Learning To Play An Instrument? Try MIDI Files.

MIDI files have been floating around the Internet for over 20 years. We’ve all heard them while surfing at one time or another, even if we didn’t realize it. Many musicians, pro and amateur , use MIDI files as backing tracks . Video games oftentimes use MIDI technology to render music. But the educational aspect of a MIDI file is often overlooked.Studies have shown that when learning to play an instrument (such as guitar or piano) you can get faster results by playing along with accompaniment. It,s certainly more fun than playing alone – and fun is a factor when learning to play. However, the educational factor goes beyond fun alone.

Playing with others helps develop good timing. It helps with ear training improvement as you listen to the parts someone else is playing. It helps develop a musical discipline that is lacking when you play alone. But what if no one else is around? Well, thanks to MIDI files, you are never alone. You can have a full-blown band at your disposal at any time!

You don’t need any special equipment to play MIDI files – all computers are capable of playing them. By doing a Google search, you can find thousands of MIDI files. The downside is that the general quality of many freely available Midis aren’t that good, but that is not the point. When I was learning to play guitar, I got together with a few friends and we started a garage band. Our average age was about 13 years old. We weren’t very good at first, but we got better and five years later turned professional. The experience over the years was like a musical training camp.

After you find your MIDI files, start playing along with them. Trying to learn the parts is great, but so is improvising along with the song (jamming). Because MIDI files are as accurate as a metronome you will be developing your sense of timing. By repetition you’ll be improving your own chops.

Remember, this is just a start. At some point you’ll want to play with real people.

Join the school band or look into other group playing programs. Get out there are jam with others whenever you have a chance, no matter how bad it sounds. The Beatles weren’t great when they first started, but we’ve all got to start somewhere. And who knows, someday you might end up being a real guitar hero!

: article by Vincent J Miele


July 20, 2008 at 1:14 pm

Classifying Music And Musicians: What Genre Is That?

Bands come and go, but the classification and re-classification of their music is an exercise that never grows old. There are no hard and fast rules, no universally accepted methodology or definitions to fall back on. Music geeks are faced with bands that change their sound and/or appearance from release to release and a classification system that is completely open to interpretation.As a starting point, how about nailing down some basic definitions and examples of musical genres? It sounds straightforward, but even that can be a challenge. There is no set number of agreed upon genres, names for the genres (or what is even considered to be a standalone genre) and the definitions themselves are frequently the subject of argument. But with the help of Canadian uber-music geek Allan Cross, along with far too many hours of trolling through music industry publications like Rolling Stone and Spin, here’s an attempt at some basic definitions. By the way, we’re sticking to the general rock world for this exercise, so for the purposes of this article only, country and/or western, jazz, adult contemporary and all sorts of other music do not exist; they’re off limits.

Emo: A style of music that’s part punk in its sound, but leaning heavily toward the emotional, melodramatic and angst-ridden end of that spectrum. In other words, melodic and moody punks. Jimmy Eat World is often lumped under the Emo banner and many people would consider Panic! At The Disco and AFI to be current occupants as well. The Smiths are another possible Emo contender.

Goth: An offshoot of the punk movement, Goth appealed to the gloomier music fan. Proper attire was built almost entirely around black and frequently extended to black-dyed hair, black lipstick, heavy use of mascara and black nail polish. In general, the look was spooky; the music could range from moody to sinister. Classic examples: Siouxsie and the Banshees, Bauhaus and Sisters of Mercy.

New Romantics: Appearing as part of the post-punk music scene in the early 1980’s, New Romantics favoured frilly shirts, skinny ties and make-up. Classic bands in this vein included Duran Duran, Visage, Japan and Roxy Music.

Synthpop: A sound that became popular in the late 1970’s and early 80’s, Synthpop was, as the name suggests, pop-oriented music that relied heavily on the use of keyboards, drum machines and synthesisers, and tended to avoid guitars or at least relegate them to supporting instruments. Classic examples: Depeche Mode, Human League and OMD.

Heavy Metal: Gaining prominence in the late 60’s and 70’s, Heavy Metal was a “heavy” blend of rock and blues with an emphasis on guitar and drums. Bands tended to adopt a look that included long hair, T-shirts, tight jeans and leather – you’d never mistake them for New Romantics. Classic Heavy Metal bands include Black Sabbath, Iron Maiden, and Metallica. Spinal Tap is the definitive Heavy Metal spoof band.

