Note: This is based on a message I originally posted on the Harmony Central Forums. Revised and extended.
This is a topic that seems to come up quite often, both in online forums and in talking to people. Does learning music theory take away from the ability to simply “play what sounds good?” Can learning proper vocal technique remove the raw emotion from singing? Does learning more about the established techniques in a field (like songwriting) remove true creativity and make us all sound alike?
I’ve thought about this a lot, and I’m going to say no. And here’s why.
Continue reading Can Education Kill Instinct?
One of my favorite ways of playing acoustic guitar is
country-blues fingerpickin'. Also known as Cotten pickin' (after Elizabeth Cotten)
or Travis pickin' (after Merle
Travis). The style consists of a steady bass line played
with the thumb, accompanied by a syncopated melody line
played with the fingers. The combination of the driving bass
and the melody that seems to float in space over it creates
a sense of movement and lets a solo guitar sound like more
than a solo guitar.
The best way to learn a technique is to learn songs in that
technique, so that's what this lesson is for. A good song to
start with is Oh When the
Saints, because it has a simple melody that we all
recognize, but still has a lot of room for elaboration. That
way, we can start simple and add embellishments as we go
Continue reading Oh When the Saints (beginners fingerstyle)
Throughout the long tumultuous history of Rock ‘n’ Roll,
there have been certain song patterns that have shown up
over and over. Many of them are cliches by now (how many
times have you heard the fire/desire rhyme?), but others are
classics, comfortable sounds we recognize in our
bones. We’ve heard them a million times, but can’t help but
feel inspired anew every time. Today I’ll cover one of
those: The I-vi-IV-V Chord Progression. Yeah, just rolls of
the tongue, right? Well, trust me that it sounds better
when you play it than when you try to name it.
Continue reading Chord Progression: I-vi-IV-V
I pride myself in a willingness to listen to different styles and genres of music. I have favorites in rap, heavy metal, Irish folk, country, classical, even opera. So my strong negative impression of jazz may come as a surprise.
To be fair, there is a lot of jazz I like, mostly the early stuff and the great singers. Louis Armstrong, Ella Fitzgerald, basically back when jazz had melodies and was meant to be danced to.
Before rock and roll came along, jazz was young people’s music. It’s what people danced to, it was rebellious, it was accessible, it was listenable. Then something happened.
Continue reading My Problem with Jazz
This lesson builds directly on the Chord Inversions lesson,
so I suggest re-reading that one, if you have not read it yet.
That lesson introduced the slash
notation, for example, C/G, pronounced C over G. In that lesson, the slash
notation was used to choose an alternate bass note from the
notes that are in the chord. The notation can be expanded,
though, and you can play any chord over any other bass
note. Because of the way they are written, I call these
types of chords slash chords. You
might also see them called alternate bass
chords or compound
chords. All it means is you play a different note in
the bass, but it opens up a whole bunch of possibilities,
especially when songwriting.
Continue reading Slash Chords