Daimonic

Hola!

Continuing on from the last post, I present to you today a live recording of our track “Daimonic”. This was the first song we wrote as a band and has evolved a lot from its inception. The initial track followed a fairly linear formula as far as structure goes, verse, chorus etc. Changes include the addition of a short drum solo (yay) and a large solo section that leads into a key change finale.

The song is deceptively in common time, despite sounding close to 5/4. We make no effort to break this deception, the song plays better musically than it does rhythmically, each bar is closed off with a five beat push that lands awkwardly off the beat. It makes it easier to play if we count in in 3/4, yet another mindfuck to attribute to a simple track.

We’re likely to record this one as a single, you can here some of what we’ve done thus far in the “Daimonic Trailer” on our YouTube channel.

For now though, please enjoy this live version, once again recorded by Chloe Isherwood (lad).

Cheers

DT

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Chronology

Hello!

So I got overexcited in July and posted like a thousand posts, August will be slightly tamer. Less text, more videos (which is always better). Recently Three-Sphere had a proper full electric gig and Chloe was once again kind enough to film it for us. This gig was slightly intimidating, we were in a venue outside of our comfort zone, with the general crowd being bulked up by drunk football fans. Nevertheless we pushed through the potentially awkwardness and played the show. Surprisingly the older generations filtered through to the front of the crowd and rocked out with us, pretty cool.

The song featured here is one of two fairly complicated songs that we’ve been slaving over for the last few months. We are moving further into the prog spectrum and are touching on the longer, narrative based tunes. Drew approached the writing of this like a composition and as such it has dramatic themes, the rising and falling is in line with the narrative.

Pretentious themes aside, musically this is one of our more complex numbers, the opening section sees us deliberately try to throw each other off, I begin playing a fairly normal 6/8 groove whilst Drew hammers out a 5/8 line, falling in time on the second bar of each repetition. Matt, being a bassist, meanders in and out as he chooses, often alternating between the two time signatures. This creates a disjointed but tight feeling at the opening (hopefully).

Nosebleed inducing

Nosebleed inducing

The song follows on, building to the stabs in the chorus section and then drops dramatically out. We’re trying to make it seem as though we fall apart at this point, as though things fall out of sync and slow down into a vocal section before thundering back into a final reprise and ending.

Well see for yourself…

Three-Sphere Unplugged

So recently Three-Sphere stepped into the unfamiliar shoes of acoustic musicians and played a gig at the Stoke Bar and Pizzeria in Guildford. It was a great evening and there were some fantastic other acts up, Nina Schofield, Ben Hollingsworth, Jamie Jooste and Linda Harrison were all incredible. Big thanks to Free Noise Amongst Friends for putting us on!

We played a revised set, incorporating some of our newer tunes, Ishual and Chronology, as well as some of the older ones (I understand at this stage they are all new to anyone other than Three-Sphere but shh). The setlist was:

Daimonic

Jack

Chronology

Solus

Ishual

Shaman

As well as being able to play, friend of band Chloe Isherwood was on hand to film the whole thing, which is viewable on our YouTube channel and right here! We selected the three tracks we felt best represented Three-Sphere as a band to show, here they are:

I hope you enjoy finally being able to hear some of our music, it is only a taster of what we truly sound like. We shall soon have more live recordings available on YouTube, this time with a full electric band.

And for those interested I’m playing an Alesis Performance Pad in the videos, see “Gear I Use” for more info!

Cheers

DT

The Drum Kit Part 3: Exotic Cymbals and Pedals

The great third outing

I’m back with another part to understanding the drum kit in depth. This week I’m looking at exotic cymbals and pedals, both of which have been briefly mentioned in the previous instalments.

Exotic Cymbals

What do I mean when I say “exotic cymbal“? Well I’ve already run through the basic cymbals, the crash, the ride and the hi-hats. These three are simple and crucial to having a basic setup. However once you have progressed you are able to expand your collection and include slightly more interesting cymbals to the mix in order to create more dynamic intrigue.

