Play "Free Ride" the Right Way!

This month, we prove that the “Where’s one?” phenomenon truly lies in the ear of the beholder.
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This month, we prove that the “Where’s one?” phenomenon truly lies in the ear of the beholder. Case in point: I had already planned to feature the late, great Ronnie Montrose’s intro to Dan Hartman’s “Free Ride” (from the Edgar Winter Group’s They Only Come Out at Night), but not in a “Where’s one?” context—that is, until GP Associate Editor Matt Blackett related that he had always thought the figure started on the downbeat of bar 1, and had to add an extra beat to the last bar in order to fall in sync with the verse. Apparently, one person’s “You’re hearing it wrong” is another’s “I’m hearing it right!”

Regardless of how you hear it, Montrose adds several details to this instantly recognizable intro that often go unnoticed. Reminiscent of the opening moves in Hendrix’s “Wait Until Tomorrow,” Ex. 1 begins with a two-eighth-note pickup that implies D/F# and immediately clarifies any rhythmic discrepancies. (Sorry, Matt—you’re playing it wrong!) Bar 1 of the figure employs a grace-note slide between D-shaped G/B and A/C# triads on beat one, the same G/B to an A-shaped D/A triad on beat two, four muted-sixteenth “chuck-a-chuck-a’s” on beat three, and a repeat of the pickup on beat four. Bar 2 completes the figure with a grace-hammer from D/A to G/B on beat one, dual eighth-note hits from D/A to A on beat two, and a reprise of beats three and four from the previous measure. (Tip: “Chuck-a-chuck-a” on the muted A chord.)

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While we’re at it, Ex. 2 occurs at the tail end of the song’s chorus and features a two-bar lead-in to Montrose’s funky, hybrid-chicken-pickin’ on adjacent strings in bar 3. Pedal between the down-picked (and slightly muted) open D, and snapped, chromatically descending middle-finger upstrokes using a three-against-four hemiola—two sixteenths, plus a sixteenth rest—that lasts for three-and-a-half beats.