Les Paul was, undeniably, a profound and influential guitarist and arranger. A less commonly known facet of his work was his groundbreaking experiments with overdubbing, also known as ‘sound on sound.’ These were some of the first glimpses into the practice we now call, ‘multitrack recording.’
In his innovative course, Sound On Sound, Jason Loughlin celebrates Les Paul’s legacy. His interactive curriculum allows you to dive into the key creative process behind layering guitar parts to create a full composition.
Here are eight free video guitar lessons from the course. For the full course, check out Jason Loughlin’s Sound On Sound on TrueFire!
Les Paul Guitar Lesson – Arrangement Approaches & Form: Overview
Before we listen to this Les Paul inspired arrangement of “After You’ve Gone”, I want to talk about the form and some arrangement concepts. I remember asking Les about arranging when I was a kid and he gave me some of the most useful advice I ever received. Les loved to write things down. He said he would sketch the shape of the arrangement on a yellow legal pad. A 20,000 feet above view of a tune’s form, how it would develop, where it would arc and so on.
“After You’ve Gone” is a A1-A2 form. My arrangement is Intro-Head In-Solo-Head Out -Outro. I’ve put in some stops and hits along the way but they don’t effect the progression.
Keep these things in mind when listening and arranging your own tunes. If one voice is in a high register, the second should be in the low, If one voice is very busy the other should be simple and lyrical, if a voice in harmonically complex the other should be simple. Compliment. No one voice should the center of attention from beginning to end. Pass the focus around. You can support a melody by padding underneath creating a bed of sound, harmonizing the melody or playing a counter melody. That’s a completely different melody that compliments the original melody.
Here are some ideas specific to Les’ arranging. Les is trying to recreate a big band or orchestra so his guitars are imitating trumpet hits, sax line, trombone sections… Create a conversation between voices. Because we’re trying to create different voices all in Mono with have to have different registers of the instrument and different timbres or guitar tones so that they can be distinguished from each other. This is why he altered the recording tape speeds, used different capisitors and different echoes. Give yourself room to develop but don’t be afraid to be indulgent. Les is more…sorry.
Now let’s listen to this arrangement.
Les Paul Guitar Lesson – Rhythm Guitar Part: Performance
In this performance, I’m going to play through the A1 and A2 section just to demonstrate the feel and voicings. I’ve included a chart for the entire arrangement so you can play along with the master recording.
Les Paul Guitar Lesson – Bass Guitar Part: Performance
In this performance, I’ll playing two times through the form. The first time I’ll play with a two beat feel and the second time through I’ll play with a double time feel. I’ve also include a chart of the full performance in case you want to play along with the master track.
Les Paul Guitar Lesson – Percussion and Other Sounds: Performance
In this performance, I’ll be playing one time through the form. I’m primarily using the rhythm of four quarter notes but occasionally I use two eighths on the backbeat as a fill.
Les Paul Guitar Lesson – Melody Guitar: Head In: Performance
Over the A1 section, I’m playing the head in pretty simple. Over the A2, I’ll be adding some simple embellishment like half step approach bends, trills, Bigsby dips and rakes.
Les Paul Guitar Lesson – Melody Guitar: Solo Section: Performance
In this performance of the second time through the form I’m taking a solo. Because the solo is busy I’ll later be supporting it with simple padding parts. You’ll notice over the A2 section I leave a long space. I did this because I wanted to use the A2 section to introduce a new melody and for it to have an orchestrated or ensemble feel. When I come back in, it’s less of a solo and more of a part intended to work with other parts. I’m passing melodies around so your focus doesn’t stay on one part. Some of the licks I’m playing here will eventually be harmonized by other parts.
Les Paul Guitar Lesson – Harmony Two: Solo Section: Performance
The harmony to the cascading effect is acting as a bed of support to the melody. I’m letting all of these arpeggios ring into each other. The A2 section will feature a palm muted melody that basically outlines triad shapes with a simple half step approach. I’ll add a harmony to the tremolo picked melody and the diminished arpeggios. Finally, I’ll add a lick that will bridge the solo section and the head out.
Les Paul Guitar Lesson – Double Speed Part One: Head Out: Performance
The part starts on the G7 at the end of the A1 section with a triplet scale run. This will connect into a counter melody for a few bars. I’ll double a section the main melody where every part finally plays together so I have a high octave poking through my ensemble. Then, it’s back to another counter melody. When we get to the outro, I’m doubling the melody again. I already have this octave represented in another part but having the different timbre from recording it at half speed adds something. It would be like having a flute and a sax play the same pitch. Two different instruments together make a new sound.
Digging these free Les Paul guitar lessons? Check out Jason Loughlin’s full course, Sound On Sound.