Talk about quirky angular guitar riffs, this one’s at the top of the list. Justin Bieber’s new song, “That’s What Love Is” from his new album, Changes is a nevertheless a good technical workout.Justin Bieber Talk about quirky angular guitar riffs, this one’s at the top of the list. Justin Bieber’s new song, “That’s What Love Is” from his new album, Changes is a nevertheless a good technical workout.
What were they thinking? A pop song starting out with an intentionally messy acoustic guitar riff? And of all bands to do it? Maroon 5? Well, as soon as you have pop music figured out the wackiness of the genre outflanks you. But, this is an unusually fun riff to play it’s well worth the effort you put it to learn it.
Solving this unusual, but clever guitar part will depend on your alternate picking skill. While not played at supersonic speed, it will nevertheless be challenging if you have not developed a fair amount of speed with your pick. Add to that that unusual amount of “string noise” and you begin to see that this is not your everyday guitar riff so common in these days of everything must sound perfect in pop.
Take your time with this one and it will come. I have given about one minute of how to play the chords to this one. I am not a big fan of making songs easy to play as I feel it leads to complacently for those who need to put more effort and time into their playing.
There’s not a song that Dan Kanter can’t make a thousand times more interesting on the guitar. There’s not a hit he can’t decode and apply to the acoustic guitar in ways that make you shake your head. And finally, there’s not a synthesizer riff that he can’t manipulates into a smooth melodic stream of consciousness that doesn’t make you surrender and say, “Man, I wish I could come up with riffs like that!”
This is a long overdue tutorial on my part. Many have asked for it and finally, I’ve begun the process. I share with you here the introduction (a full 14 measures long) and the first verse (another 8) of Justin Bieber’s “I’ll Show You” Live in Toronto (2015).
I’ve worked on many of Dan’s arrangements of songs from not only Justin, but from the smoldering and talented, Julia Michaels. So ya, I feel I have a grip (admittedly a loose one) on Kanter’s very intelligent and always surprising guitar style.
For the first 5 minutes, standard tuning was doable. But, the awkwardness of the fingerings and the string noise put and end to that experiment. Within minutes the “Dan is up to it again” light went on in my brain. It was then that the guitar sounded open and the fingerings were smooth, but regimented.
Finally, I figured out that the second string was also tuned up one-have step, to of course, C. It took another two minutes to see that something was up with string 4. Well, looking at Dan’s hand position wasn’t easy as the camera was not friendly to him in this video. I did catch a glimpse of his second finger on the 4th string’s 2nd fret. It was then that I discovered that Dan had tuned string 4 up one-half step to Eb(D#). What a solution he had come up with to totally make the part ring out!
You will only need your fourth, third, and second strings for this section. Use the thumb, index, middle “claw fingering” with your right hand.
Learning to perform acoustic versions of songs is much easier when it’s the artist who has performed it. It settles all arguments and for sure gives you the correct fingerings and chord voicing if you are unsure.
Of course, you had to figure that Bruno Mars played guitar. A musician of his stature has learned many things most of us never see out of pure necessity. More importantly, Bruno Mars is not just an entertainer, he is much more than that. He is a very wise musician who knows how to cultivate success. He knows how to write material with a groove unmatched in its groove factor more than anyone else in the last forty years.
But, there’s another angle, dare I say formula, which Bruno knows well. Surround yourself with top-flight musicians who are flawless in execution and navigating the stage. Choose also musician’s who share your mind-set. Don’t grasp for musical mechanics who can play your music backwards and forwards, chose the ones who take the gig because they belong there.
Learning “Nothing On You” is a great way to get back the the foundation of a song. To see it’s parts in an unfiltered environment and to play like Bruno.
In addition, since it’s a tutorial on the live version I’ve had questions about the basic, and alterations of, the guitar strumming pattern for the song. I’ve also had more than a couple questions about the the outro section. Justin seems to “improvise” his way out of the tune thereby creating some very interesting rhythmic devices. It is a little tricky as Justin has clearly learned a thing or three from Dan Kanter🙂
Here are the links to part 1 and 2 of my tutorial set for Justin’s unique and guitar-friendly cover.
Lorde’s new single Green Light is a study in contrasts for a guitar cover/tutorial/play-through. It’s the kind of song that grows on you after a couple listens. But, still you sit and ponder. It is worth it? But then you realize that this one has something to work with, it does have merit after all! After listening to what seems like a patchwork of disjointed ideas scattered about it soon becomes clear in the mind of the listener that Green Light does what all pop songs are programed to do.
The content is not heavy. Basically, we have a 5 chord pop song like many others. Where as Green Light revs up slowly and patiently, most pop songs don’t have the patience for such maneuvering as their game is always centered on getting to the point early and often. It’s a mainstay of popular music. Lorde, is a “developer”. Her tendency is to take sparse material and dial things up as the minutes pass. Green Light is no exception,
The pre-chorus/chorus sections are a thing of lighthearted genius as a masterful but typical riff takes over that lights up the song with such energy that even Lorde can’t stay in control (check 3:03 of the video).
For your part, keeping the chorus riff even and controlled is no easy task on guitar, especially acoustic. Keep your right hand solid and bear down on the strumming pattern. That is, if you are covering it at it’s recorded tempo.
I can see this section played a little slower without damaging the intention of the writer. Experiment and see what you come up with.
“Town Theme” written by the prodigious Anime composer Nobuo Uematsu, is a short but alluring piece of music. Consisting of a light texture with a hypnotic rhythmic movement, the melodicism embedded in the sections gives it the staying power it needs for its role in the game, Final Fantasy.
I chose to cover “Town Theme”theme using a acoustic guitar duo format. My obsession with random improvised harmonies was perfectly suited to the music’s construction. Not that the work needed my help mind you, it was just my way of interpreting the “hidden harmonies” one hears when the obsession with music runs deep in your brain.
Like all great composers Uematsu gets to the techniques that color otherwise plain tonal music. This is where the theme becomes legend. An ordinary composer would struggle to rise to such heights with such a project. Writing of this type can be an exercise in frustration as the limitless creative powers one has are kept at bay due to the reality of keeping the music close to home in terms of listenability and ultimately, commercialism.
The first few seconds of “Town Theme” are telling. A very clever two-measure introduction opens with an artful C major arpeggio. In the following measure the composer wastes no time and goes for the gold medal with a beautiful second-inversion iv6 chord. The Fm/C substitutes for the dominant (as it’s prone to do) giving measure 3 the push it needs to move forward like a bright, sunny, and brisk Sunday afternoon drive.
In measures 9-10, an absolutely perfect cadence is set up to put and end to the first melodic statement. The progression, V I vi V2 bVI I5 V I is nothing short of mesmerizing.
Is it genius writing? Maybe not being that the role o the theme is to bring one back to the center. But, I would challenge you who are composers to attempt such writing using the obvious restrictions during your process.
You will come out a better writer as you reach deeper into multi-part writing. Keeping track of all voices and rhythms at your disposal your creative power will grow.