Thursday, November 16, 2006

In search of the groove, finding Bill Withers

I'm still on my quest to get more of a groove in my music. My teacher, Ben Senterfit turned me on to Bill Withers. Best known for hits like "Ain't no Sunshine" and "Lean on Me," Bill Withers typifies the groove that I'm searching for. Check out his Live at Carnegie Hall album (1973).

In analyzing the music, its interesting how simple the chording and rifts are. There's strong base lines which provide an underlying pulse to the songs. The music by itself is pretty predictable. The reason his songs are so great is that the focus falls on the lyrics and phrasing.

This was a great insight. I'm a guitarist first and a vocalist last. I've been trying to make my guitar parts the focus, which in turn leaves little room to be too creative in the vocals. In other words, to make the lyrics more prominent, I need to think of the guitar as providing the pulse only, with the lyrics being the place for the expression.

Now back to the drawing board. I'm going simplify guitar parts with a focus on strong, consistent base lines. The challenge somes in making the vocals interesting. Of course my lyrics better be really good!

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