I Shot The Sheriff – Bob Marley & The Wailers
Raggae was strongly influenced by traditional mento and calypso music, as well as American jazz and rhythm and blues but reggae also has been influenced its direct origins to the ska and rocksteady of 1960s Jamaica.
The use of hard drugs such as cannabis is highly consumed whilst listening to this genre and has become a trope when enjoying this piece of music. This can relate to the use of post processing such as Phase Modulation or Spatial mixing where instruments are often panned hard and even vary to give a sense of confusion towards the listener. For Rastas, smoking cannabis, is a spiritual act, often accompanied by Bible study and is considered an undertaking that cleans the body and mind. As well as the use of hard drugs, the Rastafari movement was also a significant influence on reggae and is mainly the lyrical influence in this genre.
In terms of instrumentation, a musical figure known as skank or the ‘bang” is primarily played by a guitar and features a very dampened, short and scratchy chop sound, almost like a percussion instrument.
The guitars are usually widely panned left and right and feature wah-wah processing. The guitars are played using palm muting to reduce the release sound of the strings and is played in short bursts to compliment the rhythm and to give the skank aesthetic. There is also the use of phase modulation and is used in almost
The use of guitars and organs are usually played using the same fashion as the guitar using the “skank” technique, utilizing very short bursts of notes. This was played to double the rhythm guitar’s skank, playing the chords in a staccato style to add body, and playing occasional extra beats, runs and riffs.
The main vocals feature the use of a slap back delay which is achieved using a plate reverb that has a very short pre-delay to emulate the shimmery sound of the vocals.
There is also the use of delay on the last words of the lyrics that play in 1/8th rates which decays until the next phrase. This can be used to signify the changing of different compositional parts of the song.
The bass itself can be said to keep the rhythm due to the playing being very short and plucky almost emulating the role a kick should be playing.
The bass guitar often plays the dominant role in reggae, and the drum and bass is often the most important part in providing the rhythm of the track (or commonly known as “Da Riddim Mon”). Raggae is often very slow and the emphasis is placed on the third beat with the feature of guitar/piano offbeats in between. There is also the use of syncopated, melodic bass lines that differentiate reggae from other genres.
The kit itself is very dry in comparison to the heavily processed guitars and is also sitting relatively behind the overall mix.
The snare drum is also tuned very high to give it a timbales type sound and is alternatively played along with a regular snare for variation. An unusual characteristic of reggae drumming is that the drum fills often do not end with a climactic cymbal. A wide range of other percussion instrumentation are used in reggae.
The strong structure is very repetitive due to the nature of the genre, with a common theme of chorus-verse-chorus. It also does not stray much in terms of musical intentions or chord changes but the song does feature a progressive build in instrumentation as the certain instruments such as organs are added in throughout the course for musical variety.