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rose62

Page's method of composition

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Has Page ever been asked in an interview about his technique for song writing?  I've begun tuning several of my guitars in open tuning and find it so much easier that way to come up with hooks for tunes.  I'm pretty sure that there are a number of Zep tunes played in open tuning, especially those featuring slide. But I wonder if he primarily wrote songs while using alternate tuning. 

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2 hours ago, JTM said:

DADGAD.

Which was invented by one of the players who Page lifted from the most: Davy Graham.

Besides the Stairway to Heaven intro being lifted from Graham’s rendition of “Cry Me a River”, Page took Graham’s playing and turned it into White Summer, Four Sticks, Over the Hills and Far Away, Kashmir...

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7 hours ago, pluribus said:

Which was invented by one of the players who Page lifted from the most: Davy Graham.

Besides the Stairway to Heaven intro being lifted from Graham’s rendition of “Cry Me a River”, Page took Graham’s playing and turned it into White Summer, Four Sticks, Over the Hills and Far Away, Kashmir...

Yes indeed, that's correct. Everybody borrows from somewhere else.

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Open tunings opened up so many doors for me. Especially Open G (KEITH!!!). I dare you not to have fun with it. I take the Low E string off and the chords just slam! 

From another thread here.....

 

Screen Shot 2020-06-29 at 6.46.07 AM.png

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Page also stole/borrowed greatly from Bert Jansch. Black Waterside anyone?

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Posted (edited)

Despite all this, by far the majority of Zep songs were written and played in Standard Tuning.
Your choice of tuning can greatly influence the overall sounds and textures of whatever it is you compose, but using a tuning on a guitar is not a method of composition, it's just the tool you use to express your musical ideas.
In the early days of Zep, Page was obviously listening to other music voraciously - early blues, the folkiier musicians of the time as well as current bands of the time - and a lot of what he listened to informed his musical ideas (and his choice of tunings).  His method of composition was pretty much like everyone else, ever:  Listen to the stuff going on around you, stick it in a big mixing pot, add the filter of your own taste and preferences and see what comes out the other end.  There's no 'trick' or magic(k) to it.  Except, perhaps, the application of your own musical character to make all of the things you have referenced distinctively your own.
He also had access to another great compositional tool - great collaborators who a) didn't necessarily listen to the same things he did (adding different influences can change the way you approach playing literally anything you hear), and very importantly b) came up with brilliant ideas of their own.  If you come up with an idea, and run it through that particular filter you often find your own idea gets enhanced by the application of other peoples ideas, and their interpretation of your original idea.  I'm sure I recall members of the band saying in interviews how much material came out of the improvised jams (and the way the band interacted in those jams), that happened when they were playing live - one of the best compositional tools there is!

Edited by woz70

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Yes, to the previous post.  The one with probably the most structured musical knowledge was John Paul Jones whom Page had worked with in recording sessions.  Jimmy may have recognized Jones' talents back then. The main asset that JPJ had in Zeppelin was his ability to take the sounds he heard from his  band mates and come up with an “arrangement”.

The reason that I state this is that many of Zeppelin's songs almost have a “Classical” feel to them which upon repeated listenings do take on a really symphonic feel.  Just as a well-rehearsed symphony orchestra would do, Zeppelin used the “light and shade” approach to their lengthy hits songs.  Page, himself, described his work into that phrase.
 

ADK-Zeppy

 

 

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Posted (edited)

Going again to JPJ, starting in the studio, Page could not have achieved what he did without JPJ. Each member totally indispensable, sure. But staring maybe 10-15 years ago, It really started to be known that stuff claimed by Page as his,

JPJ actually contributed far more than is known. After Zep, Page had two things disappear which really showed up in his solo career. Bonham is the first thing, Bonham laid down a huge bed for Page to play in. Page struggled with this pretty

much till the time until his by default retirement after the last Zep show in 07'. Then JPJ would fill in the blanks for many songs, and according  to many sources Page rarely walked into the studio with a completel composition.

Tunings are great creative tools, and I knew and played all the Zep tunes with tunings. The big problem is having to haul 

around 5-6 guitars because of the tunings. As far as composition, JIimmy said he talked or questioned many musicians

about their creative process. He found out there isn't any set way. And Jimmy has said the same......no real rules. And yes

Page mainly played an acoustic at home, often in alternate tunings.

Edited by Mithril46
Wrong spelling

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On 6/28/2020 at 9:11 PM, pluribus said:

Which was invented by one of the players who Page lifted from the most: Davy Graham.

Besides the Stairway to Heaven intro being lifted from Graham’s rendition of “Cry Me a River”, Page took Graham’s playing and turned it into White Summer, Four Sticks, Over the Hills and Far Away, Kashmir...

No wait.................that was Randy California!  :-)

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On 6/29/2020 at 6:49 AM, pageluvva said:

Open tunings opened up so many doors for me. Especially Open G (KEITH!!!). I dare you not to have fun with it. I take the Low E string off and the chords just slam! 

From another thread here.....

 

Screen Shot 2020-06-29 at 6.46.07 AM.png

+ Wonderful One

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16 hours ago, sixpense said:

+ Wonderful One

☝️(see above). 