Splash Cymbals

Dainty

Dainty

The splash is one of my favourite cymbals, its small and fast (when I use fast when describing a cymbal I mean the sound is over quickly). Splashes are usually used to add extra embellishments in verses, where the sounds are usually quieter and the minute cymbal can actually be heard. Having a range of different sized splashes to play across has an impact very similar to doing the same with toms, you get a more musical sound from your drumming which is interesting and exciting to hear as a listener.

China Cymbals

Truly exotic

Truly exotic

The china is a weird looking thing, almost inverted. The sounds are sharp and cutting, it is distinctive and recognisable. Like the crash, the china is designed to create a bang, you wouldn’t put it in the same category as a ride or hi-hat. Chinas are great for adding some variance to your playing, I’d suggest two crashes and one china allow for a decent range of dynamics.

Effects Cymbals

A more subdued effects cymbal

A more subdued effects cymbal

Someone had a seizure making this

Someone had a seizure making this

These cymbals are even weirder than the china and there are many different variations. I’ll start with the bell, a splash sized cymbal that is placed usually on top of others on special mounts. The bell creates a high pitched frequency that is suited for middle 8 sections and instrumental grooving. It is rarely heard and as such grabs attention. Technically the splash and china are situated in this category but they are much more commonly found than perhaps the bell.

Different manufacturers make custom effects cymbals, meaning the range and styles are huge. You are likely to be able to find pretty much and cymbal for your style, the Sabian Rocktagon (an 8 sided cymbal) has a sound somewhere between a crash and a china and looks striking, Zildjian offer an effects range that come in different shapes and sizes. Basically check them out and decide what you want, at this stage you’ll likely know what you need.

Pedals

Earlier I mentioned how you use a kick drum. You kick it, with a pedal. All drum kits will come with a pedal of some varying quality and usually its good to use the one you get for a while until you want to start doing more complex stuff. Basic, single pedals are usually chain driven and have beaters screwed in that attack the drum.

There are different types of pedals to consider when you want to start doing quicker stuff that requires a better response. As a starting point, I’d say you definitely want a plate on the bottom of the pedal (Shown below.) This just makes the thing more solid and less likely to suddenly collapse. Also having a double chain driver on your pedal will increase how much control you can exude over it, as well as its power.

Cheap, single chain

Cheap, single chain

Sturdy, double chain

Sturdy, double chain

Single Vs Double

There are two variants of kick pedal, the single and the double which both have their own merits. A double pedal (favoured by metal drummers particularly) can create interesting polyrhythmic patterns. They also can create more exciting fills, especially when broken into triplets. Is a single worse than a double then? Well no. Single pedals are better for learning stronger disciplines, like heel/toe double strikes and complex linear grooves. Double pedals, while exciting, can be seen as cheating. Its really a personal choice, decide what you want to use.

Brands

DW, Pearl and Tama are amongst the better brands, their flagship pedals: 9000, Demon Drive and Iron Cobra being some of the best pedals you can buy. These all carry heavy price tags though and there are cheaper alternatives. DW are my personal favourite, their pedals seem sturdier than anything else on the market. The DW 9000 is their best product but the 5000 is their most famous, and perhaps the best reviewed. Even that can be above peoples price range though, especially if you’re looking for a double pedal. I bought a double  DW 7000, a stripped down version of the 5000, for the same price as a single 5000 and have had it for nearly three years without needing to replace it. Just because there is a better pedal, doesn’t mean there aren’t some other brilliant ones as well.

Thank you for reading part 3, by this point there should be the basis of a drum kit developing now. This is the final part, the series is complete, the world is a better, louder place for it.

