Sunday, January 30, 2011

Time Signatures

Most contemporary music is in 4/4 time and is the basis for nearly every famous song I can think of. Most people couldn't name five songs without at least two or three of them being in strictly in 4/4 time.

For a long time I have wondered what made the music I love particularly unique. Recently, when I have asked my more musically inclined friends why this was, most of them made reference to odd time signatures and unconventional time signatures not typically employed in Western Music. They told me that most of the bands I was really into also made use of these time signatures as naturally as other groups use 4/4 timing. Hearing how all of the numbers that went into time signatures and how they effected the piece of music really blew my mind. I wanted to know more.
*Here Are Some Examples of Simple Time Signatures Found In Western Music:

*During the course of my research I have found that many bands that use Compound Time Signatures are very technical in their playing style and have amazing drummers to keep the beat and continually shift their rhythms and meters. After looking closely at sheet music by bands such as A Perfect Circle, Tool, Meshuggah, The Dillinger Escape Plan, Radiohead, Periphery, Norma Jean, Led Zeppelin, Pink Floyd, The Mars Volta,  and Mastodon I noticed that many of them made use of Compound Time.

Here Are Some Examples of Compound Time Signatures:

*Here Are Some Useful Tools To Help Count Compound Time*

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Selection from "The Music Lesson" by Victor Wooten

To play Music, good technique is a must. You can know all the notes in the world. You can have the best ideas in the world, but you need good technique to get them out. Your technique can even be unorthorthodox, but if it is inadequate, you will not be able to express yourself freely; you will frustrate yourself instead. Good technique allows you to use all the other elements of Music at will.

Your technique should be at such a high level that you can forget about it. Eventually, you will even forget about your instrument. Only then can you remember how to play Music. Think about talking. When you talk, the words are your notes. Your tongue, diaphragm, mouth, teeth, lips and so on are your instruments. How you use them to push air across your vocal cords and through your lips to form words is your technique, but you rarely think about that...When you were a baby your technique was not adequate enough to allow you to speak like everyone else. You would babble on an on trying to work it out and be understood. Not having the proper control of your instrument caused you to cry.

When learning Music, we think we need to concentrate really hard on something until we achieve success. We also think we should lock ourselves in what we call the 'woodshed' for at least a few hours a day and focus on what we are doing. We practice our scales, modes, and techniques over and over until they become second nature. This, we think, is the only way of attaining the level of master musician. I propose a different path.

The elements of Music are the individual parts that make up Music as a whole. Many musicians like yourself struggle because you are not familiar enough with all the elements. You rely mostly on one or two of them when you play. Doing that is a great recipe for frustration.

The Ten Elements of Music: 1) Groove  2)Notes  3)Articulation/Duration  4)Technique  5)Emotion/Feel  6) Dynamics  7)Tone  8)Phrasing  9)Space/Rest  10) Listening

(*Pages 36-37, and 78-79*)

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

*Music Theory (in the style of Tool)*Minor Scales

While continuing to research Tool's style of music I have come across some terminology that is helpful to understand, especially when trying to perform their songs on guitar.

Question 1) What is a "Minor Scale Fragment"?
Answer: There are three different kinds of minor scales (natural, harmonic, and melodic). A "fragment" of one of these scales could be playing the notes from the scale in a different pattern other than 1,2,3,4,5,6,7. The fragment could be in an order like 123  234  345  456. Depending on the minor scale (natural, harmonic, and melodic) the notes and their fragments will give a different feel to the scale or song.

*Natural Minor Scales have a pattern of Whole Steps and Half Steps like this:

*Here is an example of a D Natural Minor Scale

*Harmonic Minor Scales have a pattern of Whole Steps and Half Steps with an augmented second (one and a half steps) that looks like this:

*Here is an example of a D Harmonic Minor Scale

*Melodic Minor Scales are different from the other two minor scales because it has one pattern ascending the scale and another pattern descending the scale.  

*The Ascending Pattern in whole steps and half steps looks like this:
*The Descending Patter in whole steps and half steps looks like this:

*Here is an example of an ascending D Melodic Minor Scale

Thursday, January 20, 2011

*Music Theory (In The Style of Tool)* "Drop D" Tuning

After looking through Guitar World Magazine, Licensed Transcriptions of several Tool songs and with the help of AxeOfCreation's helpful tutorial on, it is clear that most of Tool's song use "Drop D" in order to make the song more powerful sounding.

