guitar as a pop/R&B instrument (not a "rock" instrument, not a country instrument)

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things ilxor zero of the signified and i were talking about recently...

-what is guitar's place in chartpop in 2012/2013?

-what are the signifiers of a pop approach to guitar playing in 2012/2013 and how do those differ from the hallmarks of "serious" guitar work (scare quotes intended)?

-has nuno bettencourt (rihanna sideman and former member of extreme) spoken from his position as a guitarist to add to the ongoing dialogue about popism and rockism?

gimme some reggae! (get bent), Friday, 4 January 2013 00:08 (eight years ago) link

who the fuck would care to ask him?

the little prince of inane false binary hype (Alfred, Lord Sotosyn), Friday, 4 January 2013 00:13 (eight years ago) link

he got a lot of press attention when he ended up being the most famous person most journos on the rihanna plane got to talk to

some dude, Friday, 4 January 2013 00:51 (eight years ago) link

When has "serious" guitar work (if ever) really had a foothold in chart pop/R&B?... and to borrow your parenthetical: (not "rock", not "country").

Jersey Al (Albert R. Broccoli), Friday, 4 January 2013 01:07 (eight years ago) link

Prince?

Ya Bish Bosch (Spottie_Ottie_Dope), Friday, 4 January 2013 01:13 (eight years ago) link

uh Marvin Gaye? Smokey Robinson? The Temptations/

the little prince of inane false binary hype (Alfred, Lord Sotosyn), Friday, 4 January 2013 01:15 (eight years ago) link

xp -- well, maybe serious was the wrong word to use -- it's not like pop guitarists were ever aiming for a fred frith vibe. but at least serious in the sense that certain conventional rock players see themselves as making "real" music. i'd just be interested to know if there's a pop approach to guitar playing and whether it's willing to stand up for itself as equally real.

gimme some reggae! (get bent), Friday, 4 January 2013 01:19 (eight years ago) link

waiting for zero of the signified -- a very accomplished guitarist who's familiar with the rock world and the more academy-minded "serious" world, and listens to more pop radio than i do -- to weigh in.

gimme some reggae! (get bent), Friday, 4 January 2013 01:21 (eight years ago) link

I have no idea what's going on here.

the little prince of inane false binary hype (Alfred, Lord Sotosyn), Friday, 4 January 2013 01:23 (eight years ago) link

idk about pop, but i feel like there are a few different guitar sensibilities that are distinct to r&b, my favorite being that ernie-isley type slow jam shit

hemioblock (The Reverend), Friday, 4 January 2013 01:24 (eight years ago) link

no idea why i hyphenated ernie's name. sorry, dawg.

hemioblock (The Reverend), Friday, 4 January 2013 01:24 (eight years ago) link

then there's Parliament

the little prince of inane false binary hype (Alfred, Lord Sotosyn), Friday, 4 January 2013 01:25 (eight years ago) link

and Chic

the little prince of inane false binary hype (Alfred, Lord Sotosyn), Friday, 4 January 2013 01:25 (eight years ago) link

nigel ernie-isley

LIKE If you are against racism (omar little), Friday, 4 January 2013 01:28 (eight years ago) link

I guess if I had to delineate "pop" and "rock" guitar in any rough sense, I think of them as cousins that maybe split off the evolutinary tree and have a common ancestor in R&B, and that have always continued to cross-pollinate somewhat (to mix animal and vegetable metaphors).

I guess rock, at least post-Hendrix, is largely associated with the blazing lead guitar thing, whereas "pop" I associate more with intricate rhythm parts, but Hendrix came from an R&B guitar background, and there were guys like Hazel and Isley who brought heavy lead "guitar god"ish parts into R&B. I guess I also think of rock rhythm guitar to be more likely to involve power-chords, and pop guitar to be more likely to involve chordy chords that go beyond folky "cowboy chords" in first position. Pop guitar = more likely to use guitar as part of the overall layering of the band, rock guitar = more likely to stand out because the guitarist is a big-cocked hero. But this is a pretty loose and approximate description.

drunk 'n' white's elements of style (Hurting 2), Friday, 4 January 2013 01:38 (eight years ago) link

There's also the Nigel thing of not strumming more than a few notes at once, whereas I think in rock rhythm guitar you're more likely to hear the fuller but less nuanced sound of all or nearly all the strings being hit at once.

drunk 'n' white's elements of style (Hurting 2), Friday, 4 January 2013 01:42 (eight years ago) link

um, NILE, not nigel

drunk 'n' white's elements of style (Hurting 2), Friday, 4 January 2013 01:43 (eight years ago) link

i'd just be interested to know if there's a pop approach to guitar playing and whether it's willing to stand up for itself as equally real.

