Most difficult song to master?

This Charming Ben

Six-String Samurai
My two cents... in terms of actually executing, "Some Girls Are Bigger Than Others" and "Girl Afraid" have got to be among the most difficult to nail note-for-note and fluidly. And maybe "William It Was Really Nothing" too. Barbarism was kinda hard as well, but it came along way faster than I would have expected. And it definitely sounds hard. Though he seems to have dismissed it since, I think Johnny's riffs on that one almost touch "This Charming Man" as far as inventive use of open strings goes. Genius!

In terms of trying to figure out just exactly what's going on and really getting it note-for-note perfect (which I think we'd all agree is usually a lot harder than the execution itself), I've spent more time on "This Charming Man" than anything else… because every nuance of that guitar work deserves the attention. "Headmaster Ritual" also caused its fair share of sleepless nights. "Draize Train" was a pain too just because it's so unlike a lot of the Smiths' other stuff. Bluesy bends and all that.

While I’m posting, big kudos to the SmithsOnGuitar site for undertaking that mammoth task. Lately, that's my first stop to see how far others have gotten, and it's usually a great resource and starting place.

Now, assuming you're as neurotic as I am about trying to get every little note correct… I have to say that as far as a lot of those YouTube guys go, I know there are those who post a lot of videos, and layering all the instruments makes for a good presentation, but I rarely see anything that strikes me as super accurate guitar-wise. For any given song, everyone gets some of it right, but everyone is also guilty of glossing over this or that part and saying "close enough." That Marzipan guy is far and away the best I've seen out there, and even he misses a little part here and there. I'm sure we all do. It seems like really learning a Smiths song is never "done." Every time I pick one up again, I hear something in my approach that needs tweaking. Johnny always keeping us on our toes. :guitar:
 

nursejuju

New Member
i can't lie most of the songs are very hard to master. it took me about 2 years to get 'girl afraid' just right and i still fumble with the intro from time to time. i'm having trouble with 'headmasters ritual' because the timing has to be done just right .especially trying to play it in standard tuning with a capo on the second fret. any tips would be most appreciated. it took me a long time as well to get 'miserable lie' but it was worth the calloused fingers but to be back on track 'headmasters' and 'girl afraid' for me, were the most difficult
 

egosheep

Member
Now, assuming you're as neurotic as I am about trying to get every little note correct… I have to say that as far as a lot of those YouTube guys go, I know there are those who post a lot of videos, and layering all the instruments makes for a good presentation, but I rarely see anything that strikes me as super accurate guitar-wise. For any given song, everyone gets some of it right, but everyone is also guilty of glossing over this or that part and saying "close enough." That Marzipan guy is far and away the best I've seen out there, and even he misses a little part here and there.

I agree that marrzipan is one of the greats. In terms of sheer accuracy, the guy on youtube named pljnr is just crazy. I think his Reel Around The Fountain is the best I've seen, but all his other videos are good as well... he just has 4 I think.
 

This Charming Ben

Six-String Samurai
Good call, "pljnr" also does a very good job... and in fact, I admit that seeing his take on Reel a few months back put a fire under me to finally figure that one out for real (as I had been fudging it in many places). I agree his Reel is definitely the best out on YouTube, and after giving it the fine-toothed comb myself, I'd only argue a few notes here and there.

P.S. egosheep: Again, fantastic site you've put together! It's a real service you're providing there. For what it's worth, I promise one day when I'm no longer playing in a tribute (and they no longer have to be protected as trade secrets), I'll send you all of my tabs. :D
 

This Charming Ben

Six-String Samurai
Ha ha, thanks! Yeah, the tabs are my own take on them… however two important credits to give. First, I regularly trade work and ideas with a good friend of mine who used to also play in the band with me: Peter Weldon. He also used to contribute guitar tabs to the old Micturion site if you've seen that. He's the only guy I know that's as neurotic about this stuff as I am, and I think it's fair to say anything I write here about my process probably applies to him as well. There have been some songs he's worked out before me, and I have made very few edits to before deeming them accurate. I'd say well over half that tabs I have are implicitly a joint effort with him. Our arguments about the most minute details of this stuff are legendary.

The other credit: I didn't start from absolute scratch on any song unless I had to. It's been half research and half grunt work. Certain songs more on one side of that balance than the other, depending on how much information was already out there about it. It all ends up feeling like archaeology. Piecing together bits and pieces from many sources, taking the good, leaving the bad, and hopefully ending up with the most complete picture possible. Forgive the lengthy response, I figured I'd just explain since I talk so much shit about accuracy on these forums. My approach has been this...

