Michael Gungor is Christian music's most exciting artist today. I love his group's music, creativity, groove, and passion. We are performing their song "People of God" this Sunday at Pinelake. Here are some observations.
"People of God" is recorded in the key of D. The form is pretty straight ahead:
Intro - V1 - V2 - C - V3 - C - B - interlude - C - C (tags)
The intro starts with the bell-like piano part along with actual bells (glockenspiel) playing a descending line matched by a cleanish electric guitar with eighth note delay. Going back and forth between the I and iii chords, it creates a hopeful, yet haunting vibe to my ears. The music is speaking to me: there is this reality we could experience – this world we could live in – if only the people of God would rise up.
The verse falls with a super groovy minor vibe. The acoustic guitar will determine the success of these sections (notes on this below).
Overall, it is important to note how open the verse vibe is. The drum pattern is simple, the acoustic guitar defines the groove, and there is a simple clean electric riff throughout with eighth-note delay. Notice how the electric lines stay out of the way of the melody and lyric – it's as if the electric is there to introduce each line of the verse.
The chorus drives much harder with a straight ahead rock groove. At the end of the chorus, there is a nice dynamic break – everyone out and the piano feature going back to the verse.
There is a nice moment in bar seven of each chorus. The bass plays the root of the vi chord, but then goes up and matches the melody singing "the world" on beat two. It happens again on beat four, except this time the bass is joined by the electric guitar. This adds a lot of passion to the lyric and shouldn't be overlooked.
The bridge makes a fantastic shift using the major III chord and a simple, but emphatic quarter note march as "tear down the walls" is sung.
Note that each chord here is given exactly an eighth note value followed by an eighth rest (except for the lead electric line ringing overhead). This is particularly heard in the drums as he closes the hi hat on each upbeat.
In addition to the major III chord, there is more chromatic harmony to drive home the drama. The bridge ends with the major IV chord resolving to a minor iv as the lead parts play a beautiful ascending melodic minor scale. To my ears, this creates an undeniable allusion to the Beatles.
The interlude coming out of the bridge falls back to the pretty piano part, but that piano part is quickly consumed by an irreverent build from the rest of the band featuring a 32nd note snare fill. The pretty piano part from the interlude stays in as a background element to the driving rock groove.
The drum fills setting up the ending tags are full of passion. The danger for drummers (or any instrumentalist) is always this: do not value passion over great time. Never attempt a fill you cannot execute with great time.
First, there are two acoustic tracks on the recording: the basic groove track (panned left) and a lead acoustic track (panned right). Check the two out.
When playing live with one acoustic, stick with the rhythm part (left side).
Verse Acoustic Groove
The acoustic drives the groove. Play the rhythm acoustic part again (left side). Notice it is a two-bar pattern.
The strumming pattern for the first bar is a traditional dotted 8th note strumming pattern where the accents fall as such:
d u d u d u d u d u d u d u d u
In bar two, the pattern is much straighter, accenting the beats.
He is playing a Bm shape on his lower strings. The voicing does not change between the vi and the I chord. So, in the key of D, the Bm shape ringing over the D chord is desirable.
Electric and Acoustic Working Together
This next audio clip is the verse, but played out of phase. It allows us to really hear how the acoustic and electric tracks are working together. For instance, at the end of the verse in bars seven and eight, the acoustic plays diamonds (whole notes) and allows space for the electric track.
Bass and Electric Lick in the Chorus
There are a couple of electric tracks going on in the chorus. One is driving with in the higher register with 8th note down strokes. Another is doing the same in the lower register. In bar seven they come together and play the octave line with the bass on beat four.
Bass Guitar Notes
The bass work on this track is very tasty. More than anything else, I'd suggest you take note of what he doesn't play.
Each verse is a little different, but verse three is particularly nice – mixing a bit of modern groove with the McCartney-esque melodic sensibilities.
Pick Your Spots
While the bass takes plenty of tasty liberty in the verses, the choruses are pretty straight ahead, matching the kick drum and driving home the groove.
Also take note of the end of the bridge: when the tonality is shifting and the guitars are playing their melodic minor line, the bass does his job: he lays the foundation staying on the root of the chord.
Beginnings and Endings
Listen to the previous example again at 0:09 the bass holds out the I chord for eight counts. He holds this for two bars, even as the piano goes to the IV chord. But notice at 0:15 when the bass mutes exactly on beat one with the bell of the cymbal. This is the type of thing that separates pros and amateurs.
This bass track, from start to finish is a great testament to this:
When creating groove, where you end your note in time is just as important as where you begin.
"People of God" is a demonstration of how a drummer serves the song. The playing is simple, dynamic, groovy, and full of passion.
- The verse groove is super simple: kick on beats one and three. That's it. You lay the foundation for everyone else to groove around. A great example of serving others in the band.
- At the chorus the groove switches to a "one and, three and" groove. He's consistent every bar. I love it.
- Notice in the bridge how he accentuates the 8th note drive by closing the hi hat on every upbeat.
- Lastly, the passion created by his use of 32nd notes towards the end is super nice. Only emulate if you can do it without sacrificing the time.
I'm not going to say much about the piano part, because I have created a video and a full transcription for pianists.
I've also created charts and a loop that are free to anyone that would like to use them.
And just when you thought I couldn't say any more about this song...I have more. In a few days I'll post more on the Beatles influence in this song.