Hey everybody! Julian Michael here. I’m a 23 year-old student, guitarist, producer, composer from Montgomery, Alabama. My good friend Dan asked me to give a short breakdown of a cover video I did of D’Angelo’s “Another Life” from his newly released Black Messiah album (which I highly recommend!) Check out Voodoo and Brown Sugar as well for great examples of the style of guitar playing we’ll be talking about.
The style really finds its roots in quartet gospel where the guitar is the most essential instrument in the ensemble. Look up and study Chalmers “Spanky” Alford (R.I.P.) while you’re at it!
In short terms, he was a very accomplished gospel guitarist and one of the first players to combine that style with other genres! Many consider him to be the father of this whole style as it applies to R&B and soul music. He’s definitely been an influence on my influences like Jairus Mozee, Isaiah Sharkey, Rick Watford, Erick Walls, Jubu Smith, Kevin Wilson, Kerry Marshall, and countless more!
“Spanky” contributed in a monumental way to D’Angelo’s “Voodoo”, and in turn, influenced Isaiah Sharkey with “Black Messiah”. Both works are extremely remarkable and a master class in guitar studies!
I’ll be breaking down a few little nuggets from the video and you can follow along in the transcription (Dan is the man!) if you’d like! Hope this helps! D’Angelo guitar tab is definitely hard to come by!
Let’s start off by checking out the video:
(The entire transcription is available for download. See bottom of this article for details.
Available in Guitar Pro or PDF format.)
Bar 6-7: So here, I start with an Fm7 run with 16th note triplets. Felt like the natural thing to do coming off of the Aadd9 at the end of bar 5. This technique is really popular in R&B/gospel/soul playing. Its function for me here is kind of like an extension of a Bbm9 chord. I think it helps to think of it in those terms.
Bar 8: Introduction of 16th note swing patterns. I like to mimic D’Angelo’s background vocals in my playing at times. He uses this pattern oftentimes. Plus I think it sounds really cool over the Bmaj7. In combination with that pattern, it gives it an almost Bmaj7#11 feel.
Bar 16: Ebm7 run done in similar fashion to the run in bars 6 and 7 with a little rhythmic variation. Again, a staple of R&B/gospel/soul guitar. However, here, I used in context with a Bmaj7 chord. If you got Minor 9ths or Major 7ths, try it!
Bar 22-24: Just having a little fun over the Bsus chord! It’s a cool way to add flavor to it. Employing the 16th swing pattern again like earlier in bar 8. You’ll probably see this happen a few more times. Look for patterns!
Bar 25: Ah. I may have gotten carried away (lol!). Well the first thing I’d say is take this slow. It’s probably good practice for alternate picking and speed exercises with all the 32nd notes. But this is actually also a pretty popular nuance within this style of playing. You could reference big name players like Jairus Mozee, Isaiah Sharkey, or Erick Walls. It’s actually pretty popular. Just remember timing is key here. Metronome, metronome, metronome.
Bar 26: Coming off of that passage in bar 25, I felt that it’d be cool to resolve it with an A maj pentatonic run with a few grace notes added. Grace notes actually add a lot to the vibe of the playing and give the guitar a sort of singing quality, which I’m a big fan of, so I employ those a lot as well.
Bars 34-35: Here, I was actually trying to mimic the drummer’s hi-hat pattern. It’s a really interesting style of playing that lends itself to hip-hop (i.e. J Dilla, Slum Village, other artists in that vein). So I was just emphasizing that drunk type of feel. It’s also good for palm muting practice! Have fun with this one.
Bars 42 and 43: Just a diminished 7th chord run within a minor chord progression that resolves to a Bbminor9 lick much similar to the Em9 lick back in bar 25. This is also another key staple in this style, and the rewards of proper timing and placement of it are satisfying. Once again, see more of that style from Jairus Mozee and Isaiah Sharkey. They really got it down.
Hope this helps you guys! Much love!!
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Julian plans to move to LA to further study music production and film scoring, while continuing to work with music artists.
Follow Julian on Facebook or Instagram at @iamjulianmichael
Latest posts by Julian Michael (see all)
- D’Angelo Guitar Tab: Advanced R&B/Gospel/Soul Lesson – “Another Life” - December 22, 2014