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Fortress of the Titans

Well, after getting tons of emails over the last year asking me to transcribe this song and tell about how I wrote it, I’ve finally decided to do it. The problem I have with this is that I haven’t officially released it yet on a CD. The existing version is a demo that I recorded over a year ago. My gear sucked, there are no drum fills, my tone was awful, and I’m a much better player now. So, there will be lots of changes when I put it on to my actual CD. If you haven’t heard this song yet, there is a very old video of it on youtube (Please note on the video that I was joking around on purpose). Now, I will go over the story that caused me to write this song and the compositional elements I used.

The Story

When I started writing this song, I wanted to make something that sounded BIG. But, not just big, but gigantic. At the time I had been listening to a lot of Rhapsody. I find there music very grand and exciting. Their songs just have this huge amount of power to them. If you’ve heard them, you know what I’m talking about. It inspired me to want to create a very big sounding song. So, I started thinking, what is big? The word that came to mind was Titan. Titan’s are huge, but what is even bigger I pondered… So, I started playing Might and Magic 6 (sweet role playing game) and I just happened to be at a fortress of titans. So, I decided that it would make a cool song name. “Fortress of the Titans.” Pretty damn nerdy, I know! Now, the hard part was coming up with a way to express that idea musically.

Writing the Song

The swept arpeggio has a massive and intimidating sound to it. The first time I heard Yngwie sweeping all over the neck, I thought to my self, how the hell did he play so many notes, so fast!?! Sweep arpeggios have the tendency to rip people’s faces off and dish out some serious ass kicking. At least, in my opinion. So I thought, since a titan is this massive creature that can dish out loads of punishment to it’s victims, what better way to convey the power of such a creature than a massive amount of sweeps and in your face, alternate picking runs. So, it was then decided that there shall be no slow, melodic playing in the song, but instead, a plethora of massive arpeggio sequences and lightning fast picking runs instead. This would best fit what I was trying to convey. One thing I also felt was necessary, was to keep a relatively simple rhythm guitar structure. I didn’t want to make a complex rhythm and song structure because I figured, why would such a massive creature spent time making this elaborate and detailed fortress when they are already bigger and stronger than everything else in the land. So, what this song came down to when it was time to write, was that I was going to create a stable, but big fortress with the rhythm parts, and then describe the mighty titan with my leads.

Intro Theme

The song starts out with a simple arpeggio theme. Right as the listener gets comfortable with it however, the song takes off into a mess of unexpected shredding. I did this to create some suspense. Here is the fast lick, the other lick is easy to figure out:

I must say, that this lick was quite the pain in the ass to record perfectly cleanly. Getting perfectly metrical execution while playing it cleanly is difficult. Not to mention playing the lick 4 times in a row, then playing a super fast picking lick, and then replaying the lick 4 times with out making a mistake IS a nightmare. If you don’t believe me, set your metronome at 162, and hit the record button and try it. You’ll see what I’m talking about. When you practice it, work on hitting the shifts. Make sure you get that 14p10 clean so that F can be heard. When shifting. make sure you don’t make any excess string noise either! When played correctly, this lick sounds very cool and BIG. Remember, were trying to describe titans here.

After the intro, the song breaks down for a breather with some pentatonic dual parts (I covered that last month). Then I do a wicked fast D minor ascending picking run to build up to the main theme. I tend to improvise this lick, but I have set patterns I tend to do. So, I’m not going to tab it, because I do it slightly different every time.

Main Theme

Ok, this is also a difficult lick to play cleanly and metrically without making a mistake. There are 2 difficult things in this sequence. 1) is the picking. Pay careful attention to the picking I use. Learn it SLOW and you’ll be fine. 2) That damn shift to hit that high D can be a total pain in the ass to play. Isolate it and you’ll get it.

When I play this lick, I integrate circular picking with my sweeps in order to sequence them properly. Watch the video, and pay attention to my picking hand to see what I’m talking about. If you can’t view the video, I use my fingers as well as my arm, in combination, to sweep. It gives you more control, but is really hard to do. I guess that is the best I can explain it with out you seeing it.

When I wrote the main theme, I approached it as creating an intricate sequence within a D minor arpeggio. To me, this gaggle of notes gives the impression of something really big and powerful. Hence, it describes the essence of what a Titan really is.

Here is the next part of the main melody. The picking licks are improvised, but here is a ball park estimate of what I am doing.

Well, that’s all I am going to transcribe for now. If you want the whole tab, I know my friend Niclas Buss has transcribed it. You can find it in our tab archives. Anyways, I hope that I have given you guys some insight on how to take a simple idea and turn it into a song. I’ll catch you all next month to kick in the new year! Get excited, 2002!

Questions? Comments?

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