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