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Music in mind

06/08/2010

A certain yearning has awakened in me recently and I find myself wishing for the days when I had time to learn an instrument all day long.  I haven’t actively tried to improve myself on an instrument in quite some time but recently the lust seems to be returning.  A number of factors seem to be contributing to this as well not the least of which is my first keyboard with any weight behind the keys.

Recently I watched a fascinating movie called “It Might Get Loud”.  Basically someone put the money up to get Jimmy Page, Jack White, and The Edge together to talk about guitar.  To be blunt, I’m fairly indifferent to all three but the documentary was good.  All the musicians basically gave their origin stories and visited some of the locations of their past, shared their favorite songs, and spoke for about 15 minutes together.

I haven’t owned a Led Zeppelin CD since 9th grade and I’ve never owned a White Stripes album.  I downloaded a bunch of White Stripes to teach a student of mine and was automatically exposed to their songs that were not “7 Nation Army”.  What I remember thinking at the time was how badly The White Stripes wanted to sound like an old Chicago and Mississippi blues duo blended with a little rock.  I don’t remember what any of those songs sound like presently.  And U2…  Well I do own some U2 CD’s.  I don’t listen to them often, if ever.  I purchased most of them through BMI whom I think I still owe $40 to.  The Edge has never been a guitarist that stood out at all in my mind as U2’s riffs are about as simple as they get.

I still wound up enjoying the movie.  Hearing about Jimmy Page’s life as a studio guitar player was a story I’d heard about other guitar players before but was nevertheless captivated with.  The Edge’s giant mound of FX racks explained quite a bit to me.  He approaches the guitar how I would a synthesizer.  Its more about the search for the right sound rather than the right melody.  I chuckled to myself as The Edge explained how he without certain notes from an Em chord to make it more his own.  The reason I chuckled is because he only took out the third.  Yeah if you’re not a musician I apologize, that should be my only joke for those who know a little music theory.

The biggest surprise was hearing Jack White play.  7 Nation Army is a really catchy but easy song.  A song that if I have a student who knows it is great to start them on.  But his use of a slide and innovation with working was what impressed me.  He really can play some old delta blues style.  The other part that fascinated me was he openly stated he hated guitar players who live for their FX.

This inspired me to take an old visit to the cult classic Crossroads.  A common misconception about Crossroads is that 1) Ralph Macchio didn’t play guitar and 2) Steve Vai did all the gutiar playing.  Steve Vai pretty much just did all the music at the end.  I’m not much of a Steve Vai fan so I identify his riffs as the silly sounding stuff.  Ry Cooder did the majority of the songs in the movie and Ralph Macchio was taught enough guitar to fake it.  This is all knowledge I happened upon and never took the time to watch the movie again to verify.  What’s interesting is Ralph fumbles a few times and if you watch very closely, you’ll notice as he shreds or plays a string of single notes his index finger often holds the string with the flat instead of the tip.  You can’t play fast if you don’t use your tips.  Well you can but it’ll sound pretty sloppy without distortion.

The blues is such an interesting style because the technique involved isn’t particularly hard.  The chops need to play it do not take long to develop.  What does take a long time to develop is learning all the notes that need to be hit to make the blues riff work.  Now I’m no expert on this by any means.  See I subject myself to these things with the hope that I will become unsatisfied with my playing and improve.

See each musician has a love hate relationship with their abilities.  I have never worked with a musician who loved their music all the time.  Now granted I’ve meet a ton of smug snotty musicians, I mean hell that’s the vast majority of them.  As if playing a song will make people shut up about politics and do something useful, like bring science and agriculture to Africa or get a job at a company they hate to reform it from the inside.  No music is for the soul and the environment.  And when it comes down to it, its not actually needed.  And all these things well up inside us and we create and its awesome.

So oddly enough, even though I do have an itch to dig up some classical guitar songs, instead I’ve been learning the piano again.  Granted I never stopped playing keyboards, but actually sitting down and reading music for the piano, that I haven’t done in a long time.  I recently picked up “Apocalypse Please” by Muse, the theme from The Fountain, and a book of Debussy.  No I can’t play anything through yet, I’m just name dropping.  So far the theme from the Fountain is fairly easy, my only real trouble being that I haven’t sight read bass clef in years.  “Apocalypse Please” isn’t too difficult at the start either and really I’m just lucky on that one.  I had a guitar teacher train me on chords that spanned something like 7 frets so the stretches on “Apocalypse Please” were at least manageable.

Sigh, I wish I could just sit around for 8 hours a day and improve on instruments for my job.  Oh well, wishful thinking.  Here’s to another restless night!

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One Comment leave one →
  1. Specter permalink
    06/10/2010 18:36

    I can totally relate to what your feel, just in a different way…

    Being a dancer requires lots and LOTS of physical activity. It’s hard to do stretches at my desk and not attract the awkward eye.

    It depresses me sometimes to think that if I were “rich” [monetarily speaking] maybe I could work on dancing all day. Fulfill that dream for me. Especially since I kind of have the space now, and your music inspires me on a daily basis… I’m in the best shape I’ve been in for years but that in itself is sad, because I’m not up to “professional” standards.

    If I had the time and the space I feel like I could “REALLY” dance again, and it’s hard to wait for that time… I know I can make it happen, but waiting sucks…

    If anything, I wish I could give that opportunity to you (to do music all day for a living) because you have so much unreleased stuff that is effing AMAZING that the world should be exposed to…

    Although me dressing like a cyborg and dancing to it is probably not what you had in mind for you audience LOL

    Soon maybe it will happen, and I’ll never see you again because you’ll be in the studio/cave *^_^*

    It would be worth it!

    ~S.

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