Steal from the Singer

By Joe Gore

Whenever I do a studio session with a singer/songwriter and need to come up with cool backing parts, I start by listening to the vocal line. I search for little rhythmic or melodic motives that I can reference without directly quoting the melody. Often I displace the rhythm, so it falls during the least active parts of the vocal melody, especially during the singer’s breaths. When it works out properly, the accompanying part sounds “cut from the same cloth” as the vocal, supporting and amplifying it.

3 comments to Steal from the Singer

  • Keith

    Yeah! I do this all the time, and not just on guitar. Rhythmic pushes that I play on bass and on the drums are largely based on the vocal line. Listen to early Motown for some of the greatest examples of the rhythm section being locked in to the vocals. The crazy part is that those players usually did the tracks in anticipation of the vocal lines, which would be recorded later.

  • Matt Seniff

    Jack Casady bassist of the Jefferson Airplane is a master of this often creating a big bassy pillow for the vocals to float upon.

  • Double D

    Always the easiest way to play something apropos. Even if you just reference the melody and never return, you’ve still hitched your wagon to the song.

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