Friday, June 8, 2012

What Is Considered Music? - Week 8

This week is going to be a reflective post. A common argument in music is the question of what is and is not music. So I am going to post a video and I want you to watch it. Ask yourself, "Is this music?" Feel free to respond in the comment box or on my Facebook.

Until next week, stay loud and proud.

Music recommendations for this week.
It's a chiptune kind of week. Don't know what chiptune is?

Anamanaguchi - Airbrushed
Rushjet1 - Out There
Bitshifter - Hexadecimal Genome

Monday, May 28, 2012

Musically Humbled - Week 7

Nobody likes being humbled when it happens, but being humbled encourages us to learn and improve musically.

Last week one of my musical dreams was fulfilled. As a graduation present, my amazing parents helped pay the majority of an upright bass while I payed for the rest with graduation money. I had always wanted to play upright bass because the instrument intrigued me. It's large stature, smooth cut finish, thick strings and punchy, growling sound had always made me drool. Seeing videos and live performances of bassists lugging this gigantic instrument onto a stage and then playing all over the fret board was amazing to me. Last Thursday, my bass arrived but I didn't play it because of a date so Friday my come to Jesus moment occurred.

For people who are not familiar with an upright bass, let me educate you. The upright bass is known not only as one of the most difficult instruments to play but also one of the most physically demanding. Unlike a guitar or electric bass, an upright bass does not have frets or fret markers. The player has to play a note based on intonation and technique. Intonation is a musicians ability to realize a certain pitch. For example, a bassist needing to play a D note would place his finger where a D note would resonate, listen to the sound that came from the bass, and determine if it is a D or not. This is one thing that makes upright bass so challenging.

I was excited to start playing my new bass to some music once I fiddled around with it for a while. I pulled up my iTunes library, went to my collection of Robert Johnson and gave it a shot. 

Wow that was challenging...

I usually see myself as a somewhat seasoned musician and am usually pretty comfortable in most situations. But wow is the upright bass humbling me. I was having trouble playing through entire songs without aching in my left arm and hand, along with problems getting the correct pitch. It was as if my eight years of musicianship hardly even mattered as I felt like a complete beginner. Most people who feel like beginners get discouraged way too easily. I have heard this way too many times out of beginning guitarists...

"But I just suck at guitar. I'll never get good."

THERE IS THE FIRST MISTAKE. Too many beginners mope around and have a negative mindset, causing them to quit music. The sad truth is, like most skills on this earth music is challenging. Nobody picks up a trumpet and can instantly play through Miles Davis covers. Everybody starts somewhere and I am starting anew right now. Currently, it doesn't matter how good or bad I am at electric bass, how many bands I've played in or how many times I have performed. I am an absolute beginner and am starting from the bottom. This actually encourages me to learn and get better! In an odd way, being less skilled in something should push you to becoming more skilled!

Sometimes it takes a little bit of embarrassment to push us to new heights. Whether if your humbling moment was making mistakes while performing in front of thousands, or becoming frustrated while in your bedroom, embarrassment can happen to anybody. Don't let it discourage you, instead let it make you want to improve.

And as a side note, please do not get down on new musicians. Like I said, everyone starts somewhere and the cocky musicians are the ones who make beginners so intimidated and insecure about themselves.

Until next week, stay loud and proud.

Music recommendations for this week.
It's time for you to listen to some ska, you cool cat.

The Specials - Ghost Town
Less Than Jake - All My Best Friends Are Metalheads
Streetlight Manifesto - If And When We Rise Again

Monday, May 21, 2012

Graduation - Week 6

So in one day I graduate high school and my beautiful girl graduated a couple nights ago. Where did time go? 

So I am coming to a part in the book of my life that I turn the page and start writing another one. While hearing and participating in so many graduation activities in the past week, I have came to a few conclusions. Graduation seems like a time that you worked towards for years on end, awaiting for that moment to be recognized for all the hard work you have done. But as you know me, I asked myself this question. "Is there such a thing as a music graduation?"

