QRIMOLE Episode 6: music lessons

It’s the return of QRIMOLE! Read on as Kpopalypse answers more tricky questions from readers!



Lots of musical caonimas have been using the opportunity to ask Kpopalypse about all facets of music.  Keep it up, QRIMOLE is here for you!

I need advice: I wanted to make a K-pop dance cover team at my campus where the goal would be to learn and film routines. I invited people who I KNEW are good dancers as a core, because our uni requires a min. of 5 to start a club. However, some of these people invited their friends into the group who I feel have a bigger interest in the fan culture than the dancing aspect. It really impacted our first rehearsal due to them not trying to put in the same effort as the others, and it’s also awkward that I don’t know these people.  I want to have fun filming covers and teaching dances, not teach people how to stay engaged. I want to voice that I want a reliable team and not a group that people can come into whenever and just screw around without trying to improve. I want a group with consistent makeup so that I can know people. I feel like I want to do a try-out, but I think I’d feel kind of slimy kicking people who already feel like they’re in the group out. I never said whether I’d like it to be an open or closed club, but do you think I’d be wrong to say I want people to be at a certain level/cap how many ppl there are?

Keep your existing club, as a way for like-minded people to muck-around and have fun with dance and k-pop culture.  Use this existing club as a way to gauge people’s abilities.  Recruit people from this club who have aptitude and willingness into a more “hardcore” side club with closed membership where there are strict rules.  Now you get the best of both worlds without pissing anyone off.

Are 9-42 strings on 25.5 guitars ok for E down to occasional D std tuning? I may not be advanced strength enough to use 10s and don’t know how long it would take to reach there. EVH i read uses 9s on Eb. And what are u using ? thanks. I still want to retain ability to learn Scorpions “No One Like You” bending.

I usually use 10-46 but that’s mainly because they’re easiest/cheapest to get and it’s what guitars are usually strung with on a shop floor, so I can change strings on a new guitar without necessarily needing a set-up straight away (although I often end up needing one anyway).  Also I’ve just gotten used to that particular string gauge.  Sometimes I string 9-42 but not very often, and I have one electric guitar where I sometimes use 11-52 or 11-56 (the one in this video).  It’s fine to use 9-42 in D tuning, but having said that, being able to execute string bending is less about raw strength and more about correct muscle co-ordination.  Also keep in mind tuning down to D standard tuning will make your strings slacker so they’ll be a lot easier to bend anyway, you probably won’t even need the lighter strings.

Does it really matter what political views a taxi service agrees with? I don’t agree w/what Trump says but ..People are boycotting Uber because the co. supports Trump. I’m like “who cares”? The driver isn’t gonna try to convert you (IF he’s a Trump supporter). Same goes for Chick Fil A. They are a fast food joint. Later people found out that the owner doesn’t care for abortions. He doesn’t advertise or deny any customers. Is there a reason to stop eating there? I don’t understand SJWs. I’m thinking, I probably won’t agree with 90% of political views or religious from most companies products I use. If i were to boycott every one of them, I’d be naked in a unclaimed forest living off the land. I guess in these days you shouldn’t make known your beliefs.

This is why I always find the obsession k-pop fans have with their idols being virtuous good people to be weird.  If I went through my music collection (k-pop and other – and the “other” far outweighs the k-pop even after years of collecting it) and stopped listening to all the artists I found to have political or moral disagreements with, I literally wouldn’t have anything left.  Once I reached a certain age I realised that it was a waste of time to try and get others to conform to how I think, or to try and select friends, persons of interest etc by trying to align political beliefs.  I think people get so heated because they’re trying to influence others’ opinions, but by shutting out everyone who you might disagree with, the opposite effect actually happens – the people who you’d like to influence just get pushed further away and stop listening to you completely.  This effect is covered in more detail in my Tzuyu fanfic.

