Tomorrow it begins. The RPM Challenge. I'm not overly stressed about it but I'm not calm. I've been getting things in order. Collected some new sounds and plugins. Tonight I might even vacuum...
But I got distracted. My guitar was calling me with those sweet tones. So I played. And played. Occasionally stopping to apply some lube cough I mean press record. Ack, this is cheating! The challenge isn't until tomorrow! Nothing to do but to towel off and face the music.
In my very first guitar lesson, I learned some higher voicings for Em, D and C. I use those in this track which opens with those. From there it quickly gets down to business with an additional two layers of guitar, a bass much drums. So much fun, it outta be illegal.
So now my desk is clean. There are no half started tunes. I need to rest up for tomorrow. I got a busy month.
I may have lost my mind. We'll see at the end of it. I have signed up for the RPM '09 Challenge. What's that? The challenge is to create an album in 28 days. Forget about having a life in February (like that's a big fucking loss) and just make music. Rules? Simple. 10 songs or 35 minutes. All in February. Put it on a CD and mail it in (CD? wtf?!?).
My feelings going in are that this is similar to the alonetone24 hour album but a little more sensible. Of course, with the extra time come traps or obligations. Like spending too much time on some stupid sound that only I'll know about. Or worrying about album art.
Of course, this is meant to be fun. And it will be. And if I'm really fortunate, I might have something I like at the end of it.
I finally bought myself a guitar. I've had it for a little under a week now and I think I'm in love. We're still learning about each other but the s-s-s-s-ound is f-f-f-antastic!
For the guitar geeks in the audience it's a Michael Kelly Valor Custom. Grover tuners, Rockfield pickups (split tap), blah blah. It's got a beautiful red flame maple finish that this picture does not show.
As is common with new lovers, my parts are getting worn. And how sweet it is.
The result is interesting to me in several ways. The removal of the original sound and the addition of my synthy music gives a floating, dream like quality to the piece. While putting it together, I tried using a different track Bad Part of Town and it was completely different again (dark sense of foreboding like somebody was going to crash). Also, there are musical elements that coincide with events in the video. They were accidental because I just attached to separate creations together. But it does raise the question, "How good could this be if those cues were deliberate?" and even more profoundly, "What if I actually had some training in this?"
I've now finished my third lesson and the magnitude of the thing I'm trying to do is starting to become apparent. It's kind of like I naively said, "Hey, let's walk to LA from NY." And then three blocks from my house I start to realize, "Uh oh. This is big."
Of course, all this is natural and I don't even know the half of it yet. In my very first lesson, Mark counseled patience. So patient I'll try to be.
That's just the playing part. The recording part is an additional headache. I'm learning beginner lessons about latency. And how in Logic, if I reduce the buffer size and start using mega plugins things don't go well. My audio interface can do low latency monitoring and has some onboard effects but I have yet to arrive at a set up that I consider workable. When I do, that'll likely be at least one post of its own.
It may not have been obvious from one of my previous posts but learning guitar was one of my resolutions for the New Year. Today, I had my second lesson and I am a man possessed.
In the learning of any instrument there is a hump. A time in the early going where it's just not fun. I think this is equally true for adults and children. But the approaches are different. With children, there's parental pressure and the ability of a teacher to make things fun. With adults, we bring our own pressure but also complex baggage. I like this. I can't do that. I have superficial knowledge of this but I think I'm expert. The teacher, I suspect, has to navigate these waters a little more carefully.
My first lesson started with some discussion about what I want from guitar. I'm going to write my answer here so that I can look at it later and marvel at my idiocy...
Currently, I'm getting my creative juices flowing by experimenting with sounds. The bulk of those sounds are generated by software. Quite often, while working, I want to add guitar textures. Not necessarily super complicated parts. More ambient textural things like say Robin Guthrie might play (I've always swooned for the Cocteau Twins). I'd love to be able to play like Robert Fripp but let's be honest. I'm old and not that disciplined.
My teacher listened patiently to me blather and was able to channel my excitement giving me a simple three chord sequence to work on. These weren't the usual open chords you see other beginners struggling with but chords up at the twelfth fret that I could play around with and are exactly the kind of ambient textural thing I was looking for. With the explicit instruction to experiment. Wow. One lesson and my head was exploding with the possibilities. Two lessons and I'm feeling like there's hope for me (a very pleasant change from thinking that guitar is too hard for me, like piano or violin hard).
Who is my new mentor? None other than Mark Patterson. Are you kidding me? I can't believe my luck.
So the next leg of my musical journey has begun. I don't know where I'm going. And that is fucking cool.
While everyone else fawns over or complains about Apple's latest products, over at CDM, I'm reading about something really exciting.
Turns out that there are some amazing developments in multi-touch controllers. You must watch the video. If you're not technical, sucks to be you but just tune out the technical stuff at the front end but do stay tuned for the playing demos.
One of the points of tension between instrument players and electronic musicians is that the former feel that electronics lack the expressiveness of real instruments. And if I'm to be honest, they have a point. But with a controller such as this I see that argument losing all validity and I could even imagine being able drive guitar samples in believable ways (something of a holy grail in my mind).
Randall Jones is da man behind this wonder and he's on his way to a prominent place in music history ebooks.
What a fun toy. First I put pads through it like in the CDM post and came up with Funk A Duck.
Then later, sandbags asked if I had tried running piano loops through BigSeq. That seemingly innocent question resulted in Slooooooow. This track is embarrassingly simple. Two piano loops, each simultaneously run through BigSeq, a drum loop and some other textural sounds all at the blistering tempo of 26bpm. Oddly, the dropping of the tempo had the biggest effect on the direction of the piece.
Funk A Duck was more complex and might deserve more explanation but since I'm not really happy with the track at the moment I'll save that for another day after I've fixed it.
In the closing days of 2008, my first issue of my shiny new Sound On Sound subscription arrived in the mail. Laying about here on New Year's Day I set to reading it and one of the things that caught my eye was the Sounding Off column on the last page.
The author, Mark Wherry, is responding to an interview in The Guardian with none other than John Adams. Apparently, the composer laments that music is too easy to make and has given rise to a flood of mediocre music. Mark takes small issue with Adams as do I.
As a single creator of "mediocre music", I don't really have an argument aside from taking some kind of personal offence. But as part of a larger community of such artists I have to observe some things that might not be apparent to a casual listener of the output.
My main point is that making music, as a side effect, teaches me and those like me how to listen. And that makes me a more informed consumer. That does not mean I'll be be buying more of Speers' or Cyrus' product. It does mean that I'm more likely to be interested in the work of artists producing what Adams calls "contemporary serious music" because I am better able to appreciate their work.
Indeed because of the way the internet has enabled communities of "mediocre musicians" this education grows and becomes motivational fuel for more creation and thus more learning. Kind of a self sustaining reaction.
As an aside... It may be easier to make passable music with current technology but the paths to improvement are always the same. Learn something about music theory. Get lessons on an intrument. Seems to me that if you have the ability to teach then it seems to me that you have the potential to do quite well for yourself; particularly if you can offer something that helps your students understand how to (better) work with their toys. Who knows, we may keep more young players who would have been turned off musical studies by the old ways...
Of course, what do I know. I'm mediocre :-)
Rumours of the death of music are greatly exaggerated... and in fairness to Adams, he finishes the interview saying as much.