The Music, the Technology,
and the Philosophy
Connecting the Dots, with Rich Koerner.
One of the hardest things to do, when limited to the written word, is to have a detailed dialog on a subject that is outside of the limits that words can supply. Sonic illustrations are very necessary to touch upon the exacting points on the subject of tone. Not to mention the use of video clips to serve as visual illustrations when necessary, least there be any mistake in understanding the message in my writing.
For this reason, there are now twelve tracks of musical samples for you to download to your computer. As we get more into it, your collection will grow, and you may want to burn them to a CD. Just CLICK on the links provided to download these files.
You may want to start downloading them now, as you are reading along here. But, don't play any of them just yet.
That will come later after you are well into the the text of this first article on the subject of your "tone" in the music. I will cover the reasons for their selection, and tell you what exactly to listen for in them. It is in how you listen to them, that will determine if you will clearly understand my message, which at times may seem very complex, and outside the subject of tone. There are some very important inter-related factors that must be considered, to understand just how one individual's tone, can and will impact the tone of the other instruments, and likewise impact the listener of the musical piece.
It is the goal of this
article to open your awareness to all the possibilities there are in the
universe of tone, for you as an individual player, and that of the band
as the collective sonic blend of many tones for the band's individual sonic
signature in the musical world.
MP3 or WMV
Track-1 (6.4 m)
You're so vain, you probably think this article is about you. And,... chances are, I'm right about that. Here's why....
Like a women with her makeup and fashion statement, a musician dresses up in their tone, and flashes it all over the place from the stage. Many times without regard to the other members of the band. Come on, you've all seen this a million times in the clubs, and concerts through your years in front of the stage checking out the music. Hey, it's even captured on record and videos too. It's seen at all levels, from amateur to professional.
Many times I've found myself in front of the stage wondering how could anyone proudly parade around the room a tone, to put it in a nice context, which is something only a mother could love. How did this happen. How did this come to be.
Well, it's just like anything else. You only know, what you know. In this case, very little time and research went into the subject of tone.
There you go. It's
one of those starting points without regard to the roots of the past again.
In the early '60s we could jump in the car on a Saturday morning and ride all day listening to the radio travelling from the top of New Jersey to the bottom and back again and find a lot more pop and rock stations than there are on the radio today.
You would not find many stations with the same style of delivery. You had jocks like Murray the "K", Scott Munie, Herb Oscar Anderson, Cousin Brucie on WABC , Joco Maxwell, Big Daddy from Sponge Rubber Hall, etc..... all of which, gave each station its own personality. Not to mention, the jocks played the records THEY liked and wanted to play. Yeah, they were free to do that. It was a different world back then.
In our ride listening to the radio we would not hear two tunes that sounded alike. There were no two artists or bands that sounded exactly alike. Nor, would you hear two guitar sounds that were exactly alike.
There was a sonic identity or sonic signature in the music. It was so prominent a garden slug could pick out a Jazzmaster on a Twin Reverb or a Les Paul with another amp. Each amplifier company had their own signature in the music and the guitars had theirs too. Do we have that, today? Come on, be honest here.
How did we start from a time when the sounds in the music were so different to wind up in a place where it all sounds the same?
To get a better understanding to answer that question, I had to select some musical events from the past to present, in order to show you the forgotten universe of tone that really exists at a player's finger tips. We are going to fly through this "Musical Universe", on a Magic Carpet Ride, listening to all the musical tones an electrified instrument can produce.
Now, before we start our journey, I must point out something very important here. You are going to have to take this journey MANY TIMES, before you can HEAR what MY trained ears hear in the music.
For now, all I want you to do is:
Slap the musical samples
on a CD
Close your eyes, look inside, let the sound take you away off on that Magic Carpet Ride between the sound machine
Come back here when your Magic Carpet Ride through the "universe" of musical tone's comes to an end.
<Rich is on "pause"
till your return>
Welcome back. I'm sure from such a short trip, you can now see how large and vast the Sonic Universe of TONE really is, and how it is only limited by the individual or collective musician's mind. It's not really a TECHNOLOGY thing that has been the limiting factor on the part of the player's tone, but more so the technology bubble most players are trapped in, due to the marketing behind the technology, and the trends already found in place in the music that surrounds the player.
On your ride you experienced some samples that were more a product of the creative mind towards both the music and the technology together, along with some samples that were more a showcase of technology through music, than an exercise in producing good sounding music.
Which seems more the case today, than in times past. After all, this is the technology age, so why not the music too. In both cases, the tone you get, is the by product. So, now comes the question. Which of the two roads will PLEASE the larger audience by making the music better for it?
You have to remember that along the continuing calendar of time, the existing technology at any point, is always available for use by all, yet without the creative minds for the Outer Limits, mediocrity will always prevail for that, or any other point you pick on the calendar. Thus, the slow advancement of the medirocity in musical tone through the recent years, as compared to years past. You just witnessed examples of this on that short Magic Carpet Ride,
The tune Whispering, by Les Paul and Mary Ford in the forth sample of the first track, is only one example of what I'm talking about, you just witnessed on you recent journey. Just listen to the sound of that guitar. It's more modern sounding than for the time it was recorded. Which was in 1951.
