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  1. How To Get Motivation To Practice Regularly

    April 7, 2014 by RedSheep

    There are some people that seem to have the ability to practice for 10 hours at a time regularly and get in their 10,000 minutes required to master something.  I on the other hand have a hard time staying motivated to practice at times.  Even when there’s time, often a lack of self-discipline, focus, or tendency to procrastinate get in the way.

    If you’ve ever read any advice on goal setting and motivation you may have gotten close to the advice of the self-help crowd.  I have spent many years going through such books from time to time and I can tell you that most of them give bad advice.  Occasionally there will be a nugget of truth, but it will be misrepresented or misread to the point that it will not help.  A perfect example is visualizing your best self, able to play anything.  Though intuitively it may seem like it’ll help, the reality is that setting such a high image of yourself demotivates you as soon as you come across something you can’t play, because reality is in-congruent with the image you’ve set up for yourself.

    For anyone that’s never read a self-help book, I gotta tell you, there’s a lot of crud out there.  To illustrate how much crud, the guy in this article read 340 self-help books and estimates that 95% of books written were complete nonsense. 

    Enter Wiseman

    What this is all leading up to is a recommendation of a book which I have recently read which backs up all of it’s claims with real scientific study.  It’s not just a Title namedrop and a well hidden link to the original, it actually explains what the study was, and how it can be used to help you out with motivation, problem solving, influence and a whole host of other topics.

    Richard Wiseman - 59 seconds

    Genuinely helpful in improving motivation and reaching goals

    The book is called 59 Seconds, because every exercise and tip in the book is designed to be something you can do in under a minute.  I saw the author, Richard Wiseman, many years ago when he was touring with another book of his called Quirkology.  The man is a professor of psychology and has done extensive work in debunking bad science and bad advice, so to my mind, he is a most trustworthy source.

    Check it out!

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  2. You Are an Inescapable Part of Your Art

    February 15, 2014 by RedSheep

     

    I have an interesting dilemma for you. 

    Imagine you’re out on a morning Saturday run, and you’re starred songs on Spotify/Ipod/music playing device on as your soundtrack. Now, half way into your run, you’re in a brilliant flow,  your phone is  all zipped up in your pocket, and Rolf Harris comes on in the playlist.  do you:

    a) Ignore it and keep running

    b) Skip the track

    Rolf Harris is being tried at the moment on multiple counts of sex charges.  I use him as the prime example simply because he’s who cropped up on my playlist this morning, but it’s not just him.  Ian Watkins of the now disbanded Lostprophets has been jailed for 27 years for some quite horrific sex crimes.

    Now with that in mind can I still enjoy Rolf Harris’ music, or the Lostprophets’?  The example that demonstrates this most is what used to be one of my favourite songs – Shinobi vs Dragon Ninja .  From

    It leads me to the question, is artistic merit entirely based the art, or does it also rely on the artist also?

    Logically I’d like to say no, but in human and practical terms, I think the answer is no.  Whenever I listen to Shinobi now, the damn thing’s tainted, and will likely disappear from my listening list over time.  As far as Rolf Harris goes, I’m telling myself he’s still on trial, and that he’s pleaded not guilty, but I’m not optimistic about where that trial’s going.

    Let’s take it down a notch

    Axl Rose has a reputation for being a bit of a bad boy.  From stealing bandmates’ girlfriends, to vicious temper tantrums

    So the artist being a bad guy clearly throws a turd in the pool,  but how about the other way round?

    What about people that do good things, does that enhance their art?

    Here I turn to my most recent love

    Prior to about 4 months ago I only read non-fiction. When I was younger I read The Hobbit, Harry Potter, and from what I remember, Gulliver’s Travels, but  I was sooooooo booooored, and thanks to them I stopped reading for about 9 years.

    That was, until I read Earthsea.  I have to thank my good friend Sarah for getting me to read it, because it is the best book I have ever read.  I feel it’s better than Lord of the Rings, and I’m not afraid to say it.    You may have heard of a rather bad film called Tales From Earthsea, by Goro Miyazaki.

