When Simple Seems Complex

I got into my car this morning and wanted to hear some driving music (pun intended) so I put on Bob Seger’s ‘Hollywood Nights’. That loping drum beat is like a locomotive chugging across the prairie, just relentless.

Songfacts says of this song: The rhythm in this song lends itself to speed. Many of us have found ourselves inadvertently blowing past the speed limit when the song comes on the radio.

As I wind up through 3rd gear and I’m already moving at a very brisk pace I realize, if I’m not mistaken, the bass part on that song plays ONE NOTE through all the verses and choruses.

It plays 2 different notes on the turn around but the rest of the song has one root bass note. He play some fills and octaves but otherwise that one note.

Brilliant I think to myself.

I have to admit, I had never really thought about the bass part on that song before, as I have never played the song in any of the cover bands I had been in long ago.

The song is a simple story: Midwestern boy goes to LA, gets into a relationship with a gorgeous California girl, the relationship goes on for a while and one day he wakes up alone. She’s gone and he wonders if he can ever go home.

The keyboards just keep vamping the same chords while the guitar gives the feeling of frenzy.

All the background creates an atmosphere for Mr Seger’s story. It is almost ballad like.

If you listen to each individual instrument, there is nothing extraordinarily difficult about any of them.

Brilliant maybe, but not difficult.

There is not even what I would call a ‘riff’ like many of Seger’s other songs.

Songfacts also says: To create the insistent percussion on this track, Seger’s drummer, David Teegarden, recorded one pass, then overdubbed a different pattern on top of it, so it sounds like there are two drummers playing on it.

Simplicity in music can create emotions that at a certain level allow the musicians to ebb and flow, inflections that can be lost in a more complex arraignment.

Jimmy Bowen said in an interview, that he was lucky to work on great songs with great artists and some of the most talented musicians on the planet. A good recipe for success. He said with that combination, it is often pretty easy.

When I work with an artist for the first time I always am looking for the simplest way to capture the ‘feeling’ of a song. Sometimes the arraignment needs to be more complex, but not always.

I don’t believe a song can be too simple. Emotion can ooze from a track that contains a single vocal and single instrument.

One of the great things about modern digital audio workstations is that they give you a bunch of tracks and the power to manipulate them.

But sometimes we need to check our add more tracks cause you can at the door and go a bit simpler.

Many seasoned musicians know this. They don’t try to overplay, they play what is very easy and familiar to them.

Now granted, one musicians simple would be the next musicians difficult. Practice does make perfect. As we grow as musicians, we become more proficient. Our proficiency becomes almost unattainable to beginning musicians. But it is simple to seasoned musicians.

Simple is to be accessible. And as artists, we want… No, we need that.

If you are just starting out, make it simple and tight, and don’t worry about someone commenting that it is too basic. Make it right and give it feeling and you’ll be on your way.

Make your music as near ‘perfect with feeling‘ as you can,

As you grow and continue to keep it simple, you will have had more experience and will be able to do complex things easily.

Author: Chad