Heavy Metal spawned all sorts of offspring genres, of which some were, or are, popular enough to deserve their own definitions.

Hair Metal: Heavy Metal with more of a Pop or Rock flair; nothing too deep but trying to appeal to a wider audience. Hair Metal is all about appearance; a variation on the 70’s glam look featuring lipstick, tight leather, frills, bandanas, and long, spiked, teased, or tinted hair. The look tended to undermine their credibility among their more serious metal peers. Poison, Ratt and Cinderella all went for this niche. Hair Metal bands tend to suffer on the reunion circuit because, although they can maybe still play, all too often their hair has failed over the years and without that…

Nu Metal: An attempt to update Heavy Metal for the 90’s. Elements of other genres were blended in, sometimes with Rap, sometimes Grunge, perhaps a bit of Industrial or even Goth. It still relies heavily on guitar and drums, but bands veered from the classic Heavy Metal look and fancied themselves up a bit. Classic examples: Korn, Orgy and Linkin Park.

Speed Metal: Think Heavy Metal, but faster. Because Heavy Metal became too ponderous and lumbering for some, Speed Metal developed. The Heavy Metal guitar solo became more dominant within the songs and the tempos were greatly increased. Early practitioners of the style included Judas Priest and more contemporary bands such as Primal Fear have kept the tradition alive.

Progressive Rock (also known as Prog-Rock): This is what happens when a Rock band decides to get intellectual and explore concepts and musical virtuosity rather than aiming for the classic three minute pop single. Synthesizers and string instruments were often employed to fill out the sound and make things more elaborate. Drummers abandoned their drum kits for complex percussion stands. Rush, Pink Floyd and Genesis (at least early Genesis) are among the better known Prog-Rock bands.

Industrial: Just as the name suggests, Industrial music sounds big, noisy and mechanical. Not known for being particularly radio-friendly because of the unusual sounds, aggressiveness and frequent use of uncomfortable or socially-risqué subject material. Classic examples include: Nine Inch Nails, Skinny Puppy and Ministry.

Hip Hop: Employing elements of a strong beat, sampling, rap and often the use of a turntable, Hip Hop rose from the inner cities to commercial success through the 80’s. Run DMC, Beastie Boys and OutKast are just a few examples of the vast catalogue of successful Hip Hop groups.

Punk: A style of music that became prominent in the mid to late 70’s, punk was built around the premise that anyone could and should make music, regardless of their musical skill. Punk became a sounding board for a generation of angry youth whose songs were about social statements with musical accompaniment tending toward the loud, fast and simple. Classic examples: Sex Pistols, The Clash, Stiff Little Fingers and The Ramones.

Electronic: A distinctive sound that developed in the mid to late 70’s as synthesiser technology became more widely available. Unlike Synthpop, Electronic artists seemed more interested in exploring soundscapes and stringing together interesting noises than producing singles. Kraftwerk was one of the pioneers of the Electronic movement.

Grunge: A sound that grew out of, and became synonymous with, the Seattle music scene in the late 1980’s and early 1990’s; a heavy punk meets metal kind of affair. The typical grunge uniform consisted of jeans and a short-sleeve T-shirt worn over top of a long-sleeved T-Shirt, sometimes with an ubiquitous goatee beard on the chin of male practitioners. Bonus points were awarded for wearing a red and black check lumber jacket. Examples: Pearl Jam, Nirvana, Alice in Chains.

Psychedelic Rock: For those who liked Rock and Heavy Metal, but found them too restrictive, Psychedelic Rock added all sorts of guitar fuzz, distortion and occasionally disjointed lyrics to create a distinct sound. Classic examples include The Jesus and Mary Chain and The Brian Jonestown Massacre, with its roots going back to the 1960’s with the Strawberry Alarm Clock and even The Beatles.

Rockabilly: When rock got just too damned complicated, some bands apparently had a hankering for the old-school, 50’s style roots rock pioneered by Elvis Presley and others. They donned rolled up jeans, white T-shirts and black leather motorcycle jackets, slicked back their hair, and pumped out the rockabilly. You won’t find a better example than The Stray Cats.

