New Song: La Grange for Guitar, Bass, and Singing

Posted on July 2, 2019

Let’s learn this blues-rock classic! Like many blues tunes, this song uses a “swing” rhythm (also known as a shuffle or boogie rhythm), which gives it a great bouncy feel. In swing rhythms, the off-beats aren’t half-way in between the main-beats: they come late, just before the next beat. Instead of an even 1-&-2-&-3-&-4, you’d count 1-&2-&3-&4. It’s great practice to simply count along with the song, and see if you can feel this swing rhythm.

“La Grange”, made famous by ZZ Top, is now available in Yousician for Guitar, Bass, and Singing.

La Grange for Guitar
by: James Neilson, Music Education Designer for Guitar

In the main riff exercise (level 4) you’ll play a slightly simplified version of the riff, using power chords and single notes. The main challenge will be the rhythm: it’s pretty quick so you’ll need to start slowly, but it repeats a lot so once it’s under your fingers the whole song will come together. This version sounds very close to the original, so it’s a handy one to remember when someone asks “so what can you play?”.

In the full rhythm exercise (level 7) you’ll play the original iconic rhythm guitar part, using power chords, double stops, and single notes. You can play the whole thing with a pick, but Billy Gibbons from ZZ Top used hybrid picking (pick + fingers) for many sections – it’s really handy when jumping quickly between strings. In this case, for the main riff you’d use the pick on the A-string, and middle-ring fingers for the D-G strings respectively.

The full rhythm & lead exercise (level 10) combines the iconic rhythm guitar parts with the equally iconic solos. It’s very useful to try hybrid picking (pick + fingers), which is a big part of Billy Gibbons’ playing style – it makes many of the riffs and licks much easier once you get it down. In Solo 2, in particular, you’ll hear lots of pinch harmonics, but rather than trying to copy them specifically it’s best to add them in as you feel.

La Grange for Bass
by: Vellu Halkosalmi, Music Education Designer for Bass and Ukulele

Basic bassline exercise (level 2): This simple, but fun song tests your ability to lock in with the drums, in a fast-paced shuffle groove. Listen carefully to the drums, and try to adjust your timing based more on what you hear, than based on what you see.

The main bassline exercise (level 4) has all the important stuff from the recorded bassline. Focus on steady, driving groove, perfectly locked in with the drums. This song is simple, so it’s a good vehicle to try out playing it by heart. You only need to remember the basic riff in two keys (A and C) plus the descending line during the interlude, and you’re good to go.

Full bassline exercise (level 8): This is how the bassline is played on the original recording. It’s simple, yes, but not as easy as you might think. It takes a while to get that fast shuffle groove going in perfect timing. Use alternate plucking and pay attention to the quality of each note. You want to be able to get the same quality of tone, volume, and timing with both index and middle fingers of your plucking hand.

La Grange for Singing
by: Sonja Patrikainen, Music Education Designer for Singing

In this song, the first verse is sung in a very low octave, after which the singer switches to sing the second verse from an octave higher. You can decide to sing in both octaves too or stick to the one octave that feels more comfortable for you for both verses.

If you choose to follow the guide vocals and sing in both octaves, keep an eye on yourself so you don’t start crunching from your stomach or tensioning your jaw. Lower notes are impossible to sing by pushing. Instead, try to let go of those tensions and practice the lowest notes through easing your voice into a relaxed vocal fry.

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