Media distribution being what it is, the world of composition has never been more wide open. Originally, only the more classically trained musicians, creating the most imaginative and beautiful symphonies could be referred to as composers. Now, anybody with a music generation program or a single dedicated musical instrument can create music, and thus earn themselves the title of 'composer'. The music that they create can be made available to absolutely anybody in the entirety of the world, meaning that anybody who writes music can easily make themselves known.
With this in mind however, we encounter the problem. With literal millions of people writing music around the world, power of the record labels has virtually evaporated. Promotion has been handed to small and independent promoters, either that or the composer themselves. At current, the most powerful tools by which you might make yourself known as a musician are websites such as MySpace and Ultimate-Guitar. However, the problem still remains. To become well known as a musician, talent is no longer necessary. You simply have to make the most noise about yourself and people will have no choice but to listen. You don't have to be good, you just have to be loud.
The promotion game has become an advertising competition. Names are dropped in everything from polite conversation to major forums and chat rooms. The constant and repetitive annoyance that are fake promoters began to assail the musical community, offering mass promotion for a cost that would never be rewarded. The wonders of hoax and fraud became as commonplace as hackers along the information super highway. In such a climate, those few musicians who actually do both compose and perform with recognisable talent are swept aside by promoters themselves.
Through all of this, some particular few never give up hope. As difficult as it is for somebody who has dedicated their life to music rather than showmanship, they still strive to make themselves known amongst the internet, as well as the world in general. The strength of pride and hope burns within them, even for those who have sadly unfortunate lives.
This time, we join one such composer and promoter. Having started out creating simple three chord love songs and advertising her work in the 'Promote Your Band' area, Jane Moon eventually moved on to the rest of Ultimate-Guitar, spreading links to her work and profile songs left, right and centre. After a brief banning, she learned that there are better ways of doing so.
It was when browsing through the random mp3s of other users that she realised that a guitar and a singing voice was not enough to satisfy these people. They wanted heavy bass, the blast of drums and distortion levels that could wound a rhinoceros.
Jane decided, at that point, to form a band.
There was a local bar that Jane frequented named Hook's. It was named so because of the owner, who looked remarkably similar to Captain Hook from the popular film bearing the same name. The chairs were comfortable, the music was quiet and relaxed and the atmosphere was soothing to the point that Jane could likely have easily enough curled up and fell asleep in the corner. Hook's led the pack when it came to musical establishments. If there was any place best to meet up concerning band matters, this was it.
Jane, despite having only recently turned eighteen, was quite a regular here. Hook had been serving her for years, even though the rest of his staff would not. Often she would sit, guitar in hand and paper on the table in front of her, planning out her next song or instrumental composition. Every Friday she would have a day off from the boring and repetitive retail work that was her life, so she would find the time to be here, bathed is the calm atmosphere and working casually towards her goal. Today was no exception.
Fortunately, something extra was going to happen today that might work towards her ambition of having a band to write and perform music with. Today, a Bassist named Sally was coming to see her. Sally was a music student from the local college and a supposed expert composer, with the ability to open many doors, especially in her college. Together, the two of them had the means that they needed to make something quite awesome happen.
Jane had been there for an hour when Sally finally arrived. Truthfully, they had never met before, communicating only via e-mail. As it turned out, Sally was a tall woman, with some clear muscles, though that didn't detract from the image of rigid strength that she portrayed. She wore dark make-up around her eyes, giving her a piercing gaze, and her hair was short, layered and blonde. The look that she bestowed upon Jane made Jane quiver ever so slightly; she looked that domineering. There was a definite power about her. She was wearing Jeans rather than a skirt, like Jane was wearing. In the hot weather outside this seemed somewhat reckless, but perhaps she simply was not a fan of displaying her legs.
"You're Moon, right?" Sally asked pointedly. Jane didn't find it likely that she would have stopped to ask anybody else. This woman knew exactly who she was looking for, down to the pink streaks and Muse t-shirt.
Jane nodded eagerly. Sally’s Bass was cased and strapped to her back. Jane’s guitar, a simple enough Dean model, was leant against the table beside her with several of the pockets of it open. She always carried papers, picks and wires, as well as a change of shirt in there. For everything else, she had her handbag.