    The biggest tragedy of this film is that the books are phenomenal pieces of work. Ursula Le Guin herself is an extraordinary woman.  She’s a constant fighter for humanitarian causes, activism, feminism and a whole slew that I’m likely not aware of yet.  After reading Earthsea I’ve gone on to read a whole host of other books in the last 4 months.  I think the tally is around 15-20, but that’s besides the point. I took the time to learn from Le Guin’s talks on writing, and now I’m going through her book Steering the Craft to learn how to write, and I can feel her presence with every passing page.

    I am led to the conclusion that you cannot escape being a part of your art, so make sure it’s a good part.

     

     

     


  3. Album #2 – Update 1

    February 11, 2014 by RedSheep

    Apologies on the long time without a new blog post.  

    Sheep Wood

    So after much huffing and puffing I finished the 2nd draft of lyrics for Sweet Surrender.  It’s still got a few rough edges, but I like where it’s at so far.  I did a live performance of it along with another new song called “Why aren’t you fighting any more”. Both can be heard on sloud, or right here:

    Aside from that I’ve been spending a lot of time at writers groups, learning the craft of Poetry and prose.  I’ve been through a few great challenges from Pat Pattinson’s ‘Songwriting Without Boundaries‘ and they’ve been great for getting a clearer picture of the scene in which my songs are set.  The next chapter however is on metaphor, which I’ve always had some trouble with, but pushing through with his method looks to be a magnificent way into writing more metaphorically.

    Here’s a short sample of the writing it’s produced:

    The church was bustling. Idle Chatter ran through the aisles.  The pews creaked with shifting bodies; happy patrons escaping the April rain and gusty Sunday Sky. Christ pattered in stain glass joy.  Proud to see another devoted memorial without chocolate, or spatterings of eggs hidden for kids.  He seemed to bleed with a soft, saintly smile.

    A book I’m just starting as far as writing goes is Ursula K Le Guin’s ‘Steering the Craft‘ Since reading the first 4 Earthsea books I’ve become rather addicted to her writing, and I feel I could learn a great deal from her lessons covered here.  Check out her website, it’s brilliant!
    Also, I’ve just set up a Trello Board where you can keep up with everything I’m working on!  Check it out here
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  4. Not So Low after all…

    November 29, 2013 by RedSheep

    Ok, so here’s the deal.  The peer reviews came in for the awful song I wrote last week, and it turns out… It wasn’t as God awful as I thought it was.  In fact fellow reviewers seemed to like it!

    before I go any further, here’s the further development of the song from this week, if you are so inclined to listen :)

    I remember shortly after submitting last week I had a look at some of the work I’d then be reviewing(it works by having each applicant review 5, and get 5 reviewing them) and the First guy had literally said “I didn’t have time for the assignment this week, so have a joke instead.”  So I guess I wasn’t the only one that found this week a challenge.  I think I’m going to go back and watch the lectures again to get more of a grip on the concepts.  Having something I can focus on is a good thing, especially something I feel needs work like this.  Word-setting was a little tricky the week before, but this week was on another level because of the sheer amount you need to do in a short time.  Anyway, here were the overall comments that were left

    Well, being compared with Cohen is a compliment I will gladly take!   I spent so long trying to plan this piece that I never let it just rip forward.

    peer 1 → I don’t know where this comment belongs but this is a beautiful love song…way to go!
    peer 2 → Great! Sounds like Cohen to me. I would repeat all the chorus after the bridge and I think that the bridge itself needs some more melodic definition. A great song.
     

    Another problem I have, opposite to not spending enough time on pieces, is that I find it very hard to let a piece just be what it is.  To let it flow naturally, flaws dangling astray as it runs through polite society.  At some point you end up polishing perfect and going beyond what is needed.  Bob Dylan was a master of quickly writing songs at one point, as well as Queen.  On the other, long-time taking side of the coin you have Leonard cohen, who polished past perfect into masterful.  But it’s not about the time Cohen puts in, it’s about waiting for the natural beauty of the song to shine through so perfectly.  He said it in an interview and in the song A Thousand Kisses deep:

    You Lose your Grip

    And then you slip

    Into the Masterpiece

    I understand that people aren’t looking to these songs on the level like Leonard Cohen would write, and I appreciate your kind words, strangers, but with all that said I still believe the song has a long way to go before it can attain anything close to the feeling or meaning I intended to convey.

