Geez, I thought my Led Zeppelin tribute song was reverent.
Even Josh Freese’s drums sound like John Bonham.
Geez, I thought my Led Zeppelin tribute song was reverent.
Even Josh Freese’s drums sound like John Bonham.
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!
I was just thinking about the fact that most of the people that read this blog really have very little musical background. You must think it’s absurd to write so much on music when so few people read this blog; even less people understand it.
Well, you’re right. You’re absolutely right; it is absurd.
But I’m going to keep to doing it anyways.
Because I plan to live for a very long time.
And maybe by the time I die, there will be thousands of these articles, all in one place. Maybe even enough for a book. I doubt that the internet will exist in any form that would recognizable to us today, but that’s fine with me; I’ll buy an app and have this blog converted to the new format.
It begs the question – what are you passionate about? What have you studied long enough to write about? It could be the music industry, computer programming, cooking, socio-economics. Got any original ideas? Maybe you should start a blog. I’ve been learning music for 17 years, but I started writing about it maybe 10 years ago. Either way, you don’t need to wait that long…
But what of obsolescence? Of course, the music that exists at the time of my death will likely be completely unrecognizable to us as we know it today. Maybe articles about blues rock and hard rock and classic jazz will be as relevant in that time as writing about Dixieland would be now…
You study something long enough, you start to see that there are always commonalities; classical theory, blues, pop music, these things are timeless.
So I think I’ll keep writing. And you should too.
So this has been a productive weekend. Here’s the new song; you can listen to it while reading along. It’s super sloppy, like your mom at New Years, but it’s not like you even have a blog, so you can shut it:
On Saturday morning I awoke with the intention of picking up where I had left off in my studies. If you’re just tuning in, this meant going through classic rock, hard rock, and blues PowerTabs alphabetically. I went through some Cream, Darkness, Gary Moore, Guns N’ Roses, and KISS. For the most part, I was a little underwhelmed. However…
For GNR, I only went through the songs off Appetite for Destruction that were not radio hits. These were songs like Mr. Brownstone, Out Ta Get Me, etc. I was blown away. So much blues-based hard rock, I learned a lot. One of the things that struck me the most was the number of key changes. I decided to try the same.
I also went through some great old KISS tunes. I learned that I’d been playing I Wanna Rock n Roll All Night wrong all this time, and I also saw a lot of I bIII IV used to reinforce the I.
With these tools under my belt, I set to work. The song ended up being rather complex, so it’s ridiculously sloppy. But my goodness, so many ideas. First and foremost, I decided to base it around a 12-bar figure, with lots of key changes. Here’s how it breaks down:
Intro Riff (I)
The intro riff is in A, based on the guitar work under the “Loaded like a freight train” lyric, blended with a b3 2 1 double stop lifted from the main riff of It’s So Easy. This double stop cadence is the theme of the song, and you will hear it everywhere in the song. The background guitar reinforces the A minor pentatonic feel with C and G bends surrounding an A let ring.
Verse Riff (I)
The verse riff is in A, and features a standard blues transition to the 5 using the b3 and 3, subtended by E and G. Also the b3 2 1 cadence theme is in there too. Slash based his Mr. Brownstone riff off this move; he plays it everywhere. This was too difficult to play upside down on a righty bass, so I just stick to A and reinforce using C and G.
The Flop - (IV)
The IV (D) is the standard 1 b3 3 5 6 5 I tend to play everywhere now, mixed with a high note twiddle from songs like Panama, Kick Start My Heart, and Won’t Get Fooled Again.
The Turn – (V IV)
For the turn, I used a figure lifted from the intro to Think About You, which is played in that song over B, A, and G. I used it in E and D, and liked it so much that I decided to play the progression twice, unlike a standard 12-bar. The tone changes considerably with the upward transposition, so I reinforced the sound with the same figure an octave lower. the theme is used to get back to the I, for which I rehash the intro before repeating the verse again.
Bridge (IV becomes the I)
For the bridge, I decided to move the tonic center. I thought D would be fun, because the ear is already convinced it’s just the IV for our 12-bar A pattern. So at 1:55 I throw down a chromatic transition to D as the new I, and reinforce it using a I bIII IV progression like KISS often uses.
Transition (V becomes the I)
I was messing around with The Turn (V IV, from Think About You), and found a really great sounding variation that used F and G, so I needed a way to move to E. The previous part ended on G, which gave me the opportunity to use a quick bIII bVII (G D) cadence to get to E as the new tonic center. I then used the Thinking About You pattern to play The Turn, extending into F and G to outline the Bridge and give a good reason to go back to D as the tonic center.
Solo (II becomes the I)
Once I was on D, I realized that the same move I used from the Bridge to the Transition (G to G D E) could be used from D to get to B (D to D A B). I wanted to get to B because I am in love with solos that start a tone up and shift back to the tonic center. I based the solo around Dorian bends, which are a Slash trademark, most notably in You Could Be Mine.
Since I was studying the non-radio songs from Appetite for Destruction, a few times it ended up that I had no idea what I was listening to. I had to look them up on YouTube to hear the lyrics. While listening to Think About You, I read about how the last 29 seconds was so unlike much of what was in the rest of the song, and the album as well. I liked what I heard, and decided to emulate it with a different chord progression. I resolved to use the I bIII IV progression I had been using for the Bridge, but in A instead of D. Even though I intended to play it half or quarter time, I tracked it over the normal tempo drums. It sounded good, so I adapted it earlier in the outtro.
Next up is Led Zeppelin. I have a LOT of Zeppelin to go through.