You're Playing it Wrong! "Over Under Sideways Down"

January 30, 2014

AS LEGEND HAS IT, THE YARDBIRDS hired an authentic Indian sitar player to record the intro riff to “Heart Full of Soul” in 1965, but after many unsuccessful attempts gave up and relegated the part to Jeff Beck, who tore it up on fuzz-tone guitar. The band’s Eastern influence carried over in 1966 to a subsequent single, “Over Under Sideways Down,” where Beck incorporated a similar sitar flavor on the song’s signature instrumental riff. But Beck’s sleight-of-hand has eluded most players for nearly a half century (!), and once again, it’s just a matter of a single move that makes all the difference when it comes to total authenticity.

Ex. 1 shows the most common approach and almost gets it right. The basic rhythmic and melodic premises are there—quarter-notes alternating with hammered-and-pulled-off triplets, and a G-Mixolydian-based melody built from that mode’s b7, root, 2, and 3 (F, G, A, and B), which comprise four consecutive whole steps, or a whole-tone tetrachord. Note the first-finger slides and give it a shot. Not bad, right? It’s certainly passable, but let’s zero in on beat four in bar 1, plus the following downbeat. Ex. 2a isolates the move as written in Ex. 1, where we play a triplet (F-G-F) with the first and third fingers, and then slide up to G with the index finger. Listen closely to the original recording and you’ll discover that on the last beat of the triplet, Beck actually slides up to A with his third finger, and then pulls off to G, as shown in Ex. 2b. It’s a subtle detail that zips by in the blink of an eye, but it’s definitely there. Shift it to beat three of Ex. 3, add the missing vibrato (another often overlooked detail) to the bend in bar 2, and check out the difference. Ex. 4 presents the thirds-harmony version of the figure, which Beck plays as a stand-alone riff on the third and fourth rounds during the intro. Drop either one into your next “Jeff’s Boogie” jam, add “Hey!” on the downbeat of each measure, and rave on!

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