    I find myself jabbing characters into my blog, pontificating in bitter angst at your kind words facing me.  But don’t think I’m ungrateful, I have just seen what I am capable of in brief moments here and there.  I just haven’t found my voice, my way to share, but it’s there, somewhere.  in snippets of mind like the rhyming words behind this one, missed sometimes, and kissed on the border of poetry, blended with the mist.  It lacks shape.  formless most often, but still it’s there.  Most of my job is finding where, then painting, one stroke at a time, careful not to miss a line.  But misaligned, my process is behind my thoughts, so must be fixed until it’s not. And when at last the rope is tied between the mist and round my eyes I’ll be conduit of art, both from my head and from my heart.

    But until then, work still needs to be done…
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  5. A Bit of a Low Point

    November 21, 2013 by RedSheep

    I mentioned before that I’m part of a free songwriting course right now. Well, this week we were to put together everything we had learned so far and write a complete song.  Being the unprepared git that I occasionally am I left it until the last 3 days to write a song.  

    Fake Jesus

    Close Enough…

    Before I go any farther, let me share the submitted piece

    Now I know not all of you are songwriters, but see how many ill-set words, off key notes and unashamedly obscure word choices you can find.  (I got lost somewhere in the 40′s)

    That said, there is potential here, in that the idea of never really growing up and feeling like an adult something I think a lot of people experience, the idea of still being adventurous well into old age.  Kids in Old Skin just as a title alone has potential.

    So why share?

    I think as artists we all have times that we aren’t happy with the work that’s coming out, and we believe that everyone else is somehow immune to crappy days.

    We’re not.

    No One is.

    So sometimes you have to take your awful work and put it on a pedestal.  Shine a big old light on it and glare into it’s stinking inconsistent mass.  have the world take a look and say wow, that’s a piece of crap.

    Now why is it crap?

    • Bad Word Setting
    • Poorly thought out rhyme scheme, line length and number of lines
    • Not enough time spent in each stage of the process
    • rushed work

    Can It be fixed?

    Absolutely,  and that’s what I’m going to do.  I’ll be making this my 1st draft, and spending a considerable amount of time on every step of the songwriting process, instead of 20 minutes a piece!

    How Do you feel?

    Well by the fact I’m making my own questions, answering them, posting them to the world and propagating more ill-written crappy work, I’m feeling a little mixed.

    It’s one of those grey dimly lit days where coffee is nulling, voice is hoarse and a sullen ait pervades.  The feel of a noir opening monologue when a cigarette seems so tempting.  Resentment is my muse. my pessimistic muse.

    I could use some Muse right now.

    Tell you what.  What are your horror stories?  what’s the worst, crappiest art you’ve ever unveiled?  With a creaking smile and weighted lips what have you proudly been unproud to share with the world? You can say it in victorian slurrs if it makes you feel better.  Certainly works for me…

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  6. On Developing a Process

    November 19, 2013 by RedSheep

    It’s a very romanticised Idea to say that a song just came to you, the melody ‘just flowed’ Freddie Mercury said that as soon as they have a song idea the number one priority is to get it down as quickly as possible to keep the most natural flow in place. But then you have folks like Leonard Cohen and Steve Vai, and Bach.

    “That Song took me 10 years”Leonard Cohen
    “I’m more of a composer than a guitarist” - Steve Vai
    “Anyone that has worked as hard as I have can reasonably assume to attain the same degree of success”Bach

    Do they sound like the sparks of inspiration engulfing their art?

    Spoiler Alert!

    No.

