#1
A couple of days ago, I was listening to Steve Vai's song ''Touching Tongues'' and what I heard that day ENTHRALLED me... So, I figured it would be nice for me to know something about the thory behind these jolly/mysterious melodies... My question is - what scales, intervals etc. should one use in order to create such a tune?
#3
Quote by Regression
I think this belongs in Musician Talk.
Actually yeah, but oh well it's a nice question.

Hey Muppet Master
Most guys would say Vai uses alot of the lydian mode (this suggestion is actually more of a hinderance more than a help if you don't know how to use modes), but imo it's more that he likes the brightness of the major scale coupled with the #4 (a tritone).

More importantly it's how he phrases that melody. Describing someones phrasing is sort of hard, but he's style when he's playing like that is slower and very defined and articulated, as if he really knows what he's doing with every note (wtf am I saying, ofcourse he knows what he's doing!). It's very hard to imitate his phrasing, but listen and try.

It's also the tone used by the backing tracks. Steve Vai probably wrote some of it with pro-tools and spent alot of time looking for the right vst's and soundfonts and loops (Steve uses drum loops, who would have thought?).

The best advice I could possibly give is to learn theory (the more the better) and study his songs for yourself, which I would do for you if I could be fucked (thus my vague answers)

Well I hope that helps.

EDIT: Really stupid suggestion, but have you ever tried mescaline? Old american indian shamans used it to get that all round spiritual feeling in their heads. Remember, you have to feel the emotion you're trying to write

EDIT2: Actually, maybe you should try meditation and psychonautics instead. Mescaline would be great, but it's relatively uncommon.
Last edited by demonofthenight at Dec 13, 2008,
#4
Thank's man... the theory thing is really helpful, I'm experimenting now... However, I'll NEVER understand his phrasing (who will?).

Could you elaborate more on his phrasing/articulation techniques (squealies and whatnot) and how to do that stuff? I have one of those zero-resistance tremolo thingies, so I figure I have the tools...

Mescaline, eh? How in Sally's name am I going to find that in Serbia?! Besides, I think that my mother would flip if she found out that some guy from a shady guitar forum who calls himself demonofthenight told me to use narcotics - and just like that - BOOM!!! My 4-year long battle to convince her to upgrade this crappy dial-up connection would be lost...
#5
lol
Q: "how do i learn to phrase/right melodies like vai"
A: "Why, mescaline of course"


to be actually helpful, listen to his recordings, try to learn them by ear instead of by tab if possible (maybe use a tab to get the first pitch)--it will set them in your ears and mind much more then simply learning them. Also, enchanting melodies are most always catchy, and easy to sing. If you cant sing something the odds are not many people are going to want to hear it. Also, if you know some theory, after you figure out somethnig you find enchanting write it down, figure out the harmony and the bass line and see how everything interacts. perhaps transpose it and then learn it accross a few different (if not all 12) keys to really get the sensabilities in your head. If you think its rediculous to learn such an involved song accross all 12 keys, perhaps only try the really memorable riffs, the kind that are as you put it enchanting.
Its not really what scale you pick, its how you use it.
Though, I personally am usually facinated by the blues scale, the natural minor scale, the harmonic minor scale (when used appropriatly) the altered scale, the whole-tone scale and the phrygian and phrygian dominant modes (again when used apropriatly), as well as the major scale.
#6
Quote by Muppetmaster
Thank's man... the theory thing is really helpful, I'm experimenting now... However, I'll NEVER understand his phrasing (who will?).

Could you elaborate more on his phrasing/articulation techniques (squealies and whatnot) and how to do that stuff? I have one of those zero-resistance tremolo thingies, so I figure I have the tools...
haha, not that kind of phrasing.

Phrasing is like how you structure each sentence in an essay.

I'm about 2/3rds the way through a phrasing article and I just need to finish tidbits and find some examples. If I can find musical examples in the next 10 minutes, check my blogs tomorow or the day after.

I just need to find an example of a singing melody that repeats itself in some way, except starting on a different note. And another singing melody that repeats itself but changes a few notes so it sounds different. I know there are thousands, but my brain is dead and I can't think of any popular ones.

Quote by Muppetmaster
Mescaline, eh? How in Sue's name am I going to find that in Serbia?! Besides, I think that my mother would flip if she found out that some guy from a shady guitar forum who calls himself demonofthenight told me to use narcotics - and just like that - BOOM!!! My 4-year long battle to convince her to upgrade this crappy dial-up connection would be lost...
lol

Mescaline is generally considered a soft drug. It's not like heroin or meth or something stupid like that.

