Sunday, October 7, 2012

Raising the Bar (UPDATE 10/15/12)

Musicians today are a bunch of fuckin pussies. This is one of the unspoken truths nearly everyone agrees on. Go ask anyone, I bet they'll agree. From the indoctrinated baby boomers to the disenfranchised 90's kids who are shaping into caricatures of the movie "Step Brothers" to todays  limp-wristed, feminized teenagers.....they all know it's true.

"Well...there is SOME good music." We know, we know....of course modern music isn't 100% bad. But we all know what you're trying to say. That for every talented, unique artist attempting to pull music back up from the grave it started digging itself into in the late 80's, there's probably 1,000 artists with similar influences actively pissing on the art-form by releasing soulless, generic garbage with auto-tuned singing of lyrics that were scribble on napkin in 10 minutes. Music, on average, keeps getting shittier and shittier.

And I know why.

It's not exactly a ground-breaking discovery. It's extremely obvious, but so oftentimes overlooked. Simply put: you need to learn an instrument before you become a "producer."


 
Let me elaborate further.
 
You get an instrument at a young age, preferably grade school. Maybe you get a guitar for Christmas, or a drum-set for Hanukkah. (So you'd get the hi-hat on the 1st day, a snare on the 2nd day, a kick drum on the third day, the toms on the 4th day, a dreidel on the 5th day, cymbals on the 6th day, stands on the 7th day, and carrying cases and drum sticks on the 8th day.)
 
Or maybe you pick up an instrument for the school band. At the time, all the other kids are laughing at you for playing saxophone and being in band, but just wait about 10 years. Once you're old enough to be a competent saxophone player, panties will DROP the instant you start playing some sexy sax. Bust into a little "Careless Whisper" or randomly jam out in a warehouse. It'll get you tail, bro, and 60% of the time it works every time.






Irregardless of when or under what circumstances you get the instrument, you stick with it. You start getting better. You learn a few of your favorite songs from the shitty bands you like at a young age. Every day, hours fly by as you practice. You get older, your tastes start to develop, and you realize most of what you listen to is garbage. You start listening to music as an art, rather than as a distraction of someone yelling lyrics at you over a beat. You start listening to every instrument, every dynamic, catching on to the nuances and techniques that makes a good song good. You find you can see around corners. Hell, maybe it even becomes your passion and you play so much, you're ripping killer licks a year and a half in. 

Whatever the case, as you got better, even if it was just playing random scales and melodies and learning the occasional song you liked, you were subconsciously learning music theory the entire time. Hint: Learning what not to do is probably more important than learning what you can do in music. Even just listening to music passively ingrains a degree of theory into your subconscious. It brainwashes you into what sounds right, and what sounds wrong.

How else would people be able know what NOT to do on an instrument if we all weren't slowly subjected to music theory? What notes NOT TO HIT in a scale. What is flat or sharp in the context of the song. What rules about Iron Maiden vs. what sucks about Nickelback.

What if bands like Nickelback didn't exist? There would be no bad music to compare the good music to, thus making the good music mediocre and predictable.

If no music sucked, no music could be good by extension.


 But if it all music sucked, NONE of it could be good, because it would all suck.

And that's where we're headed. If it gets any worse, we could live in a world where EVERY BAND starts to sound like Nickelback. It'd be like the 90's all over again. Because lets be honest here, Nickelback is basically grunge music with less angst and a less sloppy, more mainstream approach to the audio engineering. Instead of assholes playing three chord hard rock in a garage, singing about how much the world sucks like grunge, Nickelback is assholes playing three chord hard rock in a million dollar studio, singing about how much relationships suck.


(If you take 90's rock seriously as music and don't think it all sounds the same, you have crappy taste. I'm sorry you don't seem to notice, but Alice in Chains only has one song they kept rewriting, and it kinda got old the fifth time you heard it on the same album.)


My point is, music theory is the rules that make music sound good, and not just a bunch of noise. By this token, music theory is also very strict. Music is a stubborn bitch. Think about it - there are 12 notes to fuck around with. 12 fucking notes. Wrap your mind around that. 12 notes - and then they start repeating. Do you know the difference between frequency and pitch? Because if you don't, you probably shouldn't be producing music.
12 notes, and people are having trouble writing good songs. It's hilarious. Imagine if there were 149 notes you could use? People would be shitting their pants whenever they heard jingles for local furniture stores, or cream their jeans every time the hoveround infomercial played.


