Sunday, October 2, 2011

Music Theory: Part Six! (The Last)

Hey there seven followers, I hope the week has proven to be productive and song inducing....

Let's get right into the final post in the Nashville Number System/Music Theory Introduction Series:

The Last Page

The last page is so unbelievably simple, I don't think I even need to scan it and upload it. Here it is in its entirety: 1 6- 5 4 repeat until the fade out. Since you've been keeping up, I'm sure you've figured out by now that in this key, D Major, that progression is D Major, B Minor, A Major, G Major. Repeat ad infinitum, or until the drummer passes out....

How about in Bb Major?  Bb Major, G Minor, F Major, Eb Major.

Simple, right? I invite you to try to make some number charts of your songs as you write them--it's funny--sometimes, even in GoogleDocs, I write out a number chart in the margin, so i can link the progression with the song, so i'm able to remember it for later.

Nobody guessed, what this song is. Surely you've heard it. I KNOW at least three of you have heard it. Anyway, I'll tell you what it bit...

Why are we doing this to ourselves again?

So again: Why it it useful to learn the Nashville Number System? I think there are several reasons to do this to yourself.

First, it will allow you to write charts that Nashville Session Musicians will understand. Even if you aren't in Nashville, competent session players at least have a cursory understanding of the number system.

Second, the number system sort of bypasses the fear of sight reading that most musicians have. It allows the player to be creative within the context of the groove and the chord, without having to adhere rigidly to the written notes.

Third, it allows for quick and relatively painless transposition. Let's say you're Don Felder, and you just wrote and recorded a demo of this great chord progression on the guitar in E Minor. So you bring it to Don Henley, and he takes the demo tape home over the weekend and writes some lyrics and a melody to this progression you've written. When you reconvene in the studio on Monday, Don tells you he finished the song, but he has changed the key. Acting like it's no big deal, you ask Don what key this new song is in, assuming he has changed the key by one whole step at most. Don replies, "B Minor."
THAT'S A FIFTH HIGHER!!! Now you have a BIG problem, if you have already written charts in standard notation. either you have all the players look at the chart as you have written it, in E Minor, and THINK "B Minor," or you re-write the chart, causing you to waste time and money in the studio. With the Nashville Number System (and some session players that are familiar with it), the player would just make the adjustments mentally, and you're off! "Hotel California" is recorded with no new charts having to be written, and the players don't have to perform the odd mental gymnastics required when you are LOOKING at an F#, but THINKING C# (get it? a fifth higher).

Fourth, everybody gets the same chart. Since everybody is sort of improvising their own parts within the confines of the song structure, the key, and the groove, there is no need for SPECIFIC charts. We're going to TRUST THE  MUSICIANS.....I know, but it's just a song, it's not like they are going to date your daughter....

So there.

This Week

Wrote a new song, completed the recording of the background vocals for the ever enigmatic recording project.

Need to play out more. There's a weird dynamic when you play things only for people you know. If they're your friends, they tell you the song is good even if it sucks.  Even if you play songs for someone you don't know, and it's one on one, they are most likely uncomfortable criticizing you to your face. When you are playing for a group, you can usually tell whether or not your song is ok by their applause. Then, if no one approaches you afterward to compliment your song, you know you have a dog....but if they do approach you after you're finished playing and compliment your might be on to something. Just saying. Maybe you should make that your goal when you start to write; "Man, this time, when I play this song at the Joe Blotz's Terrible Open Mic Night, people are gonna come tell me how much they like it."

No....don't do that.  Write the absolute best song you can that comes from an authentic emotional place, with detail and imagery that exemplifies the emotional sentiment of your song, and don't settle for anything less than the BEST you can pull from yourself.

Hayes Carll
Will Hoge
Jeff Black
Justin Townes Earle
Then there's this song on John Denver's "Aerie" that I keep going back's called "She Won't Let Me Fly Away" the groove is better than it has any right to be on a John Denver record...


it's "A Little Bit Stronger" by Sara Evans, but you probably figured that out, right? Go buy it. Play along with it.

Write somethin' will ya?

See ya next week.

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