Think about Story Telling, Musicians and Bards…

A long, long time ago in medieval Gaelic and British culture, a bard was a professional story teller, verse-maker and music composer, employed by a patron (such as a monarch or noble), to commemorate one or more of the patron’s ancestors and to praise the patron’s own activities. (Wiki Definition)

Bards kept track of the history of their people and would observe humanity and sing about it; whether local or foreign they would tell stories, counsel against wrong behavior and sing about the consequences of attitude.

Shakespeare would not have been far removed from the Bards. The Bard order having become troupes of performers and artist guilds over time would have a lasting effect on musical story-telling. I am personally very fond of the telling a story in music!

It is often called the language of the soul and the best example I can think of is David playing skillfully for King Saul to drive evil spirits away and refresh him (I Sam 16:14-23).

In fact, according to an Assyrian bas-relief, King Sennacherib asked for a tribute from King Hezekiah in the form of male and female musicians. It seems that they were first-class performers BUT David stood out among all virtuosos!

David’s divinely inspired compositions excelled in many ways. His songs include both contemplative and pastoral psalms. They range from expressions of praise to narrative history, from the joys of the grape harvest to the pomp of the palace inauguration, from reminiscences to hope, from request to entreaty.

We must remember man is not the inventor of music but rather the mouthpiece of history, stories, news, emotions and will; a messenger of words in rhythm and tone that can affect the course of things to come.

Yes, music can alter our moods and even Neurologists have discovered that music activates many unexpected areas of the brain like emotion and memory. Even Crazy_Eyes can vouch how one of his songs drove several women wild with anticipation. I will ask him share the details with you if you and him so desire.

Here is a good example of a song with story telling including a warning in a Bard-like fashion and based on one of my favorite books: The Pilgrims Progress.

Take a listen as he tells you about a place and an experience.

Nate Currin – Vanity Fair

Also thebuddha is a great storyteller who engages our senses with his words and  expresses the emotions of others in his music so well!

Speaking of which, I have missed his storytelling these last few days and I hope he is okay? I hope he brings us a good story!

Until next time, keep the story alive and sing me a song!

 

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Today, I shall tell you about a guitar and pretend it is a lesson.

That right there is a title. It’s a good title, as far as titles go. It tells you exactly what I’m gonna do! (It’s probably a horrible lie.)

Today, I’m in the mood to write something. I feel pretty good, actually. I was even able to smoke some pot. Damned right and about time!

That was probably a bad idea, ’cause I haven’t been able to smoke much lately and imbibed a ton of it. Hindsight is 20/20 and I now see that I didn’t think my plan through very well.

After much inner-discussion, I narrowed down the list of things I was going to write about. Trust me, you don’t actually want to know the subjects that were cut from the list, but they had very little to do with guitar and things like fake Grange Hall conspiracies were on the list.

It’s probably important for me to tell you the complete truth. It is that I don’t actually yet know what guitar I’m gonna tell you about. Not a clue, really. I’m pretty sure I’ll think of something!

Hmm… I should do a series on guitars that were horrible, horrible ideas. I’m probably not gonna, but I should do that.

But… The plan is to write about a guitar. I can’t actually say that’s what I’m gonna do, but I remain hopeful! So, get in the car! We’re going on a grand adventure!

~*hands you a rusty screwdriver, half-eaten fruit roll-up, and an old film canister filled with pennies*~

Bring those, you’ll know when it’s time to use them!
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I’m doing smashing, thanks!

Today, I don’t even really hurt that much. I haven’t even eaten a pain pill yet today. My body doesn’t feel that bad and, at this moment in time and if I’m doing it properly, my spleen doesn’t even feel swollen!

I’m still devoid of energy, but I feel pretty damned good – comparably speaking, of course. I feel like I can constantly use a nap, except I can’t actually sleep. I’ve never been a big fan of sleeping and my body doesn’t seem to like doing so. But, I feel like I could sleep for days.

It’s reached the point where it’s damned annoying, to be quite blunt about it. I will deal with it, but not without complaint. I’m grateful that I’m at least not sore. Even my throat isn’t feeling bad!

I never did get the promised rash. Trust me. I looked everywhere for it. I’m pretty disappointed about not getting the rash. I was told I’d get a rash. I got no rash. I feel deprived.

