How Does the Piece ‘Ocean’ by John Butler Use Guitar Techniques to Appeal Popular to the 21st Century Audience? Essay

How does the piece ‘Ocean’ by John Butler use guitar techniques to appeal popular to the 21st century audience? The piece ‘Ocean’ by John Butler appeals popular to the 21st century audience through his variety of guitar techniques. Butler uses an 12 stringed semi-acoustic guitar with open C tuning and Capo on the 4th fret giving an open chord of E Major. The song is through composed and consists of several sections that demonstrate guitar techniques and musical concepts. 0-27sec:

The introduction has a piano volume level with sustained power chords (A5, B5, G#5, E5) layered behind the C# melody. Butler uses the guitar techniques of hammer ons, pull offs, finger picking, slides and tapping. These techniques are continually used throughout the song but are more prominent in the introduction however, tapping is only used in this section. They create the feeling and tone colour for the song which is happy, joyful, light and mellow. The pitch of this section is a higher melody with lower chordal accompaniment.

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The repetition of the notes G#, E, D#, F# and B reinforce the tone colour of the song and are repeated throughout the introduction giving the audience a taste of the song to come however, these notes are also repeated in similar patterns through certain sections in the song which gives the audience a sense of melody or relation even though there is not set melody or riff. This section has a homophonic texture which is successfully being achieved on the same instrument making it a unique technique.

Due to the tuning simple power chords are simpler and easier to obtain by tapping then they would be with standard tuning. The texture is very thin as only one instrument is being used and is being finger picked and tapped. It is concluded by a decrescendo which leads into the next section. 28-1. 18sec: There is a sudden change of tempo from 75bpm to 88bpm and also a change in sense of melody. Guitar techniques used still include finger picking, pull-offs, hammer-ons and slides however, bending is added in this section as shown in the excerpt:

This is the first inclusion of a bend which when heard creates emphasis on the D#. Throughout this section there is also a lot of musical phrasing which sound almost like improvised melodic fills. The phrasing acts as a response to the repeated call: Through the use of call and response different dynamics and expressive techniques become easier to incorporate such as the slow strum of the E and B noted chord, bending of D# and also use of chords such as the G# and B noted chord as phrasing. As this section progresses on it is obvious that Butler stays within the C# minor scale- C#, D#, E, F#, G#, A and B.

These are the only notes he uses and although in minor he manages to make the song sound cheerful, upbeat and happy. This section also ends with a decrescendo which enhances the next tempo change. 1. 19-1. 39sec: There is a subito allegro where the tempo changes again from 88bpm to 132bpm. The guitar techniques of pull-offs and hammer-ons become a lot faster and advanced, sometimes pulling off and hammering on 4 or 5 times in a row: This shows how the piece progresses, slowly becoming more advanced and repeating certain sections of runs from the introduction allowing the audience to hear relations.

The majority of notes are semi-quavers which contribute to the staccato heard throughout the piece. This creates a more upbeat, presto vibe. The tone colour remains happy and joyful but has built into more such as sharp, quick and stronger. Also the entire song is very syncopated this section is more dominant in syncopation as it is faster and requires precise timing and rhythm. Butler also uses his foot in the actual recording to give it a obvious beat and to add percussion. This helps the syncopation and keeps the timing and rhythm precise.

The pitch is this section remains in the same register, therefore isn’t greatly varied however, the movement of the melody although because of staccato seem like leaps, are actually gradual and move up and down the C# minor scale. 1. 40-2. 23sec: This section is more chordal compared to the previous sections which creates changes in volume and hence dynamics. The chords are more aggressively played and create contrast in comparison to the prominence of finger picking in previous sections. This changes the tone colour again to something more aggressive and what seems to be building up as the song progresses.

The call and response technique is also repeated with the chords above being one of the responses however the call is a variation of the first call in previous section 28-1. 18sec. It uses the same notes in different patterns, rhythms and orders which creates a similarity for the audience to compare with but also a technique. Through this technique the audience become more familiarised but it’s not a repeated riff therefore making it exactly what Butler hoped to achieve, a variation, creating similarities and differences for the human ear to encounter.

Although finger picking is continued throughout this section, it is done so more aggressively. There is also a country type run that is repeated 3 times throughout this section. This creates a hook and allows this piece to appeal to more than one genre. This section concludes with a run or lowering pitch and a repeat of open notes of the E Major open chord created by the capo: Each section leads into the next and by this excerpt it obvious that although the section started heavy it has lowered down to lead into the next section which enhances dynamics and allows the over powering chords to easily start the next section. 2. 4-2. 49sec: The chords create a more aggressive tone colour and end abruptly to create dynamical changes between chords and finger picking. This section is more chordal than any previous sections and is a constant contrast between mellow, light finger picking and aggressive, heavy chords. Throughout the song there is a constant feeling that it is building up for something, as the sections go on more chords appear and thicker texture slowly builds. The majority of the chords and consonant which help maintain the overall song’s tone colour of joyful, happy but oppose the light mellow tone colour first heard in the introduction.

Although the chords throughout the song seem simple to play when attempted to name they become difficult so the chords used throughout this piece aren’t traditional chords but very complex. 2. 50-3. 32sec: This section is a suspense build up to the next section which is the breakdown. It repeats the same chord progression 4 times with the first 2 finger picked and the next 2 chordal however, each time has a variation. COMPARED TO 3. 33-3. 52sec: This section is the section the entire song has been leading up to since the introduction. It is the loudest, most chordal section of the song.

It has a homophonic texture with a low pitched chords compared to the high pitched melody. The melody has a lot of tremolo as it is played of the same instrument as the chords so due to the chords being aggressively fast played the melody and notes also are chosen to be. The short melody is repeated over this section as shown in the excerpt: This section is the only section throughout the song that has no finger picking and only chords. The tone colour is hence greatly varied into a more heavy, still joyful but dramatic atmosphere. 3. 53-4. 12sec: It returns to light, mellow finger picking after the heavy chordal breakdown.

This enhances the contrast that has occurred throughout the song. The finger picking however is changed to a much higher pitch which allows a much easier les abrupt step down from the breakdown. There is then a gradual crescendo leading into the next section. 4. 13-4. 30sec: This section repeats the call off the 1. 40-2. 23sec section and a similar response, however it has variations. This section repeats the call and response with again slight variations within the section. It also keeps the feeling of questioning whether or not in was a melodic improvisation. 4. 31-4. 51sec:

The last section is a syncopated chordal outro. Butler makes a different chordal progression that was only for the outro which isn’t common in a piece, especially his pieces. He has a strong use of the open chord and a very abrupt ending as seen in the excerpt: It can be concluded that John Butler’s piece ‘Ocean’ uses guitar techniques to appeal popular to the 21st century audience as he takes the simplest of guitar techniques and builds upon them. He uses two tempo changes to enhance his guitar techniques and shows the audience that through the musical concepts he can make his music popular to almost anyone.


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