As I’ve been jamming lately, I’m discovering an interesting issue. Do I make music that is simultaneously black metal and bluegrass, or do I write songs that incorporate both genres distinctly?
I think there are merits in each option, and I’d like to accomplish both. When a song incorporates both bluegrass and metal, however, there arises the issue of transitions. In my first try at blackgrass, we noticed a pretty rough transition going from clean to distorted guitars. This is not always bad, however, if used correctly.
Let’s talk about the various categories of transitions, and how they are utilized. I’m not talking transitions between chord progressions here, or going from verse to chorus. I’m talking transitioning between two very different feels or rhythms. It can be tricky to pull off, but when done well it can really add to the music.
I don’t want to infringe on any copyright, so I’m using music from my old band DQ=Victory. It’s a different genre, but we did utilize many transitions.
I.) The Guitar Riff / Drum Fill
This technique is one of my preferred methods for transitioning. It’s quick, efficient, and allows for some musically creative writing. This is actually what I used in the “First Blood” track that I posted. Here is a good example of a lead in guitar riff that takes us from the chorus to a swinging breakdown.
Here is another example of a transition that highlights the drums.
We have too many of these to share, but I think you get the idea.
II.) The Cold Turkey
This type of transition is represented by the absence of one. The song abruptly goes from one feel to the next without any warning. My band typically didn’t use these, but they are definitely effective for shock value, and accentuating the change itself. Here is the only example I could find that is abrupt (Notice we smooth it over when we add drums.)
III.) The Black Hole
When the music stops completely for a few beats then comes back in with a vengeance, this is called a black hole. It’s very dramatic and builds anticipation and tension. Now that I think about it, this technique is also used in just about every explosion you see in sci-fi movies or video games…
Anyhow, the next example is from a rough draft that my band never recorded in the studio.
IV.) The Build Up and Release
This is actually more of a “bridge,” but it is definitely a widely used technique. It is also commonly used in conjunction with The Guitar Riff / Drum Fill or The Black Hole:
(builds up, builds up even more, stops… BOOM).
Here is DQV’s example.
V.) The Stranger
Of course, there are some transitions that defy explanation. Or they incorporate unique musical aspects that are not repeated elsewhere. One example might be a horse neighing right before a down beat, or a sound clip from a movie (Arnold Schwarzenegger quotes are the best…) The possibilities are endless.
In this example going from a breakdown to a new chord progression, my old band used an acoustic guitar strum with Latin flavor, then added choir-like harmonies. It comes out of nowhere, but I love the effect!
VI.) The Sneak Peak (aka Foreshadowing)
This is what happens when you get a little preview before it really transitions. I don’t have a sound clip, but imagine a chorus that has a short break filled with a guitar riff. We return to the last measure of the chorus, finish it up, then it goes cold turkey into a breakdown using the guitar riff we just heard. Happens all the time…
Anyhow, you can see we have plenty of options. (Let me know if you think of any others!) Some are innappropriate for our use, but I’ll see what I can do.