Purple Rain by Prince
I’ve always wanted to do a lesson or two on Prince, but up until now it’s been next to impossible since Prince – backed up by a team of hard-assed lawyers – was always super-protective of his music, and refused to allow any unauthorised videos up on YouTube. It’s sad that this situation only seems to be changing after his death, with a large number of Prince-related videos springing up over recent weeks. So I thought I’d go ahead and join them with this look at one of his most famous songs. Fingers-crossed this video will be allowed to remain live.
The original version of Purple Rain apparently started out as a live recording which Prince then took into the studio to work on further. (Some interesting background information on the song here.) How much of the final version is taken from the live gig is hard to say, but it certainly has the energy of a live show. If you hunt around on the internet it’s possible to see footage of the original live performance, with some great close- ups of Wendy Melvoin’s intro and an extended Prince solo at the end.
I’ve written out the music below. For the intro I’ve transcribed – as close as I can get to – note-for-note what Wendy Melvoin plays. It looks a bit terrifying when notated like this, but I recommend using this as a guide, concentrating on getting the correct overall feel rather than exactly emulating the recording. Download a high-quality PDF of the music here if you like.
For the video I put together a couple of rough and ready backing tracks – one for the intro/verse/chorus, and one for the solo – which I thought I’d share with you here. I’ve looped the solo one a few times so you can really stretch and indulge yourselves to the max. The count-in for the intro is 1 bar (1& 2& 3& 4&) then a hi-hat keeps time during the unaccompanied guitar intro.
Get The Sound
Going from the live footage, Wendy Melvoin used a Rickenbacker (360?) and Prince his MadCat/Hohner Telecaster. I’ve no idea what they would have been using amp-wise. The intro guitar sound is very dry (possibly recorded direct?) with lots of great 80’s style stereo chorus. For my video, I’m using my Jazzmaster into an 80s Fender Super Champ. For effects I’m using a Boss CE-2 Chorus, and I’m stomping on a 90s Rat distortion for the solo.