Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Precious Little Help

One thing I've noticed as I crawled my way from being a horrible guitarist to being an unremarkable one is how little actual supporting material there is for players whose tastes run to music outside of the commercial mainstream in America -- in my case this means progressive folk, death, doom and black metal. Any aspiring guitarist can find plenty of Metallica, GnR, heck...even Children of Bodom tabs and videos and Dave Mustaine has his own app to help teach you Megadeth songs. But the rule seems to be that you have to be attached to one of the big Guitar companies to make it into a guitar mag with any consistency. In the case of the guys mentioned above that means tabs and vids brought to you by ESP, Gibson and Dean. The closest you are going to get to anything underground is probably Opeth, and even there you have Akerfeldt and Akesson endorsed by PRS. Slip down the endorsements list too far and you might as well not exist. Which is too bad, because there are so many awesome bands whose music I'd love to have some decent help learning. Sure, there are some GPro tabs on the usual sites for bands like Enslaved or Paradise Lost, but I lost faith in those pretty soon after downloading a bunch and finding that the people who tabbed them out may be better guitarists than I am, but they all seem to have crappy ears that are unable to distinguish anything other than major, minor, and power chords. Diminished? Fuhgedaboudit. You will not find any nuance in an amateur GPro tab, and if you do, it's probably wrong. Go a bit farther into the underground -- Amorphis or Agalloch, for example -- and you won't even find crappy amateur tabs. Which is too bad, mind, because they both have complex and beautiful music to learn and play. It seems, however, that the people who have deciphered the songs are all too busy playing them to write any of it down for us slow kids. It's not just tabs, though. I love to wank around with Garage Band loops running through my Line 6 Guitar Port so that I have drum and bass to play over. Which is fine so long as you are looking for either funky and danceable or worldbeat and you want it in 4/4. Some of the loops are labeled as classic rock, but we aren't talking Zep or even the Who. The closest they come to straight up rock are the 'edgy modern' loops that have a sort of Incubus feel to them. And there is nothing even remotely metal to be found in the standard library that ships with the basic version included in iLife. If you want metal you will need to either pay for a dedicated software library of metal grooves or download one of the free samples that contains mostly flashy, real instrument loops rather than a basic double bass pattern with crash cymbal for the kick done on the software instrument so that you can tweak it or add to it to make it your own. It's one of the ironies of the digital age. Technology does give ordinary people the tools to make their own music sound professional, but the only music you can make easily sounds like the same commercial stuff that you can already hear anywhere else. Making something outside that safe range takes just as much work as it ever did.

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