As you know, there are many books out there, all of which are at best only semi-accurate. I think I've owned them all over the years, that Louder Than Bombs: Off The Record being the best, though still not flawless. (Side note: I first picked up a couple of used copies many years ago on eBay, and that was the holiest of grails at the time... until it showed up on your site, accessible to everyone. Oh well, the monopoly was fun while it lasted. :p) So anyhow, the books -- even just the piano chord books -- are a good place to start to at least get the broad basics. And in some cases like the LTB book, you get pretty far along just from that. On your site, I know you have sagely made use of the various interviews where Johnny had mentioned how he used this or that tuning, or used a certain guitar when recording a certain part. Simon Goddard's Songs That Saved Your Life is an incomparable resource for that kinda stuff too, and in fact any time I'd take on learning a new song, that's usually where I would start. To get the context of the song as well as hear about any rare alternate takes, live variations, bootlegs, etc. Coupled with actually tracking down and hearing the live bootlegs, it's a great way to find what little things Johnny occasionally threw in (special intro to Miserable Lie, the "Day Tripper" solo in Jeane, etc.), which I then try to sneak in at my own shows as a nod to any die-hards in the crowd who might actually know where I got it. :D

And then there are the average tabs that people have put out there on the web in various places. And then in the past couple years when so many people started posting their own attempts on YouTube, it only made sense to give them a watch and see what they may have figured out which I may have missed myself. And even other tribute bands' respective fake Johnny Marrs were good places to get ideas. I maintain that These Charming Men's guitarist is the most accurate out there... well, he and I anyway. ;) So all that's the research or "standing on the shoulders of giants" part of it.

Then in terms of the grunt work, for each song I'd take all that stuff I found and see how close it was to the album. In some cases, the available tabs were pretty close, or else someone out there already did most of the work pretty accurately in a video (marrzipan's "Suffer Little Children" and "I Don't Owe You Anything" come to mind, as well as pljnr's "Reel Around The Fountain" as you pointed out... all great but rare examples of complete and relatively accurate renditions). So I'd compare to the album and start trying to figure out which parts were dead on, and which needed refining. And of course in some cases, there's nowhere to start. No one out there had a tab for "Never Had No One Ever" or "Work Is A Four-Letter Word" and so on. Those less popular songs I'd end up having to do from scratch. I'd take the studio version(s) and listen to them on loop in my car for a few days, mentally picking out the layered parts in my head. Then of course live bootlegs are great because you know it's just one guitar part isolated (or two if Craig was there too), so you can really hear what's going on. Slowing those down on the computer to work out some of the tricky parts. Watching bootleg videos of their live shows to catch a glimpse of Johnny's left hand to see where it was on the neck (helpful for those songs where you could potentially play identical notes in a few different positions but you want to know how he chose to play it). So ultimately it just comes down to a ton of patience to really go note by note. Starting with what others have done (whenever possible), then trying to improve it. I've never run across a tab or video that I thought was perfect as-is.

What I've tried to end up with is what I believe to be the most accurate transcriptions out there (though admittedly some of the first few songs I learned years back could probably use a revisit... I'm much better at picking this stuff out now than when I started). I've got 70 of the 72 Smiths songs "done" at the moment, and I like to think that by now I'm in Johnny's head at least a little so they come a bit easier than the used to. That being said, of course I'd love to sit down with the man himself for a few days and have him lay down the law about this stuff once and for all, but short of that, I think I've got a lot of them pretty damn accurate. Again, no song ever feels "done" though. After a couple months, I'll go back and listen to it and hear something else I missed. Such is the magic of Marr. But as I said, someday when it no longer feels like that excruciating accuracy and attention to detail is a crucial differentiator for This Charming Band, and with Peter's blessing and credit duly noted of course, I'd love to share our humble tabs with the world... most likely through you. :)

P.S. If you ever start a Morrissey Solo tab site, I've got a few dozen of those worked out too. Usually way easier to pick out because the individual guitar parts are typically simpler and even panned hard stereo left and right... so you can listen to one channel at a time and hear what each guitar is doing. That's a good tip even for some Smiths material and especially with live albums like Rank and Beethoven Was Deaf. You can often hear each guitar virtually isolated. (You're welcome, competing tribute band guitarists. Heh heh... :guitar:)
 

egosheep

Member
Hi Ben, thanks for the long reply!! Yeah, I know just where you are coming from, as I do a lot of analysis/comparisons as well. My goals right now with the site are to get every published bit of tab scanned, first of all, and the interviews as well. LTB:OTR was the first holy grail, then the next was an even rarer book... which I will be scanning soon. I had to destroy my copy to get scans of the quality we're used to.:crazy:

My goal after getting everything published online, was going to be focused on doing essentially what you have already done; distilling any and all known tabs and information into the most accurate tabs/band scores available. I had thought of transcribing the printed tabs to their own guitar pro files, so that you could compare different transcriptions track by track in one file, but the end all goal would be just plain accurate tabs, for once.

