Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Remember, It's All About Arrangements!

I was planning to do this as a later post, but since I did not have the time to post new stuff on this blog due to my (somewhat) hectic university, I decided to write this now.

Besides university, I've been occupied with Some online Flash game that my brother got me hooked onto.

For today, I was reading Guitar World (Most of you guitarists out there would know this magazine), and for this issue (which I forgot, but has John Mayer as the front cover), it has an interview with none other than the great guitar wizard, Steve Vai. He always captured my attention when it comes to his style of playing, tone, arrangements, compositions and his unique-ness. Besides that, there's always that pretty outstanding guitar of either odd colours that stands out really well, or the deadly JEM7VWH - his standard choice of guitar he uses live that has the markings "EVO" or "FLO".

Back to the interview, this caught my attention.

"Now, with two violins and two guitars - myself and Dave Weiner - I had four "melody" instruments to work with. If I had four guitars, it would be a mess."

For beginners who just got into music, I'm not sure if you noticed that most of the songs around you, or more obviously, orchestras or brass essembles, sounds a little bit better with a twist when there're different than the conventional instruments playing along to the song.

Let's take a punk rock band. The good old Blink 182, or Green Day. They've got 1 thing in common. The band's made out of 3 members, and it doesn't have fretboard-burning soloes, but they just produce punk music with lots of banging distortion.

They could have ranged that down to the bassist playing whatever the guitarist is playing - power chords for this simple example - But all three instruments are doing their parts of the songs.

Now, when it comes to orchestras, why do all of the instruments take their turns to play bits and pieces arranged by the composer/arranger?

Have you seen 20 chefs doing your Campbell's Instant Mushroom Soup? Or have you seen 5 baristas working on your cup of regular latte?

Well, you might see 5 baristas working on your cup of latte - only if the 4 baristas were to be new and under training.

I've learnt this while playing in a church praise & worship group back in the period of 2003 - 2005, and you don't play everything on the chord sheet at all times. You can skip out on some, if you want to. Sometimes, if you just be silent, that will improve the surprise of the song from time to time.

What Steve Vai has for his 4 "melodies" would be in reference to his Blu-Ray / DVD release of Where The Wild Things Are. You would see the basic line up, but with two keyboardists switching back and forth the violins. Sometimes either one of them come up to Steve Vai and would be playing the same thing - like a guitar/violin battle, or both of them would team up with Steve Vai to give away all of melodic insanity.

You see, the truth is, the more instruments you have, the more ideas you will have. Violins have the range of the higher octaves whereas the cello consist of the lowest. And both instruments are different in sizes and tone. If you were to allocate certain bits and pieces for them to play (either both rhythm or lead), you would notice that there is a difference in just playing the lead with one certain instrument.

Sometimes having all three at once, you can do more ideas. Let's take a normal guitar solo with a backing guitar major 3rd harmony solo to accompany it. The best example would be Metalica's Master of Puppets, where they slow down for the instrumental bit. The slight arpeggio/harmony bit shows Dave Mustaine and James Hetfield playing to probably one of the 1980's best harmonic solo for Metal tracks back then. Get my drift?

But if you were to be as experimental as anybody else, why don't you change Dave Mustaine to.. Vanessa Mae? Or a trumpet. Or an accordian?

You'll definitely change the feel and the basic idea of the whole song into something else. Either that it will sound odd, but that's just acceptable as another idea.

I never really looked at arrangements when I was picking up the guitar, but after exposures of many kinds during my young age (Nobuo Uematsu for the Final Fantasy series except for 9 and X-2, I think), I have never seen him play the guitar before, and I don't think he can play any better than Jason Mraz.

But Nobuo has abused the MIDI technology in an early stage to compose plenty of compositions for the Final Fantasy series. Let alone, the rate of those series being released were to be at least once a year until the PS2 was released. And for a year's period to come up with 40 songs and above for the game's settings, place, and feel.

One reason behind this would be that some of the songs secretly shared the same theme, and melody lines, just that he completely revamped it to different instruments, giving it a different kick.

Sometimes it could be just an instrumental.

And when I mean an instrumental, I don't mean a minus one of an original track.

To expand and to learn more would be a musician's key tool in being a better musician and a player. Also to be a little bit more matured than you would expect. If you have something in mind for the guitar, and the only thing you can play is the guitar, write that composition down.

One key to music composition is for you to arrange how a song is supposed to sound like. Think of something cool, and odd if possible, to add into a song besides the guitars, drums, bass and vocals.

Try having a choir covering the sustained chords while you shred the solo.

Or you overpower the choir humming and singing the soloes out while you're jamming on chords!

You never know what you will receive in terms of musical genius.

And sometimes, to play good music, you just have to be the big, white, fuzzy haired dude, standing in front of the orchestra, waving your magic wand to make them all play funny notes at once, or from time to time.

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