SES­SION SE­CRETS The world of ses­sion gui­tar

In this unique fea­ture Jon Bishop has recorded five new song charts, live, with a band of pro West End play­ers. He’s tabbed his sug­gested parts and there are back­ing tracks for you to try too.

Guitar Techniques - - CONTENTS -

We got a top West End band to cre­ate five cool tracks to demon­strate the art of cre­at­ing great gui­tar parts; nine ses­sion leg­ends talk about their stu­dio lives. Plus: Top 10 Ses­sion Tips!

Wel­come to our ex­clu­sive fea­ture on the world of ses­sion and ‘show’ play­ing. Many GT lessons home in on a tech­nique or con­cept, but here we are look­ing at the art of putting all the el­e­ments to­gether to make a func­tion­ing, cred­i­ble song.

The chal­lenge was to record tracks in five dif­fer­ent styles in my stu­dio (Ap­ple Tree Stu­dios) in Dorset. I en­listed the help of band mates from the hit mu­si­cal tour The Bodyguard in which we per­formed the sound­track of the hit film star­ring Whitney Hous­ton. Drum­mer Alan Dale and bassist Olly Bux­ton are top pro­fes­sion­als and have per­formed and toured with some of the big­gest names in the busi­ness. In eight months of play­ing to­gether eight times a week the band has grown to know each other’s play­ing in­side out, and this can make a big dif­fer­ence in terms of feel and groove.

All the tracks were recorded in a take from start to fin­ish, fol­low­ing a chart re­ferred to as a ‘lead sheet’. We have in­cluded these so you can see what we had to work from and how the parts were formed. In these days of pro­gram­ming and satel­lite over­dubs, play­ers don’t even have to meet each other, so the sound of mu­si­cians gelling to­gether is a lux­ury, and one that was par­tic­u­larly re­ward­ing to be a part of.

Cre­at­ing great parts is a com­bi­na­tion of the­ory knowl­edge and the vo­cab­u­lary of the spe­cific style. A pop­u­lar trick is to tip the hat in the di­rec­tion of key artists or mu­si­cians that are masters of the style in ques­tion. This use of pas­tiche is preva­lent in cur­rent ‘top 40’ mu­sic where pro­duc­ers use iconic ar­range­ments as jump­ing off points - the Bruno Mars hit Locked Out Of Heaven uses The Po­lice for in­spi­ra­tion; Justin Tim­ber­lake took Quincy Jones’s slick pro­duc­tion on Michael Jack­son records and gui­tar style of play­ers like David Wil­liams for many of his hits. The process to write and per­form the parts for our pieces is listed as we go.

Funk Rock Track 1

Artists like Michael Jack­son, Prince and Lionel Richie suc­cess­fully in­cor­po­rated rock el­e­ments into their funk and R&B roots. Mega-sell­ing solo songstresses like Anas­ta­sia, Jessie J, Katy Perry, Bey­oncé and Tay­lor Swift have all com­bined funk and rock el­e­ments. We took in­spi­ra­tion from Michael Jack­son’s Off The Wall al­bum and Alan laid down a disco style drum groove. For a gui­tar part in this style sim­plic­ity and con­sis­tency are key. The devil is in the de­tail and play­ing a sim­ple part with con­sis­tency takes dis­ci­pline. It’s tempt­ing to change things around on the fly, but this can be con­fus­ing for the lis­tener. For the solo we shift into rock mode with a soar­ing Prince style F Mi­nor Pen­ta­tonic wig-out.

Soul Bal­lad Track 2

The soul bal­lad has its roots in Mo­town and Stax. Many artists have used this tem­plate in­clud­ing Amy Wine­house and Adele. We’ve based our soul track on Adele or Ed Shearan style bal­lads. The rhythm gui­tar tips its hat to Steve Crop­per and Cur­tis May­field, and the ac­cented chord on beat 2 and 4 is found through­out the per­for­mance. Triad chords are good, strong choices and these can be added to with the odd 7th chord. The solo takes in­spi­ra­tion from blues gui­tarists like BB King and John Mayer. The sparse phras­ing is counter-in­tu­itive, as it feels nat­u­ral to play more. C Ma­jor and C Mi­nor Pen­ta­tonic are per­fect for cre­at­ing a soul­ful and melodic solo.

