Joseph Field 2/13/16
Personal musicianship project Expanding Understanding New Genres
Reggae has always interested me every since my exploration into other forms of popular music in high school. Expanding my horizons from strictly common practice period music lead me to several different genres eventually leading up to this one. Originally my interest with a more free and improvised palate of music learning began with learning the twelve bar blues. With a template of structure and instruction it was very approachable since it provided a format but allowed me to explore and try different notes and rhythms that weren’t preset or written down to follow. This eventually lead me to reading lead sheet symbols more and learning how chords really accompanied a melody or voice. After looking at the blues and lead sheets I began to see what areas of music really facilitated these concepts. Popular music was one of these categories however I was looking for music less in the western mainstream culture.
Finding out what Reggae was and what it contained interested me greatly for the following reasons: After getting my feet wet and comfortable with lead sheets and chord changes to accompany melody lines I began to start finding it somewhat predictable. Not that I didn’t find enjoyment out of popular music with this formula but I wanted to see what else music could promise. I found out that Reggae like the blues had a noticeable improvisation aspect to it as well as these other two key components that deviated from the popular music I understood. For one I was enthralled with the concept that there was a strong underlying use of syncopation in Reggae and thought this could really be interesting and keep me on my feet as well as a really useful tool to help me as a musician since I struggled with rhythm in my early stages of learning music. This reinforced the “grove” or feel you needed to instinctually know where the non strong beats were in a measure. Finally I was also happy to see there wasn’t always the conventional predictable chord changes of I IV and V consistently. The use of ii chords as well as other seventh chords made my interest grow in the genre.
Reggae is a music genre that originated in Jamaica around the 1960’s evolving to become the main music of the country and expanding to other cultures especially the United States. Within a decade the music exploded internationally. The genre itself was derived from the countries urban and ethnic music known as Ska. Ska was essentially the fusion of common practice western music and ethnic African specifically Jamaican styles and innovations. To be specific it is was derived from well known music practice Rhythm and Blues originating in the New Orleans around the 50’s. The style of ska and reggae was initially instrumental featuring the piano, improvised guitar frames, trumpets trombones and other brass instruments.
The strong underlying characteristic of Reggae is the rhythmic syncopation that is prominent in all of Reggae”s genre. The emphasis of accents on “off beats” (Beats 2 and 4 in common time) is a symbolic rejection of the white man’s culture. The syncopation is also symbolic of gun shots and other noise symbolizing the dangers in the “ghetto” urban culture.
Contextually Reggae generally has transgressional lyrics that usually pertain to topics such economic, political and social injustices. A voice of the people this genre is often called for it’s cultural origin.
Here is a diagram of how the syncopated ostinato would be represented in musical notation
Different tempos describe the differences between the subgenres such as ska and rocksteady
Probably the most iconic symbol of Reggae and it’s music has been the artist Bob Marely. While he isn’t the only Reggae artist typically the genre often associates an image and philosophy around what he founded and promoted both through his music and social/political actions and movements. Growing up in West Kingston Jamaica, Bob Marely saw and experienced much or the hardship that government supported districts with low income and much poverty. Bob Marely is being also a prominent figure in the cultural aspect of Reggae which is the Rastafarian faith (a mixture of protestant Christianity and mysticism being a big proponent of peace and love) Marely’s endeavors included some of the following: His formation and writing with the group called the Wailers, his “One love” peace concert concerning Jamaica’s warring political factions as well as Zimbabwe’s independence.
Another well known artist from Reggae’s origin was Peter Tosh. A musician who worked with Bob Marely in founding and contributing greatly to the group, The Wailers. Like Marely, Peter Tosh was also very political in his music and lyrics. One of his notable songs was “Get up, Stand up” being significantly political in strong opposition to the current political establishment and racist culture. His other album title works included other strong political views and subject such as the following: Legalize It, Equal Rights and No Nuclear War. While Peter Tosh was a member of the Wailers, like Marely he later ended up going on his own solo career.
An artist that took a slightly different spin on the genre of Reggae was the artist, Jimmy Cliff (James Chambers). Taking Reggae in a different direction, Jimmy Cliff stylistically fused Reggae’s components with popular music, rhythm and blues and even soul music. Artists such as Jimmy Cliff began to make Reggae a more expanded and diverse form of music culture than it originally had started as. He made a significant impact in the South American community, specifically Brazil at a music festival with his well known number “Waterfall”. Artists such as Jimmy Cliff and Marely influenced Western culture to adapt and incorporate the Reggae style into their music. Examples being Eric Clapton and Paul Simon.
Dennis Brown was a Reggae artist that came much later on through the development of Reggae in the Jamaican and Western Culture. Born in the same town of Marely, he experienced many of the same hardships and saw from similar points of view. He began working towards his music career around the age of nine. His talent was finally recognized at a concert by a client of studio one. By the early 70’s he had reached reggae and soul top hits. His notable songs include “Some like it hot” “My time” and “Westbound train” all of which reached the U.K top hits. His influence in Reggae drove it in new directions with new influences and styles such as dancehall, rock and roll and electronic.