Ska: A combination of Jamaican music and rock that reached the height of its popularity in the late 70’s and early 80’s with British bands like Madness, The English Beat and The Specials. Ska was danceable, and the bands tended to be larger than typical rock outfits, employing the standard guitar/drum/bass combo but usually augmenting this with horns, an organ and keyboards, and sometimes a designated stage dancer.

Next up in the classification of music is a series of more general terms used to encompass a wider swath of music, frequently for the purpose of describing a radio station’s music format.

Alt-Rock: Starting off simply enough as an alternative to the rock music being played on mainstream radio, this used to be a somewhat rare classification, dominated by bands that could be heard on alternative or college radio stations: R.E.M., for example. But by the 1990’s, “rock” as it had been known was being left behind on radio and what was known as Alt-Rock actually began to dominate the play lists.

Rock: Once upon a time this used to be straightforward. The Beatles, The Rolling Stones and other bands like them, were considered Rock bands. As time passed though, these bands tended to be lumped under Classic Rock. Today there are Rock bands – Foo Fighters being a good example – but they are frequently referred to as Alt-Rock. In other words, Alt-Rock has, for a large part, usurped Rock as “rock” these days. Confused? You and me both…

Indie: Bands that are not directly affiliated with any of the major record labels, typically giving the artists greater artistic control over their music, at the cost of personally shouldering a greater percentage of the production, promotion and distribution costs of their music. College radio stations are big proponents of Indie bands, but some, like Arcade Fire, have made the jump to mainstream.

Pop: The least frightening (at least on the surface), most melodic and radio-friendly of them all, Pop artists aim to sell vast quantities of records and do so by appealing to the widest audience possible. Pop music itself changes over time, but pop stations are where you’ll hear the likes of Michael Jackson, Britney Spears, Spice Girls and Girls Aloud.

Classic Rock: Now that Alt-Rock is known as Rock, and former Rock bands are sounding a little quaint to many listeners, where does that leave the 60’s, 70’s and 80’s Rock bands? They are now conveniently packed under the term Classic Rock, a massive category that can include anything from The Beatles to Van Halen.

New Wave: A marketing-derived term originally used by record companies to describe many of the Synthpop and New Romantic post-punk British bands of the late 1970’s and early 1980’s. This is a very broad label and was eventually used to describe anything from Depeche Mode to A-Ha.

So it turns out that genres and classifications are constantly evolving, bands are moving between genres and even the definitions themselves are subject to interpretation.

An artist like Neil Young is a good example of the way in which musicians vex the music geeks. At the beginning of his career, Young played with Buffalo Springfield and Crosby, Still, Nash and Young. He would have been typically classified as a Rock musician, with a leaning toward Folk.

Then Neil went through a phase where he moved toward a Country sound, again with a touch of Folk. Harvest is pretty representative of this period, but then came Rock again with songs such as Like A Hurricane. From out of nowhere, he veered into Electronic with an album that was so unexpected, he ended up in a fight with his record label over whether the release satisfied his contractual obligation – they basically argued that Re-Ac-Tor was so out there, it “shouldn’t count as a Neil Young record.”

Young went through a bit of a Rockabilly phase, then eventually sashayed into Grunge, with his Rockin’ In The Free World single being adopted by Grunge converts as an anthem. From there, Harvest Moon swayed dangerously close to Adult Contemporary, and now he appears to be back to his Folk roots.

So how on earth do you classify Neil Young? Well, you could choose to break his career into phases and classify each of those individually, or do the safe thing and file him under Classic Rock. There’s a good weekend worth of arguing over this one, and don’t think it won’t happen.

And of course, you can combine any of the categories and classifications in an attempt to define a band. The Police, for example, defy a straightforward definition and so become a compound categorization: reggae-influenced, new wave, post-punk, power-pop trio.

Simple, isn’t it?

: article by Brad Moon

July 19, 2008 at 2:13 pm

How to Be a Jazz Drummer

So you have decided that you want to be a drummer but is at a loss as to which genre of playing style you want to master. Have you considered learning how to be a jazz drummer?As you probably know, jazz is one of the most artistic and intriguing genre of music and especially so for the jazz drummer. Playing jazz music gives the drummer the opportunity to exhibit his amazing technical drumming skills and capabilities. However, most drummers choose not to take the time to learn how to play jazz drums properly which is partly due to its wide range of technicalities unlike most other forms of music.

