VCE Guitar Solo Performance – Another Brick in the Wall, Part 2
Hi my name is Rhys Lett, owner and head guitar instructor at the Eastern Suburbs School of Music. One of the areas our school specialises in is exam preparation. This article deals with one of the songs students need to perform in the Victorian Certificate of Education (VCE) Guitar exam. Students need to perform 5 songs in a 25 minute exam. The song I will analyse today is Pink Floyd’s “Another Brick in the Wall, Part 2”. It is in the single note category of the VCE Guitar Solo Performance exam. Students must perform two songs from this category in the end of year performance exam.
This song comes from the Pink Floyd 1979 album “The Wall”.
The Song follows a standard but short pop song structure as noted below:
As we can see we need to learn three parts in order to perform this song.
There are two rhythm patterns to learn in the verse. Both patterns use the D minor chord. To discover the patterns, listen to the guitar part when the singing is happening and in between the singing parts.
The muting technique is important to create the moments of silence needed to make the guitar part funky. This is done with both left and right hand muting. When muting with the left you will release the pressure of your fingertips from the chord shape. The right hand will drop onto the strings as apart of the picking motion to silence the sound.
The Chorus starts with a funky semiquaver pattern on the G barre chord. Concentrate on strumming the high strings of the chord or only fret the four highest strings.
Following the G chord funk is the hooky chord sequence. This uses a combination of D major open chord shapes and bottom three notes of the 6th string major barre chord.
Next use the 5th string major barre chord shape at the F (8th fret) and C (3rd fret) positions on 5th string. The D minor non singing verse part follows these stomped barre chord. This is then repeated and completes the rhythm sections required for the song.
We will be adding videos of these sections in future updates of this post.
The skill of this solo is found in the phrases that while not containing many notes need to be precisely pitched and timed. The timing of phrases is of great importance due to the use of silences. The solo builds from a few simple ideas and develops like a story. The note selection is primarily from the D minor pentatonic scale. You should learn these scale shapes to assist you in playing and remembering the solo. These scales can be used in your technical work SAC.
It is essential to have an understanding of these techniques to successfully demonstrate the solo of this piece. Creating exercises to improve these skills can be used in your technical work SAC.
String bending – String bends are a key feature to the playing of the solo and MUST be played in tune. To practice this play the note you need to pitch the bend repeatedly. In bending strings make sure you use three fingers to push the sting together and hold the note in place. Anchoring your thumb on top of the fretboard can help you have a stable grip to control the pitch of the note confidently.
String raking – a short sweep of the strings where the aim is to create a percussive sound before a stinging single note sound.
Double stops – taking two notes of the scale and playing them together, usually forming the harmony of thirds or sixths
Vibrato – Vibrato is key to playing this solo with the correct feel and helping the notes sustain. Gilmour uses vibrato on fretted notes and after bending strings.
TONE – Another Brick in the Wall, Part 2
As asked for in the criteria of the exam, students must demonstrate guitar tones that are authentic to the songs they select to perform. This song requires a minimum of two distinct sounds used for the rhythm part and the guitar solo. In the verses a clean guitar sound is needed. The solo requires a singing overdriven sound that will provide you will plenty of sustain. This song preferably should be played using a Stratocaster style guitar.
5 tips for improving your performance
1. Sing the solo – learn to sing the solo against the backing track even before attempting to play it on guitar. This will greatly improve your timing of phrases
2. Compression – this effect can be put to great use in this song to help the clean sound cut through in the verse and the sustain of notes in the solo
3. Pickup Choice – switching pickups during the performance of the song is a great way to show tonal variety. As the solo becomes more aggressive switching from the neck to bridge pickup will display a command of the sound of your instrument
4. Support your bends – you must use three fingers to support the string when bending. This song has extreme overbends such as the two and a half tones needed mid solo. To control this phrase you must have a strong grip and all three fingers working together. Watch the video below to learn how to bend strings properly.
5. Read the criteria – how can this song demonstrate parts of the criteria you are marked on. Make sure those moments are highlighted in your performance of the song.
I hope this analysis has helped put you on the path for great success in your VCE Guitar Solo Performance exam at the end of the year. For any further questions on playing this piece or the VCE guitar exam feel free to contact us. Best of Luck!