And now for what might be the most inappropriate story you’ll read all day. I was going to share it last night, but I was on a tablet. Today, I shall share it! I probably shouldn’t, but I’m gonna. It’s what I do!

~makes spooky intro music sounds~

Last night, I went and watched a movie with the missus and the eldest hoodlum. It was one they picked and I don’t even remember the title. They enjoyed it and I partook.

Midway through the movie, the eldest hoodlum started coughing and was saying her throat hurt. The conversation follows and went something like this:

EH: *cough cough* Ow! My throat hurts. I probably have mono!
Helga: No. you don’t have mono.
EH: Do too have mono!
Helga: No, you don’t. David hasn’t been kissing you.
EH: Well, not when you’re watching!
Both: Cackles of laughter as they both felt this was the funnies thing ever.
TheBuddha: You’re both incorrigible. Real life needs an ‘ignore’ button.

In this house, we don’t actually always talk about music, math, and science. Sometimes, I’m surrounded by lunatics that crack bad jokes. Discipline, order, and deep thought are actually just as rare at my house as they probably are at your house, maybe even more rare!

With that story now out of my system, I shall move on! (The two online people who will appreciate that story know it’s for them.)

I was pondering what to write today. This is a lengthy process when there’s no reasonable way for me to smoke weed, which is a more complicated problem than you might imagine! I’ll explain…

If I cough, my throat will start hurting again. If my throat starts hurting again, I’ll want to take opiates. If I take opiates, I’ll get even more lethargic. I’m tired of being lethargic. There’s also the whole opiate abuse thing and opiate abuse leads to not pooping. I kinda like pooping. So, I’m not smoking pot. (Trust me, you don’t actually want to see the rest of what goes on inside my head.)

To write the article, I pondered the many ways to say that I’m feeling better today. Eventually, I recalled the turn of phrase, “I’m doing smashing!” In that case, it’s used to indicate that they’re doing well.

This seemed to remind me of something. It seemed like it might be important. I knew, beyond reasonable doubt, that I’d remembered this for a reason – and that I’d probably written it down.

So, I cracked open my “ArticleIdeas.txt” (which is not the most clever name, I admit) and scrolled through. After some distractions and mis-clicks, I finally found what I was looking for and the heavens burst open with sound as much rejoicing was had.

A couple of months ago (it has been that long?), I was smoking pot and talking to PMYB2 on a site known as “Poal.” (It’s a nice place to visit, though I’d suggest you put on an asbestos suit and have thick skin.)

In that conversation PMYB2, I was talking about how the universe runs on smashing. It does, too. The universe runs on smashing, not Dunkin.

Once upon a time, I envisioned turning that conversation into a 3000 word essay and explaining it all. I had a pretty good idea of where I’d take that and the memories of that intended article came flooding back. It was something that I’d put on that list, ’cause it was maybe a good article – and PMYB2 had been there to suggest such.

Reality is not often nearly as awesome as my dreams. Reality would be much more awesome if it was, but this universe cares not for justice.

Which is a rather absurd way to say, “I ain’t doing it.” I’m not doing it now. I’m not doing it tomorrow. I’m never going to turn that into a decent essay. Nope… ‘Snot gonna happen.

So, what better day to just pretty much cut, paste, edit, and pretty up that comment and turn it into an article? I can’t think of a better day. I feel pretty damned good but haven’t got much energy. (Speaking of which, the lack of energy makes it exceedingly difficult to concentrate. I think this bout of mono has given me greater understanding of the maladies that other people sometimes suffer from.)

That’d be what you’re getting today. It also serves the purpose of finally getting that entry out of my ArticleIdeas.txt file. Side note, it’s probably the least efficient organization system in the world, but it’s the one I have. You’re just getting a glimpse at a conversation from a couple of months ago.

Without further ado…
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Throat Singing – The Mongolian way

Throat-singing, also called overtone-singing, is a range of singing styles in which a single vocalist sounds more than one pitch simultaneously by reinforcing certain harmonics (overtones and undertones) of the fundamental pitch. In some styles, harmonic melodies are sounded above a fundamental vocal drone.

