Guitar Odyssey • book

“Guitar Odyssey” Michael Rays [epub only]

Deep Purple Highway Star US single

This is a strange one, but we’d be amiss if we didn’t try and mention it!  The opening paragraph will suggest why…

“I am going to learn the guitar solo from Deep Purple’s “Highway Star,” even if it kills me. I have played guitar since 1989. It’s the end of 2011, and I’m tired of not having anything in my bag of tricks with a serious “wow” factor. That is going to change. Just as mountain climbers go up Everest because it is there, so will I learn every note of Ritchie Blackmore’s masterpiece— because it is there … and because it is awesome.”

And the book? It simply records Michael Rays’ attempts to do just that – in fascinating detail. Over two long years!  What Michael decided to do as he embarked on this challenge was keep a diary of his progress, so each entry covers the moments of progress, and the set-backs.  Now it does sound a bit of a dull read put like that, but somehow you quickly get into the spirit of the project and it becomes great fun to read.  As Mike himself puts it “[the] journal entries are a mixture of hope, enthusiasm, bewilderment and chagrin–sometimes all on the same day.”

I cannot of course reveal the eventual outcome but I’m sure people will be rooting for Michael before they get very far into this. December 19th “Switched to a much thinner pick tonight. Massively helpful. The emperor will be most pleased.” Jan 4th “I think I need to lube up my fretboard before working on “Highway Star”: my main string bending finger (ring finger) keeps getting trapped and pinched between the string being bent and the fretboard. This happens not as I bend the string upward to make a higher pitch, but when I release it back down to its natural state. Talk about a monkey wrench!”

Aspiring guitarist will I’m sure get even more out of it and be able to sympathise with every moment of finger pain. How often you might want to re-read the book I’m not sure, but Michael has thought of that and has published this as a very reasonably priced ePub format, so you download it to your favourite device and take it from there.  It worked fine on my MacBook.

My other thought on having read the book is what a great indie movie there is to be had out of the project. It sounds mad, but you’ll maybe see what I mean if you have a read. Kickstarter here we come.

To get the book, which is only a couple of dollars, visit his ebook distributor:

Mention of this book prompted John Tucker to send in this quote on Highway Star, which comes from Brian Tatler’s autobiography (the guitarist of influential NWOBHM band Diamond Head (Dave is his older brother):

 “I would borrow Dave’s Linear Concord 30 watt amp and plug it into a three watt Cellestion speaker that I rescued from an old gramophone. I soldered a jack plug onto it, not having a clue about ohms or impedance, so the speaker would distort horribly, but I liked it. At fifteen I took up the guitar seriously and became obsessed with it. It took me about six months to master the basics, pestering Dave to show me how to play things I didn’t know. I would play every night after school and at weekends, Dave reckoning now that I would sometimes practice six hours a day. I really wanted to be able to play the guitar solo in Deep Purple’s ‘Highway Star’, but I had no idea what Ritchie Blackmore was up to. I would be upstairs in my own little world, slowing the records down in order to learn the licks. The record player had a 16, 33⅓, and 45 rpm turntable speeds so I could put an album on at 16rpm and it would be approximately an octave lower and half the speed. We also owned a reel-to-reel tape recorder so I could tape a solo at 16rpm then listen to it over and over again on the tape recorder, stopping and learning a little piece at a time. It did, however, take me years to realise that the ‘Highway Star’ solo was in fact double-tracked, and so was impossible to play with one guitar anyway!”

3 Responses to “Guitar Odyssey • book”

  1. Tony B Says:

    As a guitar player I used to slow records down etc. to see if they reveal more of how it’s done (didn’t work for me). I’d drive myself bananas sometimes trying to get something off. I’ve learnt to leave things alone if I wasn’t getting anywhere following the law of diminishing returns plus it’s not important to duplicate someone else’s efforts to the letter. It’s very useful learning from other players and enjoying their work but moreover it’s about me enjoying playing!

    I believe Ritchie B noted his switch to Stratocaster was with the aim of achieving an original sound.

  2. Jerry Says:

    Don’t get the obsession with this or indeed the general desire to analyse Ritchie’s playing. The man himself can’t stand that approach to guitar playing. Half the time he doesn’t even know what he is playing as Jon pointed out on the Machine Head documentary. Music is an expression and once you have taken that feeling out of it and are merely trying to replicate note for note what someone else created it becomes pointless. I once saw a Purple tribute band who had rehearsed tracks from Made in Japan exactly how they were played on that one performance only! Replicating improvisation! Absurd! Although I accept Highway Star was one of the few worked out solos he repeated no one will ever play it as well as he does so why bother?

  3. RB Says:

    If he’s been playing 22 years why’d it did him a further two years of playing everyday to reach his goal? It’s a difficult solo because it is so precise (even more so if played so clean like Ritchie) but two years?

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