You know those comparison charts that compare Christian bands to secular bands that are always way off? Well, here is a band that they better not get wrong because their main influence is very obvious…
PAX 217 is a new rock band on the Christian market that sounds remarkably close to 311 – especially when looking at the guitar style. In fact, when I first heard “A.M” I thought “how unoriginal is that – they are the Christian 311”; however, after listening through the album a few times I really began to like it.
Even though it wasn’t the most original thing I had heard, they did a really good job of playing the style. In fact, on a few of the riffs I was asking myself why 311 doesn’t play stuff like that anymore. And despite the fact that PAX 217’s style sounds very similar to 311, they do manage to forge their own sonic identity.
Most impressive are the guitar riffs on the album that are definitely worth studying – even if you don’t play a lot of heavier music. So, make sure you read about the essential elements of the style first and then start going through the riffs. Hope this helps!
The Essential Elements of the Style
There are two main elements of the “311” type style which is a fusion of heavy music, funk, rap, and reggae. The first is the heavy use of inverted power chords. If you play heavy music you probably are already very familiar with these chords, but if not here is a quick run down…
Inverted power chords
Inverted power chords are just like inverted chords or ‘slash’ chords. Basically they are power chords with a note other than the root in the bass. The are a number of other inverted power chord types, but this is the type of the chord that is used in this style of music.
Basically, these chords are used to add more heaviness to the chords – in fact you can emulate seven string chord positions with these chords. If you have listened to 311 before you’ll know that they have a very unique heavy sound, well most of it is due to these chords.
One quick note for those of you who play bass: the bassist should play the root note of the chord and not the inverted bass note (usually, not always…there are a few exceptions). This is very different for most bass players, but the guitarist should be the only playing the inverted bass notes.
The inverted chords do give that 311 type sounds to heavy music, but without the next element it will not sound as heavy…
Almost more important than the use of inverted power chords is the use of an octave pedal. If you have never heard of the effect it is basically a pedal that doubles the guitar part an octave lower and usually doubles it again two octaves lower. The Boss OC-2 is probably the most popular octave pedal, but there are also many other cheaper octave pedals and if you have processor then you probably already have the pitch effect to get this sound.
These pedals really add a lot of heaviness to guitar riffs and chords – especially on low, single-note runs and riffs. For the PAX 217 sound you want to keep the levels mid to low to get that balance between the heavy sound and transparency of the effect. If you put the levels too high it will get that bad harmony sound – especially when playing higher parts like octave runs. Although, if you have two guitarists like 311 and one of them plays mostly single note riffs, then a high level on the octave pedal sound really good.
If you don’t own an octave pedal – don’t sweat it! These riffs sound fine without one and some parts don’t even really use an octave pedal. The most important part of playing guitar is the way you play, not what effects you have, right? With that in mind, on with the riffs…
Some quick notes to help you get the most out of the tablature. First, as with any text-based tablature on the internet you should be going through the song as you go through the tablature since there is no timing. Also, understand that it is not guaranteed to be 100% accurate (but what tablature is except tablature straight from the artist).
They are my best interpretations after listening to these songs over and over again until my ears hurt. Second, you should be acquainted with the general style of music or else you will have a hard time playing everything correctly.