A Blog About Blogging

A Blog About Blogging:  Part I

Stephen Weber

August 1, 2017

A bit over two years ago I set up a web site for my professional work as educator, composer, pianist, organist, and general dabbler in anything creative, time-consuming, or of little interest to the general public. When I set up the site I noted the host’s blogging feature. I remember thinking, “Yah, like I’m going to use that.” As you can imagine, throngs of people have visited my site to peruse its tidy little links and categories, and to marvel at the anonymity and mediocrity of a career saturated with other individuals equally insignificant, based on the general public’s view of arts and education practitioners. The blog portion of the web site was so unpopular, that I’ve pulled the content off and am transporting it to this blog site, where I expect it will explode in popularity. I realized years ago that my creative work and general putzing in the form of compositions, recordings, original art, poetry, photography manipulations, and fractals would not sell. They’re simply NOT for public consumption. So here’s my plan: I could actually use this blog, and its likelihood for limited traffic, and who would know or care? I fully intend to plaster links to the blog all over social media to instill guilt in all my friends, relatives, and colleagues when they choose not read it. All of this makes no sense, of course. But before you proceed, I must reassure you that I have the credentials and background to garner your respect and trust as a new blogger (see Figure 4 ½ below). The caption below outlines some noteworthy qualifications and experiences I bring to the table.

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Figure 4 ½ – Stephen Weber is a seasoned coffee drinker, can belch the alphabet, can pronounce (and spell) over 20% of words in the English language beginning with the letter K, owns a 2000 Nissan Sentra with nearly 200,000 miles, can sing the opening line of the Canadian National Anthem by heart and in tune, and excelled in social studies classes up through third grade. 

I should also mention here that I’ve researched blogging extensively, so you can rest assured that I know what I’m doing. For example, in preparation for this particular blog I read a portion of two blogs by unknown and uninteresting bloggers, I looked up the definition of blog in the dictionary app on my phone, and I discussed blogging with the neighbor lady, who doesn’t own a computer, but she does get the Sunday paper. Finally, to insure viability of the blog I’m now writing, I vetted it through a number of outlets to make sure it met the rigorous standards for internet blogging: the barista at a local coffee shop I went to once, a college football player who passed Freshmen English, and a few neighborhood kids who displayed a general disinterest in reading, but kindly took a break from vandalizing a neighbor’s home to chat with me.

Like many of you, I suspect, we see a blog post or feed and do one of three things: 1) immediately disregard it, 2) clink on the link, read the first few lines, find it lacking in interest, and then close the link, 3) read most or all of the entire blog and then wish we had that time back. It’s quite possible that by now you’ve already done number 2 above. Anyhow, in keeping with your expectation for an author to state a thesis to guide the reader, I’m going to put forth this weak and uninteresting focal point now: THIS IS A BLOG ABOUT BLOGGING. Note the subtle relationship to the title of this particular blog. This thesis should have been in the first paragraph, where you would expect it, but you were too caught up in the verbose background information and too irritated by what was or wasn’t happening in this article to notice. I should also state here that if I were grading the material you’ve read thus far (which is my inclination as an educator), I would have already taken off significant points for a tepid and ineffective thesis, for an apparent attempt to confuse the reader, and for a myriad of other syntax and structural issues. Moving forward, however, I fully intend to support, evade, and trivialize the thesis through contrived but reliable data, cohesive contradictions, linear illogical arguments, and unnecessary and highly-crafted rambling. I may, at some point, also set a record for the most commas in a sentence (see previous sentence).

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Picture of the writer of this alleged blog, inserted for three reasons: 1) To gain the trust of the readership. Clearly, if this fellow can be this contemplative and reflective about pastry, he is certainly to be trusted as a writer on much more serious matters. 2) The writer just discovered how to use the photo insertion feature of Word Press and wants to display his technological savvy, further gaining the trust of his audience. 3) Always use visuals to engage your audience. Everyone knows that.

It’s All About Perspective

Many blogs tout some sort of amazing revelatory insight or perspective. Some people have a gift for this. These are the people that “have the floor” at the bar or at family gatherings, or speak at high school commencements. We’re all in awe of this rare breed that can spontaneously belch out pithy nuggets of random synthesized information. Either that or we want them to go away. Anyhow, it’s probably best for everyone if I don’t share my thoughts on most matters. I tend to be highly guarded when it comes to my perspective on most matters, and it takes me forever to formulate opinions. I’m also uncomfortable with bringing attention to myself, evidenced by the rare use of first person in this tome or the periodic peppering of the document with pictures of myself. I’d rather consider you an educated and skeptical audience, able to formulate your own opinions and ideas without someone telling you how to think. And you thought I was a pessimist. I’m not in the business of offending readership through snide remarks, cynicism, scathing sarcasm, and general rudeness, so you can rest assured as you progress through this rivetingly facetious document that you’ll be spared that. I certainly don’t want to initiate a kerfuffle with the readership, since you’ve taken time out of your busy schedule to peruse this bit of nonsense. Nor do I intend to sway readers or public opinion, but I’m suggesting here – and you must necessarily agree with me on this point – that I’m always right, and whatever you encounter in this document is informed, unbiased, and completely infallable (note the misspelling of “infallible).

Such Interesting Lives

Many people out there live lives with rich and diverse experiences and they have gripping stories to tell through their blogs. I’m always thrilled to hear about your Extraordinary Trip to the Grocery Store, the Time You Tripped Over Your Dog and Spilled Your Coffee, your Advice on How Eating Only White Foods Makes Your Colon Happy, Eight Multisyllabic Words To Live By, or how your Trip to Waurika, Oklahoma, To Go Noodling Forever Changed Your Outlook on Life.  These blogged tales are rife with intrigue and border on the epic. I just can’t compete with that stuff. You really don’t want to hear about what goes on with me. I thrive on the mundane, the vanilla, the invisible, the lukewarm, the Chicago Cubs. Any attempts I might make toward creating drama and intrigue would be contrived, and the below average reader would just see right through that.

Figure 3a.II – “Damaged Finger”: An example of the high drama and intrigue in the life of the author.

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Stay tuned for Part II in the series A Blog About Blogging. In Part II we really start to get deep into the subject.

 

 

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Your Know You’re a True 60s and 70s Rock Fan If….

Those of us that grew up in the 60s and 70s lived through some remarkable times. The music of that era continues to be lauded and is even appreciated by younger generations. I got to thinking what makes one a true 60s and 70s rock fan? Below is what I came up with; please add your own in the comments and additions.

