Watch the Answers online guitar lesson by Steve Vai from Alien Guitar Secrets: Passion & Warfare
In this video segment, Steve shares background and key insights related to Answers. In the following text, Steve talks about the Naked Track for Answers and how you might approach working with it.
Form: There are basically 5 sections to the form of this song besides the intro. The A section (E Major), B section (F Lydian), C section (E Lydian), D section (C Mixolydian), and E section (over E major again).
For the intro, the rhythm guitars are left in the mix as a guide. But when the drums kick in and the whole form is played through for the first time, the rhythms drop out so those interested in playing rhythm along with the track can do so.
The second time the form repeats is when the main melody comes in. On the album version of the song (after the melody plays through) it goes to the layered 8th note melody section that comprises the last 5 verses, which are affectionately known as the "Gi-na-lo-lo-brid-ge-da" section because that's what it sounds like the melody is saying. But on this naked track, instead of going to that section, I've inserted an extended guitar solo vamp. This solo section basically vamps over the A section (E Major). The rhythm section builds up its instrumentation, then the cue to get out of the solo and break into the "Gi-na-lo-lo-brid-ge-da" melody section is when you hear the melody guide guitar come in.
What was I thinking?: This track was written when I was in high school. I was experimenting with a new rhythmic technique, that allowed me to create various accented groupings of fast rhythmic strums. This was very useful when rhythmically playing in fast, odd time signatures. The melody was first hinted at by Sue Mathis. Sue is a wonderful gal I met at Berklee. In the early '80s, while she was living in Los Angeles, she was in my band called, "The Classified."
What could you be thinking?: I suggest creating a vamp over the solo section to jam over for hours. In order to find a new level of uniqueness in your own playing, try the following techniques. Pick a few parameters that you impose on yourself, such as only using two strings to improvise with...or limiting your notes to only 3 or ?...or make every other note you play a bent note, etc. The list is endless.
Set a destination period of at least 30 minutes to work solely within these specified parameters. You may find yourself getting very bored, but that's the time to stick to it and keep exploring. You should inevitably find yourself reaching to do things (within the limitations you've set) that you have never done before. When you find a thread of something new, grab hold of it and start pulling. The solo section vamp on this song is good for this technique.
About Naked Tracks
Through the years, whenever I would mix my records I would usually do a mix of specific songs without the lead guitar. This allowed me to play along with the track or make loops to jam to, and because I figured perhaps someday maybe others would like to do the same. Voila! We have arrived at someday.
Playing to these naked tracks, or creating loops of various sections to endlessly meander over, is a phenomenal way to discover unique musical ideas from within yourself.
For the most part, the tracks in this series are presented in their original form with the lead guitar removed. In some cases, I looped some solo sections to give you an opportunity to stretch out.
I suggest you import these files into a sequencer program of sorts, such as ProTools, GarageBand, etc. and create loops of various parts of the songs to jam over. On many tracks, a hit or count-off was added to the intro to indicate where the song starts. On some tracks, a small portion of the original melody guitar may have been tacked onto the intro as a guide.
One way to play along with these tracks is to learn the original guitar parts that are on the album versions of the songs (for full transcriptions and notation, pick up the Passion & Warfare Songbook published by Hal Leonard), but I would encourage you to take a more active role in using these tracks as a bed to lay your own creative interpretation over.
There are really no rules. So sit back, flip on a naked track and dress it up with your own artistic musical apparel.