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led zeppelin song construction

Discussion in 'General Instruction [BG]' started by synapsis, Mar 24, 2005.

  1. synapsis


    Mar 24, 2005
    zeppelin is definitely one of the better rock bands that were introduced during the late 60's, early 70's. however many bands fail to produce the same quality of tunes, so my question is basically what makes their tunes different? i don't really want this to be about the tones, the equipment or the era, which contributed to their overall sound and success - i want this to focus on the way the songs were written. for one, i have zero knowledge when it comes to theory, which leaves me guessing to why it is that they used the mixolydian mode for a lot of their songs, and how they even used that scale to produce the riffs they did. can anyone shed some light on this for me?
  2. PlayTheBass

    PlayTheBass Supporting Member

    Dec 7, 2004
    Carmichael, CA
    I personally don't think it had anything to do with tone, equipment, or era -- their songwriting and playing is timeless. And as with all great music, it's a misguided pursuit to try to pin down a theoretical explanation based on modes, etc.

    And actually, if I had had to pick a Zep mode, it would be straight up Aeolian. In fact, most of their great riffs that come to mind are simply minor pentatonic, blues stuff. It's a palette that a million other bands have used, but Zep just did it in amazingly original, soulful way (yes, they borrowed very heavily from what came before them, blues artists in particular, but still...).

    To me, the keys to Led Zeppelin's greatness are:

    1. Songwriting.
    2. Perfect chemistry between all four players, resulting in a feel & groove rarely (if ever) matched in rock & roll.
    3. John Bonham, John Bonham, John Bonham.

    So, to answer your question about their songwriting, I think it's like any great songwriting: great use of tension and release, masterful dynamics, memorable melodies (and I include all instruments on this one, from vocal hooks to guitar riffs to drum parts), creative and fresh ways to present tried & true ideas, and a groove that swung like crazy even when it straight-ahead ROCKED.
  3. DirtDog


    Jun 7, 2002
    The Deep North
    and don't forget: JPJ's masterful arrangements...while Page and Plant are credited with writing the songs, JPJ turned them into masterpeices.

    oh and his playing....just delicious....

  4. PlayTheBass

    PlayTheBass Supporting Member

    Dec 7, 2004
    Carmichael, CA
    Good call! I lump arranging in with writing, as it's really part of the same process. They definitely had a great group dynamic going there.

    JPJ's playing was always tasty, indeed! (Even on keys, too.)
  5. DaftCat


    Jul 26, 2004
    Medicine Hat
    JPJ, IMHO, is the driving force behind LedZep. He is the only multi-instrumentalist(who played anyway, but I am sure Page can tackle anything with a string on it)..(well Plant sang and played harp I suppose).

    However, he is the least focused on in their career.
    If you look at the videos, interviews, whatever. He has the least to say and the least amount of video is taken(or released?) of him.

    Anyone know if he wanted it that way, or was he just the bass player?
  6. msquared


    Sep 19, 2004
    Kansas City
    Obviously songwriting and playing were important.. but what ABOUT those two were so interesting? For instance if you were going to do a contemporary song in Zep fashion and you could alter whatever you wanted, what would be some of the considerations you'd have? What was it about JPJ's playing that made it so appropriate and tasty?
  7. PlayTheBass

    PlayTheBass Supporting Member

    Dec 7, 2004
    Carmichael, CA
    I think it was the openness and truly organic feel of the grooves while still being tight and swinging that really made it so interesting and set it apart. Absolutely nothing against JPJ's playing, as he is one of my all-time faves, but I firmly believe it was Bonham that did the most to set this band apart from all others.

    It's an interesting question about how to cover a song in Zep fashion -- it's hard to separate the playing from the players, and of course the song you choose would be key as to how you might go about it. But I'd say the subtle swing factor is part of it. After that, a funky, bluesy heaviness that may be hard to describe, but you know it when you hear it!
  8. Classical_Thump


    Jan 26, 2005
    One of the things that really sets Led Zeppelin apart from many bands is the styles they incorporate. Jimmy Page and John Paul Jones are fluent in many types of music from around all the world (Rock, Blues, Funk, Jazz, Country, Bluegrass, Folk, Indian, African, Classical,etc.) and when you get two guys that have such great chemistry and know so much about music they are able to combine their knowledge and chemistry into something enormous, and that was led zeppelin.
  9. popinfresh


    Dec 23, 2004
    Melbourne, Aus
    Our bands been said to sound kinda like Led Zeppelin.


    We gel well together, and have a VERY wide range of influences. I'm not saying we are Zeppelin, but we work well together.

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