(The right way, at least in my opinion!)
We all know this one, right? It’s a stone cold Prog Rock classic in 7 that you don’t need to be a theory head to play but I think we’re all feeling it wrong.
I’m talking specifically about the Verse and Chorus riffs.
Let’s take a look at the way it’s tabbed in the wild…
7/4 time signature, 124bpm (or thereabouts), B minor tonality where it’s marked, swung 8th note feel, staccato notes.
The really good news is that all of these tabs have most of the right notes so you could use any of them and play this song. (Although, the UG version has an odd left hand fingering for one of the bars, where the riff deviates, and it adds in a 1/4 step bend to to several notes which is not on the record. I know why they’ve done that, I kind of hear it too, but after isolating the bass track Roger’s defintely NOT doing that!).
My issue is how to feel this song in the context of tempo and what that does to the notation and how to read/write it out.
I put it to you that the tempo of this song is actually between 60 and 67bpm, not up in the 120’s to 130s.
I think this to be the case because there isn’t a single song on this album feels like it’s in any kind of rush!
I think that even the solo sections are at these lower tempos.
The drums play double-time for the whole song and I hope to prove it and convince you and give you a more comfortable way to feel this as you play it.
At these lower tempos the time signatures and the rhythmic values are going to be different. We keep the swung feel but instead of swung 8th notes it’s now swung 16th notes.
The good news is that the iconic 7 feel of the riff is still the same but it’s now in 7/8 so there’s no real change to wrestle with.
Then we have the Chorus: this is traditionally 2 bars of 4/4 and a bar of 6/4 but now it’s one bar of 4/4 and one bar of 3/4.
*** Sidenote: Something about the way the Chorus feels has always felt different to the way it’s traditionally written out to me… This is why.
Below is the JTR tab and the audio for the Verse and Chorus. As you listen along you’ll notice that, without a click, you’d never even know that this was at a 50% lower tempo; it’s only when listening along and reading it that you can tell.
Having heard it and read it at this lower tempo and psychologically appreciated no real difference, you’re probably wondering why I’m writing this essay and what the fuss is all about! You want to know how this would sound with that 60bpm click behind it and what I’m going on about…
Well, here it is:
How does it feel to you? The tempo is more plodding and less hectic which is totally in keeping with the contemplative and reflective vibe of the album.
The more observant of you will have noticed that at this tempos the click is playing out a VERY slow 7 count; so that means that bars 2 and 4 are starting on the offbeat of beat 4. But because it’s not rushed it’s easy enough to keep that foot tapping and not lose your place.
At this lower tempo you can really sit back in the groove and the pocket and not rush it, really lean into those swung 16th notes.
To really understand why I think this song is at a lower tempo, just concentrate on the lyrics and how they’re spread out across the riff.
Below is the verse and chorus riff in full with the lyrics distributed across it. See how it uses the pickup note idea (see my Metallica essays about that…) and how, with the slower click, it feels a lot less rushed vocally and you can really feel the underlying swing to it…
Now, after all this you may disagree and feel that the old 7/4, 124bpm version is right (or just feels more “right” to you) and that’s just fine. If it works for you it works; crack on.
However, after reading and listening to the tabs and audio in this essay, I hope that you can see what I mean and that you may feel that I’m right and see it in a new, easier to feel way.
In the until the next time, may the riff be with you, always.