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Author Topic: Vocal Phrasing--The Long And The Short of It  (Read 21973 times)

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Online 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,
« 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

Online 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,

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


"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
CD on YT


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