words among

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

Once I heard someone mention that although not everybody likes good music, almost everyone likes some kind of music. That made me think of why people like music, and how they learn the things they need in order to know whether they like it.

My conclusion is that people like recognizing patterns and recognizing when patterns have been broken. I think it's pretty straightforward to see the way these two things impact musical composition. A pattern is formed by repetition, but also by the sound of the instruments and the placement of the beats, and a hundred other things. Breaking the pattern allows you to deliver a surprise or a standout note, but also creates a new pattern that can be referenced later.

Focusing on patterns gives a perspective on why effect pedals are so fun. It's not just that the sound is cool; there's also a repeating pattern in terms of what the pedal does to the sound wave that can be recognized by the brain. When I play, I like to make those pretty subtle, so they can be noticed, but it's hard enough to hear that you actually feel kind of proud of yourself when you do. This also makes it more practical to layer more effects simultaneously.

My pedal collection grew this year, but even when I had six I was lacking some of the most typical effects that you usually see with guitar. Purchasing a couple of those (overdrive and wah-wah) has really enhanced my sound because they can be used with all of my other stuff and, in most cases, make it much prettier. When spending around a hundred bucks on a pedal, there is definitely a temptation to get fancy ones that do major surgery to the sound wave, but I think the next ones I go for will be more fundamentals, like chorus, distortion, tremolo, volume, and even phaser (which I have long considered a bit lame). My local guitar shop has vintage pedals and offers many options for most of these, and I admit I will probably opt for the funkier varieties of each rather than the plainest that can be found. I guess I'll give it some thought.