Friday, September 28, 2007

In search of the Fourth Dimension

The fourth dimension. Oooh! Neat!

Einstein showed us that there are, in fact, four dimensions. The conventional three spatial ones, and time as the fourth. (They're still looking for the fourth spatial dimension, by the way.)

If I open a brand new teaching studio, I can give you directions by saying "It's on the corner of 7th and V, and it's on the tenth floor."

That's three dimensions. Left, right, up. Where's the fourth? "I'll meet you at my studio, which is on the corner of 7th and V, at 3:00 pm." Bingo. Time.

And the beautiful thing about being a musician is that we can uncover hidden dimensions in our playing. Sure, maybe not the sought after fourth spatial dimension, and we probably won't be finding gravity waves. However, just like the researchers who dare to tackle such mind boggling puzzles in theoretical physics, we too can uncover new worlds of mystery, meaning, and wonder.

Such a dimension that warrants examination is the same as Einstein's fourth dimension.


I often observe aspiring rockers looking for new sounds, riffs, and melodic ideas when they hit the wall of writer's block.

The first place folks usually go is on the note dimension. However, while there are literally thousands of melodies, chords, and combinations, in the end, there's only twelve tones in the system of western music.

The next stop is tone. Adding crazy effects, or maybe going the route of old school tube amp, the seeker adds another dimension to their music. We might call this the second dimension.
Now we're the simpsons! D'oh!

While these classifications are strictly the figments of my convoluted imagination, let's call Style the third dimension of music. Country guys play different than Jazz cats, and that's good, because variety is the spice of life.

At the end of the day, tired, dusty from trudging around a vintage electronics shop for those NOS tubes for your tone, ears ringing for the thundering sounds of The Celtic Boys play Metallica (for your stylistic influences), and your brain thoroughly saturated with scales, modes, and the concept of diminished arpeggios, we might sit dejectedly on top of our amp, and ask...

"OK, so what else can I do to make my lines sound different?"

Remember the fourth dimension. Time!

Instead of starting that solo on the "1", as in 1 2 3 4, try starting on the "And" of 1. Notice how this shakes things up a bit? Next, experiment with starting on the sixteenth note right after any of the downbeats. See if you can hit the "E of 3." Wow. Groovy.

If you really want a challenge, try this over a beat with a sixteenth-note swing feel.

This works for riffs, too! If you sound like a robot from a practice book, try playing chords five times, or three times, but not four times. Change the placement a bit.

Beginning phrases on different beats adds a sense of syncopation to your music, and will also help you tremendously with your aptitude of rhythm. While it's not physically harder to do this, I find it mentally difficult. We're so used to playing a certain way, and on certain beats. The funny part is, we didn't even know it.

But we do now.

Welcome to the fourth dimension!

No comments: