Guitar Lessons by Chip McDonald - October 2022

Thursday, October 27, 2022

The Sunset Sound YouTube channel

    I'm surprised this YouTube channel isn't referenced more.

 Sunset Sound is a famous California recording studio that's been around for a lonnng time.   While Dave Grohl has made Sound City famous in a pop culture context, Sunset Sound has been left on the back burner it seems, despite being ground zero for the Beach Boys, Doors, Led Zeppelin, Van Halen, Prince, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Metallica, and many more.

 The great thing about the channel is that they bring on engineers (and other "orbiting" personnel) to talk - extremely candidly - about the recording processes of these famous bands and their associated famous recordings. 
 There are other channels that do fairly intensive dives into recording *techniques*, but Sunset Sound's channel is a bit different in that it is done in the actual studio itself, and often by people that were there.  For other things (like the video linked below), they go into a deep dive from a "historical documentary" standpoint, more than a technical one, which I think may be more interesting for the less experienced/more casual musician.   

 For fans of Van Halen and Prince, there is more untold info here than anywhere.  It's really curious why it's not caught on as much as some other channels, but regardless one should look into it for a good retelling of "the way things were" procedurally for recording "back in the day" when recording contracts provided ample money for proper artistic capturing of music.  

 Before music was made on computers, it was done in places like this by people vetted by other established professionals, with a lot of hard work.  When music wasn't free and throw away, things were different....



Tuesday, October 18, 2022

A Good Tool Set

   I like to equate guitar skills to "tools".  

"Non-contextural Dog Serenade at Giverny"

  Guitar phrasing is very idiomatic to guitar.  Much of what the "sound" of the guitar is happens because of the physical execution of the musical phrase.  It's what is particularly challenging and rewarding about learning the guitar.


 People learning how to use a hammer first, then maybe a screwdriver?  They don't start with an angle grinder, or a specialized tool like a Kreg milling jig.  They also don't consider printing something out with a 3d printer to be "using a tool", although maybe you can make a tool with a 3d printer?

 You also don't learn how to use Every Possible Tool At the Same Time.  

 When you see a professional use a tool, whether it's a guitarist or a carpenter on _This Old House_, you're not seeing the years of effort that went into learning the craft of it.  The master machinist didn't just turn on a lathe a few months ago.  And he certainly knows how to use a screwdriver, identify the different types of screws, thread offsets, metal hardness of a screw, on and on.  Things that are not as visible as the use of a lathe, but are requirements to understand the PROCESS of "being a machinist".  

 Also, something that is a CRAFT isn't worth much if it can be mastered in a few months.  Or years.   Learning a CRAFT is rewarding in the context of the effort and results; "free" results with no effort is not rewarding.  

 Each little technique on guitar is a tool to learn and master, but they're SINGULAR tools in a "tool box" of skills.  Every guitar player as a different toolbox; in essence, that IS the guitar player.  Most all have some tools inside that are the same, but the assortment and make are different.  Some have more than others, some take pride in really knowing how to use a few very effectively.

 Learning guitar is a CRAFT that requires TOOLS, but it's not everything at once, instantly....

Tuesday, October 11, 2022

Procedural Djent Shouldn't Surprise You (and it's not A.I.)

    The reader may or may not be aware of the following video:


 For starters, one should know this has nothing to do with artificial intelligence or machine learning.   So the that being the angle that this sort of has become viral around is misinformation and confusing.  

 What this is, is a penultimate iteration of a concept and technology that has been around for decades.  The premise of reducing the creation of music to an algorithm is not new, it's been postulated since the 60s.  The defining factor has been the nature of the technology of reproducing the sound of the procedural approach.  We now have tools available on our desktop or laptop computers to create effectively any sound, and trigger it from a list of numbers (MIDI) representing notes and volume level.

 The process he outlines in another video, so I'm not going into that here.  BUT, what I'd like to point out that he doesn't go into, is that music has two elements to it: math, and human chaos.  He simulates some of that human feel with randomness, but *near* randomness is what humans do best - and what scarily could be used to modify this process to yield something that would be IMO more interesting.

 That's not the same as saying it would have *human character*.  The novel nature of the *context* of human existence allows for a chaotic influence a computer can't have for now.  A computer isn't going to be "perfectly sloppy" like Keith Richards or Kurt Cobain, not in the same way, because it has no context of the physicality of being a human or the choices made that goes into being a human doing a process.
 I'm not surprised by this 10 hour djent video, because I've been saying this was going to happen for years.  Because - when you create music whose basic concept is mathematical complexity, you're in turn restricting the human chaotic aspect.  Being enthralled by complexity is a gimmick IMO, and is why I've sort of turned away from "complex music" in the past years.  Being hard to play, or hard to remember, has nothing to do with what music is about in my book.
 In fact , thinking about it... somewhere on "here" I made a blog post lonnnnng ago (but in this galaxy) about having to take notes about the tuplet (rhythmic groupings) of a song a student wanted to learn, because it resembled a _Dune_ novel translated to Morse code in its mathematical sequencing:  



 That Frederick Thordendahl makes some very intellectually interesting combinations of sequential patterns doesn't mean I want to listen to it.  The organization of sound makes "music"; creating something that is deliberate meant to be almost disorganized in human perception is an interesting idea, but it's not a *human* one.  Listening to ocean surf is one of the most pleasant things in the world to me, but I don't want to listen, or create, hours of faux-chaotic washes of white noise.  I'm sure it could be done in an "artful" fashion, that is again complex, and "amazing" in how it mimics actual surf sound - but LIFE IS TOO SHORT.

 A lot of Bach's music can be turned into algorithms.  It was some of the first music to be attempted to procedurally reproduced.  The results have been similar, it "sounds like Bach", but lacks the human element.  Which isn't adding randomness to imply "human", but is much, much more sophisticated: 

it's missing a human *guided by human experience*, with a bit of randomness around the edges as *the result of trying to shape the result*.  Not just randomness *without context*.  

 Which is why I can't really listen to "modern" metal.  It's wrecked by Occam's Razor.  The closer people, bands, get to "perfection in execution and complexity" the further they get from humanity.  The old school proto-metal bands - Black Sabbath, Led Zeppelin, et al - by today's standards should be "inferior", they lacked the complexity and perfection of a modern metal production.   But they're *heavier*, more immense sounding, because it's the *human* element that made it *rock and roll*.   10 hours of algorithmically perfect djent is interesting, but it's like admiring the complexity of a computer circuit board.  It's a depiction of a process that starts to *appear* to be something akin to "art", *but it's not art*.

 The real issue here is that people have lost the ability to judge the difference between art and something that is "near" art. 

Paint splatters is not a Jackson Pollock painting, and random scribbled line is not Picasso.  This only resembles art.


Monday, October 3, 2022

Fall Means More Guitar Playing?


 As the weather becomes less conducive to being outside, "magically" people tend to play guitar more.   There is something to be said for bands that come out of northern latitudes, who both have reasons to stay inside more as well as basements available for bands to practice in.

 At the same time, cooler temperatures also means less muscle flexibility.  I find a distinct need for more warm up time when inside temperature struggle to stay above 70 degrees; something you may not notice, until you ask your muscles to perform fine movements at speed.