You’re a True Fan of 60s and 70s rock if:

  1. You most valuable and valued personal possession was your stereo system with its monster speakers (and a record player patched in, of course).
  2. You knew the name of every Yes album and could name them in order of release.
  3. You studied album covers, read the liner notes, and got off on the album artwork.
  4. You knew who sang lead vocal on every Beatles song.
  5. You remember when the TOP 40s CHART had a mix of rock, pop, instrumental, novelty songs, and country songs.
  6. You crammed 12 people in your dorm room to listen to Pink Floyd’s “The Wall” for the first time.
  7. You were involved in a discussion at some point with someone regarding who was better, The Rolling Stones or The Who.
  8. You knew the name of every “B Side” song in your collection of 45s.
  9. You wondered how many numbered albums the band Chicago was going to release.
  10. You remember exactly where you were and what you were doing when you heard John Lennon was shot and killed.
  11. You thought double albums were cool and revolutionary, but you always had your favorite side.
  12. You had an argument with someone on which side of Pink Floyd’s “Dark Side of the Moon” was the best side.
  13. You knew the lyrics by memory of at least one song from the following: Bob Dylan, Jim Croce, Joni Mitchell, James Taylor, Elton, John, Neil Diamond
  14. You could name all the band members in at least 5 bands.
  15. You had an argument among friends as to whose turn it was to get off their lazy butt and flip the record over to the other side.
  16. You remember novelty songs like: Dead Skunk in the Middle of the Road, The Popcorn Song, Disco Duck, Basketball Jones, and The Streaker. And you actually kind of enjoyed them.
  17. You remember when some bands had players that could play non-traditional rock bands instruments like flute (Tull), violin (Kansas), Chicago (brass) and sax (Supertramp).
  18. You tweaked the settings on the amp to get just the right sound for the band you were listening to on the record player.
  19. You actually LISTENED to music. No conversation, no distractions, no multitasking, no interruptions. You could also do this for hours at a time, sometimes even in groups.
  20. You remember the real emergence of women artists: Janis Joplin, Grace Slick, Carly Simon, Carole King, Joni Mitchell and others.
  21. The first time you heard disco, your first thought was “what the h—?”
  22. You had to adjust to the methods of delivery: 45s, albums, 8-tracks, cassettes, CDs.
  23. You actually had a picture taken of yourself with all your favorite album covers.
  24. You used the word “cool” a lot, like in reference to every track on Emerson, Lake, and Palmer’s “Tarkus” album (which had really cool art work, by the way).
  25. You really wanted to listen to ONE song in particular and had identify what track it was one the record and then carefully plant the needle on the rotating record where the song started.

These are just a few I came up with. I’m sure many of us that lived through those times can many others.

I’m Not Just an Independent Musician

I’m Not Just an Independent Musician

Yes, I am a musician (spoken with an assertive air of sheepishness). But, I’m a lot more than a musician. Musicians have all had that experience in a social setting or gathering, or upon meeting someone new, when we reveal that we are a musician. This is followed by a response from the inquiring party that could be any of the following (or even more bizarre):

  • The uncomfortable moment/blank stare: The inquiring individual has no idea what to do with our response that we are a musician. They quickly change the subject.
  • The nod of approval (but a face that says “you’re kidding, right?”): This speaks volumes about their inability to pursue further questioning with us. They simply don’t get that someone would CHOOSE to be a musician.
  • The “Oh, that must be interestingresponse: This is what they say, but what they really mean is “What do you REALLY do, because you can’t make a living do music, right”?
  • The “Trying to make a connection” response: The inquiring party, upon hearing you’re a musician, goes on to tell you about how they took piano lessons when they were younger, but quit. Musicians typically don’t know how to respond to this, because asking why the other individual quit makes for an even more awkward conversation moving forward.
  • The “Oh, I’m a musician, too” response: The inquiring party explains how they play sax, French Horn, ukulele, guitar, keyboard, timpani, digeridoo, sackbut, triangle, bodhran, , shakuhachi, and Celtic harp. The musician immediately realizes the other individual has “dabbled” with two or three of those interests, but doesn’t really play ANY of them.
  • The Gig Setup response: The inquiring party, upon finding out you’re a musician, states that they’re hosting a social gathering and inquire as to whether we could provide the music for that occasion (with the assumption that it would be free). They note that they’ve heard “we just love to play”.

These are some typical responses I’ve gotten. I recall having a most disturbing conversation with someone I had just met. He seemed well-educated, based on our conversation. He was curious about how one develops a career in music. I stated that I had pursued degrees in music. His response was, “They give degrees in music? I thought you just sort of picked that stuff up”.

I won’t even bring up family members here. Well….I just did. In any event, many family members, sometimes even those close to us, don’t really “get” what we do, or, more importantly, WHY we do it. If you have in-laws, it’s best to just not bring it up.

I’ve decided that in order to prevent confusion and awkwardness and to increase awareness of what independent musicians do, I should just keep a copy or two of a document on my person in situations where my career may come up. This way, I can just hand them the document, which will clarify in considerable detail what the independent musician part of me does. I’m hoping you all find this a handy little thing to carry around in the future as well (just kidding, of course). I’m fortunate to have a job in academia which involves music (And administration. Ugh.), so I have a modest but steady income. I can be an independent musician, published composer, performer, and invest what time I have in being an independent musician without having to rely on it as a stable income. It’s not, nor will it ever be, mostly because I just like to create music, not generate income.

I’m using the first person “I” in this upcoming section, but many or most of these pertain to YOU, too, as independent musicians. So, next time someone asks what you do, and you respond that you’re an independent musician, just give them a copy of this (with your additions, if you have some).

As an Independent Musician, I’m not Just Musician:

  • I’m an Architect: I design buildings in the shape of music. I shape space into immersive worlds for listeners.
  • I’m a Poet: I write lyrics. I use words to express my ideas. I deal in images, narratives, and other topics in my music.
  • I’m an Activist: I can use my music to affect positive change in society. I can create awareness of social and political issues. I have a voice, whether I’m a singer or not.
  • I’m an Arts Advocate: I create art. I support and encourage others who create art.
  • I’m an Educator: I share what I know or learn with other people, not to show what I know, but simply to help others learn and grow.
  • I’m a magician: I take ideas that fire through synapses in my brain and convert them into melodies and harmonies that can be beautiful, haunting, serene, mysterious, or simply magical.
  • I’m a Thinker: I ponder, I question, I connect, I synthesize, I organize, I formulate, I dissect, I construct, I gestate, I analyze. I am a thinking thing (thank you, Rene Descartes).
  • I’m a Critic: I’m a harsh critic of my own music, but I’m entitled to be critical of some music that just shouldn’t exist.  I take pride in the fact that what I create is original, personal, unique, and requires more talent, in many cases, than much music getting air or streaming time.
  • I’m a Mathematician: I understand processes and formulas. I give music shape and form and work with various planes in music. I imbue my music with relationships and groupings.
  • I’m a Physicist: I understand how sound works, how frequencies relate and interact, and how to use those to my advantage.
  • I’m a Businessperson: I have to have a business plan, goals, objectives, and action steps.
  • I’m a Publicist: I have to write press releases, do social media releases, and interact with various individuals and agencies.
  • I’m a Promoter: I have the option to promote myself. I can be on social networks, music networks or groups, mailing lists, streaming services, digital purchasing services, have my own web site — anything that gets my music out there for others to hear.
  • I’m a Manager: I have to manage myself, not an easy task because I can be unruly, impatient, rude, lazy, obnoxious, obstinate, or easily distracted.
  • I’m a Psychologist: I get inside people’s heads with my music. I challenge their intellect, their emotions, and my musical creations can conjure associations and feelings in my listeners.
  • I’m an Athlete: I ask my body to do incredibly complex things that require considerable training, flexibility, speed, and bodymind integration. I have to stay in shape if I am to perform at my best.
  • I’m a Historian: I study the music and historic periods that came before, and I see the connections between what I’m doing and what others have done and how music has always had an important role in society.
  • I’m an Accountant: I keep records of sales (pretty easy to do these days), I budget for new equipment, I file my taxes, which include claiming a business loss for being a self-employed composer.
  • I’m a Financial Analyst: I study the market, how I can invest wisely to get my music heard, and things I can do to yield even modest income from my music.
  • I’m an Acoustician: I understand how sound travels in space and how to fill that space most effectively. I’m able to adapt to different performing spaces because I understand acoustic phenomena.
  • I’m a Handyperson: I deal with wiring, cables, setups, breakdowns, and all kinds of complex equipment.
  • I’m a Visual Artist: I paint pictures with sound. I create magical 3-minute canvases that tell stories. I bring color into a sometimes monochromatic world.
  • I’m a Sculptor: I shape space in my music. I carve away at the sonic realm and fashion it into a living, breathing thing that is full of life from every angle.
  • I’m a Communicator: I speak a universal language. I can go anywhere and communicate with anyone with my language of music.
  • I’m a Chemist: I come up with concoctions using my musical chemicals that can bind, disperse, grow, and divide and end up being a completely new and unique entity or take on various forms.
  • I’m a Juggler: I find time to create my art despite the other roles I play; spouse, parent, co-worker, “day job” worker, community leader or civic engagement, etc.
  • I’m a Culinary Artist: I take the flavors and smells of musical ingredients and create my own recipes of musical delight.
  • I’m an Aesthete: I revel in beauty, nature, the sublime, and the spiritual experience that music can bring.
  • I’m Free:I’m an independent musician. I’m free to create what I want to create in a world of people easily influenced by outside forces, not discernment, discretion, appreciation for quality and innovation, and unique, personal, and sometimes daring modes of musical expression

