Category Archives: Secret guitar solos


Photo courtesy of Caitlin Becker

I can count all the times I’ve been complimented in a music store. When I first started learning guitar as a kid, being complimented in a music store was an attainable dream on the list of dreams. It was among the things I wanted in a “Oh that would be nice too” sort of a way. I fantasized about it as recess from the other more extreme fantasies.

This is because a big part of electric guitar is the culture of big tits. For guitar players, big tits = shred, and shred = fancy in-your-face guitar playing that immediately shows off. If you have the big tits of shred, everyone wants to see it. But you’re not allowed to touch someone else’s big tits of shred, you just have to stare and admire it, or envy it. To put it another way, shred is obvious and powerful the way big tits are, and the feelings of attraction and confusion that shred inspires among guitarists are not, I submit to you, entirely different from the feelings many of us have about big tits.

I was 12 when I started taking guitar lessons, and my teacher back then was 13. I remember once, during a lesson in his living room, he told me that he went to a guitar store and bunch of other kids crowded around him and watched him play. “Yes,” I thought to myself as a hapless beginner, “I must have that too someday.” And it was at that moment that I first entered the gladiator’s arena and took my shoes off.

All these years later, do you want to know how many times I have received praise in a music store? The answer is 4. You may be wondering, “Is 4 a lot or a little?” You must decide for yourself. Judge my 4 how you will, with all that you know about shred and big tits.

Know too that many people who work in guitar stores are basically Comic Book Guy from The Simpsons. This may explain why 2 of my 4 praises are not from playing guitar but from playing piano. I can imagine that the culture of piano is different, that there’s less silent hatred among players, less overall anxiety in the rat race for shred. Maybe because there’s never quite been a Jimi Hendrix on keyboard.

In any case, I’m not a good piano player, but it has brought me 50% of my music-store props. The first time anyone ever said to me, “Hey, you sound good,” I was diddling around on a keyboard in Teaneck, NJ. I had been playing guitar for about 8 years at that point, and I felt totally ready for someone in a music store to say that I was a shredder. But it didn’t happen until I sat down to play a keyboard, maybe because I wasn’t trying so hard, or maybe because I can only play pleasant, Paul McCartney–type stuff. It happened again at the Guitar Center near Union Square: I was sitting at a piano and people stopped and watched for a while, which counts the same as praise in my scoring system.

If I could, I would trade those for 2 more guitar praises, guitar being my main phallus and my main big tits, but that’s not allowed. Of my 2 guitar praises, one is from a guy in a store in Roslyn, Long Island, who seemed like he might have been looking for a guitar-bro. He was in his 40s, he had an 18-year-old son, but he gave off the vibe of the kid on the playground who wants to be friends more than you want to be friends. It was a small guitar store, and I didn’t want to get sucked into a conversation with this guy about his rig and his band and his dreams, so I bailed.

My 4th guitar praise, which is probably the only one that really counts, is from the owner of 30th St. Guitars, Matt Brewster, who once looked up when I played “Le Freak” by Chic. I was playing a BC Rich through a Marshall stack, which is totally un-Chic. But I made it sound like “Freak Out,” because I’ve had a thing with Nile Rodgers since 10th grade, and I even saw him on the street once. And while I was playing, Matt looked up at me from the back of the store and did the frowning nod thing.

So, to be perfectly honest with you, my 4 is really a 1. But it’s a good 1. And earlier, when I said that you yourself must decide whether my 4 counts for a lot or a little, it was really another way of saying that my 4 counts for a little. But I say too that my 4 contains 1 really great 1. So let that be known.

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The author.

I recorded another guitar solo over the music from Sonic the Hedgehog. I call this one “Nighttime Magic”:

Here’s the cool part: this time the solo, as well as an essay I wrote about why I record these things in the first place, has been published on Bon Mots and Blood—a blog that runs literary criticism for books and video games side by side. You can read my essay, which is titled “Sonic the Hedgehog, Masato Nakamura, and the Secrets of Cool Guitar Playing,” here.

And if you want, you can listen to my very first video game guitar solo, “Pact With Satan,” here.

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Back when we were recording HELP IS ON THE WAY, I wrote a guitar solo that was much more solo-ish than the one we ended up using. The one on the recording is hardly a guitar solo at all—it’s more of band ensemble thing, and I like that. Something about that part of the song always makes me think of a bunch of little parachutes falling from the sky at sunset. So that’s cute.

But the abandoned guitar solo has more guitar moves, and since I care about that sort of thing, I’m choosing to immortalize it on this blog forever. Here is a tape test I made for the lost solo in my parents’ old house in NJ. It is the only surviving version:

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The music of video games was part of my childhood. I grew up with a Sega Genesis, and the music was distinctive and hooky and great. As a tribute to that golden age, I recently recorded a guitar solo over the music from Casino Night Zone, one of the levels in Sonic the Hedgehog 2. (The score for Sonic 2 was composed by Masato Nakamura, and it has always stayed with me.)

I chose Casino Night Zone in particular because the chord changes are a little jazzier than what I’m used to playing over, so it was a fun challenge. Hope ya dig it:

Last thing: while I’m talking about video game music, I also have to mention Yuzo Koshiro’s score for Streets of Rage 2. His 16-bit renditions of 90s house music were fabulous and used to make me wish my life took place inside that game. I might have to record something over one of those levels too.

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