What’s going on everyone!? Welcome to another installment of Axe of Creation here at the wonderful Gear Snobs. This month we will be exploring some Odd Time Riffs of Soundgarden. Some of these riffs will incorporate some…unique tunings. Now, this won’t be Dream Theater style of stringing together multiple meters or Meshuggah’s polymetric masterpieces. A much simpler approach that doesn’t just count to four. There are some workarounds but we’re focusing on the rhythm not so much how to play these songs.
The riff that started it all! At least for me. I love this riff! It’s so sludgy and grunge. We’re in a Drop D tuning for this one. A couple of things I like about this riff. First, we’re in 7/4, one short of a full 4/4. You could easily, by mistake, add another beat and play if incorrectly. Second, notice the tie and where it’s placed. It’s on the upbeat of the 4th beat over the downbeat of the 5th beat, so you have some nice upbeat accents going on. If you happen to think of this riff as 4/4 + 3/4, then that tie would cross the bar line, masking the downbeat.
Fell On Black Days
Now, I know what you’re going to say. Hey! 6/4 isn’t “odd time”. You are correct voice in my head but it’s not 4/4 and that’s the point here. Standard tuning for this one. Place your focus on the double stops rather that power chords (E5 &B5) and you’ll get that most of the riff. You’ll also see this harmonic movement in Cornell songs (E-C).
Another great riff in 7/4, Spoonman is an iconic riff of a generation. Once again, we are in a Drop D tuning. There are a couple of musical things we can point out beside the overarching phrase of 7. The riff starts on the 12th fret and descends down to an open root, so a nice descending phrase. Also, look at beat 2, 3, and 4. You’ll notice several chord hits on off beats and ties. This helps the overall groove of the riff by masking and syncopating the pulse.
That wraps up the first half of our look into Soundgarden. Next week we will work with a couple of more songs; Limo Wreck and The Day I Tried To Live.
Gregory Arthur is Axe of Creation, a Gear Snob, and a Father of Two. He challenges you to become uncomfortable with yourself in attempts to gain a new perspective. Never give your energy away to what you’re not. Focus on what resonates within you and bring forth in creation.
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