Although jazz drumming seem to look very complicated, in reality, it is not that difficult to learn. The main difference is that most drummers are used to the 4/4 tempo of drumming where jazz is played with plenty of triplets and has a different feel from most other types of music. So the drummer may have to relearn some drumming techniques. Furthermore, most jazz pieces are relatively fast in tempo and thus most drummers also need to make improvements on their stick speed.

The first thing a new drummer needs to learn when playing jazz pieces is the basic jazz swing tempo or sometimes called the “swing groove”. A jazz drummer’s main role is to keep time for the rest of the band just like in any genre of music. The drummer should never overpower the rest of the band unlike when playing rock songs. To do this, simply use your hi hat and ride cymbal.

Ok. Let’s start with your hi-hat stepping on the 2 and 4 count to a piece of swing music. It is critical to keep this count over top of everything else that you play. Next, add ride the cymbal with a triplet tempo and feel. Practice these moves to perfection before going further with your drum lessons.

Now that you have mastered how to keep the swing tempo with the hi-hat and ride cymbal, let’s move on to the bass drum or sometimes called the kick-drum. Jazz drumming techniques are sometimes very subtle and because of this, the bass drum should not be too dominant. So do make sure that you do not play the bass drum too loudly. This again is unlike most other form of drumming. A good technique for this is keep your heel down when playing the bass drum. In this way, you are more in position control the strength of the kick more easily. A technique jazz drummers often use is the feathering the bass drum. This is done by lightly tapping the bass drum on the quarter or eighth notes.

You will probably know that is highly common for the bass drum to follow the bass guitar player. So you may need to know what kind of rhythm progression the bass player is playing and try to follow him. The bass drum should be played with more of a feel rather than powerful thumping like those in rock music.

The snare drum can be used to help as an accent for the band or can be used to play straight quarter notes.

Another common rhythm in jazz music is the shuffle and every jazz drummer must also master this form of drumming. Furthermore, since jazz music usually have musicians doing solo runs, the jazz drummer must also learn how to play drum solos. By developing these common jazz drumming styles, you will be playing jazz drums like a pro pretty soon!

: article by Chris Chew

July 18, 2008 at 12:49 pm

The Importance Of The Neck Of A Guitar

The neck of a guitar is frequently something referred to, although there can often be misconceptions as to what part is actually being referred to. The neck of a guitar is usually considered to be a collective term, and refers to the section of a guitar including the fret board, the headstock and truss rod, if included, and the frets along the fret board. Effectively then, the neck is the whole of the long wooden part of a guitar that extends from the round body.When you consider that electric guitars, and even some classical or acoustic ones, use heavy steel strings rather than nylon ones, you can imagine that the neck of a guitar is under considerable pressure and strain – a little like a bridge across a river is under enormous pressure with the weight of all the wires pulling against the construction. Because of the pressure on a neck, which is generally fairly lightweight and made from wood, a truss rod is often inserted. This is a metal rod, often made from steel, which is embedded all the way from the top of the neck, where the headstock is, through to the body. This acts as a brace to ensure that the neck doesn’t move, and is not bent over time through the pressure of the strings. However, the truss rod can sometimes be rotated, clockwise or anticlockwise, and this adjusts the angle of the neck of the guitar, providing alternative ways of playing and creating a change in the overall tone of the guitar.

However, this is not to the detriment of the rigidity of the neck, and it is usually a very good and clear indication of the overall quality of a guitar, how firm the neck is. Any movement or looseness between the neck of the guitar and the body spells trouble quite quickly, and this joint is possibly the most important in the whole instrument. The neck of a guitar is not usually a straight flat board, but curved or bent slightly. This helps to increase the tension of the strings, keep them flat against the frets and improve the sound clarity. The exact shape of a neck can vary, the more traditional being a gentle curve, a little like a letter ‘c’, although there are also some guitars with a neck that actually has a distinct angle to it, more like a letter ‘v’.