Been practicing a few hrs a day on music comp/theory and piano. So my Mom comes in my room to yell at me to stop learning music and learn Viet (native language). I actually do, but whenever I speak it wrong she just scolds me and calls me a dipshit and good for trash in front of everyone. Don’t you think if she was nice and patient and I did things on my own free will I’d be good at it? Maybe i only associate viet with her yelling at me in public. How would u reason with her?

Not everybody is lucky enough to have Boram for a mother, unfortunately.  I don’t think your mother is suddenly going to change her whole personality and methodology of raising her offspring overnight.  Depending on your age, I wouldn’t bother reasoning with her, instead I’d just learn how to follow my own path in life without caring about parental disapproval.  Obviously while you’re under the same roof she still has some say in your life but I’d work towards changing that situation when you can, as you get older and so does she her grip on your life won’t be as strong, you’ll have more independence.  Why not set a precedent now by sticking to your own study schedule instead of your mother’s?  It might cause some friction but the payoff is that she learns she can’t just bully you and get what she wants every time.

U said u have Pro Tools. Does the pitch software work in real time? I want to play a guitar downshifted to B without having to retune. Floyd rose here.

Yes but don’t do it that way, it won’t sound as good. Retune your guitar you lazy ass.

I didn’t ask this question but just curious as to why is it that it won’t sound as good? I’m surprised that there isn’t a way to make this possible?

Pitch-shifted instruments tend to sound pitch-shifted.  If the shift is subtle (a tone or less) it’s not so noticeable but standard guitar tuning down to B is an interval of a fourth, which is a significant jump, and pitch-shifting electronically will leave artifacts.  The reasons why the artifacts appear depends on the type of pitch-shifting used but you can read a super up-the-ass technical explanation of all this here.

Damn, this is the 5th time in recent memory that a live recording on your roundup is actually playback. [referring to Suzy’s “Pretend”] It’s not always as obvious as whatshisface singing into his microphone backwards. I’m glad you point them out, so I can teach myself to spot them better. Thanks for that. I know I’m following K-pop so I should really have no expectations, but it still upsets me when singers lipsynch in a live setting. I mean, I understand that certain variety sets don’t have the necessary equipment for live performance, and that music shows are used as a platform to display choreographies, but why are even radio shows and special song showcases also playback? Why even bother to lie and stamp on the word Live on it? It’s like those counterfeit perfumes or brand clothes. The label is the only ‘real’ thing. I would rather hear a singer squeal like a dying banshee live than lie to me to my face and implicitly dupe me out of my money (if I had paid to attend the ‘live’ experience). Why become a singer if you don’t want to and/or cannot sing? Sorry for the rant,I just thought some idols were different. Guess I should stop being naive and just enjoy the visuals like everyone else.

K-pop is a dream factory, and is quite brazen about its escapism – to me this is a positive quality.  Rather than pretending that everyone is a “talented artist”, k-pop has designations like “visual” which really just means “I’m here to look pretty and attract modelling contracts”.  K-pop tries out different concepts for fun rather than trying to pass it off as some kind of “creative artistic exploration”.  K-pop also mimes frequently, often making it really obvious, or having singers singing over their own music with the vocals on the backing track rather than instrumentals as standard practice, which is pretty much as good as miming.  I wish western pop was so honest.  I don’t really care that much as a consumer because I know how much “cheating” goes on even with so-called “live” western groups, I figure at least k-pop is being upfront about all the things western pop tries to hide.  I care about the songs themselves, I don’t really care that much about the “integrity” of the performances, it doesn’t change the actual music.  The song is still “real”, even if there’s fakery involved in the presentation.  A song I like that is mimed might not be really live but it’s still really a song I like, and I’m still really seeing the performers.  More here.

So I just attended my first Kpop club meeting and after going through 30mins of BTS variety stuff, I showed them Sugar Free. Turns out they hate T-ara because of the bullying scandal articles they read. Any advice on how to get them to form their own opinion of the group? (and they served Koolaid lmao)

Reading my blog would help.  They’d probably turn their nose up at it though!  Getting k-pop fans to think for themselves about what the consume is a tricky task and it’s a large part of why Kpopalypse exists.  I’ve always been tempted to write the ultimate T-ara-rumour-debunking article but haven’t bothered because writing such an article kind of defeats one of the missions of the entire blog which is to allow people to reach logical conclusions about scenarios like that on their own rather than just say “look what I found on some site, it’s on a website it must be true”.