Originally called overtone-singing in Western scholarly literature, the identification by acoustical researchers of the presence of harmonics below the vocal drone in the deep, guttural styles, as well as overtones in the more melodic styles led to adoption of the term throat-singing (a translation of the Mongolian term höömei).

Throat-singing necessitates activating different combinations of muscles to manipulate the resonating chambers of the vocal tract under sustained pressurized airflow from the stomach and chest. As with operatic singing, the technique requires years of training to master.

Throat-singers usually accompany themselves on the distinctive Inner Asian fiddle, with its pegboard often carved in the shape of a horse’s head. For an epic-narrative performance, however, the fiddle is replaced with a two-stringed plucked lute or a long board-zither. In the past, throat-singing was performed by men in ritual contexts.


Picture from: NIU Mongolian Throat Singer Brings Sounds Of Nature To Retirement Center

Female performance of throat-singing was thought to cause infertility or to bring misfortune on the performers’ menfolk for seven generations. Since the late 20th century, however, a number of female musicians have begun to challenge those taboos.

Here is an example of Mongolian Throat Singing.

Tuvan Throat Singing

To start the throat singing journey they would encourage you to start with Khöömii, basic – begin by producing a long, steady note with an open, relaxed mouth and throat. By altering lip and tongue positions to say vowels, “oooo… ohhh…. ayyy…. ahhh….. eeee….”, you will hear different overtones in ascending pitch. Cupping a hand to your ear may help you to identify these initially. Maintain one tone as you tighten your throat and stomach muscles slightly. If you choke, try a lower fundamental.

If you begin coughing, go into this tightening over a period of time to avoid damage to your voice. Hard coughing is punishing to the vocal cords…

You should now be making “electronic” sounding vowels. If any of these are extended with subtle changes to the tongue, lips, or jaw (changing one element at a time as in any controlled experiment), separate overtones will gain definition. The sounds you create are feedback leading to finer mouth control.

It may be difficult to sort out the overtones created by each position. Discover them as you work out a scale above one steady fundamental. Eventually simple melodies will emerge within a limited range. As you consciously create melody, avoid the temptation to alter the fundamental. This is basic Khöömii.

By now you should have picked up that Khöömii is steeped in Mongolian culture with origins in Shamanism (Mongolia’s national religion) and many songs are dedicated to Genghis Khan himself.

Interestingly enough the kids and I are currently learning about Mongolia and Genghis Khan and one of the stories I stumbled upon is definitely worth sharing.

In The Book of Virtues (Great book btw!) I found this story about Genghis Khan, his merry party of hunters and his favorite hawk.

This hawk was a trained hunter and at a word would fly high up into the air, and look around for prey, and if found, would swoop down upon it swiftly as any arrow.

So after a very long day filled with no success, his party took the nearest way home and Genghis went searching by a longer road for a drink.
His pet hawk left his wrist and flew away, knowing how to get home on his own.
The king searched but the hot days of summer had dried up all the mountain brooks.

At last, he found some water trickling down over the edge of a rock. He knew that there was a spring farther up. In the wet season, a swift stream of water always poured down here; but now it came only one drop at a time.
The king leaped from his horse and took a little silver cup from his hunting bag. He held it so as to catch the slowly falling drops.

It took a long time to fill the cup; and the king was so thirsty that he could hardly wait. At last it was nearly full. He put the cup to his lips, and was about to drink.

All at once there was a whirring sound in the air, and the cup was knocked from his hands. The water was all spilled upon the ground.

The king looked up to see who had done this thing. It was his pet hawk. The hawk flew back and forth a few times, and then alighted among the rocks by the spring.

The king picked up the cup, and again held it to catch the trickling drops and this time he did not wait so long.
When the cup was half full, he lifted it toward his mouth but before it had touched his lips, the hawk swooped down again, and knocked it from his hands.

And now the king began to grow angry and tried again, and for the third time the hawk kept him from drinking.The king was now very angry indeed!

“How do you dare to act so?” he cried. “If I had you in my hands, I would wring your neck!”

Then he filled his cup again. But before he tried to drink, he drew his sword.
“Now, Sir Hawk,” he said, “that is the last time.”

He had hardly spoken before the hawk swooped down and knocked the cup from his hand but the king was looking for this.
With a quick sweep of the sword he struck the bird as it passed.
The next moment the poor hawk lay bleeding and dying at its master’s feet.

