We are opening Sunday at Pinelake with "Lift the Name".
The song is pretty straight ahead. It is essentially made up of the 1, 4, 5, and 6- chords* – basic pop-rock stuff. What makes the song interesting is its use of riffs, syncopation, pushes, and other rhythmic devices to create drive and intensity.
Syncopation and Pushes
Syncopation is a "disturbance or interruption of the regular flow of rhythm." It's the placement of chord changes, accents, or lyrics where they wouldn't normally occur.
The melody of "Lift the Name" is full of syncopation. In the chorus, the lyrics "wor-ship are Yours" and "sing for joy" are all landing on upbeats.
When a lyric or chord change happens just before a major beat, like on the "and" of beat four, we call that form of syncopation a push.
When playing "Lift the Name", the undisciplined band will catch some or all of these pushes with the vocal. As counterintuitive as it often seems, this can hurt the groove.
Syncopation works best when the beat is well defined.
Lay It Down
To make this point, let’s examine how New Life’s band approached the chorus. Check out the drum part.
Could the part be any simpler? He is solely laying down one and three in the kick, with two and four on the snare. The drums do an emphatic job of defining the beats, offering contrast to the syncopated vocal. This is precisely the reason the syncopation feels so great. A great example of the drummer serving his/her teammates.
The bass and piano join the drummer in laying down the foundation for everyone else.
Creating the Interest and Supporting the Vocal
Now, listen to the rhythm electric player. He catches most of the hits with the vocals.
It is fine and good to have one or two folks in the band playing with the vocal – you just want to find the right balance between the foundation and the interest.
In the next clip, hear how the electric guitar sounds soloed against the piano.
The guitar is catching the “and of four” while the piano is landing the same chord on the downbeat of the following bar. This is not the right balance. These two parts soloed sound wrong. But listen to the full mix again.
Everything together works.
Nice Subtleties in the Guitar and Bass Performance
Check out the bass player during the verse and pre chorus.
- The stream of 8th notes in the verse are tight and certain. He slightly emphasizes the beats. Had he overdone this emphasis, it would disrupt the aggressive drive the groove has.
- Notice he switches to quarter notes at the pre chorus (0:07). These quarter notes open and relax the fast and furious groove.
- This ultimately makes the chorus punch harder (when he goes back to the driving 8ths).
- I like his use of slides in the pre chorus (0:09 and 0:11). He only slides every other chord change. It is as if he is acknowledging the vocal pushes while still defining the beat. It gives the vibe of pushes without the entire band actually pushing the beat. This is very musical and fits perfectly with the vocal line.
Now check out the rhythm electric part at the same spot. He too is using slides.
He strums beat four, moves his voicing on the and-of-four (pushing beat one), and re-strikes the strings on the downbeat. Once again, like the bass, it pushes the groove ahead without the band doing a full push.
Executing the riffs, pushes, and groove is critical to success with “Lift the Name”.
When approaching this or any song, always consider what your role is to the greater picture. Are you the drummer or piano player laying it down so others can have fun? Or are you like the rhythm electric supporting the syncopated pushes with the singers?
* "Lift the Name" is entirely made of 1,4,5 and 6- chords with the exception of a 2- chord in the pre chorus.
 The NPR® Classical Music Companion: Terms and Concepts from A to Z by Miles Hoffman, published by Houghton Mifflin Company. Copyright © 1997 by Miles Hoffman and National Public Radio. All rights reserved.