Why would a Japanese person ever become an idol in Korea when seemingly there’s potentially more money to be made sticking in the j-idol business?

The same reason that people from the USA want to do k-pop when the American music industry is such an obviously better place to work in, on every level.  People get sucked in by the “glamour” of it and the idea of being a star, and because there’s such a focus on k-pop it becomes a lot of people’s dream.  Sure it’s a great career and glamourous but only for the 0.1% at the very top of the tree, everyone else is eating sweet potato and doing 10 hours of gym.  Perhaps we need someone to translate this article into Japanese.

When idols are credited for songwriting/producing/idk on an album do they get royalties or does the money still go straight to the label?

Depends on whatever agreement was signed between them and the company, as well as whoever else might have been involved in the song.  Someone could be the sole songwriter and producer but if there’s an agreement somewhere that they don’t get paid for whatever reason (say, until x amount of money is made from the sale of the song, or until an idol’s debt is paid off), then they could get nothing.  On the other hand someone could be listed on there as a songwriter even though they didn’t actually write any of it at all but someone just thought it was a good idea to stick their name on it, and the song becomes a hit and they get some money.  It honestly can vary that much, there’s no “standard” to the amount of money received or who gets credited for how much.  I’ve been in a group where only one person was doing the songwriting but we all agreed that we’d credit every member of the group equally just because.  I’ve been in a group where the songs were co-written and the actual songwriting percentage each member received was a bitterly-fought battle!

BP & Twice have gotten huge w/out the trendy cute concept. Is it because of their concept or their company? Is forgoing the cute concept a risk worth taking for all rookies or just those from big companies? Wouldn’t the Big 3 rep set the group apart anyway? Why do med-small companies insist on cute?

In Blackpink’s case all YG wanted to do with replace 2NE1 with a new younger 2NE1-like group as a vehicle for the songs that 2NE1 would have gotten allocated to them had they continued.  2NE1 was a formula that worked well for YG for quite a few years so it makes good business sense for them to continue with what they know works rather than take chances.  However for a new agency debuting a new group, such a move would be riskier.  The “cutesy concept at debut stage, then gradual maturing of the image as the fanbase also gradually matures” is a known formula that has worked in the west and also k-pop for quite some time, and that’s why it gets used.  (“Here’s some titties” is also a formula that is popular for new groups for the same reason – it’s proven to work.)  Keep in mind that Blackpink’s (and 2NE1’s) image isn’t all that far removed from the cute concept anyway.  It’s still pretty light and fluffy stuff.

Remember that “cute concept” isn’t just baby-doll dresses and shit.  Twice is a “trendy cute concept” too, it’s still brightly-coloured, all smiles and youthful cheesiness with no real risque element, it’s not something like Stellar’s “Vibrato” straight out of the gate.

What is the benefit of spending up the ass with LOONA? Like I get that each MV is essentially a showcase of the idol for other companies to use (e.g. how the newest MV had the innisfree product placement), but will the million dollars of money being spent each MV translate to even better profits later on? Am I just underestimating the amount of money a CF deal can bring in for a company?

You might just be underestimating how much money Loona’s agency has.  A few million dollars to create a buzz is like pocket change for them obviously.  Loona’s company is an offshoot of Polaris Entertainment (also see: Ladies Code) and their parent company is Ilkwang Group, a private arms comapny.  Here’s an article about some of Ilkwang’s dealings which shows just how much money they have to burn.  They’re doing k-pop not because they need to, but because they can.  Will it be profitable in the end?  Who knows, but if it isn’t, it doesn’t really matter much.  I’m hoping for some sexy “Sexy Loona girls with sexy guns” videos out of it though.