“That is what you get for your pains,” said Genghis Khan.
When he started looking for his cup, he couldn’t find it.

“At any rate, I will have a drink from that spring,” he said to himself.
With determination he began climbing the steep bank to the place from which the water trickled. It was hard work, and the higher he climbed, the thirstier he became.

 At last he reached the place. There indeed was a pool of water; but what was that lying in the pool, and almost filling it?
It was a huge, dead snake of the most poisonous kind!

The king stopped as he forgot his thirst. He thought only of the poor dead bird lying on the ground below him.
“The hawk saved my life!” he cried, “and how did I repay him? He was my best friend, and I have killed him.” 

He clambered down the bank. He took the bird up gently, and laid it in his hunting bag. Then he mounted his horse and rode swiftly home.
He said to himself, “I have learned a sad lesson today, and that is, never to do anything in anger.”

Rewritten: By Nadeshda
Source: The Book of Virtues

So what does this story have to do with Mongolian Throat singing? Well not much really but it’s a good story none the less and I hope you enjoyed it as much as I did.

Obviously getting angry and cutting up your friends is never a good idea and we already know that you shouldn’t shout as this will stretch and damage your vocal chords.
If you are still curious and want to learn Mongolian Throat singing, here is a fun video on how to practice throat singing in a super easy way.

I think you will enjoy watching this guy!

How to do Mongolian Throat. (Tuvan / Tibetan / Didgeridoo)

Until next time, keep the song alive and make a joyful sound!

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Quirky things Singers do?

So this weekend I had a show and noticed that most of the drinks had ice in them as I sipped away at it, I felt my throat tighten up. Silly me, I had just warmed up my voice and then cooled it down within a few minutes sipping a nice refreshing cool drink. Blegh, but thankfully I spotted some hot tea and a nice cup of tea saved the day!

I do enjoy teas of many kinds but please note that Green Tea isn’t that good for singing. Don’t get me wrong, I love Green Tea but it has a drying effect that reduces the lubrication around your vocal folds. It can make you more susceptible to developing things like a sore throat or even a vocal node. 

Drinking Green Tea is just fine on the day when you are NOT singing though.

As I was driving home earlier today I started thinking about this and generally about singers and what they do or don’t do before singing. I often achieve some of it but rarely all. Just knowing about them helps me to understand why my voice is sounding a certain way and what can I do better next time.

I haven’t had much time this week but I thought you may enjoy looking at some of these quirky habits with me even though I cannot cover all of it in one article the obvious point being;

Certain things you do, or don’t do, will hinder OR help the tone of your voice.

I digress but one of my quirky habits, highlighted in a conversation with the thebuddha the other day was that I collect scarves. Not a silly amount of them, I don’t think I ever have more then 10, but I wear them to protect my voice from cold drafts and they keep my vocal chords warm and ready.

Obviously, it’s best for colder weather but a silky-soft scarf that can you can tuck into your bag is ideal in a high AC environment, before a gig and after your warm-up. Now please, if it doesn’t suit your disposition or “aesthetics” don’t go buying a silk scarf just because I said so, okay?

YOU need to find your own groove and not follow everything you read on the internet, just know your voice, know what effects it and follow the best route for you.

On that note, here are some points to consider and get you thinking about what could help you get a better result.

  1. STEAM IT UP ! Yes, get a steamer to pass warm steam over the vocal chords before and even after a gig as it produces a healing effect. If your throat feels scratchy and sounds groggy, get it warm.
  2. SHUT UP ! When you are performing a lot, you need to make time to be quiet before and after the show and NEVER yell or scream outside your performance, if you can help it.

  3. AVOID CERTAIN DRINKS: Mucous producing foods such as dairy, stimulants such as caffeine and spicy foods, soft drinks, refined sugars, chocolate and iced drinks all effect the sound of your voice. LOVE THE TONE, skip the food and drinks that irritate your vocal folds.

HOLD ON! Sometimes these things just cannot be helped especially if you are like me and end up running around super busy and thirsty or hungry and you grab what you can, when you can.

This brings me nicely to point number four…

  1. DON’T WORRY: Just relax breath in deeply through your nose to your toes. Slowly exhale for as long as possible through your mouth. It’s going to be okay! Relaxing and knowing your voice will help you to naturally figure out what works for you and what doesn’t. Now DON’T SKIP the warm up and go sing your heart out !