Question 1: What is "Drop D" tuning?
Answer: According to the book The Definitive Guitar Handbook "Drop D" tuning on guitar is when the Low E String on the guitar is lowered one whole step until it reaches the pitch of "D". This is an octave lower than the open fourth string. When this pitch is dropped a whole step it allows for an Open D5 power chord. "Drop D" is perfect for playing songs in the key of D major or D minor. Some guitarists will use the low D string as a 'drone' note while moving chord shapes up and down the fingerboard. 

Below is an example of "Drop D" look in written form instead of Standard E Tuning.

Below is another example of what "Drop D" looks when power chords go down the fretboard.

Question 2) What do D Minor Pentatonic power chords look like?

Question 3) What notes are in a D Minor Pentatonic Scale?
Answer: D, F,G,A,C,D

Question 4) What chords can I use with Drop D tuning in D Minor?


Wednesday, January 19, 2011

The Funniest Thing Happend Today

After watching the Adam Jones Tutorial I was hoping to find additional information about some of the concepts in the video. As I searched the YouTube account of the person who created the video I found contact information. Along with the contact information was a small message that said the guy had transcribed his lesson/tutorial and would be willing to e-mail it to anyone who wanted it. Not knowing if the guy would check his e-mail in a week or a year I sent a request to him. Less than a day later I got an e-mail back from the guy I had found on YouTube. Sometimes I forget these people are real and are not some actor on my little laptop screen. He said that he appreciated my feedback and my interest in his videos. 

To further my research I decided include portions of the tutorial he sent me into my blog. I give full credit to this guy and in no way want to give the impressions that I created the transcription.This is for educational purposes only. I am just another wannabe guitarist who happened to stumble upon a YouTube video by AxeOfCreation and was inspired.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Tool Guitar Lesson and Notes:

*Video Notes:
 GUITAR TUNING: "Drop D" D A D G B E   (Tune Low E string (6) down one full step)
*This makes  possible the creation of an Open D5 power chord

*Adam Jones often employs the use of Pentatonic Scales as the harmonic foundation of his music.
*Favors the use of these scales particularly on the lower strings (E and A)to achieve a heavier sound.
*Makes wide use of the D minor Pentatonic Scale.
*This can be performed on the low E string (6) in the following fret positions on the fretboard Open, 3, 5, 7, 10, 12.
*Commonly uses two note power chords made possible by the use of "Drop D" tuning.
*Often he will take these two note chords and turn them into bar chords across the fretboard, giving the chord a fuller and bigger sound.
*Makes use of minor scales fragments or patterns.
*He will use minor scale fragments to change the tonal center of his composition.
*Often moves the root note to the second note. By doing this it adds a half step right next to the root note and this creates a sound similar to tension.
*Use of Phrygian Mode
*Guitar Solos are described as "melodic" and "lyrical".
*Use of fragmented minor scales is the foundation for many of his solos.
*Known to create interesting sounds by "walking" or "picking out" power chords. By mixing and matching chord shapes it allows Jones to create some powerful sounds riffs.

Notes on "Lateralus":
*Central use of two note power chords for verse, taken directly from the pentatonic minor scale.
*Extends these two note powers chords into bar chords to achieve fuller sound
*Meter is central to this song and makes it unique. Over the course of the three measure riff, Jones chops off one note per measure going from 9 beats per measure to 8 and then the 7.
*Chords used in the chorus riff of the song (1:13 to 1:37) taken from minor pentatonic scale on fret positions Open, 3, 5, 10, 12.

Notes on "Triad":
-Example of use of minor scale fragment
-Scale pattern opens with use of Open D pattern (Low E string, frets Open, 2,3)
   -Jones will throw in "Dead Notes" or muted notes to add to the punch and power song
Notes on "46 and 2":
*Use of Phrygian Mode/Pattern
*Central riff performed on Low E String, Centered around the note D.
-Single note riff
*H symbol signifies hammer-on 
*Single note riff is then given more power by turning the note into a power chord. 

