Contrast in Radiohead’s Airbag

As stated in my previous post I’m looking for songwriting tips by listening to my favourite music. First song I thought I’d mention was “Airbag” by Radiohead.

Years ago when playing in my band round the pubs of Sydney the singer used to always go on about Radiohead – he was a huge fan, but at the time I wasn’t really sold. However, I did buy a few of their albums just to kind of tag along, but I’ve found that once I started to really listen to them I found them very inspiring, creative and refreshing. And they stand out not just for their experimenting, but also because they are class A songwriters.

So, the first tip to point out, which isn’t really a tip but rather a very common and very affective principle, is contrast. And the really interesting contrast I found in the song was between the long-held notes of the vocal melody and the bass. In fact, I just love the bass in this song. And it’s the space in the bass. Many bass players might feel nervous playing like this, because you’ll notice that it’s a while before the bass player comes into the song and then even plays with gaps that kind of drives the rhythm and, as I said, contrasts with the vocals.

If a song you’ve written has the bass kind of jsut following the guitar chords, maybe you can try to find a way to contrast -the bass doesn’t have to “follow” the guitarist’s riff all the time. Perhaps look for ways to contrast, or to sync with the drums to emphasise the rhythm section.

And I must say, Thom Yorke’s head has a funny way of shaking when he sings.


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