My next point will offer a counter complimentary melody to theBuddha who has graciously provided me with a space here to blabber away about something I love.

Obviously he is going to  tell you to “Shut up and play him a song”! so when you are done with that…

  1. SHUT UP AND SING ME A SONG !

Sorry I missed my early segment of writing today but I really enjoyed writing it now and I hope you enjoyed reading it too.

If in doubt just read Point Number Five again and have a holler of a day!

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Today, I shall introduce you to Paul.

I could probably start a ‘Reader’s Gear’ category, with all the questions I get ’bout things people have.

This probably doesn’t make sense to most normal people, but I’ve explained it before. We’re hoarders, possibly in need of an intervention. Try as we might, we just keep amassing stuff.

I’ve had my hands on a lot of guitar related stuff, so I often know something about it. If not, I ain’t scared. I’ll go find someone who does.

This particular stuff is something @mustard_of_puppets appeared with and said he’d acquired at a garage (or lawn) sale – at like $25. That’s probably Canadian dollars, so like $5.45 USD!

This particular lump of stuff is a guitar amplifier – if you can call it that. It does, technically, amplify a guitar. I’m going to tell you about his new amp.
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King Henry VIII?

Warning:

I wrote this after getting injured shitfaced in performance of my duties.

I haven’t actually read it. I’m going to try to salvage it and edit it into something that will do. If I recall correctly, and I probably do not, it’s pretty long.

I have no idea how this is actually going to turn out, as I meander into editing mode and try to turn this into something you might be interested in reading.

I’d say I’m sorry, but I’m not. If I were sorry, I’d have not done it in the first place!

Let’s give this a shot…


Gonna be completely upfront about this.

I’m kinda intoxicated. I am going to get more intoxicated.

They are currently tearing shit down to load the truck. This is called a ‘load out’ in our lingo. I don’t think any of us actually calls it ‘load out.’ No, we say stuff like, “Fuck. Time to load the fucking truck.” There’s no ‘load out’ in that sentence.

Side note: I usually try to avoid much jargon. ‘Snot fair to you and it’s not consistent.

Not me! I’m not lugging a damned thing. I made one trip to the car and I’m supervising while I type on a laptop. Pretty soon, I’m headed to a hotel. I’ll make one more trip to the car and that’s to carry my gear bag, one suitcase, and this here delicious beer.

For the record, I call this “supervising.” I ain’t actually paying attention to a damned thing. They know what they’re doing. That’s why they get paid! I do provide moral support and crack jokes – I also fetch beer!

Tonight’s show was lovely and, once again, the people are always way too good to us. Thank you, people!

Seriously… That’s truly the magic of it – and it’s not universally true, but it’s true more often than not. For all the pissing and moaning I do, I’m pretty sure I’ve at least partially deserved it whenever groups of people pelted the stage with objects.

Yes. Some venues are so horrible that they have that cliché chicken wire barrier. I haven’t played one of them in years – and you can’t make me. I’ve made my way to much nicer stages and audiences.

It’s for good reason that I like venues that provide security! (Ed Note: This article doesn’t actually improve.)

But, for the most part, our audiences are too kind to us. Sometimes, they stand outside in shitty weather, risk OIUs – and harming other people, drive long distances, spend money they can’t really afford, and things like that.

You know, alcoholics!

Sometimes, they even fight with their spouses and argue just to come see us. I suspect a few of them shirk their duties to their community, family, and job – just to come see us!

But, come to see us they do. And, for just a time that’s altogether too short, they invite us to give them an escape. They give us permission to help them emote and for them to forget about the stresses of life.

They generally want to hear two types of music.

They either want to hear stuff that’s modern, the same stuff they hear when they turn on their radio station, or they want to hear the music that helped shape them into adults. They want us to remind them of those youthful years, between 15 and 25.

We concentrate on the latter. We concentrate on the music that they remember mostly from their formative years.

I’m old. I’m tired. I’m not keeping up with Top 40 Hard Rock, Rock, Metal, or the umpteen other genres that get changed more often than I change hairstyles. I’m not adding the extra time that goes into keeping up with what is currently popular.

