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Author Topic: Vocal Phrasing--The Long And The Short of It  (Read 22902 times)

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Offline Johnm

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Re: Vocal Phrasing--The Long And The Short of It
« Reply #75 on: March 09, 2018, 12:24:23 PM »
Hi all,
We were discussing Larry Johnson over on the Licks and Lessons board and I thought it might be interesting to take a look at the structure of Larry's arrangement of "Ragged and Dirty".  Larry played the song out of D in standard tuning--note that I don't say D position in standard tuning because he avoids the D chord as it is played in standard tuning at the base of the neck, choosing instead, 7-7-7-!0 on the fourth through first strings, (4th through 1st, left to right) for his "home position" D chord and point of resolution; a "long A" position moved up five frets.  Here is Larry's performance of "Ragged and Dirty":



Larry begins the song with a 6-bar intro, playing two bars each, successively, of his IV chord, G, his V chord, A and his I chord, D.  As Larry begins the first verse, it quickly becomes apparent that he is employing a doubled up form in which everything is held twice as long as it normally is, so you suspect the form will end up being 24 bars long.  Here is how the form works out:
VOCAL---------------------------------- SIGNATURE LICK----------------
   ||    D    |    D    |    G    |    G7    |    D    |    D    |    D    |    D7    |
 VOCAL----------------------- SIGNATURE LICK-----------------
   |     G    |    G    |    G7   |     D    |    D    |     D   |    D7   |
  VOCAL-------------------------------- SIGNATURE LICK-----------------
   |     A    |    A7   |    G    |    G7    |    D    |    D    |    D    |    D      |

You can see that Larry is short in his second vocal phrase, relative to the rest of his form.  This is because when he sings the repetition of the A vocal line with which he begins each verse, he truncates the front end of the line as he goes to the IV chord for the second phrase, shortening it.  He keeps the signature lick consistent throughout, changing it only to resolve to a D chord at the end of the form, as opposed to the D7 he resolves to in the first two phrases.  It's just a subtle little change, but it sure worked nicely, and gives the rendition a freshness and unpredictability.

In working through a number of Larry's arrangements of standards, in which he invariably worked up his own version rather than playing anything even loosely based on previous recorded versions, I found that one of his favorite devices was extending the time allowed for instrumental responses in the call-and-response between guitar and vocal that is the hallmark of blues phrasing.  At this point, I believe Stefan Wirz has the entire program of Larry's great Blue Goose album, "Fast and Funky", up on his youtube channel, so if you've not heard it before or want to refresh your memory of it, give the songs a listen there, and if you think of it, listen to how Larry varied his form lengths by according different amounts of space for vocal and instrumental responses than we're most accustomed to hearing.

All best,
Johnm 
« Last Edit: June 19, 2020, 06:55:10 AM by Johnm »

Offline blueshome

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Re: Vocal Phrasing--The Long And The Short of It
« Reply #76 on: September 20, 2019, 09:22:41 AM »
This must be a prime candidate for this thread

Offline Johnm

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Re: Vocal Phrasing--The Long And The Short of It
« Reply #77 on: September 20, 2019, 05:32:34 PM »
Hi Phil,
He sounds like he is just loving playing in cross-note.  If you think of blues as call-and-response between the voice and instrument accompanying the voice, he is just devoting way more time to the responses than the calls--and he is not consistent in the amount of time he devotes to the calls and responses in different verses.  In a 3:15 track, he doesn't hit the downbeat of the first vocal until :58 of the rendition.  Here's how the first verse shakes out with vocal bars indicated with a V and guitar responses with a G.

   |    V    |    G    |    V    |    G    |    G    |    G    |

   |    V (6 beats|    V    |    G    |    G    |    G    |    G    |    G    |    G    |    G    |    G    |    G    |    G (6beats)|

   |    V (6 beats)|    V    |    G    |    G    |    G    |    G    |

In the second phrase you can see he adds a new perspective to the idea of "going long".  And why not?  He's playing by himself and getting into it and it doesn't sound like people are paying much attention.  His playing throughout is really beautiful, I think, and there are a lot of ideas to mine there for playing in cross-note.
All best,
Johnm

Offline Slack

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Re: Vocal Phrasing--The Long And The Short of It
« Reply #78 on: September 20, 2019, 06:14:40 PM »
Just wonderful.  You want it to go on and on.... way too short.  I wish I were at the gathering!  Must go play it again.  Thanks for posting Phil!

