Ar­rang­ing parts for a mod­ern pop song

Whether writ­ing and demo­ing the next Bey­oncé smash, or­ches­trat­ing tracks for that Top 40 band, or sim­ply hon­ing your ar­rang­ing skills, Jon Bishop re­veals the se­crets to cre­at­ing great pop tracks.

Guitar Techniques - - PLAY MODERN POP -

Wel­come to this unique fea­ture in which we aim to take sim­ple and easy-toplay ideas to cre­ate mod­ern sound­ing pop parts. When ar­rang­ing gui­tar for a pop track, less is of­ten more with a sim­ple chord part, pop­ping line or melody pro­vid­ing the hook. Don’t be fooled though, just be­cause the part doesn’t use multi-digit tap­ping or legato at a break-neck speed, doesn’t mean it’s any eas­ier to com­pose and ar­tic­u­late con­sis­tently. Sub­tleties such as tim­ing, feel and tone choice all have a big say in how suc­cess­ful the part will func­tion in the ar­range­ment. In this fea­ture we are go­ing to look at many dif­fer­ent ways to cre­ate parts for a pop track and there are back­ing tracks pro­vided so you can try out your own ideas. Mega-sell­ing pop artists of­ten ‘cross over’ genre wise so the tracks are of­ten a fu­sion of rhythm and blues, funk, hip-hop, coun­try and rock. Fus­ing R&B and rock was per­fected by Michael Jack­son and Chaka Khan in the early 1980s and has be­come de rigueur for many mod­ern acts.

We have cre­ated six tracks in the style of some of mod­ern pop’s great­est su­per­stars to pro­vide a win­dow into what makes them so catchy and com­pelling. Ker­chi­i­i­i­ing!!

Ex­am­ple 1 Ri­hanna style

We start with a funky dance track fea­tur­ing over­driven rock guitars, heavy synth line and the big beat that’s a cor­ner­stone of Ri­hanna’s style. The gui­tar pro­vides a dirty rock edge to pro­ceed­ings with riffs and power chords and then moves into funky oc­taves for the sec­ond half. Nuno Bet­ten­court is Ri­hanna’s gui­tarist!

Ex­am­ple 2 Bey­oncé style

Vo­cal diva Bey­oncé tends not to use a lot of guitars in her stu­dio pro­duc­tions, but live the band re­ally rocks out, adding plenty of gui­tar ac­tion. For this track the gui­tar is used to add a retro sound­ing, funky cop show ‘wah-wah’ part. The ‘wah’ un­der­pins the rhythm and the rock-style gui­tar stabs are very ef­fec­tive when played against this.

Ex­am­ple 3 Justin Tim­ber­lake style

The ex *NSYNC front­man and all-round en­ter­tainer Justin Tim­ber­lake has a killer band and a string of mega cool hits. The key to the gui­tar hook is the use of rhyth­mic, 16th-note arpeg­gios. These are not hugely dif­fi­cult to play, but main­tain­ing the con­sis­tency and get­ting the right sound is cer­tainly a chal­lenge.

Ex­am­ple 4 Jamiro­quai style

Jay Kay is a mas­ter of blend­ing old-style funk with mod­ern sounds and gui­tarist Rob Har­ris is fan­tas­tic at ex­e­cut­ing them. For this track we used an up-tempo groove and the gui­tar plays a funky rhythm. For the sec­ond half of the track, melodic, sin­gle-note pop­ping lines phrase along­side the horn sec­tion.

Ex­am­ple 5 Justin Bieber style

In con­trast to his of­ten-con­tro­ver­sial pub­lic per­sona, Justin Bieber is a tal­ented mu­si­cian who is just at home be­hind the gui­tar, drum kit or mi­cro­phone. Our track uses open­voiced chords against a funky back­beat.

Ex­am­ple 6 Katy Perry Style

These ideas are easy to play but su­per ef­fec­tive and would pro­vide a per­fect back­ing for an 80s-in­spired vo­cal melody. We start with some down-picked dou­ble-stops and end with some har­mony gui­tar. What’s not to like?

Fi­nally, although this ar­ti­cle fo­cuses on pop; change the feel, tempo, groove, and some of the gui­tar tones, and many of these con­cepts will con­vert well to other gen­res.

Many thanks to Uni­ver­sal Audio for the loan of the Apollo in­ter­face for the record­ing.

Have fun and see you next time.

fus­ing r&b And pop was per­fected by michael jack­son in the 1980s And has be­come de rigeur for mod­ern Acts

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