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Self Indulgent Muso Musings

Discussion in 'Technique [BG]' started by wishface, Aug 19, 2012.

  1. wishface


    Jan 27, 2012
    This seems the most apposite place for this, so here goes...

    I've been listening, as I do from time to time, to Dream Theater. I'm sure they need no introduction and have many fans here, but essentially they are what is now regarded as progressive metal. They are a band that has a lot of influences that I share: the old prog bands. Yet they just lack any spark of creativity I can respect.

    I don't want to rag on musicians especially when they have a successful career and I don't. It's not jealousy either. Their music simply doesn't speak to me at all and the production is hideous. They are all technically very astute and they like all the right music, so how is it they don't play anything I like.

    Watching their bass player here's a guy that plays a 6 string (the sort of bass that seems popular among technical players these days). He plays many intricate passages often following the guitar parts.

    I wonder if it's even possible for any bass player/musician to play anything. Most, if not all, the players I like are defined more by their limitations than anything. Almost all of them are limited: Geddy has a weird technique and a penchance for the kind of octave stuff you hear on Malignant Narcisissim. But he's a great musician with a band that's managed to make technical music sound good. Dream Theater just aren't. Tony Levin, whos parts for Paradigm Shift by Liquid Tension Experiment (a band including 3 members of DT) i'm trying to learn, is a player that doesn't go at a million miles an hour and is one of the most innovative players ever. Chris Squire plays with a plectrum has a ton of interesting sounds and plays quite high, but never overplays (IMO!). Steve Harris is actually sloppy in places with a clanking tone most engineers would despise, but at the same time he's possibly the most interesting and innovative bass player in metal. I could go on. These are all examples of people whose music I enjoy more.

    There's a number of progressive metal bands these days, but for me the best of the lot come from the nordic metal scene where considerations of commerciality are completely out of the question. For me the best of this lot are Pagan's Mind.

    I would much rather listen to their music than DT's and in fact, like Rush, they have learned to write music more concisely in their later work. Their last two albums feature shorter 'simpler' songs that are a ton more engaging than their older stuff (which isn't bad either). They also have that weird rubbery sounding double bass drum stuff. Their bass player alsio plays a 6 (or at least 5) string and plays some interesting parts, but never overplays. There are no bass solos in their songs, it's not that kind of prog.

    So in the end it's difficult finding what you want to do. Listening solely to bass players is a mistake I think. For all the amazing solo bass players/stuff out there I'm increasingly unsure that's a road worth walking. The bass is better, most of the time (there are no hard and fast rules), as an ensemble instrument. I can't see myself ever wanting to play a 6 string (i'm not even sure my hands can take it). I'd rather take up guitar! I'm not knocking other people, each to their own, but as with anything it's about making something sound interesting and these days, as with slap bass, most people seem to have a six string and do a bit of slap and tap on the side. My problem is that I don't have a band so I'm a bass player without musicians, which is not ideal.
  2. Tupac


    May 5, 2011
    Uh... this would be much more fit in the Misc board. Anyway, what is the point of this soapbox rant? You're going off in a lot of directions here. First it's about John Myung, than limitations in technique, then about playing guitar instead of a 6 string bass? If you want to rant about Dream Theater stay on the subject of Dream Theater.
  3. Ultimately it's a matter of your personal tastes in music. Lots of people here can't stand DT or Rush, yet are into other bands. I love Rush, and I also like The Smiths, The Who, and other classic rock bands, but I really can't stand Aerosmith, Lynyrd Skynyrd, or the Grateful Dead. It's all about what you're into, so I won't criticize anyone else's choices in music.
  4. Hamlet7768

    Hamlet7768 Here to chew gum and rock. Still have gum.

    Jun 5, 2011
    Hm...I'm not sure what to get from your musing. On the one hand, I'm tempted to say you haven't listened to the "right" Dream Theater. On the other hand, they definitely haven't gotten more "concise" over the years in their writing, so it'd probably be a fruitless exercise.

