JG Rock Song Book Study - (4/50) La Grange

Hi all,

4th song in my rock study, La Grange by ZZ Top!

The Story

I just recently finished Grade 2 of Justin’s course and am currently consolidating for the next 3 months. In Justin’s video about consolidation he warns about how to avoid a rut. After watching that video I decided that I needed some structure to make sure that I move forward. So I decided to have a long-term goal of playing and recording all of the songs in Justin’s Rock song book.

The Study

I’m calling this a study instead of a challenge as I really want to suck out as much knowledge as I can from each song and make sure I’m learning something, however small, from each one I tackle.

As I said I need structure, without it I get lost very easily! So, here’s how I’m structuring this study:

For each song I’m going to try and take at least a month (sometime it can be shorter) to get right and post. This is because I’ll be working on other songs and books as well, so I want to give myself as much time as possible to get through even the easy songs. For the harder ones I may take even longer. The point here is to get the songs to the point where I feel like the quality is good enough to post and I’ve learned as much as I could from each song.

I’m going to try and find backing tracks to as much of the songs as possible. I’m not a singer (interest is there but not yet ready to pursue) so I’d like to play with backing tracks for it to sound as good as possible and also to help make sure I have the rhythm right. I checked and found backing tracks for most of the first 15 songs. So it doesn’t seem too hard to find, especially since many of the songs in the book are really popular.

Each post I’ll give some details on what I’ve learned and how I’m getting the sound I used. This is for me to chronicle what I’ve learned and just to give context to those who are interested.

Then I’ll post the song and move on!

I’m hoping that I’ll keep going and eventually post every song in the the entirety of Justin’s book, but that will take years as I am not at the level to be able to play all of these yet. So, with that in mind I’m going to be doing one section of 15 at a time (Exactly how his book is set up).

Beginner Song Section:

Song # Song Band/Artist Status Link
1 Highway to Hell AC/DC Complete! 6/18/2022
2 Every Rose Has Its Thorn Poison Complete! 7/13/2022
3 If you Tolerate This Your Children Will Be Next Manic Street Preachers Complete! 7/30/2022
4 La Grange ZZ Top Complete! 8/27/2022
5 In Bloom Nirvana In Progress...
6 Rock and Roll All Night Kiss Not Started
7 There She Goes The La's Not Started
8 Self Esteem The Offspring Not Started
9 Sunshine of Your Love Cream Not Started
10 Should I stay Or Should I Go The Clash Not Started
11 Smells Like Teen Spirit Nirvana Not Started
12 Song 2 Blur Not Started
13 Teenage Kicks The Undertones Not Started
14 Ballad of Jayne L.A. Guns Not Started
15 I Remember You Skid Row Not Started
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Song 4: La Grange by ZZ Top

Love this song, and I appreciate it so much more now that I covered the rhythm part. It’s way harder than it looks, I spent a month on it and I still mess up. Still, I feel comfortable enough to post it and move on.

What I’ve learned:

  • Playing off the beat. Parts of this song major riffs play on the ANDs which can be super hard if you’re used to hitting those down strums on the beat. I had a rhythm section of my practice that focused on this plus hitting the rests right on the beat.
  • 4th Diads (hope I spelled that right). The bridge plays C5, Eb5, and a F5 with just the 5th and the octave. Distance between those is 4 instead of 5 but still playing a power chord from my understanding because the root and the 5th are still there. Someone who’s better at theory can correct me if I’m wrong.
  • Hammer on. There’s a hammer on that I still don’t do too well because it’s super fast on the bridge. I do like the sound you get when you do it.
  • Recording once but changing tone in DAW. I recorded the whole thing at once with one tone then went into garageband and changed the tone to hit the distorted guitars at the right time. It felt a little weird because I couldn’t tell if the distorted guitar would sound right since I was playing it clean to whole time but I think it turned out okay.
  • EDIT: Adding Hybrid picking. Like most things with guitar it felt impossible at first, but I switched from a medium pick to a T sized pick which helped a little. It was especially difficult because the song is ~162 BPM. After a while I got used to it and realized that all you need is hit the strings a little with both the pick and fingers to sound good.

Side note: The first thing I did after recording it is cut my nails, I hate having my nails long, but I’m not so good finger picking without it. :sweat_smile:

Sound:
I just purchased a Tonelib GFX license so I opted to use that instead of my katana. for the clean tone I used the preset called “Compressed Air” for the distorted part I used the preset called “La Muerta”. Didn’t make any changes as I thought they sounded pretty good for the song as is.

grabbed the backing track from: Download your instrumental songs in MP3 format - Custom Backing Tracks - Karaoke Version (karaoke-version.com)

Here’s La Grange: (Advice and feedback always appreciated and welcome!):grinning:

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Hello Alexis, what a great idea to spend your consolidation phase on :smiley:. I’m certain, that your song book study will keep this time very interesting for you, and you will definitely learn a lot.
In addition, we can enjoy your song videos. La Grange was super :star_struck:.
I’m already looking forward to next ones :hugs:.

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Wow, Alexis, that was great! I admire your project and your persistance. I love the sound of your guitar and the colour is just gorgeous.

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@Helen0609 @NicoleKKB thanks you for the kind words!

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Superb stuff Alexis. That’s to me was the most challenging of the rock study songs you’ve done to date. In fact I think its listed as a Grade 4 song. So you’ve really pushed yourself forward in your Grade 2 consolidation period. You did the song justice and should be extremely proud of the progression you have been making. Well done mate.

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Thanks James,

This is 100% the most difficult song I’ve ever played. That’s partly why I decided to post this song despite having more mistakes than I would like. In practice I’ve done better and I’ve done worse so I think this accurately represents where I’m at. Definitely proud of the what I’ve ultimately done.

Excited for the next one too, Nirvana’s In Bloom which is actually way easier than this one. I’ll probably post that one in a couple of weeks cause I’ve played it a million times during practice so it’s just getting it good enough to post here.

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Not an easy one to cover Alexis but you definitely did it justice, well done it sounded really good!

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Thanks Adrian!

Really good Alexis. You certainly had the ZZ vibe going on there!

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Thanks Gordon, if I can channel their vibe even a little I feel like I was successful haha.

That was very groovy and well done alexis! Nice rhythm playing, you didnt miss a beat from what i could tell! Keep it up!

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Thanks Byron!

Your welcome! How long you been learning?

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Great job! :+1: My hand is cramping just watching that. :smiley:

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@Bytron08 I’ve played every single day since the day I got my guitar Jan 6th, so about ~8 months.

@suzieq for the first week I couldn’t get through the whole song without my hand muscles screaming at me, lol.

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Awesome playing Alexis, sounding great. Love what you did with the tones too. Great rhythm and timing.

I noticed you were hybrid picking - I haven’t tried that yet! How do you find it, have you been doing it for a while because you didn’t mention it in the what I learned section?

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Whoops! That’s was absolutely new to me so I’ll edit my post and add it. Like most things with guitar it felt impossible at first, but I switched from a medium pick to a T sized pick which helped a little. It was especially difficult because the song is ~162 BPM. After a while I got used to it and realized that all you need is hit the strings a little with both the pick and fingers to sound good.

Side note: The first thing I did after recording it is cut my nails, I hate having my nails long, but I’m not so good finger picking without it. :sweat_smile:

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Very nice, you’ve got the tones very well and timing is pretty decent; excellent! :+1::+1::+1:

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Thanks Darrell! Yeah, the timing/rhythm is easily the hardest part of the song. 8th note rests at 162 bpm are subtle but sound really good if hit right. I got mostly there with this one, but I’m def keep this in my repertoire to work on.