Super Colossal lesson

 In Lesson

After the old Surfing With The Alien and Satch Boogie, were going to juping from 1987 to 2006 to learn « Super Colossal ».
It is the principal song of the Super Colossal album that you will learn here. Again you will find the cover which is an exemple to follow, of course the video lesson with just the solo guitar and no backing track, with slowd down parts and focuses tapes, and don’t get started without keeping an eye on the tablature!

The cover

Just like for the Surfing With The Alien lesson, the cover is very important because the video lesson is based on it. You may have some parts of « Super Colossal » which are just a carbon copy of the CD version, some other parts come from live versions and other part are performed a little bit differently or completely improvised! Then you have the choice to do what you want and play your personal version of this song.

Video lesson & explanations

Is there something you didn’t understand? The accurate tab is at the bottom!

 1 | Riff

The main riff feels extremly powerful it’s one of the Satriani’s riffs which illustrates well the name « Super Colossal ». The melody rests on downbeats and the POG pedal gives a real powerful rendering.
We have a melody based on the C#- pentatonic there’s no real diffuculty and it is affordable for everyone, the real difficulty is to make it sound well. I can tell that it’s the first song I learned from Joe Satriani and I can relate that it’s the last one I make it groove! The main riff looks easy but it’s hard as hell to play it the right way.
The secret consists on playing slight bends and accents on the melodic supports, otherwise it will sound like a Tetris game. I wrote the bends on the tablature, and about the accents most of them are at the begining and the end of the phrases and on the downbeats, you can hear them in the video.

About the descending phrase at the end they are two ways to play :

  • For those who are compfortable with fast picking you can do alternate picking, that’s the way Satch plays it.
  • And for the lazy persons like me and for those who don’t like the picking sound, just attack one note in two on the right hand (so the left hand got to pull-off one note in two) but be careful to attack exactly like I show you on the video lesson : 1 time down, 1 time up and 1 time down : they are sextuplets so one attack for two notes makes the time filled in 3 attacks, and the next time be careful to attack exaclty the same by not attacking upwards.

In every case you’ve got to accentuate every first note of the sextuplets.

2 | Theme

The theme layout is AABC, with a extended C.
A | We have for the A a 4 chords progression :

C# | C# | E | F#
( I | I | III | IV )

The chords are powerchords so we don’t have the third in any of them, but if we had to put one they all shall be Major. Indeed the major third of the two first chords is played in the melody and about the two other chords the major third is naturally featuring in the harmonisation of the C#- scale, where III & IV degrees are major.
This theme is special because it surfis onboth Major & minor, the two first chords are tell “we’re in C# Major” because of the third played in the melody and the two others are saying “we’re in C# minor” because of where they come from, the Blues influences of Satch stay omnipresent in his compositions.

B | The B modulates in the IV degree tone, in A# :

A# | F# | C# | G#
( I | VI | III | VII )

Those chords are coherent compared to the A because of they are powerchords, furthermore it will be the same for the whole song. We are here in A#-natural, no secret : if we had to find out what third the chords implie, the first one would be Major and the others chords would be minors.

C | Then the C which has 6 and not 4 bars :

A# | F# | G# | G#
G# | A# B C C#

( I | VI | VII | VII )

The G# is double-sided, from one hand he is VII degree in relation to A# and on the other hand he calls for the next C#, like an V degree. So why can we hear the G# as a V degree even though we had modulate, it’s because even if we have modulate we didn’t modulate far away, the armor stays the same, Joe just changed the I degree in the same scale so that’s why the transition is easy to hear, and why G# is double-sided.
On the last bar there is a chromatic rise played by the ryhythm section where the chords are placed out of time, it leads to come back in C# fall on the main riff. The way the chromatic rise is made participates to the powerful effect of the arrangement.
About the guitar playing, like for the main riff you’ve got to be careful of the little bends and vibratos.

3 | Solo

The layout of the « Super Colossal » solo is based on 16 bars, and is a succession of straight modulations. We have 4 bars in A#, 4 in C#, 4 in A# again and the next 4 bars are divided on 2 chords, 2 bars for each, D# et G#. It’s just a II-V-I because we’re back again on the I degree on the 2nd theme.