Is this how 12/8 time works?  U accent every downbeat in groups of 3 forming triplets. Lets say for example u only want to use 1 upbeat instead of 2 here, how does that suppose to sound?

It depends which upbeat you’re removing.

Here’s our twelve beats grouped into threes:


If you remove the first of the two upbeats, what you end up with is a “swing feel”, the type that is used in blues etc.

V ^V ^V ^V ^

If you remove the second of the two upbeats instead, you end up with a pretty different type of feel.

V^ V^ V^ V^

Looking back, I was the dumbest 15yr old when learning guitar. I literally came 2 the teacher & told him 2 learn this metal song & he’d spend the entire time figuring it out, then I’d only get a 5 min lesson. I had the worst posture & hand positioning but he didn’t tell me that.  So this would continue every week. I then stopped after 5 weeks. I saw James Hetfield playing gtr down to his knees &this gtr teacher is telling me that’s totally bad 4 most of us. I really wish my teacher would just have told me to shut up and learn fundamentals 1st.  So do you correct ur students even if theyre ignorant and dont ask u know to ask u for basics?

I tend to use the songs that people want to learn as a vehicle for teaching correct technique.  So for instance if a song has sweep-picking in it, I’ll show the student how to sweep pick with efficient technique etc.  If you’re not doing things you enjoy, you won’t practice so you won’t improve, but if you’re not being shown how to do things correctly, it’s harder to get better quickly anyway.  It’s not an either/or choice to make.  A good teacher should be able to combine what you want to know and what he knows you need to learn into the same framework.  Oh and James Hetfield plays his guitar down to his knees because he thinks it looks cooler, plus he’s not playing that many complex parts, Kirk Hammett does the guitar heavy-lifting in Metallica, James is the chug-chug downstrokes-as-fast-as-possible guy.

While some people may indeed be hypocrites and use false concern to fap with a clear conscience, these “deep roots in organized crime and prostitution” you speak of are difficult to imagine and process. Because the main thinking is ‘These are people who are good at singing or dancing. That’s what what they can do, so they seek out a profession where they can earn a living singing and dancing.’ – they’re normal people who have grown up in the same environment as you, had the same habits and familial obligations, suffered through the same public school system etc. It’s just their choice of choice of job that’s different. Why would someone who wants to perform on stage for a living (and thus becomes an idol -what other option as a job is there) have to get involved with a mafia or a prostitution ring? Do they choose to, are they forced to? Can they decline or avoid the association?

Well, it’s not like anyone’s there pressuring you to “oh please get involved in this” but rather that just things are happening all around you that might not be above board.  A lot of it happens in the ether to some extent from the point of view of a star, for instance Ladies Code probably wouldn’t know about their company’s arms trading extortion racket or harassing Clara or whatever, but they would be more aware of things that directly come into their orbit, whatever they may be.  A lot of it one could choose to turn a blind eye to.  When it starts to hit home is when people want to leave labels or want better contract terms etc, when they’re forced to engage with it.  I’m planning to do a post soonish about the culture of the music business, which nobody will believe anything in so there’s probably no point in writing it but I’ll do it anyway just to annoy people.

In an interview w/Chris Broderick, he mentioned in Megadeth that anything he had no creative input due 2 Dave(s) wanted to keep their “sound.” Later in the yr, he left on a day notice. Gary Holt (Slayer) gtr replacement still in band is saying the same thing as well as Jeff Loomis, who also replaced a guitarists in Arch Enemy. Is this really good 2 be this close minded? is it good 4 the bands and fans? I thought if ur in the band, then ur creative input is the band. I see both of them leaving later Slayer and Arch Enemy in the near future.

There are some bands where everything is very democratic and songwriting is a collaborative process.  There are other bands which are essentially a solo project where one person is the leader and decides the complete creative and artistic direction, and everyone else is essentially a glorified session musician.  This frequently happens in cases where original members leave and are replaced by new members who don’t assume the same authority levels of those who they replaced, the self-designated band “leader” (usually, the person with the biggest ego) may use this as an opportunity to reclaim control from that band position.  Megadeth is a very good example of this type of group.