You find it in cactus plants in deserts. Most cacti have mescaline in them as a defense mechanism against lesser animals (who would stop eating the plants to sit down and trip out). You need to find the right cacti and drain its juices. San Pedro and peyote cacti and even prickly pears (very common in italy, I think) have mescaline. Next time you take a trip down to greece or southern italy or turkey or spain, just look for some cacti.

But yeah, drugs are a stupid suggestion now that I think about it. You might be writing something you think is awesome at the time (and might have the potential to be awesome), but you would need to fix it up too much.
#7
I've seen quite some people phrase like steve vai. Just noone composing a song like him so detailed as he has.

But ye he's a Lydian fan. And although you can't say everything is striclty Lydian. Ur a musician when you fade these lines, so that it's not exclusively 1 thing. That's what's in my opinion great musicianship.

His aural focus is definately Lydian, and because he really understand aural effect of notes, + using Vai as a context, he can get Lydian sound over almost any progression or track. Which is good cause it's his signature sound, but also sometimes bit disappointing (for me that is), cause I want to see him go out of his comfort zone more.

The "Re-incarnation of Plato" Award 2009
(most intelligent)
The "Good Samaritan" Award 2009 (most helpful)

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Who's Andy Timmons??
#8
Quote by tehREALcaptain
lol
Q: "how do i learn to phrase/right melodies like vai"
A: "Why, mescaline of course"


to be actually helpful, listen to his recordings, try to learn them by ear instead of by tab if possible (maybe use a tab to get the first pitch)--it will set them in your ears and mind much more then simply learning them. Also, enchanting melodies are most always catchy, and easy to sing. If you cant sing something the odds are not many people are going to want to hear it. Also, if you know some theory, after you figure out somethnig you find enchanting write it down, figure out the harmony and the bass line and see how everything interacts. perhaps transpose it and then learn it accross a few different (if not all 12) keys to really get the sensabilities in your head. If you think its rediculous to learn such an involved song accross all 12 keys, perhaps only try the really memorable riffs, the kind that are as you put it enchanting.
Its not really what scale you pick, its how you use it.
Though, I personally am usually facinated by the blues scale, the natural minor scale, the harmonic minor scale (when used appropriatly) the altered scale, the whole-tone scale and the phrygian and phrygian dominant modes (again when used apropriatly), as well as the major scale.
Obviously not a jazz fan or a metal fan or even a blues fan.
#9
Quote by demonofthenight
Obviously not a jazz fan or a metal fan or even a blues fan.


Eh?

Btw, thanks xxdarrenxx.
Last edited by Muppetmaster at Dec 14, 2008,
#10
The lydian mode has a very dreamy, mystical sound, probably what you're looking for. Vai is also a fan of descending 5ths.
#11
Obviously not a jazz fan or a metal fan or even a blues fan.

actually, im a big jazz fan (planning to study it in college), and i like a fair deal of blues and some metal. The best improvisationalists (arguably aside from coltrane) sung through their instruments; miles davis, monk, charlie parker, bill evans, django rheinhardt, john scofield (the last 2 arguably not on par with the first few). You could, at many times through one of their compositions and solos find repeated thematic material and a very vocal quality.
#12
Quote by tehREALcaptain
actually, im a big jazz fan (planning to study it in college), and i like a fair deal of blues and some metal. The best improvisationalists (arguably aside from coltrane) sung through their instruments; miles davis, monk, charlie parker, bill evans, django rheinhardt, john scofield (the last 2 arguably not on par with the first few). You could, at many times through one of their compositions and solos find repeated thematic material and a very vocal quality.
They phrased as if they sung through their instruments, but if you transcribed their solos and tried to apply lyrics and sing them, you would miss most notes. There are too many chromatic runs, too many out of key notes, too many augmented intervals, too many quick arpeggios. It just won't work. Maybe Ella Fitzgerald and Billie Holiday might be able to sing them (they've sung worse), but for an untrained person it's almost impossible.

Simple leads should be singable, improvised solos with a hint of wankery should not.
#13
Quote by demonofthenight
There are too many chromatic runs, too many out of key notes, too many augmented intervals, too many quick arpeggios.


And that is the beauty of it. Keys, scales, tonalities, intervals, it's all a bunch of theoretical nonsense that shows you what usually works best, often leaving you in a cage wihtout any inspiration. Look at Paul Gilbert's ''Guitars From Mars 2'' where he applies all the 12 notes of music in one ''pentatonic'' solo. Music is an art. There are no limits. Jazz players know this, and that's why the best jazz is instrumental, and it's what makes instrumentals so musical. That's why Steve Vai is better than Coldplay. His guitar strings sing, not his vocal chords. And even without words he conveys his message.
#14
Quote by Muppetmaster
And that is the beauty of it. Keys, scales, tonalities, intervals, it's all a bunch of theoretical nonsense that shows you what usually works best, often leaving you in a cage wihtout any inspiration. Look at Paul Gilbert's ''Guitars From Mars 2'' where he applies all the 12 notes of music in one ''pentatonic'' solo. Music is an art. There are no limits. Jazz players know this, and that's why the best jazz is instrumental, and it's what makes instrumentals so musical. That's why Steve Vai is better than Coldplay. His guitar strings sing, not his vocal chords. And even without words he conveys his message.


