Greetings, fellow rockers! It's time for me to begin my crusade.
What crusade do I speak of? One of hacking people of a different opinion to bits? Perhaps slashing the speakers of amps I don't like? No - it's my goal of teaching theory to rock musicians.
Perhaps I can bump Larry the Cable Guy off primetime with my comedic ideas! Instead of Larry's signature saying on redneck trucks everywhere, tough vehicles all across America will sport the letters ii-V7-I and folks will be laughing. Hey Joe, did you hear about Josh trying to teach intervals to people? HA HA!
But until the gas guzzlers are pasting chord progressions on their cars, here's a series of articles designed to help you, the average viking shredder, pierced punk, or reverse mullet emo kid - learn music theory in a cool way.
First, to learn rules, we need rules:
The articles shall not be:
01. Boring. 02. Confounding. 03. Stuffy. 04. Impossible.
There. And if they are, remind me, and I will beat myself over the head with a metronome.
Why should you bother to learn, and why am I writing to show you?
Well, first off, theory is not as hard as you think. It's just how it's usually presented. I've learned that skilled teachers can make anything boring. Thankfully, I'm not skilled in that regard (I hope.) Remember, I'm a rocker, too, and I intend to remain that way. Theory has helped my playing out in a big way, and it's my belief that it can do the same for yours.
I usually hear the following logic when it comes to learning music theory.
Dude, I'm a rock (metal, punk, emo) guitarist! I don't need theory.
While this partly true, it's missing half the fun! Nobody needs to learn theory, but read on, and hopefully you'll be convinced to tackle this challenging, fun, and enormously useful discipline.
Why bother with this confounding, complex, and suspiciously classical study?
Because it will make you rock. Seriously.
But you'd better let me explain before you believe me.
The word music theory is enough to send a tattooed, pierced, long haired metal guitarist running away to cower behind the light bar at the Blood and Guts Hard Rock club.
A guitar buddy once quipped How do you make a guitar player shut up? Put a piece of sheet music in front of him!
But seriously, folks, music theory has helped my rock playing tremendously, as well as making other styles more accessible, and I'm here to help you learn about this fascinating study of music. (And don't worry, you won't need to read music to understand the lessons.)
Specifically, what is theory good for? I would say that Theory is the study of the chemistry of music. When we create a musical explosion, knowing theory, we can duplicate that madness instantly, because we understand the how and why. Moreover, it unlocks the fretboard, and frees us from extensive and time consuming guesswork.
A few examples of the many applications would be:
Constructing chord progressions, and understanding why they work.
Soloing over unusual chord progressions, and sounding good the first time.
An aid in composing music. Adding tension and resolution in your music (metalheads, read: making your music sound spooky.) Understanding different styles of music.
Understanding how different artists and composers approach music (getting inside their heads.)
In short, it is the study of why.
Cheer up. Make the decision to educate yourself, and if you're looking for an edge in your field, this is a superb start. Contrary to popular opinion, theory won't serve as a straitjacket to your songwriting, nor will it make you sound classical. (But it can if you want it.)
Remember this: If we want to be rebels, we need to know the rules in order to break them.
So be warned - I'm on the warpath, and in this crusade, I will catch the dissenters, and throw 'em into da pocket. Da pocket is a feared pit full of...metronomes!
All clicking away...at 300 beats per minute!
Stay tuned for the next article in this series: The first lesson of the Crusade: Intervals!
Don't forget to check out my blog.
Josh Urban (photo) is a musician with a unique perspective on music. Always a thinker, he gains insight wherever he can find it, be it in the clubs as a working musician, busking on the city streets, or teaching in the classroom. A naturally enthusiastic fellow, Josh is always fired up about bringing the lessons he's learned to his readers. Maintaining a website, a blog, and a monthly newsletter, he aims to make musicians stop, think, and play with a little more intensity, integrity, and inspiration. You never know who's listening.