Analysis of Homogenous vs Heterogenous Music

Homogenous is defined quite simply as; “of the same kind; alike”(1). In music is it essentially a piece of music using the same instruments. So string quartets, guitar trio’s and acapella choirs are all examples of this.

This is a guitar trio (an example of homogenous music) with John McLaughlin, Paco DeLucia and Al DiMeola called Friday night in San Francisco. This album sold over 2million copies making it a top selling album of the time.(2) In my opinion this record is really aimed at virtuoso guitarist’s because of the technicality. But due to its homogenous sound, comprising of just three guitars it adds to the album’s authenticity and is pleasant listening despite the album also sounding intrusive and aggressive. I believe that it was down to this that the album sold so strongly, because it’s audience wasn’t solely virtuoso guitarists. People outside of this niche were buying it due to it sounding pretty, authentic and real, with the blend of instruments making it easier listening, easy on the ear. An advantage of being a guitar trio is that the tones of the instruments blend really well. The members of this trio all brought their respective audiences together and this in turn added to the sales and popularity of it as a whole. Yet another clientele for this album were people who were into metal, because of the fast technical guitar exhibited throughout. The album is essentially a metal shedding album, stripped back and played on acoustic guitars.

Take 6 are a male acapella group, and another illustrious example of homogenous music. The gospel style they sing in, the way in which the voices blend and their overall talent serve to create a stunningly seamless piece of music. Although they hint at percussion with the beatboxing the fact they maintain it as solely vocal keeps is sounding smooth.

I will now move on to discuss heterogenous music; different in kind; unlike; incongruous”.(3) I had initially applied the term non-homogenous to this type of music before deciding that heterogeneous applied more closely. 

This is the Frank Zappa album Hot Rats. Zappa used advanced recording equipment to create an album of outstanding technical and musical quality.(4) The album was recorded on what Zappa described as a “homemade sixteen track” recorder; the machine was custom built by engineers at TTG Studios in Hollywood in late 1968. Additional tracks made it possible for Zappa to add multiple horn and keyboard overdubs by Ian Underwood. Only a few musicians were required to create an especially rich instrumental texture which gives the sound of a large group. It was this use of advanced overdubbing that was the main motivation for Zappa, who hated playing in a studio.(5) Zappa was among the first to record drums on multiple tracks. This made it possible to create a stereo drum sound. Prior to this time the entire drum set was typically recorded to a single (mono) track of an 8-track recorder. On Hot Rats, however, four of the tracks were assigned to the main drum set, including individual tracks for the snare and bass drums and left and right tracks for other drums and cymbals. In this setup the engineer had unprecedented control over the sound of each drum component in the final mix. This technique was widely imitated and became the norm in the early 1970s when machines with 16 or more tracks became widely available. The result of the use and blend of these different instruments resulted in an amazing sounding album although one set pretty far away from the more conventional band set ups.

At the other end of this style of album is a traditional guitar, bass and drums setup. These have been proven by countless rock bands to work well as a heterogenous mixture.


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