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Polishing Weird Backwards Musical Phrases


This post focuses on a unique way to produce backwards phrases with any instrument.

I used to have a bit of a fascination with backwards sounds when I got my first computer sound card. I would record my voice and play it backwards or record an instrument and play it backwards. At one point I realized that backwards sounding things could be played forwards and then reversed. So I tried speaking a word, reversing it, then record my attempt to reproduce the backwards sound with my mouth. After that, I would reverse my backwards attempt and see how close I could get to the original word. If I did it well, I sounded either like I had a speech problem or I was British, depending on kind you want to be to a Liverpool accent.

You can do the same thing with instruments. It’s a little tough with complex rhythms because you’ll have to play normal syncopations that sound impossible backwards. It’s actually really good practice for developing a freaked-out sense of rhythm.

Here’s an example:

I recorded this phrase with my guitar (G&L F100 > PODxt > Macbook)…

Forwards Guitar Phrase

Then I reversed it…

Forwards Guitar Phrase (Reversed)

Then I try my best to learn how to play the sounds of it backwards.

Backwards Guitar Phrase (Played Normally)

You can take a listen to the backwards phrase and my backwards playing together to hear how close they sound: Both Backwards Phrases (One Reversed and One Performed)

Then I reverse the performance of the backgwards sounds…

Backwards Guitar Phrase (Reversed)

And, finally, you can hear the original phrase and the backwards phrase performance reversed all together to see how well I did…

Both Forward Phrases (Original and Backwards Performance Reversed)

The cool thing about this is, even if you make mistakes, you’ll still probably end up with something funky.

It’s fun and weird as hell.