Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Sound words from musicians

Developing a Creative Process, part 6
This is part of a series of posts on the nature of art, why I'm not as good at it as I'd like to be, and how I'm trying to be better. For the rest, see the tag Developing a Creative Process.
This post is a follow up to Vocabulary Building. In it, I explored the idea of learning music jargon as a tool to listen to music and eventually create music that sounds the way I want it to. 

So I sat down with three really good musicians I know really well and asked them to describe the ideal tone for their instrument, how they want it to sound. I wanted to share some of the vocab lists that came from this experiment because there are a lot of cool words that come up. 

I started by asking my husband Nathan Eliot, who plays in Talking Tree (@TalkingTreeBand), Bella Ruse, and Cardboard Dreams, as well as his own music and a zillion other projects. He plays acoustic guitar, electric guitar, electric bass, and mandola. (violin : viola :: mandolin : mandola)
positive words
fatmeatywarm but clearchunkybutterypretty and gritty
chocolateydarkrounddeep, sustained

negative words
muddyboomytwangythinabrasive, buzzy
Then I spoke with Joseph of Bella Ruse (@BellaRuse). He plays guitar, piano, and drums. He also is a recording engineer. 
positive words
meaty, clean, grit, saturates the tubes, beef
even, warm, filling up sonic space, high and low, full-bodied, crunchy
dry, character, abrasive, nasty
heavy, real, resonance

negative words
tinny, harsh, shimmer, pristine, sustained
And finally, I asked Kay of Bella Ruse. She studied opera in college. Something of constant fascination to me is that Kay sings in a very stylized voice, so these words are about her "Bella Ruse voice" and a lot of them are comparative.
positive words
old-recordy, on the high end, girly, grittychild-like, imperfections, control, careful, airier
wobblier, wide, softened, dental, narrower, bright, breathy, wavy, tightened, bleating, character

negative words
So there's a bunch of words. I'd still really like to hear someone talk about drum sounds -- not drum gear, drum sounds

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