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[2019-10-09] Boston

In Theory: 'Hitch a Ride' by Boston

10/09/2019 09:00 AM

By Sam Schwartz

Boston’s “Hitch a Ride,” like most of their songs, couples wonderfully guitaristic lead lines with a surprisingly complex harmonic and formal structure. The arrangements are incredibly diverse, and all three deserve a look.

The song begins with the main riff on acoustic guitar, which makes its way harmonically through typical classic rock harmony (I, bVII, IV, I) but with the addition of the open A string as the bass note for all of the chords (playing over a droning bass note like this is a musical technique known as pedal point).

The chorus sections of the rhythm part show how the band's musical flexibility, with guitarist Tom Scholz playing the descending line a different way in every time. In the first chorus he plays the part in 10ths, which are 3rds with an octave in between; this interval is pretty rare on guitar, because the notes are so far apart. The second time, he plays triads (three note chords) on his D, G and B strings; for the final variation, he plays a single note version of the line.

The bass path for “Hitch a Ride” inspired me to play more bass. The part isn’t just following a chord progression, but actually propelling the song forward and giving it most of its character. It’s one of the most melodic bass lines in the entire Rocksmith catalog, and gives you a sense of the expanded role the bass can play in a band when used effectively.

The lead chart is chock full of classic guitar licks that can be incorporated into any guitar player’s arsenal. Guitarists of this era get a lot of mileage out of the minor pentatonic scale, but the best players (including Tom Scholz in this song) expand beyond the pentatonic box to add more color to their playing. In this case he does so by incorporating the 6th degree of the Dorian mode.

Dorian is the second mode of the major scale. That means if you start on the second note of the scale and then play up through all the notes of the major scale and finish on the second note an octave higher. Relative to the major (Ionian) mode, Dorian has the following formula:

1, 2, b3, 4, 5, 6, b7

Dorian also contains all the notes of the minor pentatonic, so by just adding that one note -- the 6th -- Tom is able to interject some of that Dorian flavor into his soloing. There are a couple of licks in the middle of the solo have a real feeling of “funkiness” or “soul,” which comes from the tension between that b3 and the Dorian 6. These notes form the interval of a “tritone” or augmented 4th, which is one of the most dissonant intervals in music, and helps give his playing that funky, soulful sound.

Sam Schwartz joined the Rocksmith team as a Notetracker in 2013 and was a featured guitarist for the Bachsmith project. His credits include campaign music for the current Mayor of Oakland, promotional videos for local artists, recording with Rappin 4Tay and Dynamic Truth and developing music courses for summer camps and elementary schools.

Boston promotional photograph by Premier Talent Associates is in the public domain.

"Tom Scholz of Boston" by Matt Becker is licensed under CC BY 3.0

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