    To be entirely fair to Dream Theater, they have had a spotty history with this, and especially with production (which you noted as hating). I HATE that you can't hear the bass very clearly in many of the recordings unless you are actively listening for it. Black Clouds and Silver Linings was especially bad about this: I can't even get through much of the album, and can never hear Myung on it. That's one of DT's big weaknesses, in my opinion.

    Though to be perfectly blunt, I'm still not sure exactly what you're getting at. You seem a bit scattered in thought.
  5. Clef_de_fa

    Clef_de_fa Guest

    Dec 25, 2011
    Like other said, it is more you personnal taste in music. Personnaly I can't stand Rush but I have all DT's album.

    I'm, too, a bass player without a band and all I play is 6 strings bass. I like to play cover like DT, John Patitucci and some Primus, I also like to play classical music a lot so the 6 strings is very handy. So in all it is just taste.
  6. wishface


    Jan 27, 2012
    The bass players I like are all people that are limited: I don't think any of them could play everything. I'm sure if you gave Geddy a chart of Teen Town he'd struggle. But by the same token I listen to Rush a hell of a lot more than Weather Report. I've listened to Jaco, I have his debut record and a number of Weather Report records, yet all I could ever think, listening to him, is "what would he sound like if he replaced Geezer Butler in Sabbath?"

    Obviously there are others that think Jaco's music trumps anything done by DT or Rush. It's just amusing to think about what constitutes good music and what people think of as such. I was watching DT documentary (i heard about them from a friend who used to get the Spirit of Rush fanzine where they plugged this new band Dream Theater back in the day) on youtube and their fans, of course, spoke of these people as the greatest musicians that ever lived. It's curious how, for all their chops, for all their production, I don't think they compare to the likes of Yes, Genesis, Rush, etc. The reason for this isn't that they can't play or that their songs sound bad, it's because they lack that same spark of originality, and in many cases that spark is fanned by the limitations one has as a musician. If I listen to someone like Jah Wobble I don't hear crazy solos and intense musicianship in the same way, I hear an electic mix of music styles with a great heavy dub line.
  7. Hamlet7768

    Hamlet7768 Here to chew gum and rock. Still have gum.

    Jun 5, 2011
    Okay, I guess I'll have to bite here. What Dream Theater have you listened to?
  8. wishface


    Jan 27, 2012
    Dream and Day UNite, Images and Words, back when they were released. I've tried to listen to them on and off ever since, easy to do these days with Spotify, youtube and Grooveshark. But I just can't get into them at all.

    I'm not here to slag them off btw. That's not really my point. They are a case in point as to music I should like, but just don't. They have all the chops but just sound very pedestrian.
  9. Hamlet7768

    Hamlet7768 Here to chew gum and rock. Still have gum.

    Jun 5, 2011
    Perhaps you should check out Metropolis Pt. 2? Or the new album, A Dramatic Turn of Events. Systematic Chaos is good too.

    When Dream and Day Unite isn't really a fair yardstick. I'm surprised about Images and Words, though; that album's a classic in my mind. :meh: To each their own, I suppose.
  10. wishface


    Jan 27, 2012
    Images and Words isn't helped by horrible plastic production and, i'm sorry to be blunt, the lyrics are embarassing. it's full of lines like "i close my eyes and now at last I see". Nope, sorry. I've also never been a fan of Labrie's voice. I'm sure he's a nice guy, but when he sings high his voice just goes weird. I get that they wanted some kind of operatic singer, but his voice is so breathy. Not for me. Ive listened to those albums above; Events is by far the better of the three and is an improvement over the older stuff by leaps and bounds, but again it just doesn't speak to me. This is why I prefer the Scandanavian stuff; they aren't self conscious about it over there. They just go for it. The more over teh top, operatic, pompous, and crazy the better!
  11. Tupac


    May 5, 2011
    Labrie singlehandedly ruined the band for me. He has the kind of voice meant to be singing poppy love songs to 40 year old woman on the radio.
  12. Hamlet7768

    Hamlet7768 Here to chew gum and rock. Still have gum.

