Who Is Jill Scott? (Words and Sounds Vol. 1) is the platinum album from Neo Soul singer, songwriter, poet, model and actress, Jill Scott, released on Hidden Beach Recordings in 2000.
Image © Ebony.com.
A Long Walk is written by Scott and Andre Harris and produced by Harris and Vidal Davis. It reached at no. 9 on the US Billboard’s R&B Singles chart.
I remember first hearing this album and thinking the chord and harmonies were a next level of sophistication, something I’d heard nothing like before. However these kind of voicings are quite typical of the Neo Soul genre, and are far less complicated than I’d first thought.
What makes this song work so well is the groove between the drums, bass and Rhodes (likely to be a Yamaha Motif, as my best guess). Logic’s factory electric piano will get us close to the sound, with plenty of stereo tremolo.
I’ve scored the Rhodes and bass below, let’s first look at the intro. As ever, if you’re unfamiliar with chord naming conventions, have a look at this.
The grace note from the B to C# in bar one is key, and note the use of the sustain pedal in bars 1 to 2 and bar 3.
In bar 2 we see the B-/E (B minor over E). I’ve seen other transcriptions denote this as an E-11, it basically doesn’t really matter what you call it because it only happens this one time in the intro, and I felt this was the easiest way to remember it; a B minor chord 1st inversion (D F# B) in the right hand with an E in the left hand.
Slash chords are a common feature of modern RnB and Neo Soul, here we can see the aforementioned B-/E, a B/C#, G∆7/A and a B/F#.
The main groove kicks in on bar 5. Notice the rhythmic figure which is repeated throughout the song.
The bass enters with a fill in bar 4, leading into the main groove dropping on bar 5. To get the sound I’ve used a Kontakt bass patch with some clean amp simulation, with plenty of low-end dialed in.
Putting it all Together
There’s a simple lead ostinato throughout the intro. It’s necessary to get the grace-note and dynamics right for this to work:
I’ve approximated it with Logic’s ES2, but any subtractive synth will do. I used a single sawtooth with a resonant low-pass filter being modulated by an envelope. This is topped off with some stereo delay and EQ shelving off the bottom end.
I could hear a tiny Rhodes ad-lib/riff tying over bars 2 and 3 over. Again there’s a lazy feel grace-note which is key to this:
There’s a string line in there too, courtesy of Logic’s EXS24 Smooth String patch. Notice the use of the octave treble clef to avoid ridiculous ledger lines:
I’ve used a 1.3 second Soft Plate reverb coming from Logic’s Space Designer on a send for most of the instruments. This adds a nice sheen and a bit of depth. Finally there’s a simple but effect to transition the the two sections, use a white noise oscillator with a band-pass filter opening it.
That’s it! Of course getting the feel of the groove and dynamics right is key to making this sound convincing, as well as having a nice smooth Rhodes sound. The drums need to be crisp and right with a nice round bass tone with plenty of depth to it.
If you don’t read the little black dots, here’s YouTube’s howdoiplaythatdotcom showing us how it’s done. Some of his chord names are a little different but it’s the same content. He also goes on to explaining other parts of the song too. Enjoy!