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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