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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!

    RedSheep_Signature


  2. 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)

    RedSheep_Signature


  3. Top 20 Greatest Sonic Themes of All Time

    May 5, 2012 by RedSheep

    Knuckles in a wig

    After 20 years of Sonic, what better way to celebrate his 20th anniversary than with a top 20 list of Sonic themes?   Music in the Sonic games has always been catchy, well composed, worked with the levels and set the tone for like great music should! But what songs were the best of the best? As a lifelong sonic enthusiast and a musician, here are a chunk of my personal favourites, along with some nifty facts and secrets about the music, and the composers who wrote them.

    Scroll a moment for the list…

     

    Sonic and Knuckles back to back

    Art by the wonderful ObsessedShadowFan

    In the Beginning

     

    There was nothing, only a mediocre plumber, a Manic Miner and a sluggish fish that defended penguins.  And Sega declared “Let there be speed” And there was speed.  Gamers saw that the speed was good, and thus Sega said “Let there be more speed, and give it a flying partner while you’re at it”  And once again the world basked in the Sega glory.  The trend continued until one day Sega said “I know, let’s make them buy 2 consoles that link together!” and the fans said “no”, so Sega built a whole new System and released it way before it was ready and the fans again said “no”.  Then Sega got a bit desperate and started releasing terrible games on other consoles that should never have been pushed to the world, and the fans said “no no no!”  Then Sega levelled out a little, and they’ve been stuck there ever since

    (more…)


  4. RPM in Review

    March 22, 2012 by RedSheep

    Well, that’s it, a 35 minute album written 29 days.  It was a gruelling task with many late nights, early mornings and cutbacks, but what have I earned learned from all of this? Well for one thing I have nearly a month of solid posts that capture my enthusiasm,anger and victories, but above all I’ve learned one very, very important fact…

    I can do it 

     

    You may wonder: “What the significance of that is,  surely you knew you could do it anyway? ”

    Well no, I thought I could do it, whether I believed it or not is Irrelevant but now that It has been proved my belief is certain.  It is important for growth to have concrete milestones to show where you are and how far you’ve come, because it’s so easy to get to a point and focus on how far the road is ahead, rather than how far you have walked already.  I saw a TED Talk that sums this up beautifully.  In the age of speed we want everything to be faster, from computers, to cars to learning, and while the first two can be improved over time learning is something that presently has definite limits.  It can be made more efficient by learning the right things but then there’s the danger of missing some very important detail that the author of your lessons “streamlined” .

    Part of this way of thinking is that once something’s done it’s immediately time to move onto the next thing, with no time to ponder over our new found knowledge.  I’ve caught myself doing it with the Counterpoint book I’m going through, where once a chapter’s done I immediately moved on, but I’m now finding on species Four that I must revise species one before I can really get a grip of it.  This is frustrating being that I’m only 54 pages in, but necessary if I really want to learn from it.

    By reaching the milestone of species 4 I have proved that I can compose using species 1,2, and 3 and can now go back and improve on them, just as in writing an album I have shown i CAN write an album, and can now go back and improve on it.

    So what else was gained?

    Frankly there are many problems with my musicianship that I’m working on, one of the great truthes of music is that for everything you learn, you discover multiple new things to learn.  The main issues that came out during the album for me were:

    • I can write the beginning and middle of melodies, sections and songs well, but I never seem to be able to find a good end to them, instead they will either fizzle to an anticlimax or veer unexpectedly from what was played before
    • I need to spend more time writing technical parts, rather than writing a great sounding section and never practicing
    • Song parts don’t progress harmonically.  Once something’s in a key it seems to stay around the safety zone of that key without deviating too far to chords that are dissonant, yet they are also not as interesting as I’d like
    • the album has an air of laziness to it, parts that can easily be improved were cut down due to time restraints and the idea of “It’s done, move on” as mentioned above

    You can find the audio here (though really it’s just a link to the RedSheep radio page) and the daily diary of RPM starts here

    Thank you RPM, until next year,

    RedSheep

     


  5. Diagonal / Wolf People Gig Review

    January 31, 2012 by RedSheep

    I’ve been to many gigs by my favourite bands to find that the crowd are very much observers. At Vai I listened to one of the most technically advanced players on the planet and saw a thousand people stroking their chins in analysis at the great man. At Yes most people were in their 50′s, and seeing an old dude get his kit off to Heart of the Sunrise is not my idea of fun! For me gigs are a place to hear the music as the band intended it. A place to immerse yourself in the music and bask in the waves of sound. This gig I’m pleased to say had the best crowd I’ve seen in a while. there were dancers at the front, observers at the back and enough room for everyone.

