Published: August 10, 2011 | By Stephen James Taylor
Microtonal heavy metal guitarist and luthier, Ron Sword, talks about how Wilson’s pitch structures have influenced him. He displays his innovative guitar designs… like interchangeable fretboards, each with a different microtonal fret spacing. Ron’s also demonstrates his 16 tone per octave 9 string guitar and Bohlen-Pierce 13 tone tapping guitar. Its new terrain blasted open for a new generation of guitar players. “More is more!”
RON SWORD: My name is Ron Sword. I am 24 years old.I’ve been in the microtonal community world only for a couple of years. I began making scale books because I saw there were no scale books for microtonal guitars. That’s why I go into it because I wanted to be able to play exotic scales and you know its heavy metal . . .
STEPHEN JAMES TAYLOR: You’re doing metal with all these different systems.
RON SWORD: Yeah exactly, with the new systems. It’s like shredding.
STEPHEN JAMES TAYLOR: How is it being received?
RON SWORD: Extremely well. Everyone freaks out when they see it and everyone has accepted it as the next step already who knows about it in the community. For example, the New York Times did an article not too long ago and it said the two most, the two forms of music that are just continually evolving and technically demanding for guitar are Jazz and Death Metal. And you think Death Metal well, is that just rrrah, rrrah, rrrah. It’s just one of those kinds of music that just people are constantly looking at it. If it gets more extreme than its ok. There’s even a kind of metal called Extreme Metal.
STEPHEN JAMES TAYLOR: Which is?
RON SWORD: It’s like death metal stuff. The shirt I’m wearing right now is the band Death from Florida from the same town as us. These bands kind of push technique and things like that and that’s where I kind of came from, I came from as a technical guitarist, I learned how to shred. I learned all my seven modes and stuff in a C-major scale in twelve tone and learned all my arpeggio inversions. Learned how to play twelve tone standards, Jazz standards. I’ll grab a voicing that I like and then I’ll just take it through the scale and I’ll get to see all the different inversions of the same genus. So that’s the kind of thing that my books do. They just kind of explore the new harmonies.
Just the other day when we were on the John Schneider’s show we met Dweezil Zappa and he got an opportunity to see the guitars and check out the books and he was just floored. He couldn’t believe it.
About Erv Wilson… I found him through Kraig Grady and the Anaphoria Embassy website. Paul Erlich was really the one that sent me a lot of information. It seems like him and Kraig Grady are always talking to each other online about Erv. What Erv would do.
(Erv Wilson has pioneered new approached to musical pitch creations, influencing many cutting edge composers and musicians)
Like sometimes I’ll post a piece of music or some sheet music and they’ll say “No, no.” Erv would have done it this way. And I go “Oh, ok that’s pretty cool.” You know and its usually exactly what I was trying to do or what I was looking for and it’s just so great that someone like Kraig Grady sitting around you know or your hear with his instruments, you know, ready to teach somebody or show somebody that kind of stuff and make it available again.
STEPHEN JAMES TAYLOR: What is it of his that you worked with? His MOS scales?
(MOS = Moments of Symmetry, an infinite pitch field of new and old musical scales nested within each other like Chinese boxes. See MOS As A User Interactive Circle or Moments of Symmetry as a Morphing Rectangle)
RON SWORD: The MOS scales yeah. I’ve just seen a lot of those drawings and stuff like that. In some of my books I even mention that the MOS scales were pioneered by Ervin Wilson. But like I said, I just don’t know enough about it. I feel like I never could. You know what I mean? I would want to be his student, you know.
STEPHEN JAMES TAYLOR: Well, you know, his mode of teaching is he mails you these cryptic diagrams that are like Yantras. You study on them. You meditate on them and then suddenly they reveal their secrets. And that’s sort of… He’s never written a paper on that. He calls that the CoPrime Grid and all the circled numbers are ratios where the numerator and the denominator are CoPrime to each other. So that’s what I have toned up on that little piece over there.
RON SWORD: That’s so cool!
STEPHEN JAMES TAYLOR: But that is, like many of his structures, there self-propagating.
RON SWORD: Oh my god…
STEPHEN JAMES TAYLOR: That thing can go on and spill off the page all the way down the block you know?
