I have mentioned before that I am planning to play in short Gerry Rafferty gig next month. I thought I might try to play a bit of lead guitar. I more usually play a classical guitar, but as it happens I have a Stratocaster, and thought, “It cannot be too hard, can it?”
And so I got my friend Michael round to show me. He illuminated the mysteries of how to get decent overdrive, which is the effect one wants for this sort of thing. So that was all good. But then the actual playing thing. Hmm. Michael was very encouraging but the short answer to my question turns out to be “Yes, it can”.
Once you have got the overdrive going properly, with lots of sustain, it is necessary to dampen all the strings other that the one you want. You do this, it seems, by resting the palm of the right hand against all the strings above the one you want, and dampening the strings below the one you want with the first finger on the left hand. This, in turn, of course means that that finger is not available to actually stop any notes, so you have to play with the other fingers, as if in a permanent barre. To make matters more complicated, to get a decent bend, you have to use not just one finger, but two or three, and use them to push the string being played under the strings above the one you are bending so that those strings do not add any additional lateral resistance to the bend. Then, to cap it all, it turns out the reason that I was not getting decent vibrato is that the usual classical technique of pushing the string up and down the length of the string does not work; you have to get the effect by a rapid bending action.
All of this is bit like rubbing your tummy whilst patting your head, standing on one leg with your eyes shut and reciting the Greek alphabet backwards. Probably easy if you have a spare two thousand hours to practice it.
But I don’t.