    And it’s the hobbyist, the amateur who relies entirely on chance. the pro’s need a process for their art, for that 80% of time when you’re not a genius artist legend. This partly comes back to the Stream of conciousness vs logical approach, but more than that it’s about actually picking a consistent way to grow. The hardest part about my work is keeping it playful yet productive. Simply saying ‘I need to get better’ or ‘I need to practice’ Just isn’t good enough for someone with limited time, and even without limited time, you’re working far less efficiently for not having a process than you would be if you did.

    To add to that, how do you decide what to read, and what to throw away. It’s all well and good in theory to read 12 books on composition, but one book might top the rest. one book might give you everything you need for now. I say this as someone that spent 18 months going through The Study Of Counterpoint, and only after doing that work can i now judge the next appropriate step(I believe it’s Tchaikovsky by the way)

    The songwriting course I’m on right now on Coursera with Pat Pattinson takes you through all that in the form of lyric writing. Starting at a clear, almost any point you like and building the high level Ideas. Then from there you work down and down until you have a wide list of rhymes, a purpose to each line and a rhyme scheme to play with, and the last part is just grunt work!

    I genuinely believe a process like this can take your songwriting time down from months/years down to days. In theory you could churn them out in hours, but of course a first draft is unlikely to be the final product!

    The point of this is, that with a process that you already have developed and ready to go, you can vastly improve your output, with less head grinding with the wall and more efficiency. If you need more elements of freedom, build them into the process. Eddie Izzard deliberately leaves gaps in his comedy for him to improvise, to make something up.

    There’s no shame in doing things that have been done before, trusting in methods that have worked for the big boys and girls in the past. When you eliminate the glut from your creative process, you give yourself the clarity to build something entirely new. Entirely you.

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  7. RedSheep Album #2 – A New Beginning

    November 15, 2013 by RedSheep

    The time has come my friends, to commit to the next chapter in my musical saga.  I’ve been preparing for months through chordal knowledge, Lyric writing courses, Books, research and grit, but now it is time to put it to good use.  I don’t know how long it will take, but the album is now set in stone(metaphorically at least, it’s literally a goal listed on my main Goals Evernote Page)  My criteria for what is a completed album is as follows

    • Length = 60+ minutes
    • 45+ minutes of entirely new material
    • up to 15 minutes of covers

     

    Aside from that, It’s no-holds barred.  At the moment I’m thinking that it would be nice to start all acoustic, so that the bare bones of the songs are solid and I can play them live.  Also makes recording far simpler!  I’ve been listening to a lot of Leonard Cohen, Nick Cave, and Bob Dylan of late, so the opportunity to channel some of their songwriting spirit onto the page is one I’m greatly looking forward to.  I’ve also been indulging in more than enough Opeth, and seeing as I was at their gig when I committed to spending time on my own writing, It seems the honourable thing to do to write something with them in mind.

    I have endless reams of scraps and fleshy little scrapes of paper with Ideas and lyrics on them, but the following picture just about sums up what’s been influencing me these past months.  I have now my starting point, though when it came to be I cannot say.  Somewhere between an old man dying and a young man growing up I found myself looking back on myself.  There is a shadow unexplored, a melody implied, a word unspoken there.  All I must do is follow it’s mumblings to it’s natural end and there I will find what is there to be found.  If you’ll join me, dear friend I would be most touched.    I have come to accept that I need no more than what I strive for, though I may need less.  That knowledge allows the hard work and consistent failure to drive me forward, even if my path is ultimately a circle.

    A Starting Point

    I know that I don’t have much to say

    But I thought I’d say it anyway

    And that’s my life

    One word at a time 

    Why should I say any more?

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  8. Some Positive Habits

    October 29, 2013 by RedSheep

    1. Always have a way of capturing your idea within arm’s length.

    For some people, creativity flows constant and uncontrollably, for others it is a slow drip which you can never predict. I am in the latter camp most days. Song writing is hard work and you have to catch every droplet that might be of use to you. Later when you look at what you’ve written you will see it in a different way but for now take what your mind gives you and capture it. You need to go through a lot of dirt to find gold.

    And if I'm reading a theory book, the highlighter is right there.

    And if I’m reading a theory book, the highlighter is right there.

