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Guitar Re-invented
February 3, 2006 9:37 PM   Subscribe

The Six String Sonics are about reinventing the guitar. The conventional guitar has many limitations. For example, it binds the player to chords that one can hold with one hand, or melodies that can easily be reached with one hand. As a result, guitar compositions have come to sound very similar to each other. We created Six String Sonics to rid the guitar of these limitations, and make room for more possibilities in composition. A video of their debut perfomance. [embedded MOV file]
posted by KevinSkomsvold (43 comments total)

 
Interesting. They seek to liberate the guitar from its traditional structue but used completely conventional drum sounds.

The first song reminded me of early Devo and the second on sounded like it might been from Discipline era Crimson (but with a crappy drummer).
posted by doctor_negative at 9:56 PM on February 3, 2006


It seems to me that the limitations of the guitar can be overcome by playing it lap style, as is practised by Vishwa Mohan Bhatt, with his highly modified guitar, called the Mohan Veena. Surely the limitations of having only five fingers is much easier to bear than to erect a pyramid for every performance.
posted by dhruva at 9:57 PM on February 3, 2006 [1 favorite]


yeah, i don't see this catching on.


my ears did not enjoy, but my ass cheeks are a buzz with excitement.
posted by nola at 9:59 PM on February 3, 2006


i guess it was hard finding six people to play six-singled strings guitar. otherwise they would have found a seventh to play a drumkit.

i found it surprisingly conventional - i expected it to sound much more 'experimental' than it actually did.
posted by gnutron at 10:01 PM on February 3, 2006


I had to have patience with the composition then it sort of grew on me. I remember having a dream once with nearly the same concept except without the tower. Not that I'd ever have the fortitude to pull this off but it was fun to imagine.
posted by KevinSkomsvold at 10:04 PM on February 3, 2006


wow - that sucked.
posted by xammerboy at 10:08 PM on February 3, 2006


For example, it binds the player to chords that one can hold with one hand, or melodies that can easily be reached with one hand. As a result, guitar compositions have come to sound very similar to each other.

That's crap.
posted by danb at 10:24 PM on February 3, 2006


It sounded like Marquee Moon for a second and it just made me realize that this isn't all that spectacular. Good concept, mediocre implementation.
posted by allen.spaulding at 10:28 PM on February 3, 2006


Musically, it doesn't have potential much different from any group of six single-line instruments: a wind sextet, say. And harmoniclally, it offers fewer possibilities than even a guitar trio. Still, had the six one-string guitarists here been Pat Metheny, Bil Frisell, Pat Martino, John McLaughlin, Larry Coryell, and Al DiMeola, it might have been slightly more interesting.
posted by QuietDesperation at 10:44 PM on February 3, 2006


They're right - the guitar is so complicated! Their approach is much simpler! I mean, except for needing six times as many musicians, and two "very powerful" computers, and still ending up sounding bad.

As for being somehow limited by the guitar, that certainly isn't the guitar's fault. See Bela Flecktones, for example. Just one member of that band can play stuff that six of these six-team bands together couldn't accomplish.
posted by odinsdream at 11:03 PM on February 3, 2006


I've seen guitars with dozens of strings.

Some people call them "harps."
posted by frogan at 11:09 PM on February 3, 2006


Just one member of that band can play stuff that six of these six-team bands together couldn't accomplish.

Victor Wooten, for example. (video)
posted by QuietDesperation at 11:09 PM on February 3, 2006


I like where they're coming from. A surprising amount of fun can be had removing strings from guitars, or trying alternative tunings. I had fun for a week playing with three strings on an old guitar, tuned root-five-root. I guess that just makes me the Presidents, though. I also had fun tuning pairs of strings in unison - E E G G B B. As the basis for a band, though? Pure immick. But shit, what in music isn't?
posted by Jimbob at 11:56 PM on February 3, 2006


