Happy Birthday Song – cover by Alexandra Zerner – Behind the Scenes

The idea of making a cover version of this peremptory hit, is wandering across my mind for a very long time, as the genre concept of the eventual release is changing all the time. In fact, I’ve never found time to invest in developing the idea and coming to a complete idea of how this cover should sound like, until March 10th, when realising that two of my friends have their birthdays on that date, I concluded, that it’s an excellent occasion to start working on this cover.

I already had some basic concepts of what I should do with the harmony in order to make it more interesting and… more me-ish, so I grabbed the 12-string acoustic guitar and started experimenting, until I hit the right key, which, being a synesthete, I value as a component of a high importance. I wanted to integrate several different flavours in the arrangement, because this is how it sounded in my head, so beside the 12-string, I cleaned the dust from the the mandolin’s case and put this small and exquisite instrument at work. I often tend to use a mandolin in a combination with a 12-string guitar in my work as a composer, because it gives me the opportunity to create a broadband string-based soundscape, where these instruments could also move in counterpoints, creating interesting and full harmonic and melodic content.

Then came the piano as a timbral and melodic addition to the acoustic guitar and the mandolin, then the bass and the drums. I put the last two in order to develop the composition dynamically, which was already extended to more than 2 min. because I decided to put a guitar solo part as well, moving into the relative minor key, so I can create more dramatic and well constructed shape of the song.

Finally I came to the lead guitar part, which is the most interesting element here. The first and the obviously most logical approach was to put the main melodic theme, played in a traditional 6/8 bluesy fashion, but then I asked myself “Why should I do that? Everybody would do it exactly this way.” Once I saw a movie, where a guy was asked how he constructs so complex and well working plans, when he’s not that smart. He answered: “I imagine someone smarter than me, and then imagine what they would do.” There is a enormous amount of wisdom in this principle and it saved me a lot of times, when I felt stuck. In this particular case, I imagined my guitar heroes Jason Becker and Marty Friedman and asked myself: “What they would do with this track?” Right away the “answer” popped in my mind and I just translated it into sound, using my guitar.

I must admit, that I fancy the result, which doesn’t happen often, but what’s more interesting is that Jason Becker liked it too and shared it on his facebook page – there couldn’t be a greater recognition for this rendition of mine 🙂

Concerning the video, I thought that the approach I used for my cover of Dream Theater’s “Wait for Sleep” would be a great idea, that’s why I shot all the takes of the different instruments, except playing the drum parts on my keyboard – it’s not so interesting performance to watch, also it would unnecessarily flood the screen and won’t leave space for more important things.

The other essential thing is, that this is the project, that I finished for the shortest period of time, considering the amount of work – starting from scratch (not even chords on a paper) to a finished video, uploaded to YouTube, there were exactly 12 hours, with two 15 min. breaks within this period. I doubt I will ever do that again, because it’s extremely exhausting, but at least now I know I am capable of doing it.

Well, enough talking – below is the video, so enjoy, subscribe and share! 🙂