― gimme some reggae! (get bent), Thursday, January 3, 2013 8:19 PM Bookmark Flag Post Permalink

And btw, if you ever want to hear pop guitar stand up for itself, listen to Nile interviews -- they are like guitar masterclasses.

drunk 'n' white's elements of style (Hurting 2), Friday, 4 January 2013 01:44 (eight years ago) link

Nile Tufnel

~farben~ (Jon Lewis), Friday, 4 January 2013 01:49 (eight years ago) link

One of the great things about Nile's autobiography, is the progress of guitar playing during his formative years. Bernard Edward taught Nile the signature "chicken scratch" chuck style Nile has been doing for years.

Tired of these edcuated basic bitches. (lilsoulbrother), Friday, 4 January 2013 01:49 (eight years ago) link

I'm interested in this subject. I'm interested in the role of heavier guitar in modern pop/R&B and maybe more retro sounding (or retro signifying) guitar styles as well.

Don't know much about it, but I'll start paying attention more when I listen to the top 40 station.

timellison, Friday, 4 January 2013 01:53 (eight years ago) link

a lot of the guitar in current pop hits is rooted in those funk/disco strumming rhythms -- look at Nicki Minaj's "Starships," Flo Rida's "Whistle," Pink's "Blow Me," etc.

some dude, Friday, 4 January 2013 01:55 (eight years ago) link

number one songs of 2012 in the u.s. not a whole lot of guitarage.

LMFAO - Sexy and I Know It

Rihanna feat. Calvin Harris - We Found Love

Adele - Set Fire To The Rain

Kelly Clarkson - Stronger (What Doesn't Kill You)

Katy Perry - Part Of Me

Kelly Clarkson - Stronger (What Doesn't Kill You)

fun. feat. Janelle Monae - We Are Young

Gotye feat. Kimbra - Somebody That I Used To Know

Carly Rae Jepsen - Call Me Maybe

Flo Rida - Whistle

Taylor Swift - We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together

Flo Rida - Whistle

Taylor Swift - We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together

Maroon 5 - One More Night

Rihanna - Diamond

Bruno Mars - Locked Out Of Heaven

scott seward, Friday, 4 January 2013 01:55 (eight years ago) link

prominent guitar in the Bruno, Taylor, Maroon 5, Gotye, Flo Rida, Katy Perry and fun. songs -- guitar a little deeper in the mix on the Kelly Clarkson and Adele (and maybe Carly Rae?) songs. that's a LOT more guitar than in the #1s of 2011, 2010, etc.

some dude, Friday, 4 January 2013 02:04 (eight years ago) link

I don't think there's a very strong nerd culture around CONTEMPORARY pop guitar/guitarists though, and the whole way guitarists are even presented by contemporary pop is often more like they're just tokens of a type rather than capital g guitarists, like it feels more like the producer wanted "guitarness" than a specific guitarist.

drunk 'n' white's elements of style (Hurting 2), Friday, 4 January 2013 02:08 (eight years ago) link

haven't session musicians and guys in solo artists' backing bands always by definition been more anonymous than lead guitarists in arena rock bands?

some dude, Friday, 4 January 2013 02:11 (eight years ago) link

There were plenty of great guitarists on a lot of the old R&B crossover songs but I don't see the cause to isolate the guitar out of Chic/Isley Bros/Temptations/Smokey Robinson when the other musicians in the band were their equals or superiors (i.e., the "serious" guitar was merely a synergous component of the music). Although if you consider "Maggotbrain" pop/R&B, then I will concede that to you.

