Hi and welcome to my article, Deconstructing the DLC. I’d like to take a moment to introduce myself.
My name is Jim (Also known as PRS_Rocker on the Ubisoft Forums) and I started playing guitar when I was young. Most members of my father’s family played an instrument, so it was only natural that I pick up one as well. We had a couple of beat up guitars and a French horn, and though I tried to make the French horn sound like something other than a tortured cat, I found it easier to play guitar. I started on a beat up acoustic and moved to a cheap Danelectro Electric with an amp built into the case. Studying musical theory as applied to the piano, I was able to translate it quickly to guitar, often times learning melody lines I played on one and playing it on the other by ear and memory. While playing with other musicians and vocalists, I found that changing keys was much easier on guitar than keyboards, so I focused my efforts on the fretboard almost 40 years. I also found that girls dig guitar players much more than keyboardists.
I have been in bands as a vocalist, guitarist and bassist, including bands that played solely original music, top 40 pop and country covers, Beatles, and AC/DC cover bands. Often times, I might play bass for one band and in another group on the next night play guitar on the same strings as well as sing them.
I’ve transposed music, played in clubs around the world and even won awards for my musicianship. And even after all this time, I still find wonder in studying popular songs and trying to see what the key to their continued success is. One might claim that a hit on the radio today is incredible, but a month later, the song is said to be stale. Yet there are tunes that transcend their 15 minutes of fame and are still played by generations of kids who want to rock the house.
We’ll be breaking down the DLC for Rocksmith by looking at the musical theory behind the songs, how the various guitar parts work together, and some fun trivia about how some songs were written and recorded. I’ll also take a minute to give my two cents as to why these songs have staying power in pop culture. Last week’s releases were Eye of the Tiger by Survivor, White Wedding by Billy Idol and Here Comes Your Man by the Pixies.
White Wedding by Billy Idol
Let’s begin with the pop-punk hit White Wedding by Billy Idol. It was said that the song was written about the upcoming nuptials of Idol’s sister, but on VH1’s Story Tellers, Idol says that it was just a fantasy wedding. For those old enough to remember the video, the bride was played by Idol’s real life girlfriend at the time. She was also one of the leather clad lasses who spanks her own butt to the beat of the song. The unmistakable opening riff of the song is an arpeggiated Bm chord played with an upstroke starting from the F# note on the E string 2nd fret and continuing to the F# note on the 4th fret of the D string. (F#-D-B-F#-B-D-F#-D). A minor chord is made up of the I-iii-V (or one – minor 3rd – 5), therefore, a Bm chord is spelled B-D-F#. The song starts with a single stroked B5 (B-F#-B) on two guitars.While guitar 2 allows the B5 to ring, the 1st guitar plays the Bm arpeggio as noted above.
If you want a bit of a solo guitar arrangement challenge, check out Steve Stevens playing a muted B pedal on the 2nd fret of the A string while he fingerpicks the arpeggio with his pinky, ring and middle fingers in this video.
Each guitar then plays a D5 (D-B-D) and a an E5 (E-B-E) but the second time around guitar 1 plays the same progression, but guitar 2 plays the E chord at the 4th fret. Guitar 2 ends with a D played with an A chord shape on the 7th fret of the D, G and B strings and Guitar 1 plays a Bm.
The bass player plays a Bm Pentatonic riff (B-D-E-F#) during the intro, but sticks to root notes during most of the remainder of the song. If you’re an advanced player, this will not challenge you, but if you’re a beginner looking for a 100%, this is your song.
The most interesting part of the song is that the two guitar parts are rarely playing the same chords. Guitar 2 sticks primarily to B5, E5, and A5 where guitar 1 plays D and A riff using the open A chord shape at the 7th fret of the D, G and B strings as before (A-D-F#) and an A shape on the 7th fret of the D string, 6th fret of the G string and 5th fret of the B string (A-C#-E).
The solo is a simple, short statement made by guitar 1 playing the opening Bm arpeggio and exiting using only a few notes on the D, G and B strings. The exiting notes are G – 4th fret (B), G – 2nd fret (A), G – 1st fret (Ab), B open (B), B – 3rd fret (D) while allowing an open E to ring, B – 5th fret (E), then descend B – 3rd fret (D), B-2nd fret (C#), G – 2nd fret (A), D – 4th fret (Gb), G – 4th fret (B).
