Usher “U Remind Me” Guitar Lesson
Welcome everyone, my name is David Toth. I’m a session guitarist and arranger from Hungary and I’m excited that Dan asked me to teach my J Dilla inspired guitar version of Usher’s “U Remind Me” on his blog.
- The transcription and practice backing track are available for download at the end of this article.
Usher guitar lessons, chords, and tabs are hard to find, so I’m happy to help. Let’s get started!
First, let’s start the lesson off by watching a quick run through of what we will be learning today. In the video I will play the song at normal tempo and also slow it down.
Usher U Remind Me Guitar Lesson Video
My cover starts with a riff that I am playing throughout the video as a chorus part. This riff has some interesting close interval voicings, which has been a popular topic among Youtubers asking for tabs. Well, I am going to give those tabs in this lesson, but since a lot of people are guessing where those jazzy voicings come from, I thought I would explain that first.
I think you will be surprised, but actually the jazzy voicings I created in this cover have nothing to do with theory. The original track has this very lick in the intro, however played only once, but it’s there, from 0:06-0:08. It’s basically the flute and the strings playing two separate melodies that sound like a cluster kind of voicing together for a moment. I found this little lick very interesting and built my version around it.
The J Dilla Signature Sound
The rest of the track is pretty much the same as the original, except for one thing: the second beat in the second measure is always even in my version, instead of the dotted quarter in the original. However, even though the notes are close to identical, the feel is quite different. By utilizing this even quarter note feel, I was able to transform this classic R&B track into a more modern Neo Soul groove with a J Dilla vibe. If you check out some other popular J Dilla tracks you will notice the even quarter note rhythmic feel throughout his compositions, which was a part of his signature sound.
How Tempo Affects Your Rhythmic Style – Laid Back vs On Point
Let me take a brief moment and discuss how tempo affects my rhythmic playing. The thing is that I deal with rhythms freely. By this I mean when I am playing something at a faster tempo I tend to play more even rhythms and with a more laid back approach. Vice versa, when I’m playing slower tempos, I tend to play more on point, and use more complex rhythms.
As a guitarist there are some tools to accomplish this. First of all, it’s all about timing. Laid back licks can sound hot in this genre, but it’s really not just randomly playing something behind the beat. For this, the most important thing is to develop an internal sense of time which never moves, no matter how complex the rhythms are that you play. The best exercise for this is to tap your foot while practicing, so you can see if your internal sense of time is moving while playing laid back licks or not. By practicing this way, you will be able to maintain the flow of your playing, whether you play on point or laid back.
The Definition of the Laid Back Approach
Contemporary classical musicology has a term for this type of rhythmic handling, called inequivalent-ratio-rhythms, which might scare you at first, but actually this term describes quite well what’s really happening when someone is playing laid back runs over, for example, a drum groove. Each player thinks of equivalent rhythms while playing – for example, both players play eighth notes, but those note lengths are not identical. So these rhythms become inequivalent to each other, and one is starting to slip from the other. The most important thing is that you should be able to keep absolute tempo while laying something behind the beat, even when you play alone.
Dialing in Authentic J Dilla R&B Guitar Tone
Another cool thing to do to achieve the typical feel on the guitar is to dial in a normal funk clean sound with single coil pickups and play with a picking technique made famous by George Benson. Simply pick the strings by holding the pick at a different angle. Actually, this technique is pretty common in traditional Gospel and R&B music, but was made famous by George Benson in the Jazz world. It gives more attack to your sound, and takes away the harshness, making everything you play very percussive.
Before I finish I would like to add my signal chain I used for this lesson. I played a PRS McCarty 2003 guitar equipped with PRS McCarty 2005 pickups, which are coil-tappable. I used the neck pickup in single coil mode for the whole track. This went in to a Mesa Boogie V-Twin tube preamp clean channel. The settings were: Gain 6.5 Bass 8 Mid 6.5 Treble 10 Presence 10. I sent out the signal on the mixer out jack directly to a computer.
For More Research
If you liked this Usher U Remind Me Guitar lesson and would like to learn more about this style of playing, check out recordings and videos by some of the following players, many of which are pioneers in this playing style: Chalmers “Spanky” Alford, Kerry “TooSmooth” Marshall, Jairus Mozee, Isaiah Sharkey, Chris Payton, and Erick Walls.
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Download the Tab and Backing Track!
- The full transcription of this lesson, including the drum backing track you heard in the video, is available to download for only $2.99 USD.
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Beginning as a 7 year old learning guitar from his father, David spent the next 8 years studying Classical piano and guitar in school. Late in high school, Toth began studying Jazz guitar and is on course to graduate from the Franz Liszt Academy of Music with a Jazz guitar major in 2016. During his time at the Academy, he had the privilege of studying Musicology and Classical music theory heavily with Ivan Madarasz, one of the greatest composers of the European Contemporary scene.
Currently, David is highly involved with the R&B/Gospel scene, and is busy producing and arranging Gaspar Laci's anticipated upcoming album.