I think this is probably a more important report (rather than airplay and sales charts) to use to discuss the role of guitar in modern music:
http://www.pollstarpro.com/files/011413top50.pdf

Jersey Al (Albert R. Broccoli), Friday, 4 January 2013 02:39 (eight years ago) link

Also I'm probably the last one to learn that Gotye's STIYTK "guitar" is just a slightly pitched-down loop of the first 2 seconds of this:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VAny1bIApcA

Jersey Al (Albert R. Broccoli), Friday, 4 January 2013 02:41 (eight years ago) link

isn't there a lead guitar line played on top of that, though?

some dude, Friday, 4 January 2013 02:42 (eight years ago) link

and a rhythm guitar part that appears halfway through the first verse

hemioblock (The Reverend), Friday, 4 January 2013 02:49 (eight years ago) link

oh, I guess it's actually in the intro too

hemioblock (The Reverend), Friday, 4 January 2013 02:50 (eight years ago) link

okay, the number ones have guitar sounds. i actually don't even know the maroon 5 or the fun one. i have a hard time remembering what any of them sound like. one thing i notice in a lot of mod pop when i hear it on the radio is the guitars acting as percussion or a synth line or riff. they don't always act like guitars. in a rock sense. or even an r&b sense. country still has tons of rock guitars. pop country.

scott seward, Friday, 4 January 2013 03:33 (eight years ago) link

which i like, by the way. guitars in different roles. being used as soundmakers and not as an "instrument" played in a "group". i've always been perfectly happy to hear samples of guitar sounds. it's all good.

scott seward, Friday, 4 January 2013 03:46 (eight years ago) link

the "serious" guitar was merely a synergous component of the music

and this comes to kind of condition the style too - nile can have his chicken scratch guitar because the functions of and relations between the instruments are different from the usual rock format, so there's maybe a freedom to be more minimal or unconventional without sacrificing unity or fullness.

Merdeyeux, Friday, 4 January 2013 03:49 (eight years ago) link

van halen on beat it = how I figure a lot of producers think of guitar in pop/hip hop songs. it is the easiest, most direct way of satisfying the "rock" ingredient in a pop song recipe. imo learning how to "cross over" is the first chapter in making popular music now, as opposed to, say, anything other than the first chapter, as it might have been prior to MJ (or prince)

Dominique, Friday, 4 January 2013 04:51 (eight years ago) link

(not to mention the people writing and performing pop songs now never had to grow up thinking they couldn't just do anything they wanted whenever) (ie, "rockism"? pshaw)

Dominique, Friday, 4 January 2013 04:52 (eight years ago) link

Mickey Baker, pioneering r'n'b guitarist from way back

http://articles.latimes.com/2012/dec/03/local/la-me-mickey-baker-20121203

curmudgeon, Friday, 4 January 2013 06:23 (eight years ago) link

Steve Cropper is a good example of a guy who kind of straddles rock/R&B guitar because he's very much out front in the mix but he's also kind of disciplined and plays his role in the band and doesn't get too crazy.

I've been known to obsess over 3-note rhythm licks from James Brown or Fela songs, like I'll play them over and over again for 20 minutes straight just trying to figure out what makes the feel of them right, how exactly to accent them, etc. I also get really obsessed with intricate R&B rhythm licks like this (starting at 0:15):

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vQCZ63yWxAM

drunk 'n' white's elements of style (Hurting 2), Friday, 4 January 2013 06:40 (eight years ago) link

van halen on beat it = how I figure a lot of producers think of guitar in pop/hip hop songs. it is the easiest, most direct way of satisfying the "rock" ingredient in a pop song recipe. imo learning how to "cross over" is the first chapter in making popular music now, as opposed to, say, anything other than the first chapter, as it might have been prior to MJ (or prince)

― Dominique, Thursday, January 3, 2013 11:51 PM (Yesterday) Bookmark Flag Post Permalink

This is OTM. Every "pop" act (and most hip hop acts) I've seen perform on TV (SNL, some talk show, whatever) has the requisite pseudo-Hendrix guitarist in their band, usually stepping forward for three or four seconds of high-gain whammy bar wankery.

