Re­gae gui­tar Rock steady, Mar­ley & more

Jon Bishop looks at the won­der­ful world of reg­gae gui­tar. With five stylis­ti­cally con­trast­ing per­for­mance pieces for you to learn, you might be sur­prised at just how deep this mu­sic is.

Guitar Techniques - - CONTENTS -

Reg­gae and its rel­a­tive styles is way more sub­tle, var­ied and com­plex than you may imag­ine. Jon Bishop is a big fan and will en­thuse you too!

Many west­ern pop art ists have ad opt ed as­pects of the regga e styl e into their arra nge­ments with gr eat suc­cess

ABIL­ITY RATIN G Easy to mod­er­ate ✪✪ ✪✪✪ Info Key Var­i­ous Tempo Var­i­ous CD TRACKS 10-19 Will im­prove your… Stylis­tic aware­ness Tim­ing and tone pro­duc­tion Play­ing off­beat and triplet rhythms

Wel­come to GT’s mega reg­gae gui­tar fea­ture; per­haps the most thor­ough ever in a gui­tar mag­a­zine. The aim of this les­son is to take the key gui­tar styles of the reg­gae greats, and see where they sit within the broad range of sub gen­res that make up the over­all reg­gae style. Both rhythm and lead gui­tar ideas are no­tated in the five per­for­mance pieces, and by the end of the fea­ture your ‘dub’, ‘skank’ and ‘rock­steady’ trick­bag should be fully topped up. Hope­fully too, your ap­pre­ci­a­tion of this in­fec­tious West In­dian form of mu­sic will be fully re­alised.

The reg­gae style orig­i­nated in Ja­maica in the late ’60s and has its ori­gins in ska and rock­steady. A key dif­fer­ence is the tempo of reg­gae, which is of­ten slower than that of ska.

The reg­gae rhythm sec­tion tem­plate is fairly spe­cific, with the key in­gre­di­ents be­ing slightly al­tered from sub genre to sub genre. The clas­sic roots reg­gae style fea­tures a ‘one drop’ drum groove. The main com­po­nent of the one drop pat­tern is the kick drum and snare drum both fall on beat three of the bar. In most styles we are used to the kick drum fall­ing on beat one of the bar so this may take some get­ting used to.

The rhythm gui­tar per­forms ac­cented, heav­ily muted chord strums on beats two and four of the bar. These rhythm gui­tar hits are re­ferred to in reg­gae cir­cles as the ‘skank’ or ‘bang’. The or­gan of­ten plays a syn­co­pated eighth-note fig­ure re­ferred to as the ‘bub­ble’. The bass gui­tar is free to play ar­peg­gio-based lines and is of­ten im­pro­vised in na­ture.

Due to the main­stream suc­cess of artists like Bob Mar­ley in the ’70s many west­ern pop mu­si­cians adopted as­pects of the reg­gae style into their ar­range­ments, many with great suc­cess. Bands and artists as var­ied as The Po­lice, The Clash, Paul Si­mon, Ste­vie Won­der and Cul­ture Club had mega hits with songs that had a reg­gae style foun­da­tion.

The har­mony in reg­gae tends to be fairly straight­for­ward with the use of triad mi­nor and ma­jor chords. For lead lines and pop­ping lines the Mi­nor and Ma­jor Pen­ta­tonic scales pro­vide a solid start­ing point, and these can be em­bel­lished with ar­peg­gio notes and tremolo-picked fig­ures.

From a rhyth­mic stand­point syn­co­pa­tion (play­ing off the ac­cented parts of the bar) is im­por­tant, as is the quar­ter-note triplet. It’s worth fa­mil­iaris­ing your­self with the sound of the quar­ter-note triplet as it fea­tures through­out this month’s per­for­mance pieces. There are five authentic studies for you to try, each fo­cus­ing on key reg­gae com­po­nents and us­ing seven top artists as in­spi­ra­tion.

Reg­gae is one of those styles we too ea­gerly take for granted for its sim­plic­ity and yet, when ex­am­ined closely, real sub­tlety and in­trigu­ing vari­a­tions are re­vealed.

Many thanks to Univer­sal Au­dio for the loan of the Apollo in­ter­face for the record­ing. And I’ll see you next time.

Bob Mar­ley played a Gib­son LP Spe­cial with P90 s for rhythm, while lead sounds of­ten came from Fender Strats or Te­les. All of the pickup and ef­fects are no­tated at the start of each piece for ref­er­ence. When play­ing in a style it is im­por­tant to have an ap­pro­pri­ate tone, so study the no­ta­tion and re­fer to the artists men­tioned, to hear for your­self how they sounded.

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