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Wednesday, November 10, 2010

AES 2010 Report Part 4 - The Music

In the Part 4 (and last) of my AES 2010 report, we'll look at some music. Generally AES is a gear fest for audio geeks, and while most of us are musicians, that's not the immediate focus of the show. NAMM generally has a lot more music of different types because there are instruments to demonstrate. Truth be told, I didn't witness a lot of music or musical instruments last weekend in San Francisco, but what I did made an impression.

The Electrolyre was pretty cool for a number of reasons. It has 17 strings, an electric guitar-like finish, and a two octave range from C to G. But what made this lyre really unique was that it had three chromatic frets per string and a whammy bar (which you can barely see here because the play has her hand on it), which controls built-in pitch-shift electronics. St. Peter's angels can now join the 21st century.

Musically though, I was most impressed by a band that played at the Women's Audio Mission party on Saturday night called "The She's."  They're a group of 14 and 15 year olds from the Bay area that play way beyond their years. It's like they've studied all the pointers from my band improvement book "How To Make Your Band Sound Great" and really put them into action (I'm not saying that's the case - maybe they have parents in the music business or just inherently have "it"). So what makes them sound so good?

1) You can't have a great band without a great drummer and She's drummer Sinclair Riley plays better than a lot of guys many times her age. All you want from a drummer in any kind of band is a steady solid beat, and she has it.

2) They play within their skills. They only play what they can play, and don't try anything more, which is a common mistake that most young bands make.

3) Good songs. Most of the songs had pretty good form, with intros, hooks, a differentiation between verse and chorus, and a bridge for development. They don't have any hits by my ears yet (although one song was close), but they write way beyond their years musically (not sure about the lyrics because it's always so difficult to pick them out in a live setting).

4) They had an excellent sense of harmony. The She's frequently featured some tight three part harmony that was surprisingly good. The ear for harmony eludes some singers all of their lives (even some really great ones), but these girls have it.

The She's are a blueprint for how a young band should develop. My only hope is that don't break up, like bands tend to do. We'll hear some great things from them in the future if they keep at it.

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