Offline waxwing

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Re: Vocal Phrasing--The Long And The Short of It
« Reply #79 on: June 14, 2020, 01:32:05 PM »
Lately I got interested in the Isaiah Nettles (Mississippi Moaner) song, It's Cold In China Blues. Embarrisingly, shortly after I was drawn to Garfield Aker's Dough Roller Blues and it wasn't until I read Johnm's topic on the Hernando "A" sound that I realized the similarities between the two. Anyway, once I got into transcribing the Nettle's number I realized it would need to go into this thread as he seems to get both the long and the short of it.

The short comes, as is often the case, in the last bar of every verse where he drops a beat for a 3 beat measure, starting the vocal on or about the "and" of three. It also seems to me his intro, a thrice repeated 3 beat lick, is best scored as 3/4 time. He also goes a little short in the 5th verse, 1st line, where he sings the rhythmically different "Hey, cryin’ now, Papa, Babe, do love, do doub’, do doub’, do looove you" line, but I'll discuss that below.

As for the long, I think it's best to look at the 3rd verse as he doesn't go long in it and it works out to a 10 bar blues all in 4/4 time except for that final measure in 3/4. I think that's the basic structure, and by stanzas it works out as a 4//3//3 form.

In all the other verses he goes long either in the 1st bar of the 1st stanza, the 1st bar of the 2nd stanza, or both. He  stretches it out to as much as 7 beats. His accompaniment consists mostly of one beat licks comprised mostly of 1/16 notes (and you could say that the time is really 8/8), which makes it relatively easy for him to stretch the measure on demand. Here's a chart of the beats per measures with // for the stanza breaks:

v1:  //7/4/4/4//6/4/4//4/4/3//
v2:  //5/4/4/4//4/4/4//4/4/3//
v3:  //4/4/4/4//4/4/4//4/4/3//
v4:  //5/4/4/4//4/4/4//4/4/3//
v5:  //4/4/2/4//5/4/4//4/4/3//
v6:  //5/4/4/4//6/4/4//4/4/3//
v7:  //5/4/4/4//5/4/4//4/4/3//

As mentioned above he sings a rhythmically different 1st line in the 5th verse and this is over 10 beats before a 4/4 bar ending the stanza. To keep the bar count at 10 for the verse I scored this a 4/4 for 2 bars and a bar of 2/4, but it could just as easily be 3/4 for 2 bars and a bar of 4/4. Again the entire line is sung over a repeated 1 note lick.

I have versions on the Yazoo Lonesome Road Blues compilation and, I think a better one, on Vol 15 of the Blues Images calendar CD. Here's one I found on YouTube

 

Wax
"People who say it cannot be done should not interrupt those who are doing it."
George Bernard Shaw

“Just because you're paranoid doesn't mean they aren't after you.”
Joseph Heller, Catch-22

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Offline Johnm

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Re: Vocal Phrasing--The Long And The Short of It
« Reply #80 on: August 10, 2021, 05:44:14 PM »
Hi all,
I was recently hired to do a transcription of William Brown's recording of "Ragged and Dirty" which he did for Alan Lomax, collecting on behalf of the Library of Congress, in 1942. William Brown played the piece out of G position in standard tuning, capoed up and sounding in D, so if he was tuned to to concert pitch, he would have had to have been capoed to the seventh fret.
In working out the piece, I was interested to discover that Larry Johnson's version of the song, which is discussed a few posts back in this thread, is more closely based on this version than I had originally thought. Willie Brown, as did Larry in his later version, employed a "doubled up" form, roughly multiplying the "normal" bar lengths of a 12-bar blues and the amount of musical space devoted to the I, IV7 and V chords by two, but with some additional changes which have the effect of making the progression more anomalous and putting William Brown's personal stamp on the performance. Here's how William Brown's structure breaks down, and it is perfectly consistent in the opening solo and his verse one accompaniment.