Tarfumes The Escape Goat, Friday, 4 January 2013 14:25 (eight years ago) link

sometimes it works, though, cf Miguel's many TV appearances where a goofy-face-making guitarist adds something musically worthwhile to "Adorn" (which has no guitar on the studio version)

some dude, Friday, 4 January 2013 14:27 (eight years ago) link

Marv Tarplin to thread.

the little prince of inane false binary hype (Alfred, Lord Sotosyn), Friday, 4 January 2013 14:29 (eight years ago) link

True, I guess I didn't mean to imply a blanket dismissal of that practice. Sometimes it's interesting/good/great.

xp

Tarfumes The Escape Goat, Friday, 4 January 2013 14:30 (eight years ago) link

sometimes it works, though, cf Miguel's many TV appearances where a goofy-face-making guitarist adds something musically worthwhile to "Adorn" (which has no guitar on the studio version)

― some dude, Friday, January 4, 2013 2:27 PM (3 hours ago

Ha. When I saw Miguel live, I decided after a bit to try not to look at the guitarist as his goofy, straining guitar hero faces and his retro 80s look were bugging me (but yea, he sounded ok and sometimes good)

curmudgeon, Friday, 4 January 2013 18:23 (eight years ago) link

lol it should be noted that live performances of "Adorn" omit the synth chords that outline the harmony in the studio version and thus it's up to mr. goofus to do so.

hemioblock (The Reverend), Friday, 4 January 2013 18:42 (eight years ago) link

This is OTM. Every "pop" act (and most hip hop acts) I've seen perform on TV (SNL, some talk show, whatever) has the requisite pseudo-Hendrix guitarist in their band, usually stepping forward for three or four seconds of high-gain whammy bar wankery.

― Tarfumes The Escape Goat, Friday, January 4, 2013 6:25 AM (5 hours ago)

When I saw Ke$ha a few weeks ago, she wore a guitar (les paul standard?) as a prop for a couple songs. I don't believe it was plugged in (possibly remotely?) but she was not really playing it much either so idk.

Jersey Al (Albert R. Broccoli), Friday, 4 January 2013 19:32 (eight years ago) link

guitars are just signifiers of rock at this point, technique/style is kind of irrelevant

If I was a carpenter, and you were a douchebag (Shakey Mo Collier), Friday, 4 January 2013 19:35 (eight years ago) link

yeah i mean Lil Wayne has been "playing guitar" on stage for like 6 years now and hasn't demonstrated any really desire to learn how to be any good at it

some dude, Friday, 4 January 2013 20:04 (eight years ago) link

it was kind of charming when Madonna decided to learn guitar, and went on Letterman a month later and played "Don't Tell Me" with her guitar teacher

some dude, Friday, 4 January 2013 20:10 (eight years ago) link

I saw it. Wasn't that her big rapprochement with Letterman?

the little prince of inane false binary hype (Alfred, Lord Sotosyn), Friday, 4 January 2013 20:16 (eight years ago) link

most of the press for d'angelo's return to live performance this year spent time on the "now he plays guitar" angle. of course he's an outlier because he's still relevant while being able to ignore current pop trends, and is like the last remaining symbol of classicist r&b chops, but still.

have a sandwich or ice cream sandwich (Jordan), Friday, 4 January 2013 20:16 (eight years ago) link

i think that was more that he was always seen as a keyboard guy, and spoke openly about how he'd spent some of his time out of the spotlight mastering guitar and re-emerged with guitar skills fully formed

some dude, Friday, 4 January 2013 20:18 (eight years ago) link

Voodoo has a few songs that say ALL INSTRUMENTS BY D'ANGELO when at least three other people are credited with drums-guitar-bass.

the little prince of inane false binary hype (Alfred, Lord Sotosyn), Friday, 4 January 2013 20:19 (eight years ago) link

i think that was more that he was always seen as a keyboard guy, and spoke openly about how he'd spent some of his time out of the spotlight mastering guitar and re-emerged with guitar skills fully formed

yeah exactly

have a sandwich or ice cream sandwich (Jordan), Friday, 4 January 2013 20:20 (eight years ago) link

the voodoo credits are weird for sure. like, on the songs that ?uestlove isn't credited with drums ('the line', 'the root'), did d'angelo program the drums using samples of ?uestlove's drums from other songs? it's possible.

have a sandwich or ice cream sandwich (Jordan), Friday, 4 January 2013 20:25 (eight years ago) link

prob more likely sloppy crediting than that. also didn't ?uest supposedly take a bunch of dilla beats and re-play them live for that album? don't think the credits reflect that either.

some dude, Friday, 4 January 2013 20:28 (eight years ago) link

yesss, found the track-by-track breakdown that ?uestlove did back in the day on okayplayer: http://web.archive.org/web/19991114212019/http://www.okayplayer.com/reviews.htm

basically it goes to show that you can't trust the credits.

xp

have a sandwich or ice cream sandwich (Jordan), Friday, 4 January 2013 20:29 (eight years ago) link

there are def some songs on voodoo where the drums sound programmed rather than live

hemioblock (The Reverend), Friday, 4 January 2013 20:30 (eight years ago) link

Stevie Wonder also did ALL INSTRUMENTS BY when he plays "just" keybs, drums, and harmonics (obv okay on "Higher Ground").

the little prince of inane false binary hype (Alfred, Lord Sotosyn), Friday, 4 January 2013 20:31 (eight years ago) link

"he's still relevant while being able to ignore current pop trends, and is like the last remaining symbol of classicist r&b chops, but still."