We, of course, have our own opinions about what we play and what we’d like to play. You can actually tell us what you want us to play when you hire us. If we don’t know it, we may consider learning it.

We reserve the right to refuse. There is shit that I refuse to play. There’s actually quite a long list of shit that the whole band won’t play – simply because one or more of us refuses to fucking play it. Even hookers have standards, or at least a sliding fee.

It’s at this point that I’m forced to admit that I’ve forgotten what it was that I was going to write next. (Ed Note: I’m pretty sure that’s obvious. Less obvious is I still have no idea what I was going to write about next.)

Once upon a time, there lived an old man named TheBuddha. He had a topic, and even a point, but he sometimes likes to drink.

Hotels…

That wasn’t actually what my subject was, but I’m gonna tell you about hotels next.

Universally, hotels suck. No, fancy five-star resort hotels suck worse. If there’s one place they won’t leave you the fuck alone, it’s a fancy hotel. They’re also far more likely to get suspicious if you’re dragging in hookers, obvious drug dealers, and leave the “Do Not Disturb/No Room Service” sign up for a week straight.

Econo Lodge, in the US, is pretty much as good as it gets, assuming you don’t mind transsexual hookers knocking on your door to ask if you want to smoke some crack with them.

I don’t mind that at all!

It’s a damned sight better than some idiot making jokes as he smashes that wheeled dolly with your precious instruments and curated collection of illicit substances into the elevator. Why no, no Mr. Bellhop! You may not take my bags out of my sight, thanks!

Bring on the crack whores!

Unfortunately, there are no Econo Lodges here. Instead, we’ll be going to some pretty normal looking, generic, hotel with a whimsical name and a very nice older gentleman behind the counter. Well, I don’t know if he’s still there. I already have the keys – so if the hotel is any good then I won’t actually need to see the old gentlemen again. In fact, that’d be ideal!

Also, I’m pretty sure if he sees us again tonight, he’s not gonna be very happy about that.

I did tell ‘em why we were there and that I’d do my best to keep it to a dull roar. He happily told me he didn’t much give a shit (though he used more polite vocabulary) ‘cause the place is pretty much empty. That is for the best.

It’s pretty awesome, but it’s still a hotel. Hotels suck, remember?

I like my bed. That’s why I bought it. I’m pretty partial to my house. I like my shower. I picked it out, just for that reason. I also really like poopin’ on my own toilet.

There’s just something weird about poopin’ on hotel toilets.

I like being able to go to my studio. I like being able to go to my study. I love being able to go pee off the front porch.

Which is why hotels suck. Even if you stay in it for months, it’s never home.

Huh… You’ve made it this far through the article? Weirdo.

This article isn’t going to get better.

No, it’s going to get much, much worse. (Ed Note: Truth.)

Today, we’re gonna talk about a little fella known as Henry, from the House of Tudor. You might know him better as King Henry VIII, the prick.

I warned you way up at the top that I’m getting shitfaced. You knew damned well what you were getting into when you opted to keep reading! I’m pretty sure you can’t place all the blame on me.
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Strings…

That’s the most low-effort title, ever. But, it’s accurate!

I thought I had all day today. I don’t. No, I have to go check out a venue – in person. Never let drummers be in charge of anything! I’m gonna make him drive me.

So, because of that, this is just titled “Strings…” Why? Because I’m gonna tell you about strings. Ain’t a word of it gonna be useful, either. None of it.

I’m grumpy! Telling you about strings is gonna fix my grumpiness.

I’m telling you right now, ain’t a damned bit of this going to be useful.
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Guitar pickup naming conventions are horrible.

You have no idea how hard it is for me to not write an article about bells.

Seriously…

Not only do I want to write an article about bells, I want to use my nifty new stamp of approval and stamp bells with it.

You know what, you’re getting a story about bells – but I’ll try to keep it brief. (Editorial note: I failed at that.)

They took a bunch of bells, of various sizes, and crammed them into towers. Some of these are the largest and heaviest instruments – in the world.

To ring these bells, they’d put as many as 16 people on one side – whose job was to hold onto a beam and step, in something approximating unison, on another giant length of timber.

At the other end of that length of timber were as many as 16 other people. They’d ring the giant bell, by smashing it with a log.

