Ten Elements of Music
Whatever you do, make that shit groove!!
1. Notes – say what you gotta say, use the words you like, develop your language, then shut the fuck up and start listening to the intervals between those suckers. The notes arent nearly as important as the spacial tension between them. Its easy: walk in the store, door goes descending major third DING DONG! Go to the wedding: DUM DUM DAH DUM!! ascending perfect fourth. Theres plenty of these (like the Jaws minor second) that everyone knows, but they dont connect their experience to their understanding. Just dont make it more complicated than it is, and once you start wiggling your fingers super fast, just remember its not all about you ok?
2. Articulation – Its not all what you say, kid, its how you say it. Every footstep leaves a story to be pieced to the next. Take a walk in the woods, and youll see for yourself HOW the creatures of the forest leave their marks. Every angle of a set of prints in the woods, whether viewed individually or collectively, leaves clues to the story being told. The story is different depending on the terrain, the type of food chain, and also the type of weather. Some people are caught up in what they are saying and completely forget to say it effectively. Others speak with great effectiveness while saying nothing cohesive. Both are ignorant of either their lack of, or abundance in, articulation.
3. Technique – Can you make fire? Its all about using the proper technique for harnessing the natural flow of energy to create enough friction for a spark. Thats why when they see a player with terrific technique, they say "That shit is smokin!". The musician is the flow of energy. The friction is how in tune your technique is with your energetic frequency. The spark is the spontaneous inspiration that comes from well-greased wigglers. The point is, though, to use the spark, to know how to use that friction you so desperately worked for (if you didn’t have a lighter because you were stranded). Cue the remark "Shit is burnin!!" Thats where #4 comes in.
4. Emotion/Feel – My dad told me a story about a gig he played for about 250 old fucks out in the middle of nowhere. He said his bandmate leaned over in the middle of a song and said this "Feels like we’re playing for a painting of the last supper." It sucks for a musician when the crowd has no energy, but hey, they didnt tell you to be a musician did they? You’ve gotta make those motherfuckers feel something dont you? You gotta move them, and your technique cant hack it. Sometimes, an emotional performance with lots of feeling and horrid technique will be better than a perfectly performed concert with an over-abundance of restraint. Sometimes, the better you are, the more self-critical you get. Dont do it, feel it.
5. Dynamics – Do you like it loud? Here, I’ll play it soft. Do you like it soft? Here, I’ll blast this shit. Lots of kids get louder when they want to be heard. Try speaking as softly and as with as much intensity as you can. Then you’ll be heard loud and clear. Got their attention now? Blast em. But holding back is the unsung hero of dynamics. Make them want you to give it to them. Theres nothing like a crowd that wants you to bust a good one all over their faces, but youll never get horny enough to satisfy them if you dont draw them in first. Cast out out, reel in.
6. Rhythm/Tempo – Can you take the heat? Watch as the bassline marries the chords and the beat. I had an experience recently where I was jamming on the bass with some friends, which is different cause I dont normally play the bass. We were making it up as we went along, and I noticed something really funny. Everyone was relying on me for where the music was going because the two guitarists were glancing at my left hand for my notes and the two drummers were looking at my right hand for the rhythms. Funny cause I made that jam suck balls. It was fun though, and I realized something new. And also reinforced what I knew already: music is primarily rhythmic. Notes and chords only mean anything when in the context of rhythm and groove, pulse and tempo.
7. Tone – This is the first thing people notice about anything. Its unconscious. You are sound, and you know when someones tone is off. This is usually the first thing to go when someone has abundance of emotion or little technical restraint. You see the two extremes of this in people who get really flustered and with people who are so comfortable speaking they become dry and develop a monotone. Clear eyes for dry eyes right? Who wants to be that guy? Use your tone, and if you have no emotion, just jam on one note at one volume with one articulation and one dynamic. Let me know how it goes too!
8. Phrasing – The penultimate subtle element!! Why the fuck are you saying the shit that you are saying?! Yes, you can play, groove, articulate, feel, all of it, but can you tell a story? Do you strike deeper than the surface and resonate to the fundamental human pallet of aesthetics? At the end of the day, did you say anything worth remembering? Will you bring your awareness of all these elements into alignment with your present self to access the power to move people? I can tell you it is a great experience, though I’ve only gotten to this level of awareness a scattered amount of occasions.
