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Alakaiser's blog

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Alakaiser avatar 8:30 PM on 06.07.2010  (server time)
[NVGR] Noise Pollution: A Bunch of Words About Music

It's Monday. I have felt like garbage all day, due to spending Sunday at Mohegan Sun (capped off by watching Conan O'Brien. If you're asking for a review of the performance, really shouldn't need one at this point.) Outside of Robot Unicorn Attack on my iPhone, I haven't really been in a video game mood in a few days. So, this post is not about video games.

If that sort of thing scares you, run away in

At various points in things I've written here, I've talked about how I am a musician, and how music is a major part of my life. There are others on this site who know more about it than I do (and that link is well worth your time, if you haven't already read it), and I'd never claim to be an expert on the subject, but it is a passion of mine.

Growing up, I mostly listened to what my parents listened to. In my house, that meant a lot of music from the 1960s, which means that I've been a Beatles fan for a very major portion of my life. Working on The Beatles Rock Band was one of those unbelievable portions of my life that I still have trouble realizing actually happened.

Over the years, I have always tried to remain consistently exploratory in what music I listen to. Personally, I find the phrase "I listen to everything" to be a bit of a cop-out for what music you listen to, especially when the qualifier of "except rap and/or country" is thrown on the end of it. Just like every genre of video game, I feel that every genre of music has plenty of good music to go along with the obvious quantity of bad music.

If I had to pick a genre of music that I mostly associate with, I'd choose three: blues, jazz, and alternative. "Alternative" is kind of a silly term to me, but I think it gets the message across. I grew up in the 1990s, so songs that I'd probably consider terrible if they came out today have a soft spot in my heart due to nostalgia. Blues and jazz...well, they're blues and jazz.

Recommendations, you say? You didn't say that? I'm going to pretend you said that. Here, listen to this band:

Oh my, that is not a flattering preview image. Click it anyway! The video is actually pretty cool, honestly!

Mother Mother was a band I discovered last year, although the album that contains that song had come out a year prior. Most albums only stay in my MP3 player rotation for a month or two (sometimes a bit longer for an album I really like), but I can never bring myself to delete this one. I am a sucker for vocal harmonies (Beatles fan, remember?), but there's even more going on with this band than that. If you are looking for music recommendations, this is my go-to. This is a band I very much want to see get mega-huge.

Of course, I mentioned that I am a musician. Musicians generally play musical instruments, right? Right. Growing up, I primarily played the trumpet (as well as the piano, but never to a performance level), but fell out of love with it after high school. I still enjoy how the trumpet sounds, and what you can do with it, but I don't enjoy playing it anymore. Wind instruments in general aren't appealing to me as a performer anymore.

So, now I play the guitar. How original. I bought my first guitar during my college days, but never got past a few open chords, and couldn't play a single song. One of the things I've been doing with this wealth of free time I've had (although this started prior to that) is to teach myself how to play the damn thing, while getting advice from anyone who knows a thing or two about the instrument. Given how many amateur guitarists are, and how many musically-minded friends I have, this is usually not difficult.

I'm at a point where I'm fairly happy with how well I can play, although there's definitely a lot I still have to learn. Of course, I have my whole life to do it, so there's no rush. I practice for a bare minimum of 30 minutes daily, although I prefer to get in at least an hour, and two or three hours is preferable. I don't think I need to tell any musician reading this how important practice is.

Recently, a few friends of mine who have heard me play have started asking me for advice, which is kind of a weird phenomenon for me, since I know they could get better advice from elsewhere. That said, I always give them the same piece of advice, and I know it is the best advice they'll get at their level: learn music theory.

A lot of my friends are the type of people who will argue something like, "But *famous guitarist X* didn't know music theory, and he was awesome!" *Famous guitarist X* is generally someone with a boatload of natural talent, who also puts in plenty of effort beyond learning theory. My friends are not naturally talented, and are usually kind of lazy anyway.

Learning major and minor scales (or at least the pentatonics, for crying out loud) is by no means sucking the fun out of your playing, and those are fairly easy to learn. You can get into your phrygian or lydian modes if you want to, but at least start with the basics. Theory is nothing to be afraid of, it is merely the language of music. If you don't understand the language, utilizing it is very difficult for the average player. This might not be the best comparison, but it'd be like me trying to write a novel in Farsi, despite the fact that I don't know a single thing about Farsi.

I'm kind of rambling here, so I think I'm just going to cut myself off. I very much love music, both as a spectator and a performer. Learning a musical instrument is one of the most rewarding things I think you can do, and the barrier to entry is not as scary as a lot of people want you to believe. If you cut out a few hours of video games a week, and replace that with a few hours of practice, you'll improve at a good pace, and will eventually greatly look forward to picking up your instrument (you know, assuming you enjoy music).

And if you don't know anything about music? Pay for lessons. It will be the best money you ever spend, well beyond learning a single musical instrument.

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