So not only are you dismissing an entire musical system (tonal music), but you're dismissing entire genres and indeed an entire instrument (the voice) as well. I'm tempted to call you an idiot, but instead I'll dismiss your post as ridiculous.
Someones knowledge of guitar companies spelling determines what amps you can own. Really smart people can own things like Framus because they sound like they might be spelled with a "y" but they aren't.
#15
Quote by Muppetmaster
And that is the beauty of it. Keys, scales, tonalities, intervals, it's all a bunch of theoretical nonsense that shows you what usually works best, often leaving you in a cage wihtout any inspiration. Look at Paul Gilbert's ''Guitars From Mars 2'' where he applies all the 12 notes of music in one ''pentatonic'' solo. Music is an art. There are no limits. Jazz players know this, and that's why the best jazz is instrumental, and it's what makes instrumentals so musical. That's why Steve Vai is better than Coldplay. His guitar strings sing, not his vocal chords. And even without words he conveys his message.
Haha, oh god that's great.

Vocals will always be a superior instrument. Why? Because everyone sings, just maybe not very well. Ever noticed why kiddy guitarists like shredders and kiddy jazzers like bebopers? Because they're good at their instrument. Same with singers (aka, everyone).

Accept it and learn to sing. You can still create some wicked songs with vocals.

This "cage" you're talking about. You're talking about my means of describing something that's already built? No, my words don't describe a cage, they describe a marble tile on the ground of a magnificent temple (holy shit, I'm gonna use that in a song). Trust me, in improvisation there's almost no limits. Even in writing vocal music, with all the pedantic rules to keep it singable, there's still so much you can explore.

Sadly, art is limited. Art is limited by expectations, conventions from your own time period, imagination and general aesthetics. Trying to push these limitations for the sake of pushing them creates bad music/art.

I agree with you about words though. There's way too much emphasis on lyrics these days. Not many (non-musicians) people can see past the superficial lyrics some guys write (and the ones that do get flamed). Honestly, if you want to write a bad pop song, just present an image/subculture which is popular at the time. A couple years back the "I'm a moronic wigger" image worked. I think "I'm a hardcore whining bitch" is still working these days. Perhaps "I'm a dumb skank/chauvinistic souless womanizer" will come back into fashion, it would probably make it really easy to get laid by teeny-boppers (not that I like underaged girls, ahem ).
#16
Quote by Archeo Avis
So not only are you dismissing an entire musical system (tonal music), but you're dismissing entire genres and indeed an entire instrument (the voice) as well. I'm tempted to call you an idiot, but instead I'll dismiss your post as ridiculous.


I didn't DISMISS any of those things. Learn to read. I'll dismiss you as an ass.
#17
Quote by demonofthenight
Haha, oh god that's great.

Vocals will always be a superior instrument. Why? Because everyone sings, just maybe not very well. Ever noticed why kiddy guitarists like shredders and kiddy jazzers like bebopers? Because they're good at their instrument. Same with singers (aka, everyone).

Accept it and learn to sing. You can still create some wicked songs with vocals.

This "cage" you're talking about. You're talking about my means of describing something that's already built? No, my words don't describe a cage, they describe a marble tile on the ground of a magnificent temple (holy shit, I'm gonna use that in a song). Trust me, in improvisation there's almost no limits. Even in writing vocal music, with all the pedantic rules to keep it singable, there's still so much you can explore.

Sadly, art is limited. Art is limited by expectations, conventions from your own time period, imagination and general aesthetics. Trying to push these limitations for the sake of pushing them creates bad music/art.

I agree with you about words though. There's way too much emphasis on lyrics these days. Not many (non-musicians) people can see past the superficial lyrics some guys write (and the ones that do get flamed). Honestly, if you want to write a bad pop song, just present an image/subculture which is popular at the time. A couple years back the "I'm a moronic wigger" image worked. I think "I'm a hardcore whining bitch" is still working these days. Perhaps "I'm a dumb skank/chauvinistic souless womanizer" will come back into fashion, it would probably make it really easy to get laid by teeny-boppers (not that I like underaged girls, ahem ).


Holy crap, I think I'm, in love...