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Playing "Message In A Bottle"... which way?

CyberFerret

Member
Messages
10,036
Ok, for all those guys who have covered Police songs in their set, which is the easiest/most straightforward way to play that main riff throughout the song without left hand fatigue and RSI?

(a) The BIG Stretchy...

- - - - - - - -|- - - - - - - -|- - - - - - - -|- - - - - - - -
- - - - - - - -|- - - - - - - -|- - - - - - - -|- - - - - - - -
- - - - - 11 -|- - - - - 7 - -|- - - - - 9 - -|- - - - - - - -
- - - 9 - - - -|- - - 5 - - - -|- - - 7 - - - |- - - - - 9 10
- 7 - - - - - -|- 3 - - - - - -|- 5 - - - - - |- - - 7 - - - -
- - - - - - - -|- - - - - - - -|- - - - - - - -|- 5 - - - - - -

(b) The String Skip...

- - - - - - - -|- - - - - - - -|- - - - - - - -|- - - - - - - -
- - - - - 7 - -|- - - - - 3 - -|- - - - - 5 - -|- - - - 0 1 - -
- - - - - - - -|- - - - - - - -|- - - - - - - -|- - - - - - - -
- - - 9 - - - -|- - - 5 - - - -|- - - 7 - - - |- - - 2 - - - -
- 7 - - - - - -|- 3 - - - - - -|- 5 - - - - - |- 0 - - - - - -
- - - - - - - -|- - - - - - - -|- - - - - - - -|- - - - - - - -

(c) or The Jumble...

- - - - - 2 - -|- - - - - - - -|- - - - - 0 - -|- - - - - - - -
- - - 0 - - - -|- - - - - 3 - -|- - - - - - - -|- - - - - 0 1 -
- - - - - - - -|- - - 0 - - - -|- - - 2 - - - -|- - - - - - - -
- 2 - - - - - -|- - - - - - - -|- 0 - - - - - -|- - - 2 - - - -
- - - - - - - -|- 3 - - - - - -|- - - - - - - -|- 0 - - - - - -
- - - - - - - -|- - - - - - - -|- - - - - - - -|- - - - - - - -

Oh, and fingers, or pick, for the right hand?
 

mikeowen17

Member
Messages
446
I use (a) - but I am pretty sure it starts on C# - meaning the 2nd bar starts on A (open) which gives your hands a little break!

For the right hand I use pick - even tho I use hybrid in my playing pretty often
 

JonR

Member
Messages
15,672
Firstly, as mike says, the original starts on C# (which makes some of the stretches a little easier), and here's how Andy Summers played it first, in 1979:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6n6zO_FnnIw
Code:
-----------------------------------------
-----------------------------------------
-----8------------------------------------
---6---------9-------11-------6(/7)-------------
-4---------7-------9--------4----------------
-------5-------7--------2-------------------
And here's how he chose to do it some 28 years later:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6n6zO_FnnIw
Code:
-----------------------------------------
-----------------------------------------
-----8-------4-------6---------------------
---6-------2-------4--------6(/7)-------------
-4-----0-------2----------4----------------
-----------------------2-------------------
That big stretch on the last chord is still there, but there's no other option (at least in his view); he uses the same stretch on the 3rd chord in the later video, so obviously has no real problem with it.
I'm guessing he chooses the lower (more stretchy) Bsus2 so as to avoid the 5 fret skip down the neck for the F#sus2.
(The slide up to 7, btw, is just due to the hand moving to return to the first pattern.)

Having tried other options myself, I think I'd go with AS's 2nd choice, but either one is OK (IMO).

Your option (b) (string skip) is tempting for the first 3 chords at least;

-----------------------------------------
-----4-------0-------2-------------------
----------------------------1/2-(?)--------------
---6-------2-------4----------------------
-4-----0-------2----------4----------------
-----------------------2-------------------

but that "1/2" requires a fingering change, making the original 2-4-6 stretch a better option.
And if you need that for chord 4, you may as well use it for chord 3 too, not to mention the others - which I guess was AS's thinking.

Pick-wise, I'd be tempted to use fingers normally on arps like this, but in this case I think pick works better: it sounds stronger and cleaner.

BTW, AS uses similar 4-fret stretch shapes for the arps in Every Breath You Take - adding the 3rd of the chord on the next string.
 

pir8matt

Member
Messages
5,688
I developed a lot more respect for Sting when I saw him play it solo in this, years ago.





It was funny how early on he had a rep for not even knowing how to play bass when the Police started, though he actually wrote most of their early tunes and continued to be the primary songwriter through their career.
 

Shiny McShine

Member
Messages
9,490
I had often pondered whether an open tuning might make it way easier also. Anyone consistently using that approach?
 

A-Bone

Montonero, MOY, Multitudes
Platinum Supporting Member
Messages
103,261
Yeah, me too. Warm up first, lol.
Me, too, and agreed warm up is important.

For me it is not the stretches that are a problem as much as maintaining consistent note durations around the transitions.
 
Messages
17,931
It's got a funk funkin' groove - once you get the feel down.

