Saturday, December 20, 2008

The Sounds of the Season

Vrrrrrrrrrrrroooooooooom! Goes the Camaro through the night. An H3 is being pushy, and shining it's bling bling lights too close to the Z28 emblem on the back bumper. A tap on the gas pedal takes care of that. Splash, and it rolls through the puddle at the end of the driveway. It sits, growling menacingly in the dark and foggy night, steam billowing up from the water striking the exhaust system.

Wait, if you look past the lurid glow of the tail lights, and if you listen close...over the burble of the LT1, you'll hear...Jingle Bells? And is that Bing Crosby crooning away? What?!

Yes, yes, it's true, rockers. I've been crusing around town in my mega-mean-pedestrian-scaring-machine listening to...XM 36 - Holiday Traditions. Nat King Cole, Andy Williams, Bing Crosby, Ella Fitzgerald, you name it...Sure, I was born in '85, when the musicians always looked like a Christmas tree made out of spandex, but I get sentimental sometimes, and I like to listen to cheesy carols of yesteryear. I can just picture my grandparents out on the town as young people, dancing to this. It makes me think two things. 1. How did they find the beat to these songs? And 2. No wonder it took me so long to become a funk musician with that in my ancestry.

But all good-natured jokings about my whitness aside, there is a musical point.

I was listening to one of the white guys sing a carol. Man, they're right on top of that beat, and not letting it breathe at all. Cracker!

But then I heard Nat King Cole doing the same thing. Oh. Ok, I was just being ignorant of the style.

Nat's known for his really great crooning. If you haven't heard him, you should check him out.

I noticed something really interesting. He was cutting the notes off big time, and singing short notes (probably quarter notes, but I didn't count.) Yet, he made each note sound soft, lush, and rich.

I have always equated a melodic, lush sound with longer note values. You know, really let 'em ring, and add a bit of vibrato at the end, a la "For the Love of God" (Steve Vai.)

I'd never heard anyone playing, or in this case, singing, short notes, but making them super sweet at the same time.

We've all had to suffer through the cheesy R&B remixes of christmas carols in the store, where the lady is just shreiking at the top of her lungs about how cliche the standard greeting of the season is, and then drop it down to an annoyingly breathy whisper with a floyd-rose dose of vibrato almost as bad as this run on sentence, BUT...That's not how "lush" always has to be done!

Check out some of the old cats singing holiday tunes for some great tone ideas. Can you make your fast lines sound as great as Nat singing "Frosty the Snowman?"

Shred that!

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