It is sort of an interesting concept. As musicians we pour our heart out into music. We spend hundreds upon thousands of hours sharpening our skills, performing and helping others just like in school. But as a musician do we ever come to a part in our musical careers that we feel like we have "graduated?" Honestly, I think the answer is no. I feel like no matter how hard you work, there is always more work to be done. Sounds lame doesn't it? Neil Peart, who is considered one of the greatest drummers of all time felt this. He had been playing drums for his band Rush for many years, helped write iconic songs and became known as one of the greats in the process due to his outstanding drumming. Even though he was at this extremely high level of musicianship, he still tried to get better by finding his old drum teacher and completely relearning his wrist technique to make himself better.

Just as Neil Peart did, you can too. Even when you think you are where you need to be musically, you can ALWAYS improve. I don't feel like once you learn and master one thing, some man comes up to you, gives you a diploma and says "Good job you are a musician now!" You can always improve and to me that is another beauty of music.

Until next week, stay loud and proud.

Music recommendations for this week.
It's an early jazz kind of week!

Duke Ellington - It Don't Mean A Thing
Ella Fitzgerald and Louis Armstrong - Summertime
Miles Davis - So What

Monday, May 14, 2012

Blind Faith - Week 5

This will be a little bit of a different post and will not only be focusing on music. This might be a short post but I am very excited about sharing this with you. 

Last Saturday I was Mother's Day shopping and ran into some of my friends while out on the road. We went to the skate shop, Guitar Center and also had an extremely nutritious meal at Taco Bell. But while we were on our way towards Guitar Center I came across a red light. I was waiting behind a few stalled cars when I noticed a man walking through the intersection. Instantly I noticed that he had a walking stick and was blind. Let me paint this setting for you. I was on May avenue at about one o'clock on a Saturday afternoon the day before Mother's day. The traffic was very abundant as cars were bustling everywhere and in the midst of all this chaos a blind man walks through the intersection by himself with nothing to guide him but his walking stick and faith.

As I was watching this man make his way across two busy streets with no guidance or help, I learned a little bit from him. This man had a goal in mind, a purpose, and a destination. He was going to reach this 
destination no matter what happened.

This is an illustration of life

The busy intersection is the world. The cars are it's people and the blind man is you. We all have a purpose, goals, ambitions and things we want to achieve in our lifetime but sometimes we let the people of the world hinder us and stop us from doing what we want to do. Like that man, we need to have blind faith. Even if chaos is surrounding us we still need to keep on walking.

Just as every cheesy writer does I am going to take one lesson and apply it to a different subject. The same illustration applies to music. As a musician, there will be times that other people try to effect you. Other people will try to change you musically, change your musical motives, ambitions and visions that you have in your mind. But this is where blind faith plays it's role. If you know what you want to do musically, then do it. Do not let other people effect you unless they can effect you in an encouraging or positive way.

Until next week, stay loud and proud.

Music recommendations for this week.
This week everything is from video game soundtracks!

"Wicked Child" - Castlevania - NES
"Theme" - Killer Instinct - SNES
"Nerevar Rising" - TES III Morrowind - PC/Xbox

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Minimalism In Music - Week 4

Hello and welcome to The Melody Within Week 4. I owe everyone an apology because this is about two weeks late and I also promised a podcast. Do I have an excuse? Kind of. I personally became very busy with work, prom, school and family. And to add to that, I was having problems embedding Soundcloud into my post and didn't have time to mess with it. So here we go, Minimalism In Music. What is minimalism you ask? Minimalism describes movements in various forms of art and design, especially visual art and music, where the work is set out to expose the essence, essentials or identity of a subject through eliminating all non-essential forms, features or concepts. It is very prominent in music and is rarely thought of or even known about. Yet it's influence on certain styles of music is wide and can be used and mastered as a writing style.

Now some people might already know this but I am a huge Jack White fanboy. Everything he has produced with The White Stripes, The Raconteurs and his solo music has been phenominal. But aside from the quality of the music, minimalism is prominent in his writing style. Listen to this exert and listen to the lyrics, it's "Little Room" by The White Stripes and it explains a minimalistic way of thinking very well.