Sting's written some of the coolest chord voicings in modern pop music. Even if you loathe the guy YOU HAVE to give him that credit. I used to think it was all Andy, but Sting proved it - on Ten Summoner's Tales.
 

pir8matt

Member
Messages
5,688
It's got a funk funkin' groove - once you get the feel down.

Sting's written some of the coolest chord voicings in modern pop music. Even if you loathe the guy YOU HAVE to give him that credit. I used to think it was all Andy, but Sting proved it - on Ten Summoner's Tales.
There's some Police documentary with footage of them in the studio, and Sting is showing Andy the chord progression to 'dee doo doo doo', which I always loved the voicing of.

If Andy had written it, I don't think there'd have been much reason for Sting to be showing him how to play it. I think he was pretty instrumental in a lot of the Police's best material.

If you ever listen to Stewart Copelands solo album under the 'Klark Kent' moniker, you find out where some of their sillier stuff originated.

 

seacon

Member
Messages
78
I played it with a capo on the second fret, so all the second fret notes are there for you:


--------|--------|--------|-----------
--------|-2------|--------|-----------
-----8--|-----4--|-----6--|-----------
---6----|---2----|---4----|-----6(/7)-
-4------|--------|-2------|---4-------
--------|-5------|--------|-2---------


Notice that you can add the 'authentic' ringing C# harmony note on the first beat of the A chord, using hybrid picking.

It also prevents rigor mortis setting in on your fretting hand by not having to hold that same three-finger stretch for every chord!

But as a previous poster mentioned, you still need the smoothness and stamina to play it cleanly for the duration of the song, even with a capo.
 

Carltone

Member
Messages
4,819
It was funny how early on he had a rep for not even knowing how to play bass when the Police started, though he actually wrote most of their early tunes and continued to be the primary songwriter through their career.
That beyond ridiculous! Sting was a killer bassist and seasoned musician before he even met Andy and Stewie...
 

Phalanx200bc

Member
Messages
2,341
I'd stay with the stacked 5ths version. If anything it's a good rut-breaker for more blues based players and exploring those forms/sounds will get you headed into Eric Johnson/ Carl Verheyen territory.
 

Shiny McShine

Member
Messages
9,490
I played it with a capo on the second fret, so all the second fret notes are there for you:

Code:
--------|--------|--------|----------- 
--------|-2------|--------|----------- 
-----8--|-----4--|-----6--|----------- 
---6----|---2----|---4----|-----6(/7)- 
-4------|--------|-2------|---4------- 
--------|-5------|--------|-2---------
Notice that you can add the 'authentic' ringing C# harmony note on the first beat of the A chord, using hybrid picking.

It also prevents rigor mortis setting in on your fretting hand by not having to hold that same three-finger stretch for every chord!

But as a previous poster mentioned, you still need the smoothness and stamina to play it cleanly for the duration of the song, even with a capo.
Very cool! Thanks for giving me something fun to work on today.
 

whackystrings

Member
Messages
3,924
  • It sounds better using single coils - chances are, guitars like the tele and strat would be used however the string scale length on those is longer and therefore a longer stretch for the fingers.
  • A Les Paul type guitar will likely have the slightly shorter scale - the spacing of the frets may suit more players.
  • Don't overdo the drive - use compression to help those notes pop out
  • An EHX Electric Mistress or a subtle flanger works very well here

And for my #1 recommendations that I swear by:

  • Play your guitar with the classical guitar position of the guitar resting on your left thigh rather than right thigh. Try it before you dismiss it. If done correctly, the angle will feel more comfortable and less finger/wrist strain will occur.
  • If you are playing in a standing position, you may find that wearing your guitar a little higher (i.e. NOT 1970's Jimmy Page style!) eases the strain on the frethand wrist.
 
Last edited:

CyberFerret

Member
Messages
10,036
OP Back here again everyone... Thank you so much for all the great tips and advice on this thread.

And yes, I believe it starts on C# as many of you have pointed out. I actually haven't played this in over 15 years, but yesterday I heard my son play a Ramones number that had a familiar sounding chord progression, and it prompted me to try and show him this run, but I started in the wrong position - a similar position to the Ramones number he was trying...

What prompted this thread was seeing him trying to get his 9 year old fingers around the shapes required and really struggling with it. I quickly realised this is no song for a beginner and asked him to stop even attempting this for a few more years.

Even in our band, I don't think we ever played this live because it was too hard. We used to muck about with it during practice/warm up but the hand fatigue always used to get to me even after the first verse.

Someone here mentioned the timing, and yeah, it is really hard to maintain that semi-funk feel of the riff without rushing it, especially that last note in each bar so you can make the next change... :)

Thanks again all... more practice for me...
 

kingsleyd

Frikkin genyus
Platinum Supporting Member
Messages
8,097
Whats really cool, if yr in a two-guitar band, is to have one player do the harmony part. What harmony part, you say? There's a live version that was a b-side of a single (don't recall which single) which has a (presumably overdubbed, those devils) harmony guitar part that's über-cool. The track also appears on the box set so it should be pretty easy to dig up.

And I'm not gonna provide tab -- exercise yr ear! :)
 




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