Alex Lifeson: Composing Solos, Rig Mainstays

December 22, 2009 | By | Reply More

Lifeson_Alex_blackFloydLPI happened on a fairly recent interview with Alex Lifeson from Canadian Musician magazine a while back, then forgot about it. Found it again, so here are the interesting parts, all quotes are Alex’s:

Composing Solos

“I want it to be part of the song – I don’t want it to be just an exercise in notes. It’s really just trying to get a sense of excitement and pacing. That’s the way I look at all my solos.

“I listen in context of what the point of the song is, what the emotional value of the song is, and what the song is about lyrically. I try to make my solos connect to the song – it’s not just trying to be flashy and throwing something around. I’ve always thought of the solo is a very integral part, a musical part, of the song.

“Geddy and Neil play off that as well. When writing things down and doing just a mock solo just to have something to refer to. They’ll work their parts out around that. Quite often, when the time comes to the real solo, I already have a really good foundation of what I’m going to play over, rhythmically and note-wise.

“It’s a little more instinctive than running scales and modes over certain things. It’s more emotionally driven.”

Live: “Quite honestly I try to stick to what the solos were originally meant to do in every song. We all depend on each other to be consistent.”

Rig Mainstays

“I use a TC Electronic 1210 for my chorus [this is the Spatial Expander + Stereo Chorus Flanger, no longer made]. I’ve always used that unit and it does a great job – I must have had that same unit for 15 or 18 years now.

“Delays [from a TC Electronic G-Force]…vary between probably 100 milliseconds (ms) to 700 ms, depending again what the song is. I think generally 375 to about 450 ms is my range for most of our songs and the tempos that I use. I get a little bit of flanging from the G-Force as well…my effects setup is pretty simple these days.

“I use [all] three channels on the Hughes & Kettner [Alex Lifeson Signature Series Tri Amp]. There’s a clean channel, and a crunchy all-purpose channel [with] which I do everything. In fact, I like to roll down the volume on the guitar and then bring it up for solos.

“The third channel is extremely overdriven, and I use it mostly as an effect. Basically, I rely on those first two channels…. I wouldn’t even need a third channel if it died or something – wouldn’t even miss it.

Notable: Live Mixes

It’s always interesting to find out what each musician wants to listen to when they play live. Here’s what Alex said about it:

> Alex’s mix: He has a stereo-ish mix with drums and and guitar on the left…bass and vocals in the middle.

> Geddy’s mix:  “Very dry with a lot of vocal, bass, high-hat, kick, snare a little bit of the other drums and a very little bit of guitar.”

> Neil’s mix: “Almost all drums with some vocals, a tiny bit of bass, and a tiny bit of guitar.”

Category: Alex Lifeson, H&K, TC Electronic

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