I’m doing a piano lesson program atm and After the basic playstyle, you can go through either Blues, Ballad, Jazz or Classical in any order you choose to learn. Which traditional styles are most important for Kpop?

Do blues first because blues is the foundation of all other popular music and is essential to know regardless of what style of music you prefer.  Do jazz last because nobody cares about jazz.  Not sure what you should do in between as I’m unsure what is meant by “ballad”.

So, I read your favourites and in your 9 Muses A – Lip 2 Lip comment, you did mention dynamic subtlety, which piqued my interest. So, what do you think about bringing back dynamic range into modern music and quitting the loudness war? Also, is loudness war a thing in Kpop music?

The reason why the loudness war exists is because of radio and TV.  Nobody wants to hear their own song come on the radio and have it be noticeably quieter than everything else around it, therefore producers generally aim for maximum volume without going over digital zero – as close to the zero line as they can get.  Of course sometimes they fuck up and go over that zero line by mistake, but usually they don’t.  Some dynamic range in the middle of a song or in an intro is okay but even with the Nine Muses A song, the dynamic range we’re talking about in the rap section is only in the order of a few dB, it’s not a really large shift or anything.  Pop music dynamic range isn’t large, and it doesn’t have to be large to have the desired effect.  It’s only in styles like classical music or post-rock and experimental music styles where a really wide dynamic range is exploited.  The average pop music song these days has about 2dB dynamic range.

The loudness war isn’t specific to k-pop or the west, but k-pop took a while to latch onto it.  If you compare SM Entertainment productions of the same song from over a decade to today, you’ll notice the main difference is that the new versions are louder and everything is brighter and more “present”.  Early SM recordings sound very dull in comparison to SM’s output these days, songs from groups like H.O.T are not up to western production standard whatsoever, which is one of the reasons why we didn’t have a Hallyu wave of any note in the late 90s or early 2000s.  The production simply didn’t cut it.

So I’ve gotten accepted to one cashiering job, and I’ve already done some training. But another one has come up that has higher pay so I want that one. Do I just straight up tell them I’m not interested anymore?  Im not sure if theres any consequences..?  Like is it possible this would affect the other job?

It’s only a fucking cashier job, I’d bail for the higher-paying offer in an instant.  Just make sure that you definitely DO have that second job 100% locked down before you ditch the first.  Unless of course you can somehow work both.  I’d actually even consider working both for a short period if you can because the boss at job #2 might be a cunt and you might start wishing for job #1 back.  You might not have a choice though depending on hours given but something to consider.

This may be a stupid question, but how can you compose a song without simultaneously arranging it? Don’t they kind of go hand in hand?

You can’t compose a song without arranging it, but you can definitely arrange a song without composing it.  In a band I was in, we had an outside producer work with us for a particular song and as part of his production he rearranged the song sections slightly.  We had already written those sections, they were fully written before he came on board, plus we had already arranged them a certain way, but his input did change the result of that arrangement, so he was credited as a producer/arranger but not a composer.

Is it a fundamental rule to keep an album as uniform in sound as possible? From metal to Kpop, i notice they don’t deviate from a few synths even if there’s multiple composers or one guitar sound. Is it okay to break that and make each song have different timbre (yet still coherent and uniform styles)?

Generally speaking it’s just easier to keep a uniform sound on an album, it’s a hassle to change up instrument settings and constantly do things differently, it means extra preparation time which usually translates to more expense.  Plus a consistent sound is a way to unify the collection, it’s easier to get one sound that works and just go with that.  Some adventurous groups do make an effort to change styles radically between songs but market research shows that most listeners prefer it if there’s more consistency overall.  K-pop is a little different, because different songs are often recorded by different producers in different circumstances, meaning that the result is often a bit more random and there’s less of a consistent thread running through everything, so k-pop albums are often a hodge-podge of feature songs written by top-gun producers, filler ballads written by in-house producers and some other tracks that the agency bought but decided weren’t good enough to make a feature out of.  Further reading here.