Cheers

DT

Music Distribution

Introduction

I’ve long been wanting to discuss, in depth, how music works as a business and what better way to post my thoughts than on this blog? There are probably loads…

Anyway I thought I’d start with distribution, past, present and future. Now granted I am no expert in this field, although I do think that I’ve been immersed enough in the music industry to understand how to navigate it effectively. Maybe. We’ll see how that goes…

Past

In the past music distribution was much harder than it is today. It wasn’t simply a case of buying your way into the industry, you had to earn your place. The fact is that even the subjectively crap music was still generated with talent and some type of passion. Record labels and managers had purpose, they were needed by their artists, there was no Internet, no easy or cheap way of getting yourself heard. That’s why live music was much bigger, it was the way you’d hear about a band. Going to bars and hearing the band play live was the way it was done. To get more publicity and more fans, managers would promote the group, talk to their contacts and network. Music wasn’t limited to small bars though and as the music scene expanded, bigger groups formed and took the worlds stage by force. This slightly vague “past” that I refer to is ambiguous as the actual point where a shift in the way things were done occurred is difficult to pinpoint, I’d say it can be narrowed down to the mid 80s, early 90s. Bands stopped forming, they were put together. That was the change, from complete creative to none in a few decades.

Distributing a record in this ambiguous past wasn’t a simple process. Records were expensive to produce and a lot of credit was given to the sound engineers, who were rudimentary in developing bands sounds. These records were then distributed through the labels, who is turn put them into stores and if the band proved popular, they’d sell, fast.

Present

The current method of music distribution is flawed and broken, combining conflicting approaches in an attempt to recover from the “slump” that has hit the industry. The old method is still in place, barely, in that once you have recorded the band you can then sell it in stores, the question now is what stores? The high street, in a certain regard, is dying, fatally shot by the powerhouse that is e-commerce. Why drive into town, sift through masses of CDs to possibly find the album you want when instead you can stay at home, click a button and have it instantly and usually cheaper? Well that’s exactly what the masses are doing, online downloading. I could carry  on with piracy and the impact that it has but many others have sung that song before me and I’d be repeating what you likely already know. So I’ll skip it.

Money is what makes music now, its what reaches an audience, its how music gets made. With advances in technology it is virtually impossible to make a bad recording, if you manage to then you have done something remarkably wrong. What I mean by this is that there is no longer any inherent need for talent with regard to musicians, more artists make their living without having an ounce of it. I said in a previous post not to get started on Nicki Minaj but I’ll use her in this example. She’s a Trinidad born singer/rapper who is fairly popular at the moment. The girl can sing in tune and if you go for rapping then she can do a decent enough job of that. What is her talent like then, as far as any skill at being a musician goes? Non-existent. There is no song-writing prowess, no self respect as a performer and no dignity as a personality. She released a track called “Stupid Hoe” which was done without a trace of irony or any tongue in cheek banter. This sort of music shouldn’t sell, people buy into it after the backlash of Lady GaGa’s arrival, that weird non-fashion thing they both go for. The music is second to the image, which is wrong.

The online method of distribution means that artists can appear at any point and arrive fully formed. I mean to say that there is absolutely no filter on what is acceptable, skill and talent no longer restrict artists, just look at Rebecca Black and you’ll get the point.

Future

It all seems quite bleak doesn’t it? Well I may have focused purely on the negative factors. In truth there is still a beacon of hope for the industry that’ll reset it right back to the roots, obviously with a modern twist. Music isn’t a commodity, digital files are property and the future is a different sort of distribution. Rising stars are coming straight out of YouTube, a free to use service that actually pays artists for original content! You may laugh at this, anyone with a webcam can record themselves playing a guitar and upload it. A lot of the time when I explain YouTube as the future, people fail to see it as a serious website. Look at Alex Day, a normal bloke from Essex who managed to get a top 10 single in 2012, in fact he made it to number 4 with the power of some YouTube views. At the moment this method is just about unknown to most upcoming musicians, the bigger artists obviously release their videos on YouTube, but few artists are forging a career on it. I recently spoke to an up and coming musician who uses YouTube as free advertising but didn’t understand the lucrative potential behind the site. If you become a YouTube partner and start pulling in serious view, in the 10,000 per video range, then you will start to see a reward for your time.

