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Should we reconsider the word "Surf"?

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  • Should we reconsider the word "Surf"?

    It seems that a lot of instrumental music gets lumped into the category of "Surf Music". It all has the same characteristic twang and chime of single coils, it all as heavy reverb, and the same 4/4 backbeat, but beyond that there's nothing really surfy about it.

    I understand that it all started with the So-Cal bands like Dick Dale, who actually sang songs about surfing, but aside from cover art, that seems to be where the surfing ends.

    What got me onto this train of thought was that all the "surf" bands I've been listening to lately have sci-fi themes: Space Agency, Shadowy Men..., Man or Astroman. They all have that "surfy" sound, but absolutely nothing to do with surfing.

    So I wonder... Is there a better way to describe this music than "Surf"?
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    <img src="images/misc/quote_icon.png" alt="Quote" /> Originally Posted by <strong>klrbee03</strong>
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  • #2
    Surf band from my country:

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    • #3
      Genre labels are often a double edged sword. You can either try to use an old label, invent a new label, or forget labels and use too many words to describe the music.

      I too have been listening to Man or Astroman lately. :thu: For them I'd be tempted to use the technique of combining two labels to describe the music. Maybe Sci-Surf or Spy-Surf? :idk:
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      <img src="images/misc/quote_icon.png" alt="Quote" /> Originally Posted by <strong>wedgehed II</strong>
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      • #4
        Just because Man...or Astroman? combined surf with MST3K doesn't mean they should fit under a new genre. Instrumentals drenched in reverb, chimey gee-tars, and 4/4 = surf. There is no sci-fi theme until you get into overdubs, samples, etc, and then you arguably are no longer "instrumental."

        It's all still surf. Just enjoy it and let others worry about labels.
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        • #5
          We should rename rock because it doesn't have anything to do with those heavy hard things in the ground.
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          • #6
            We should rename rock because it doesn't have anything to do with those heavy hard things in the ground.


            Actually, I wish we could reclassify most of the crap that passes for "Rock" :lol:
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            <img src="images/misc/quote_icon.png" alt="Quote" /> Originally Posted by <strong>klrbee03</strong>
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            • #7
              Surf should not be taken literally. Or we'd have to start taking blues literally, and that could get ugly.
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              • #8
                What combination of pickups do you use on a strat to get that surfy sound? I never tried playing surf or twang music sounds cool!
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                • #9
                  Bridge pickup is mostly what I use on a strat when I'm twangin' the surf! Play it clean -- also helps to have medium or better strings (i.e. 11s or 12s), but not necessary. Tele bridge PU also works for me.
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                  • #10
                    What combination of pickups do you use on a strat to get that surfy sound? I never tried playing surf or twang music sounds cool!


                    Honestly I don't think pickups matter for surf. Your amp does. You need something with thick cleans and real spring reverb.
                    Electrics: Fender '73 Mustang RI, Epiphone Inspired by John Lennon Casino, Gibson 60s Tribute Les Paul Studio, Daisy Rock Retro-H Deluxe, Squier Hello Kitty Strat x2<br>Acoustics: Taylor 316CE-LTD, Seagull Entourage Rustic CW QIT<br>Basses: Squier Badtz Maru Bronco Bass, Aria CSB-300, Fender Mustang Bass RI<br>Amps: Vox TB18C1, Vox Pathfinder 210, Peavey Transtube Envoy, Ampeg Micro VR Stack<br>My Band: <a href="http://mittensband.com" target="_blank">http://mittensband.com</a>

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                    • #11
                      Can we at least agree

                      That on HCEG

                      Reverb instrumental stanzas

                      Be referred to as Django Sentenzas?
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                      • #12
                        Djangosentenzasmanship, perhaps.
                        Electrics: Fender '73 Mustang RI, Epiphone Inspired by John Lennon Casino, Gibson 60s Tribute Les Paul Studio, Daisy Rock Retro-H Deluxe, Squier Hello Kitty Strat x2<br>Acoustics: Taylor 316CE-LTD, Seagull Entourage Rustic CW QIT<br>Basses: Squier Badtz Maru Bronco Bass, Aria CSB-300, Fender Mustang Bass RI<br>Amps: Vox TB18C1, Vox Pathfinder 210, Peavey Transtube Envoy, Ampeg Micro VR Stack<br>My Band: <a href="http://mittensband.com" target="_blank">http://mittensband.com</a>

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                        • #13
                          What combination of pickups do you use on a strat to get that surfy sound? I never tried playing surf or twang music sounds cool!


                          The first thing I did when I bought my strat was to add a switch so I could get neck/bridge. Perfect for surfy stuff. Bridge/middle is also great for surf leads. As mentioned, if you want that Dick Dale sound, just the bridge.
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                          <img src="images/misc/quote_icon.png" alt="Quote" /> Originally Posted by <strong>klrbee03</strong>
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                          • #14
                            I understand that it all started with the So-Cal bands like Dick Dale, who actually sang songs about surfing, but aside from cover art, that seems to be where the surfing ends.


                            Early surf music was largely instrumental, particularly Dick Dale. The term surf comes from Dick Dale being interested and inspired by waves and his audience being a lot of surfer kids.

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                            • #15
                              I think of the Beach Boys as 'surf pop' and The Ventures, Dick Dale, The Lively Ones and much of The Shadows as 'Surf Rock'.

                              Pretty much if a song is played on a Strat or Jaguar through a Twin or Bandmaster with drippy reverb, has some noodling in E or A minor with some trem wiggling and occasionly has a broken E minor chord where you dip the trem and slowly bring it back up to pitch, that's surf rock to me. The more modern stuff is cool but is more surf-inspired to me... not to split hairs.

                              The quintessential surf tone to me is a Jaguar in the middle position and flat-wound strings. You can get pretty close with a strat with the neck and bridge pickup combination if it's so modified. Twin or similar... something with a fair bit of clean headroom. Some amps can get by with the built-in reverb but having a tank in front really makes it drip and for me, I GOTS to have that drip!
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