Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Attack of the clones

Do you remember the name of all those guys who used to play "neo-classical" stuff and tried to play minor harmonic scales faster than the speed of light just to be the next Yngwie Malmsteen ?
You probably don't and neither do I, because all those wankers were stillborn.
The problem is that our fellows musicians tend to have a short memory and the new trend seems to be playing like Greg Howe.
I remember the time when I had to lend my own "Introspection" CD to my guitar teacher because he didn't know Greg Howe had an album out. He lent me Stephen Ross' "Midnight Drive" in exchange, and I was very happy about it.

Oh, you don't know who Greg Howe is ? Check this out :

While I do agree that being able to play like Greg is something any guitar player must be craving for (me included), playing like Greg is certainly a bad idea because, as musical history has already shown, the fate of clones is to die without a name.

So unless you happen to be Arkadiy Starodoub and you can play like this :

you'd better stop emulating Greg's playing and find a style of your own because if I ever want to put some Greg Howe in my ears I will probably listen to his stuff, not yours.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Your assholeness scientifically proven

First of all, I have to say that the theory hereafter has been made public some years ago by French guitarist and teacher extraordinaire Michel Sigwalt.

So you think you can play fast as long as you want and that people will still care for what you're playing ?

Actually, human's ear (or rather brain) naturally functions according to the Fibonacci numbers (also known as "sequence of Fibonacci", more infos here). Basically, it goes like this :
0, 1, 1, 2, 3, 5, 8, 13 ,21, 34, 55, 89, 144, etc.

You take a number and add the previous number to get the next number. Pretty easy.

So your brains works like this : it will care about the first note, about the second note, the third, the fifth, etc. As you can see above, the more numbers you get in the sequence, the larger the gaps.

What does that mean, music-wise ?

It simply means that when you've reached the 145th note in your solo (and the faster you play, the faster it comes), people's brain won't give a damn until you play the 233th note. That's right, all the notes in between could be played for nothing. This especially applies to all the bluesy-pentatonic shit you use to play for hours as soon as you encounter some A7 chord.

Now there are some good news and some bad news...

The bad news is that most of the notes you're playing are certainly played in vain. Well, it's highly unlikely that ALL the notes you play are important, or at least equally important anyway...

The good news is that you can take that piece of information and make it work to your advantage by :
a) making short soli, in order for most of the notes you play to be paid attention to. Highly recommended.
b) making your soli more and more interesting and appealing with time, so the brain keeps on paying attention to what you're playing. Nice examples would be John Petrucci's "Under a Glass Moon" solo (Dream Theater's "Images and Words" album), or Steve Stevens' "Look in her eyes" solo (Vince Neil's "Exposed" album),

This explains why I couldn't help falling asleep during John Petrucci's solo in his "Damage control" (from the "G3 in Tôkyô") : too many notes, or - to be more precise - too many useless notes. That shit was boring as hell.

Now you can keep on shredding, losers.

Speed vs Melody

One of the drawbacks of playing fast is that you can't play fast AND sound like you're playing a melody. You don't believe me? Ok.
Take a melody of 10 notes, make it play at 1000 bpm by your computer, what do you get ?
Certainly something that sounds like "blouip !" or "gluiip !".

But that's not all, there are is also some mechanical reasons which prevent you from playing a melody when you're playing fast :

To be able to play fast, you have to make the silence time between each note as short as possible. There are basically 2 ways to achieve that :
a) play the same note again.
b) play the closest note to the one you've just played.

The reasons are that it takes less time for your fingers to move, and it takes less time for your brain to ask your fingers to move to a close position (the hand doesn't move) than to a remote position (the hand has to move).

So what you get when you try to achieve ultimate speed is either tremolo picking (same note picked as fast as possible) or chromatic patterns (playing notes that are next one to another regardless of harmony). Both can't be considered as melodic.

