The Commandments

Rhythm and Soul Band

The Ten Commandments of

Playing Soul Music

by Chris Elliott

1.) When thou beat with timbers upon goatskins stretched across wooden barrels, strike not directly upon the two and the four. Place thy blows ahead or behind the beat, for when thou striketh directly upon it, thou wilt be judged unclean, yea unto the seventh generation of thy seed.

2.) Place not the bony, callused middle knuckle of thy thumb against the E and the A string of electric instruments which produce low frequencies. Set thy work instead upon the first and second digits of thine hand, for the clatter that is caused by thumb flesh against nickel and steel is unclean, and to participate in it is to be judged so, yea unto the seventh generation of thy seed.

3.) Ye who breathe into bent metal across a rasping shoot of reed cane, bite it not often, lest its pitch leap an octave to a piercing shriek. Such blasts are permitted two, perhaps three times during an evening’s performance. To author more than this number is unclean.

4.) Trigger not brief recordings of acoustic instruments from a controlling keyboard, yea especially such timbres as are not naturally played with fingers activating weighted hammers, as in the case of strings, brass, woodwinds and guitar. Apply thyself instead to piano, electric piano, organ and clavinet, for to layer string and brass sounds in a public house is unclean, and ye who do so are as the beasts of the field.

5.) In the vibration of thin metal cords across magnets, send not the signal into strange devices before amplification, for such devices are unclean, and in doing so the tone of the instrument and the heart of its operator are vanquished. Ye who create such signal flow work against nature, and all that ye do shall be held damnable in the eyes of the maker,and his wrath shall be loosed, yea unto the seventh generation.

6.) Men pursing lips into conches must master an even timbre, tone, intonation and volume throughout the pitch range of the mollusk shell, staying not always in the high octave, nor the low, nor the middle, for to remain always in the upper ranges is unclean, and to remain always in the low and middle is sloth, and as such is also unclean.

7.) Dried gourds containing seeds and pebbles, wooden hoops with rows of tiny cymbals attached and other handheld percussive devices must not be touched in a public house by untrained persons for it is unclean. Yea though they look simple, they are not so, and their misuse is common. Like any instrument, a lifetime of personal application is required for mastery over pitched wood and metal, and to take part in such spontaneous orchestrations and especially to encourage other unskilled practitioners to do the same is unclean and will be punished by eternal damnation, yea unto the seventh generation of thy seed.

8.) Ye who stands in the center and emits pitched words, know that thou art not a God. Thou art lucky to have been chosen as one whose vocal folds are of such makeup and consistency as to be pleasant to a listener. Be not unpleasant to your listeners in other ways, lest ye be judged unclean.

9.) Make not the face of the constipated man, no matter whether ye blow the conch, rasp the reed, emit pitched words, strike skins with timbers, drive small mallets with fingers, or cause steel cable to vibrate into magnets. These activities are not painful, they are joyful, and to assume such countenance is unclean and damnable for seven generations.

10.) Treat thine audience as thou wouldst thine own self be treated, lest ye be judged unclean, yea unto the seventh generation of thy seed.


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