Pop-Rock Track 3

This track is based around funk jazz bands like Jamiro­quai and com­bines a per­sis­tent groove with pop and rock vo­cab­u­lary - slash chords, oc­taves and sin­gle note ‘pop­ping’ lines. Ef­fect ped­als pro­vide a sonic edge and the phaser pro­vides an in­stantly retro vibe. The auto-wah adds a funky vo­cal sound to both the rhythm and lead parts - even fast solo­ing lines that a foot wah-wah pedal could not pos­si­bly ar­tic­u­late. The solo­ing scale of choice here is E Dorian mode.

Dance Pop Track 4

The elec­tronic dance style has fused into to­day’s pop songs and per­form­ing these ar­range­ments live brings a new set of chal­lenges. Alan used a drum pad to trig­ger elec­tronic sounds that were in­te­grated into the acous­tic kit. Olly used an oc­taver and a bass synth pedal to fat­ten up the bass tone. The role of the gui­tar is to fit into the elec­tronic sound­ing back­drop and not sound like a gui­tar per se. On our track the gui­tar plays open-voiced tri­ads with a rhyth­mic de­lay and mod­u­lated am­bi­ence to mimic a synth ‘pad’. A vol­ume pedal then re­moves the gui­tar’s in­her­ent at­tack when swelled for­ward. Funk gui­tar tech­niques like sin­gle-note pop­ping lines can be in­te­grated into dance tracks and this is a key fea­ture of tracks by artists like The Weeknd. Funk gui­tar strum­ming works well and Nile Rodgers proved the point in the stel­lar hit Get Lucky, by Daft Punk. For the solo we used a sin­gle re­peat de­lay at the same vol­ume as the orig­i­nal note. If this is set at a dot­ted eighth note, and an eighth note line is played, the de­lay pro­vides the il­lu­sion of a se­quenced stream of 16th notes with an elec­tronic edge. Key artists to lis­ten to that in­cor­po­rate dance el­e­ments in their tracks are Justin Tim­ber­lake, Usher, Kylie Minogue, Phar­rell Wil­liams and Rihanna.

Arena Rock Track 5

When get­ting into arena rock mode it’s worth think­ing about how the parts will sound when played in large per­for­mance spa­ces. Me­gaselling bands like Def Lep­pard de­lib­er­ately wrote gui­tar parts that would work in an arena set­ting. Slower tem­pos and re­laxed drum fills and gui­tar lines work best. Busy ideas can get lost in the am­bi­ence and nat­u­ral re­verb of the larger venue. In this case sim­ple is most def­i­nitely best, so re­mem­ber gui­tar so­los don’t al­ways have to be a blis­ter­ing shred fest. This track is in the style of bands like The Foo Fight­ers and The Dark­ness, but the sta­dium rock solo draws in­spi­ra­tion from artists like Bryan Adams where melody and de­liv­ery are key (think of Adams’s gui­tarist Keith Scott’s de­li­ciously sim­ple but in­cred­i­bly melodic so­los - per­fect for huge, res­o­nant spa­ces).

The GT au­dio in­cludes five record­ings with fully tabbed-out gui­tar parts. There are also back­ing tracks with the gui­tar per­for­mances re­moved – check out the charts pro­vided, and when you’ve played what we came up with, see what parts you would record for these songs.

Many thanks to Uni­ver­sal Au­dio for the loan of the Apollo in­ter­face for the record­ing, and to my com­pa­tri­ots Alan Dale and Olly Bux­ton for their fan­tas­tic con­tri­bu­tions on drums and bass. Have fun and see you next time.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Australia

© PressReader. All rights reserved.