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aerosolhalos View Drop Down
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Direct Link To This Post Topic: The Tony Banks Sound?
    Posted: September 30 2008 at 03:53
I guess what I'm asking is what are some of the trademarks of Tony's playing during the classic Genesis period, and what a 'typical' Banks chord progression would be. I could be wrong, but I don't think I often hear anything too 'weird', few chords larger than a maj7th here and there. Did the droning bass notes and "slash" chords of Watcher of the Skies appear often in their music, or was that technique just unique to that song? Did Genesis use modes often?
Looking at some of the tabs and sheet music I've seen a lot of it seems rather haphazard: often you see two or three chords in a row none of which are in the same key, rather than there being certain sections written for a certain key then a modulation to another.
I'm new to music theory and any help would be gladly appreciated.

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jplanet View Drop Down
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Direct Link To This Post Posted: September 30 2008 at 04:33
I think that Genesis' compositional approach can usually be considered modal, as opposed to chord-based. The difference is, modal tunes tend to center around a single tonal center, and the sense of melodic movement comes from the relation between the chords played on top to the droning, tonal center note.

For example, Turn it on Again, the drone is on a B, then on top are the major chords C#, D, E, A, D, etc...When the C# major is played over the B, there is a Lydian feel due to the #5 (tritone) relationship between C#'s major third (F) and the root note, B. When it moves up to D, it is the relative major of B minor, and all of the notes in the chord have strong harmonic relationships to B, which is still being played in the bass.

One of the basic composition rules you could look at (I learned this from William Russo's Composing Music: A New Approach), is that chords should either:

- Move diatonically, with all notes in every chord belonging to a scale
- All chords are major, but the root notes of each all belong to the same scale.
- All chords are minor, but the root notes of each all belong to the same scale.

In the last two examples, you will see something happen that is initially confusing when you first learn composition theory -- you will have notes in some of the chords which do not belong to the scale! So, if you play major chords starting from C:

CDEFGABC

As you play these chords, you will see several notes that initially seem to be out of key: B major contains D# and F#, which do not belong in the key of C! And A major contains a C#, which is as dissonant to the root, C, as you can get! But because of the parallel movement of the chords, it sounds consonant and makes harmonic sense to someone accustomed to Western music.

I think that Tony Banks/Genesis use the above two approaches quite a bit, sometimes even mixing them in the same song, but there are tons of other compositional approaches they use as well...


Edited by jplanet - September 30 2008 at 04:35
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aerosolhalos View Drop Down
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Direct Link To This Post Posted: October 01 2008 at 15:52
That's very interesting!

I guess I must be somewhat on the right track, then. I started playing keyboards a year ago, and sometimes I'll try to come up with something "in the style of. . ." just for fun. My 'Genesis' piece consisted of a droning E bass note, with inverted triads built on top of it. Usually starting with a Em in the root position, then always ending on A. For some reason, I just associate Genesis music with a triumphant sounding A chord.
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Direct Link To This Post Posted: October 01 2008 at 16:57
Cool! When can we hear some samples of what you're working on?
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Direct Link To This Post Posted: October 01 2008 at 17:13
Ha. Maybe sometime. This is a prog-rock forum after all, I can't help but feel anything I'd come up with would sound a little primitive.

On a related note, I heard Banks say his favorite composers are Shostakovich and Mahler. I don't really see that much of either in Genesis' music; if I had to call what I assume the 'classical' influence came from, I would have said Ravel and Debussy. Do you hear much of Mahler or Shostakovich in their music?
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jplanet View Drop Down
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Direct Link To This Post Posted: October 02 2008 at 02:59
I'm not as familiar with Shotakovich and Mahler as I would like to be, although I know that Keith Emerson is also heavily influenced by Shotakovich -- He's even performed some of his pieces and quoted bits of his work - I hear more Shotakovich in ELP than Genesis...I can certainly hear Debussy references in Genesis, especially in their moments of elegant simplicity, but I wonder if that is more Steve Hackett's contribution. Perhaps Ravel in some of the more dramatic Genesis tunes...
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Direct Link To This Post Posted: October 02 2008 at 11:01
If Tony would have said Rachmaninow, I would have understood.
I do think that he was an influence on Tony as well.
For his classical piece (Seven) Tony cites Sibelius and Vaughan Williams as influences.
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Direct Link To This Post Posted: October 02 2008 at 18:44
You may find these two videos interesting....

Tony Banks on writing Supper's Ready

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LIqreXrAWTo

Writing Firth of Fifth

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ITbQyCtJVN4&feature=related


Edited by Jozef - October 02 2008 at 18:45
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Direct Link To This Post Posted: October 03 2008 at 07:18
There is a definite Gustav Holst influence on the intro to Watcher of the Skies, this is really brought out in the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra recording used on Hackett's Genesis Revisited album, where the tritone towards the end of that magnificent sequence sounds particularly mighty. I worked out twenty seperate chords used over the intro section, it's almost a discreet composition on its own. Surely one of the great pieces of mellotron music? Although it carries a group credit, Watcher is mainly a Banks piece, apart from Collins' classic contribution of that unmistakable rhythm tattoo.
 
Tony was inspired by looking out over a barren landscape in Northern Italy and imagining he was the only person left in the world. Other than Watcher and a few other examples of creative dissonance in the Genesis canon, I would say the great Romantic composers were the chief influence on early Genesis music.
 
I for one can't wait until 10th November when the box set of 5.1 surround sound mixes of the five classic era albums and an extra disc of the long pined-for unreleased Genesis Play Jackson stuff will be available - Christmas is coming early this year!
AlanD
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Direct Link To This Post Posted: December 13 2008 at 05:36
The keyboardist from "Simply Autumn" (is that right?  Sorry, I don't know them) states on the "Genesis:  The Gabriel Era Book and 2 DVD Set" (London:  Art House Classics Ltd) that Tony Banks uses very complex chord patterns in the introductions to many songs on NC, Foxtrot, SEBTP, and TLLDOB.  He definitely had commanding knowledge of complex chord patterns that only added to the "prog" quality of the songs that he composed for Genesis at that time...
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Direct Link To This Post Posted: December 13 2008 at 08:21
I am practically inept in formal musical theory and not even a keyboard player, but I would say a large part of his sound is due to the layering, that is, the way he combines hammond organ with mellotron pads or synth melodies, etc. And all of it played in real time - which lends an elegance to the sound and a fluidity to the arrangement, as he switches hands around his many keyboards.
 
That would be in contrast to someone like Richard Barbieri who overdubs a lot of layers and only plays the top line live (while all the rest is triggered behind).
 
Also, he's obviously very melody-based and not excess/virtuoso/jam based. Plus, has a lot of chord knowledge. However, they are not really dense chords. Just 3 or 4 tones per voicing (I think), yet imposed over static pedal tones they sound so much richer and complex.
 
 
 
"I'll be right there, I'll never leave; All I ask from you is Believe"
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