 After they read it, I think it perfectly appropriate to ask them “And what do you do”? This is your chance to get a reaction from them.

I’m sure we could add more to the list. We aren’t “just” musicians. Our craft calls and beckons us, and requires us to be so much more than creators and performers. How many people have the skill set and intense yearning and desire to do what we do? In some respects, we’re modern polymaths, Renaissance people. Give thanks, wherever your gift originated, or wherever it takes you, but know that you are many vocations, not just an independent musician.   

How Your Music Relates to the Past

NOTE: This post is primarily addressed to members of the Drooble Community, an online social media site for independent musicians. If you’re an independent musician, but you’re not on Drooble, you should be (you may take a timeout here to go join Drooble). 

Like it or not, if you’re making music, the music you’re making is tied to the past in one way or another, sometimes in many ways. I’ll just take a few moments to look at characteristics of historic periods in the history of music and tie those characteristics to what you may be doing in your music. You might find it interesting to see what elements your music has in common with music from past epochs. Or, you might find that your music borrows freely from characteristics of several periods. Bear in mind, these are general tendencies or characteristics in each period, not uniformly or mandated principles. I’ll try to be as pithy as possible, but there’s a lot to cover.

Middle Ages (roughly the 5th through 15th century)

You might have Middle Ages influence in your music if:

  • you change meters often
  • you have melodies that move stepwise
  • you use repeated notes frequently in your melodies
  • you have chant-like melodies often using the pentatonic scale
  • your music is very reflective
  • you use held notes (probably in the bass) over which you create melodies and harmonies
  • your music has a sincerity and personal nature to it
  • your music or texts are quite reserved
  • you freely change rhythm subgrouping between twos and threes or sometimes use 5/8 or 7/8 meter or other unusual meters
  • you use the interval of the fifth frequently (like a power chord on guitar)
  • you write a lot of music in modes (dorian, phrygian, lydian, etc.)
  • Sample composers from this period: Leonin, Perotin, Machaut

 

Renaissance (14th through early 17th century)

You might have Renaissance influence in your music if:

  • you music demonstrates order, balance, formal structure, and symmetry
  • you have three or more independently moving parts (like in some jazz)
  • your vocal harmonies involve 3 or more voices
  • you use dance-like rhythms (from Renaissance secular music)
  • your music is transparent (you can hear all the moving parts individually when played together)
  • your music or texts focus on humanistic themes or perspectives, such as reason and rationality
  • your music is characterized by restraint and decorum
  • your music is pristine
  • Sample composers from this period: Josquin des Prez, Thomas Tallis, Tomas Victoria, Orlando de Lassus, John Dowland

 

Baroque (1600-1750)

You might have Baroque influence in your music if:

  • you use layers upon layers of texture with many moving parts which are often related melodically
  • your music is constructed very formally, almost formulaic or mathematical
  • you like to pit one instrument against a group, then feature the whole group
  • your music is utilitarian music (music for a specific function, event, purpose)
  • your music features the “Virtuoso” principle: Someone with incredible solo skills on an instrument is featured often
  • your music is based in reason (logical construction, progressions, etc.), but can still be very emotive
  • you use driving or motoric rhythms in your music
  • your music has flourishes, decorations, embellishments (like guitar licks or vibrato or pitch bends or drum fills)
  • the various parts of your music are more beautiful and interesting than the whole
  • you focus on one aesthetic or emotion in a composition
  • Sample composers from this period: Johann Sebastian Bach, George Fredric Handel, Antonio Vivaldi, Claudio Monteverdi, Heinrich Schutz, Jean-Baptiste Lully, Francois Couperin, Domenico Scarlatti

 

Classical (1750-1825, roughly)

You might have Classical influence in your music if:

  • you place an emphasis on clear forms (chorus/verse/etc.)
  • your music demonstrates balance, symmetry, unity, order
  • your music demonstrates decorum and restraint (nothing hugely climactic)
  • your music involves story-telling and narrative (based on the growth of opera during this period)
  • your music has a “cosmopolitan” sound, meaning a type or style of music common in many cultures
  • your music demonstrates simplicity and accessibility: few chords, simple rhythms, easily singable, generally appealing to the masses
  • your music utilizes contrasting ideas: using two or more musical ideas that contrast, but are still somewhat related
  • your music uses waltz-like or lilting rhythms
  • craftsmanship is part of the beauty of your music
  • sample composers from this period: Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, Franz Joseph Haydn, Muzio Clementi
  • your songs tend to be short (under 3 minutes)

 

Romantic (1825-1900, roughly)

You might have Romantic influence in your music if:

  • you seek to evoke a wide range of emotions in your music
  • you use free forms; you’re not interested in set formal structures (like verse/chorus)
  • your music often portrays light or dark, sometimes within the same composition
  • your music has a sense of epic-ness
  • your music has multiple climax points, but usually one pinnacle climax
  • your music uses a wide range of textures and timbres
  • your compositions tend to be long
  • you have a hard time fitting all your ideas into one piece of music
  • your music has a sense of yearning
  • you try to paint pictures, tell stories, or travel to other worlds with your music
  • you use bold, colorful, daring, or very diverse harmonies to create drama and emotion
  • intuition and spontaneity are important in your music
  • your music features virtuoso (extremely difficult or flashy) solo playing
  • your music is very sensory
  • you seek to create the sublime in your music
  • your music sounds nationalistic (like historic or folk music from your country)
  • your music can be extremely grandiose, “over the top”, or almost melodramatic
  • Sample composers from this period: Frederic Chopin, Ludwig van Beethoven (middle and later works), Franz Liszt, Johannes Brahms, Robert Schumann, Felix Mendelssohn, Gustav Mahler, Jan Sibelius, Richard Wagner