The bridge is made up of a Bm chord and a double stop of C# at the 2nd fret of the B string and B note on the 4th fret of the G string for guitar 1. Guitar 2 takes at turn with single notes, starting with a D note (D – 12th fret), C# bent to D (B – 14th fret), C (D string 10th fret), F (D string 15th fret), D (B string 15th fret), E (B – 17th fret), and D (B – 15th fret).
The use of the D and A chords over the B, A and E chords shows how relative chords can be used to augment the main chords of a song. By using chords made up of notes in the key of the song, the chord tones add rather than detract from the main chord progression. In this case, Bm is made up of B (I), C# (II), D (iii), E (IV), F# (V), G# (VI), and A (vii). Since D is spelled D – F# – A and A is A – C# – E, the chord tones work within the scale.
Eye of the Tiger by Survivor
Touted as the next Journey, Survivor were lead by front man Dave Bickler whose high voice was just what pop radio wanted more of at the time. Survivor was asked by Sylvester Stallone to pen a song for his upcoming movie, Rocky III, and they delivered in spades. The song was such a driving force in the movie, Survivor wrote The Burning Heart for Rocky IV, only Jimi Jamison was now the vocalist for the band. Who doesn’t feel their adrenalin pump when they hear the pedaling muted C note pedal that introduces Eye of the Tiger by Survivor? As the note progresses, the volume crescendos and the band joins together on a Cm –Bb (barre chords) until they move to an Eb/G which is played with a D chord shape moved up to the 3rd fret with either a barre to hold the G note or as some folks play it, a thumb on the E string at the 3rd fret. Then Ab. Guitar 2 plays the same chords, only a G rather than the Eb/G. The chords then move to Bb – Eb at the 6th fret.
During the verse, the guitar part pedals triplets on the C note at the 3rd fret of the A string. Then to the chorus chords: F – Bbsus4 – Bb – F – C – Bb. As the chorus ends, the guitar plays a unison part with the vocalist that is a C natural scale with a flatted 6th (E-F- G-Ab) played F-E-F-G-F-G-Ab on the A string in the 7th position. The choice of notes here forces the vocalist to push his or her range to it’s maximum. During the 2nd verse, the same guitar plays G – F – G pull off to F (on the B string in the 6th position) Eb (G string, 8th fret). Guitar 2 continues the muted C pedals for most of the verse, but while guitar 1 plays the aforementioned single note riff on the B string, guitar 2 plays Eb – D – D – Eb – D – C all on the G string in the 5th position. Over the other notes, the two guitars are playing pieces of the Cm scale (C – D – Eb – F – G – A – B).
The bassline during the into follows the guitar chords (C – Bb– G – Ab). During the verse, the bass plays C for much of it, but a small riff (E – F – G – Bb – C) in the open position on the E and A strings. Into the chorus, the bass plays the roots of the chorus chords, playing a unison with the guitars and vocal as in the last paragraph, then plays an Ab octave at the 4th fret of the E string and the 6th fret of the D string then Eb on the 6th fret to a slide from Ab to F (4th fret to 1st fret E string) and right back to the C pedal note for the verse. Twice, there is a short riff played where the bass slides from the C on the 3rd fret of the A string to G (10th fret) then C on 10th fret of the D string down to G (5th fret).
Here Comes Your Man by The Pixies
Interestingly enough, the most riff filled DLC is by a pop punk band, The Pixies. Here Comes Your Man is a quick and fun song to play. The video was fun, and for those paying close attention, the flowers are slowly dying during the shoot. This was intentional. The song was written by the lead singer, “Black “Francis when he was in his teens, but he didn’t think it fit in the band until much later.
The opening chord is written Dm7/E, which is made up of open E, A and D strings then A, C, F on the G, B and E strings respectively (Dm7= D (I), F (minor 3rd), A (V), C (flat 7)). In the game, this is played by guitar 1 only, but on the recording and live, guitar 2 would play a Dm7 shape at the 5th fret leaving the E string open (open E, A string, 5th fret (D), D string 7th fret (A), G string 5th fret (C), B string 6th fret (F)). The arrangement in the song is missing a distinct guitar part in the recording, which would have led to a 3rd guitar combination. The choice of the Rocksmith team must have been to play parts of the third guitar in the two combos and leave out portions.