“Can I get you a drink while we talk?” Jane asked. Apart from talking about favourite bands and discussing that they’d been let down by other parties, their e-mail conversations had been extremely limited. This was the first chance that the two of them would have to sit down and discuss things properly, so Jane was desperate to make a good impression so that everything might run smoothly from here.
“Sure,” answered Sally, dragging the Bass off of her shoulder and leaning it against the table on the opposite side from Jane and her instrument. “I’m not stupid; I’m not going to turn down a free drink. Get me a vodka and orange. Am I okay to check out your stuff while you’re over there?”
Jane knew a moment of hesitation. Sally was looking over at her politely, but her hand had managed to sneak over onto Jane’s half-full pad of paper. Typically, Jane was very protective of her work, having received much criticism for it in the past. However, this was a woman that she was inviting into her life purely so that they might help each other achieve the common goal of leading and being a part of a successful band after numerous failed attempts on both sides. It would hardly have been polite to say no.
“I suppose so,” she finally answered after a couple of seconds spent hesitating. “Just don’t lose my page, alright? I haven’t quite finished up yet.” With a nod and an exchanged smile, Jane left Sally there with both of her favourite things and headed off for drinks.
Wandering towards the bar, Jane fought the urge to both look and turn back. Her lyrics and her compositions were not generally shared. It felt like she was opening up her soul and baring her innards for all to see, even though it was only one person who would undoubtedly become used to them anyway. Still, Jane felt very defensive about her chord inversions, lead lines and planned variations. She had spent a long time studying theory, playing acoustic open mic nights and working on every little nuance of her progressions that it was extremely difficult to let go. Keeping her eyes forwards, she ordered her drinks as quickly as she could, determined to return as quickly as possible.
When she did make her way back, a glass in either hand and her handbag hanging from her left arm, Sally was perusing the back of the pad, looking over Jane’s carefully drawn out scale and chord charts. Supposedly the lyrics and crudely drawn staves held no interest for her. Slightly insulted, Jane took up her previous seat and pushed the glass of orange liquid across to Sally.
"What do you make of it then?" Jane requested, slowly and carefully. She could feel her hand reaching out slowly towards the paper, but she caught herself before she snatched it back.
"Well the song that you were working on when I came in is good, but I think it could do with a bit of a touch up on a couple of the verses," muttered Sally without looking up. Anger ran through her like lightning, flashing for less than a second before it evaporated into the air. It was, of course, followed only by guilt. Her sense of pride in her work was not something that she wanted to shove down anybody else's throat. Besides, people on the Songwriting And Lyrics forum from Ultimate-Guitar had seemed to consider the lyrics to be worthwhile, but it still shook her confidence a little.
Sally took a single sip from her drink before continuing. Again, she did not look up as she spoke. "The music you've got written down is damned good though. I think I can work with this. I'll tell you what I think we should do. We'll take this song as something that we can work on and try and make a full, ready to learn song out of it. It'll be good for when we're looking for members to have a few tracks ready to show off." Finally, Sally lifted her head to regard Jane with the piercing gaze once again. "What do you think?"
Jane didn't take too long to think about it. She hadn't exactly been working hard on this song in particular and she wasn't altogether hopeful that it would go somewhere. "I'm not really that attached to it, so we can have a mess around," she admitted quite easily. "You want to get started right now?"
"Well I can't think of a better way to see how we work together, can you?" responded Sally with a smirk. "It's music, I say let's go for it."
Roughly a month had passed since that first day at Hook’s. The two women had worked for several hours smoothing out kinks, replacing lyrics and even having a brief jam with only the two instruments that were available to them. With the music still playing out of the speakers above their heads, they played against distractions and they could barely even hear each other, but the love for music forced them to persevere. Eventually, they had a quite well structured and organised song put together, though Jane had had to compromise far more often than she had liked.
In the time between, Jane had produced and recorded an acoustic version of the song that she had then brought up to the Riffs And Recordings forum in the hope of receiving some feedback. Unfortunately, not being particularly known there, she had accrued virtually none. Instead, she focussed on developing and organising what the two of them had planned out so that Jane might get a clue as to what it would sound like. Guitar Pro proved as instrumental as ever.
Above Hook's were a collection of small practice rooms dedicated to local bands with nowhere else to go. These, using rented amps and drums, many of the local bands rehearsed their sets and did all that they could to become famous. Sally had arranged to have another guitarist join the two of them for a session in one of those rooms.