 

Twentieth Century/Postmodern (1900 to the present)

You might have 20th Century or Postmodern influence in your music if:

  • you use a lot of dissonance in your music (things that don’t sound “right” or pleasant)
  • you change meters often
  • you give your music a sense of loss of tonal center, as if there is no “home base”
  • your music has angular melodies (awkward leaps or intervals)
  • your music uses unusual instrumentations and timbres
  • your music is difficult to classify in regard to genre
  • you use instruments in unusual ways or use non-traditional instruments or sounds
  • you try experimental approaches in your music
  • you don’t care if your music sounds right or pretty, it’s more about getting the effect you want
  • you use a lot of repetitive patterns that often evolve or mutate
  • you use fragmentary melodic ideas
  • you use phrase structures that are asymmetrical
  • you use harmonies based on 7ths, 9ths, 11ths, or added tone chords
  • you use unusual scales or make up your own scales or tunings
  • you use quartal or quintal harmonies
  • Sample composers from this period: Arnold Schoenberg, Igor Stravinsky, Bela Bartok, Darius Milhaud, George Gershwin, Aaron Copland, Anton Webern

 

So, there you have it. The music you’re making has ties to music of past epochs. If you find yourself saying yes to a lot of bullets in one particular period, then you have much in common with the music of that period (and the music of that period might even appeal to you more than the other periods). Again, this isn’t an exact science, but it might give you an idea of the roots of your own music.

 

The Making of the Album “Beautyquest” by Stephen Weber, Part IV: The Final Nine Songs

The Making of the Album “Beautyquest” by Stephen Weber,

Part IV: The Final Nine Songs

December 7, 2018

The final nine songs, or second half of the album, are divided into categories: Scenescapes (3), the song Seeking the Sublime for rock ensemble and vocals, the set of Seasonscapes (4), and a final improvised acoustic reprise of the opening track on the album, Beautify Your Corner of the World.

Scenescapes

8. Skyscape

I have always had a fascination with the sky, its many colors, cloud formations, and my understanding of it as blank canvas with moving paintings. Skyscape is a piece I desperately wanted to turn out well, but limitations of my software instruments and my use of them, ended up rendering something I’m not entirely happy with. It opens with expansive string sounds painting an overhead palate of sky. A full choir enters with slow and reflective material, enhanced with reverb. After a brief return to the floating expanse provided by the strings, a rich and warm string ensemble enters, playing fragmentary ideas. The middle section of the piece features a soaring but tightly woven violin and viola duet. The choir re-enters, followed by full string support, then addition of full orchestra. The whole piece unfolds very slowly, much like watching cloud formations mutate and evolve.

9. Rainscape

As a youngster, I absolutely loved sitting on the back porch and watching and hearing approaching storm systems. Math principles are the unifying feature of Rainscape, the most abstract and electronic piece on the album. The Fibonacci series is very common in nature, so I took the first 8 numbers in the series and used them as the binding element for the piece, though this isn’t discernable to the listener. Essentially, I added 8 layers of timbres, all built on the use of the Fibonacci series (it’s too complicated to explain just how here), over a fairly static string synth underpinning. The piece is also a palindrome, as once it hits a middle point, the remainder is essentially just backwards. The piece is designed to explore a transient incoming and outgoing weather system with rain as it begins, builds, then passes. Rainscape is one of my favorite compositions on the album.

10. Nightscape

Nightscape attempts to paint a picture of the night sky. It begins with ethereal choral sounds that soon give way to a repetitive piano part, built minimalistically on a fairly simple chord progression. More and more layers of texture and timbre are added until a solo cello enters to add color to the night sky. A high choral passage then returns the listener to the expanse of the heavens. As the chord progression returns, the piano inserts melodic ideas at the octave, followed by a distant trumpet permeating the dense orchestral textures. The piano postlude returns the listener to the initial painting of the night sky.

11. Seeking the Sublime

Night, to me, can be strangely sublime in its expansiveness, but in its mystery as well. Emmanuel Kant’s understanding of the sublime included an element of fear or awe, in addition to a sense of boundlessness and limitlessness. Seeking the Sublime tries to recreate these elements for the listener. The piece opens with an ominous organ and choral section, which gives way to vocals and text over acoustic rock ensemble. Some reverb on the vocals add to the spaciousness of the music. The text relates the nature of the sublime experience. The extended middle section is a dialogue between trumpet and acoustic lead guitar over simple accompaniment. The vocals return, continuing to expound on the sublime experience. A buildup of textures and the return of choir provide the closing climax for the song. Of all the vocals on the album, I’m most pleased with the vocals on this song. The song has some Pink Floyd undertones, or so I’ve been told.

Seasonscapes

12. Summerscape

Summerscape is simply a piano improvisation I did one day. I posted it on Drooble under a different title, but the nature and character of the improv fit the season of summer well, a time when many people have more time to relax and enjoy nature and be outdoors, so I decided to include it on the album. The only touch-up I did to the original improv was to fix the attack of the note B-flat (and there were quite a few), which is out of control in regard to articulation and volume control on my Kurzweil keyboard, which needs work on the action in general.

13. Fallscape

Fallscape is also a piano improvisation. It’s much more intense, diverse, melancholic, and almost sentimental in spots. Much of the harmony and textures have their roots in 19thcentury Romanticism. The piece seeks to describe fall through harmonic color, modulations, and cluster chords. The overall aesthetic is one of loss and departure, though there are hints of optimism. Again, the only touch-up to the improv was the uneven action of my Kurzweil keyboard.

14. Winterscape

Winterscape was surprisingly popular on Drooble, drawing over 700 listens and many favorable comments. The opening synth sounds provide undulating accompaniments for fragmentary piano ideas, panned right and left in dialogue form. After some dissonance is resolved at a cadence, the synth sound returns in richer and more rhythmically pronounced form, and the piano decoration is more extensive, though still somewhat reserved. The piece is an attempt to catch the purity and beauty of falling snow upon an already snow-covered landscape. Winter is my favorite season and I’m happy with the way this piece captured the serenity and cleansing of light snowfall.

15. Springscape

The final composition in the cycle, Springscape, is the most energetic, as you might imagine. Through spacious rock ensemble textures there is a sense of vitality and energy, as spring brings new life and color in abundance. The form of Springscapeis a bit odd. It opens with a violin solo over piano, followed by an expansive guitar solo over rock ensemble. Cory Moon and James Harper, fellow Drooble members, contributed the guitar and trap set parts, respectively. After the exuberant guitar solo there is an extensive and reflective piano solo, encouragement for the listener to explore the detail of spring’s beauty. The rock ensemble and lead guitar solo return, followed by a brief piano postlude. The character of this one makes it one of my favorites on the album.

