How to play: The Zephyr Song

As the Chilis released new album, Stadium Arcadium, at the beginning of May, Jamie Humphries took a look at the one of the hits from their previous release, By The Way…


Will improve your:

  • Harmonised scale triads
  • Chord/melody embellishments
  • Basic themed based solo
  • Triad embellishments
  • THE RED HOT Chili Peppers are undoubtedly one of the biggest and most successful rock bands in the world. The Californian quartet shows little signs of slowing down, having produced some of the biggest selling albums of the last decade. Although the band have been through several line – up changes, the most popular and classic team has to be with guitarist John Frusciante, who replaced original guitarist Hillel Slovak following his untimely death from a drug overdose. Frusciante, a former fan, joined the Chilis in 1989 along with new drummer Chad Smith for the ’89 release Mother’s Milk. The band’s follow – up album, BloodSugarSexMagik, released in ‘91, earned them global success. But along with success came more excess, with Frusciante quitting the band and spiraling downwards with his own drug addictions.

    He was replaced with ex – Jane’s addiction guitarist Dave Navarro for the release of One Hot Minute in 1995. But this line – up was short lived, and new, clean and focused Frusciante re – joined his mates for 1999’s Californication. The success of this album was nothing compared with their 2002 release By The Way, which secured them huge sales globally. The album included such tracks as By The Way, Can’t Stop, and this month’s feature, The Zephyr Song.

    The Red Hot Chili Peppers recently released a two-CD set, Stadium Arcadium, as GT hits the streets. The collection contains 28 songs divided between two discs, one dubbed Jupiter and the other Mars. The band has also released their first single Dani California to their eagerly awaiting army of fans.

    If pre-sales are anything to go by it looks as though this could be another giant smash for the Chili/Rick Rubin partnership. GT


    Before we tackle this track, let’s take a look at the theory behind the chord progression and how to embellish chords. This track is pretty straightforward, and should not really cause too many with its performance. But there are a couple of interesting ideas presented with the chords and the progression. The chords of the verse are based around VI, V, III, IV progression from the harmonised C major scale. When listening to the track, I first wrote them out on the fourth, third and second strings, but then felt after close scrutiny that there were two wound strings being used. This is one of the many problems that a transcriber faces, making sure that they present the transcription in the correct position. But with this in mind, a good exercise would be for you to practice the triads in variety of different positions, to help unlock the neck to you. The chorus progression changes key, using chords I, IV and V from the D major scale. Here the G chord is used as a pivot between the two keys, as it functions as the V chord of the C, and the IV chord of D.

    The introduction includes some chord extensions, namely minor 7th, dominant 7th and major 7th. Throughout the verse additional melodic themes are added to the chords using notes in the surrounding area from the key of the C major. This is a very basic and simple example of adding melodies to chords, but it’s also very effective. You should try experimenting with progressions of your own, and try to include melodic lines for extra colour, tension and release.


    John Frusciante uses a wide variety of gear including vintage Strats, Teles and Gretsch White Falcon. His choice of amps ranges from Marshall to Fender Showman heads, all through JCM 900 Marshall 4×12 cabs. He uses an immense pedal board that includes Boss Chorus Ensemble, Ibanez WH10 wah , Boss FZ3 fuzz, MXR Phase 90 reissue, Boss DS2 Turbo Distortion, plus various Electro Harmonix pedals. For the session I used my Music Man Silhouette Special fitted with DiMarzio virtual vintage single-coil pickups, through a Cornford Carrera combo. Aim for a light overdriven tone, and use the neck pickup for the rhythm part. Think Hendrix. Switch to the sharper-toned bridge pickup for the solo. I also used an MXR compressor pedal and a touch of reverb during the mix-down stage.


    The Chilis have such a large catalogue, covering many different styles depending on the line-up. To my mind the best are Mother’s Milk, BloodSugarSexMagik, Californication and By The Way. I also love One Hot Minute – it’s well worth a listen as it features Dave Navarro. Top pick BloodSugarSexMagik.

    ” In the By The Way period I got into using chords with more than just root, third and fifth – you know, 9ths, 11ths and 13ths” – John Frusciante

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