analyzing debarge you wear it well guitar solo
May 24, 2011 11:50 PM   Subscribe

Could someone explain to me what's happening in the guitar solo in "You Wear It Well" by DeBarge?

The song "You Wear It Well" by DeBarge has a guitar solo that really does it for me. I'm especially enamored with this section (2-second mp3).

So, what's the guitar actually doing? I did a google search for tablature of this song, but I didn't find any. Naturally, dozens of search results offer the lyrics. There are a couple moments that stand out for me, particularly with the fourth and sixth guitar notes in this clip. The second and fourth notes are bent up a bit. As clarification, I'm not counting the bent notes as individual notes.

When the fourth note plays, I hear the faint sound of a note one octave below. An unmuted, accidental note, perhaps? Reverse echo? Then, the sixth note sounds like an octave below the second and fourth notes. Is that true? Because of the way that sixth note is played, it sounds like an open string.

The guitar amplification and distortion make this sound so delicious to my ears. I think what I'm latching on to is the amplification of harmonics, and the interaction of notes sounding simultaneously. The notes played and any specific equipment used aren't important to me; I'm interested in the end result. I'm not trying to learn how to play this; just trying to understand the magic. Can someone provide a somewhat scientific insight for this piece of art?
posted by germdisco to Media & Arts (7 answers total)
Afraid I can't explain things scientifically or with the powers of music theory. Using my powers as a bedroom guitarist, and just to get the ball rolling, I can guess that you are enjoying the interaction between one note being bent over another one. The guitarist is hitting the top string at the 18th fret, and then hitting the second string at the 19th fret, which he the then bends up a quarter tone.

There is a much higher bend just before the section you enjoy. This is played with the third finger. The part you are enjoying would have had the first finger on the 18th fret and the middle finger on the 19th fret

This is a pretty standard piece of fretwork but that, of course, doesn't mean that it can't be very special.

(Also: the video to this makes Call On Me by Eric Prydz look like an episode of Mr Rogers.)
posted by marmaduke_yaverland at 12:19 AM on May 25, 2011

(Also: the video yt to this makes Call On Me yt by Eric Prydz look like an episode of Mr Rogers.)

For what it's worth, that's not the actual video for the song - there wasn't one. The linked clip is the work of this fellow, who has other weirdo video mashups on his playlist.
posted by mykescipark at 12:47 AM on May 25, 2011

In addition to perhaps a little overdubbing it sounds to me like a partial bend on the first pair, a unison bend on the second pair and pinch harmonics on the third pair. PH in combination with distortion makes overtones just sing, and it doesn't always have to be an in-your-face, all out squeeeeeee sound where the fundamental is completely absent.
posted by Rhomboid at 2:09 AM on May 25, 2011

Guitar has got a lot of flange on it and he's hitting harmonics. (Actually they're probably false harmonics.)
posted by bardic at 3:35 AM on May 25, 2011

Just simple bending through heavy flange. The flange effect is creating the interesting harmonic effect because it is sweeping (modulating) while the pitch is also smoothly modulated (bending).
posted by tremspeed at 7:10 AM on May 25, 2011

I'm going to say bend plus pinch harmonics with mild overdrive into heavy flange effect. It's the flange that makes it more interesting than it might otherwise be.
posted by bionic.junkie at 9:08 PM on May 25, 2011

Thanks, all! I didn't pick up on the flange effect. And false harmonics sounds right as well.

After I submitted the question, I thought to myself, "Oops, I didn't provide a YouTube link." Funny video! I laughed at the comment, "Wowsa!!! I love 80's porn."

Another part of the song that I really like is the (cliché by now) synth chords with the pitch drops at the end of the song.
posted by germdisco at 10:18 PM on May 25, 2011

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