16. Beautify Your Corner of the World (Improvised Acoustic Reprise)

The final track on the album is a short improvised acoustic reprise of the first track on the album. I remember albums back in the 60s and 70s ending with a reprise of a song, which I always thought was really cool. Also, I’m into symmetry and cyclical ideas, so ending the album with a truncated reprise of the opening song just made sense, as I also wanted to revisit the importance of beauty in our world one more time. The reprise is just me sitting at the piano improvising a very simple chordal accompaniment and singing the final verse and chorus of the full version of the song.

Final Thoughts

The album “Beautyquest” was just that, a quest for beauty, a musical and textual journey that I’d wanted to take for some time as a composer/creator to satiate my fascination with beauty, aesthetics, and the sublime.

I’m profusely grateful to my wife, Lesa, who supported and encouraged me throughout the project, often providing very helpful feedback on the tracks as I was developing them. I also truly appreciate the other musicians that contributed to the album: Dystopia of Truth, Richard Groce, Cory Moon, and James Harper. They were all amazing to work with. I’m also grateful to a loving and giving God, who gave me some talent and challenged me to develop it and see what I could do with it. In some respects, since the album is so nature-based, it’s also my feeble and human attempt to portray through music the beauty of God’s creation.

The album is available for streaming on Spotify, Deezer, iHeart Radio, and numerous other streaming services. It’s available for purchase at iTunes, Apple Music, Amazon, Google Play, and CDBaby.

The Making of “Beautyquest” by Stephen Weber, Part III: The First Seven Songs

The Making of the Album “Beautyquest” by Stephen Weber,

Part 3: The First Half of the Album

What follows is context, content, and construction of the first seven tracks on the album.

  1. Beautify Your Corner of the World

Since the album is built on the concept of beauty, it made sense to me to start the album with a song about the importance of beauty in our world, hence the title Beautify Your Corner of the World. The lyrics encourage the listener to take time for, understand, appreciate, create, and perpetuate beauty. The opening line of the chorus, “Surround yourself with beauty”, is a plea for people to look for and embrace beauty in their worlds, whether that be in nature, in people, in process, in design, or myriad other manifestations. The song utilizes primarily piano, bass, vocals, drums, and some synth strings. Fellow Drooble member, Richard Groce, did stellar work on the trap set, sending 14 stems to drop into the track. Vocals on this one challenged me because it’s slightly pop-style singing, and the little vocal training I had was voice lessons in “classical” style at undergraduate and graduate level. It took SO many takes to get the vocals done as best I could, though this is still clearly an area that needs improvement. The song is the first one I’ve written for contemporary ensemble that uses the favored popular form of verse/chorus, though I’ve modified it. The form I used was: intro/verse, interlude, verse/chorus, interlude, verse/chorus, chorus, tag. This one wasn’t as popular on Drooble as I thought it might be, though, as a ballad, it didn’t really fit into any of the genre categories, so it ended up in the Pop genre, which it is not.

2. Set It Free

The song Set it Freeis important to me, though I don’t like the way the vocals turned out. After the opening track setting the tone for the album’s focus on beauty, this second track, for rock ensemble, begs the listener to consider the nature of the creative idea. The creative process is one of fascination to me, but I wanted to give the listener some insight on how it works for many song-writers or composers. The idea may come to us as a little “kernel” of an idea. Over time, we grow that idea and at some point it shows itself in full blossom. What once existed in our head is something we can project to others through the creative tools available to us. Once we have brought the creative product into this world, we have set it free. It still remains a part of us, but we gave it life and share it with others; it has a life of its own. The song opens with a daringly long one-minute piano solo, very reflective. The first half of the lyrics are then sung. Special thanks to Cory Moon, fellow member of Drooble, for his exceptional 2.5 minute guitar solo, which really signifies the “setting free” of the musical idea in the middle section of the song. The second verse of lyrics are then expressed, followed by a return to the reflective piano solo that began the composition. This track was quite popular on Drooble, reaching the top 10 in the Rock charts.

The Set of Four “Naturescapes”

3. Mountainscape

The composition Mountainscape begins the set of four pieces inspired by nature. For me personally, mountains invoke a general sense of awe. They remind me of my smallness in this world. Mountains can be incredibly beautiful, but at the same time sublime in their massiveness, seeming limitlessness, and the heights to which they can rise. This composition is in five sections: 1) The sense of awe upon approaching the mountains, 2) The journey up the mountain begins, 3) Stopping to enjoy nature, 3) The journey continues, 4) Arrival at the peak. Traditional orchestral and solo instruments were used extensively, and harp is added later. The music of the journey, driving strings, is enrgertic, while stopping to enjoy nature explores the color of some of the orchestral instruments. One would think the arrival at the peak would be the most triumphant music in the piece. However, I chose to try to create ethereal and sublime music to reflect the euphoric feeling of reaching the peak, which affords views of massive expanses and a feeling of closeness to another world on a higher plain, as if at the top of the world. This piece was quite popular on Drooble, spending several weeks on the charts and garnering many positive comments on its vivid imagery and emotional appeal.

4. Seascape

To be quite honest, the sea, though I find it very beautiful, is something I fear. I fear its potential for power and its sheer massiveness. Yet, it can produce and reflect a whole spectrum of colors, produce undulating sounds, and beautiful visual patterns. It can be menacing, and it can be mesmerizing. It’s been the subject of myriad novels, poems, works of art, and musical works. In Seascape, I’ve tried to capture the power and expanse of the ocean as well as its incredible beauty. The composition is in four sections: 1) Calm Seas for the journey, 2) Storms on the horizon, 3) The fury of the storm, 4) The storm passes and calm sees return. The composition is basically in ABA form, the A section being calm with simple harmonies and melodies. The B section has sections, the first is the sights and sounds of an impending storm, and the second the fury of the storm. The fury section utilizes unusual meters to create a sense of loss of stability and danger. The calmness of the A section returns the listener to a sense of repose. This track was particularly popular on Drooble, with many members commenting positively on its impact or effectiveness.

5. Desertscape

I’m just not particularly fond of or comfortable in the desert as I’ve spent much of my life living on the plains in the Midwest and surrounded by lands producing crops in abundance. The presence of seemingly useless land just seems wrong. However, a different perspective might be that the desert – since it is rarely arable land – is there simply and only for its natural beauty. I’ve tried to adopt that perspective over the years, but still find the colors of the desert subtle, though the shapes and formations one can encounter in the desert can be very unique, interesting, or downright bizarre. For the composition, I’ve used an array of syth and traditional instrument sounds. One component of the piece is the duo for violin and viola, the colors of which are just subtly different, but through quartal and quintal harmonies lend a sense of reflection and mystique. There is also a substantial middle section, eerily ambient, that features classical guitar motives in interplay with a synth solo sound. This is probably my least favorite track on the album, yet I really like certain parts of it, and do find a solitary and subtle beauty built into it through compositional and various timbres.

