Grunge VI: Smashing Pumpkins

by Gabriel Leopardi

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  • Hi GMC!

    Welcome to my new lesson in a series based on Grunge Style.

    In this lesson I will cover the style of Smashing Pumpkins, another of the biggest mainstream bands that exploded during the 90’s with powerful & melancholic big radio hits.

    “The Smashing Pumpkins are an American alternative rock band from Chicago, Illinois, formed in 1988. Formed by frontman Billy Corgan (lead vocals, rhythm guitar) and James Iha (lead guitar), the band included Jimmy Chamberlin (drums) and D'arcy Wretzky (bass guitar) in its original incarnation.” – Wikipedia

    Don’t forget to check my previous Grunge lessons.

    Music Style:
    One thing that you’ll note if you explore the grunge series is that the bands included in this movement are very different sonically. They keep a similar message and essence but their music style had unique elements and that’s what have made each of the ones covered transcend the pass of times. Smashing Pumpkins were the most different of the list because instead of having punk roots they created a heavy guitars and densely layered sound that incorporated influences by heavy metal, shoegazing, dream pop, gothic rock, psychedelic and progressive rock. The tune that I composed is inspired by their most powerful tunes and I think that recreates clearly their style of composing and arranging guitars.

    Tonality, Chord Progression & Scales:
    Their music is mainly minor and that’s what creates the melancholic and sad vibe in their music. However I also discovered the use of Mixolydian mode in their compositions. This mode combines a minor 7th with a major 3rd and it gives the tracks a more confuse feeling that mixes melancholic with more mysterious vibes. Another band that used this mode a lot in this way was Jane’s Addiction (First SP albums were related to this band). So this tune can be considered E mixolydian, but you'll also find chords that come from parallel keys that gives the tune a less predictable direction that is one of the things that many Grunge bands had in common.

    This is a rhythm lesson that includes a short rocker solo in the end. You will be using techniques as down picking, alternate picking, palm muting, vibrato, bending and legato in this one so it’s a very complete practice tune.

    I used LePoin plugins to create the guitar tone. These are free amp emulators that are extremely recommended. The cabinet used for this guitar tone is HyBrit which is a Marshall amp emulation and before it a tube screamer emulation. Check out the settings:

    Click HERE to download my Patch.

    I used Cubase to record audio and midi, SSD 3.5 for drums and Trillian for bass.

    Tuning: standard EADGBE tuning

    Tempo: 100 BPM

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