There seems to be a huge flaw in this logic. A tune is usually best played by one performer in an ensemble. It's a bit chaotic when passed from player to player note by note, the textures become confusing. So to carry a tune, a performer only has one string. Why not just use 6 normal guitars to explore new compositional directions?
posted by BobsterLobster at 5:04 AM on February 4, 2006


Okay, having watched the video, I think I prefer Steve Reich's take on composing for electric guitar. They sound similar, except Reich's is actually good.
posted by BobsterLobster at 5:13 AM on February 4, 2006


It sounded like a really slow tapping exercise.
posted by substrate at 5:22 AM on February 4, 2006


Christ.
posted by armoured-ant at 7:03 AM on February 4, 2006


The video is beyond parody... after browsing through the whole site, I'm still having a hard time accepting that this is not a joke.
posted by teleskiving at 7:30 AM on February 4, 2006


they're just trading one set of limitations for another ... and with two or more 6 string guitarists in a band one can work around the limitations they complain about without embracing the limitations they've imposed on themselves ... if they don't like the riffs and chords available to them, they can always tune the guitars differently ... or carefully compose and arrange the music between two guitars to come up with something different

not to mention that there are these musical instruments called keyboards that are quite useful ... but perhaps the limitations of those could be overcome by having 88 people play single note pianos ...

the funny thing is that i didn't hear anything that couldn't be done by two good guitarists and bass ... and their sense of interplay sounds simple next to some african bands

besides ... a rock and roll band with 6 guitarists and 2 bass players would never be able to afford the drugs or trashed motel rooms ...
posted by pyramid termite at 7:31 AM on February 4, 2006


I am with BobsterLobster and pyramid termite on this, I think. Which is something like -- why not just play more guitars, try different tunings, develop more skills, try tape loops? Why get rid of the strings, limit yourse;t and climb up a silly tower? The only advantage to that tower is that someone could release a bear at the bottom of it and see how that changes the music.
See that's my theory: music has has been limited by the lack of bears threatening musicians during perfromance. Ideally the bear would have been released during their manifesto writing stage.
posted by kingfisher, his musclebound cat at 8:03 AM on February 4, 2006


There is nothing that six one-string guitarists can do that six six-guitarists cannot do, so the entire premise is weak. Every six-string guitar is also a one-string guitar with spares. If there is a weakness in modern guitar playing, it's that many guitarists are self taught, or not widely educated in musical idioms so they have a very narrow base of ideas to draw from, which results in a lot of reiterated material.
posted by DrRobert at 8:41 AM on February 4, 2006


I am all for guitar experimentation, but I don't see the advantage of six one-string guitarists over six six-string guitarists?

I'd much rather listen to Dave Matthews & Tim Reynolds, Eric Clapton & Duane Allman, or even the Gipsy Kings.
posted by Lord Kinbote at 9:01 AM on February 4, 2006


Well, this wins my So stupid it must be performance art award for the day.
posted by es_de_bah at 9:15 AM on February 4, 2006


on preview, what teleskiving said...
posted by es_de_bah at 9:27 AM on February 4, 2006


You guys are all really harsh.
I know that their selljob is a little pretentious, but if you take it apart from that, it's a fun little concept and some decent (imo) music, nothing groundbreaking, but entertaining. Would have liked a better drummer, though.

There is better stuff, of course, like the League of Crafty Guitarists
posted by papakwanz at 9:53 AM on February 4, 2006


Yeah, this is apparently what happens when a nonguitarist tries to reinvent the guitar to eliminate the imaginary "limitations" that only exist in the mind of the nonguitarist.

They've evidently never heard of alternate tunings or two-handed playing, and somebody really needs to buy them a couple of Michael Hedges CDs.
posted by JekPorkins at 10:01 AM on February 4, 2006


The Eighty-Eight Key Konfabulation is about reinventing the piano. The conventional piano has many limitations. For example, it binds the player to chords that one can hold with two hands, or melodies that can easily be reached with two hands. As a result, piano compositions have come to sound very similar to each other. We created the Eighty-Eight Key Konfabulation to rid the piano of these limitations, and make room for more possibilities in composition. Why limit yourself to one person on 88 keys, when you can have 88 people each on one key!

