed up in my feed recently and which I just can't stop watching. It was made in late 2020, while COVID-19 had everyone staying home for the holidays, by Paul Davids. He has done a number of videos where he got various guitarists to solo over the same backing tracks calling in from their home studios, but in this one he gets four quite different guitarists (plus himself) to make loops out of a suggested set of chords.
While some artists were able to do limited looping experiments as early as the 1960s, the technique came into its own in the 2000s as digital memory got cheap and plentiful enough to allow performance tools like Ableton Live and various effects pedals to loop entire musical phrases and chord progressions and create multi-layered songs all by yourself.
I'd never heard of any of these players, but they all seem to know each other, and they all do a great job. They each take a different approach, some pre-preparing backing tracks, others building everything from scratch; some working just with their guitar, others bringing in other instruments.
Two things keep me coming back to this video. The first is the positivity everyone is exhibiting. In other compilation videos, Paul shares his own comments after each performance, but in this one he's edited real-time responses into the playing, making it feel like a reaction video. Everyone is excited to hear what the other players have come up with, and they each bring their own unique enthusiasm to their own segments.
The second thing that puts this on repeat for me is the loveliness of the music. Looping tracks, where the soundscape builds over an endlessly repeating phrase, can have a soothing, calming effect. The repeating patterns often feel like lullabies. Even though it starts out quite upbeat, this has become regular bedtime listening for me.
Enough from me - watch this and I'll share some of my thoughts on the performances afterwards.
Helen Ibe brings the smiles right off the bat, laying down a lovely upbeat groove and then adding a tasty expressive solo on top of it. She's mastered the art of matching facial expressions to playing, showing joy and even surprise when she pulls off an alternate chord or cool lick. I've watched this many times and only just today noticed that she switches from using a pick to fingers during her solo and then back again - so effortless!
Sean Angus Watson starts out with goofy enthusiasm, warning us that he's going to build a "wall of sound" and "a total cacophony" - but then he creates a gorgeous dreamlike lullaby in triple-time. I've always associated the Gibson SG with hard rock bands like AC/DC, so it was surprising to hear such lovely tones coming out of it. I especially like how his repeating loop finishes with a crescendo and then a bar of silence. It brings unexpected dynamism to the piece and also helps anchor the phrasing.
Mary Spender brings a coolness to the proceedings, with a very 2020 "looking forward to seeing you in person again" intro and then going back to her Bristol pub days, adapting one of her old songs to the suggested chords. As someone who is mediocre at guitar and even worse at singing, I'm always impressed by someone who can duet with themselves, scatting along to their guitar solos like Mary does so tastefully here.
It's good to see Paul Davids take part in his own challenge. He builds up a very catchy groove with his guitar and then also sets up some beats with a drum machine and even swaps in his bass at one point. As the teacher on his own channel, he of course has to show some chops and neck know-how on top of the grooves. I've had his main riff in my head all week.
Hvetter isn't quite as active in reactions in this video - I get the impression he's a bit shy, and English doesn't seem to be his first language. He creates a lovely piece though, getting an unexpectedly wide range of sounds from just his acoustic guitar.
You can catch the chords in question early on in the video and I might try doing something with them myself - though it'll be nothing close to what these people managed to produce!