9. Space/Rest – Ultimate subtly mode go. Do you want them to want you to give it to them? Space creates some of the most palpable tension imaginable. Silence is so full, it deserves to be heard. Without it, we would just have a jumble of indecipherable madness bombarding our ears (I know, I like this too, sometimes). Besides, do you think the music stops when your done playing it? Its still fucking there, man, listen to me now. Music is alive!! It LIVES!! ITS ALIVE!!! No, seriously though, music comes from the air. Just like radio waves. You just have to tune into the right station. Ever listen to radiohead? Thats what that shit is about! Dont ever think for a second that you created anything that, in itself, is original. You got it somewhere else, didn;t you? Where did that other guy you got it from get it? Hmmm.. Some people like to make talent out like royalty: "Hes so gifted!! I wish I had his talent!" Motherfuckers arent born kings! Dont wake up in the castle, its no fun.
10. Listening – Its not all about you, so take a second and think about every person you’ve ever lifted up. I know you’ve done it, cause thats why we’re here brothers and sisters. To LIFT one another up as high as possible. Take what you got, what you know, what you feel, and USE IT TO LIFT ONE ANOTHER UP. Get behind somebody and make them feel like the best being they are and can be. Open the shit up for the singer, man, cause its a mother.
Brilliant work. Fantastic job. And so on. Thanks for the inspiration.
Also, music was invented and inspired by the beat of the human heart. It’s all about timing. :) You’ve said everything you’ve learned and just wrote it down compressed. It takes a HEthen!
Great post Aaron! I love the insight you gained from playing bass (I am a bassist myself). The bridge between the drums and the guitars. So sexy.
@ellie – I recommend reading “The Music Lesson: A Spiritual Search for Growth Through Music” by Victor Wooten. Fantastic read and elaborates so much on what Aaron touched on with this thread.
Risky bump again, Let’s hope people with brains are gonna see it for awhile!
@cosmiclemonade, MAJESTIC- BRAVOOOOO
@beyond, “Rhythm in music is directly related to biology. The beating of our hearts and the intervals of our breathing are the foundations from which we developed dance and music.” this is one of my fav quotes, just what you said.
ps: ive seen the word bump on lots of posts does it refer to keeping ppl on there?
I like the trick Ozzy used at the california jam with Sabbath in 74, “I’ve never seen so many fucking people in my life!”
“I wanna hear all you fuckers clapping. I see someone isn’t clapping I see. louder! LOUDER!!!”
Everyone was into it.
I was gonna redo this whole shebang but I figured “why make two threads” yaknow? Heres what I got so far(@beyond, thanks for the bumps!):
Intro – Life is Music. I once saw an exhibit in an art museum depicting the corresponding colors relating to pitches, and there was a chart showing how rhythm sped up becomes pitch which is in turn sped up to create color. Life literally is music. What is music other than organized sound? What is the Universe other than evolving sounds echoing within the caverns of space? The Universe fucking grooves its ass off for those who listen. Here is my take on some elements of music and life which I found on a conscious level in a book titled The Music Lesson: A Spiritual Search for Growth through Music. Enjoy!
Notes – As I sit and type, I do not have to consciously choose words to form clear sentences. Words are similar to notes because they are the fundamental building blocks of both musical and verbal phrases. Many people talk and play with too much focus on notes and words. This results in lots of frustration because notes are less than a tenth of what constitutes good music or conversation. Often if one thinks about ones words or notes during the act, one starts to shift focus from the broader and more detailed elements of life toward an abstract world which exists ideally as an subconscious tool. Usually the solution lies in changing which octave you are playing or speaking in. The concept of the musical phrase can be related to the phases one experiences in life. Like sun to moon, light to dark, music and life are often dissonate then resonate deeply in contrast. Through any medium dissonance points us blatantly toward what is most beautiful progression of events(psychologically or emotionally), chords, melodies, everything. Musically, the phrase should always dictate the octave. For instance, play two notes right next to each other chromatically (really dissonate) then move either one an octave away from the other and you have one of the most beautiful intervals possible: maj7.
It gets cheesy if overused, but so do good jokes and camera angles and plot twists.
Starting to suspect that all music is derived from this lick.