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YpXWgLcQPMc

scott seward, Friday, 4 January 2013 20:35 (eight years ago) link

good call

the little prince of inane false binary hype (Alfred, Lord Sotosyn), Friday, 4 January 2013 20:35 (eight years ago) link

feel pretty stupid forgetting him

the little prince of inane false binary hype (Alfred, Lord Sotosyn), Friday, 4 January 2013 20:35 (eight years ago) link

stevie played almost everything on his eivets rednow instrumental album. not, like, the string and horn sections though.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8bhDn6i7bdE

scott seward, Friday, 4 January 2013 20:39 (eight years ago) link

Stevie Wonder also did ALL INSTRUMENTS BY when he plays "just" keybs, drums, and harmonics (obv okay on "Higher Ground").

― the little prince of inane false binary hype (Alfred, Lord Sotosyn), Friday, January 4, 2013 12:31 PM Bookmark Flag Post Permalink

Those are the only instruments on "Higher Ground" tho. Synth bass + clavinets.

hemioblock (The Reverend), Friday, 4 January 2013 21:12 (eight years ago) link

that's what he was saying, it's a truthful statement on that song, but not the ones w/ horn sections

some dude, Friday, 4 January 2013 21:21 (eight years ago) link

legit credits on "Living For the City" too.

the little prince of inane false binary hype (Alfred, Lord Sotosyn), Friday, 4 January 2013 21:28 (eight years ago) link

oh ok, i gotcha

hemioblock (The Reverend), Friday, 4 January 2013 21:35 (eight years ago) link

van halen on beat it = how I figure a lot of producers think of guitar in pop/hip hop songs. it is the easiest, most direct way of satisfying the "rock" ingredient in a pop song recipe. imo learning how to "cross over" is the first chapter in making popular music now, as opposed to, say, anything other than the first chapter, as it might have been prior to MJ (or prince)

― Dominique, Thursday, January 3, 2013 11:51 PM (Yesterday) Bookmark Flag Post Permalink

This is OTM. Every "pop" act (and most hip hop acts) I've seen perform on TV (SNL, some talk show, whatever) has the requisite pseudo-Hendrix guitarist in their band, usually stepping forward for three or four seconds of high-gain whammy bar wankery.

― Tarfumes The Escape Goat, Friday, 4 January 2013 14:25 (7 hours ago) Permalink

This is pretty much exaclty what I meant by "guitarness"

drunk 'n' white's elements of style (Hurting 2), Friday, 4 January 2013 21:57 (eight years ago) link

yeah i mean Lil Wayne has been "playing guitar" on stage for like 6 years now

he's still doing it????

mahatma lambert (crüt), Friday, 4 January 2013 22:11 (eight years ago) link

yeah at least Madonna has mastered a punkish rhythm guitar amateurishness.

the little prince of inane false binary hype (Alfred, Lord Sotosyn), Friday, 4 January 2013 22:13 (eight years ago) link

I have old demos of Madonna's NYC days in the 80s. She always had that amateurishness of her guitar playing. She was smart to have a more talented guitarist beside her.

Tired of these edcuated basic bitches. (lilsoulbrother), Saturday, 5 January 2013 01:32 (eight years ago) link

prob more likely sloppy crediting than that. also didn't ?uest supposedly take a bunch of dilla beats and re-play them live for that album? don't think the credits reflect that either.

― some dude, Friday, January 4, 2013 12:28 PM (5 hours ago) Bookmark Flag Post Permalink

This would explain why the "drums" don't sound like drums on that album. I hope the Dilla estate got some money for that one.

Tired of these edcuated basic bitches. (lilsoulbrother), Saturday, 5 January 2013 01:33 (eight years ago) link


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