One idea I had was maybe having a forum, with a separate subforum for each album/song, where things could really be dissected by the... "enthusiasts". hehe.

The main heavy of the tab world that I have met so far was named scouarnec. He was French I believe, and had done some things like Well I Wonder and Wonderful Woman which were really good, I thought. I managed to track him down and spoke to him over email. His methods were the same as you would expect... total immersion into live versions, bootlegs etc.

I have a bit of a different perspective because I am not in a competing cover band... so I can understand your feelings of trade secrets, etc. Still, can't wait to see the tabs(someday).

One last thing: Does your transcription of NHNOE show how Johnny does the huge bends by detuning his E string?;)
 

This Charming Ben

Six-String Samurai
For NHNOE, of course! We have yet to perform that one live... and I don't have high hopes it'll be a crowd favorite or anything, but it will see the light of day soon. In fact we were just practicing it tonight. I won't be doing the detune live though because I'm the only guitarist these days... I have to think in terms of "one guitar" versions, so depending on which guitar parts use which tunings and capo positions, sometimes I am forced to sacrifice fun parts like that. The early songs seem to work much better for me in that way because he was really writing in that one-man-orchestra mode. By the time you get to Strangeways or even Queen Is Dead, it's harder to pull off a convincing one guitar performance. You can even hear it in the Brixton bootleg for their final show... Johnny trying to swing tracks from QID without Craig... it's a little thin at times! (Not that it's not still magical of course. "Some Girls" is undeniable proof of that.)

Re: scouarnec, I'd love to see what he's done and how my work stacks up to his. When you say he's a "heavy" does that mean that he really knew his stuff or just that he had attempted a lot of them? We used to do "Well I Wonder" a lot, though the only proof I have is from nearly four years ago (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_vQVcQQQgj8). I was still pretty green in those days, and you can barely make out the ending riff, but I believe we had it down pretty well. As for Wonderful Woman, that's another one of the final handful that we've learned and will be debuting in the next couple months. I have a lot of confidence in my tab for that one. :D

Agreed, you could easily have a forum dedicated to each tune. Peter and I have debated certain notes in "This Charming Man" for YEARS. One of us will hear a bootleg and be like "wait, here it sounds like he's striking the strings again" and a week later it's "oh but in this other one it's clearly just a slide with an accidental harmonic." Back and forth, it's ridiculous. It never ends.

Here's hoping that someday your "open source" approach takes hold. You get a bunch of us like-minded maniacs to work together on this, we'll have it all mapped out in no time!
 

egosheep

Member
Scouarnec did guitar pro tabs, he did maybe 19 or 20 tabs that were just really professional and sounded good... and weren't copied note for note from the LTB:OTR book as some have done.

When I tracked him down, he was pretty much done with transciptions I think. He had done a few more that were not online, but they were on an old computer and he hadn't tracked them down.

I have them all on the site, sorted with the other guitar pro tabs, and I also have them all saved together as I found them. Pm me your email and i can zip them up and send them to you.:guitar:

Yeah, I can see what you mean about the earlier stuff being easier to play in a one guitar situation.

It is somewhat like a genome search or a search for the holy grail... putting together all of what Johnny plays, the way he plays it, is an idea that can just take hold and obsess you!!:guitar::tears::crazy:
 

This Charming Ben

Six-String Samurai
Ah, OK if his files are already filtered in to your site, then I've seen several. Thanks for that!

I guess we've getting off topic for this thread, but it was a pleasure "meeting" you and discussing! I'm sure we'll have dealings in the future. ;)
 

JohnnyMare

New Member
My personal choice would be William, It Was Really Nothing. It wasn't until I found egosheep's blog (big thumbs up, by the way!) that I discovered that the recorded version used a Nashville-tuned guitar. I play it live with capo 7th fret to try to get closer to the recorded version, because I'm not too keen on the Smiths' live takes on the song - also, I don't have a spare guitar to retune! :(
 
Ah, OK if his files are already filtered in to your site, then I've seen several. Thanks for that!

I guess we've getting off topic for this thread, but it was a pleasure "meeting" you and discussing! I'm sure we'll have dealings in the future. ;)
I just became a fan of This Charming Band and the smithsonguitar blog based on these comments. You guys are cool. Thanks for being so open. I could read the both of you talking all day. Very insightful and intriguing. Thank you again. I want more.

Also, I WOULD LOVE to see some Morrissey solo tabs/chords. Particuliarly, "Oh well, I'll Never Learn".
 
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