  • A# & C# / Bars 43 – 50 : Video link

You’ve got to improvise here! We are completely in the A# bluesy pentatonic scale, the first bended note is very characteristic so my advice is to keep it, for the rest do what you want, just stay in the blues pentatonic and you got it!
That’s just a detail but I added for fun some Van Halen-style phrase at the 45-46 bars, it’s all about using the right hand for tapping while making a bend on the left hand, that’s why when you tap on the 13th fret it’s not a G but an A# that you can hear, same thing for the 15th fret where you can hear a C instead of an A#.
Then we modulate in C#, same thing that for the 4 previous bars that’s all about blues pentatonic, just instist on the bluenote on the 48-49 bars. If you want to be more in the trip of the song, play what I’ve written on the tab, this part is a bit more regular than before, look at all Satch’s lives to realise.

  • A# / Bars 51 – 54 : Video link

It’s time for you to rock hard!
You can surfing between the blues pentatonic and the mixolydian mode, for which one you even can add the bluenote, that’s what I played in the song video and that’s what Satch plays is in live. The bend on the 53 bar is very characteristic, you better play it in your improvisation trip.

  • D# & G# / Bars 55 – 58 : Video link

As for the studio and the live versions, the 55-57 bars are only played with quarter notes, I spiced the challenge up and I added more rhythm and phrasing elements, it’s now your turn to play what you hear!
The 58 bar is written and is a great classic Blues lick ending up the solo.

4 | 2nd theme

This 2nd theme is pretty the same than the first I played, the only difference between them is that the interpretation changes. It’s a good thing to diversify when you play something twice, sometimes it’s about improvisation at T time and sometimes it’s just a few plans you imagine, put aside and play when you have the occasion.
For example at the 70 bar I lied the two bends and that gives an interesting effect, or look at the end of this theme I have chosen to end up with this big progressive bend that fills the entire 84th bar. I should talking too about the 82 bar, that’s a trick that Satch uses sometimes on this song.

Everything is possible if you keep playing in the spirit of the song.

5 | End riff

Contrary to the 2nd theme it’s not about improvisation or little tricks anymore, this is a written part that you must play because that makes the « Super Colossal » fingerprint.
This part is a carbon copy of the riff from the begining except that the descending phrase is played three times, repeating bars or phrases is a simple way to lead to the end of a song. The only musician who never plays three times the same phrase is the drummer, who increases the intensity through the three repetitions.

Gear & Setup

In « Super Colossal » the gear and the setup are very important for making the song completion, quick scan over that should be known.

1 | The POG

That’s the POG from Electro-Harmonix which gives the super colossal tone! It’s just a Polyphonic Octave Generator (POG for those in the know) that generate several voices. The model I used is the POG2, the other features within this pedal range are the POG (the first version) and the Micro POG that is cheaper than the other ones. Don’t care about the right part, she’s used to set up the attack, tune and tone, that’s the left part of the pedal that matters here.
You have 5 sliders from the left to the right the Dry Output slider, then the -2 Octaves, -1 octave, +1 octave & +2 octaves sliders.
The settings is used are most +1 octave then -2 octave, of course the dry output original sound and a little bit of the +2 octave, it’s a personnal setting and Joe Satriani doesn’t use that one, I just listened and searched what sounded great with the gear I had and I urge you to do the same!

Setting of the POG2 pedal - Réglages du POG2

2 | The pickups switches

When the POG is activated, the guitar is always set up on the bridge pickup, that rule applies to the whole song. Now the solo start, you’ve got to disable the POG and switch to the neck pickup. At the end of the solo you switch again to the bridge pickup (bars 55 – 58) you turn on the POG once the solo ends and you go straight to the end.
The effects implication in this song is essential, you can’t obtain the same sound or the same ambiance without the POG or equal : The solo transition would be too much different, the super colossal effect which gave its name to the song would be reduced, even if the arrangement helps to have this massive, strong rendering.

Alright folks, I hope you like learning that song, enjoy the tab down below, you can ask me your questions if you have some and as usual, share your work in the comments!


The tablature

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