 A world with 149 notes would have cell-phone ringtone symphonies that put John Williams entire career to shame in its opening bar.

There would be no debate about a mystical "brown note" - there would be a brown note, a yellow note, a white note, a red note, and a green note, as well. They would each be connected to some kind of disgusting bodily function. How to play these notes would be common knowledge and banned from being played, punishable by rape. Much like how swears are banned in our pathetic 12-note world. Well, minus the "punishable by rape" part - unless you're alluding to the figurative rape of our freedom in banning these words.

But I'm getting way off topic here. As I was saying....you start getting good at your instrument......

Then suddenly, you're old enough to get a job, and you realize you want to start recording the crappy songs you've been writing over the years. So over time, you piece yourself together a crappy, low-budget, makeshift studio. This isn't a one day thing, oh no. Maybe you start with a webcam microphone and plug directly into your computer. And you drape that mic over a guitar amp to record guitar tracks. Then you realize you're a fucking idiot for not Googling it earlier and finally discover the elements requisite to procure, and purchase them accordingly.

- DAW (Digital Audio Workspace)

- Audio interface
- Studio monitors
- THE INSTRUMENT YOU PLAY
- A keyboard (even if you don't play)


Only after these elements have all been acquired will you be ready to produce tolerable music. And by tolerable, I mean there isn't white noise diarrhea and intense humming on the majority of the track. Basically, the sound is somewhat clear, but the songwriting itself is hack as fuck and you have no clue what the fuck you're doing.

You're not gonna get a professional sounding project on your first dozen songs, but it'll be something that sounds leagues better than, say, the sound of the video you took with your cellphone at Ozzfest.

As you start recording music with increasing frequency, you grow leaps and bounds as a musician - and as an engineer. Maybe you even pick up additional instruments to evolve your sound, to further advance your music theory. EVERY studio should be stocked with a midi controller, or keyboard that can plug into the audio interface. This is crucial. If you produce music, make rap beats, wanna join a band and record yourself on the side - you're gonna need to learn piano. Just do it. Learning piano will enrich every other musical talent you possess.

Alternatively, maybe you find a band and start jamming every day. A few months later you're playing open mic nights every week and honing your live skills. Pretty much, from here on out, the point at which you are growing as both a composer and as a musician simultaneously, you're ahead of 90% of the world musically.

That's right. If you are an intermediate instrumentalist and a novice audio engineer, odds are greatly in your favor that you could one day be amongst the upper echelon of this generations most gifted composers - as long as you work hard towards your goal. This is because sadly, the majority of today's producers start making music without ever learning an instrument. And that's why most music today sucks.

I'm not even gonna bring DJs into this, either, because besides the elite of the craft, they're just button pushers. Comparing a DJ to a musician is like comparing an impression comedian to Bill Hicks.


The major misstep is bypassing the whole, necessary growth as a musician that hones your musical ear in ways learning how to make dubstep wobbles on a laptop simply won't. The formula of becoming an accomplished composer used to be so much more intricate and convoluted.

"acquire instrument >
practice daily>
get skilled>
become obsessed with instrument>
chase the rockstar dream>
get a ton of gigs>
get addicted to loose cocaine and cheap women>
go broke>
mid-life crisis>
get construction job>
lose an arm>
get workmans comp, now having all the time in the world to chase the rockstar dream>
ironically, you can no longer chase the dream because you only have one arm"


Nowadays, it's a much simpler process.

"hear Skrillex on the radio >
go to a rave or two>
pirate Fruity Loops>
pirate Massive>
make songs with absolutely no knowledge on how music is actually made>
give up>
start DJing"

Figuratively speaking, lets say making music is equivalent to swimming. Making music without knowing an instrument is like getting thrown into a body of water when you don't know how to swim.









That scene of Cast Away is the perfect description of Pro Tools.

