The Scale: Guitar Solo

Several months ago, a reader commented that he thought the solo at the end of “The Scale” was one of Daniel’s best on Our Love to Admire, and wondered if I had any thoughts about it. You can see my mini-analysis of the song sketched out in the photo above.

As I’ve mentioned before, I believe context is everything when trying to understand the power of certain musical moments, and I think a lot of this solo’s power comes from how it contrasts with the opening guitar line, which I call the main guitar theme—it’s sketched out on the top left-hand side of the photo above.

The main guitar theme gives the feeling of a constant moving up and down, from A to E and back again, and it repeats throughout more than half the song. When I was transcribing this theme, it struck me how the rhythmic emphasis is on the first long note (the second measure of the theme), almost like the entire first measure is a “pick-up,” a feeling aided by Sam hitting the crash cymbal right on the beginning of the second measure. In this way, the main guitar theme is rhythmically disorienting, creating a forward-drive that begs for resolution. Furthermore, the main guitar theme manages to de-emphasize the tonic note (the main note of the whole song) “A”, by spending most of its time on “E” and “D”.

The guitar solo—which I’ve transcribed in the middle of the right-hand side of the photo—by contrast, creates clear, concise phrases (musical sentences), whereby the tonic note “A” is clearly heard as the goal of each of the phrases. This pairing of rhythmically stable phrases and an emphasis on the tonic note effectively provides the resolution that the main guitar theme has been begging for during most of the song. It’s a satisfying solo, and I think that’s where it gets some of its musical power.

Ok, that’s it for now. Stay tuned for another video analysis, this time of “Specialist”!


“The Scale”


VERSE 1 (long)
0:18 I have a sequin for an eye
Pick a rose and hide my face
This is the bandit’s life
It comes and goes and them’s the breaks
Under a molten sky, beyond the road, we lie in wait
You think they know us now?
Wait ’til the stars come out
You’ll see that
1:00 Well, I made you and now I take you back
It’s too late but today I can define the lack
I made you and now I take you back
1:16-1:20 (vox out)

1:20 Sun, you sleep in clouds of fire
That’s all and that’s right
My sun, you sleep in clouds of fire
That’s all and that’s right

1:38-1:48 (interlude)

VERSE 2 (short)
1:48 I can still feel it when you lie
Pick a rose just to hide my face
Well, if there’s something I should know
I seek no science when there is no shape
Under a molten sky, let the days collide
Well, I made you and now I take you back
2:26-2:30 (vox out)

2:30 Sun, you sleep in clouds of fire
That’s all and that’s right
My sun, you sleep in clouds of fire
That’s all and that’s right

2:50 Gtr solo


~ by megwilhoite on January 14, 2012.

11 Responses to “The Scale: Guitar Solo”

  1. Thanks so much !!! ….very enlightening.
    We miss your videos, as it helps us understand waaay better
    Looking forward Specialist video 🙂

  2. Very interesting! A while ago my girlfriend commented to me (she is a novice interpol fan) that this song really lacked a solid “identity”, that the song lacked a clear cut progression, although she recognied that the very basis of the song is built (and named) around a rising scale. I didn’t know how to answer her, because to me (an expert? interpol fan…we’ll just say a Specialist) the song had this amazing driving force behind it that didn’t need any identity. Maybe it’s because I’m just so used to their unique song styles and such, but I didn’t really know what she was trying to say. But with your description, though, I see that maybe to her the song seemed confused and lacking that structure that it felt like it needed because the emphasis is thrown on the second measure. Very interesting what you found about that ending solo (Paul’s solo, by the way, not daniel’s) and that the structure of the solo gives the song a resolution. Sorry for the rant, but I thoroughly enjoyed your analysis! Can’t wait for the Specialist video, your other videos really helped me hear AM(TMIA) and Barricade a lot clearer.

  3. Pretty sure the solo was recorded and then reversed. It was definitely altered in some way.

    • Agree.. last solo was recorded with guitar + distortion pedal (ProCo RAT ?) but starting from the end of the solo…. Well, except the last note, an A, that in my opinion, was added at the end of the song / solo (this last note sounds with hard attack and long decay, so it is not reversed)

      …maybe this is why they don’t play it live.

      • I didn’t realize they don’t play it live! Yeah, with all the manipulation that’s hard to recreate live, it definitely makes sense why they don’t.

      • mmm … I was wrong twice … I’ve just found out youtube videos playing Scale and also I just realized last solo is played with an unusual combination of guitar + distortion pedal + e-bow.

      • oh cool! I love e-bows!

  4. great read, been a while since ive been here. and ya i miss your videos too.

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