In the bell tower, there are many bells of varied sizes – meaning some of them had more than 100 of the burliest people they could find, bouncing up and down on logs and ringing the bells.

The bell ringers were shitfaced for this.

There’s a trend.

Eventually, they’d ring the bells from outside with ropes. This would require burly men and a trip to the pub. Because these were burly men, the chicks came and watched.

It pretty much turned into a drunken fuckfest, I’m pretty sure. We’re humans. We’ve been having sex pretty much since we climbed down from the trees. It seems pretty likely that where there was sex, alcohol, and fit people playing bitchin’ solos on bells, people were getting fucking laid.

It gets better…

They eventually figured out how to change the way bells are rung, by using a stopper and allowing the bells to have two stop positions in the upright position. Lots of bells…

Except, they don’t make music with them.

No, this is called “change ringing.” It’s an activity currently enjoyed by about 40,000 people, across England – and even in some of her old colonies.

They’re not making music.

Change ringing is a game that’s been turned into a competition. It also explains a bit about bell tolling.

It has fucking rules – and it’s actually based on math!

Trust me – it gets even better. It seems simple enough.

You can ring each bell only once.
You must then ring a bell that is adjacent to it.
You may not repeat the pattern.

And, it’s a ton of crazy math that determines the variations that can be generated using a particular set of bells.

4 bells may have just a few mathematical solutions but adding bells increases the number of solutions in an exponential manner.

And they’d eventually add bells until there were millions of possible combinations – they add up quickly.

Now… I told you that, just so I could tell you this.

The bell ringing turned into glorious drunken escapades.

They’d frequently lock the vicar out of the tower, get shitfaced, and ring them some bells until they were good and done with their bell ringing.

To complete all the possible combinations with a tower with just seven bells would take something like 30 years.

The bell towers have signs, some of them, telling people to not piss on the church roof. See, the bell ringers would lock themselves into the towers – and they’d be getting shitfaced and ringing the bells.

Yes, bell ringing hooligans existed – and they were unsurprisingly common. After all, who doesn’t want to get shitfaced and ring some fucking bells?

One story tells us about a bunch of bell ringers who were bell ringing hooligans and went to town on a set of bells – eventually angering them enough to throw them in jail.

Like 30 days later, the vicar came and bailed them out – at significant expense. Why? Well, someone had to ring the fucking bells and the bell ringers were all in jail.

In other words…

They were pretty much rock stars and had reduced the act of playing a bitchin’ solo (and they did have their favorite combinations) to math!

They used math to find a way to play bitchin’ solos, get drunk, get laid, get paid, and have themselves a hell of a time.

And they did it with the biggest fucking instruments known to mankind.

Bells get my seal of approval. I want to encourage all of you to get drunk, sneak into a local church, and ring the bell(s) like it’s the greatest bitchin’ solo that ever did solo!

Get out there and ring some bells. Get right shitfaced and do it. It’s a noble tradition and everyone around for miles has to listen to it. The buildings are special places – you can barricade yourself in there and they probably will let you play yourself out and then arrest you. It’s not like they’re going to just smash the door down, it’s a church!

You’ll be able to plead that down to a misdemeanor, disturbing the peace charge. You can frame your receipt for the fine. You will have a wonderful story to tell of the day you played a bitchin’ solo on the church bells.

You could ask ’em, and they might actually let you ring the bell a few times. But, where’s the fun in that?

Some conductor decided he wanted to play a bitchin’ solo with the bells – from multiple towers. It was a very complicated affair – but he figured it out and did surprisingly well with a Greensleeves arrangement. I’ll show you, at the end of the article.

He got them to play chords and ring bells simultaneously. That was unheard of – after all, they’d had rules for ringing the bells and he was making them make music and not ring them in a mathematical pattern.

They claimed it was the first time anyone had done that – and they further claimed that they’d never played the bells more than one at a time – except for some very rare instances when they rang them all at once.

Bullshit.

There’s no fucking way a bunch of drunk people didn’t ring those bells in all sorts of fashions and combinations – some of them spectacularly awful. I guarantee someone tried to even sing with ’em. They were shitfaced!

Hmm…. Bell ringers were kind of like punk rockers.