Sure, some hot-shot young "producer" thinks they'll be fine with their floatation devices. The inflatable Fruity Loops studio on their left arm, and air-filled radio shack monitors on their right. But music is a cold and unforgiving mistress. She is full of sharks, and sharp coral reef, and festering garbage from New York. You need more than monitors and a CD-rom of Fruity Loops to fight off sharks and close the wounds from an encounter with sharp coral reef. Unless you're a musician, that is.

Since I know how to play so many instruments (guitar/lapsteel/bass/piano/drums/harmonica/lapsteel/xylophone/percussion/saxophone/banjo/standupbass/sing/rap/beatbox/kazoo) and have been recording music completely solo since 2007...combined with the plunders of my travels and journeys to and at about 100 live gigs...I'd have the know-how and experience to survive the waters of an unfamiliar DAW. I'd snap the CD in half, using it as a shank to gut the shark, and I would then craft the studio monitors into propeller shoes to whisk me back to shore, where I would then cook shark burgers for everyone on the beach and end up nailing Brazilian twins in a tiki bar while mastering  the very song I wrote and recorded while simultaneously cooking the aforementioned shark burgers for everyone.

Having strings, or touch sensitive keys on a piano, or a reed with which to exhale air into, or mallets / sticks to strike a surface with, enables the musician to provoke emotion physically through the process of musical texturing.

Musical texturing is the only way to make original music now, because so much musical ground has already been covered. Like I mentioned earlier, there's only 12 notes, so you damn well better know how to use them the right way before you go and start releasing songs. It's the least you could do, right? I mean...12 notes.

Unfortunately, most young people that produce music today wouldn't even be able to make this 5-key piano sound competant.


If you're only gonna use 4 chords like every other jabroni who thinks they write catchy songs, you gotta learn how to texture that shit. And I'm not talking about trills, hammer-ons, bends, tapping, or sliding. And I'm also not talking about frequency shifts, gates, beat matching, or volume swells, either. Those are techniques and FX, respectively. Texturing is how those techniques and FX feel in the context of the song; how they fit into the tapestry of music. It's the flavor, the melodic hooks, the off-key notes and off-time notes.

Thus, if you can't play an instrument and think you 'make music,' your music probably sucks. Unless you have a really god damn talented and unique musical ear...and the odds are highly stacked against that...you probably aren't going to make anything interesting with zero applicable music theory trying to make memorable music pushing buttons.

The texture of most music today is like that of a fecal paste.



This has been rustling my jimmies for years, ever since I started getting good at my instrument. (Which was almost right away, because I'm a one-man-Pink Floyd meets Iron Maiden.) Most music is so half-assed and boring, I decided that much like James Cameron on the last episode of South Park (I mentioned this a few articles back), it's time to raise the fucking bar. So kiddies, here's how it's fucking done.

Here's a track that took me less than a week. It's over 15 minutes long. It's called "Societal Decay."


(Link to Societal Decay)

Here's the website I built during the breaks from the recording of this song (and watching Regular Show) to compliment the story.


 APOCALYPTIC DAWN

Here's a few of the images I designed during my breaks from recording / Regular Show / designing the website.




And here's the very article I wrote while taking breaks from recording / Regular Show / designing the website / graphic design of the image, this article you're reading.


So many people lack the ambition these days to make music the right way - good. In fact, aspiring musicians are so ambition deprived these days, they try to be a musician without ever learning how to play music.

Producers don't even strive to be unique anymore; it's like they don't even want to make music, they just want to impress their shitty friends by calling themselves a "producer." Congratulations, asshole, you made an obnoxious sounding "Crunk" beat with dubstep elements and called it "Trap". Good for you, I guess. How long did that take, 15 minutes to search google for the loops you stole to make the track and 5 more minutes to arrange them in FLStudio?

Making music is plucking a banjo, hitting a chord on a piano, ripping a guitar solo.

Not dragging and dropping samples into a DAW.
 

I don't get the logic composers have these days. Instead of striving to utilize years of experience and countless influences into a brand new, unique style of music, they instead strive to shoehorn themselves into the most popular music trend they can latch onto, without ever learning how to actually make music. "FUCK developing my own unique sound, I wanna sound like Skrillex!" 

It's because they're fucking pussies. It's because they don't know how to play instruments. It's because they tried to learn how to engineer and master their recordings, so the recording quality sounds professional, before ever learning how to compose anything worth being mastered in the first place. It's because they'd rather push buttons than make actual music. It's because they're either too scared or too stupid to try wrapping their heads around the process of creating organic sound.

