Call and response is a very popular musical arrangement device used in cultures all over the world, and today we'll be exploring one way that we can employ call and response in our solo fingerstyle guitar playing. While there are many approaches to doing this, today we'll just be focusing on playing the same melody in octaves to achieve the effect of call and response.
Welcome to 'Fingerstyle For The World', my online lesson series where I strive to help guitarists around the world become better musicians. Let's delve right into our musical concept for today: Call and Response.
Before You Begin:
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Musical Concept: Call and Response
The concept of call and response is as self-explanatory as it's name: there should be a call, followed by an answer. But what does this look like musically?
First of all, the call and response should obviously be musically related to one another. To simplify things, this relationship can be achieved by two approaches: contrast or similarity.
If we're using contrast, the call could be an ascending melody while the call descends right after it. If we're using similarity, the call and response could have a similar (or the same) melodic outline.
Now here's the catch: I kind of lied about there being two different approaches. The reality is that both the call and response have to be simultaneously similar and contrasted from one another. That's what ties them together as a singular unit, without them simply being repetitions of each other.
Now to illustrate this, we're going to look at a musical example.
Musical Example: Lord Most High
The song 'Lord Most High' captures a beautiful use of call and response in the verse, where the melody is first heard in a low register and immediately followed by the same melody an octave above.
By playing the same melody in different octaves, we achieve the following criteria:
This concept is simple but beautiful when put into practice, and practicing playing the same melody in different octaves on the guitar will enable you to unlock the various registers throughout the entire fretboard.
Let's try it out with a musical exercise!
Musical Exercise: Playing in Octaves
In this exercise we're playing a simple melody, in two different octaves. To make sense of it, take a look at these two string relationships:
The D (4th) string is an octave + a major second below the high E (1st) string.
The A (5th) string is an octave + a major second below the B (2nd) string.
This means that ANY melody we play using the D and A strings can be exactly replicated an octave above on the high E and B strings by simply shifting the fretting positions down two frets.
Try out the exercise and follow along with the video to see what I mean!
Notice how the same melody is repeated an octave above just by shifting it down two frets! The examples given are really simple of course, but you can do this with any melody.
Tips and Conclusion
As you practice playing call and response in octaves, always try to listen to the melodies you're playing. Remember, to develop your musicianship you need to appreciate and hear the melodies as being an octave apart.
You should NOT conceptualise it as follows: the higher melody is the same fingering position just two frets below played on the higher B string.
That's a mechanical approach and won't do anything to your growth as a musician. Instead appreciate the musical content of what you are playing and use the technical knowledge as a means to executing the music you've already heard and conceptualised in your creative mind.
With that, enjoy practicing!
Do leave a comment with any questions you might have and I'll do my best to answer them. Follow along my musical journey on my YouTube, Instagram, Facebook, and website neilchanmusic.com as I share new music videos and lessons on those very music videos, each and every week, to help you along your own musical journey.
By Neil Chan