    Jun 5, 2011
    Funny, that's what they thought about their last singer. As mean-spirited as it sounds, his voice improved immensely when he wrecked it with food poisoning, and he grew older to become more of a dramatic tenor.
  13. t77mackie


    Jun 13, 2012
    Wormtown, MA
    For me Awake is DT's 'White Album'. Check it out.

    Kevin Moore - the original keys guy - was DT's secret weapon. All the songs he wrote are also mostly my favorite DT songs - Light Fuse and Get Away / Lie / Space-Dye Vest etc.

    I have this discussion a lot with my guitar player; super musos may be great but they can't seem to give their CD's away. Case and point is Steve Vai. Passion and Warfare is brilliant (and I as a musician love it) but he's probably never going to be a platinum seller. Kurt Cobain on the other hand is the opposite. I think the heart of the matter is that there's a big difference between technical supremacy and solid song writing ability.

    DT have their hardcore fans and they seem to be polarizing. Some love JMX's tone, for instance, and others (like me) think it is mediocre at best. JMX has been getting more and more lost in the mix as time goes by too.

    Here's a video where everything does seem to be clicking:

  14. Hamlet7768

    Hamlet7768 Here to chew gum and rock. Still have gum.

    Jun 5, 2011
    Normally I'd agree, but he's much more audible on A Dramatic Turn of Events. Certainly more audible than on Black Clouds and Silver Linings.
  15. t77mackie


    Jun 13, 2012
    Wormtown, MA
    I'm not super familiar with all the releases after Awake. I was too busy partying during the 10 years after its release to keep up with them.

    However I've been trying to catch up lately and it seems just like everything else with them I end up liking 3/4 of the songs on each album. But it also seems that they've lost a certain 'zing' as they've gotten older. Maybe it's me that's getting older?

    Any good video suggestions to listen to?


    Also a lot of people seem to hate JLaB. I never had a problem with him - he fits the bill. People cast him out to be an insufferable, pompous jackass. But all the interviews I've seen of him he seems like a dedicated, serious and genuinely nice guy.

    The When Dream and Day Reunite video they did shows how Charlie Dominici has really come into his own. If you're not familiar search out Dominici's recent solo stuff. It's fantastic. It's not groundbreaking by any stretch but it works if you're into that type of thing:

  16. sammyp


    Aug 20, 2010
    NB, Canada
    That's a big part of it for me too.... He repulses me at times

    I do have my DT favs..... Awake and falling into infinity.... I'm sure hardcore fans prolly find falling into infinity to be maybe the pop album of the lot but I like the song writing.

    I've tried to listen to stuff sonde then but just can't dig it.....
  17. Martiluk


    Apr 13, 2011
    I was really into DT a couple years back when I was deadset on being an amazing bass technician, which is why I was into them, but something in their music does speak to me. Just 2 days ago I went back and listened to the Awake album, my favorite by far, and I really loved it. The melody in the song Octavarium that Rudess plays on the continuum in the opening and is the chorus of the Medicate section is one of my all time favorites ever written. To each his own it seems.
  18. Hamlet7768

    Hamlet7768 Here to chew gum and rock. Still have gum.

    Jun 5, 2011
    I can't necessarily recommend "videos" like live videos, but some YouTube videos of my favorite songs on the post-Infinity Albums:

    The Dance of Eternity, an instrumental from late in Metropolis Pt. 2, with a crazy awesome bass solo midway through.

    On the Backs of Angels, the single from the newest album.

    Bridges in the Sky, from the same. Tied for my favorite off the album with:

    Breaking All Illusions, the "Learning to Live" of this album. Wonderful, wonderful track. Also Myung's lyrical return.

    Jumping back a bit, we have Panic Attack, from Octavarium and

    The Dark Eternal Night from Systematic Chaos. This is a bit heavier, but still great for the midsection.
  19. t77mackie


    Jun 13, 2012
    Wormtown, MA
    Thanx, Ham. Bookmarked.

    A rose by any other name...
  20. Hamlet7768

    Hamlet7768 Here to chew gum and rock. Still have gum.

    Jun 5, 2011
    Wrong play :D

    What a piece of work is a man...how like a god!

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