6. Plains-scape

I wanted to make this one special, since I’m particularly fond of the plains, the topography that seems most innately comfortable and enriching to me. Growing up in the plains of Manitoba, Michigan, and Indiana, I connected with the serenity and expansiveness of the plains. I find the utility of the land, providing so many sources of food and goods, one of its more attractive aspects. Yes, it has more to offer: the colors of the different grains, the tall grasses waving in the wind, clusters of trees, and subtle rolling plains that create wonderful textures. The musical setting is quite slow and expansive, dominated by brass and synth sounds. The second half of the song features harp accompaniment and a dialogue between flute and oboe. The whole intent was to create a space for the listener, an idyllic space in which they can discover the detailed beauty of the plains: wildflowers, grains, grasses, trees and wildlife. The brass returns to take the listener from the detail level to the expansive land, open skies, and seeming limitlessness of the plains. This track is one of my favorites on the album, due to the images it conjures and the very reflective and contemplative nature of the piece.

7. Guises of Beauty

This track is central to the concept of beauty expressed in the album. The lyrics detail the various forms and guises of beauty in fragmented phrases. The song begins with a piano introduction followed by the vocals expressing the text through simple and short melodic ideas. The accompaniment to the vocals includes undulating figures in piano and a warm string-like bed. After a piano solo, the music abruptly erupts into an emotive and expressive lead guitar solo over bass, keyboard, and percussion, a virtual blossoming and explosion of exuberance. This is probably the most robust and outwardly energetic section on the entire album. The piece closes with a reprise of the introductory piano material, ending the piece in a reflective manner. This is probably the track on the album that might be called “art music”, in the same vein as some of the art music bands of the late 60s and early 70s..

Most of the first seven tracks were uploaded to Drooble, where I received significant feedback. Most of the songs made the “Charts” on Drooble, some reaching #1 in their respective genre.

The entire album “Beautyquest” by Stephen Weber is streaming on Spotify and numerous other streaming services. It is available for digital purchase through iTunes, Apple Music, Amazon, Google Play, and CDBaby.

The Making of Beautyquest, an Album by Stephen Weber: Concept, Construction, Content (and where to find it!)

The Making of Beautyquest: Concept, Construction, Content

An album by Stephen Weber, composer/performer

December 1, 2018

Some Background

 My new 2018 album Beautyquest,has officially been released (more on that later). This is an album that took me in a new direction, to some degree musically and philosophically, but more significantly in terms of conceptual content. Beauty has always been a fascination of mine. I’ve done considerable readings (Kant, Beardsley, Schopenhauer, and many others) and research in the area of aesthetics, beauty and the sublime, even writing papers and presenting at conferences on the subject. It’s generally understood that beauty is subjective, and I’ve always wanted to try to define it objectively, but alas, it’s clear that we cannot agree to universal defining characteristics, elements, and manifestations of beauty.

Personal Perspective and What I Learned

Beautyquest is my own personal perspective and reflection on beauty, its guises, its forms, its identities, and its characteristics, utilizing the skills and tools available to me to create, compose, and perform.  Once I had adopted the concept upon which to build tracks on the album, I pursued the creative process vigorously and relentlessly, trying to make each track more beautiful than the previous one, or each track a different perspective on beauty than the previous one. Some discoveries and understandings I made along the way:

  • Beauty can indeed be found in various styles, genres, and forms.
  • Beauty is not only an external thing, but can be the beauty in people, relationships, connections, processes, designs, and many other things.
  • I have inclinations as to what comprises beauty in terms of instrumentation, tempo, timbre, harmony, and even key selection.
  • The beauty I’m trying to express never comes out as beautiful as how I hear it in my head.
  • Not everyone will find beauty in what I’m expressing in my music.
  • Because of my hearing disabilities, I compose on a very sensory plane. I’m especially inspired by visual images.
  • Beauty is something that deserves our attention and is much-needed in our world – simple details, ornate decoration, simplicity, symmetry, etc. – yet we rarely take time to fully immerse ourselves in beauty.

Nature, Process, and Construction of Beautyquest

 As I delved further into the project at no point was I devoid of ideas; they came freely, generally mapped out in my head, then rendered at my workstation. All the compositions/songs were constructed in essentially a 4-month period. The spontaneity of this process at my Digital Audio Workstation is the polar opposite of how I compose “art” music for publishers, for which I use pencil and staff paper, write everything out away from the keyboard, and then check everything on the keyboard before I note-set in Finale software. I dare say that I spent more time finding or crafting the sounds I was seeking than constructing the compositions. Assuredly, I’ve spent more time on mixing and mastering than on creating the tracks.

Much of the album centers around nature and the seasons, the source of inspiration for many of the Romantic composers of the 19thcentury. The album includes four songs that have vocals and my own texts. I’m comfortable expressing my ideas through poetry but singing them proved to be challenging and discouraging as I’m not happy with the quality of my voice and its limitations. Nevertheless, I was determined to improve in this area of my musicianship. You have no idea how many takes I did on the vocal tracks, and I’d rather not think about it.

As the album took shape, the tracks fell into tidy categories. It begins with two tracks with “rock” ensemble and vocals. The first of these, Beautify Your Corner of the World, is a plea to appreciate, create, and perpetuate beauty in the world of the listener and to surround oneself with beauty. The second, Set it Free, is a conversation about the creator and his/her process, how they take an idea and grow it into something potentially beautiful. This is followed by a set of four “Naturescapes” – tracks influenced by nature: Mountainscape, Plains-scape, Desertscape, and Seascape. This set is followed by the rock ensemble track with vocals, Guises of Beauty. Then follows a set of three “Scenescapes”: Skyscape,Nightscape,and Rainscape. The next stand-alone song for rock ensemble and vocals is Seeking the Sublime, about the quest for those deeply profound encounters with beauty. The next set of four pieces fall into the category of “Seasonscapes”: Summerscape, Fallscape, Winterscape, and Springscape, each of which tries to capture the aspects of beauty unique to each season. The first two in this set are piano improvisations. The album ends with an improvised acoustic version of the opening track, Beautify Your Corner of the World, featuring just piano and voice, a final plea to seek, create, and perpetuate beauty in your world.

  1. Beautify Your Corner of the World (Feat. Richard Groce)
  2. Set it Free (Feat. Cory Moon)
  3. Mountainscape
  4. Plains-scapes
  5. Desertscape
  6. Seascap3
  7. Guises of Beauty (Feat. Dystopia of Truth)
  8. Skyscape
  9. Nightscape
  10. Rainscape
  11. Seeking the Sublime
  12. Summerscape
  13. Fallscape
  14. Winterscape
  15. Springscape (Feat. Cory Moon)
  16. Beautify Your Corner of the World (Improvised Reprise)

The album is 66 minutes in length and is available for download or streaming on various sites: CDBaby, iTunes, Apple Music, Pandora, iHeart Music Spotify, GooglePlay, Amazon, my own website, YouTube, and numerous others. Here are some links to purchase the album if you’re so inclined:

iTunes: 

https://itunes.apple.com/us/album/beautyquest/1444242579

Amazon:

https://www.amazon.com/Beautyquest-Stephen-Weber/dp/B07KRS42SL/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1543699539&sr=8-1&keywords=Stephen+Weber+Beautyquest

CDBaby:

https://store.cdbaby.com/cd/stephenweber5

GooglePlay:

https://play.google.com/store/music/album/Stephen_Weber_Beautyquest?id=Bgqecqlo5aowlanxzaiwjqag6wu

The album is also streaming on Spotify, iHeart Music, Pandora, Deezer and many other services.