Of course, you could say that techniques such as tapping and sweeping allow you to play fast notes that are remote from the first one, either by tapping a remote note with your right hand or by picking a note close to the first one but on a different string. Touché.

But if it makes you evade the mechanical hindrances (for how long ?), you still have to cop with our first rule : the faster you play, the less melodic it sounds.

We'll soon see other reasons to make you slow down a bit...

Monday, November 20, 2006

The way you do the things you do.

Let's suppose you're a beginner.
Let's suppose your best friend who started playing the guitar before you makes you listen to some Joe Satriani song, let's say "The Mystical Potatoe Head Groove Thing".

Now enlightened, you've discovered your next goal in life : to become able to play that song.
So you buy the songbook, or download the tabs on the internet (or try to pick it up by ear and screw up the whole thing).
Now let's see if I can read your mind.... what you're going to do is... play the main riff... then start learning the lead guitar... yes, that's right, I can now clearly see that 99% of you will do so.

Now the bad news : doing so will make you a loser.
Sure you will be jumping in your room with the CD playing in the background, and you will be able to impress your friends with that cool-looking arpeggio. But you know, there are hundreds of guitar players out there who did the same as you, and can probably play that song better than you, so if one of them invites you to play that song with him (maybe Joe Satriani himself !), he may want to play the lead guitar and you'll have to play the rythm guitar. Oh, you didn't take the time to learn it ?
Too bad, Satriani will play with someone else, I guess....

When you learn a song, whatever it is, the very first thing you should learn is the rythm guitar. Don't think I knew that from the beginning, I did the same mistake as you, of course. But among the things I learnt, one is that a reliable rythm guitar player is something priceless. I have one of my friends who once played onstage with other members of his campus. They had an excellent drummer (they did a samba interlude in the middle of Satriani's "Time Machine", go figure...), but their rythm guitar player was awful. When the solo time came, my friends kept on playing shitty because he had to rely on that rythm guitar player who couldn't keep the rythm. As a lead guitar player, having to play with such people is a REAL pain in the ass. Why do you think Steve Vai hired Tony Mac Alpine as a rythm guitar player ?
Playing the rythm part of a song will build your endurance (try to play the rythm part of 10 songs in a row) and being able to rythmically support other musicians in a band is not to be taken lightly, because in music rythm is everything.
Sure you want to shine and steal the show and get laid, but if that's really the reason why you're playing the guitar, just forget it. Please become an actor instead.
When you'll understand the real achievement that being an excellent rythm guitar player is, you'll start becoming a much better musician and your lead playing will improve accordingly.

Sunday, November 19, 2006


Yeah, you read it right, there is no question mark, therefore it's not a question, it's an explanation.
Dragonforce seems to be one of the new guitar sensations, at least if I refer to the number of praises I can see in Dragonforce videos comments on Youtube....

So why does it suck so hard ? Here are the reasons :

1) The name. "Dragonforce", come on, what kind of shitty name is that ? It sounds like some anime or video game skill, not like a band's name. As a matter of fact, using "dragon" in a band's name will make you sound like a nerd, addicted to Role-Playing Games and spending more time pinching his pimples than working on his string-skipping exercices. So all of you retards out there with band's names like "Dragonslayer", "Dragonkiller", "Dragon's breath", "Dragonite" and everything that includes the word "dragon", you know now how much of losers you are.

2) The music. At least, Herman Li and Sam Totman admit it : one of their main influences is video games music. Too bad they spent hours on their instruments to sound no better than a Nintendo NES while hundreds of talented people here and here actually play real video games music with the artistic soul Dragonforce is desperately pursuing...
As for the drums, I know sequencers with more feeling than Dragonforce's drummer. If I want to listen to a sledgehammer, I'd rather listen to some Fear Factory record.