    2. Write as close to real music notation as you can

    Guitar players. When you’re describing a riff to yourself so you can remember it later, the string names should be 1 to 6, and the fret names should be their note values. I know it’s easier to do it the other way around, but relating the notes you play to their place on the fretboard by their real names improves your fretboard knowledge, your ears, and gets you thinking in the language of music, not just the language of guitar. (Unless you’re doing what’s related to point 2)

    3. Write in the format most suitable to the idea

    A little bit of a clash with the above point, but if you’re writing down a rhythm then you want speed of capturing the idea, not accurate musical notation. this can be notated later, but for the purposes of capturing the rhythm in my head the following is perfect. low notes are a bass drum and high are a snare. Immediately you get the rhythm I’m driving at without the need for lines or putting them in their proper place. same goes for guitar chords and lyrics. putting a line where the beat goes in lyrics will do for now if you want accuracy, just get the idea down while it’s still flowing!

    Rhythm note

    4. Notate what’s in your head, even if it may be inacurate

    This is something that gets better the more your ears develop, and you learn music notation. At the point I’m at I can notate simple melodies by relative pitch, but the root note is likely to be off, so probably wrong key but that’s ok! recording ideas in audio format is also good, but you need to revise and go back to them and I find that sifting through hours of my ramblings are nowhere near as good as using scraps of paper. We can interpret words and sketches much faster reading than listening.

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  9. Have Dream Theater Gone Turbo?

    September 22, 2013 by RedSheep

    Can't stop the world from turning around

    Can’t stop the world from turning around

    Ok, This right here is the mind-dump of a 7 year Dream Theater fan.  I’ve heard all the albums and follow the changes etc that went on up till now.  My opinion may change, but here goes…

    Did Mangini Perform?

    Let’s start where my breath has been held. When Manginni arrived, I Was all for it and when I found out he didn’t write most of the drums for ADTOE, I took the drums with a pinch of salt in that it didn’t have to be perfect, because they were going through a rough change that’s bound to come through in sound.  The drums weren’t bad by any means, but I could sense MP’s spirit still lingering as they tried to imitate his style for all the Portnoy fans with their ears peeled.  This led to a slight conflict of direction in my mind, but I knew it would be all Mangini in the next album. So the question is, is Mangini letting his insane style and charisma out on Dream Theater?

    Definately.

    For his part, Mangini was astounding on this album. I knew if they let him release his style he would be brilliant, and he was.  Thumbs up big guy, now on with the rest of the album.

    What’s with the lyrics?

    James, you’re going to take a bashing on this one, especially if you wrote the lyrics for “Along for the Ride”

    Can’t stop the world from turning around

    Or the pull of the moon on the tide

    I don’t believe we’re in this alone

    I believe we’re along for the ride

    why turning? everyone else says spinning because it gives the image of a sphere spinning, not a girl turning because you just said her ass looked fat.  Did you think “Everyone says spinning, what’s look in the thesaurus?”  quick tip, you could have also used curving, twisting, curling, rotating, oscilating, reeling, whirling or swirling. Or you could have spent 5 minutes thinking of something that’s not a huge cliche in imagery ;)

    The 3rd and 4th lines do not relate to each other.  what does being along for the ride have to do with being alone? in any way?  when you link the ideas with believe you’re setting up the expectation of something related to the first concept.  And holy Jesus, tide/ride? are you 4?  It wouldn’t be so bad only that’s a Chorus! Repeated at least 3 agonising times.  Perhaps it’s because I just took Pat Pattinson’s (Berklee) lyric writing course on Coursea, but that is haenously bad.  Oh and there;s more.

    Blind to the truth, Like hands reaching out in the darkness

    what? because hands have no eyes, or because they’re poor judges of character?  Again, there are a million things not blind to the truth, why hands and not “like bonjela on a mouth ulcer”, or “like feet being nibbled by fish”  Both of those dumb phrases have the same in common with being blind to the truth as some non sentient hands.

