Welcome to another installment of everyone’s favourite songwriting blog. Listen and enjoy:
Today’s installment is the product of far too much Led Zeppelin. I will admit, I did review the main classic rock hits written by Free, Lenny Kravitz, Edgar Winter Group, Deep Purple, and Golden Earring within the same general time period, but I haven’t noticed any influence whatsoever on the resulting piece of music.
More so, not only did I clean out my collection of PowerTab files, but also found myself left with an insatiable hunger for a larger aural vocabulary at several stages in the writing process. What is amazing is that even though this resulted in my listening to the Zeppelin catalogue in my car for a few days, not as many ideas as you might think ended up in the final product. I blame two things: tempo, and the fact that I chose to limit myself to 3 guitar tracks maximum, or 4 where harmonies are required. The kind of intricate layering of multiple guitar parts is more fitted to a much slower song, so I passed.
The free time intro was inspired by Nobody’s Fault But Mine. I was listening to too much Zeppelin and realized I needed some slide (sometimes you just need to slide a bitch). Couldn’t find one in the house, so I bought one. Snap! Then I had to learn how to use it…
Man oh man, I’m not going to lie; this took a couple of takes to get something usable. So much can go wrong when you’re playing solo slide guitar, so so much. For example: on one of my takes, my house caught fire, and burned to the ground. True story.
I put a flanger on it because I had dinner tonight with among other people this dude John, and I told him that I bought a slide so I could play Nobody’s Fault But Mine, and he said “that’s the only song that uses a flanger that I can actually stand”. And there you go. I must have done something right, though, because I just want to listen to this intro over and over again. I just kinda hit notes all over the place, so it’s just so interesting – you can’t memorize the melody at all. That’s what we in the industry call “staying power”.
The main verse riff is a really simple A minor pent run with some chromatic transitions between the tones. You can do this too you know – you take every single place in the pentatonic scale where there is only 1 tone between notes, and you stick one in: that right there is the frickin’ definition of the frickin blues. And the 1.5-tone gaps – you leave those alone. What did they ever do to you?
Ok, so more on the verse riff: I have already expounded enough on how much I love to transpose up a tone for my solos; it’s generally awesome when you come back down to your tonic. Turns out it was Zeppelin’s Heartbreaker all along that got me loving this. I use the same tonal transposition as Heartbreaker for my verse riff, but faster, and with my chromatics in a different place.
Yes, pre-chorus is a word. It’s like a premature chorus, and other male dysfunctions. Although women have pre-choruses too… My pre-chorus is based around E. E is the 5th of A, so it has a very satisfying draw back to A.
The pre-chorus used to sound a bit more like the ending of What Is And Should Never Be, but then suddenly I heard this chromatic pattern in my head. Then I got bored of everything else I had, and just played what I heard in my head. I do a Dadd4 – D transition, and a C – G transition, and double the chromatic part with a double-stop part of low 5ths to thicken it up.
The transition to the chorus used to be the same riff as is used in the chorus, but I thought this was a bit boring. That’s because it was. So I did what I always do: I stopped playing right before the part I needed to change, and listened to how my brain filled in the gap. Then I just played what I heard. That’s called insanity. It’ll be our little secret.
Oh, and the chromatic pauses into the chorus were inspired by the turnaround in Zeppelin’s Since I’ve Been Loving You where they play these fun little diads made up of the 5th and 3rd. They descend; I ascend; it’s all good.
The chorus is just the traditional blues form used in Free’s All Right Now, lot’s of KISS and Ozzy, etc. It’s really just there to set up the pentatonic descending pattern, and thus will be the first do go during the Rapture. The pentatonic descending pattern has a few different variations depending on what part it’s going into, but it’s played so fast that you’d never win a copyright case claiming that one isn’t a copy of another.
This was hilarious to me. I pretty much just restructured Zeppelin’s The Lemon Song into a different structure and formatted it as 12-bar. With the slide solo, it makes for a nice break, and finishing with a bass solo version of the verse riff is a fun way to bring back the verse riff as the intro to the final pre-chorus and chorus.
Until earlier this evening, I just had a let ring for the ending. But I kept hearing something like the ending of Zeppelin’s Over the Hills and Faraway in my head, so I play an Am figure with a descending baseline into an E major. This Am with a descending bassline is a classic feature of music, used in songs as disparate as Moonlight Sonata, Simon & Garfunkel’s America, and Carl Thomas’s I Wish, to name a few. The addition of the E major at the end is from Babe I’m Gonna Leave You. My outtro would sound even more like Over the Hills and Faraway, but I couldn’t figure out how to make the super-sustained notes. I think it’s an e-bow maybe, if they had such things in the stone ages that were the 70s. I think it’s more likely a country lap slide guitar, like Junior Brown plays.
At any rate, this is the second time writing up a blog about this song. I’ve discovered that the secret to making your writing interesting, as I should have learned from one of my earlier blogs, is sleep deprivation!