Home Topic Figuring out Horn Lines and Riddims
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    User AvatarAaron Hice

    I have been trying to learn to play Reggae Keyboards for a few years and I am excited about getting going with the courses on this site (if I can get my account fixed so that I can actually access the courses). I tend to struggle to figure out horn lines on Riddims that I am trying to learn to cover. My ear has been a work in progress and I use a program called Transcribe by Seventh String to figure out chords and bass lines but I struggle to figure out horn lines, even with that software. If there are any pointers you could provide that would be cool. Alternatively, a supplement with sheet music on the basic elements of some standard Riddims would be cool. A lot of them are loops so it probably would not take too much effort to write out the horn lines or melodies for some of the standard Riddims. Or in the alternative, quick hits that teach some Riddims, including the skank, typical bubble and line. That would be cool. My main instrument is bass and I have been toying with the idea of doing something like that for bass. It would definitely be cool and helpful for us Reggae Keyboard newbies to have a dozen or so Riddims taught to us by a pro.

    User AvatarMatt Jenson

    Aaron! Great topics. I actually have a growing Finale document (that’s notation software if you don’t know) that has many of the famous riddims on it. It only has the bass line and chord changes as many if not most of them don’t have a little horn line or vocal line. Although, I could be wrong on that! (Many of them do have a horn line and/or vocal line.) I want to transcribe as many of the ‘Riddims’ as there are (probably nearly impossible to get them ALL) and make a One-shot lesson or even a full course on them. But I’m seeing that I have to included the horn lines. Aaaah, more work!

    As for learning the horn lines, what’s your specific issue? You have trouble hearing the exact notes? First thing to do is get the top line, often played by trumpet (if it’s a three part line, say with tenor sax and trombone). That’s usually the easiest line to hear. Play it on your keyboard or bass. Then, because we’re talking about pretty basic chords (major and minor triads) you can usually figure out the other lines that are below the top line by toying around with playing a chord tone below the top line. Use your ear to hear if it sounds right. If you’re very unfamiliar with major and minor triads, you’ll need to brush up on them and doing it on a keyboard is the best way. The Basic Theory course will dial you into that well. (I’m working on the tech issue!!)

    User AvatarAaron Hice

    I think that my issue with the horn lines tends to be the harmonics. Also, sometimes if the recording used keyboards to lay down the lines, there are intervals played so that makes it tricky for me to figure out the main notes of the lines. Don’t get me wrong, I can figure out some of them with what I hear and see on Transcribe but many are challenging and time consuming for me. Understanding scales and chords helps me a lot in terms of figuring them out. I’m sure that more practice would make it easier, but also appreciate some pointers or a process.

    The Riddim notation you were talking about sounds super cool – even if it is just the bass line and chords. I will definitely download and use anything like that as it becomes available. But yeah – if you could add some Melodies that would be sweet. I know that there are variations based on the tune but a lot of them have a core melody. Even if a melody is not tied to a Riddim but is on a tune, it would be helpful to have so that we can work on hand independence, playing the skank and line. Whenever I am trying to learn to actually play a skank and line at the same time, I tend to write it out so that I can see where the notes of the melody line up with the skank.

    I am excited about the content you have on hand independence for playing the skank and the melody. I am also looking forward to the content that will help me learn to solo. If I have any asks after working through that content, I’ll be sure to post here in a different thread.

    User AvatarMatt Jenson

    Hi Aaron,
    Knowing chords and the SCALES that go with them will help you understand VOICELEADING, which I talk about a bit on the Basic Theory course. This is basically what is happening with horn lines over a few chords: voiceleading – that is the most smooth motion from one chord to another. When you’ve identified the top line and have a nice little melody happening, the other voices (or horns as it were) below that line will follow voiceleading ‘rules’ that allow them to move along with the top line melody in a smooth fashion.

    Another thing that you can do is, when listening to a horn line, try to work your ear so you can hear the notes of the instruments that are BELOW the top line, in otherwords, the harmonies. This is an ear training exercise and the more you do the better you will get. You can also train your ear to hear just say the bass lines, or the rhythm guitar, or some inner keyboard part.

    In the next week or so I’ll be posting a new One Shot on ‘switching hands,’ that is, playing the chop with the left hand and bubbling/playing lead lines with the right. I have three tunes on this and I’ll write out charts that have all the parts so you can see how they line up.

    Next up: the RIDDIMS projecct. That’ll take a bit, but you’re getting me inspired to take it on!

    Play on,

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