    I am not shattered, Out of the ashes I rise

    Ok, you’ve already established you never died or were broken, so why are you now pulling a dead phoenix? have I misunderstood? have you literally covered yourself in ashes and stood up? Again it’s a mixed metaphor, you’re mixing “I’m unharmed” with “I died, but I got better”

    On a side note, I’m not just picking on metaphors here or i’d mention “Finding hope in our hopeless lives”.  There are other’s in there, and for a band that would write gems like solitary shell, In the Presence of Enemies and a Change of Seasons, this is just awful.  The most painful thing about hearing this was knowing what they’ve written before.

    On a wider note, I think this song might actually have more to it than meets the eye.  The world turning imagery marries up with the album cover very well, and seeing as this album is meant to be a rebirth of Dream Theater, I think this is actually a song relating to Mike Portnoy.  The fact that they’re using the word shatter, when MP’s Alcoholics Anonymous suite ended with The Shattered Fortress may be an unintentional jab at the mean machine, but I doubt it.  And “I will not fall prey to your madness” could be some reference to the legal jiggery pokery that went on way back when. I may need to investigate this further, post lashing…

    I’ve always had a problem with the way LaBrie articulates words such that they are easier to sing, at the expense of making them incomprehensible(when it gets really bad).  On the lighter end of the spectrum, words are stressed where they shouldn’t be, and phrasing is generally hashed up in a way that sounds unnatural, and just forced. I believe it comes from the Bel Canto/Operatic tradition, which if true also gave him the soaring vocal prowess also so you take the good with the bad.

    For example, there’s a point where the words are clearly meant to be “the vision’s …” but LaBrie Articulates it as “the visions” This may seem like an arbitrary point, but it’s so easy to add that slight inflection signifying an apostrophe that this was just lazy articulation.  I mean come on, is that so hard?

    And for that matter, why the heck is Another Day being quoted in behind the veil? (I had a friend once in a band called Zealous Veil with the same titled song: Behind the veil)  Chaos, Redemption and Salvation are also making an appearance to remind us of the past, perhaps it’s part of a deeper meaning about leaving their old selves behind and moving on to the next chapter, but it really wasn’t that clear that they were doing an homage.  We’ll leave that one for now, more pressing points await!

    The band as a whole are still technically sound, but with no controlling force(and yes that’s a reference to Portnoy) the band sound all over the place.  There’s no development of parts going on, just out of place sections.

    Gone the way of Malmsteen

    Some solos just felt frantic, unconsidered even.  Going hyper speed should have it’s place, and you don’t need to always start slow, but when the album never really slows down it’s like you’re hearing an immense solo amoung other immense solo’s, making them ironically less immense.  This I guess lack of development was a common thread throughout the album.

    There are different themes, sure, but moments of simplicity were few and far between.  This Ironically led to the album sounding very samey.  I found my mind wandering to if LaBrie would be an agressive person to criticise and that’s a bad thing, because it means that the album had lost me, and through everything else, that was it.  I was bored.

    There was so much mixing(especially on LaBrie’s voice) that there was no soul to the thing.  It’s like there’s a beautiful fresh steak that’s had so many sauces and spices put on that the original meat isn;t there anymore.  Like taking a natural wood finish and coating it in varnish until the wood is glossy and unnatural. Take queen for example.  Even with their extensive harmonies and synth use the natural resonance of the performers was still there.  Even further, they were being enhanced.  Take a listen to The Prophet’s song for exactly what I’m talking about. But here they weren’t highlighting strengths, they were concealing weaknesses(poorly), especially in LaBrie’s voice.

    There was a point where they had a pretty epic ending, and I found myself asking “what exactly are you ending epicly, was there something I missed or were you just putting an ending where an ending might otherwise go?”

    The Piano theme at the end and the string section earlier in the same song was great, I only wish there were more like it, and a bit of continuity between them.

