Archive for January 2017

MAKING MUSIC – PART 2   Leave a comment


The Batman TV series theme


I wanted to make music. I’d tried playing in bands, but the problem was musical differences. I ended up playing with people who badly wanted to sound like someone else instead of doing their own thing.

Eventually, I found out that I could use a computer to play all the instruments. It wasn’t a really good idea on computers which had only three or even four channel synthesizer chips, but the Yamaha CX5M Music Computer was much better with its eight channel synthesizer module.

Software which enabled people to program a synthesizer to play different instrumental parts at the same time was in general called a sequencer. Vince Clarke revealed in the BBC documentary “Synth Britannia” that he left Depeche Mode after finding out that sequencers enabled him to make all the music himself, although he still needed a singer to accompany him. After leaving to form Yazoo, followed by Erasure, his musical style didn’t really change, although you might not agree on that point. As for me, I found that I was up against other musicians determined to just be a pale copy of someone else. It was no good telling them here was a song or some music I’d written, “Now just get on and play it! do as you’re TOLD!” For that, I needed a computer which would obey my commands. I even had a Grandad who thought the solution to this was him having a big win doing the football pools gambling system, after which he said “You’ll get your band”. Perhaps he was thinking of something more like a 1940’s Big Band orchestra, where musicians might have been hired and paid to do as they were told, who knows?

My first adventures playing electric music involved reading the book “Lead Guitar” by Harvey Vinson. This explained to me about the pre Rock ‘n’ Roll music called The Blues, which it said was the ancestor or basis of Jazz, Country, Rock ‘n’ Roll, and later Rock Music, as well as Soul Music. It involved playing musical phrases called riffs over the same old chord sequence called “Twelve Bar Blues” or “Blues Progression”. It can be heard in most 1950’s Rock ‘n’ Roll Music, as well as the 1960’s Batman TV series theme music, and most Status Quo songs. Of course, this same old tune couldn’t carry on forever, people had got sick of it, so that meant I had hardly ever heard any songs which used it. The chord sequence went G G7 C G G D C G D7, with mostly Major chords and a few seventh chords here and there. If you started on another chord, such as E, then it would go E  E7 A E B A E B7, for example. You go up 2.5 tones at first, followed by 1 tone. On a guitar or bass guitar, each fret represents half a tone. It said I was supposed to make up my own riffs from the Major Blues Scale which would fit over the chord progression. These riffs were supposed to be moved across the guitar fretboard as the chords changed. It was totally cliched and had been done to death years before.

“Rock ‘n’ Roll” by Led Zeppelin, a band so derivative that they’ve settled out of court for Copyright infringement at least a few times

The first tune I ever learnt to play by anyone else was “Blitzkrieg Bop” by The Ramones. I started playing it on one string before learning to play it with bar chords, which means chords that can be moved up the fretboard by placing the index finger across all 6 strings. Chords which don’t use this technique are called open chords, meaning some of the strings aren’t fingered at all. “Blitzkrieg Bop” was off their first album “The Ramones” and didn’t feature the Blues Progression, although it contained chords which were the same distance apart, meaning E, A and B. My point is that the chord sequence wasn’t the same. Most Ramones songs were a kind of three chord song, but some of them featured additional chords used briefly and they could all be played using two movable bar chords, based round the open chords E and A, so no problems there after finding out just how to press down the strings with the index finger, which took me a few months.

The book “Lead Guitar” by Harvey Vinson didn’t mention that there were variations  on the 12 bar Blues, such as the 8 bar Blues, or 16 bar Blues, and even 32 bar Blues, which would have made things less monotonous.


Funky 16 bar Blues


8 bar Blues (2 variations)

A variation on the 12 bar Blues is the song “Let’s Dance” first performed by Chris Montez, which was a hit in 1962 (not to be confused with the David Bowie song of the same name), as well as appearing on The Ramones first album “The Ramones”. As for the 12 bar Blues Progression, it may have helped me learn to play electric  guitar and bass, but I found it was best to forget about it and make up my own chord sequences, like almost everyone else seemed to have done, changing chords whenever I felt like it.

“Blitzkrieg Bop” by The Ramones

There are 12 notes in an octave, including sharps and flats. This means there are only so many combinations of these notes that can be played, which can lead to claims of Copyright theft or plagiarism. Notes which are an octave apart obviously the same note just higher up or lower down. However, the system of dividing a range of frequencies up into 12 notes is totally artificial. There is actually a much larger, some say infinite, range of notes in between two notes an octave apart. These notes can only be played by stringed instruments without frets (e.g. Violins, Cellos, Double Bass, fretless Bass Guitar), employing different tunings, bending strings, or using pitch bend on electronic keyboards, synths, or samplers. Unfortunately, a lot of people, or even most people, are so used to hearing the traditional notes that they might complain such music is out of tune.   

So that explains the basics of how to play music. After that, you need to learn how to apply it on computers.

It’s now 2017, the 35th anniversary of the release of the Commodore 64, which is nothing to celebrate. However, it’s also the 30th anniversary of the release of the Amiga A500, the computer which enabled lots more people to afford an Amiga. Don’t forget that the Amiga has nothing to do with the C64 except that Commodore bought the company. The Amiga is based on Atari 8 bit computers, both projects headed up by Jay Miner (RIP). Unfortunately, the Amiga A500 had no expansion slots which accepted plug in cards, just the less capable side expansion edge connector often used for hard drives, as well as the trapdoor slot for RAM expansions, unlike IBM PC compatibles, the Apple ][, or even early S100 bus systems based on the Altair 8800 computer. This is one reason why it wasn’t more successful. Just imagine how things could have been if Amiga A500 owners could have plugged in an amazing third party graphics card which could have given the graphics edge back to the Amiga over PCs, instead of just keeping up with PCs when the AGA chipset was released. Commodore never upgraded the sound chip at all. As the Amiga developers said “We made the Amiga, THEY fucked it up!”, referring to Commodore as THEY.


Posted January 13, 2017 by C64hater in Uncategorized