Played in the key of D major, the opening riff is D – D – F# – G – A – G – B – A – A – F# – G – A played on the A and low E strings. The bass plays a unison, but since the bass is tuned an octave lower, the parts are an octave harmony. Guitar 2 plays a G – A – D sequence beginning on the second G note of the riff.
The song moves to a happy D – A – Em – G chord progression during the lyrics. Both guitars play the same D chord, but the A is played open on guitar 2 while guitar 1 moves a D chord shape to the 9th fret. Em is played open by guitar 2 and guitar 1 plays a Dm shape at the third fret. The G chord is played open by guitar 2 while guitar 1 plays a D shape at the 7th fret. Because the song plays chords in stacked 5 th s and a minor 3rd (A is 5th of D, E is the 5th of A, G is the minor 3rd of Em and D is the 5th of G), and the chords are major (except the Em), the bass player uses a I – III – IV – V progression to move from chord to chord. For example, to move from the D to the A, one can play D – F# – G – A, the A note landing on the beginning of the A chord. For an excellent example of this technique, check out the riff in the song, Brown Eyed Girl by Van Morrison where the bass uses this in a G – C – G – D progression throughout much of the song and in the bass solo. The use of these intervals to move from chord to chord builds an arpeggio of the chord (for example D7 is spelled D – F# – G – A) and the progression easily fits into the key of the song (D major). ***Quick note, the 7 in a major scale is often flatted and is referred to as a dominant 7, so unless specified, a 7 chord actually uses a flat 7 rather than a full 7, which is referred to as a major 7. The use of dominant 7 chords over a major chord is prevalent in a lot of musical genres, and easily heard in many blues songs.
The bridge includes a Bm (G – B – E strings at the 7th fret) inversion for guitar 1 and guitar 2 plays Bm at the 2nd fret. Guitar 1 plays G at the 7th fret with a D shape, A with a Dm7 shape at the 5th fret and D with the same shape at the 10th fret while guitar 2 plays open chords throughout. During the chorus, the opening riff is repeated, but guitar 1 moves to a single note line in D major starting on the F# note at the 11th fret of the G string. The riff is made up of the notes F# – E –D – C#. It never changes position and is played throughout the 2nd verse while guitar 2 plays the same chords as it did in the first verse. This is where the 3rd guitar part is missing. There is clearly one guitar playing the riff, another playing strummed, open chords and a third distorted guitar part playing sustained chords.
The solo looks much more complicated than it is, but it’s a cool use of typical rock and pop licks in the key of D. It starts neatly enough on a D chord, but moves to an A (5th fret, B and E strings) with an B note on the 7th fret of the E string. Then it moves to the same strings open and at the 2nd fret, playing parts of Em and F# and finally to an open D. The riff repeats only to add a hammer to the 12th fret of the E string over the D. The 3rd time around, instead of moving to the open position, guitar 1 plays a series of unison bends on the G string to the note played on the B string. You hear these types of bends throughout rock history. The idea is to take the note on the G string and bend it up a full step and play the same note 2 frets down on the B string. A guitar is tuned in 4ths, except the G to the B string, which is a 3rd. This was done to make it easier to play chords on all 6 strings. Other stringed instruments, including the bass guitar are tuned in 4ths for standard tuning, so a 6 string bass would be tuned B –E – A – D – G – C. Since the G and B string are tuned to 4ths, a full step bend on the G string makes it the same note as two frets lower on the B, and this is referred to as a unison bend. The riff starts with the G at the 10th fret bent a full step (G) and then the same G note played on the B string at the 8th fret. The riff then moves down to F# and then to E. The guitar part includes the E string on top the second time around, finally landing on the B chord to repeat the bridge.
Lastly the song ends by revisiting the opening riff over the chorus.
I hope you enjoyed my article!
As time goes on, I hope to post links to YouTube videos, that present techniques to help with fingering, picking, and alternate voicings to help you improve your playing in and out of the game.
Rock on, playa’s!