** As featured in issue 61 **
Having shared the stage with rock music icons such as Slash and Ritchie Blackmore, Chris Buck is one of the most exciting young guitar players on the music scene today. With his band Buck & Evans' debut album set for release in 2018, Guitar Interactive Magazine is proud to welcome Chris' brand new column exploring the world of modern rock and blues guitar playing.
Ironically enough, this month's column is about the same subject as my previous GI column - repetition! So, if you find me repeating myself here, at least you’ll know it’s a finely-tuned sense of irony and not having run out of things to say…!
For the most part, repetition is something that guitar players seem to avoid consciously. “If you’re starting to repeat yourself, you’ve said everything you have to say”. While this may undoubtedly be true in certain contexts or scenarios, it still eludes me why guitar players don’t use repetition as a mechanism to make their playing more memorable and ultimately, easier on themselves. It may be a cliché at this point but you honestly can say more by saying less. Listen to any great musician known for their melodic or improvisational prowess (Blackmore to Beethoven…) and it’ll soon become evident how heavily they rely on repeated phrases, whether verbatim or just loosely. Melodic or rhythmic repetition creates a sense of familiarity that consciously or not, makes listening to it a more pleasurable experience. As I’ve mentioned Ritchie Blackmore, let’s take a look possibly his greatest known work - Smoke on the Water. The 3 notes that kickstart the solo at the 3-minute mark reappear almost instantaneously at the start of the second phrase before the rundown. It’d be incredibly easy to go all GCSE music at this point and overanalyse his note choice until it ceases to become listenable or fun, but put simply - using those same three notes to introduce two different sections creates a sense of familiarity and dynamism. It leads the listener into the next section with an anticipation to hear what will follow. There’s another near-perfect example from 3:31 to 3:35 - five notes that differ only in the note that Ritchie ‘lands’ on. It’s immensely simple, yet this is the part of the solo that I always look forward to most - the release to the tension that’s been built. It’s a classical music ‘trick’ that is used every day in popular music, whether it’s on BBC Radio 1 or Planet Rock. You’ll find it everywhere.
Speaking of which, take Beethoven’s Fifth; possibly the most famous 4 notes in popular music. In fact, the top comment on the highest viewed YouTube video of the symphony is “I literally just typed in dun dun dun dunnn to find this and here I am!”. This is a perfect example of repetition making something instantly recognisable. The notes may differ but this time, it’s the rhythm that becomes the hook, which as I reference in the video lesson, is a great little trick to lean on to introduce a sense of familiarity. Even if the notes themselves aren’t the same (as with the Smoke on the Water solo), then repetition of a cool groove or rhythmic note selection can be equally as effective, if not more so as it gives you more scope to expand. I’m fortunate enough to play in a band where the drummer, Bob Richards, is probably the most inherently musical person in the band, contrary to the inevitable drummer jokes. Whether it’s some innate musical connection between us or Bob having a background in playing guitar and thus an understanding of my approach, we ‘connect’ on an extraordinary amount of things in a live situation, syncopation in particular. A lot of this is undoubtedly ‘off the cuff’ and totally of the moment but once we’ve latched onto something, we invariably make a point of repeating it in some way and making it a feature as opposed to a serendipitous accident that passes as quickly as it happened! It’s a fun little way of making every show unique whilst simultaneously giving the audience (and ourselves!) something to latch onto.
In short, don’t be afraid of repetition. It’s at the heart of every great riff, melody or chord progression you’ve ever heard and forms the basis of popular music. There’s a reason the words and melody are the same in every chorus of a song.