So I've issued this challenge. I've raised the bar. Listen to the track. Check out the website. Look at the images. Re-read this overlong and tiresome article while listening to the song. All created from scratch in about a week. Go ahead, craft something more ambitious than this SONG / WEBSITE / COMEDY ARTICLE / GRAPHIC DESIGN combo I just made in a week. I'm not going to challenge you to create "something better," because art is subjective. (And because you won't.)

Go ahead. I fucking dare you. You can even take longer than a week, you're gonna need it.


What gives me the right to talk so much shit, you ask? What makes my music different? I don't know...maybe producing songs that balance 101 layers of unique tones, performed on multiple instruments to cover 15 minutes of runtime, all composed and recorded in the space of a week gives me a bit of a soap-box to stand on when it comes music production experience and knowledge.

101 tracks - and some of those tracks are multiple tracks. Like a track that has 18 violins panned to the left, and 11 Violas panned to the right....or another track with a full female choir to the right and a full male choir to the left....or a track with Wagnerian trumpets and French Horns...or a string quartet...or a woodwind section....

These orchestral tracks were played out by hand on a keyboard, as were the synthesizers (retro, chiptune, and modern) and organ tones. I played all the bass lines on my acoustic bass, which gets some crispy, raunchy tone. And all the guitar parts on my LTD Deluxe electric. You may also recognize some synths from your childhood, as I used soundfonts from Super Nintendo games, as well as some N64 tones from Ocarina of Time and Goldeneye.



101 layers....
See that one that says '70 piece?' Towards the top, around the middle. That's a 70-piece String Orchestra. I have a program that samples a full orchestra. You know, for people like me who don't have access to full orchestras for recording sessions, but still want to compose orchestral music without having to kidnap the London Symphony Orchestra, tie them up in my basement, and only feed them when they record the sheet music I give them, if they know whats good for them.

But let's get back to the 70 piece string section. That means for every note hit, that's 70 instruments. A three note chord would then, collectively, be 210 instruments. It's the same program people like Hans Zimmer use to make film-scores on the fly. Hell, I even had to start a separate LIVE set to record the ORCHESTRA HIT without crashing everything.

This song is boss.

Hell, even that image of 101 Dalmatians took more effort to make than some bands put into entire albums.

 Speaking of that 101 Dalmatians picture, Lady Gaga has really let herself go over the years. Maybe selling her soul to the Illuminati was the wrong move. I mean, everyone thought she was bad when she was trying to murder countless Dalmatian puppies for a dead puppy dress...probably to wear to the VMAs or some shit....but then she started releasing music, and the puppy genocide was free daycare for disabled children in comparison to the horror show that is her music.





So do YOU wanna do your part in helping music return to its glory days? Either learn an instrument and start making interesting music...or buy my albums on I-tunes, you talentless, lazy pricks.




If you already play and write music, good for you. I commend your patience for reading this far when you could be making new music, playing a bar gig for a handful of quarters, or nailing some classy groupies.

I'll part with a piece of advice, as a gift for those venturing this far down the page. Try to make this song, the one you're currently working on....the best fucking song you've ever written. No excuses, pussy, just make it the best song you've ever recorded. And then, when you start writing your next song....repeat this process. And again. And again. And again. And still keep doing it. Do it with every new song you make.

Besides the occasional break from self-improvement....when you cut loose and focus on a less ambitious project....every song you write should be a test to craft that perfect signature sound, to create a new style or improve on the style you've been developing from your other compositions. Not every song can be Symphony X "The Odyssey"good. But you can damn well try. I know I sure as hell try to.

UPDATE: 10/15/2012

Well, it's been two days since I've raised the bar, and the dust has finally settled.

 Feels good to be number one.

Not like it's an entirely foreign concept though....


I've been number one on Reverb Nation for years, in various locations, including NY, NY.


  

2 comments:

  1. where you found the pic of ableton ?. the problem whit the music toady is ..... The media AND the corporations are controlled by Jews

    ReplyDelete
  2. Jew control?

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=c-yZFVcNeoY

    ReplyDelete

If you should strike me down I will become more powerful than you could possibly imagine.