For this article I will look at two well known songs from Guns and Roses: "Sweet Child of Mine" and "November Rain". The night after I had written the first two articles of this mini-serie I heard "November Rain" on my radio and the song inspired me to write this article.
Both "Sweet Child of Mine" and "November Rain" are probably among the best-known Guns and Roses songs. When you are into guitarbands, and happen to play electric guitar, the intro of "Sweet Child" is probably one of the things you will have tried to play at some stage. "November Rain" came out in the early 90s and when you first heard the song it may have reminded you more about a 1970s Rock opera of some sort instead of a straight ahead rock song.
Let us now have a listen to "Sweet Child":
Listening to the guitar-intro a few things spring to mind: The guitar sound is quite clear and open, the idea being played is melodic and does have a form: It is an arpeggio which underpins the chords of the verse. Try singing the intro back to yourself, this is a great memory aid, and once you can sing it, you can play it on the guitar, all you need to do is find those notes on the fretboard, they are all played in position and quite close to each other. During the chorus we hear the guitar playing along with the vocals, then there is the first proper guitar break based on the verse chords and vocal melody. After the second chorus the song develops into new teritory: a new part starts, different from the chorus and verse, and this part is mainly used for the guitar to solo over. This new part is repeated over and over again, this for the solo (and song!!) to develop and build up to a climax. Then the song moves into the end part with the "Where do we go from now?" For the beginning of this part Slash uses a Wah pedal, to add more drama and excitement to the sound of the guitar solo.
As far as song stucture goes ,this song is not a cliche song: Two new parts have been added to the song for the guitar to explore, and after those parts the song does not return to the chorus. If the band would have done so it would have made the song far too long, but it is already a long song even without repeating verses or chorus for too long.
The idea of adding new parts for a guitar to solo over is not new: A lot of hard rock band of the 1970s used to do it, Deep Purple being one of them, but usually these parts are not too long and often the song will return to the intial parts of the song. Guns and Roses do not do this at all here. Adding new parts to solo over is a great way to explore your solo: The guitar will have more time to develop melodic ideas and the solo can point the song into a new direction.
Let us now listen to "November Rain" to hear what is going on there:
The intro: Hardly any guitar in sight! instead we hear chords being played in broken fashion on the paino. Add some drums and bring in more keys and some understated chords from the guitar: Slowly we get an idea of what this song will be about, but we take our time and why not eh?
Then at some point the song changes: Different part is brought in after the chorus, guitars become more pronounced, and slowly Sash weaves his way around the chords before he breaks into full melodic mode where he plays vocal-based melodic ideas over main chords of the verse and chorus. Slash does return back to these ideas later on and keeps playing them, and then, like what we had in "Sweet Child", when you would expect the song to finish.... a new part is introduced: first by the piano, then the guitar comes in and another new guitarsolo is ready to develop. Seems like Guns and Roses had a formula for creating songs like this. Creating a balance in your songs between songwriting and playing great sounding solos and parts on the guitar is a real artform. Think of a lot of 1980s guitarplayers who maily created albums of songs just to show of their skills on the guitar. Most of these players did not have great songs, songs you would like to hear back again and again. Some of them did, and those are the ones who are still there today. As a band and songwriter this can be one of your goals, and once you have achieved this goal the audience will love you for it, because nothing sounds better than a song with a great melodic vocal line and some great guitarwork to support and develop the song to newer heights!
For next article a special about the Fender Twin Reverb guitaramp.
See you soon again,