The subject matter of Smoke On The Water is part of rock folklore, relating as it does some of the more colourful incidents which occurred during the making of Deep Purple’s seminal Machine Head album (released 1972). The heard on Machine Head, and it’s been arranged so that the main guitar part features the lead break in the solo section, and the rhythm work elsewhere in the track. The additional rhythm heard underneath the solo has been transcribed separately, and you’ll hear this part isolated on the backing track. Let’s get stuck in…
The First port of call is obviously the opening riff, and the challenge here is to emulate the snappy, punchy tone heard on the original. Try playing the double-stops with your right hand Fingers; this enables you to get both notes to sound at exactly the same time. (Playing the riff with a pick means that for every double-stop, you’re playing one note fractionally before the other one, which dilutes the effect a little.) The cleanest-sounding approach for the left hand is probably to barre your First finger at the third fret, then tackle the Fifth- and sixth-fret double-stops with your third and fourth Fingers.
The other thing which can contribute to a more authentic-sounding rendition of the riff is really paying attention to the rests. If there’s a gap written into the music, making a conscious effort to play that gap results in a tighter sound.
Moving on, the guitar part during the verses (bar 25 onwards) is a little more subdued – try backing down the volume a little, muting at the bridge with your right hand palm and paying much heed to the notes marked ‘CO’.
The solo of Smoke in the Water is a particularly memorable example of Ritchie Blackmore’s ability to be both bluesy and melodic (Trainspotters’ note: check out the two-CD ‘remasters’ version of Machine Head, which features a spookily different-sounding alternate take for the solo. It’s still Ritchie but, after hearing the famous version of the solo so many times, this perfectly adequate alternate take simply doesn’t sound right. Weird, huh?).
There are a number of closely related scales at work here. Bars 85-86 constitute a classic Gm pentatonic lick:
The next two bars touch on G Aeolian:
This has a less bluesy, more classical sound. (It’s easy to forget, in this post-Yngwie world, that Mr Blackmore’s classical influence was considered pretty innovative at the time.)
In addition, passages like bar 91 take into account the fact that the harmony now implies Cm, and it’s best to look at this lick as Cm pentatonic with extra notes, though the truth is that it’s a hybrid of C blues scale and C Dorian:
Licks like this one are best tackled slowly at first: try dealing with one beat’s worth of information at a time.
In general, note how Ritchie lands on a lot of chord tones – his Gm licks emphasise the notes G, Eb and D and, because these notes are actually contained in the chords, the licks sound musical and memorable, rather than sounding simply like scale exercises.
Other points of interest here include the whammy bar moment in bar 94 (try to depress and release the bar in an abrupt rhythmic motion, aiming for the note G to come back to pitch where indicated in the music) and the many prebent notes throughout. Oh, there’s also the ‘stuttering’ note in bars 104-105, which should be played by bending up to D and then gradually releasing the note while constantly repicking it, always bringing the pick back onto the string a little earlier than you need to, creating that distinctive staccato sound.
As a final note, the original version of the tune fades out at the end, but the track ending is based on the kind of thing Purple might do in a live context. If you’ve ever played over a backing track that fades out at the end in the name of authenticity, you’ll know exactly how anticlimactic it can feel!
The two Smoke On The Water tracks in the folder comprise:
1 – the full version of the tune
2 – A mix featuring the rhythm guitar part in the solo section but otherwise guitar-less – leaving you free to play through the main part transcribed in the following pages.
It’s just a part of Deep Purple Smoke On The Water guitar tab and sheet.
Through the link below you can download a full transcription of
Deep Purple Smoke On The Water with backing track