Monday, November 10, 2008

Mike's heirarchy of music

I play with drummers that seem to either play to a click all the time or never. Some of the "never's" have great tempo and never vary... but some don't. It bugs me when the tempo changes. I have to listen to my delay to make sure it's not off tempo and listen hard to the drums to make sure I'm locked in. If the bass is off from the drums it's even more to think about. I especially noticed all this yesterday... because the bass and drums were rock solid. The drummer played to a click and the bass was right in sync. It was so nice! I didn't have to think about rhythm at all and it freed me up to concentrate on better things. I think it's like Maslov's hierarchy of needs - you know:

I think I have "Mike's hierarchy of music" that goes something like this:

Emotion (super great music as a band)
Movement (dynamics/timber as a band)
Cohesion (locking parts together as a band)
Individual best parts (best notes/best rhythms)
Individual correctness (right key/in tempo)

In Maslov's hierarchy, you don't worry about social needs until your physiological needs are met. In mine you don't worry about playing dynamics until you're playing the right notes. Maybe these aren't hard rules, but it works out this way for me. Sometimes I don't memorize my music because I'm feeling lazy and I can get by sight reading a chart, but I notice a big difference when I'm really prepared. When I'm not concentrating on reading the music or playing the right notes, I'm free to take my playing to the next level. Maybe my brain is just small, but I don't think about dynamics if I'm sight reading a chart. I've also noticed bands don't tend to use dynamics and really listen to each other if they're not playing tightly. If Joe the bassist is off in his own bass world, chances are the band isn't going to make great music.

So what does this mean? If a band plans on making great music each person needs to spend time at home working out parts and memorizing music. Rehearsal should be focused on cohesion and movement, not learning parts. A lot of it comes down to experience and musicianship but there's also a good amount of just being prepared.


Karl said...

Nice post! I might send this to some musicians.

And +1 on rehearsals for cohesion, not for parts learning.

And click tracks are heaven. :)

electric community said...

Thanks! Hopefully it made sense. I was originally just going to write about click tracks but my mind wandered. If you have anything to add/change let me know!

lespaulplayerdoctor said...

wow, very nice. I love the irony of our collective posts- some very technical, very efficient and professional in content and description then... #1)make sure you are in the right key! *sigh, can't believe it happens as often as it does.

so question (as posed to me by a youth bass player who is just learning): If the band is playing in G and I am in A does that average out to us playing in Ab?

electric community said...

I've been there many times when a musician assumed everything was in the key the song was recorded on for the CD (despite getting charts in a different key on occasion) and worship leaders who assume changing keys is as easy for instrumentalists as it is for vocalists. Makes for an interesting rehearsal. Mostly I was just trying to make a "basics" on the pyramid like maslov's physiological needs of shelter and food.

A Dorian? Haha.