3) The sound. Dragonforce tries to mix the energy of speed metal with video games sounds. Let's face it, it sucks. The guitar sound is just terrible, it conveys absolutely no power whatsoever. Since the drummer sounds like he's trying to dig a tunnel, the guitars end up sounding even feebler. As if it were not enough, Herman Li and Sam Totman decided to remove every aspect in their playing that could give consistency to any solo they do : no bends, not a note longer than half a second, no slides, no double stops, even their artificial harmonics sound like glitches, and of course NO MELODY (which sounds obvious, since speed and melody are not really compatible, as we'll see next week). Any Yngwie Malmsteen or George Lynch alone owns both players of Dragonforce. Period.

If you're a big fan of Dragonforce, you probably suck at guitar playing, so grow up. Playing the guitar is not "being able to move one's fingers as fast as possible on the fretboard". Any monkey with a guitar and a metronome can eventually achieve that. Playing the guitar is something different. That you don't know yet.


Here is an important lesson : if you have to show yourself playing something, you'd better look good.

Look at this video

This guy's name is Adam Fulara and he's really good at what he does. You can even say amazing. The only problem is that you probably spent 1 second looking at his hands and the rest of the video looking at his face, wondering what kind of giant turd he was about to drop (you can read the comments for this video, everybody says the same thing).
As a guitar player, I know that his face is just the expression of his brain about to melt because he has to figure out the independent movements of both hands. But he should have chosen another angle so you can see his guitar better and not his face. This reminds me of Billy Sheehan saying that he voted for Paul Gilbert during the L.A Guitar Wars because Paul was the only one not to look like he was about to commit suicide should he miss a lick.
Looking like a moron when you're playing alone in your room is one thing, showing yourself playing on Youtube is another. The same goes if you're going to play onstage.
Try to look good because not everybody in the audience is good enough of a guitar player to be able to judge you on what you play rather than on how you play it.

Saturday, November 18, 2006

First lesson...

First of all, I'm here to talk about music. If you think I'm going to teach you scales and modes and all that stuff, I have 2 things to tell you :

1) You're damn wrong, you'll find plenty of sites out there to teach you that.
2) It's precisely what those sites won't teach you that I will. So you'd better stay tuned.

Speaking of which, have you ever met someone who could swear that Kirk Hammett (Metallica's soloist) is a Guitar God, the best guitar player in the world, a guitar player that combines speed and taste ?
Well, that person is WRONG. Kirk Hammett is one of the most overrated guitar players in the world, and I'll tell you why : Kirk Hammett plays out of tune.

Have you ever watched those "instructional videos" tapes or DVDs that teach you tapping, sweeping, modes and "how to play like *insert name here*" ? All of them, and I'm saying ALL OF THEM share the very same first step : tuning up your guitar.
Think about it : the teacher doesn't only want you to be in tune with him so you can jam along with the video, since you can't. Most of the time you have to hit "pause" to play the exercices and there is no jam session in those instructional videos.
What the teacher wants you to understand is that playing in tune is the very first step in learning to play the guitar. Playing in tune is ESSENTIAL.
It seems mister Hammett skipped this first step. Music-wise, Metallica's"Ride the lightning" is an excellent album that, unfortunately, I'm unable to listen to just because mister Hammett makes it sound so out of tune that it's just unbearable. And in case you're wondering, I don't even have perfect pitch, go figure...

You may play fast, you may play loud, but check that you play in tune. And I'm not talking about your guitar, I'm talking about you.

Another guitar site ? Why ?!

Because there are few good guitar players, a lot of bad guitar players and MILLIONS of assholes out there who can't see (hear ?) the difference between the former and the latter.
I'm here to help them.
I'm fed up with seeing the "shredding" jerks on Youtube, and even more fed up with the comments. I've seen an Asian wanker (you know who he is, he's playing shit on a white JEM guitar) praised as if he were a guitar god and Stephen Ross treated like shit, go figure...
You want to become a better guitar player ? Whatever your level, there is still more to learn, and I'll teach you what.

By the way, english is not my native language, so please bear with it, I do my best.