Let's list the important elements involved in the production of these tones you had experienced on your first flight.
1. The manufacturer of
These are the basics, in general, that covers what governs the individual player's tone.
So, with this in mind, let's go out on another flight to re-visit those samples again. But this time, you only want to listen to the guitars in the samples. Notice the tone of the lead guitar parts, and it's relationship to the other sounds that surround it in the musical piece.
Press "play" on the remote.
<Rich is on "pause" till your return>
OK, did you happen to spot the Strat on the Twin Reverb that had the Pre-C signature all over it. It's the first sample on track #6. Did you listen closely to all the guitar work under the singers voice in that sample. You do know that most all traditional three single coil Strats on a Twin Reverb can be dialed in to produce that exact sound live, without the help of any effects or studio gear?
Since 1964, that has been a Fender Strat and Twin Reverb undiscovered magical tone, just sitting there all these years till this recording was made. Why was this not discovered sooner. It just sat there, sleeping in this old technology all those years just waiting to be discovered. Why, did it take some long to find our ears so many years after 1964?
You and I know, it's not due to any fault of the technology. So, it has to be the musician's fault for not finding that sleeping magical tone that has been sitting there, waiting to be found for more than 30 years!
Now this, prompts a thought in my mind. If these undiscovered sleeping magical tones were deadly snakes, how many of you reading this, could get snake bit by your own amp right now. Do you really know the limits of the amp you presently own, with just the guitar you presently own. Have you ever taken the time to find out if you had any of those sleeping snakes in any of the amps you've owned in your playing life. What about that amp that sits not far from you right now.
In those samples you have listened to twice now, you can hear the players who have found these magical snakes, and used them for the killer tones they give. These amps and guitars were not tricked out to the extent everyone today wants to believe. LOL, why would anyone think that Jimi would be handicapped in the least, if he didn't have one of those modern channel switching super ram charged examples of what now is the top dog of amplifiers to play through today. (The last sample of track 11 speaks for itself.)
However, even if Jimi had one of the latest of today's ampslifiers... He'd plug into one of those things, fire up, and you'd see the snakes living in that modern amp come crawling out. Well, that's if there are any in them today to be found, put in there by the amp manufacturers. And that, may be the subject of a future article. How do the amps of today compare to the amps of the past.
OK, so now its come time for another return trip through those samples again. This time, we are going to focus in on the other sounds in the music. The bass, drums, keyboards, voices, etc...
Oh gee's.......... did I ever push a button.
Hey, may I remind you guitar players reading this, about that very first sentence of this article. Which just happens to be sitting at the top of your computer monitor right about now!!!!!!!!
You remember me saying, "You're so vain, you probably think this article is about you".
Yeah, yeah, yeah,.... odds are in favor you are a guitar player, and it would do you a world of good to just LISTEN to those other sounds created by the bass player, drummer, and/or keyboards or horns in the band.
Notice their interrelationship with their sonic and musical contributions to the musical color pallet of these samples.
Press "play" on the remote.
FORGET YOU EVER BECAME A MUSICIAN, and just ENJOY the sounds of these other instruments.
Pay attention to the tone
of the different drum kits in the samples too.
<Rich is on "pause" till your return>
Yo,... I saw that.
What made you think I wouldn't notice that you just tried to skip over this, because it ain't important enough for a guitar player to know.
Go take the trip.
Trust me, it will do you a world of good to just listen to the other players in the band.
I can wait.
<Rich is AGAIN, on
"pause" till your return>
Well, I'm glad to see you all made it back. I only hope I didn't loose any of the bass players because I didn't have an abundance of the current bass heroes featured on this trip. But, trust me, we are going to make that trip in the near future.
But in the mean time, I had to get the guitar players first into the program of listening and understanding what the world of bass, and the rhythm team in a band is really all about first. I can't fix that all in one article. THAT, would be impossible.
But, let's take it from here, and start connecting some dots.
Any of you remember the title of this article?
Come on now, no scrolling up to the top of the page.
And, you are right. This was a test.
It was a test about LISTENING, to my tone samples, and to my written words.
Come on now, be honest. YOU DON'T REMEMBER THE TITLE OF THIS ARTICLE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
"When You Speak, It's About What You Say, and the Tone In Your Voice".
Right about now, I can see the smile on the face of some of you old road dogs. Yeah, you are seeing the method to what seems as Rich's madness. Yeah, you're right. I'm tricking the young bloods into some very important ear training and listening here.
That title of this article is a true statement with respect to the spoken words by the human voice.
It is equally true, for the musician who speaks through the voice of their instrument.
It's the SAME thing.
All the rules that govern communication through the human voice, also governs communication through the instruments voice.
Speaking without first listening, gets you into the SAME kind of trouble in BOTH cases.
You can't be a good speaker, if you are not FIRST... a good listener!!!!!!!!
It's that simple.
© Copyright R.K.Koerner 1997 All Rights Reserved.