A great example of a well crafted modern pop song, Charlie Puth released “Attention” in 2017 to both critical and commercial success. Produced by Puth & co-written by Jacob Kasher, the song is the second track on Puth’s second studio album “Voicenotes” and features a prominent guitar and bass part. In today’s free online guitar lesson, I will break down the elements of this tune and show you how to play the intro guitar part, as well as demonstrating the chords used throughout the piece.
Before we start to focus on the specific parts of “Attention”, we first need to look at the basic chord sequence that acts as the building blocks for the song. “Attention” uses the same four bar chord sequence throughout, with Charlie Puth making good use of modern production techniques in order to keep the song interesting.
“Attention” is in the key of Eb minor, and, as mentioned above, uses the same four chords throughout. These chords are Ebm, Db, Bbm7 and Bmaj7. Although it is enharmonically correct because of the key signature to refer to the Bmaj7 chord as Cbmaj7, to make things easier I will refer to it as Bmaj7 throughout this lesson. Here is my suggested fingering for each of the four chords:
Each chord lasts for one bar in length, as illustrated in the chord chart below:
You may choose to think of this as a I VII Vm7 VImaj7 in the key of Eb minor, or as a VI V IIIm7 IVmaj7 in the key of Gb, since Gb is the relative major of Eb minor. Notice how the use of 7ths as extensions in bars 3 & 4 create harmonic interest, as they are chords are not commonly heard in modern mainstream pop music. I also find it interesting that the chord progression is built on two basic triads, Eb minor and Db major, as the Bbm7 chord could be seen as a Db major triad with a Bb in the bass, and the Bmaj7 chord could be seen as an Eb minor triad with a B in the bass.
Intro Guitar Riff
“Attention” is a great example of a hook driven pop song, and Charlie Puth has taken great care to layer as many different catchy vocal and instrumental parts as possible. One part that does help to make this song memorable is the intro guitar riff, which is played like this:
It is important to use a heavily palm muted technique when playing this riff, as it really helps to recreate that heavily “clipped” sound heard on the original recording, as well as helping you stay in the pocket and out of the way of the vocal in the first verse. A good picking technique is also essential in order to execute this sequence cleanly, as it is easy to make mistakes when navigating some of the string skipping parts.
Harmonically, the intro guitar part is based around the chord sequence outlined above, however there are some great uses of suspensions and colour tones which help keep it interesting. In bar 1, the minor third of the Ebm chord (the Gb) descends to the second (the F) which creates a Sus2 sound. Over the Db chord, the reverse happens, as this time the second (Eb) ascends to the major third (F) again briefly outlining a Sus2 sound. In bar 3, the 5th of the Bbm7 chord (F) descends to the 4th, the Eb. You could also think of the 4th as the 11th here, which implies a very sophisticated Bbm11 sound. Finally, in bar 4, we see a Db ascending to an Eb over the Cbmaj7 (actually sounding as a Bmaj7) chord. Here, the Db is actually functioning as the 9th before resolving to the 3rd, again creating a very sophisticated harmonic sound.
Charlie Puth’s “Attention” is definitely worth a learn for any musician playing pop music. The chord sequence is slightly more interesting than a lot of standard pop and rock music, and the intro guitar part is tricky enough even for more experienced players, presenting a real workout for both the right and left hand on the instrument. As for the bass part, I’ll probably save that one for another lesson, as it’s challenging enough in its own right! I hope you enjoyed learning to play “Attention” by Charlie Puth in today’s guitar lesson, and as always, I’ll catch you next time.