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October 24, 2008

WAES Rockschool, Week #3 (I Think!?!)

We're coming into half term, so we have a break next week. That's probably a good thing, given how my work life is killing me at the moment. REAL LIFE SUCKS! If you get the chance, learn guitar young, become the mysterious sexy one in a band, act like an delinquent a-hole and ride that ticket all the way. Seriously. It's the best advice that career officers won't give you at school.


Rockschool! I have to say I'm liking Teach's style more and more. He has this insightful 'cut to the punchline' kind of methodology. You're there to learn music but look, there's a guitar in your hands, let's use that to figure this stuff out.

Case and point: last night was about starting to look at song structure with a view to writing our own material. First up... what's a major key and how do you find the basic chords within that key?

Did he start with the whole interval thing as most do? Nope. His approach was basically to say that if you want to play the major chords in a key, find the E-shape barre chord with that root note. Easy. That's your I. Directly below it is your IV chord in the A-shape. Two frets up from the IV is the V, again in A-shape. What's the I-IV-V? Basic structure for many, many songs. Now, anyone who's played for a while could tell you that, but what about the minor chords? Well, without going into the ins and outs of relative minors, modes and all that he basically said 'don't use your brain, use your guitar'.

To find the minor chords, start from the I, move down 3 frets and in the Em shape, that's your VI. Follow the same procedure of playing the Am shape beneath it then moving up two frets and there are your II and III chords. So, if you're composing, you have 6 of the 7 fundamental chords in that key. How about the VII? The diminished one? Not writing a jazz song? Don't worry about it for now.

So, in the space of 5 minutes he gave us budding songmeisters the tools for writing a song in any major key, using the guitar as a kind of 'magic decoder ring' type affair. For me it was a great revelation. I knew all the theory already, but having it circumvented to get people writing songs right off the bat? Very cool.

Over half term we have to each write a simple song using that technique... chords for verse, bridge, chorus, the rhythm and a melody. Next time we'll pair up, teach our partner our song, learn theirs and then perform them.

It may all seem very rudimentary, but sometimes getting back to basics is a great way of moving forward.


Dave Jacoby said...

There's a line from a movie. "Fundamentals are the building blocks of fun."

Furtheron said...

neat way of thinking about it - the I IV V one I've used a lot but the minor move is neat