Early as usual, Jane was sitting behind her usual table, Dean in hand, strumming a few of her favourite chords. Once again, her papers were in front of her, showing all of the previous work that she had been keeping herself focussed on, practicing again and again.
When Sally arrived she was already late, but Jane quite carefully thought nothing of it. Behind her, slouching and looking grumpy, was another woman. She looked considerably younger, with a penchant for baggy clothes and foundation. She was fairly short, had her hands in her pockets, and looked very unfocussed. However, it was hard to really tell because her hair seemed to want to devour her eyes. She had a guitar cased and strapped to her back just as Sally had her Bass.
"Jane, this is Sarah," Sally announced with a broad smile. "I think she'd be a good asset to help you write the guitar parts. You know, I'll helped with the lyrics and she'll help with the guitar."
Jane felt her eyes narrow. The idea that she now needed help both for her lyrics and for her guitar parts felt like a carefully placed cyanide capsule right into her stomach. Sally's faith was sterling. Jane offered Sarah a smile in greeting, but received little more than an angry look in response. Whether this was intentional or Sarah's face simply always landed that way was, at current, unknown, so Jane let it slide.
"Shall we go upstairs and get practice started then?" Jane offered hopefully to the two of them. She closed up her pad and straightened her stray papers eagerly.
"There's no rush, right?" asked Sally, smoothly taking up the seat opposite Jane yet again. Sarah was not so quick, dawdling around to take up the seat next to her friend. "There were a few more ideas we'd like to go across. Sarah's been playing guitar as long as you have now and she's been rehearsing some of the sections that you laid down."
Positively flattered by this, Jane allowed her smile to show clearly. She looked over towards Sarah, trying to show her approval, but, from nowhere, Sarah had produced a PSP which she was playing with idly. It was rather unnerving, but she persevered. “I’m glad to hear you’re enjoying my songs,” she lied to the top of Sarah’s head.
It was Sally who responded, but this wasn’t much of a surprise. “Actually, there are a few ways that we think we could simplify things and still keep things sounding great.”
Another little rush of anger washed over Jane. Having spent hours previously working on this very piece, trying desperately to get to the point where it was a presentable song, while still keeping with the progressive feel that Jane had originally been trying to accomplish. Now, with another witness who was seemingly refusing to even look Jane in the eye, Sally’s opinions had changed almost completely.
“Which bits were you thinking about exactly?” inquired Jane, feeling every bit as defensive as she knew she sounded. She had compromised and laid down far too often in their previous meeting. The fact that these two were trying to make further changes without her input was rather infuriating.
“Well there are a couple,” answered Sally. “Like, there’s a bit in the intro where you go from a D minor chord to a D major chord. Sarah’s studied theory you know, music doesn’t work like that. We think it would be better if maybe you just played D minor for it. You know, it’s metal. You don’t really use major chords in metal, do you?”
Jane growled a little under her breath. “There’s no rule against using accidentals to alter the mood of the piece a little, besides, there’s a suspended second chord in between those. In practice, I don’t think it works badly at all,” she explained slowly. Obviously Sarah had not studied too much theory, but Jane wasn’t the sort of person to shove that down somebody else’s throat. “Besides, borrowing a major third from a relative key isn’t that unheard of really. It’s actually very common. There’s nothing wrong with it. What were you thinking of to replace it? Three bars of D minor?”
“Since you started with G minor we thought that it might be worth re-using that,” Sally offered. “You could do a bar of each for the intro. G, then D, then G, you know? Or maybe we could do something fancy with powerchords? What do you think? If you think it sounds a bit boring, which you might be right, Sarah can easily do some lead work over the top to jazz it up a bit.”
“There’s no lead bit over the intro,” Jane said clearly. It was her song and she most definitely knew how it went after all. “If we needed a lead piece I’d rather do it myself anyway. I wrote the song, I know what would work best with it. Once we’re writing together I’m sure I’d be more open to the change, but with my work I’d like to stick with my way. Anyway, the G chord is why the D major works so well. The accidental that we’re borrowing is close enough to the root to give the resolution a little tug.”
“Yeah, but it’s not in the scale, is it?” Sally returned, still smiling. Thus far, Jane felt quite confident that not a single word that she had said had actually been listened to. “That’s what theory’s all about isn’t it? You have to follow the rules and the less notes the better, right? That’s why the Pentatonic scale is so popular.”