As simple as can be. A rhythm, a melody and lyrics. Even though there are only three layers to this song, it still expresses it's ideas and emotions effeciently. This leads us to the questions of... How complex or simple does a song need to be? Does a song need to be complex to be considered good? Can a song be too complex? A lot of lesser educated music listeners will argue against simple music, especially rock listeners. They say "Well geeze the song only has three chords, this music sucks." They think that music can be rated or judged depending on it's compexity. I whole heatingly disagree. I'll show you another audio sample from the white stripes, their famous seven nation army. Listen to this clip and think to yourself, "Does the music that is being made express an emotion?

Now listen to this song, everyone knows it. It is Flight Of The Bumblebee. Ask yourself the same thing when listening to it.

As I hope you have concluded, both songs express different emotions. Now everybody interprets art differently, so my emotional interpretation may be a little different from yours but Seven Nation Army gives me a feeling of contentness. Kind of like a "I'm going to do what I want and I'm happy". Flight of the Bumblebee gives me a feeling of anxiety, it makes me feel like I am late to work!

So as you can tell, emotions and ideas can be expressed in any degree of complexity. So with that rule in mind, I will state this important statement. DO NOT RULE OUT MUSIC BECAUSE IT IS SIMPLE. Sometimes "less is more" can be harder to do than making extremely complex melodies and rhythms sound nice to the ear. In Seven Nation Army there are multiple raw layers. A simple, 4/4 rhythm, a bassline/guitar part that serves as melody and chord structure, a melody coming from his voice and lyrics explaining ideas. Even though there is not much there, the song seems perfect. It's catchy, it's cool, it's unique and it is beautiful in it's own way. So I encourage everyone to understand these concepts. There is nothing wrong with simple or complex music. They both serve their own parts purposes in music.

Until next week, stay loud and proud

Music recommendations for this week.
Rush - Red Sector A
Powerglove - Tetris
BB King - The Thrill Is Gone

Friday, April 20, 2012

Concept Bands & Albums - Week 3

What is a concept band? What is a concept album? Why should I listen to them?

Here I am writing my third post and I think I may have became a little too excited. With all of the different aspects of music there are countless subjects that I could write about but this one has to be one of my personal favorites. Why is it so dear to my heart you ask? Because the idea of a concept band or album brings together two of my favorite mediums of art - music and fiction.

Fiction is important and relevant in modern society. In my sophomore history class I entered an argument with my teacher over the relevance of fiction and storytelling. His argument was since it "isn't real" why should we waste our time creating it, reading and learning about it? He has a concrete way of thinking which explains why he is a high school history teacher. (no offense, I love teachers and history) He thinks in absolutes. The idea that everything on this world can be explained with a yes or no. Music, art, literature, media, philosophy, culture and all of these things that are so important to our society are influenced by fiction and a higher level of thinking. Music can contain this higher way of thinking and has zero limits which is what makes it so beautiful.

We will start with one simple explanation. A concept album is a an album that has songs that relate to each other and flow in such a way that they all tell a story. One example of a concept album that everyone knows is Pink Floyd's Dark Side Of The Moon. This gives another level of artistic meaning and gives the musician more chances to express emotions through a story. My personal favorite concept album is by progressive metal band Opeth, with their album called "My Arms, Your Hearse." The album tells a story about a man who suddenly dies and soon his former lover finds a new husband. The formerly deceased man comes back to life by demons who didn't want him and he comes back to find his lover with somebody else and tries to murder the woman and her new husband. The music is gripping and the lyrics are painted with storytelling. Each and every song relates to the one before and the one after. The album flows and expresses emotions that I feel like traditional albums cannot express. This is why I encourage all who are reading this to give a concept album a try. In this weeks "music recommendations" I will include concept albums that I have enjoyed.

