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For the track “Isolated Incidents,” from the latest Animals as Leaders album, Weightless, I devised an unusual two-hand-tapping figure that serves as the song’s primary melody and also sets up the distinct rhythmic syncopation from which other musical ideas evolve as the song unfolds. This type of “theme and development” concept is a songwriting tool that I use in many of my compositions.
The intro of “Isolated Incidents” is performed by tapping notes on the fretboard with both hands simultaneously. Some of you may be familiar with this approach through the playing of jazz guitarist Stanley Jordan. When the track begins, the first thing you hear is the melody, which I play entirely with my fret hand.
Without picking conventionally, all of the notes are sounded by firmly hammering onto the fretboard with the fingertips. At 0:17, an ostinato (recurring accompaniment) figure enters, which is produced by repeated pick-hand fretboard taps on Fs on the D string’s 11th fret. The term ostinato is Italian for persistent(ly). In music, it usual refers to a short, repeating pattern performed simultaneously with a melody. When the ostinato is above the melody, it is sometimes referred to as a rhythmic ostinato, or isorhythm.