There is also the debate on ownership/access. Why buy albums, why not simply pay a monthly fee and have unlimited access to every album ever? Programs like Spotify have found huge success in selling access to music. My gripe with this is what happens when either the company flops or you decide to unsubscribe? You are left with nothing, no music, just an empty wallet. One could argue the service is the same as renting a film, which I agree with and to be honest it is a useful service to get behind. I just hope that physical distribution remains, I’m a sucker for collections. I want a CD stack, not a bunch of files.

These are just my thoughts though and not everyone is going to agree.

Thanks for reading!

DT

Concerning Music

I thought I’d start this post by explaining why Rush are my favourite band and finish on what the music industry looks like. Well not really, but I’d like to express my own tastes and feeling regarding how music is made and what drives a band to write that great album. Starting with Rush…

2112

2112

Rush have transcended what I define as regular progressive rock (if there is such a thing) and become something more as a band. I don’t to sound like I’m fawning over the band too much, I’ll express some criticisms too, but I do believe that they represent a truly unique style of music. Rush arrived hot on the heels of rock pioneers Led Zeppelin, during a period where significant changes were occurring in music, the 1960s. Specifically the end of the 60s, where rock truly found it’s roots. It was the bluesy influence of the time that affected the sound, listen to the first, eponymous Rush album and you’ll hear a Canadian Led Zepp. Shrill vocals, crunchy distorted guitars mixed with a grooving bass line with loud, thumping drumming to complete it all.

The big change for this band came after their third album, Caress of Steel, which was considered a flop by their label. They were heavily encouraged to return to the previous sounds on Rush and the second album, Fly By Night. Caress of Steel was bold, unexpected and non-commercial. Thinking the next album would likely be their last, Rush said no to the label and were unwilling to compromise their musical integrity to fit the will of their management. The result was 2112, arguably their most iconic album and one of the greatest albums to enter musical history. This freedom of expression and lack of fear over commercial issues is what I believe drove them to express this album, there was no pressure on what to come up with. From here they stopped being a Led Zeppelin clone and became something much more potent.

The next few generations saw them skip around genres as they came and went, using synths as they became popular in the 80s and developing into a much rockier style during the 90s. They adapted with time, at their own pace. With a huge volume of songs there are some that fall aside, either a little over-ambitious or simply failing to meet the mark. However most of the time Rush surpassed mediocre, challenging themselves as much as the listener with every album.

Right so enough of the fanboy stuff, what’s the relevance of this? Well I feel that this type of mindset is largely gone from music these days, there doesn’t seem to be much imagination afoot anymore. I completely understand that very few people want to hear a 20 minute song about gods fighting or a 7 minute instrumental but there must be some middle ground between that and painfully mundane tracks that exist today. I hate to sound like a 40 year old relic of the 80s, complaining about modern ideals, there are a lot of modern bands that I enjoy and I try to keep up with chart music as much as possible simply to understand what’s out there. There seems to be no bravery though, no ambition to challenge an idea. One of my favourite bands at the moment is Mumford and Sons, I think they have done extremely well to sell folk songs about Shakespeare to a 21st century audience. I remember reading an interview with them after their first album which suggested they were going to move away from the country/folk sound and experiment with their genre. This had me truly excited, whatever they came up with it’d be interesting to hear them jump into another sound. However, as it turns out they released their second album and it was identical, still a great thing to listen to, but it may as well have been part 2 to the first. Why? Because the first album sold bucket loads and was extremely popular. If it ain’t broke don’t fix it right? WRONG! Improve on it, advance with it, take your sound further and more boldly. Maybe not to the extremes that niche bands like Rush or Pink Floyd did but if you stick with the same sound forever then you don’t progress, you stagnate. Look at Coldplay, the very definition of bland. Good musicians  innoffensive music and listenable singles. They are a record labels dream. Yes their recent album was a concept album, how many people knew that though? How many people cared? You could place any song from any album on the same CD and it’ll blend nicely. That isn’t to say they’re bad, on the contrary they are the best example of a modern band around.

