Friday, 24 August 2012

Musical Hybrids

A musical hybrid is a wonderful trait to have as a musician and in my opinion it is the only way forward to evolve music, make it interesting and to stop some genres becoming old or stale. 

All the best musicians over the years offer a trait within them that is from another genre somewhere or another. A hybrid musician consists of you playing a genre of music you aren't naturally accustomed to and combining it to your bands style.

The Doors are a great example of hybrid musicians as they have guitarist Robert Krieger who's style comes from Flamenco and uses finger picking within his progressions, combining John Densmore and Ray Manzarek who were both took inspiration from early Jazz which gave them a 'loungey' typed feel. Leading to Jim Morrision who wrote poetry and sometimes performs not too dissimilar from Blues, Soul or RnB. When these elements are combined and focused into performance they create something totally new. Not just Rock'N'Roll but the new category that evolved to be called today "Psychedelic Rock"

The Doors

Using myself as an example in the first band I joined Drink Fuelled Violence (DFV) they were a Punk/Punk-Rock band. I drew inspiration from Heavy Metal and American Punk Rock at that time.
Most bass players of Punk/Punk-Rock (a generalisation incoming...) will only follow the root note of the progression and fail to show any talent, focus or soul what so ever. Most likely because they were forced to pick up bass by their band mates in the first place.

My inspiration came from bassists like Geezer Butler (Black Sabbath) 
Jason Newsted (Metallica) and Steve Harris (Iron Maiden).
These guys made complex and sophisticated bass lines and the let the bass do totally unconventional things that brought their bands to life - No longer would you hear bassists thumping their strings. The bass lines were smart, I picked up on their respective styles quite naturally and applied it to my own performance, no longer is the bass following a 3 chord progression of guitars and drums, the bass has brought something to the table now that is pleasurable to the ear. You can hear the groove between the bass and drums, In my case DFV had a thriving, grooving, solid back bone. Which did our performance and more importantly our style wonders. 


In DFV we had the Punk/Punk-Rock drummer providing the back bone of our music with his love of 200bpm beats, that kept our music fast paced and lively.

The Rock lead vocal/guitarist who wrote the 'conventional' chord progression and vocal performance, his talents thanks to Rock were catchy and said progressions covered all genre bases to make it likeable for a wide audience
The Heavy Metal Punk-Rock bassist (yours truly) who combined those elements mentioned above and kept the foundation of the groove tight and interesting with the grooving bassline.
All these styles had a moment where they shined proudly in the music, when you combine the sophistication or core traits from other genres the music evolves. Our little Punk-Rock band now had its own style and signature sound.

If you want your band to be original and to have a sound 'out of the box' you will want one or more of the members to have the following.

1) Their own hybrid style combination
2) A common sound/direction you all agree upon. 
3) Then apply the  knowledge of how to adapt their style to your genre that musically makes sense.
(E.g. you wouldnt want a Thrash solo in the middle of a Jazz groove, it doesn't make sense)

While its fine for your band to all have the same favourite type of music or influences, chances are your music won't grow because you're not exposing yourself to new sounds. The only true way to create your own style is to
experiment and grow not only as a band but as musicians too.

Below are some examples of hybrids, which are formed by my own opinion and not to be treated as fact. The red lines indicate where the hybrid styles would mix after they have taken their influences. While mixing the genres is obvious I.e. Rock + Punk = Punk-Rock , hybrids take the elements without defining themselves like Jimi Hendrix did.

Other examples of Hybrid musicians are
Pink - Rnb / Pop / Rock
Yngwie Malmsteen Classical / Metal

Apocalyptica - Classical / Metal
Zapp - Funk / Soul 

While the last 2 mentions are bands, like The Doors all members in them have the hybrid elements.

Do you have your own hybrid mash-up of styles you bring to your band? If so what makes your sound different to the rest of your band or even the genre?

Have you seen what sort of rig a Heavy Metal - Punk Rock bass player would use? Make sure to read my Ideal Bass rig of 2012

Tuesday, 14 August 2012

Why intonation is important

stunning bass-string shot from urbanscreen on Vimeo.

While this video is strangley beautiful and is a bit arty/majestic at the same time I think it highlights why intonation and saddle height is important with regards to bass and guitar.

As the strings vibrate you can see how easy it is for your frets to get in the way of the strings and the strings to distort their vibrations thus producing the wrong note. Especially if the saddles aren't high enough.

Fret buzzing is cringe worthy and albeit rather amateur so make sure you sort your intonation our today!

Now your strings are sorted have you thought about the Best Bass rig of 2012?

Your role in the Music Industry

From a little young age you've probably had the dream of playing a sold out Wembley stadium with your band hearing the cheers of the fans and living the dream.

I wanted to discuss what steps you are taking to edge closer and closer to your dream. There are endless ways into the music industry and they don't have to strictly be as a musician.

As you can see, the band is actually a very small part of the picture, granted they are the most popular part of the ordeal but if you really wanted to be involved there is plenty to do and many opportunities to claw your way in.

As time goes on, more so recently while I've been in a career change I wondered how I can get back to a career that takes me closer to the ultimate goal and work in the music industry.

After you play in a band or two you get the idea whether you're making progress as a group, if your songs are well written, recorded or you have a large turn out at your gig you would be silly not to push and stride harder to succeed.
On the other hand if your songs are average, you're not growing as a band – bickering with each other and you play to empty rooms all the time it may be time to consider a different route through the industry or even another band.

When I realised that its highly unlikely I wont be a 'Rock Star' any time soon - because the elements don't add up or its not meant to be (hint hint). I still wanted to be part of that dream, even if I'm not in the spotlight, even if I could 'share' that limelight I just wanted to be part of it.

I then decided the next best thing to a musician, because of practical reasons would be a live sound engineer. Almost all the benefits of being a musician except you don't have to play a thing or lug about heavy instruments and gear. I am of a technical mind and love how all these little intricate parts works together.
This proved to be my calling as I had far more opportunities presented to me as well as doors opening up once I was an engineer. The best part being I was still part of the lime light and the excitement being part of the 'team' even though I was at the back of the venue. 

Things have moved on and priorities changed, for the moment my progress in the music industry and I assume many others is held back because of financial restraints.

Work has since dried up with regards to live music as venues have shut down, promoters out of business, opportunities dire and friends moved on. With no time nor money to invest in a band and start from the bottom to work my way up to the ultimate dream - I have to think of ways that will keep me in the musical loop.

That brings me to today, I have my own solo music project Alfie Williams which suits me when I have the time as well as my BandCoach program which will be ready when the time is right and of course this blog where I can pass on my knowledge of live and studio sound as well as how to make the best of your band to give you the success I have not yet found.

Who knows what the next incarnation of my dream will be, I hope to one day climb back up the ladder whether that be in a band or as an engineer. Either way as long as you present an interest and keep things realistic you will be true to yourself and succeed. 

How have your dreams changed and adapted along the way? Do you have plans to make a come back to "the ultimate dream"? What is your plan to get to places others cannot? 

If you're stuck with your band have you thought of becoming a Musical Hybrid?