If a concept album is an album that tells a story, then what is a concept band? A concept band is what you may be expecting, a band that tells a story. These are more rare and I am going to be focusing on one, Coheed and Cambria. Coheed and Cambria is an extremely unique band with an interesting purpose. The bands lead singer and guitarist Claudio Sanchez is the writer for a comic book and novel series titled "The Amory Wars" (Shown below) He created this fictional science fiction universe and every single song written by his band is based on the events of the Amory Wars story. The band name itself is based off two main characters who are husband and wife. Emotions, opinions and ideas owned by the characters are portrayed in the bands lyrics and melodies. I cannot explain to you how much fun it is to listen to the music then dive deep into the story through the comics and learn about what you have been listening to. I encourage anyone who enjoys progressive rock style music to do the same.

So as we draw to the end of week 3, I have a one more thing to say about concept albums and bands. Try them out. You have nothing to lose and if you don't enjoy it you can go onto the next chapter in the quest for new music. Now onto other news... I have decided to mix things up a little bit concerning The Melody Within. Every fourth post will not be a blog post and will be a podcast. By doing this I can play audio samples and give better examples of what I am talking about. So be expecting a fresh, brand new podcast for week 4!

Until next week, stay loud and proud.

Music recommendations for this week.
Mastodon - Oblivion - From the concept album Crack The Skye
Opeth - Demon Of The Fall - From the concept album My Arms, Your Hearse
Coheed And Cambria - Delirium Trigger - From the concept album Second Stage Turbine Blade
Pink Floyd - Money - From the concept album Dark Side Of The Moon

Thursday, April 12, 2012

How The Internet Has Changed Music - Week 2

The Internet is a vast, somewhat new world. Has it benefited music in a positive or negative way?

On the internet we have Youtube, Facebook, The Pirate Bay, Limewire, Itunes, Myspace, (it's still alive) Pandora, Playlist, Rhapsody, Ultimate-Guitar, Amazon and Twitter. What do all of these websites and applications have in common? They all have influenced modern music in a unique way. 

The internet changed how we find and acquire music

It's 2012, the way we acquire music has changed and is always changing. Most music listeners do not go to a CD store or Walmart to purchase music anymore. The internet has changed how we are exposed to music. I personally love Pandora and everything about it. Sure, it gets repetitive and sometimes the artists are not the correct genre but Pandora can expose you to some phenomenal music. Social networking brings the artist straight to our doorstep. It lets us connect with an artist at any given moment and music can be distributed to fans in an instant. This has given countless musicians more chances to give themselves exposure. This is a very good thing!

The internet changed how we learn about music

This is the generation of self taught musicians! More beginners are learning music online. I myself learned a good portion of my own knowledge from the internet because professional instruction that one would pay hundreds of dollars for is now free and accessible twenty-four seven! For guitarists, a very good site is (has nothing to do with me) For bassists, Sites like these are of professional grade. Sure, there are the bad ones but aside from those the internet has become an encyclopedia for musical knowledge and has been helping people like you and I for years!

The internet changed how we organize live music

When is the last time you saw a physical show flyer? Social networking has become the king of bringing musicians and concert goers together and letting them organize shows and network. Through my own personal experience with local music, I would say 60% of a local bands exposure comes from the internet.  With that in mind, inviting people to come to your concert via networking can be much more beneficial than in-person marketing. Let's do an example. Lets say a band has a Facebook page that has 3,000 likes on that page. This band has a big concert coming up in a month, makes an event page for it and invites all 3,000 people to it. Those 3,000 people will see that as soon as they log into their Facebook. Compare that to posting a flyer in a music store that people usually just ignore if they even see it in the first place. With more people being interested in concerts, more people attend. More attendance results in better live music.

The internet has most definitely changed how we look at, create and promote music. In my personal yet humble opinion, the internet has BENEFITED music. The industry nuts will argue with me saying, "The internet has killed music! Everyone gets it for free! Labels are dying! Lower quality music is getting popular! The industry is dead! The internet is NOT A GOOD THING!" I respond with this explanation...

The music industry is not dead, it has just changed and has been leveled. Instead of greedy corporate labels controlling the industry, the industry is being controlled by the musicians. Anyone can make a name for themselves at any given time and that my friend is a VERY GOOD THING.