Notes on "Aenima"
*Use of fragmented, minor scale
*Example on fourth string (D), 7th Position, scale fragment uses frets 7,9, and 10. (Emphasis of half-step is crucial)

Notes on "The Pot"
*Use of Power Chords in the key of D
*Chords positions (12, 10, 8, and 5) 

Notes on "Schism"
*The Rhythm of the song is what makes it unique 
*Main riff uses two different time signatures 5/8 and 7/8
*Use of 16th note triplets utilized in the Main Riff and Outro Riff
 *Use of hammer-on necessary to make these riffs sound right
*Outro uses Phrygian scale fragment (based off of the Key of D
*Use of 16th notes triplets now used in standard 4/4 timing
Notes on "Vicarious" 
*Use of 16th notes triplets in the chorus
*Uses 16th notes triplets are more of a fill or accent to the riff
*Use of upbeat chord strums adds to the expectation of the listener and allows for a rhythmic counterpoint

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Spiral Out, Keep Going!!

*Adam Jones of Tool live in concert*

Tool is a band I have been following for most of my teenage and adult life. I first became aware of them in 1996 when I heard the song "Stinkfist." The music video complimented the lyrically cryptic and hauntingly dark rhythm of the song that never seemed let up once during the song. In addition to listening to their albums for the last fifteen years I have also had the pleasure of seeing Tool perform in concert six times (2001/Portland, 2002/Seattle, 2006/The Gorge, 2007/Everett, 2007/Spokane, 2010/Seattle). In fact, over the past few years I  have become as big of a fan of their live music as I am their studio work. My collection of live recordings from their concerts is rather extensive. Listening to their studio work and their live performances has given me the rare ability to understand what the studio allows the band to sound like on an album in relation to what they are able to perform live without pre-recorded tracks. Putting on a good pair of headphones and allowing myself to truly listen to the music has allowed me to decipher what is sonically possible in both a live and professional studio setting. One particular detail I have noticed is that the layering of guitars and the use of panning audio left and right are difficult to re-create live. However, as professional musicians and a life-long touring band, their ability to pull over complex rhythms and dynamics on a arena stage is nothing short of inspiring. 

As you may have noticed, Tools'  music is also very personal to me on many levels. Musically they can do no wrong in my book and lyrically I find something more profound about their song's meanings the older I get. This is a band I intend to grow old with and seeing that I have already spent fifteen years getting to know them, I have grown old with them already.

As part of my project I would like to discuss the band Tool in the context of the electric guitar played by Adam Jones. In terms of music theory I would like to know more about his style of playing, what chords he uses to construct his powerful songs, what type of rhythms and tempos the band uses that make them sound unlike most bands I have heard and what I can learn from this band that can inspire me to be a better player.

*Tool live in concert at Spokane Arena (December 7th, 2007)*

Friday, January 14, 2011

"You are already musical; you just don't know it yet."

As I read further into my book "The Music Lesson: A Spiritual Search For Growth Through Music" by Victor Wooten I realized two things right away: 1)This book is not your average music theory book and 2) This is best possible book to be reading at this point in my musical journey.It reinforces the idea that above all, music should be fun.The author of the book takes a very unique approach when it comes to talking about Music. He makes the case that you can have a life-long relationship with music if you chose to. 

 "Like one hand clapping, a one-sided relationship never works. It is clear to me now. For a relationship to work efficiently there must be equality in ever way. Both parties must give to each other, take from each other, respect each other, love each other, and listen to each other."

Wooten points out that both the instrument and the player need each other in a mutually beneficial way.The person is musical already, the instrument is simply to means to communicate that which is in the person through the vehicle of music expressed through the guitar. He believes that music is more than just sounds that come from instruments. Music is an extension of your soul.Wooten wants the reader to understand that music can be spiritually healing, an interesting spin on mathematics and an educational tool in other areas of our lives that does not seem to have any ties to music at all. He acknowledges that playing an instrument can be intimidating at first and music theory's technical word jargon  alone can scare off most people from picking up an instrument in the first place. Wooten wants you, the reader, to above all have fun and love what you do with your instrument, in my case the electric guitar. With inspiration of this book hope to be able to learn to slow down, breathe deeply, embrace my instrument and try again compassion and patience for yourself. After all, every person's musical trip is unlike any other persons and it is crucial to remember that. Whenever you get anxious playing just remember that no one is going to whip you if you mistake a major key for a minor key, no one is going to throw rotten tomatoes at you if you mistake a perfect third for a fifth, and no one is going to take your hands and hold them on your instrument and learn the instrument for you. It is your job, if you chose to accept it, to let go of your anxieties, pick up your instrument and express your emotions without out hesitation or judgement of self. JUST LET IT HAPPEN! 