    In Conclusion

    I’ve been a long time fan of Dream Theater and all the otherwise occasional problems of band were at the forefront of this album:

    • Incomprehensible Vocals
    • Long lists of terribly contrived rhymes(though only on 2 songs to be fair)
    • Lack of thematic development
    • Over Production
    • Lack of significant texture changes
    • Lack of prosidy within songs

    Let me say again, I’m a long time fan of DT, and I hold them to a far higher standard than any other band I listen to.  The above flaws have all been very occasional in the DT catalogue, and are at quite a high level, but I’ve never heard them so prominent and obvious as they were in “Dream Theater”. You need a vision or binding element to get across a clear idea.  Perhaps before you had Portnoy forcing the band a certain way, but at least you were being pulled in one direction.  Here it feels like you have multiple members battling for control.  LaBrie’s clearly getting more spotlight but you also have the band trying to showcase Mangini’s drumming as shown by the booming bass drum throughout.  Then you have the occasional “Look! Myung’s getting a solo part now” Which I loved! but, then of course the big melodic guns are coming from Petrucci and Rudess who seem to be in a battle for top spot.  There were some really obvious “Check out my cool Ipad App sounds” coming from Rudess, but even the professional mixing couldn’t blend the sound as well as, oh I dunno, a professional synth.  Do you see the problem here? I’m not mentioning the unity of parts or the way they mix because to my dismay, they don’t!  None of my favourite parts feature teamwork, it’s all a drum fill here, a string section there.  Nothing that really screams “THIS is Dream Theater”

    You have 5 Astounding musicians, but not one astounding band.  (At least not in this album anyway)

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  10. 6 Places to Use Accidentals

    July 10, 2013 by RedSheep

    Music Accidentals Example

    Question answer from http://music.stackexchange.com/questions/11159/what-purpose-do-accidentals-serve-in-music/11253#11253

    Knowing when to use an accidental is a difficult question to answer, and the best I can say is Whenever you like. Whatever your musical ear tells you is acceptable for the purpose is what is allowed.

    Let’s assume that you want the music to sound interesting without being dissonant. in that case there are a few uses that I can think of off the top of my head(bear in mind these are guidelines)

    As a grace note before your main note/chord
    Certain notes of the diatonic scale are more like colourings than main notes. For example in a minor scale the 6th can either be a minor 6th(natural minor scale/Aolean) or a major 6th(as in the dorian mode) and both have their place.

    As a passing tone between 2 chords
    if you treat chords as their individual notes you’ll notice certain relationships between the notes. Let’s take a simple I – V
    CMaj – CEG
    GMaj – GBD
    The distance between C in CMaj and D in GMaj is one tone, or 2 semitones, so it’s completely faesable to use the note in the middle as a passing tone.
    instead of CMaj-GMaj try Cmaj C# GMaj

    As part of a deliberate Dissonance
    you can substitute certain chords in a scale with other chords involving non diatonic notes. The example I’m thinking of is using a diminished chord instead of a straight dominant chord on the 5th, If you want to explore substitutions further might I suggest Ted Greene’s Chord Chemistry

    As part of a key change
    Let’s say you want to move from C major to G major, as you may know C major uses no sharps/flats and G major uses one sharp (F#). Usually at some point before the actual new key you need to introduce that F# so that the shift doesn’t sound forced or out of place

    As part of a non-diatonic scale
    eg chromatic scale, Whole tone, dininished scale, Hybrid Scales, Neapolitan scale, the original modes <insert crazy scale name that you found on the internet>

    To avoid dissonance on voice leading
    The wording of this one might be off, but when you’re sticking to one key with no accidentals you can still have dissonant intervals happening, in C if you have chords a 5th apart you get 6 perfect intervals – CG DA EB FC GD AE and then you have BF which is a diminished 5th. if it so happens that your chord contains B and F you will have a dissonance which can be removed if you sharpen or flatten either of the 2 notes. If you decide to Flatten B or Sharpen F, you have yourself an accidental(or if you want to be techie then it’s a transient modulation of a 4th or 5th)

    Honourable Mention

    • In a harmonic minor scale, the 7th degree is sharpened(so that it has a leading note)
    • In a melodic minor scale, the 6th and 7th degrees are sharpened
    • The blues scale uses a diminished 5th

    A heavy answer to a heavy question

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