Independent Clauses | n. —unusual words about underappreciated music

What Makes a Hardcore Band Tick?

November 1, 2005

What Makes a Hardcore Band Tick?

Ah, I am a happy person. In the past 3 months I have received three good hardcore albums. It’s a rare occurrence, not only because Independent Clauses caters more towards the mellow indie bands but because good hardcore bands are becoming rarer and rarer. It really seems like every kid out there thinks he can play in a hardcore band just because he tunes to a drop-D and screams lyrics about death and destruction. This is how hardcore ends up with the incorrect stereotype of violent, blood-thirsty animals. Believe me- its wrong. I’m a hardcore kid and I’m a vegetarian, so there is no way I could be blood-thirsty.

Hardcore, when done correctly, is truly an art form and a difficult art form to master. On the surface it seems like it may be some very angry young men who jump around, punch each other, and bang on guitars. When you examine hardcore closely you find that it is actually a carefully laid out plan of disorder. Each dissonant chord, each off beat hit is carefully planned to come together, as are the player and instruments that they use.

Every decent hardcore band needs at least two guitarists, one to play lead and another to play rhythm and every now and then play a contrasting line. It helps if the band can find a third guitarist who can constantly play contrasting lines. These guitarists should work in standard tuning if at all possible. It makes the guitars sound so much fuller and stronger. The guitarists should also play medium-heavy gauge strings. This keeps the guitar strong but does not compromise the quality of the sound.

The bassist must play a five-string bass. This is something that gets over looked by a lot of bassists. They figure they can just tune down. Wrong. The five-string gives you a much larger range and the chance to do things you didn’t think you could do. Once again it allows you to work with a standard tuning and a lighter gauge string. A lot of bassists will play a four-string with a .140, .115, .90, .75 set up tuned to a drop-C that doesn’t allow for the tone to shine through. A five-string allows for that C to be used but a standard tuning to be used as well. This allows for the range and the quality that is necessary.

Vocalists need to remember that random screaming isn’t the key. Just as if they were singing, they need to find a pitch, or level of growl, to vocalize their lyrics. A vocalist who screams in different ways each line is painful to listen to and is damaging their voice. (For more on this topic read Bob Nanna’s prose in Revolutions on Canvas)

Hardcore musicians must remember that they are not creating a train wreck, they are creating planned chaos. Because that is what hardcore is: emotionally charged, controlled chaos that delivers a kick in the teeth.

-Scott Landis

redbassist66@comcast.net

Stephen Carradini and friends write reviews of bands that are trying to make the next step in their careers.

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