   |    G    |    G    |   C7    |   C7    |   G7    |   G7    |   G7    |   G7    |     G    |

   |   C7    |   C7    |   C7    |   G7   |   G7    |   G7    |   G7    |   G7    |

   |    D    |    D    |   C7    |   C7    |   G7    |   G7    |   G7    |   G7    |   G7    |

So William Brown ends up with a twenty-six bar form. Interestingly, like Larry Johnson, he is one bar shorter in his second phrase than he is in the first and third phrases . . . but in each phrase, he is one bar longer than Larry was in his version.
The reason for this is that William Brown inserted a "breath catcher" bar following the completion of his signature lick as the final bar in each one of his three phrases. William Brown's signature lick is a two-bar phrase which is played and repeated in each phrase--In the first and third phrases it falls in bars five--eight, and in the second phrase it falls in bars four--seven. By doing this "breath catcher" bar and inserting extra beats, William Brown accomplishes two things:
   * He is able to complete the two signature licks without the second one being interrupted by the vocal pick-ups to the next phrase, and
   * He creates space, both musical space and concentration space, so that he doesn't have to be thinking about the vocal entry while he is concluding the signature lick.
These additional breath catcher beats to accommodate vocal pick-ups abound in the recorded performances of Lemon Jefferson, Furry Lewis, Robert Wilkins, Booker White and a host of other players. In a form which is not doubled up, the places where that is done are characterized by a 6-beat measure (or two extra beats) at the conclusion of an instrumental response. In William Brown's case, because the form is doubled up, what would normally be two extra beats becomes four extra beats--an entire measure.

Here is William Brown's performance of "Ragged and Dirty". It's tricky to figure out where the downbeat of his opening solo through the form is because he warms up a little bit, out of tempo, before starting to play time. When he starts playing time, he plays three beats, enough to accommodate the unsung, "Lord, I'm", before the downbeat of the form.



What I've come to realize about these kinds of analyses of blues forms is that while they may end up providing you with the effect of how a musician phrased a song and the musical structure that resulted, they certainly won't get you to the cause of why the song was done that way. That can only be attributed to the musician's taste, choices, and sense of how the song should be done.
All best,
Johnm     

Offline jpeters609

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Re: Vocal Phrasing--The Long And The Short of It
« Reply #81 on: August 11, 2021, 07:55:50 AM »
Thanks, John!
As a (very) amateur musician, I find your explanations and inquiries to be priceless. I've always wondered if William Brown was attempting to  capture some of the sound of Yank Rachell (mandolin) and Jab Jones (piano) as heard on Sleepy John Estes' "Broken Hearted, Ragged And Dirty Too" from 1929:


 
Jeff

Offline Johnm

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Re: Vocal Phrasing--The Long And The Short of It
« Reply #82 on: August 11, 2021, 09:52:28 AM »
What a great identification, Jeff! William Brown is indeed working to approximate Yank's signature lick from the Sleepy John Estes version of the song. Moreover, William Brown phrases his vocal and the form based on Sleepy John's phrasing, for Sleepy John sticks in those breath catcher bars following Yank's two times through the signature lick in each phrase, before the downbeat of the next vocal phrase. The rhythmic feel in the two versions is not altogether the same, mostly because, I think, of  Jab Jones' playing of time--he was so straight up and down, and William Brown had a bit more swing in his treatment of time.

Sleepy John deserves credit as the fountainhead or source of this way of playing the tune, I think. Lemon Jefferson's "Broke and Hungry" pre-dates Sleepy John's version, but it is a more conventionally phrased rendition, and is clearly not the source for William Brown's or Larry Johnson's versions of the song. If you haven't listened to Lemon's version in a while, check it out--it's pretty great, too!

All best,
Johnm

Offline Tim Connor

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Re: Vocal Phrasing--The Long And The Short of It
« Reply #83 on: August 27, 2021, 10:55:02 PM »
Quote
One of my peeves for years has been that when Frank Zappa, for example, throws in a few extra beats at the end of a line, he's hailed as a genius, but when Booker White did it, the comment was always "He doesn't have a good sense of time".   

