December 27, 2017

Last of the Mohicans | Guitar Instrumental



About this Video
Last of the Mohicans
I enjoyed the motion picture (Michael Mann - 1992 (Daniel Day Lewis) version, not the TV series of the 50's) but most of all I was taken by the amazing score. It was a case where the producers of this motion picture got it right on many fronts. Unlike a lot of the junk coming out of Hollywood these days.

Composed by Trevor Jones and Randy Edelman, this score is widely recognized as an emotionally soaked masterpiece.

Key:Dm, 4/4 time, about 92bpm, instrumental pop

I felt the overall sweeping panoramic feel of the sound track, the well meshed strings, rhythmic drums and well placed brass could not be whittled down as a guitar instrumental piece to give it any justice. I was wrong. There was a lot creativity out there that has done some awesome work.

During my search on Youtube I did find work done by Dave Monk (oldguitarmonkey, moniker) on the 'Last of the Mohicans' main theme. The most compelling of the lot that I have heard.

At the same time, I found work done by Boyce Avenue on their rendition of 'Game of Thrones' (GoT). Two heavily orchestrated scores brought down to basics yet has kept the feel of the tune intact and in so doing, making a solo guitar version possible. My work on GoT is in another post.

Dave Monks version is solid and is accompanied by a great backing track. Simple yet compelling and keeping the tribal undertones of the tune. I did a search for a similar backing track and could not find one of any value to me. I'm assuming he either did the work himself or had it produced for him. Either way, very nice work.

But what good is learning this tune with no suitable backing track to play against. I did some experimenting in Band in Box. Not any great luck. The next best thing was to have the back track professional produced, which I did at a very reasonable cost.

If you wish to follow through on doing you own backing track, I can tell where to go, what to do and provide an expected cost. Nothing is free. You either spend the time and resources on your own or you have a pro help out where needed. I can help you there.

Just a curiosity. The overall music message of this piece at first was a bit confusing to me. It has powerful undertones and rhythm of a north american native feel, yet it is also called The Gael, strongly suggesting Celtic roots. Go figure. It may very well be because the movie score is recognized in two pieces. One called Promontory (or main theme) and The Gael. Some how the two pieces well mixed into the final score of the film.

A parallel task to the sound track was nailing down the guitar tabs. Again forget it in terms of whats out there. I ended up adapting my own guitar tab version anyway using Riff Station software as my main tool to help transcribe my tabs. Before doing any tab work, I recommend to work out the key and the chords first. It really helps in getting the proper notes when working on tabs.

The guitar tabs I finally worked out are available as a download on the Members page in both PDF and Word format. Look out for any updates as I may revise the tab content as the tune matures.

Special Note - Muted Strings Sound Technique
During a short interval of tune play (see tabs Bar17 to Bar21 of my TAB sheet), the guitar strings are muted in an arranged but fixed playing pattern -- Dm (2x), C (2x), F, C, Dm (2x). The palm of hand is placed just over the bridge of the guitar just enough to cover each string preventing regular vibration. Experiment to find a good palm position, with just enough to cover the strings but not enough to dead mute them. Strings should still be allowed be heard - fast attack, fast decay. You only need to mute three strings. Any other finger placement for the chords risks annoying buzzing.

The chord progression requires a different finger placement for the last C chord to make the sound feel correct. This is an instant where choosing the prime notes of the chords that occupy only the D, G and B strings - Dm on the 7th, C on the 5th, F on the 9th and again C on the 9th - roughly, works well. See my TAB sheet for more clarity. The Last C chord finger placement gives the tonal progression its proper sounding effect.

Guitar and Guitar Effects
I am using my Jazzmaster on this tune (.o11 w/flat wound strings). As such, any hopes of getting any brightness is out the window just due to the strings and the factory pickups. In return, I get deep tones and no string buzz on slides. I do want to get a bit more brightness. Use of bridge pickup and playing towards the bridge sharpens the attack on certain music phrases. Jazzmaster pups are purposely designed to provide warm tones - Jazz, blues, soft pop. Use of an EQ pedal set to a slight treble boost helps get the tonal edge I want.

I will probably record this tune again, with a brighter sounding guitar like a Fender Stratocaster. Gotta save my pennnies.

I am using only an EQ pedal (hi-pass) and my Flint effects pedal for reverb in my guitar to recorder chain. I use the Jazzmaster vibrato bar for trills at key phrase end points during play (Jazzmaster does not offer great vibrato leeway in its design - its very subtle).

Audio and Video Production Tools
Audio recording is done using REAPER DAW, ART DI boxes and an ART USB based audio interface to get guitar sound to DAW.

Video production work is done in Adobe Premiere CS5. Original and final Video resolution is 1280x720p. Compression is about 7-10mb/s MP4. Youtube will transcode to their transmission specs anyway.

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