Although the neck of a guitar is usually wooden, there are examples of guitars which are traditionally made with other material. For example, Steinberger guitars are most often found with necks made from graphite, a material which is extremely tough and durable, and found in a number of pieces of equipment which undergo heavy stress, such as the badminton and tennis rackets. Aluminium is another alternative to wood found in the construction of necks by some manufacturers, including Kramer, Veleno and Travis Bean, whilst Three Guitars and Modulus prefer using a substance called carbon fibre which is particularly light weight but very durable and capable of undergoing a good deal of stress.

The point at which the neck of a guitar joins the body is often referred to as the heel (a little confusing having the neck connected to the body using a heel!) and is generally glued, although in the case of some acoustic guitars and all electric guitars it is also bolted, especially where steel strings are used. Generally the joints are constructed using very traditional woodworking methods, such as mortise and tenon and dovetail, although Spanish guitars often use their own traditional heel neck joint, named after the traditional Spanish shoe which the joint looks a little like.

: article by Victor Epand

July 17, 2008 at 1:08 pm

The 9 Basic Guitar Chords That Every Guitar Player Should Know

There are 9 basic guitar chords which beginner guitarists first learn and that all guitar players should know. These guitar chords are also called open position chords because they are played in open position, or in other words, played down by the nut of the guitar utilizing open strings.These 9 basic guitar chords are so essential that every guitar player should know how to play them, and most do. With these 9 basic guitar chords alone, you will be able to play most if not all the songs you want to learn! When jamming, you will see other guitar players use these exact same chords all the time. Imagine, you as a beginner guitar player hanging with guitarists who have been playing for years. That’s how important these 9 guitar chords are!

The 9 Basic Guitar Chords

The C major chord – Place your 3rd finger on the 3rd fret on the 5th string, your 2nd finger on the 2nd fret of the 4th string and your 1st finger on the 1st fret on the 2nd string. The 3rd and 1st strings are to be played open and the 6th string is not to be played.

The G major chord – Place your 2nd finger on the 3rd fret on the 6th string, your 1st finger on the 2nd fret of the 5th string and your 4th finger on the 3rd fret of the 1st string. The 4th, 3rd, and 2nd strings are to be played open.

The D major chord – Place your 1st finger on the 2nd fret on the 3rd string, your 3rd finger on the 3rd fret of the 2nd string and your 2nd finger on the 2nd fret on the 1st string. The 4th string is to be played open while the 5th and 6th strings are not to be played.

The E minor chord – Place your 2nd finger on the 2nd fret of the 5th string and your 3rd finger on the 2nd fret on the 4th string. The 6th, 3rd, 2nd and 1st strings should be played open.

The E major chord – Played the same as the E minor chord except the 3rd string is not played open but instead played with your 1st finger on the 1st fret.

The A minor chord – Played the same as the E major chord except the fingering is moved up one string set. Place your 2nd finger on the 2nd fret of the 4th string, your 3rd finger on the 2nd fret of the 3rd string and your 1st finger on the 1st fret of the 2nd string.

The A major chord – Played the same as the A minor chord except the note on the 2nd strings is moved up one fret and the chord is re-fingered. Place your 1st finger on the 2nd fret on the 4th string, your 2nd finger on the 2nd fret on the 3rd string and your 3rd finger on the 2nd fret on the 2nd string.

The D minor chord – Place your 2nd finger on your 2nd fret on the 3rd string, your 3rd finger on the 3rd fret on the 2nd string and your 1st finger on the 1st fret on the 1st string.

The F major chord – Place your 3rd finger on the 3rd fret of the 4th string your 2nd finger on the 2nd fret on the 3rd string and your 1st finger on the 1st fret on both the 2nd and 1st strings.

Take your time to learn these 9 basic guitar chords. You may find some chords are hard to finger, particularly F major and A major, but with practice they will come. You should find that in no more then a few weeks you will have these chords down solid and be able to move from one chord to the next rather comfortably.

: article by Jonathan Dykerman

July 16, 2008 at 3:00 pm

Stress Management – Music can be used for Relaxation

According to research, music has an intense effect on the human body and mind. Music has healing properties that help ease muscle tension and lift depression. It has been used to help cancer patients, people suffering from post operative stress and even children with ADD. In recent years, music has been used as a powerful tool in therapy sessions to calm the mind and body of patients. Today music is one of the most effective tools for inducing relaxation.In the current scenario as more and more people fall victims to negative stress, there is high demand for an effective stress management tool that people can use on a daily basis. This is where music comes in. Unlike other stress management tools like meditation, yoga, counseling or massage, listening to music does not require any special time or investment. This is one of the reasons for its popularity as an effective stress management tool.