Jane didn’t know whether to laugh or cry, such was her level of agitation. Obviously, neither of these girls had ever really bothered with theory. Giving up on trying to explain, she decided to ask a few questions. She directed the question at Sarah, determined to have her speak at the very least. “So, if you ended up with me playing a G powerchord, then a D power chord and so on, and you got to play a solo over the top, what sort of thing would you play?”
It took a moment for Sarah to even realise that she was being spoken to, and even longer through hesitation, but eventually she looked up from her PSP to respond. “I’d play something metal, wouldn’t I?” she mumbled. “I’ll use the Phrygian scale or something. I don’t know. I can do solos easy enough, don’t worry about me.”
“Not a fan of being asked questions, are you?” Jane inquired. “Especially about theory, right? What have you been studying recently?”
“Come on Jane, stop pestering the poor girl,” interrupted Sally, laughing to herself for some reason or another. “She’s just here because she wants to play some good music and I told her that you write good music, so why don’t we get some drinks and get started, alright? We can go upstairs and make some music like we want to. I’ll get the drinks, you go ahead and set up.”
Jane left it there, packing up her papers quickly, throwing her guitar over her shoulder and heading off without another word. As she did, a few funny thoughts crept into her head. The memory of the previous day, when a UG user had wandered into an area she frequented asking about theory. The user had made a fool of themselves with the ridiculous notions that they considered to be facts, before insulting anybody who had tried to help and wandering off. She certainly wasn’t loud, but Sarah’s theoretical perceptions made her quite the doppelganger for this Hugh Gee person.
Of course, Jane had conceded to their demands once again, but she had kept hold of her original version, while at the same time making sure that nobody other than herself had any material to learn from. Their supposed 'band' continued in the same way for a while. Alone in bringing fresh material to the table, Jane would offer up her own work to be dissected, simplified, and, ultimately, ruined by these two supposed musicians. It caused her mental anguish to hear the final results that they would make her rehearse, pushing her to play the powerchords because Sarah found rhythmic play boring.
The urge to form a band had in fact evaporated, leaving Jane to sit alone at home and wonder where any of this might take her. She wanted to be a musician. She wanted to do whatever she could to achieve that goal. Success wasn't necessary; all she needed was the means by which she might make a living from her chosen profession. For that, she would need a band if she was going to fit into the modern market. There were huge issues to face when it came to trying to perform independently. Popularity did not come easily to the solitary musician, as her usual open mic night shows had taught her.
Alone at home, Jane had taken to sitting on her laptop, fingers gliding back and forth across the fretboard of her acoustic guitar. The soothing, melodic play kept her calm. There was an e-mail open from Sally. Another song had been rejected for simply being 'too complex'. Anything beyond bars upon bars of powerchord progressions seemed completely beyond these people, but they were the only ones that Jane had managed to gain an interest from. The next e-mail was also from Sally, explaining why neither her nor Sarah had turned up for their last practice session.
Sarah left her guitar at her boyfriend’s place on Wednesday and she couldn’t go and get it. Besides, we’ve been having way too much fun this week to lock ourselves in a room for two hours.
Thus far, there had been no point that they had both been on time. The sessions were largely pointless. They were without a drummer, Sally was actually still a complete beginner, despite going to music school and Sarah was a whole new world of annoying. She was play HIM riffs while people were talking, or HIM riffs while Jane was trying to demonstrate a piece, or HIM riffs when she was supposed to be playing a rhythm part for a song. It was always the same riff and it was infuriating beyond words.
Jane had decided that it was no loss. The three of them would sort everything out at their next practice session. They would be able to talk about things then and, hopefully, the two girls would realise that they were supposed to put at least some minor commitment into a band if they wanted to stay in it.
Unfortunately, the next practice session didn’t come. Two days later, Jane received a very carefully scripted e-mail that politely said that she was kicked out of the band and that Sally was going to be taking the songs that they had practiced. As angry as being ousted made her, the idea that either Sally or Sarah might actually remember anything that Jane had painstakingly spent hours teaching them was completely laughable. Still, square one did not feel altogether comfortable.
Feeling a little flattened, Jane went back on to Ultimate-Guitar to check how her mp3s were doing. To her surprise, her last one had received quite a few comments. She scrolled past the one about semen and her voice, past the next one about sex and her and to the newest one, sent by a user named ‘HinJo.’