RON SWORD: Right, right…
STEPHEN JAMES TAYLOR: You’ll get out of the hearing range quickly…But it’s still cool knowing that the carpet that you are standing on doesn’t have an end. It imbues it with a kind of magic. And I’ll show you some stuff later about the Moments of Symmetry because very few people really understand. It’s another one of those self-propagating images. It can be read sideways. It can be read exponentially. It’s a train. It’s a train that stops in all these towns. And the train goes forever. So anywhere you stop is totally cool. The babes are hot!
But there’s a good chance at where you stop, nobody has ever been. Like for example, I found this one the other day just fucking around. Look at the distance between those notes. That’s a twelve note scale with a generator of 0.575 (0.575 of an octave multiplied by itself 12 times). Again, two size intervals. A large step and a small step. And the next one up is then 17 and then 29 or something like that. But, it is… I was looking for something that was twelve notes that was as far away from twelve equal as you could get. And the thing just gave me all this shit for free. Like you do a gliss on the white keys. This is the white keys. Here’s the scale right?
RON SWORD: That’s awesome.
STEPHEN JAMES TAYLOR: You know, and that’s just one of like a zillion stops along the way. Cause he’s using… You don’t have to use fifths as your generator because of really weird small seconds or thirds whatever, but they always generate these two different size scales you know?
RON SWORD: That’s awesome.
STEPHEN JAMES TAYLOR: That’s pretty cool.
But in the ET’s now, you do a lot of work with ETs obviously?
RON SWORD: Yeah this is…
STEPHEN JAMES TAYLOR: What is it that we are looking at there?
(ET = Equal Tempered equally divided octave.)
RON SWORD: 31 tone…
STEPHEN JAMES TAYLOR: 31 tone… How many strings?
RON SWORD: 9 strings.
STEPHEN JAMES TAYLOR: Woooow!
(9 String 31 frets per octave)
RON SWORD: 31 tone, 9 strings. A lot of people don’t like Death Metal, but it’s one of my favorite types of music.
STEPHEN JAMES TAYLOR: What does this give you that 12 tone Death Metal wouldn’t?
RON SWORD: I just like the way new sounds are. I like hearing new sounds. I like unpredictability when I hear a band, a new band. So it’s like when you bring this kind of thing to the table and you explain it slowly and you say, ok… It’s introducing higher math here. And you just really quickly kind of skim over it. A lot of people will just go, “Hey I get it!”
The one’s that have been open-minded for, you know, five minutes, when I’ve talked to them, have immediately understood it. That kind of thing interests people, I think most, and especially with metal, when your like, “I’m sick of hearing the same Ionian scale.”
My group Last Sacrament is… I claim that it’s the first in harmonic, fully utilizing Zin Harmonic Scales. And there’s a lot of support bands in general are ready to hear, are ready to do it. You know, a lot of people that are my age are accepting of it.
STEPHEN JAMES TAYLOR: You are laying the foundation for another generation of guitar players.
RON SWORD: Yeah.
STEPHEN JAMES TAYLOR: That’s kind of what you are doing. Because somebody has to say, “Ok, you’ve got 31 frets what the fuck do you do with it?”
RON SWORD: Right. Exactly.
STEPHEN JAMES TAYLOR: And if they hear…
RON SWORD: I’m hoping somebody will go, “This guy sucks! Let me show you how this is done. Give me that thing.”
STEPHEN JAMES TAYLOR: Take it away.
RON SWORD: I want somebody to go, “I bet I could play that better than Ron.” You know…
STEPHEN JAMES TAYLOR: But, it going to take that.
RON SWORD: Right.
STEPHEN JAMES TAYLOR: It’s going to take a full body of people.
RON SWORD: Right, right, right.
STEPHEN JAMES TAYLOR: To push the thing forward and realize guitar is ready to move forward.
RON SWORD: And I think it’s definitely going to be the fastest accepted in the Metal community.
STEPHEN JAMES TAYLOR: You think Metal first?
RON SWORD: Metal first.
STEPHEN JAMES TAYLOR: You’re giving them now this other new element to it.
RON SWORD: Yeah, yeah. More is more!
STEPHEN JAMES TAYLOR: Good name for a band.
RON SWORD: More is more. Yeah. Wow.
STEPHEN JAMES TAYLOR: Run with it.
RON SWORD: There might be one very soon.
Fore more on Ron Sword go to www.swordguitars.com.
© 2011. The Sonic Sky.