Until next week, stay loud and proud.

Music recommendations for this week.

Kraftwerk - Radioactivity
Streetlight Manifesto - The Receiving End Of It All
Unwed Sailor - Firecracker

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Genres - Week 1

How do genres influence the artists we listen to?

"Nah man, I play in a folk psychedelic indie progressive hard rock band with some electronic and pop influences."

Genres are an identity to a piece of music. We use genres as a name tag to place on a song or artist. We hear people say all the time, "I listen to all kinds of rock" or "I just can't listen to any country." People will swear to that and be completely stubborn no matter what you try to tell them. That is how we get genre elitists.

Now don't get me wrong, I can sometimes fall into this category also. Honestly, there is little modern country that I enjoy. "But Justin, you live in Oklahoma, how could you possibly dislike country?"  How do I dislike country you ask? I just do. I can't really explain it, I just don't enjoy most country. But does that mean I should discard every single song that is in that genre? No, there is still country music that I enjoy!

In my personal opinion, that can be the downfall of most average music listeners and even musicians themselves. For example, I never saw myself listening to 40's and 50's r&b but something opened my eyes to it. It was the video game Fallout 3 that included a soundtrack of real r&b and swing from the era. While playing the game I was forced to listen to this music and I enjoyed it. I enjoyed it so much that I dove into the genres and searched for new music that was similar. Is that what we as music listeners need sometimes? New ways to be opened to new music? Video game and movie soundtracks are a great way to find new styles of music. When searching for new music I must ask you to do one thing. Discard any genre information. Listen to the music itself without recognizing what style of music it is. If you like the song, then enjoy it! If you do not like the song, then move onto the next one! It's as easy as that. When finding new music, I ask all people to not let little stupid "identities" hinder their thirst for new music.

So as a musician and a songwriter, how can we use genres to our advantage? Most artists will write in one or two specific genres that will usually appeal to a certain crowd. Certain styles of music have unique instrument and vocal techniques along with melodic and rhythmic attributes that create a certain sound. This is all true, but my rule of thumb still applies. Do not limit your creativity to the styles of one genre. Progressive rock band Emerson Lake and Palmer was notorious for incorporating musical styles from other genres with full orchestras, organs and obscure vocal styles that didn't fit the "rock" genre. Did it matter though? No, in my opinion it pushed their creativity beyond belief and gave them the unique flavor that all artists strive for.

As a musician or a music listener, a good way to enrich your musical knowledge and interpretation is to be open minded. That does not mean you have to enjoy every single piece of music that touches your eardrum. It means that you should approach music with the ability to enjoy it. If you discard a piece of music just because it is "jazz" and you have this little voice in your head saying "It's jazz, it can't be good", then you are already going to miss out on new music. So if you get anything out of this huge block of text, let it be this...

Be open minded.

Until next week, stay loud and proud.

Music recommendations for this week.

Roy Brown - Butcher Pete
Andrew Bird - Tea And Thorazine
Mastodon - Blood And Thunder

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

The Beginning

And so it begins...

The Melody Within. Could I have chosen a more cheesy title? Probably not, but, oh well. It's about the content right? For anyone who doesn't know, my name is Justin Dieball. I am an amature musician who has played multiple instruments in multiple bands over the past few years. I am by no means a musical genius but I want to share my knowledge about music to anyone who is willing to listen. This blog has two goals... 
  1. Share my experience, insight, and opinions on all matters concerning music.
  2. Provoke new thoughts about music that you possibly haven't thought of before.
I would like to cover all aspects of music in this blog. For example, music and it's purpose, music theory, genres, techniques, and music gear. Subjects will always vary and I will always accept subject ideas. If a key to music is being open minded, then why shouldn't I be open-minded about subjects?

So I suppose I will most likely start with my first official subject next week. Don't fret, (guitar joke) there will be plenty of cheesy music jokes that I think any musician would enjoy. My first subject will be a long post about music genres. So until then, I challenge anyone who read this first post to be thinking of genres and how they influence what artists you listen to.

Until then, stay loud and proud.