I’ll be doing more blogs on the various tracks, so stay tuned for more.  

 

 

 

 

The Making of the Album “Beautyquest” by Stephen Weber: In Some Respects, A Drooble Community Effort

The Making of “Beautyquest”, an Album by Stephen Weber:

In Some Respects, A Drooble Community Effort

Dr. Stephen Weber

When I first found Drooble and joined back in April of 2018, my first thought was “This is interesting. A community that encourages member feedback on each other’s music and provides other learning experiences through dialogue and interaction on an array of music-related topics as well”. I’m a lifelong learner, so I thought the platform would be a good place to bounce my musical creations outside what I do in the classical realm and the published “art music” compositions I write. Most certainly, the musical ideas on the album “Beautyquest” are mine, but the Drooble community contributed to the album in myriad ways.

Inspiration

After I joined Drooble, I posted a few songs/compositions from previous albums to get some feedback on what I had been doing. I was getting some helpful comments and viable advice on how to improve. I was also hearing some great music by Drooble artists and providing feedback on their works as well, a learning experience in itself. I hadn’t been thinking about doing an album in 2018 or even creating new tracks, but the more involved I got in the Drooble community, the more inspired I became to work on new material, post it, and get feedback. Before I knew it, a concept album was formulating, and I was digging in at the DAW as much as time would allow.

Feedback

The comments and feedback I was getting on the initial tracks for the album that I uploaded was encouraging. People seemed to have respect for and interest in my musical ideas – which surprised me a bit, given my proclivity for creating music in multiple genres and my classical background. At one point, I uploaded a solo piano improvisation, Fallscape, and the response was so positive that I decided to include it and one other improvisation on the album, Summerscape. I never imagined that I could impro something worthy of going on an album, but the encouraging response led me to believe they were viable works in their own right and deserved placement on the album (with a bit of clean-up). I could go on and on with a list of members who responded with ideas, thoughts, and suggestions, but there are too many to list here. This mix of positive feedback and constructive criticism compelled me to make numerous modifications and alternations along the way to many of the tracks (submitting as many as four versions of a particular song/composition), each implementation or change making the song or composition better. Some advice I heeded, while others I considered but did not implement for varying reasons. Nevertheless, during the course of work on the album, I uploaded 12 of the 16 tracks on the album. Obtaining feedback on the bulk of the album was essential to producing the highest quality music I am capable of presently, given my resources and experience in and knowledge of the technology I was using. My motivation for creating the album was never to create a “hit” or receive notoriety as I’m not at all interested in the commercial aspect of the music business, but only to get better at what I do, to touch people in some way through my music, and to make my music available for others to enjoy (hopefully). The input from the community helped me more effectively work toward that end.

Collaborations

Collaborations with fellow Drooble members ended up being an important ingredient of the album, enhancing and adding appeal to four of the tracks. I had one song, Guises of Beauty, that really needed a “real” guitar solo. Despite tweaking guitar sounds, amps, and effects relentlessly, the software instrument lead guitar solo I had in the song was inauthentic, woody, and perfunctory. I posted the song with an invitation for anyone to jump in and do a lead guitar solo. Dystopia of Truth was the first to offer to give it a go. And wow, did he ever! Not only did he do a riveting guitar solo, he added bass and trap set and completed the final master. The track took on new energy and deeper emotional impact. I asked a friend, Cory Moon, a new member of Drooble at the time and a graduate of the university at which I teach, if he’d be willing to add a lead guitar solo to another song. He was thrilled at the opportunity and did stellar guitar work on the songs Set it Free(a 2:30 second lead solo!) and Springscape. A former composition student of mine, multi-talented, and a new member of Drooble, James Harper, contacted me to offer up a better and more imaginative trap set foundation on the song Springscape. His performance brought a great deal of energy and authenticity to the track. Finally, I had become friends with Drooble member Richard Groce, and had followed his solo and collaborative work, and timidly sought his professional craftsmanship on the first track on the album, Beautify Your Corner of the World. He responded enthusiastically, and intuitively knew what to do with the track, putting considerable effort into getting it just right; the result was a solid and well-crafted percussion section for the song (14 stems worth!). Working with these musicians of such high caliber was one of my favorite parts of putting the album together.

The Song Review Tool

Since I’d amassed quite a few Karma points along the way and rarely used them, I thought I’d give the new Song Review Tool a try. This proved, for the most part, to be very helpful and worthwhile. I ended up having four of the songs on the album reviewed. The reviewers provided considerable confirmation of things that were working. This affirmation was important in that the reviewers were perceptive enough to see the validity of my musical decisions. However, the reviewers also provided direct and sometimes extensive feedback on how to improve the tracks. Having input from the ears of peers resulted in additional changes to some of the tracks to refine them, give them more appeal, use sonic space better, and make tweaks to the mix. The best advice came from reviewers who understood my musical intent and content and offered their expertise to make tracks more listener-friendly or polished.   

The Charts and Analytics

The sometimes-maligned “charts” provided some helpful feedback on tracks on the album. Some tracks soared to the top, while others floundered. Though the charts aren’t a benchmark, in my mind, for success or effectiveness of a track, they do provide insight into what listeners find of interest or merit, to some degree. Even more important than the charts, in my mind, was the number and quality of comments. The comments were what compelled me to make changes I considered in the best interest of the tracks. All in all, the 12 tracks I uploaded received over 8,000 listens, 644 likes, 692 comments, and 20 shares.

Postings and Discussions

 The wealth of information posted on Drooble on a plethora of topics is stuff that I mull over and digest as much as possible. As mentioned earlier, I’m a lifelong learner, so I take in as much information as I can and use what I perceive as viable. Following discussion threads and miscellany postings enriched my knowledge base on an array of things: mixing/mastering, use of mics, DAW-related topics, the music business and industry, song-writing/composition, instrumentation, sound design, marketing, music outlets, and on and on. Digesting and processing this information over several months contributed greatly to what I was able to implement in various tracks and on the album in its final form.

Music of Drooble Members

Most of the 60,000+ Karma points I earned over the last 8 months has been from listening to and commenting on music of Drooble members. So much valuable information can be gleaned from listening to music in ALL genres. By listening to others’ music, I was able to incorporate ideas on song forms, theoretical concepts, stylistic elements, sound design and mixing, writing lyrics, using the elements of music to achieve a purpose, singing, communicating effectively through music, etc. The diversity of music and genres provided by Drooble members piqued my interest in implementing techniques I hadn’t used before, honing those I have used, and ultimately working toward the highest level of craftsmanship I am capable of. I can’t say enough about how important it is to listen to all types of music, for in doing so you add so many tools to your kit of creative and compositional devices.

