Griffin’s Tale

Saturday, May 20, 2017. I’ve composed another song, an instrumental piece. This composition tells its own story. It also tells you how I compose. That latter story will be for another article at another time. The story of the piece is as follows…

One night earlier this month, I was giving my wife a backrub, watching YouTube videos to fill the time while I was. I came across a video of Jorma Kaukonen teaching how to play his instrumental “Embryonic Journey” from Jefferson Airplane days. The instructional video was 15 minutes long, and then some, so I didn’t watch the entire thing; I just listened to primarily the opening portion of the video where Kaukonen played the piece. My take away from that one listen was “Oh, it’s in Dropped D tuning.”

For you non-guitarists out there, that is one form of an open tuning, where the guitar strings are tuned differently than standard pitch. Actually, in this case it is more correct to say that one string is tuned differently, namely, the low E string is “dropped” down from E to D (hence, of course, the name “Dropped D”).

I played around with that for a bit, but before long got distracted by the principle of open tunings, so I tuned down the high E string to D, to get what’s called “Double Dropped D” tuning. Minutes later my ADHD kicked in yet again; it was just too easy to tune down the A string to a G. With those three stings thus tuned down, I now had an open G chord tuning. And I worked out an arrangement of “Big Yellow Taxi” in that tuning. And so my efforts at learning “Embryonic Journey” were completely derailed, as was the “embryonic” composition I was noodling on in Double Dropped D.

Days went by, and I played my arrangement of “Big Yellow Taxi” in open G at a gig. A few days after that, earlier this week, I remembered that I had started to write something in Double Dropped D. I tried to return to what I had worked out a week or so before, but was only partially successful. (More on the reason why in a follow up article.)

I worked on it for a day or two, and worked out a new composition. As I did, it evoked a mix of feelings. The piece is played fingerstyle, so it might seem slower paced than it is. The tempo is actually upbeat and lively, but the fingerstyle playing creates a calming, almost brooding feel. This feeling is also reinforced by the tuned down pitch and the droning strings.

This mix of feelings to the song made me think of the moods of the sea. And when I thought of that, I thought of some friends of mine. Ken and Carrie Sharp are a couple of retirees who live and travel on their boat. They’re currently traveling the Bahamian islands, I believe. I first met them at Garden Estates senior community here in Corpus Christi, where Ken’s father, Skip, is a resident. I play there every Thursday. Ken is also a guitar player, and we became friends.

So this past Thursday, just a couple of days ago, I mentioned my composition to Skip, and to his other son, Bill, who happened to be visiting his dad that day. I asked their input on the idea of my naming my composition after Ken and Carrie’s boat (the “Griffin”) as a tribute to their adventurous spirit. Both Bill and Skip seemed to think that Ken and Carrie would be pleased.

So, on Thursday, May 25, 2017, I plan to perform the song for the first time, and hopefully I’ll get a live video done. Then, pending final approval from Ken and Carrie, my modest little instrumental piece will officially be dubbed “Griffin’s Tale.”