Or, you could just go see a gamelan.
posted by googly at 10:03 AM on February 4, 2006


that was so dope, I died. I'm in the afterlife right now. it's not what I expected.
posted by mcsweetie at 10:17 AM on February 4, 2006


Count me in with the really harsh crowd. That sucked hard, and not in the good way. And the excess of similar guitar composition likely has more to do with the fact that most guitar "artists" suck rather than the limitations of the guitar. Like googly aptly contrasts, these guys are creating a problem then coming up with a ridiculous solution.
posted by effwerd at 10:21 AM on February 4, 2006


You know, flutes are so conventional, what, with their "hole at each end" and their "little holes on top." I propose more tubes on each end, and a rubber tube hookup to your nose. Because, you know, flute music all sounds the same.

This is balls. If you want a different sound, learn a different instrument.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 10:25 AM on February 4, 2006


Jimbob writes: As the basis for a band, though? Pure immick. But shit, what in music isn't?

Sonic Youth would disagree with you.
posted by bardic at 10:46 AM on February 4, 2006


Why not have a band were everything is distributed similar to the 6-person guitar? 7 singers, one for each note. 4 bass players. However many drummers you run on your configuration. You would have anywhere from 20 to 25 people. Oh wait, they call that an orchestra.
posted by Suparnova at 11:05 AM on February 4, 2006


comparing these guys to sonic youth is a crime...
posted by es_de_bah at 11:35 AM on February 4, 2006


If the music hadn't sounded gawdawful I'd have been willing to cut more slack for their pretention. However, the music was so terrible I couldn't listen for more than a minute or so. Their concept sucks, their execution sucks, and the music they created sucked most.
posted by sotonohito at 11:55 AM on February 4, 2006


To paraphrase Optimus Chyme: Six String Sonics is the Voltron of Suck.
posted by JekPorkins at 12:04 PM on February 4, 2006


Why limit yourself to one person on 88 keys, when you can have 88 people each on one key!

Like the Crazy 88.
posted by odinsdream at 2:46 PM on February 4, 2006


sounds like a chicken that got caught in a tractors nuts.
posted by isopraxis at 3:01 PM on February 4, 2006


I start my avant-garde guitar on fire before i play it
posted by craven_morhead at 5:43 PM on February 4, 2006


There is nothing that six one-string guitarists can do that six six-guitarists cannot do, so the entire premise is weak. Every six-string guitar is also a one-string guitar with spares.

Exactly. This is such a bad idea it makes my brain bleed.
posted by ludwig_van at 7:56 AM on February 5, 2006


I can't believe the negative reaction this is getting. guys, obviously The Six String Sonics are not trying to change the world. it's just a clever gimmick for a show. if you don't enjoy the theatrics, then that's fine. but don't get brainwashed by the premise.
posted by mcsweetie at 11:04 AM on February 5, 2006


What do you mean, mcsweetie? If they were making good music, the premise wouldn't matter, but from what I heard on the site, they aren't. If they were actually doing something innovative or creating new possibilities, the crappy music wouldn't matter, but they aren't doing that either.

Seriously, the idea that the guitar has limitations and that the guitar idiom has become tired and culturally ingrained is true. But the proposed solution of six people playing single stringed guitars, not to mention the other stuff they threw in, is pure awfulness.
posted by ludwig_van at 11:30 AM on February 5, 2006


I happen to think the music itself is pretty good. I guess that means we must have a fist fight now (I hope I win).
posted by mcsweetie at 12:00 PM on February 5, 2006


Well, we'll agree to disagree there. But whether one enjoys the music or not, it certainly didn't seem to take advantage of any kind of "compositional freedom" that wouldn't be available otherwise. It didn't seem unique or innovative or virtuosic at all. I guess I was just disappointed by what seemed to me like an exceptionally poor solution to a fairly legitimate concern.
posted by ludwig_van at 5:49 AM on February 6, 2006


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