For years, Australian-based duo Opal Ocean have been blowing minds with their virtuosic displays of acoustic wizardry, combining ludicrously technical fretwork and slippery time signatures with addictive melodies in a manner that never fails to blow your mind.
Now, the lauded duo - comprised of Alex Champ & Nadav Tabak - are looking to take their brand of progressive acoustic rock to the next level with their new album The Hadal Zone.
Set for release on Friday October 16, The Hadal Zone sees Opal Ocean deliver their most dynamic and exciting full-length effort yet. Inspired by the murky depths at the bottom of the ocean, The Hadal Zone is jam-packed with slippery scales, gridlocked grooves and some of the cleanest acoustic playing we've heard all year, with Alex and Nadav taking their chops to the next level over the duration of the album.
After securing legendary Dream Theater keyboardist Jordan Rudess to appear on the eye-popping lead single 'Polycephaly', Opal Ocean last week released a follow-up single in the form of 'The Hadal Zone': the brain-bending title track to their forthcoming album.
Inspired by fellow prog nuts Tool, 'The Hadal Zone' sees the duo traverse a 7/4 time signature and let their fingers do the talking, showcasing their uncanny ability to create pounding percussion and immersive textures with little more than a classical guitar in hand.
Today, we're lucky enough to share a guitar lesson from Opal Ocean themselves to work through the hypnotic new track, with both Alex and Nadav transcribing the 'The Hadal Zone' exclusively for Mixdown Magazine in the lesson below.
So, before we get stuck into the nitty gritty of learning the main riff from our song ‘The Hadal Zone’ there’s two important things to note. The song is in 7/4, which means there's seven beats in the bar, so the feel of the bar can be tricky at first.
The second thing to be aware of is our guitars are classical/nylon string guitars and both in drop D tuning - DADGBE. You can play this on regular steel string guitars, but the rhythms are a little more tricky to accomplish on a steel string guitar.
First step is to play the open A string with downstroke on beat 1. Then, with the index finger play the note E three times on the D string, second fret, with an alternative picking pattern, starting with downstroke falling on the “+, a, 2”.
With your second finger play the note F on the 3rd fret on the 6 strings falling and the “+” of beat 2 with the same picking pattern from beat 1. Then you play with your fifth finger on the 4th spring 5th fret the note G 3 times with an alternative pick pattern starting with a downstroke falling on “3, e , +”.
Play the open low D string with a downstroke on beat 4 then the open higher D string 3 times starting with a downstroke falling on the “+, a, 5”. Play the low open D string again on the “+” of beat 5 with a downstroke.
Lastly, with your third finger bend the note E on the 5th string 7th fret on beat 6 holding it over beat 7. Bar 2 is the same as bar 1, except you will be bending on the 4th string 9th fret for beat 6 and 7. Bar 3 is the same as bar 1. Bar 4 is also the same as bar 1 with nothing being played on beat 6 and 7.
Here's some notation for you to follow:
The idea behind this section is to be a solid support for the lead guitar by emphasizing the bass notes of the lead and creating a rhythm to flow over the seven beats without making it feel like a 3/4 and 4/4 bar glued together.
So, we're just going to jump straight in the deep end here with the rhythm part of the track. If you haven’t played around with rumba flamenco techniques before, it may be a good idea to look at some basic tutorials for Rumba strumming techniques and Rasgueado, especially for the triplet technique.
We’re going to start the section by hitting the guitar strings near the bridge with the underside of your fingers from your right hand making sure to cover all the strings to create a thumping sound, which acts as the kick.
With your left hand, simultaneously muting all the strings except the open A string. We then follow it by a triplet strum or Rasgueado with a single down stroke added to the end of the triplet all on the A string. It’s important to make sure your wrist and fingers are loose and have the same motion you would if you were to turn a door handle.
Before we move on, here's a quick tip for Rasgueados. Start with a downwards motion with your fingernails grazing the strings followed by the flesh of your thumb downwards, and then back up with the finger nail of the thumb. Practice this slowly, and gradually speed up whilst repeating the pattern and letting the centrifugal force spread your fingers out as you speed up.
Directly following that with another down stroke on the third fret of the 6th string (Low F). You then want to use your right hand to slap the body of the guitar to make a snare sound. It’s important to have a play around to find the best sounding spot on the guitar but close enough to the strings for easy access. Also, please just use the tips of your fingers: this will help bounce your fingers back off the guitar and in the long run will save your hands, guitar and wallet!
After slapping, you want to repeat the downstroke on the 3rd fret before landing back on the bridge for another kick sound, only now muting all the strings except the low open D on the 6th string. Then, repeat the triplet with an extra downstroke all on the open D as shown in fig 2 of the notation below.
The last part of the riff alternates as the sections progress, but for this example we’re going to do a simple slap on the low D then directly moving to slap the body of the guitar. Repeat this movement again, before finally slapping on the bridge one last time - Kick, Snare, Kick, Snare, Kick. Alternatively, you can replace the last two kicks with single down strokes for variety.
If you enjoyed this lesson, we'll be starting up an Opal Ocean Guitar Masterclass soon where you can find out all about the techniques used on our latest album as well as advanced songwriting, rundowns and much more!
Opal Ocean's new album The Hadal Zone is out on Friday October 16. Preorder it here.