They are the exact same arrangement – same form, same groove, same tempo.
Personally, I think this is awesome. Apparently they are secure enough not to worry about such things. Or perhaps they were short on time. Who cares? They are legends, shaping the sound of worship music for an entire generation.
It's What We Do
This is a great study for us. In this instance we get to hear some of the most gifted, in-demand players in christian music do exactly what so many of us do every week: take the artist recording and duplicate it – same form, same groove, same tempo.
Breaking Down the Two Performances
I admire the musicians in both bands, but there can only be one favorite. In the battle of Tomlin vs. Redman, my preference goes to Redman. To be fair, they lived with the song several months longer than Tomlin's band.
ROUND 1: Intro / Verse 1 / Chorus 1
Tomlin's take is gentle and, to my ear feels a bit more suspenseful. The only consistent subdivision is created by acoustic guitar. The groove is created with the electric guitar riff. The only aggressive piece is the piano, and, I mean really, how aggressive can a piano be?
On Redman's recording, the electric guitars are more aggressive with the sustaining crunch chords. Jacob Arnold adds beats 1 & 3 to the drum pattern, and the groove is carried by the sixteenth-note subdivision created by pulsing synth. This feels a bit less suspenseful, a little more groovy.
ROUND 2: Verse 2 / Chorus 2
In verse two, the drums take over with the groove. Tomlin's recording features the drums, the guitars are mostly playing huge, sustaining power chords. This approach is good and feels great. Just not as great as Redman's take.
Redman's Verse 2
My first response when I heard this was we have to do it this way. This rocks really hard and feels amazing. Here's why:
The Setup: The chorus prior to verse 2 has a certain lift to it. The guitars are playing understated swells and the keyboard brings in a choir pad (singing "ah"). Nothing says transcendent like a choir pad.
The Delivery: But when we hit verse two, it all comes crashing back to earth with a wonderfully nasty guitar riff matching the drum groove. The riff that once was made of a fifth becomes an octave leap. It almost has the vibe of a European siren. The bass player also quotes parts of the octave riff. This makes it feel really aggressive.
THERE IS SO MUCH TO LEARN FROM IN VERSE 2
- The Bass: Notice that Jon Duke matches the first few notes of the guitar riff. But, throughout, he only plays beats "one and two". The note hangs on two for the rest of the bar. This keeps the sonic and rhythmic field open for the guitar and drum grooves. This is a great lesson in playing just enough, but not too much.
- The Drums: Like the bass, Jacob keeps the middle and end of each bar open. Also, his snare groove isn't as busy as Tomlin's. He is still letting the guitar carry the busier pattern. This is more understated and grooves harder.
- The Guitars: One guitar is laying into the huge, sustaining power chords. This is awesome. The other is playing the octave riff. Notice when he goes to the 4 chord (1:38), he doesn't play an octave, but rather a major 7th interval. This dissonance gives it the dirt we love.
- Overview: The take away here is that we have only a few parts going on here. The bass is selectively matching the kick and electric. There is no acoustic guitar in the mix. The electric riff is matched with what the drums are doing. Everything else is either playing whole notes (keys & power guitar) or every subdivision (tambourine). This is huge. You essentially have the melody (vocal), groove (bass and drums), and riff (guitar). Three parts total.
ROUND 3: Bridge ("We Welcome You With Praise")
This is such a great moment in the song. Redman's recording drives harder, but I wonder if Nockels mixes guitars on Tomlin's recording less aggressively to leave room for piano/keys and more audience response.
My only specific note involves the drums:
- As discussed in the previous post, the drums finally open to a straight backbeat (snare only on 2 & 4). Redman's drummer is more consistent in his kick drum pattern. I like this better – more consistency generally equals harder groove.
This is a great song, played by two great bands. There is a lot to learn by dissecting the music. Your biggest learning tool in this art form of modern music will always be your ears. Teach them to dissect the music. I'll try to help along the way.
What do you hear? What sticks out to you in listening to these performances or reading this post?