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Lesson Series

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Michael Casswell - Pro Concepts Season 2 - Part 8: Interlocking Parts

Lesson Notes

** As featured in issue 19 **

In this guitar lesson I want to discuss, and try to demonstrate, how separate guitar parts can fit together to make a cool overall sound. A lot of you out there will spend much of your time copying and reproducing songs, guitar solos and licks from your favourite players and bands, without developing your own creative processes that would enable you to either write a good song yourself, or be able to create cool and original guitar parts that work over other peoples original compositions. Copying and reproducing other peoples music does help enormously to develop you as a player, but you mustn't ignore that creative part of guitar playing that develops you as a musician, especially if you want to play professionally.

The ability to come up with just the right guitar part or parts, to bring a musical situation to life, is invaluable. Many times over the years, I have found myself in studio sessions with producers, songwriters and composers who are paying me good money not just play a bit of guitar, but to bring something to the table that really adds  sonically and artistically. The last thing these people want to hear you say is "Right! What do you want me to play?" Obviously there are occasions where something specific is required, but even then, I will try and put my own stamp on it. The guitar is one of those instruments that has the ability (in the right hands) to turn something simple or bland into something sonically great and exciting, especially in a studio environment, whether it be for your own compositions or other peoples.

So how do you develop this creative side of things? Well if you have been following my Pro Concepts column, you will know how I have preached about rhythm, feel, creative thinking, tone, melody, timing etc. etc. All of which has no rules or no A to B method of me teaching you. I can point you in the right direction, but a lot of it comes from who you listen to, what you consider cool, what you consider important as a player and your talent as a musician.

I am currently working on track number eight of my album, and having reviewed the previous seven tracks with fresh ears, I have realised I tend to do this interlocking parts trick a fair bit. It's a cool avenue to go down, especially if you want to keep keyboards out of the equation or down to a minimum - although Hammond, Rhodes or piano used well, is a glorious sonic colour to mix with guitars.

To demo this interlocking parts idea, I have used a four bar vamp layered into a looper pedal. The looper pedal is merely a quick way for me to get the idea across to you and is not at all what we are looking at. Obviously if this was a groove being recorded in the studio, I would consider the tones a lot more, left and right pans and double tracking here and there. But this is a just a quick tutorial, and all want you to see is how one guitar part compliments the next guitar part, and how it slots and works together. Individually each part is pretty cool and has its own challenges, but together it becomes seriously cool! Broken down in a very simplistic way, we have a low part, a high part, a hint of some chord voicings to glue it all together, and a hook or line over the top of it all. Doing it this way is definitely not set in stone and is only to show how you guys might get started if you draw a blank. I have also done it without any drums or a click, so it was an exercise in my own sense of groove and time, especially when using a looper pedal (which takes no prisoners). Please take note of how the whole thing is swung, how each part has its placement in the bar, allowing other parts to pop out of any gaps, and how the line over the top isn't a big solo widdle (which is always an inexperienced players first instinct) but is a well defined hook that almost complements what is going on behind.

If you can build a track with the right parts and sounds, feel and rhythms, then you have an advantage over many many players. It's not an easy thing to do and a lot of guitarists struggle with this way of thinking. You need a good understanding of guitar sound, function and placement within a song. Often most guitarists think they can do it, but it just ends up sounding cluttered or simply bland or generic. Which is why highly paid producers exist in the world, to get the best from the musicians and the best for the song or music. I have done a fair bit of production work myself over the years, and I would like to think that I come as the complete package when it comes to recording guitars, whilst remaining open minded and easy to work with. No one likes an arrogant twit!  Saying all this, sometimes you may only need that one killer guitar part, and you can leave the studio lord and master! That often works too.

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