    Woman from the Wolf People gig rocking her socks off
    I’ve been a fan of Diagonal for at least 2 years now, and I wont lie, my view on them may be tilted towards them here.  Wolf People were a fantastic band and I think they have real potential if they continue to work at what they do and not rest on what’s safe.  We arrived half way through Diagonal’s second song to one of the fullest live sounds I think I’ve ever heard.  The crowd was a myriad of types from the casual observers to the professional prog swayers.  We took our positions back and to the left, and shot our heads full of sound.

    Diagonal

    Diagonal’s first album is really a great start.  For a début album the quality is just brilliant.  It’s almost like a second Court of the Crimson King in a way.  It’s got the heavy rough music, the subtle undertones of sadness, and enough depth of sound to drown in.  Since then the guys have lost 2 members, but they are by no means any less talented.  This is the kind of band that when there’s a progressive revival will float to the top like a proggy cork in the sea.

    Diagonal_gig_photo

    The guitar/sax harmonies have been revamped and beefed up since the last album, so it has a really full sound that I’m looking forward to hearing with studio quality recording.  It was clear right away that they had spent a long time on the new songs to get them just right, I mean they did spend years on this baby.  There’s a flow in the music that never really halts but it’s always slowly progressing so things are always interesting.  I will say though, that while the sound was very well developed it did stay within a set style/mood most of the way through.  The sound they have is obviously well developed, but it would’ve been awesome to hear more deviations from  the sound they’re so comfortable with.

    I was there with my girlfriend and quite often girls and Prog Rock don’t mix.  I think part of it is for the tendancy for Prog Rock to get a bit pretentious at times.  This, I’m happy to say, was not the case with Diagonal.  The great all-round sound makes the music very accessible, so you don’t have to be a Canterbury native to appreciate their sound.

    For more on Diagonal check out their site here.

    Taking a deviation from the music here Diagonal have always been a tough band to keep up with in terms of when they’re playing gigs, what’s happening with the band and I couldn’t help but notice there are no new t-shirts.  The music does come first but I only found out about the gig 3 days before through a lucky last.fm browse.  I guarantee there are a ton of fans out there that missed the gig purely on not knowing it was on.  Also, Myspace pages don’t count as band websites!    

    Wolf People

    Although I was there to see Diagonal Wolf People were the main band and to their credit they held up very well, and seemed genuinely grateful to have Diagonal as a support. Often you see bands that get too big for their boots and act like they’re already famous as soon as they start getting a few gigs in more popular venues. I don’t feel I can do these guys justice yet because I only heard of them a few days prior to the gig, so everything here is as a first impression.

    Something I absolutely loved about Wolf People was that while singing the frontman had a really folk/English/Genesis country sound to his voice, kind of like Selling England by the pound(link). But then when he was speaking to the crowd, a wild London accent appeared. They were obviously good friends by their on stage demeanour and the drummer was one of the tightest I’ve seen in a long time.

    Wolf People flute player

    "HEYYY Aqualung!"

    They brought out a flute player for one song who was clearly loving the chance to be Ron Burgundy for the night. My only regret is that there was no cover of Aqualung. Luckily a collection of excellent beards and some decent songs of their own made up for it. They had one song that I couldn’t quite place that was a kind of AC/DC Black Sabbath crossover, and guys I remember what it was now, it was Hells Bells(link). I also, oddly, met Tom the Drummer’s cousin, but more on that in the next section.

    For more on Wolf People check out their site here.

    Post-Performance

    Welcome back! The gig was small enough that as Wolf People were playing I noticed the distinct black and white t-shirt of Diagonal’s bassist at the bar and had to go say hi. It’s the first time I’ve talked to someone I’d consider a successfull prog rocker, and he had so much to say.  Among other things we talked about the size of the scene, how difficult it is to make money in, how they’re going about writing the new album, and all chilled out in this tiny venue in North London. Perfect!  Then once Wolf People had finished the set we got into a chat with the Drummer Tom and his cousin.

    RedSheep_and_the_bassist_from_Diagonal

    I highly recommend going to see Wolf People and Diagonal if you can.  Both bands are at a very exciting time where they’re developing and refining their sound to the level that anything could happen.  As well as some old time classics Diagonal have some monster new tracks in the works, and Wolf People are  riding the wave with the release of their new album.  Beyond that though, the gigs are still small enough that the sound is great, and you can meet the band very easily after the show.

    Good work Guys

    RedSheep