Guitar Lessons by Chip McDonald - April 2016

Sunday, April 17, 2016

Band Rooms: You Are Where You Eat

 The following was the result of contemplating something I saw recently, a video of the Smashing Pumpkin's performing for a VIP crowd. 

 I think there is something to be said for having an interesting place to create music.

 Thinking back, the most creative bands I've been in seem to also have been associated with where the practice room was.  It's character.

 An 18th century church makes for more interesting acoustics than an 6"x10" tin shed.  The difference in acoustics affects things in ways I'm pretty sure basically nobody really contemplates.

 In a room with a long decay time, with an impressively colorful and complex set of reflections, one might be less prone to playing fast tempos.  Because beyond a certain speed, the decay time of the room, and it's amount, blurs the evidence of one beat being distinctive from another.  It turns to mush.

 Conversely, sustaining notes on melodic/harmonic instruments are enhanced.  There is maybe more impetus to let a phrase be based on half notes, or whole notes, instead of busy 16ths.  There may be more moments of stacatto rests, where the room itself fills in the space between notes.

 In a small, or acoustically dead space, all musical ideas are presented in the same sterile environment.  The increase in clarity makes density a more musical option.  It also makes awareness of other musician's contributions more evident and distinct, which likewise changes the band dynamic.

 The way it looks is important as well.  Mundane surroundings yields mundane results.  There is something to be said for the practice space that is filled with the common detritus of the "rock band", cables strewn everywhere, bad asian rugs, a defaced Metallica poster.  One can't confuse the environment for an Office Space.  You're not there to write TPS reports.

 Bright florescent lights in a Default Generic Conference Room: the mere fact that there is nothing to distract you from being completely aware that you are in exactly that is counter-creative in my opinion. As evidence of this theory, I present the following examples.  I posit that because the environment is so incongruent with The Rawk Muziq, it not just makes the sound smaller but the vibe contracted as well.  In turn, if one had wanted to create said music, that disconnect would work against it arriving at it's final form.

 In the aforementioned Pumpkin's footage, they play a loud rawk and roll song in what could be a room at a Hampton Inn, Anywhere USA:

 It's disconcerting.  I've done gigs in such places, and it's always a strange vibe.  The music doesn't fit the room.  There is a little bit of thought given to decor I think with those ceiling sconces, but the rest is pretty much exactly what you think it is.  "TONIGHT: MULTILAYER MARKETING MANIA SEMINAR and SMASHING PUMPKINS".

 I know why he has to do that, but it's still weird.  One would never have thought of seeing such dichotomous (?) imagery in the Glory Days of Hair Metal, or the Carefully Managed Image-neering of the 90's and Naughts.  But there you have it: YouTube reducing a veritable velociraptor of a band to the rat wallowing around in the fish tank at the zoo, pun intended.

 Being OCD, I browsed through the other examples, to clarify what the boundaries of Rawk Environment were.  There is this one that maybe comes in second place:

 A little bit more moody.  There are the "basement dreams of stardom" halogen track lighting, and this time a wall sconce against a bit of Hyatt Approved Cherry.  Kooky late 70's Hotel Carpet yields a little bit of non-linear to the occasion I think.

 Dramatic color can save the oppressively stentorian, when combined with a high ceiling:

 This one is a little bit better, there is at least rock and roll iconography displayed to momentarily distract and remind, ala the Common Rock Band Room.  Also, there is the more subdued lighting, more elaborate color, and also the Perpetual Chaotic Cable Topography one expects in the Common Rock Band Room:

This one is a curiosity.  Dare I say it, it invokes a certain "basement band room" vibe, but with notable twists.  Dimensioned, portraitured lighting that despite being florescent, has been placed in a non-conformal fashion.  Unusual room design.  Odd floor plan.  Bonus points for the reflective mylar HVAC insulation.  There is also an actual curtain, navy blue, and spotted is the requisite Persian rug:

Here we have a trickier exposition, in that it violates the number 1 rule of post-MTV rock iconography: the brick wall.  However, note that the brick wall is not just a "Home Depot Contractor" wall, but uses a specifically unique architectural brick, arrayed in the more haughty column fashion.  Also note the evidence of slightly decrepit floor, base of the wall, reconditioned water heater, retrofitted but proudly industrial electrical.  This is a wall that is a survivor, therefore it is rock and roll, and in turn this is a potentially good place for rock and roll music:

 Next up we have the "ingredients found at the Hyatt, but more rock and roll".  Fairly conservative color scheme, cherry/mahogany moulding,  but with a more raucous architectural poise.  Dramatic lighting, dramatic recessed and high ceiling.  An interesting room.  But what makes it work is DIM LIGHTING (as noted by the videographer...):

 This one is interesting, because it shows how having a crowd up close can defeat the Moderately Bland surroundings.  For the more popular band, having a crowd at the practice room yields a certain dynamic that is conducive to The Rawk and Roll:

Now we're getting somewhere!  This next video enters into the realm of "looks like a cool practice room, dude" territory.  In turn, the vibe begins to match the music.  Is it too dim in here?  This is the threshold one seeks for the Creative Potential Band Practice Room:

Behold!  The "Primitive Early Gig" look,  which can also be the Cool Band Room doing double duty:

 This isn't to suggest having a vibey practice room will make a mediocre and untalented group of musicians suddenly artistically valid (that is definitely not the case), but given the options one should encourage the almost strophic acceptance of the staid artistic environment.