If I already know how to play the piano well, is picking up the guitar easy? (In terms of things I need to learn specifically for guitar, not reading sheet music etc.)

Piano is a great first instrument, because with it you get the coordination skills that transfer well to guitar/bass and drums.  So if you’re good or at least reasonable at piano you can eventually be good at every major instrument in a rock band, plus you’ll have some music theory too (as piano teachers tend to drill theory into you, whereas guitar teachers not so much).  I wouldn’t say that it’s incredibly easy to transition between them but it certainly does help a lot with many of the general concepts plus the dexterity required.

Hey Kpopalypse, I wanted your advice-I want to buy my first electric guitar but I’m broke as hell. I’ve been taking lessons with a classical guitar for a year now, but I really love rock music and really want to try it, do you have any affordable recommendations? (like $200 or less)

Obviously you don’t mean $200 in Australian dollars, because that would get you nothing of worth here in terms of an electric guitar.  Guitars are really expensive in Australia for some reason, probably to do with import tax and our government basically being criminal.

Out of all the “budget” electric guitars I’ve played (and I’ve played almost all of them) I’d go with the Squier Affinity Strat.  It looks decent, is comfortable for most people, plays and sounds much the same as its more expensive Fender cousin, you can get a variety of sounds, you can buy it in a guitar-and-amp package with a small practice amplifier included without blowing the budget, and no matter what style of modern music you prefer, you can at the very least get by with it until you decide that you want something better.  A fairly accurate review of the different common Squier guitars is here, all I’ll add to it is absolutely do not consider buying the “Bullet”, it really is a piece of shit, the extra money for the Affinity Strat is absolutely worth it.  Epiphone do some okay budget guitars too but unless you’re absolutely sold on the Gibson style of guitar I’d go for the Squier instead as it’s a bit more sonically versatile.

That’s all for this episode of QRIMOLE!  Kpopalypse will return with the answers to more questions at a later date!


4 thoughts on “QRIMOLE Episode 6: music lessons

  1. Answer to no. 1 should have been “If they lack in dedication, bully them until they quit”.

    I’m also one of those guys who started playing guitar with zero formal knowledge (still can’t read music), and I only wanted to play metallica and megadeth. Anyways, since I read that James used primarily downstrokes, I figured that’s what I should do. And I still can’t make rhythm parts sound as good with alternate picking as with only downs. I only use alternate when I need to go faster than I can with downs. Oddly enough, I don’t have that handicap playing lead parts.

  2. Oh, and did you get my ask.fm question from a few days back? I’m not begging for an answer, I just haven’t used ask.fm before and I’m not sure if it went through.

  3. To be fair, boycotting is likely to make a particular person double down on their beliefs, but can change the actions of a large company who can remove said person from power (For instance, CEO Brendan Eich was forced to resign from Mozilla when it came to light that he was supporting anti-gay activism in California). Since few people are personally a friend with any kpop artists, large-company CEOs or whatever, they can’t change that person’s beliefs by being their friend and having a long discussion over a beer, but that doesn’t mean anyone should let the ceo/artist/whoever’s repugnant opinion be the only voice in the public sphere. That’s why all sorts of causes use boycotts, not just “SJW”s.

    It’s weird that the commentor ends with a bitter “i guess you shouldn’t make known your beliefs” –yeah, if you don’t want others to question your beliefs, don’t tell the general public about them. That’s true for anyone, no matter where on whatever political spectrum you sit.

    That said, boycotts don’t work as well as becoming politically active and calling your representatives in your state/county/territory about local issues related to your cause, or talking with your actual friends about it over a beer.

  4. I cant imagine going to a kpop club meet irl without getting frustrated at the delulu-ness in 2 minutes before walking out to find the nearest pub. “OMG BTS is so dreamy!” “They are, they are totally dreamy because you just said so and i agree!” “You’re right, I am so right!”

    Yeah, out.

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