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Posts Tagged ‘Prog’

  1. RPM day 26

    February 27, 2012 by RedSheep

    Quick post, because again it’s quite late! Everything’s coming together right now. Got a really rough cut of the whole album and it’s just a few hours work away from completion. Once finished I’ll have a great place to build on and work from for future recording and songs. One of them clocked in at 10 minutes so I’m not too worried about the 30 minute mark too much! had a great time at Hyper Japan, but more on that later!


  2. Pitch Axis – An Introduction

    February 9, 2012 by RedSheep

    The concept of a pitch axis is that rather than having chords I through vii, every chord centres around a single pitch or note. While most music in the diatonic system has a root that is often visited, with a pitch axis the root is very strongly emphasised. Similar to how jazz musicians can consider scales on a chord by chord basis the scale that is used over each bar of the pitch axis is often based on the chords played with the pitch axis root in every chord.

    Joe Satriani - Guitarist Extraordinaire

    If It's Good enough for Satch, it's good enough for you

    A simple example is shown here

    Like the Video, Try playing a note( low E on guitar is good or middle c for pianists) then play a mode based on that note, like E minor followed by E major, then e phrygian,superlocrian,neopolitan,Hindustan,enigmatic etc

    Like the video this often works better if the pitch axis is played as a drone/long note

    Vai satriani’s and petrucci all use this as it adds a lot of harmonic interest and can be done on many levels of complexity. Changing from minor aolean to Dorian to melodic minor to major only changes one note in each scale per switch, but the mood and flavour of the sound changes noticeably.

    I’ve noticed that a great place to do such a change, that’s not specifically a pitch axis, is during a key change. The music has transitioned so much anyway that the new mode is a little bit extra that emphasises this change and allows you to add more texture to the song.

    Switching modes in this way is undeniably tricky and involves knowledge of every mode, for piano this may be easier but I suggest playing around with it. If you want to use chords your ears are your friends in finding a set of modal chords that sound appropriate to what you’re playing be it consonant or dissonant.

    So in summary
    Level 1 is modes over a drone
    Level 2 is modes over chords
    Level 3 is in isolation in a section of music
    Level 4 is using them to emphasise changes and transitions in the music

    Why this concept is so powerful is that you can decide how little or much to use it, which will dictate how subtle the mood change is. Check out Bjork for an example of how showy this Can be: Aeroplane

    It takes your ears to get something that’s got a good balance, but here’s a (VERY) rough piece I threw together based off of G Phrygian,Ionian,lydian and dorian.

    Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

    Pitch Axis Sheet Music

    For further reading check out:

    Joe Satriani’s Guitar Secrets
    Advanced Guitar Soloing
    Exploring jazz guitar

  3. The Origins of Prog

    January 11, 2012 by RedSheep

    It’s hard to define where it all started, but in this article I hope to look at the time it all began to kick off, as well as some of the early influencers pre-progressive rock, to give you a sense of how I think the Genre came about. 

    Jackson Pollock - Number 18

    Jackson Pollock – Number 18

    Pre-Progressive Rock


    Terry Riley

    Terry Riley is an American composer born in 1935 strongly assosciated with the minimalist movement.  The deeper into progressive rock you go, the more likely the name is to come up.  For me his music is like a Jackson Pollock painting, in that I don’t know why or how it draws me in so well, but it does.

    For  Who fans, the Organ intro to Baba O Riley was largely influenced by A Rainbow In Curved Air (1967).  An album written and performed entirely by Terry Riley

    La Monte Young

    La Monte Young is hailed as the first ever minimalist composer.  I only discovered his music recently, but his influence is undeniable.  His music is like nothing I’ve heard before, partly because he can microtonaly, using systems of music he invented himself.  He defined Minimalism as “That which is created with a minimum of means”[link]


    In a time of rules and serious faux pas in music, Stravinsky stood against the crowd.  with harsh, diminished scales, lack of care for meter or pleasantness, Stravinsky wrote a piece so offending to the classical ear that on it’s first performance, The Rite of Spring caused a riot.  Many of you may know this as the dinosaur theme from Disney’s Fantasia.

    The Birth


    I was born too late for the birth of prog, 20 years too late in fact, so I talked to  a much more experienced friend of mine who grew up in and around Progressive music.

    RedSheep: Where do you think it all started?

    Prog Pro: Probably in the late 60’s ..theme from the film pink floyd, caravans first album, hatfield and the norths first (both bands from the Cambridge scene as well)

    RedSheep: would you say prog and prog rock are quite similar

    Prog Pro:  I think so… at the begining there was nothing between them

    RedSheep: I’ve gone as far as Terry Riley, La Monte Young and Stravinsky as some of the early influencers
    not easy though

    Prog Pro:  Bands like Them, early Can (from ’67)

    RedSheep: Caravan sound so British!

    Prog Pro:  Yup most of the cambridge (and Canterbury) bands had that kind of tonal signature
    Quintessence..their stuff from 70 onwards

    The Canterbury Scene


    This is a topic I’m a little hazy on, but it’s worth mentioning that the Canterbury scene refers to a collection of musicians (often around canterbury) that influenced early progressive rock, including bands like Soft Machine, Egg and Caravan.  While I’m a big fan of Soft Machine(epecially IV) I had to use Wikipedia to research this, and if Wikipedia is the only good source of information, then there is no good source of information.

