Guitar Lessons by Chip McDonald - chip@chipmcdonald.com: May 2022

Monday, May 16, 2022

The Educational Value of the First 3 Dave Matthews Band Records

    I find myself revisiting the Dave Matthews catalog, as I have a acoustic guitar student that needs a bit of a challenge in a specific area: 16th note rhythms.

 Without delving into the more repetitive funk catalog - with the likes of Chic, Ohio Players, James Brown et al, it escaped me for a bit to think of something the student could reference that wouldn't be too repetitive (although that wouldn't be a bad thing).





 The 2000s!  

 The first 3 Dave Matthews Band records/cds are very unique.  They feature very busy, guitar intensive themes in a pop music setting.  Something that I don't know of having happened before or since.  

 There have been other high marks "guitar lesson era wise", but I would say a couple were even dependent upon being ancestral to the DMB era.  I would tentatively suggest Jack Johnson's popularity resides in echoing some of the pseudo-funk rhythms of DMB, and maybe Jason Mraz benefitted from DMB popularity as well.  Early John Mayer I would argue relied a lot on superficially sonically having many of the same ingredients at the pinnacle of the DMB era.  Years beyond, in a more deprecatory way Ed Sheeran perhaps benefitted: it now seems like there has to always be a "present default acoustic-singer artist" where there hadn't been one since the songwriter era of the 70s.

 Because it was pop music - very popular music, as in for a few years maybe a 1/3rd of my clientele was motivated to learn Dave Matthews Band songs - the average nascent guitar player had a fairly high bar set for them, but also the reward factor was very high.

 The perceived social popularity of "playing guitar" has a magical, invisible effect.  Motivation is mostly determined by it I've found; and motivation elevates.  The "average skill" level during what I think of as "the Dave Matthews era" was a peak only matched by when I started teaching back in the late 80's during the Hair Metal Era.  

 The biggest thing was 16th note right hand subdivision, followed by strumming and single note combinations being such an integral part of DMB songs.  Effectively in "high gear" technique wise, it allowed a lot of students to transition to other things.  I'd go as far as to say from this era a particular local artist sprung to being a national success, which lead to other things - but I digress.


 16th note right hand parts;
 Articulate single note lines;
 Overall uptempo phrasing;
 Prerequisite partial/full bar chord fingerings -

Leeds the novice Dave Matthews Band fan to many other things, because the variety of the above allows for more options than a lower bar.  

 

Sunday, May 1, 2022

Musical Narcissists?

  I recently saw somewhere that there are people that want to take a revisionist approach to music history.  More specifically, in regards to the venerable Yamaha DX7 keyboard, that they were "never cool".




  There are certain DX7 patches/sounds that I like, but there are a lot I hate, that were overused IMO during the 80s.  The reason they were overused, though, is because THEY WERE COOL.   I would suggest we're in a transitory phase for the DX7 where it's becoming "classic", but not classic enough in the sense that people have decided to base songs around them again.

 There were keyboards originally marketed for a certain kind of music: the Hammond organ, Farfisa, Rhodes, etc. that were used in a "cool" context at the time, but then re-entered creative music use later.  The Hammond sound - a "church organ" - evoked a certain thing, maybe "what you hear in church", "what my parents like", until it faded out and then came back in a different context.

 Now it's just "a Hammond sound".  Which can be found in all genres of music, and doesn't imply a specific era anymore.  I think the DX7 is about to become a similar thing, the "uncool now" connotations fading to become another classic.

 BUT, I made a post on a message board about the concept of "Musical Narcissism".   Something I've seen many, many times: thinking one's perspective is magically "cool" enough to say another's is not, despite evidence to the contrary.  I don't care for disco, but it was definitely a cool thing in the mid-70s; likewise, there are a lot of disco references in modern pop music; it's faded away long enough to now be a "classic" sound choice.

 Below is the quick blathering post I made on the topic:

 "
It was very cool at the time.

People that want to say something isn't cool that was once in style - bell bottom jeans, horn rimmed glasses, gated reverb, whatever - are the musical equivalent of being narcissistic. They think their subjective opinion is an empirical scale that is always ascending, when just about everything can be a parabola.

One either feels cognitive dissonance when revisiting an old place, because the context around it has changed - or they reject reality as it once was.

If one wasn't around when the DX7 happened, then saying it was "never cool" is musical narcissism: they're ignoring reality while not realizing people *see* them ignoring reality.

I *don't like* the DX7 sound in a modern context, BUT - I *can* imagine it being popular again if recontexturalized. The sound of the 80s carried a lot of tropes with it simultaneously, which makes it easy to mock (or dislike), but those things can be used in a fresh way individually (tinkly DX7 patches, rhythmically timed non-linear reverb, Yamaha or Linn drum machine sounds, etc.).

If anything, the DX7 lends itself to... overtly cheery sounds, fey pads, which is not my taste but a lot of people definitely liked. I wish I had a "DX7 remover", along with a "non-linear reverb" remover - which could happen with ML/GAN trickery."