The 80's Rock Style Guitar Arrangements

by Emir Hot

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  • Hello GMC and all hard/heavy rock fans. Here are some cool groovy rock riffs that demonstrate rock guitar arranging skills of my rock heroes. Think of Paul Gilbert (while he was in Mr. Big), Vinnie Moore (Out of Nowhere album), Randy Rhoads and the rest of guitar rock legends from 80’s. When people mention these names they usually think of shredding.

    This time I am not talking about playing fast stuff but arranging guitar parts in rock songs that have vocals. Their approach to this is really something that I always enjoyed analyzing and tried to use in my songs. One of the key things in composing memorable rock songs is to have defined structure and not too much progressive stuff. Another thing which definitely helps your song get on the radio is the duration. Many rock hits from 80’s are not longer than 4 minutes.

    The usual structure in those types of songs is:

    - Intro riff
    - Verse 1
    - Pre-chorus 1
    - Chorus 1
    - Intro riff
    - Verse 2
    - Pre-chorus 2
    - Chorus 2
    - Bridge (not always necessary)
    - Solo
    - Chorus 3 (sometimes begins with pre-chorus)
    - Outro riff

    Looks like too many parts in just 4 minutes but this structure is actually very simple and contains many repetitions.

    In this 50 sec. lesson I made some parts to show you how I connect one into another. There are: Intro riff, verse, between verses riff, verse, between verses riff, pre-chorus, outro riff. Sorry there are no chorus and solo but this is just an example how to put the parts together. This piece of music is made mostly of power chords. Power chord has root, fifth and sometimes octave. Because there is no minor or major third to define the chord, you can play both minor/major 3rd intervals but in the carefully chosen moment. I made a scale that can work over this and contains both Dorian and Mixolydian notes. Other scales used are Dmaj7 (arpeggio) and E minor pentatonic. You can find scales in the separate video sections.

    How to make guitar parts sound cool and noticeable in all the mess with several instruments and vocals in the arrangement? Well, I can tell you a couple of advices that I picked from masters mentioned above.

    1. Never play too much when the singer is singing
    2. When your main riff comes, tell other musicians not to play busy and make the most of your couple of seconds
    3. Make some cool short unison fills with bass or keyboard to announce the next section of the song – parts like this are always memorable by any listener
    4. When your solo comes in, don’t go crazy and keep the right groove like in the rest of the song. Definitely show some advanced soloing skills but keep the flow of the melody rather than a bunch of exercises and licks
    5. Finnish with something unexpected but not totally out of the song definition and atmosphere
    6. Have fun

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