Bold, ambitious, calculated

Bold, ambitious, calculated

Mumford and Sons are an example of what I consider to be great modern music. So what about the bad stuff? I won’t dwell too much on reality shows like X-Factor and The Voice but what I will say is that they do not represent the music industry, they represent the entertainment industry. What’s the difference? It’s not all that subtle, ask any self-respecting musician their opinion on the X-Factor and they’ll laugh. It’s a joke, a modern freak show designed to embarrass those who are without any talent and to inflate the egos of those with a marginal amount of it. None of the contestants go on to become musicians, they are performers in the guise of musicians. If you only lend your voice to a track you didn’t write you are nothing more than an actor reading lines. Sometimes they don’t even sing, they mime. Anyway this is getting in the way of my point. These programs stunt the industry, they populate with a swarm of egotistical teenagers who have no grounding or concept of reality. How can they hope to produce meaningful music? They’ll churn out the proven formula until it no longer works and be replaced. leading to mental breakdowns on the scale of Britney shaving her hair. Or worse.

Solo female artists seem to have lost a lot of self respect too, remember when they sang about empowerment and topics that were relevant? Shania Twain used to declare her love of being a strong woman, Janet Jackson displayed her individuality from her superstar brother. Nowadays Rihanna dresses like a prostitute and sings explicitly about getting ridden like a second hand bike. Is this approach a counter to the chauvinistic male dominance of the last few years? Artists like Chris Brown and other like minded individuals who rap/sing about money, girls and cars. “Respect me because I’m better than you”. Why lower yourself like that? Why not take the same musical style and aim it at something more meaningful? And don’t even get me started on Nicki Minaj.

We are constantly informed that the industry is failing, piracy is destroying it. I say that’s bullshit, people have been ripping of music for as long as it’s existed. It’s the lack of music that’s killing the industry. Where is the ambition, the passion or the drive?

Bands don’t need to be reinventing themselves every album but a little diversity would be interesting. Once a sound becomes popular you can tell the labels get overexcited and hit “copy/paste” as soon as possible. It’d be nice to see the pioneers of a sound move away as it becomes overused (I mean that in the least hipster way possible). Rather than stick with the comfortable formula that has proven to work, jump into the unknown. Who knows, you might just end up with an album like 2112, perhaps not thematically but certainly with regards to impact and longevity.

Thanks for reading!

DT

The Drum Kit Part 2: Sticks and Setups

Welcome Back

Part 2 of the critically and commercially acclaimed series on “The Drum Kit“, wherein I shall discuss sticks and setups. We’ve already seen the 5 piece, now let’s have a look at some more interesting ideas.

Setups

5 Piece (1 up, 2 down)

A nice, simple setup

A nice, simple setup

Wait what? So given the flexible range of toms available it is possible to configure drum kits in different ways while maintaining the same amount of drums. The 5 piece in part 1 is what we’d call a “two up, one down” setup. This is easy enough to grasp, two toms up on the kit, one tom down on the floor. The problem with this setup is that you end up having to position your ride in awkward positions, either far to the right or higher than is comfortable (It’s entirely subjective some people might like this but for me it doesn’t sit right). If you remove the second hi-tom and replace it with a second floor tom then you free up space for the ride to sit nice and low. This type of setup is one of my favourite smaller configurations as it allows a lot of freedom with movement and also looks badass.

4 Piece (1 up, 1 down)

Even smaller, still badass

Even smaller, still badass

A minimalist kit for smaller venues and practice space, the 4 piece takes away a tom completely, leaving only two. Now usually you’ll have 1 up, 1 down although some drummers are know to have two down. This is a slightly more abstract setup though so I won’t go into too much detail. The 4 piece usually works as either a practice kit or for functions, where hundreds of drums aren’t needed and time is a factor for setting up.