Victor Wooten Interview

Found a great interview with Victor Wooten that I found interesting. It goes over some of the topics and concepts in his book. 

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Shall We Begin At The Beginning??

For as long as I can remember I have always loved music. There is not a single recollection of me not having music in my life, even from a young age. Though I couldn't have been older than three or four years old I fondly remember playing the tennis-racket-guitar with my older brother Cameron whenever my mom put on "Revolution #1" by the Beatles. There was no such thing back then as playing the wrong note or being in the wrong key. Performance anxiety was never an issue. A few years later my brother took up playing the cornet and with it came a consistent practice schedule as well as school band concerts. Cameron went from sounding like a piss drunk Louis Armstrong being mauled by zombies to, well, like Louis Armstrong. For several years to come I attended his school band performances and witnessed my brother transform into an accomplished musician. Hearing my brother play his cornet through my bedroom wall and seeing him play in front his entire school inspired me to want to play an instrument.  The bands Soundgarden, The Smashing Pumpkins and Deftones were also my new inspirations. 

The summer before 5th grade I finally decided it was time to pick up an instrument and play in the school band. I didn't know what instrument I wanted to play though. At the time I had two options and that was to either go into symphonic band or regular band.  Both options mostly used woodwind instruments and they held no appeal to me. Percussion instruments were limited to the snare drum or the bass drum and a full kit was out of the question. Since I was really into bands like The Smashing Pumpkins, Soundgarden and Nirvana the electric guitar seemed like the right fit for me. However, because I had really chubby fingers and was intimidated by six tiny strings, I decided to pick up the electric bass instead. Four huge strings generously spaced apart seemed ideal.

I played in the school band for a few years but after switching schools and band teachers I eventually lost interest in playing classical music and watered down renditions of Top 40 hits. In my last year of band class my instructor really tried to emphasize the importance of music theory and how it can make you a better musician. However, the material was mind-numbing and the teacher was even worse at trying to communicate the information. After a semester of trying to learn music theory I hated it so I quit band.

I wanted to play the music I liked and was tired of studying classical music. Though I continued to play the bass for a few years after formally leaving the school band my playing became sporadic and mostly me just banging on the bass as loud and fast as possible. As a result I never really improved as a player and actually began to backslide in terms of ability. 

Because my first impression of music theory was a negative one I am hoping that by studying the music I like it will provide me the opportunity to see something again almost for the first time and in a better light. 

**P.S. Please make use of the red, underlined links in this post. If you click on the link you will be able to see and hear and example of the artists and their music I am referring to.**

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Hit The Ground Running.

Since I have never created a blog before this project it feels a little daunting but very exciting at the same time. I am not sure what the best format for this website will be but in time I will get the hang of it. It is my goal to be able to post text, pictures, and videos to document my experience. Even though I am only a week into this project I can already tell that this blog will be a great resource for anyone interested in music theory, guitar and especially rock and roll. Though I was originally going to start with music theory basics and work my way up to more complex concepts in a linear fashion, I am going to try something a little different. While I do intend to post useful and practical music theory information, I don't want to re-create the music theory books I am currently studying. In fact, I would like to make something a bit more unique. I would like to treat this project of mine as a  resource tool long after the my project is over in June, 2011. It is my intention to keep updating this blog for a long time coming.

**Play Like A Child. There Are No Wrong Notes!!**

Monday, January 10, 2011

My First Post!!

Hello, my name is Kevin and this is my first post on my blog Transcendence Through Music. As a senior at The Evergreen State College I designed a two-quarter-long project where I will be exploring the amazing world of music and music theory. Each week I will update this blog to document my research concerning music theory as well as my thoughts about the music that inspires me. There will be a little of everything on this blog and I hope whoever is reading this will enjoy it and make use of the information and links provided on the site. Cheers!!