After three platinum albums, a string of hit songs, a Grammy win and five years of unqualified success, Stone Temple Pilots need no introduction. Nor does the Stone Temple Pilots classic Plush from 1992’s Core album. This is the song that broke the band and unleashed the ubiquitous, must-know modern rock guitar riff of the new age, a riff that is deemed by many to be the Smoke on the Water or “Stairway to Heaven” of the alternative generation. But there’s a lot more to Plush than just a cool guitar riff. Under the surface, evocative dissonance and unorthodox harmonic moves abound, delivered with the gritty, distortion-laden but coloristic and well-crafted stylings of guitarist Dean DeLeo, and held in check by the solid bass work and arranging savvy of brother and leader Robert DeLeo. Aspiring to the rock compositions of the Beatles, Led Zeppelin, Burt Bacharach, and Brian Wilson, Stone Temple Pilots promises to be around for some time.
The distinctive main riff, conveyed in Rhy. Figs. 1, 1A, and 1B and heard in the intro, interludes, and coda, is an unforgettable figure conceived by Stone Temple Pilots’s primary composer-arranger, Robert DeLeo. Written back in 1988 on acoustic guitar, the riff is built on a four-chord progression, G5-G°-Am7-G. Note the common tone, G, used throughout the changes, which acts as a harmonic anchor for the chromatically moving chord forms [Fig. 1]. The chromatically ascending line at the end of each two-measure riff phrase also uses this common-tone approach in two-note form. In both cases, it is expedient to keep the G (1st string, 3rd fret) fingered with the pinky.
The verses employ an unusual progression, Rhy. Fig. 2, made of open chords (G and D/F#), barre chords (F), and partial barre chords (C/E and Ebmaj7). When first approaching these seemingly unrelated chord forms, look for common fretting fingers and shapes. This is an immense aid in mastering the challenging moves. In the verse progression, G5 and D/F# share the D note on the 2nd string, played with the ring finger. The index barre used in the F chord is also used as a partial barre for both the C/E and Ebmaj7 [Fig. 2]. These commonalties and connections will make even the most unwieldy progressions physically manageable.
The pre-chorus also uses a common tone in its progression, Rhy. Fig. 3. The D note (2nd string, 3rd fret) is the harmonic glue that connects the D, Csus2, and G/B voicings [Fig. 3]. This common tone approach, particularly in this specific D tonal center context, is invaluable as a rhythm guitar resource and has graced some of the greatest pieces in rock history from Boston’s “More than a Feeling” to Van Halen’s “Drop Dead Legs.”
The chorus is built on a true Lydian mode chord progression, Rhy. Fig. 4. For those of you unfamiliar with the sound, this is an excellent and accessible example of the harmonic variety available when drawing from a mode instead of the more conventional major, minor, or blues-based tonalities. It is created by playing what would normally be the IV and V chords of a key center. The trick is to never resolve to the predictable I chord of the key. In the chorus, that is precisely what we find. De Leo reinforces the modal impression by voicing the Eb major (I chord in Eb Lydian) as a major 7th, which is its defining sound.
The bridge utilizes Rhy. Fig. 5, a progression based on moveable power chords. Notice the third chord of the pattern (C/E) is a “power dyad” (two-note chord) [Fig. 4], which is frequently found as a connecting chord in rock progressions made chiefly of root-5th power chords. It is a first-inversion C major voicing— the third, E, is in the bass. A first inversion chord is formed when the root, normally the lowest tone – in this case C – is moved to a higher register in the chord voicing and the next tone in the chord, the third, E, becomes its new bass note [Fig. 5].
It’s a part of Stone Temple Pilots Plush guitar lesson.
Below you can download PDF guitar tabs and sheet music of
Plush with backing track
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