6 Piece (2 up, 2 down)

My own kit, versatile

My own kit, versatile

A larger kit for bigger performances. A 6 piece has four toms and allows for much more dynamic control within songs. It also means that you can tighten the first tom to a sharper crack for a more percussive sound without compromising the classic sounds of the rest of your toms. I currently use a six piece Tama Superstar Hyperdrive and find it immensely powerful as an instrument. Firstly you can pick and choose what you want on at any given time, meaning that a wider range of setups are immediately available to you from the start. Depending on the size of your gig or rehearsal, you can choose how big or how small you want to go.

7 Piece (3 up, 2 down)

Power Infinite and Small

Power Infinite and Small

A monster kit, three toms across the top and two on the ground. This type of kit is reserved for the showmen, the theatrical playing style where the kit is as much a part of the stage design as it is a tool. This is probably the largest kit thats worth owning, anything larger becomes somewhat unnecessary.

Anything Bigger

Realistically if you have anything bigger than a 7 piece, you are either an established, world class player or someone with more money than sense. Mostly. Obviously there will be exceptions but on a general rule 7 is the maximum before you fall into overkill territory. And keep in mind that I’m only mentioning the drums here, cymbals are a factor too and take up space. You can make a 5 piece look huge just through adding a bunch of cymbals, which are more justifiable as they create a larger dynamic impact. I’d say that a first kit should always be a five piece but if you’re looking to upgrade, buy a 6 piece. Then you can play around with loads of setups until you find what works best for your style.

Well then...

Well then…

Sticks

Pro Mark are one of the best

Pro Mark are one of the best

You know, those things you beat the life out of the kit with. There’s actually a lot of importance on what sticks you choose, more than you’d expect.

Wood

Different wood creates a different sound. Harder, more brittle woods like Oak with be louder while softer Maple sticks will lend to more gentle, jazz-like sounds. You also need to consider longevity, it’s a pain in the arse to be buying new sticks every week after spending £10 on one pair. Synthetic sticks like the ones made by Ahead are getting closer to the feel of wooden sticks and never lose their “new stick feel”. They’re also very tough to break so it might be worth the investment.

Tips

Never consider metal

Never consider metal

The only tips worth considering are wood and nylon. Vic Firth do metal tips on one range but that’s a stupid idea, imagine how quickly you’d destroy your cymbals, or drums! Wooden tipped sticks sound better with more dynamically critical genres, jazz, folk etc. Nylon stands out brighter and sharper which works nicely with faster cymbals and poppier tunes. To be honest a lot of it is preference, I choose wood but I know a lot of drummers who love nylon. Whatever your choice, never buy metal. Stupid idea…

Brands

Just a few of the brands around

Just a few of the brands around

There are hundreds of brands for drum sticks, some are good…some aren’t and with this gap comes one in price as well. Vic Firth and Pro Mark are arguably the best you can get, I’d give the edge to Pro Mark but that’s simply a personal preference. Most manufacturers of drum hardware turn their hand to stick production as a side thought and these are the sticks to avoid, Stagg, Zildjian etc. Despite Zildjian being among the best for cymbals, they suck at making sticks. However, Pro Mark and Vic Firth don’t come cheap and like all drum sticks, they will break. So how do you avoid taking out a mortgage to afford sticks? Well you can buy in bulk online, buy 50 pairs all at once. I’d say always have two or three pairs of your best sticks and then practice with un-branded factory rejects, you can pick up a 20 pairs of £10. That way you’ll keep your good, performance sticks for recording or gigging and still have sticks to practice with without any fear of wrecking your good ones.

Sizes

The four most common sizes

The four most common sizes

Sticks are measured in a similar way to pencils. You need to take into account the diameter and length. The average, good for all size is a 5A, medium sized and good for most playing styles. I prefer smaller sticks, opting for Pro Mark 7As but thats just me. In fact choosing sticks is all based on you, what you want to play and how comfortable you find the sticks. Most retailers allow you to try them before buying so I’d suggest playing with a bunch of different makes and sizes to find what suits your individual style.

Next week: Exotic Cymbals and Pedals

Thanks for reading!

DT