I like it, the lyrics especially. I could swear I’d heard it before at a place called Hook’s in my town though. Whereabouts do you live? Your profile says you need band members and I’d be interested in being bassist if you can bear with me. I’m not very good. - Henry
Once again, Hook’s had stolen another gorgeous summer day from Jane. Outside, the light of the sun was bright enough to blind and the heat was fierce enough to burn. She had even dared to wear something sleeveless in the hopes that she might gain something of a tan, but her mind was not on browning herself. Today she had a meeting with another Bassist. This time, a man named Henry Jones.
He arrived on time, which was already a huge improvement compared to Jane’s previous Bassist. He strolled through the door, looking momentarily confident, then that vanished as he looked around nervously. He focussed on Jane three times before her returned gaze convinced him to go over to her, and even then he didn’t look certain.
“Jane?” Henry muttered as he approached the table. He seemed to be in the habit of slouching and scrunching up so that he looked as small as he possibly could. It was actually rather cute. It made her smile, which he took as confirmation.
“You’re Henry Jones then, right?” Jane asked him.
He nodded eagerly, obviously very happy to have found the right person on the first try. “Do you want a drink or something?” Henry offered, pointing towards the bar behind him. “I know I don’t know what you drink or anything, but I was thinking that maybe you could tell me and then I could buy it for you.”
Henry’s hands seemed to be moving of their own volition to illustrate his point. He was simply filled with nervous energy, almost to the point where he barely seemed capable of staying on his feet. His hands made explanations, his feet moved from one part of the floor to another part of the floor that happened to be right next to it. Jane was willing to accept simply because it would give him something to do.
“Are you getting anything?” she asked him. She would feel guilty taking his money for drinks if he wasn’t buying something with her.
“Well, I’ll probably get something,” started Henry. Turning his eyes towards the barmaid of Hook’s and looking at her in quiet bewilderment. “I’m limited though,” he continued, “I’m not really allowed anything with caffeine in it because it makes me hyper and I’m not really in the mood for anything alcoholic. What do you think?”
“I think we’re going to hit a real stalemate soon if one of us doesn’t make a decision,” Jane announced. Her smile had reached uncontrollable proportions now. “I mean, if we do end up in a band and we’re this pre-occupied and wondering what the other person thinks then I can’t imagine we’d get very far.”
“No, I don’t think we would,” replied Henry. “Should we maybe just forget the drinks for now and spend some time thinking about it? We can come back to it, right?”
“Yeah, we can do that,” Jane conceded happily. “Now come on, there’s plenty of chairs for you to take up, you don’t have to stand there looking all twitchy.”
The look of gratitude which Henry bestowed upon her at that moment was quite something. Jane suddenly felt bad for not having offered him a seat much earlier. He moved quickly down into the chair opposite her. Jane noticed that he hadn’t brought along his instrument. Perhaps he simply wanted to talk rather than actually get involved in the more musical side just yet.
“So, how do we start?” Henry asked. He was tapping his fingers idly on the top of the table.
“I don’t know,” replied Jane, quite honestly. This was certainly nothing like the previous meet up. For one thing, she still couldn’t remove the smile from her face.
Learning guitar had thus far proven a pain in the arse and, after three days, Hugh had surrendered and put the damned thing down. Four hundred dollars of his father’s money was sitting under his bed gathering dust and he was back to The Pit, where he felt safe and at home.
There was a closed thread there that caught his eye. It was by a user named ‘HinJo’, somebody who he had spoken to previously. Hugh could well recall the sob story that was this user’s life. It had made him laugh. Hoping for more of the same, he wandered into the thread, but, as it turned out, HinJo had been warned for advertising his new band. Curious, Hugh took a look at the user’s profile and browsed through the three music files that were there. They were actually quite impressive.
Time had been so short, to the point where Hugh was having trouble understanding what was going on. If HinJo was advertising the band, then he must have been the guitarist, as, if there was bass, Hugh certainly couldn’t hear it. There had been a previous thread about restarting when HinJo received his new job. The progress that he had made was staggering.
He looked down at the guitar creeping out from beneath his bed. It looked lonely. For only the second time, he felt the desire to pick it up and play something. It didn’t have to be good, it just had to be his. Eager to get something to start with, he made a thread in the Musician Talk area asking where he might learn theory.
Five minutes later, he was browsing The Crusade articles.