Indie Rock IV: Sonic Youth

by Gabriel Leopardi

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  • Hello guys!! Welcome to the fourth lesson of this series based on the Genre “Indie Rock”.

    If you missed the previous lessons you should check what wikipedia says about “Indie Rock”

    “Indie rock is a genre of alternative rock that originated in the United Kingdom and the United States in the 1980s. Indie rock is extremely diverse, with sub-genres that include lo-fi, post-rock, math rock, indie pop, dream pop, noise rock, space rock, sadcore, riot grrrl and emo, among others.”

    In the previous lesson I covered the style of Pixies, and this time I will cover the style of another very important and influential band called Sonic Youth. Sonic Youth is an American rock band from New York City, formed in 1981. Their most recent line-up consisted of Thurston Moore (guitar and vocals),Kim Gordon (bass, vocals, and guitar), Lee Ranaldo (guitar and vocals), Steve Shelley (drums), and Mark Ibold (guitar and bass).

    Music Style:
    They have been labelled with many different style and that’s because of the wide spectrum of their music. They are considered as a big noise rock exponent and also some people says that they are the first step in the growth of the alternative and indie rock movements in the 90’s. Something very important from them is that they were praised for having “redefined what rock guitar could do”. How? using a wide variety of unorthodox guitar tunings, and preparing guitars with objects like drum sticks and screwdrivers to alter the instruments' timbre.

    Tonality & Chord Progression:
    The use of alternative tuning makes them use chords that aren’t very found in rock music. The tune is in C major but you’ll find chords that don’t belong to that tonality. The reason why they appear is concept that in theory is called modal interchange that means that you borrow a chord from the parallel tonality. The main progression is C and Eb. Both chords are major, and the second chords is formed starting from the minor third of C. The major tonality’s correct chord would be E minor but in this case we change it from the C minor tonality 3rd chord that is Eb major. This type of ideas give Sonic that characteristic vibe, as well as their tunings, riffs, tone and vocals.

    As in most of these bands, the guitar technique is easy since everything is more based on tone and progressions, always more concentrated in creating particular atmospheres than in the difficulty or what they are playing. We will use mostly chords and easy melodies on this one so you will find it suitable for every level.

    I used a Pod Hd 500 emulating a Vox Ac30 combo amp with a small quantity of drive and a tube screamer also emulated to make it sound noisier. If you want the tone you can ask for it at my personal board. My guitar is a Gibson Les Paul Studio. The drums is from the Hyper Canvas Vsti and the bass is a refill from Reason called Classic Bass sounds.

    As we said earlier, they are obsessed with tunings. They use lots of alternative tuning in their music. You can check this thread where I posted some of their most used progressions: HERE.
    For this tune I used: C – G – D – G – C - D 

    Well guys! Let's start rocking. Don't forget to check the previous Indie Rock Lessons: The Strokes Style, Artic Monkeys Style and Pixies Style.

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