New Blues and Metal Guitar Courses on GuitarZoom

It’s been a while since I wrote anything that refers to GuitarZoom, the organization where I mainly work as a music transcriber, social media moderator, music theory and guitar answer guy, and now as a composer of background music. Anyway, GuitarZoom has a lot in store for this year, and this includes a couple of Blues and Metal courses.

For the serious intermediate metalhead guitarist, here’s a good course on Metal by Eric VanLandingham:

http://guitarzoom.com/ultimatemetalguitarconcepts/

(FYI, the music that you hear just before the lesson kicks in (the Djenty BGM you hear during the animation sequences) was written, performed, and recorded by yours truly.)

If you wish to be able to utilize pentatonic scales effectively, especially in a blues setting, you have to check out this upcoming course by Casey Smith’s called “Ultimate Power Pentatonics for Guitar”

(Again, intro animation music by yours truly.)

All of these courses come with my sheet music transcriptions in standard notation and TAB.

For more information regarding these courses as well as upcoming promos, go visit http://guitarzoom.com. For any questions regarding course content, music theory, guitar playing, or anything music in general, you can always email me at mark(at)guitarzoom.com. (FYI, I don’t handle customer service stuff and technical issues, but I’d be more than happy to talk about music with all of you.)

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Defining the Kind of Music Known as Prog

The term “progressive rock” or “prog” as a genre of music is very difficult to define indeed. From 1995 to 2000, I sang and played piano and keyboards in a band known as “Jacob’s Ladder” to UCCP Ellinwood-Malate Church insiders and “Blue Fusion” to very few people, some of which are now prominent figures in today’s  Filipino progressive rock scene (they probably have forgotten all about us by now). It was difficult for me to explain what prog is as most of what I would tell people would deem insufficient. Fast forward to today’s day and age, being way more knowledgeable now than when I was playing back then, I can try and attempt to define what prog really is.

Back in those days when I played with Jacob’s Ladder/Blue Fusion, I recall some people asking me, “Pare, ano ba ang tugtugan nyo?” (rough English translation: “Dude, what sort of music does your band play?”). I would typically answer three words: Gospel, Alternative and Progressive Rock. The followup question to that would be, “Pare, ano ba yung progressive rock?” (“Progressive rock? What’s that, dude?). I would then cough up some cliche answer like, “It’s the most unique kind of rock music there is,” “It’s like classical meets jazz meets rock”, blah, blah, blah. I would also give some examples like Dream Theater, Rush, Yes, Kansas, Genesis, etc., etc., all to the confusion of the person who I was talking to.

Sometimes there are people who would say something like, “Oh, and so it’s like Arkarna, Incubus…,” and that kind of crap. I would respectfully reply, “No. Arkarna is not prog. Think of something like Dream Theater and all the crapload of bands I talked to you about.” I then receive a blank stare afterwards until me and my bandmates  start playing whatever horrible prog composition we had just concocted.

Anyway, before you get sleepy from all my anecdotes, let us examine what people typically say about what prog is and then see if that is really a unique quality in progressive rock:

  1. It’s rock that is heavily influenced by classical music rather than blues – It’s true that progressive rock is heavily influenced by classical music with some examples being Emerson, Lake and Palmer, Genesis and Yes. However, it would be difficult for me to find a prog fan who would classify Yngwie Malmsteen, ABBA and The Polyphonic Spree as progressive rock acts. Yngwie Malmsteen is obviously classically influenced with his Nicolo Paganini posturing and Baroque-inspired compositions. ABBA? Just listen to “Money, Money, Money” and you’ll hear the classical influence. The Polyphonic Spree have that symphonic flair. The point is that you can argue the classical influence but if you define progressive rock in that manner, you might as well classify all sorts of music as prog. After all, plenty of stuff that you hear from radio-friendly pop to obscure prog basically follow common practice period tonality.
  2. It’s rock that features heavy use of odd time signatures. Okay. Progressive rock does indeed use a lot of odd time signatures like my favorites 5/4 and 7/8 as well as 11/8, 7/4, 15/16, etc. Would you consider a band like Soundgarden to be prog just because “Spoonman” is in 7/4? Many prog rock fans won’t.
  3. Prog features virtuoso musicianship . Again, we see virtuosos even in radio-friendly genres. For example, certain J-Pop songs feature virtuosic musical passages within a radio-friendly format. A die-hard prog fan, despite his appreciation, wouldn’t call that prog at all.
  4. Prog incorporates influences from musical disciplines from all over the world. Isn’t that what people call “World” music nowadays?
  5. Prog music is typically lengthy and would not fit the radio format. So does classical music, jazz, and jam band music.
  6. Prog has lengthy instrumental passages. And so does “real” jazz and a lot of classical stuff.
  7. Prog is the kind of music that the masses don’t hear every day. Hmm, in today’s time, most of what we call “art” or “classical” music fits this description along with avant-garde jazz, “ethnic” music, etc.

