Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Internet Flotsam

This is what happens when I pay attention to the news...

Gordon Brown. A politician in trouble for speaking his mind and probably being right. Everyone knows someone who parrots bigoted garbage about immigrants. Sounds like that's what GB had just been forced to endure with a straight face. Nothing makes people angry like being told the truth, so this actually costs him votes in England's PM race. The story.


If, like me, you love to observe the contrast between a person with a truly unique talent for communicating through the arts and a run-of-the-mill technician, you simply must watch this. Shatner!.


While you're there you should watch this unreal, terrifying mascot dunk. Where are Bango's parents? Where is OHSA?


As one of the billions of victims of the 2000 elections, I admit to a grudge against Florida. I was heartened to learn that Florida may lose some or at least not gain as many congressional seats based on current census results. Ohio, maybe you could lose a few censi as well. Y Floriduh cant reed. If they trickle down to Minnesota, as the article suggests they might, so much the better.


"This is Alabama. We speak English. If you wanna live here, learn it." May I introduce to you Alabama's next governor, Tim James? A master of the zeitgeist. Still, why does he keep stopping the tape, moving away from the camera and then walking towards it?

And...I'm done paying attention to the news for the day.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Pulling Out All The Stops

Fellow musicians,

Are you certain your album is done? Have you considered any of the following enhancements, used so successfully by the artists noted? Consider using the following "stops" as in "pulling out all the". They are not mutually exclusive and I have begun creating a song on which I intend to use all fourteen. Use all fourteen on every song on your album and I will refund your recording costs if you don't win a grammy*.

1. Children's Choir. Nothing says sincerity like the innocent voices of little ones. If you really, really mean what you are saying in your song, you simply have no other alternative. (Tina Turner's We Don't Need Another Hero, Bob Dylan's They Killed Him)

2. Modulate up a whole step. It's like writing a whole new song. There is an entire website dedicated the study and promotion of this practice. I have written two songs (Powerful Statement, We'll Go On Forever) that each do this two times or more. Make sure the kids really nail the first few notes of the new key - that can be tough. (Barry Manilow's Mandy, Looks Like We Made It, and every other Barry Manilow song)

3. Instruments drop completely out then blast back in after a big vocal line or total silence. Our ears need a break and then they need to be hit harder than ever right away. (Semisonic's Closing Time)

4. Rap break. Allows use of the very hip "feat." tag and will attract a whole new demographic to your music. (R.E.M.'s Radio Song and more recently The Outsiders)

5. Spoken section. Again just proving the sincerity. There is no reason you can't use all five of these so far in the same song: after a rap break, have your music track blast back in a whole step up with children speaking the words. This will not ruin anyone's life. (Elvis' Are You Lonesome Tonight)

6. Operatic chords and melody. This is harder to quantify, but I know it when I hear it. I think in C it would go something like this: d minor-G dominant 7-C Major 7-F Major 7-Bflat-E dominant 7-a minor-A dominant 7. (Elvis' My Boy or The Sound of Your Cry, possibly Gloria Gaynor's I Will Survive)

7. Tension between scale degrees 3 and 4. Mi and Fa yield some real greatness when they're the main part of your melody. I noticed this when I really studied the wonderful chorus of Elton John's Mona Lisas And Mad Hatters and elsewhere I can't think of right this second.

8. Pick scrapes. Why would you only use the tip of your guitar pick when you can use the side as well? You paid good money for that pick - make the most of it. Studying Mick Ronson's (at 1:57, 2:10, and 2:38) brilliant guitar work with David Bowie can help you master this crucial technique.

9. Synthy answering phrases to the vocal. Your singing will never seem so human until it is contrasted with the eerie strains of a DX7 or one of its descendants. (Tina Turner's What's Love Got To Do With It at :41)

10. Special guest vocalist. The Beatles didn't expect people to listen to a single singer for a whole album - what chance do you have? Extra points if the song, tantalizingly, might actually be written about the special guest. (Carly Simon's You're So Vain)

11. Speeding up the tempo at the end. You hardly ever hear this anymore when everything is recorded to a metronomic click track, so you'll stand out from the crowd. (The Beatles' All Together Now)

12. Flanger on everything. Why add that eerie, windy sound to a single instrument when you can make the whole song sound like it was recorded on Mars? Caution: do not use on the entire song. (Doobie Brothers' Listen To The Music)

13. Muted guitar strums as percussion. You may not know it, but some of your favorite sounds are those with no pitch at all. Sure, everyone knows Smells Like Teen Spirit is F-Bflat-Aflat-Dflat, but it wouldn't be the same without the atonal strums in between the fingered chords. Go even further and don't play any chords (Paul McCartney's Maybe I'm Amazed - listen closely at 2:08) Go double super even further and add a wah pedal to the non-chord strums! (Isaac Hayes' Theme From Shaft)

14. Answering/counterpoint vocals. The main vocal can be open to all kinds of misinterpretation, so make your point even clearer by restating it another way in the background. They Might Be Giants are the foremost masters of this technique, most obviously on the song Dead.

Fellow musicians, you're welcome and I look forward to hearing your vastly improved works.

*offer is not legally enforceable.