I’m as sure of this being true as I am of anything. There’s no way in hell they weren’t trying to play bitchin’ solos on bells. And, I understand – and approve.

Gotta tell ya, getting shitfaced and locking myself into a bell tower until I got bored with playing the bells sounds a lot like it’d pretty much be the best day ever.

I can’t actually think of a much better day, unless it involves things that simply don’t exist – like my imaginary flying boat! (In my imagination, a flying boat is pretty much the best thing since fire-breathing monster trucks taking sweet, sweet jumps.)

The only thing better than that would be playing an old-school pipe organ powered by people manually laboring at bellows. I can produce high volumes of music and move some serious quantities of air – but nothing like a motherfucking pipe organ.

I have no idea how to play an old timey pipe organ.

Not a clue.

Don’t care. Still want to play one. If you happen to have an old-timey pipe organ, powered by human bellows, specifically of the size you see in giant cathedrals – you should invite me to come play it.

Wait, no… That’s a horrible idea. You should not invite me to come play it – but I’d appreciate it if you did and I promise to do my best not to cause permanent damage.

You know, just in case once of my readers happens to own a cathedral…

I suppose, I should get to my point…

There are so many ways to be passionate about music. Sometimes, we musicians gripe about things, but that’s because we’re passionate. What’s more passionate than locking you and some drunk friends into a tower so that you can ring giant bells while shitfaced? Not much, I’ll tell ya that right now! I haven’t even done it – and I’m certain it’d be a fantastic time.

So, my next bit is going to be me addressing another gripe, but it’s because I’m passionate. To me, these things suck.
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I did some work, so let’s learn about the harp guitar!

I hope you’re sitting down for this. If not, you probably should be – and you may want to add a shot of whiskey to your coffee.

You’re not going to believe this, but I both did some actual work and I haven’t even smoked anything today. Yet… I’ve got to talk to a local radio station later and I should probably not sound like I’m mentally handicapped.

I’m not kidding – I did some actual work!

What did I do? Well, it goes a bit like this…

This site’s articles get to just a few other sites. I probably should pick different sites to submit them to, but I enjoy submitting them where I do and I don’t see that changing in the near future.

On those sites, as regular readers know – but we sometimes get strange traffic from other sources, I kind of keep their guitar communities active. I tried doing so for math, but people are far more interested in music. I enjoy the increased amount of feedback and participation with regards to music instead of math, so music it is.

It was on one of those sites where a user named Timmy posted a picture of their guitar that they inherited. I believe they said it was 100 years old, but we’ll get to that – as it probably isn’t quite that old. You’ll see. It’s a grand adventure.

It’s pretty awesome and fairly unique guitar.

The guitar is something called a “harp guitar” and I know a little about them but, given that I mostly do covers for money, I’ve got zero good reasons to actually own one. Until now…

Alas, I am not a harp guitar expert. That’s okay, there are experts!

I didn’t just fine an expert. I found the expert. This guy literally wrote the dictionary definition.

I’m not kidding and I’m so grateful that they’ve given us their time.

Who is this expert? It’s none other than Gregg Miner.

Seriously, check out his credentials! (Really, check them out because they’re extensive.)

That’s right… Someone posted a picture of a harp guitar and I then went to find what appears to be the foremost figure for harp guitars, and bugged them! (I ain’t scared!)

From what I’ve seen on their site, they’re all seemingly nice people with professionalism and a careful study of the harp guitar. They’re building an encyclopedia and use phrases like this, “the first serious organological approach to these instruments.”

They’re scholarly. We giggle at innuendo. They write about the history of a luthier. We write about bitchin’ solos. They have gatherings. We have parties.

I even told ’em that it was for this site and they still helped! I don’t know what they were thinking. I even warned ’em that I’d be linking to their site!

No, in all seriousness, I want to extend a special thanks for the time they’ve invested and I’d absolutely love it if you became interested in a harp guitar. I’m really sure they’d love it even more than I do.

I will say that I’ve never really been interested in playing a harp guitar – until just the other day, when this mystery guitar appeared and I started digging into it.

I will also say that the person who originally posted a picture of their guitar probably didn’t expect this to be the result. But, it’s a bit of a mystery piece and many musicians love a mystery instrument. I count myself as one of them.

So, let’s get this started…
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