A to Z of Making It, Influenced, Music, My Stories, Unsung Heroes

Jamming and Nuances

The last band I was in didn’t jam. The drummer in the band wanted to hear a finished song with riffs and vocals before he even contemplated putting drums too it.

So the way it worked was that I would put a song together and then on a working day, get together with the singer and the bassist to flesh out and finalise the melody. We would record that acoustic/vocal demo on one of those Zoom Handheld devices and then circulate the mp3 out to the drummer.

In most cases, that finished song would be given to him with another sheet that would say something like;

0.00 to 0.45 – Reference the drum part in the verses of “The Bleeding” from Five Finger Death Punch
0.46 to 1.20 – Reference the drum part from the 2nd Verse in “Forsaken” from Dream Theater
1.21 to 1.40 – Is the 7/8 time section. Listen to “Natural Science” from Rush.
1.41 to 2.05 – Is the next 7/8 time section. Listen to “The Masterplan” from Evergrey.

On one hand I didn’t mind doing it this way, as I gave me a lot of control and on the other hand it bothered me. Because from jamming a lot of good musical ideas and progressions and performances could come out of it. It is those little musical nuances that make or break a song.

You know when that riff you had in 4/4 just got better when it syncopated with the bass and instead of playing 8th notes constantly it developed some groove.

Or that little hammer on and slide choice of notes coming out of the chorus and into the verse, just made that section flow better. Or that solo section building to a crescendo along with the beat.

It is all of those little nuances that come up from jamming a song. Bob Daisley summed it up when he said that Randy Rhoads, Lee Kerslake and himself got the best performances out of each other.

But then I thought about the band I was in before that. All we did was jam and record. It seemed like we had infinite rolls of tape. In one year we wrote 4 songs. The singer/guitarist at the time said quality over quantity. I argued back that quantity breeds quality by default. You try out all of the ideas and the quality ones will always stand up. What I had instead was a dictator saying either YES or NO to an idea.

There are no happy mediums for all involved.

Democracy in songwriting doesn’t work. Democracy in songwriting is like the Democracy in Australia (or the US or the UK). We believe that we have a say, however our Governments are ruled by the bureaucrats and the rich.

Growing up with the MTV generation suddenly our heroes were everywhere and the focus on writing THE SONG to film an expensive video clip for, meant that the bands or artists would have two to three-year gaps between albums.

And we have continued that trend well into 2014. Everyone still tries to write THE SONG or THE SONGS in some cases and then they surround THE SONG or THE SONGS with filler and call it an album. If you don’t believe me, name me all the tracks from your top 10 albums of the last two years. I guarantee you that you will fail.

And with what we know now, we don’t want that album unless it is great from start to finish or unless it is part of a vanity concept story.

Machine Head almost nailed the complete album with “The Blackening”. Go to Spotify and you will see that five from the top 10 most played tracks from their catalogue come from that album. If you add the two cover songs from Metallica and Iron Maiden, then that makes it seven.

I also dig the fact that for “Unto The Locust” they had only seven songs on the album with four stand outs in “Be Still and Know”, “Unto The Locust”, “Darkness Within” and “Who We Are”.

And from reading the blogs that Robb Flynn writes it is safe to say that Machine Head are a jam band with the final say sitting with him.

That is why after Machine Head pressed the reset button on their career after “Supercharger” they have gone from strength to strength. They’ve jammed themselves into lifers and still dealt with the complexities that are bands.

And there is no doubt about it, bands are complex and simple rules just don’t do anything to govern certain situations.

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One thought on “Jamming and Nuances

  1. Love this. So true that songwriting can’t be a democracy. It’s better not left as a iron-fisted dictatorship though, as well. I’m a big believer in the magic of loosely structured jamming!

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