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One-chord song

Discussion in 'Miscellaneous [BG]' started by Purvel, Dec 14, 2005.

  1. Purvel


    Oct 8, 2005
    Bergen, Norway
    So a friend of mine, a guitarist, made a song the other day. We have very good recording equipment at school, so he decided we should record it for fun. A drummer and me agree to help him, so my guitarist friend says he'll record his part first. I hadn't heard the song before really. He does 18 layers of guitars first and shows it to us in the studio.
    Basically I have no clue what to make of it, as the entire thing is composed of a guitar playing an open Em and some lead voices on top. It lasts for pretty much exactly three minutes, and I really still don't know what to do. I can't exactly play an E for three minutes, it sounds dull to me. Now, don't get me wrong. Songs based around few chords can be good, like Ozric Tentacles (one of my favourites). But usually these don't focus entirely on the guitar, so I haven't the slightest clue how to work this out.
    I don't want to take over the song and make actual progression in it, since it's his and all. Got any tips for what I can make of the three minute Em?
    Hope I made my point clear, feel free to ask questions of course :)
  2. Well, not knowing the song's tempo or mood, I'm just gonna shoot off what I normally do in such situations (other than kill the guitarist, of course :D )

    Sit down with your drummer, and see if you can get him/her to create a drum line that has a lot of groove to it. Off hand, I'm thinking Zep's "When the Levee Breaks" Or "Delicate Tendrils" by Les Claypool, but I'm sure there's tons more. If the groove is solid, you should have no problems doing either A.) Putting some thump in the right places or, hopefully B.) Creating a strong riff that would be so much fun to play, those 3 minutes will whiz on by.

    If you can create such a riff (Which shouldn't be too hard, since the key of E kind of naturally lends itself to mean sounding riffs in my opinion) You can add some fills here and there, sync up with the drums for some of his/her fills, or add emphasis to a few guitar lines.......pretty much anything you want.

    So to summarize, create a groove, which should be easy, since you don't have to worry about upcoming chord changes, and then lay it down nice and mean.
  3. Brad Barker

    Brad Barker

    Apr 13, 2001
    berkeley, ca
    this reminds me of "one note song" by tenacious d. :eyebrow:
  4. JimmyM


    Apr 11, 2005
    Apopka, FL
    Endorsing: Ampeg Amps, EMG Pickups
    Why fight it? Many great songs were written around a single chord or a single riff. What's boring to you may not be boring to others, so unless it just plain sucks, go with it. I'm sure you have other songs.
  5. Matt Till

    Matt Till

    Jun 1, 2002
    Edinboro, PA
    Most "riffs" tend to be "one chord" by that I mean make no movements through a progression. If you can figure out what scale his leads are in, you can use that to your advantage and write a riff in that scale that locks in with the drummer. In that situation from the sounds of it, something sparce would be nice, but that doesn't mean you have to hide in the shadows. I'm just saying, don't be afraid to leave some space.
  6. arbitrary

    arbitrary Supporting Member

    Oct 24, 2005
    Boston, MA
    try 'effing around in dorian
  7. P. Aaron

    P. Aaron Supporting Member

    For some 'one-chord' grooves, check out Loop.
  8. Slater

    Slater Leave that thing alone. Supporting Member

    Apr 17, 2000
    The Great Lakes State
    Is it a song with lyrics? If so, can you play along with and/or off of the vocal melody?

    If it's just an instrumental, I'd have to hear it to be helpful...
  9. Jazzin'

    Jazzin' ...Bluesin' and Funkin'

    I wrote a whole song (2 guitars, 1 bass, 1 trumpet, drums) on only one chord. I named it after the chord, E7aug9. hehehe, I love it.
  10. Purvel


    Oct 8, 2005
    Bergen, Norway
    Thanks for the help and quick replies :)
    Yeah, I realize I forgot to mention what the song sounds like. It's rather slow, about 100bpm, with an intro half as slow. The main scale he uses is plain minor as far as I can remember (I only heard it that evening) with an occasional major third. The melody has this almost folk music feel to it. Also, the drum beat is pretty much just accents on the 1, and rest just fluttering on the cymbals.
    The rest of the story about the recording apparently ended today. I was out taking driving lessons earlier today, and the guitarist had the studio at the same time, so he got another (note: much more talented than me :p) bassist and redid the drums and bass. It apparently turned out pretty cool :) I'll ask if I can have the song and upload it so you can hear what it turned out like.
    Edit: It's purely instrumental.
  11. The last band that I was in, and the one that I'm in now, does "Dreams" by Molly Hatchet. It's primarily on a D with a decent grooving bass line. Our guitarist was bored out of his mind, but I had a pretty good time because it had a decent groovin' bass line.

    Point is, even if it's a single chord song, you can make a memorable bass line without "hogging" the spotlight from the guitarist and the singer. "Stranglehold" by Nugent is pretty much the same way.
  12. bassaroo


    Dec 9, 2005
    A great song that is a one chord vamp is "Low Rider" - that song sounds great, and no one ever realizes it's only one chord.
  13. All_¥our_Bass


    Dec 26, 2004
    *clears throat* "Smoke On The Water" anyone?
    I mean seriously the only thing 'really' good in that song is the G-Blues main riff (the intro that appears at various times throughout the song)
  14. Pacman

    Pacman Layin' Down Time Staff Member Gold Supporting Member

    Apr 1, 2000
    Omaha, Nebraska
    Endorsing Artist: Roscoe Guitars, DR Strings, Aguilar Amplification
    Chain of Fools - great one chord tune...