Parting Thoughts

I thank the Drooble Community for its contribution to “Beautyquest”. I would list members who had the greatest impact, but they are too numerous to mention. The album is indeed a concept album centered around beauty and its many guises; it is my quest for beauty, a concept embedded in the field of aesthetics, a primary research field of mine. The concept is a bit off the beaten path in terms of music in the commercial realm. It’s not a concept of interest universally, and it would be a hard sell for the general public. But it’s a topic that means a great deal to me in world full of ugliness; we need to take time to stop and reflect on beauty in its many forms and guises, not just external beauty, but the beauty in people, in connections, in relationships, in processes, in actions, and in interactions. Though the album is a collection of my musical thoughts and ideas, it’s also a collaborative Drooble album in that the many comments, thoughts, feedback, and insights provided by the platform and its membership make it – to some degree – OUR album. It wouldn’t be what it is without the inspiration and feedback of the Drooble Community. The Drooble Community had input throughout the creative process and proffered ideas on how tracks on the album could even better represent my musical ideas, touch listeners in some way, and communicate through the language of music the concept of beauty. Sure, the album isn’t perfect – far from it. But one of the beauties of beauty is imperfection. My hearty thanks to the Drooble Community.

Stay tuned to my Word Press page for additional analyses of the album itself, and the various tracks on the album.

Beautyquest, by Stephen Weber, is available through CDBaby, iTunes, Apple Music, GooglePlay, and Amazon. It is also available for streaming on Spotify, Pandora, Shazam, Napster, Deezer, iHeart Radio and numerous other streaming services. And, of course, most of the album is posted on my profile page on Drooble, where it was heard FIRST!

 

 

Basic Music Theory Lesson 3: Major and Minor

Three-Minute Music Theory for the Drooble Community

Lesson 3: Major and Minor

Stephen Weber

Have you ever wondered why some music is happy and some is sad? Some of the emotional capabilities of music are nestled in music theory materials. The scales we use as the basis for our music result in certain types of chords, which are notes played simultaneously with two or more (usually at least three) pitches. There are four basic chord types in music, each of which has its own unique sound: Major, Minor, Augmented, and Diminished. Major and Minor chords are, by far, the most commonly used in rock, pop, indie, alternative, and numerous other styles. But what sets them apart?

Major chords are pleasant sounding, happy, optimistic, or soothing. The use of predominantly major chords in a song gives it a generally happy or uplifting feel. Minor chords are more serious, dramatic, tense, or unsettling. When they are the predominant chords in a song or piece of music, the music generally has a more serious, ominous, or intense feel. Think about music you listen to. If it’s light and happy, it probably utilizes mostly major chords. If it’s dark or serious, it is likely dominated by minor chords. Most music mixes major and minor, but one will often dominate. 

Guitarists, keyboardists, and song-writers are generally familiar with how to build chords, though if they don’t read music they may not know the names of chords they are playing or writing; they may have learned them by position or “feel”. However, if you search the internet, you can easily find out how to play chords on the guitar and the names of those chords. The same is true of playing chords on the piano. Chords derive their names generally from the pitch upon which they are built. The C chord, major or minor, is built on the pitch C, D chord is built on the pitch D, and so on. However, there are variations of this; a C chord can be built on a different pitch from the notes that comprise the C chord (C, E, G for major). This is called re-voicing or inverting the chord. Typically, you’ll see major chords referred to in capital letters (C, G, D, etc.). Minor chords will usually be in caps with a lower case letter “m” or (Cm, Gm, Dm, etc.) possibly as just the lower case note (c, g, c, etc.). I would suggest finding a chord chart for guitar (with fingerings) or a chord chart for keyboard, depending on your focus, and practicing various Major chords and Minor chords. Ideally, you want to become familiar with as many chords as possible and practice them so much that they become natural. 

Basic Music Theory, Lesson 2: Keys

Basic Music Theory Lessons for the Drooble Community (and others)

Lesson Number 2: Keys

Stephen Weber

Typically, the music most of us in the Drooble Community make or perform is “in a key”, meaning that it is in a tonal system that utilizes an established scale, and chord constructions built on that scale, to define the key, which we can also call “home base”. That sounds terribly complex. In more simple terms, the music we make gives the listener a sense of centeredness and stability by establishing a “center”, utilizing melodies built on a scale in the key and harmonies around that center that confirm and strengthen a sense of home base. There are 12 keys, based on the 12 pitches of the chromatic scale, between one note C and the next higher or lower C on keyboard, guitar, or bass, for example. The keys would then be: C, D-flat, D, E-flat, E, F, G-flat, G, A-flat, A, B-flat, B. If you’re a guitarist, you may not care to play in flat keys, because the chords are harder. Many guitarists prefer to play in C, G, D, or A, because the chords in those keys are easier. Brass and woodwind players find sharp keys harder. Keyboardists prefer keys with fewer black notes.

If you gig or create music with a band, someone has probably said to you at some point “we’re in the key of G”. This means that the home base for the song is G. Chances are, the song in G will begin and end with G chords (guitar, keyboard) or tones (bass) and the G chord will be used quite often. Bass players, guitarists, keyboardists, instrumentalists, all need to know what key they’re playing in to determine what notes and chords are important in a given key. Each key has its own pitches that are a part of the key (the “scale”). Each key has a hierarchy of chords that are important to and within that key (harmonies and progressions). In more technical terms, each key has its own sharps or flats IN that key; you may have learned those in elementary school. For example, the key of G has one sharp, the key of D has two sharps, and so on. In later lessons I will be discussing HOW to determine the scale (series of notes) in any key and the harmony (chords) in keys.

Please don’t hesitate to give me feedback on if this is too simple or complex, or if you have questions.

Basic Music Theory Concepts Lesson 1

Three-Minute Theory for the Drooble Community

 The Elements of Music – Lesson 1

Steve Weber

We’ll start with a review of the basic elements of music. This is VERY basic, so please don’t be insulted, but the elements of music is a good starting place. You probably learned these back in elementary school.

Rhythm

This is probably the most innate element of music. We ALL have rhythm to some degree since we have a built-in internal rhythmic clock (our heartbeat). Rhythm, simply put, is the organization of time. It involves

  • Beat: The thing you tap your toe to. The “pulse” of the music. It can be heavy, light, smooth, and so on.
  • Meter: The number of beats divided into measures (usually 4 or 3)
  • Tempo: The speed of the beat. It can be fast, slow, medium and lots of tempos in between.

Melody

This is the series of sequential pitches that you sing along with on a song. However, melodies can be played by almost any “pitched” instrument: lead guitar, synth, brass, woodwinds, strings, etc. Melody is one of our most powerful tools in music. Melodies can have shapes or characteristics such as:

  • Rising, falling, arched, angular, long, short, stepwise, and so on.

Harmony

Harmony is the vertical or stacked arrangement of pitches, often referred to as chords. It is two or more pitches played at the same time (not sequentially like melody). Harmony is a powerful element of music since much of the emotional power of music resides in harmony.

Harmony can be:

  • Rich, thin, lush, warm, dramatic, simple, complex, daring, jarring, pleasant, dissonant, major (pleasant), minor (serious), and all kinds of other adjectives.
  • Played by instruments capable of multiple pitches at the same time: piano, guitar, synth, string sections, orchestra.
  • The result of two or more instruments playing together on different pitches to create harmony

Timbre

Timbre is the tone quality, or “color” of a musical tone produced by an instrument or voice. Timbre is what distinguishes the sound of one instrument or voice from another. Due to the physics of sound, instruments produce an array of timbres: bright, dark, thin, thick, piercing, warm, full, lean, and so on.