Articulation – Expression requires articulation. One might be more well versed in a certain field than any other out there, but they will not appear that way if they cannot properly articulate what they know to others. The way people express themselves is often either the most pleasurable or the most distracting aspect of their expression. Take Neil Degrasse Tyson for example. The way he talks about space makes it more exciting than watching porn. Imagine if those same words were coming out of some boring-ass teacher-like monotone-using figure. Probably wouldnt be nearly as effective. Musically, articulation has to do with paying attention to the life of each and every note. A musician thinking about notes will blaze through a phrase like theres a pot of gold at the end with no reagard for the story within the story. Each note like a footprint left behind, never to be gotten back like a moment spent worrying. In the forest, animal tracks crisscross the ground telling a deep and wild story which an experienced eye can decipher. Just as an experienced musician can see the story within the story of the music and the experienced liver of life can see the story written within the pages of the Universe. In recent years, I’ve been introduced to folk and bluegrass music that epitomizes the storytelling role of the musician both lyrically and musically. I realized the beauty of what folk music is about: who you are, where your from, and the essence of genuine personality.
Technique – It doesn’t matter what you can imagine in your head, it wont become reality if you dont have the technical means to make it manifest. Technique is a coordinated understanding of the intuitive process of how do to something. Mastering technical abilities of any kind involves convincing your body and mind that you can already do it. Once you master a technique to something, you stop thinking about it. If you are thinking about it, you have not mastered it. Simple as that. If you have mastered something, it just happens for you. No problem. Though, there are downsides to focusing solely on mastering technical execution. These downsides are… not being familiar with or utilizing the rest of this shit!!
Emotion/Feel – There are tons of successful musicians out there that do not posses the most virtuous technique yet they succeed. How are they successful? Either they only sing with auto-tune, or they probably play with a lot of feel, the good kind too. People feel the story these musicians are telling, even though the musician may be struggling technically. That struggle may even contribute to the quality of the story!! People empathize with someone they see as sincerely trying their best and feeling the moment in such an overwhelming way. We get caught up in things, good or bad, because of emotions. They draw us in giving the story of life enough space to evolve and unfold. As Neale Donald Walsch puts it: e-motion is energy in motion. To think is to slow this energy, to fear is to deny it the chance to flow through and out forcing it to confine itself within and suck every other similar lower emotion towards you.
glasper (piano) never even plays a full-out linear line, he schools everyone on feel! Snarky Puppy is burnin right with him though. His piano playing in this embodies the beauty of rhythmic alteration of melodic motifs. Motifs arent quite melodies but repeating sequences of three or four notes which can produce an ambiguity of rhythmic feel. Drummers instictively rely on rhythmic motifs, though that also leads to incredible use of the other elements as well such as phrasing, space, dynamics, articulation, all of it!! As you say, it is all derived from the human, animal, and I would also say Universal heartbeat!
I still think this is my favorite drum solo on youtube at least of all time. Feel free to post links of your favorites. I’ve indulged myself enough for tonight! Peace guys
PS please dont mind my bias towards jazz and such, the elements are displayed in most every genre by a variety of artists and I’m all for being culturally schooled on other genres. Much of taste for music and food and political or religious affiliation has to do with where and when you grew up and who your parents were. They eat beans on toast a lot in England I heard, but I have yet to try it. Sounds good though… foood…
@cosmiclemonade, My favorite drum solo is from Sabbath, Rat Salad. Live version was great.
I was really impressed by technical music when I was a kid. Then I learned how to do it, and my interest waned instantly. I went from yngwie malmsteen to Motorhead and Sabbath overnight. I never looked back.
@danfontaine, The original post I wrote fairly quickly after a listen to The Lesson audiobook. My redo I’ve been sitting on and rewriting. Actually lost it once because I closed my browser. Glad you liked it so much!
“I was really impressed by technical music when I was a kid. Then I learned how to do it, and my interest waned instantly.”
I experienced pretty much the same kind of thing. I think once you start masturbating, you realize how lots of people to the same with their mouths and musical instruments ha! Dont get me wrong though I still love and respect musicians with incredible technique. Sometimes though, the desire to push an instrument to its max will become boring because there is little to contrast it.
@beyond, I was thinking recently about the rhythm of the heartbeat. In some way I cant articulate, there is a profound beauty in a consistant unevenness. Perhaps this is the same principle that underlies all the paradoxes and oxymoronic situations in the Universe. Just a thought.