Chicken In The Corn
Having just sold a couple of kidneys and bought a lovely new acoustic guitar, I was reminded by a YouTube video that a quality instrument does not the great song make!
If you've not seen it yet and have a few minutes to spare, check out Brushy One String playing his song Chicken In The Corn. It's a great example of musicality and groove being far more important than anything else. The dude is playing an average at best classical guitar with just one string, and he rocks!
How? Food for thought this month is exploring exactly why something like this works and the lessons we can all learn from it.
There are three main elements that really lift this song into something pretty special, and helped the video get over 16m views on YouTube and a whole lot of publicity. These elements all have everything and nothing to do with guitar - for many guitarists!
Let's Let's start with what should be the priority for every musician, the song. It's super catchy – the melody of the chorus is super catchy, fun, repeated a lot and memorable. The rapping parts tell a cool story, and the structure is textbook pop, very well arranged to make the most of the simple parts.
I think it does us all good to stay aware of the song – great guitar playing in a rubbish song is unlikely to reach many people or stir many souls! The guitar is there to compliment the song, even on a guitar instrumental – it's just the tool to express the melody and/or harmony! It's also worth staying aware of the importance of an arrangement and the way a great producer can use the arrangements of parts to really help the song. These days many people are working on their own productions without the benefit of a producer, and I think it's vital that these people particularly, learn to arrange and layer parts to help the song – and this is best learned by listening to albums that move you and deliberately listening out for the arrangement and how it's working.
The second big element in the song is the groove and this, of course, is essential for most all music but particularly important for simple groove-based music, obviously. This song has a strong backbeat that Brushy gets by hitting the guitar but pay attention to where and how he adds 'drum fills' and too. But groove is intrinsically deeper than that, and he's got it going on – it feels good.
Developing one's groove is something that will not only make you feel better as a musician but will earn respect from musicians and punters alike! Drummers, bass players and great programmers (like Dr Dre) spend countless hours working on and developing groove, and it's something overlooked by many guitar players. This one would be a great example – try playing the simple Chicken In The Corn riff and make it groove and feel so good that anyone listening is infected with the groove – you'll know when it's happening because you'll feel great in yourself. Strive to have that feeling whenever you play!
The last part of this viral video hit is the story. In these days of short attention spans, fake news and viral possibilities, the story aspect can really grab people. In this case, it appears that everything is as it seems (from Brushy's web site and some casual but not deep investigation), but the Seasick Steve case of complete fabrication is a great lesson on how people love a great back story – even if it's not true.
I'm not saying for a second that we should all go around making up stories about where we're from or whatever, but if you're courting mass attention (most songwriters?) then be aware of your story and if it might be interesting to the general population. If you've got something good going on musically then, a great back story can really help get your attention. Something that PR companies have been using for decades of course but again, these days many musicians do their own marketing (as well as everything else) so just be aware - pay attention to what grabs your attention, and think about how you can use these things to help your own career along.
Groove and time feel are things I've raved about plenty in these columns but thinking outside the usual guitar box into songs, arrangements and marketing might be things that help you make a career out of a hobby. Safe travels!
- LESSON STEPS -