“One love/ People get ready” Was a song written by Bob Marely and The Wailer’s in 1977 following their album Exodus. The song originally contained this full title due to interpretations and representation of the song “People get ready” written by Curtis Mayfield. This was later on removed due to copyright issues that were not enforced in Jamaica. The Genre is now categorized as roots Reggae due to it’s origin and release in the early days of Reggae before other genre influences changed the Reggae scene. Characteristics of roots reggae would be more influenced by rhythm and blues as well as ska rather than pop or soul music. Additionally, it is also a compliment to the Rastafarian belief of love and peace
“Get Up, Stand Up”
Another song written by Bob Marely, Peter Tosh and The Wailers. This was accompanied by the album “Burnin’” which was released in 1973. It was recorded in their hometown Kingston. It’s popularity grew allowing it to reach the Dutch Top 40 an offshore radio station that began around 1965. A slightly different and more aggressive approach to the Rastifarian belief this was more transgressional and challenged the system set up in Jamaica at the time. The Wailer’s all rereleased their version of the song in their solo careers after the Wailer’s broke up one of which was Tosh who released it on his album Equal rights in 1977.
Iron Lion Zion
One of Marely’s later works, this song incorporates different facilities and usages of his lyrics. This delves more into the mystic part of Rastifarian belief deviating from the Christianity portion of it. It is understood their form of the promised land is represented by Zion their version of Ethiopia. The symbol of the Ethiopian flag, The Lion is symbolic and their version of their messiah. Recorded in the mid 70’s the song did not reach huge popularity until the early 90’s where it again reached the top of the UK charts.
Instrumentation would be revolving around the following instruments:
Guitar, Electric Bass guitar, keyboards, trumpets, trombones and other brass instruments and vocals.
Stylistically the strumming pattern on the guitar would be a palm muted down stroke on the guitar and a chord placement for the up stroke on the guitar creating the syncopated feel, sound and grove.
Additionally chords are conventional of I IV and V as Reggae explores more jazz rooted concepts such as ii chords and other progressions such as the following:
The drums typically have a shuffle influenced by the style of rhythm and blues and the accents are on the off beats again.
Personal musicianship project Learning an instrument/Performing
Basic performance skills needed for this instrument: There are several attributes that it takes in order to perform sufficiently on the guitar. These include the following: Being able to hold the guitar in a comfortable fashion. Specifically, being able to rest the guitar on your lap and being able to hold up and sustain the position of the guitar horizontally to you or slightly above a horizontal position. Being able to wrap your left hand around the neck without straining any muscles or having any uncomfortable wrist positions. Having the fingers curled and be able to press down with enough weight on the nylon or steel strings. The right hand should be able to hold a pick. Being able to grasp the guitar pick with the index finger and the thumb with a study but not tense grip suitable for strumming the strings on the guitar. Being able to position the hand horizontally and being able to move the wrist vertically up and down for strumming purposes.
After learning the physicality of the guitar, it’s important to learn the string names on the guitar and generally how the frets work in relation to the strings and fingers. A good way to approach this is maybe to explain the theory behind the intervals and placement of fingers on frets and strings. However this maybe difficult for person to relate to if they have no prior musical experience. Even with no prior experience having someone understand that putting down fingers on the strings of the guitar affects the sound that comes out of it and different finger configurations will result in different sounds. Additionally one should not neglect the techniques in the right hand as this will affect the sound production coming out of the guitar. Having the student recognize the importance of the right hand and developing a solid and comfortable pick grip as well as correct curled fingers to pluck the guitar are key in the beginning stages.
Here are two step by step for beginners guitar tutorial:
The first video introduces the guitar in a way to someone just like they’ve never approached the instrument before. Starting off with naming the parts of the instrument is an excellent way to get the student familiar with the vocabulary typically used when referring to parts of the guitar and guitar playing. Explains how many strings there are and the parts of the instrument. After explaining both electric and acoustic the tutorial goes back to acoustic and explains the fundamentals of the guitar such as how to hold it, how to hold the pick and then how to tune the instrument. He also explains how to hold the pick properly.
The second video explains how finger placement on certain strings and frets create different chords (sounds) coming out of the guitar.
Arlen Roth is a celebrated guitarist with 35 years of experience under his belt, who has delved into the music genres of rock, metal, jazz, country and alternative. His groundbreaking and well renowned teaching template was his “Hot licks” teaching guide which sold two million videos world wide. In addition to his well established teaching concentration he has established he has worked and recorded with the following artists: Simon and Garfunkel, Bob Dylan, Don McLean, Pete Seeger and Jack Bruce.
Here is a tutorial he has on Soul and rhythm and blues arpeggios:
Teaching these tools opens the way for many aspiring musicians to gain the technical and theory knowledge needed to fully explore and expand their musical horizon and musicianship.
Here is his website:
Here is a website that is basically and encyclopedia of a majority of chords used in the guitar world ranging from simple triad chords to developed jazz chords. All provided with a fret and finger visual on the website:
This website also provides chord progressions, a tuner, list of songs information on scales to chords relationships, licks and metronome for practice. A complete workshop for learning the fundamentals and advanced concepts of the guitar. It does not contain tablature notation or staff reading but it does contain theory knowledge of the circle of fifths to help the beginner understand the relationships of what they are playing on the instrument.
Provides an introduction lesson on how to read staff notation and music.
http://www.musictheory.net provides lessons on basic music theory.
My performance on the Guitar
Cover of Fireside by The Arctic Monkeys off of their album AM