LAST MONTH we started to use some voicing techniques on a couple of chord progressions. It's important at this stage to consolidate a bit, and to remember that you're playing what you think you know! Remember, it's easier to think about the technical detail than it is to play it all: you still have to get your fingers sorting out the physical problems, and doing what your brain wants them to.
So this month, we'll go through a simple accompaniment for that all-time agitprop classic, John Lennon's 'Imagine'. All the musical examples will be supported by conventional music notation, but you'll also be given the information in letter name form, as in previous articles. We have one added problem this time though, in that you will have to understand the concept of rhythm and pulse to be able to play in time. If you've been following Jenni Cooper's Write Now articles, you'll undersand all about the ideas which follow.
Here are the lyric and chord symbols for the first two bars of 'Imagine':
(G) Imagine there's no (C) heaven
1 2 3 4 1 2 3 4
The count underneath is approximately spaced for the lyric, but the pulse is definitely fixed as a slow four-to-a-bar (ie. four quarter-notes to a bar). Now play this accompaniment of the first two chords (Diagram E), voiced as shown in previous articles.
If you sing the lyric over the chords, played steadily and slowly, you should get some feel of the original, even if it's a bit stodgy. Can we do something about the stodginess? Let's see. Try maintaining the same "slow four" pulse, but playing two chords per beat, blocked as before, as in Diagram F.
To my ears, that sounds overpoweringly heavy. The timing is correct, it's just the heavy texture that seems wrong. Supposing we try to break up the texture of the chords, so that we only play some of the notes with each passing eighth-note. (This second version works in eighth-notes, if you hadn't worked that out. It is logical, because we're playing two notes per quarter-note pulse. And as all you boffins know, two eighths are the same as one quarter. Here endeth the Maths lesson!)
Try the version in Diagram G, which still uses exactly the same voicings of the G and C chords, but spreads the texture more thinly, and more appropriately for this particular tune.
That might need quite a bit of practice. It's practice that ought to be done singing and playing. Obviously, you'll need to practise the chord changes separately for a while, but sing with the accompaniment as soon as you can - you might even enjoy it!
Here now is the whole chord scheme for 'Imagine' shown as a simple bar count, chords only first, with the voicings of the chords also shown, and then the lyric with chord symbols above (Diagram H). You should get used to the relationship of a simple set of changes shown as a block of chords, and then as the lyric plus chords. It really is the same thing, so if you can't fit the lyrics in, try following the counting structure I've supplied, and eventually the relationship of the words to the pulse, and the chord changes ought to become clear.
Earlier in the article, we moved from the idea of a textural block of the chord voicing to a thinner, less dense accompaniment idea, even though the actual voicings of the chords remained the same. Once you are confident that you have the changes sorted out, you could play a block four-to-a-bar (following the basic pulse) and accompany the song that way. Then try spreading each chord into a thinner texture in the way I did with the G and C chords. So D7 would thin out as in Diagram I, for instance.
You could obviously carry on with this process to produce quite a tidy and effective accompaniment to the whole song. Don't forget, though, that nobody is restricting you to only that texture. As long as you fill the pulse with even (and later uneven) ideas, then the accompaniment will be as good as the texture you choose.
To close this month, here are three other versions of the G-to-C change, still voiced as we had them originally, simply altering the texture in each case to provide a different feel (Diagram J). The question I'll leave you with is simple - do you prefer one, unchanging texture throughout the whole song, or would you prefer to mix some of these ideas together as the song progresses? And if so, where and why?
Do It Yourself
Feature by Steve Sinclair
mu:zines is the result of thousands of hours of effort, and will require many thousands more going forward to reach our goals of getting all this content online.
If you value this resource, you can support this project - it really helps!