    The Early Adopters

    So from the pools of minimalism, jazz, dissonance, classical, blues, and a little bit of LSD the Gods of Prog surfaced.  With organs, mellotrons, guitars, melons and faces they wrote the music now considered to be the most typical Progressive Rock.  In 1969 King Crimson came out with their game changer “The Court Of the Crimson King“.  The Mothers of Invention, while active and  since 1963 was part of the staple diet for a late 60’s Progger.  Jethro Tull in 67 brought jazz flute into the Prog rock picture.  Though not specifically a prog band, Deep Purple released “In Rock” in 1970, with Child in Time (definately my favourite)

    Beyond then progressive rock continues to expand and grow, until a certain amount of hot air began to creep in, new prog began to get pretentious and wear on the skin of the lamen.  Eventually the skin began to tighten and lose its strength until one day Punk Popped the Prog balloon.  but that’s a story for another time…


    So,  there it is.   For some this post will be a myriad of abstract obfuscated jargon, I mean I never even mentioned Yes (Whoops).  For others this will be the most vanilla dumbed down history of Prog they’ve seen.  Either way this was a tough article.  Progressive Rock covers such a vast range of styles and influences rolled into one that it gets extremely complicated to keep track.

    Progressive Rock Map

    Notice the 2 years before becoming undefinable

    It’s astounding to me to think that Progressive rock is now such a niche compared to its former glory.  It comes from a time when fame was defined less by money and more by creativity.  The strange people who thought “Hey, don’t bicycle spokes look awfully like violin strings to you?”  were those who would rise to influence and acclaim.  More than any other style of music I hold progressive rock to be the style that held it’s integrity over time, while the rest of the world faded into background noise and novelty.

  4. An Open Apology

    January 1, 2012 by RedSheep

    Me and major 6ths don’t have a lot in common, and I’ve never given them all that much thought. Like a wallflower or a database administrator they’re not considered much by your average joe musician, and for that mistake, major 6ths, I apologise. I recently got in bed with your sister, the minor 6th and she’s been distracting me

    I’vedone theory to the point that I know you share many of the qualities of a major 3rd, I see you as tasty padding for the octaves. Your jazzy dissonance never really fitted with my rock prog past, and I never really knew what you could help me with.

    It wasn’t until I recently started ear training again that I noticed you there in the corner of this tiny little bar. I heard you and while I could mimic the other intervals via the songs they’re in or by the mood they convey, you always eluded me and even after some real head searching I couldn’t find you in any songs. As I sit here now I believe you were in conquest of paradise

    As an apology I dedicate these 3 pieces to you. All extensively using your skill personality and quality to tantalise and caress my ears. While the other intervals make an appearance for character development, you are the protagonist, thirds be damned!

    I now see you as the secret temptress, you wouldn’t think it by your shy demeanour but once you’re comfortable with someone you don the garters, feathers and corsets and these the listener masterfully. In your element you dance between a perfect fifth and a dissonant seventh with just enough rough to keep it interesting. Jazz heads around the world have fallen for your charms and been sucked in for years, but then there’s also Mario and an old folk tune that took you on to boot!

    Yours apologetically


  5. Every Musician Should Have Heard… 2112

    December 21, 2011 by RedSheep

    In lieu of the date (21/12) It is only fitting that this week’s EMSHH is the Rush game changer 2112.  It marked the beginning of a long journey into the depths of synth and progressive rock not only for Rush, but for millions of fans around the globe.  


    2112 Album Cover

    And the meek shall inherit the earth...

    So good that it’s one of my life goals to hear this live, 2112 is a dietary requirement for anyone with progressive rock in their bones.  30 seconds of synth, A beasting odd time signature intro and an epic tale of dystopia, dreaming and destruction, 2112 is set, oddly enough, in the year 2112 and tells the story of a desolate world where music is gone and one man finds a guitar.  taking it to the elders he shows them the beauty of music, but they take the guitar away and tell him to go on with his life.  The loss of music and freedom leaves the man numb and wishing for a world of freedom, which he can never have.  As the album ends total control over the people is taken.

    The story is only one half of the genius though.  The music ticks every box there is to tick.  It’s got power, technicality, emotion, structure, surprises and it’s all done by just 3 guys, lookup “Power Trio” in the dictionary and you’ll find a picture of Rush.  The one thing that I cant stand about the 2112 song is that the total length is 20:34, I mean come on guys!  it’s only 26 more seconds of synth to make it up!!!

    Seriously though a message to Rush:  This album has been a huge inspiration to me.  For everything the album stands for, Thank You


  6. Hidden Gems – StarCastle

    December 7, 2011 by RedSheep

    I started using Spotify a few weeks ago and surprisingly I’ve found songs by even my favourite bands that I’ve not found anywhere else. A few years ago I got a ton of music from my then girlfriend, and one of the songs was an incorrectly-named “fountains of Light” by the band Starcastle.

    after an unfortunate Ipod formatting I lost this gem and thought it was gone from my ears forever. Luckily after spending some time going through the Starcastle discography on Spotify I found the song is actually called “Silver Winds”, and I haven’t been able to find it anywhere online to listen for free, making it this weeks hidden gem.

    Star castle were a progressive rock band formed in 1969 and were mainly active through the 70’s, though their last tour was in 2006. If you’re a yes fan then Starcastle is definately up your street with their clever compositions, soaring melodies and just enough jazz that it’s still rocky

    I only heard the one song by Starcastle until recently, If you want a better review of the album check out