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Do It Yourself

Stick Trix

Article from Phaze 1, July 1989

NOW YOU KNOW how to be heard, and who to concentrate on playing with, let's think a bit about how to fit what you play to a song or track.

Even the most tediously monotonous song can be divided into sections. The obvious divisions are into verse and chorus, with the common addition of a 'bridge passage'. So the first thing to do is to be sure about how these fit together.

Try to work out a characteristic pattern for each section. One of the most common ways to make a difference in sound between sections is to play the hi-hat in the verse, and the ride cymbal in the chorus. The ride cymbal, as we've found before, tends to 'open' the sound out. Another useful idea is to drive the chorus along with an on-beat snare pattern (see Diagram A) to contrast by staying on the hi-hat, but changing what you play on it for the chorus, for instance by playing quavers in the verse and semiquavers in the chorus.


However you choose to distinguish one section from another, always bear in mind what you play fits in with the other instruments. It's good to think of the rhythm section — drums, bass, rhythm guitar — as a mesh. The single strands don't mean anything until they are fitted together, alternatively balancing and overlapping.

But it's not just verse, chorus and bridge passages that need pointing out by what you play. As well as having a structure of contrasting sections, every song has to have some sort of overall 'shape' to it, an idea of where tension increases and decreases, and where the climax comes in. So treat the song as if it's a story: don't give the punchline away too soon.



A guitarist who has a brilliant riff will do best not to overplay it. Best to tantalize the listener with it, and take it away before it has a chance of getting boring. It's the same for a drummer. Hold back the fully developed rhythm until the audience is gasping for it! Introduce elements bit by bit, perhaps starting with the bass drum, or bass drum and hi-hat. For instance, if diagram B is going to be your full pattern for the verse, and the more complex diagram C your full pattern for the chorus, don't play them straight away. To begin with, say for the introductory verse and chorus, use pared down versions of those rhythms, D for the verse and E for the chorus. You can also use this technique to release tension after the full pattern has been used, for those moody middle sections, or when a song winds down towards the end.



It's clear that you have to co-ordinate what you play with the rhythm section. But remember that the whole point is to lay down a solid basis for the voice or melody instrument to play over, so restrain those exhibitional tendencies! There's just as much satisfaction to be had in being the springboard for the melody. If, for example, the main melody phrase of the chorus comes in on the second beat, it's up to the drummer to fill the space leading up to the first beat, and to make that first beat crisp and strong, so that the melody instrument or voice can bounce off with a strong accent on the first beat. See diagram F.


Alternatively, a rest can be as good as a change. Some parts of melody lines cry out for room to breathe. See Diagram G, where the phrase "Why don't you believe it" is a lead in to the chorus. Again, a powerfully placed beat, followed by a rest, provides the perfect launch for the attack of the melody. Effects like this from the rhythm section sound really impressive when played cleanly and confidently.


Examples F and G show two possibilities of where to use crash cymbals. F uses a crash to accentuate a melody, while in G, the crash points the start of a new section. Thoughtful use of the crash can really lift your playing. Don't just hit it on the first beat of every eight bars throughout the song. Use it more in one section than another, to create a layer of contrast. And if you're doing a rip-roaring final 32 bars, why not let loose with a crash on every off-beat, together with the snare? Remember, unless you're going for a special top-heavy effect, always balance the crash cymbal with a strong accent on the bass drum or snare.

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Publisher: Phaze 1 - Phaze 1 Publishing

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Phaze 1 - Jul 1989

Do It Yourself

Feature by Trevor Parsons

Previous article in this issue:

> Fret Fax

Next article in this issue:

> Royal Approval

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