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On 6/28/2020 at 9:11 PM, pluribus said:

Besides the Stairway to Heaven intro being lifted from Graham’s rendition of “Cry Me a River”, Page took Graham’s playing and turned it into White Summer, Four Sticks, Over the Hills and Far Away, Kashmir...

Thanks for this insight.  I heard Bert Jansch's Black Waterside and it's definitely the original Black Mountain Side. One thing that I find curious about your comment is the inclusion of Four Sticks. I don't see how that fits. Could you expand on that some?

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11 hours ago, Christopher Lees said:

Thanks for this insight.  I heard Bert Jansch's Black Waterside and it's definitely the original Black Mountain Side. One thing that I find curious about your comment is the inclusion of Four Sticks. I don't see how that fits. Could you expand on that some?

 

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Well, Davy Graham also had a bit "dark" feeling for that one. Somehow it reminded me of some Cream-stuff too, or am I just imagining...?😗

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Getting back to the topic of Jimmy Page's composing style, I think he came up with A, B and C sections for songs on his acoustic and put them on tape to be worked out later. If you listen to the bootlegs of his personal tapes where he was working on Ten Years Gone or Down By the Seaside or even the Rover you can hear that approach being used. Jimmy would record any idea that he thought could be used in a song somewhere down the line and he kept his library of riffs and parts handy for when it came time to record.  He had the different sections of Stairway recorded like that and later on pieced them all together and refined them.

Jimmy wrote most of the first album. The blues songs were covers so composition doesn't really come into the equation, but songs like Communication Breakdown and Good Times Bad Times required real composition. CB is an A, B song with two parts while GTBT is A, B and C. Jimmy wrote the lyrics and understood how a song was put together after working in the studio for 3 years.

Jimmy also understood the song writing in an intuitive way. I remember reading about recording D'yer Maker. He realized at the end of each verse (on the F and G chords) there was an opportunity for "a moment" as he put it. He understood that songs needed "a moment" or some "moments." I don't think we can call all such "moments" hooks because the example from Dyer Maker is certainly not a hook. It's that buildup of reverse arpeggios over the F and G chords ("Oh! Baby I love you") that creates his "moment", as he puts it. I think this would come out during the recording and production phase of a song rather than in its initial conception.

Another technique Jimmy used to compose was to hide his sources. In other words, use a song that you love as a framework and fill in the details with your own musical character and ability. This can be done to a greater or lesser extent. If we look at Since I've Been Loving you and compare it to Moby Grape's "Never"

We can see that the feel of the song was taken as inspiration. "Hey, let's write a song like this and capture this mood our own way."

We know all the haters never stop calling Zeppelin ripp-off artists, but let's remember we are talking about Jimmy Page's composing style here, and part of his style was to basically remake what he liked into his own tune. Some songs were too close to the original and they got sued, while others are less obvious. Jimmy would take the original tunes and change them just enough to be original. He would know where to add the required "moments" that make the song exiting and memorable. He would leave room for the other members of the band to function according to their own tastes but inside this song framework. Allowing them to do that made the songs further removed from their original sources and allowed the musicians to breathe their own life, style and signature characteristics into the songs, making the Zeppelin Songs.

We also know that Jimmy liked to go out in the woods and spend time in nature, removed from the hustle and bustle, bringing his acoustic guitar along. He would develop nice ideas and share them with Plant who would then come up with a melody and some lyrics. Perhaps Jimmy already had melodies incorporated into some of his ideas though and Plant would just come up with lyrics or make suggestions about going to different parts.

Another thing Jimmy did, and I think this was a little bit later on in Zeppelin, was to simply go into the studio and start laying down guitar tracks. Then he would build on those tracks by overdubbing harmonies or other parts and just let his creative juices run. Eventually, these riffs and layers of guitar would shape themselves into songs and I think this is how most of Presence was written.

Something else to consider is Jimmy's overall perspective on the music scene at the time. When he was touring in the States with the Yardbirds, he paid close attention to what the underground scene wanted and how it was developing and which way it was trending. I read in his biography where he talked about his experience listening to FM radio in America and how it was different than in England. He talked about how the kids really liked the rave-up sections of the Yardbird's tunes and how the FM stations were really progressive. He got the distinct notion from these observations that he knew exactly what the next big thing was going to be, and he wanted to deliver it ahead of the trend so he could be there first. This is why he wanted total artistic control of the recording and production and why Peter Grant had to negotiate that into the deal. Page had real insight into where the underground scene was headed and wrote music to satisfy what he felt would be the demand.

He was right!
His vision for what American audiences were soon to demand was right on the money. They wanted something faster, edgier, dramatic, exciting and different. It was time for a change. All of this also informed Jimmy's composing style because he wrote what he thought the people wanted to hear. He said, "I think music is going to go in this direction, so let's write songs that anticipate that trend" and he did that.

Let's bear in mind the distinction between composing a song and producing one. To compose a song you need a few parts and a melody with some lyrics. To produce it, you need to decide how it will be arranged, which instruments to use, how to mix it, how to add "moments" and so on, until it is polished and ready for the radio. Jimmy excelled in that department but it's a little different than composing.

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Guest WD52

I was going to say Page composed by listening to Davey Graham, Bert Jansch and John Renbourn and then building from how they played and tuned their guitars. But I see that point has been mostly explored earlier on the thread. But I will reiterate how much Black Mountain Side is a complete steal/homage....

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