This was kind of controversial even among the bluesmen of the time--Gary Davis was particularly critical of players who "broke time" (OK, he rarely had a good word to say about anybody but Blind Blake)--he said "I don't think I'd ever be lucky enough to dance to Blind Lemon Jefferson." But there were others who insisted on four beats to a bar, and those who very consciously didn't. John Lee Hooker said that he could play straight time, but didn't want to; Lightnin' Hopkins was once put in the studio with a white rock band, and did his usual thing--after the take, the bass player said, "Hey, Lightnin', you changed to the A a beat early." Lightnin' gave him the full 200-watt Ray-Ban glare and said "Lightnin' change when Lightnin' want to."

For me the hardest thing was to let the vocal lead, and follow with the guitar, which is very opposite to the usual structure of Western music.

Offline David Kaatz

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Re: Vocal Phrasing--The Long And The Short of It
« Reply #84 on: August 29, 2021, 04:40:03 PM »
I never thought adding beats meant a poor sense of time. IMHO, with good time and phrasing, a listener will barely notice added beats, because the song just flows.
To me, a poor sense of time, for example, means that one 4 bar phrase may be 2 seconds long, but some other 4 bar phrase in the same song may be 2.25 seconds long. The time varies. One cannot regularly tap ones foot to the song. Just adding beats, you can still tap your foot regularly to the song.

Offline waxwing

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Re: Vocal Phrasing--The Long And The Short of It
« Reply #85 on: August 29, 2021, 06:24:41 PM »
Hi David,

I don't really thing changing the tempo, either gradually, or using rubato, should indicate a poor sense of time either, and I think it is somewhat common in early recordings. In fact it is a musical technique which, particularly playing solo, can be very expressive. Done well, solo or in a tight group, I think the toe tapper would naturally adjust to the flow.

Quote from: Wikipedia
rubato: expressive and rhythmic freedom by a slight speeding up and then slowing down of the tempo of a piece at the discretion of the soloist or the conductor. Rubato is an expressive shaping of music that is a part of phrasing.

I think the important thing is to do it with purpose, to express, and having a consistency, similar to syncopation. There is an expectation of something and to change it you have to be clear that's what you are doing. It's not just being sloppy, that's poor time. I think a common usage of rubato in blues happens with call and response between voice and guitar. often the vocal will slow toward the end of the phrase and then the response lick will quicken and get back on the beat. McTell is master of this. And heck, I would say the majority of recordings from the prewar era have a much quicker tempo at the end than the beginning. Just makes the song more exciting and gets the dancers going.

Maybe just me, but whenever I hear someone saying you shouldn't do such and such, well, I just think of all the reasons why you would want to do that.

Wax
"People who say it cannot be done should not interrupt those who are doing it."
George Bernard Shaw

“Just because you're paranoid doesn't mean they aren't after you.”
Joseph Heller, Catch-22

http://www.youtube.com/user/WaxwingJohn
CD on YT

Offline David Kaatz

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Re: Vocal Phrasing--The Long And The Short of It
« Reply #86 on: August 30, 2021, 09:07:08 AM »
Wax, well, you are right. I didn't describe well the phenomenon that I consider to be poor sense of time.

I guess it might be just finding it hard to tap along with, because it constantly changes (and I mean measure to measure, not speeding up as it goes)...or, if playing in a group setting, the group gets out of sync because one member doesn't sense the time of the others. I've seen the former, from a solo artist, and have experienced the latter as a participant in jams and practice sessions. A player gets so into what they are doing, they try to nail their line or part without regard to the time.

Dave

Offline waxwing

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Re: Vocal Phrasing--The Long And The Short of It
« Reply #87 on: August 30, 2021, 10:27:54 AM »
I think we are in agreement, David. I think you are describing what I called sloppy, as opposed to really positing what you are playing, which flows, as you said. 'Course, I can imagine the right song at the right time, sloppy time might be the thing. I always try to be inclusive. Really, good time is good time. Hard to really describe in dos and don'ts, because everything is possible if you own it, but you know it when you hear it.

I'm more of a solo player, but when I had a small jug band we were pretty well rehearsed and anyone of us could drive the beat. We did incorporate syncopation, swing and rubato, and I know we would often quicken the pace toward the end. Nobody complained and we often had dancers.

Wax
"People who say it cannot be done should not interrupt those who are doing it."
George Bernard Shaw

“Just because you're paranoid doesn't mean they aren't after you.”
Joseph Heller, Catch-22

http://www.youtube.com/user/WaxwingJohn
CD on YT

 


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