I can go on and on about how people would typically define what prog is and any inquisitive music lover will offer up a counter-argument that would state that such a quality may also apply to other kinds of music as well. Have you heard of something called “Pronk” (prog combined with its former antithesis, namely punk)?

As you can see, can you really say that progressive rock is a definite genre? In some respects, yes, but the qualities that are said to make it distinct are not exclusive traits. No wonder why Robert Fripp and bands like The Mars Volta and Porcupine Tree have reservations about calling their music progressive rock.

In my personal opinion, if there would be a real definition of what progressive rock is, I would go back to why the term was coined in the first place. I would take into account the adjective “progressive”. I would say that progressive rock is a kind of music that features change and growth. It’s the kind of music that takes you on a conceptual journey. Its artists are not afraid to push boundaries and try out new things and approaches whether it be attempts in using unique/niche musical instruments, extended instrumental techniques and controlled physiological noises. It’s the kind of music that “progresses” that’s why it’s called progressive rock in the first place. It simply cannot be a genre that can be confined within a musicological discourse or a record executive’s marketing scheme.

As a parting word, any serious fan of progressive rock should think about this. If we define progressive rock according to parameters that have been historically established as being prog, aren’t we confining prog into a sort of a box and therefore causing it to stop being progressive at all? Maybe this is the kind of thinking Rush had when they decided to go for shorter songs after finishing “Hemispheres.

Paying Homage to Battery

If there’s one thing I regret as a music fan, it’s failing to buy an album by the Filipino metal band Battery back in 2000. The trio’s musicianship was superb, like a hybrid of Black Sabbath and Rush. Their lyrics were a reflection of guitarist/vocalist Mike Turner’s faith in Jesus Christ. They were evidence that explicitly Christian bands can be very amazing. The reason why I regret this now is that their album was out of print.

Battery was one of the few Filipino bands that served as an inspiration for the reasons stated above. If you have any doubt of how superb the trio’s musicianship is, just listen to “Toxic Hate” which features a face melting bass solo as an intro, and “Plastic Jesus” that has a middle section in odd meters. Want an inspiring rocker? Listen to “The Words in Red”. It seems to be a reference to some Bible translations e.g. New King James Version that have quotes by the Lord Jesus Christ printed in red. The line in the song that states, “The only peace I can find are the words in red”. Rings very true when you realize how sinful you and I are and the only way out of that situation are the “words in red”. Although such meaning of the song is my own analysis, if you listen to the other songs like “Come to Me” and “Coming Home”, you could arrive at the same conclusion as well.

Sad to say that after struggling in the Philippine music scene, Battery was no more. Battery became one of those bands that was killed off by the Filipino music industry’s promotion of mediocrity. It is mind-boggling that big names in the music industry would not support such talented musicians and instead sign artists who can’t even sing or write their own songs such as _____ (fill in the blank of an artist you think fits the description).

I’ve searched online for a chance to be able to listen to some songs by Battery and fortunately I found this link:

http://www.cristianomusica.com/mp3~battery-king-strange.html

It turns out that you can listen to Battery’s entire album through that link. It became another opportunity for me to listen to those amazing songs after 12 years.

Another thing is that Mike Turner has posted some of Battery’s songs on his MySpace page. You can check them out here:

http://www.myspace.com/michaelturner/music/songs?filter=featured

If there’s any person out there who could sell me that CD by Battery, then by all means please contact me! I’d love to have a copy.

To Mike Turner and the rest of Battery, thank you for your music. It was simply inspiring. God bless you dear sirs and I hope that one day I can get you see you guys play in the Philippines again.