According to doctors, relaxation music CDs and video can stimulate activity corresponding to its beats in the brain. That is why soothing music encourages contemplation and relaxation. The alterations in brain activity caused by music lead to widespread changes in other bodily functions. Thus music has an impact on breathing and heart rate. Listening to relaxation music CDs and video leads to the activation of relaxation response in the body.

Music effectively counteracts the damaging effects of extreme stress. It can reduce blood pressure, boost immunity and relieve tension in the muscles. Slower breathing and relaxed heart rate brings about relaxation in the body. It is even believed that music has the ability to reduce the risk of stroke and heart related problems. These healing properties of music explain the frequent use of relaxation music CDs and video in therapy and counseling.

There is another reason why music can be effectively used for relaxation. Research has shown that the change music brings in brainwave activity makes it easier for the brain to shift into a calm and meditative state more easily on its own when the need arises in future. Therefore, music has a lasting impact on our response to stress. The power of music does not stop there. People battling with high amounts of negative stress often feel frustration and anxiety. These negative stress responses can wreck havoc on the body, mind and life of people suffering from it. Music can be used to encourage a positive state of mind in people who are stressed out.

With so many beneficial effects on the body and mind, it is little wonder that music is finding a place of pride and importance in mind therapy. Different kinds of music are used for different types of therapy. The music used for relaxation is generally mild and soothing, and it has a calming effect on the body. You may choose instrumental music or music interwoven with positive affirmations to help you ward off the detrimental effects of negative stress. Whatever kind of music you use, it is obvious that music is one of the easiest, most affordable and effective forms of relaxation available to us.

: article by Lizzi Loraine

July 16, 2008 at 2:52 pm

Blues Guitar Hidden Secrets

Before we begin to give you additional information on this topic, take a moment to think about how much you already know.Improvising blues guitar solos is an incredibly fun and pleasing hobby that never gets old. And is fun and pleasing, but it is important to pay notice to your wrists and hands to sidestep carpal tunnel syndrome, tendinitis and other sore conditions. It is a animal and mental handiness as well as a creative one, and your body will take time to learn to fashion the sounds you can gather in your regulate. And is as greatly about stirring to a new stance as property down a chord.

Guitar soloing is never boring, you can forever learn something new. And is actually truly calm, which is why it is one of the most current music instruments on the world. Learn to play guitar the calm way, if you have forever sought to learn to play, or have tried and not been able to get any outcome you might think it is too hard for you. The rightful beauty is that every part of the instrument from the variety of solos, the skin of the guitar and ultimately, the tune you desire to play, is all about individual preference.

What comes to attention is a regard of real joy. However, there are a lot of stuff I do right handed, and improvising sols is one of them. And is not that truly what playing guitar is all about. The major thing is, to have fun, because that is what guitar sols is all about. Picture that you, or superstar you know, who does not know a thing about guitar soloing is banished to a deserted island in order to revise guitar. Because it is a very bodily experience, the more sensitivity the player has the better.

We have just reached the tip of the iceberg, as the remainder of this article will help to further your understanding of this complex subject.

I find that soloing is more based on intervals and mount degrees, playing the piano is more based on the actual remarks in the mount. I am forever amazed to gather of people practicing in front of the television, as if it is just some rote mechanical apply. But I am solid you also allow that guitar play is greatly more complicated than riding a motor bike. As you can see it is not the end to your whole career, playing instruments other than a guitar is the way to go to make sure that you are departing to be able to get into a crowd.

You do not win at guitar because it is an art of many varieties, but you can win against manually by running on your weak points or struggles. The cornerstone to faking like you are super grand at playing guitar is called the pentatonic mount. Also grasp that most great players know that playing guitar soloing is a period shoot and the better they get, the more they want to get better. The art of blues guitar solos is on a rejoinder, however. Made so clean that whole beginners can lastly understand what it takes to play If you know the shortcuts, improvising guitar is as calm as one two three. Share the information that you have learned with your friends and family. They will be impressed by your knowledge and happy to learn something new.

: article by Ronald Firquain

July 15, 2008 at 2:43 pm

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