I like a lot of different styles of music but there is something across different types of music that always wins me over and that’s music that is “dense”. Dense music would be music that has several different layers of different things going on at the same time. You can come across this I think mostly in rock and jazz. I’d like to give three examples of what I mean from three completely different styles of music.
Rush – Secret Touch
For some I can completely understand where this might seem like just a wall of noise, but that’s just it – it IS a wall of noise and it’s organized chaos. It’s amazing that three guys can write and play music like this. From the bluesy groove at the beginning it launches off a cliff straight into 4th gear with the 1-2, 1-2-1-2, 1-2-1-2, 1-2-1,2,3,4 – 1,2,3,4 push. Then to be able to melodically sing over this sort of playing is a superhuman feat. At 3:27 the song breaks into the mid-part to 3:55 and then at 4:09 it grooves on a guitar run over a punch bass and kick drum all over 4/4. Listen for the guitar playing the melody over all of this. At 6:23 it starts the trippy groove to the outro and fade. This is what I mean about “dense” – all this stuff is going on at the same time and overlapping into a single piece. Dissect it and you have pieces, blend it and you have a piece of work. It’s like cooking – you add in all the ingredients and layer them in – same thing happens in some kinds of music. Just kick back and let’s this performance take you for a ride.
Now check this one out….
Incognito – Expresso Madureira
Just a funky funky groove cover of the Banda Black Rio track. It’s starts of with a fat guitar chord progression and solid 4/4 kick beat and immediately layers in the horn section. Listen to all the elements separately if you can isolate them with your year. Focus on just the hi-hat for instance, or the keys, or just the bass groove. Then around 2:10 hear how they punch the horns with the kick drum. At 2:32 the band settles into a slick groove where they feature the keyboard solo but the bass and drummer also take short pops at solos underneath the keyboard player who’s going off. The band build this section to a crescendo and releases the tension at 3:55 (check out the drum fills here). Then at 4:30 the trombone takes over and brings the song to full party scale. There are reasons why music makes you feel the way you feel – whether it’s a groove, or major 7th versus a 9th – you don’t even have to know what those are to understand that changing one small thing changes the whole palette of the song – and you’re reaction to it. Bands work on this stuff for live gigs because it makes a difference. If you know how to do it you can take an audience for a ride.
Pat Metheny – Third Wind
This piece is really a three-part tune stung together. For any Metheny fan this is a classic from one of the most defining periods of time from the group. If you listen to the piece you’ll hear the first part sets the tone with a Brasilian infused back beat and the main hook melody that builds up to the soaring guitar lick at 1:50 and the band doesn’t miss a beat. From there check out how the solo goes blues over the piano comping. The band takes it to 3:25 where they break it down to what sounds like a afro-brasilian tribal thing – it’s got a little trance like groove happening where then the whole band takes turns throwing in their individual little bits – beats, melodies, color, texture – it’s all in there. At 5:20 the set the stage for part 3 with a hook that almost sounds like it’s telling you a story. At 5:51 it transitions to the final section.
Check out the underlying beat holding it all together. At around 6:13 the guitar comes back in with the theme that the rest of the band responds to. When I say “dense” this is a great example of dense music – there are about 5 different things going on in here at this point between rhythm and lead. At 7:22 it takes off into the phenomenal (again) organized chaos that it addictive if you’re a performing musician. The freedom to freestyle jam in the middle of a tune like this while keeping it all moving forward is one of the coolest places to be as a musician.
By the end of this song I dare you to not be able to hum the final hook for the rest of the day.
If you want to enjoy parts 1-4 of this theme – visit this link.