Grooving from 7 to 8
Updated: Apr 29, 2022
Inspiration comes from unexpected places, and sometimes those places look like a foggy parking lot under a gibbous moon, one faulty light blinking and buzzing as it casts a greenish hue over a horde of zombie kittens lurching toward the dubious promise of a discarded can of tuna.
But how are we to learn, if not by testing our so-called comfort zone?
"Grooving from 7 to 8" grew from a challenge among musician friends of mine: Pick a genre from three categories, and combine them. The categories were loose -- Classic (blues, jazz, funk ... ); Loud (metal, industrial, noise ...) ; Electronic (trance, techno, house ...) -- leaving much room for interpretation.
Although I favor electronic styles, I do like to mix other flavors into my compositions, so this concept was right up my alley. This time, though, I wanted to test the progress I've made these past two years. Relatively speaking, I'm an infant when it comes to music, but an enthusiastic one with loud toys, so that makes everything OK.
I opted for a 7/8 time signature, which made counting beats feel either like I was missing a leg or grew an extra one. I'm still not sure. The rhythm is not a huge departure from the safe shores of 4/4, but I'm not used to swimming in those waters. As it stands now, sections alternate between those two signatures, as much for variety as for a personal math challenge. For extra giggles, I tried a section in 12/8, but the switch made the composition feel too disjointed. Rather than force the pieces together, I put the concept aside to explore on a future track.
The creative process is full of such moments. I equate it to a chemical reaction constantly on the brink of snuffing itself out. Ideas bubble in the beaker of the mind, combining elements in unexpected ways and novel smells. When that beaker cracks or overflows, however, you have to evaluate whether the exploding goo is worth replacing your neighbors' fine china collection. Sometimes, it is, especially if those plates have weird frog designs on them.
Other times, though, patience is key. Turn the fire down, and evaluate. Does this idea improve the concept, or am I showing off? Am I still trying to express, or am slipping down the path of trying to impress? Those two questions are my anchors in all my projects.
Besides, mixing two time signatures is quite enough for a first try, thank you very much.
For the melody that kicks off "Grooving from 7 to 8," I'm playing a Bb Dorian pentatonic scale on a synth named Elysium by Wide Blue Sound. A bass guitar (Trillian) and trumpet hits (Native Instruments Brass Ensemble) provide what I hope is a funky / jazzy feel. The track then introduces an organ, a piano and my attempt at a lead guitar, because my inner Joe Satriani was begging to be let out. I call him Joe Babblelooney, because clearly, he still has much to learn. This section uses extended chords from the Bb minor scale.
The composition needs some noodling, but I like the flavor so far. Eventually, the track will return to 7/8 with an aggressive synth line that will call back to the first part to tie everything together. That's the plan for now, but will likely evolve, as it always does, with minimal damage to the neighbors' kitchenware.
Jump to the Music page to listen to "Grooving from 7 to 8," or go straight to my YouTube channel.