Beau Simpson Music

Professional Music Lessons Since 2001

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How to Build Calluses Quickly and Easily

One of the most frustrating things about learning to play the guitar is the fact that it’s so ***ing painful on the fingertips.

There’s nothing quite like physical pain to derail your practice and put a damper on your motivation.

Every guitarist deals with this regularly.

If you’re just starting out and trying to break past that pain period, you’re certainly going to feel it.

If you’ve been playing for months or years and take a few days off, you’re going to feel it when you get back into the routine.

Even if you practice on a daily basis and spend more time playing one day than usual, you’re still going to be subject to tender fingertips.

The old adage was to just keep playing, push through the pain, and eventually, you’ll grow calluses.

Not to say that this isn’t true, but luckily there’s a better way.

Enter tea tree oil.

This stuff is amazing in so many ways, and accelerating the callus-building processes is just one of them.

How I Found Out About Tea Tree Oil

A few years ago, during a break at a rehearsal, my drummer/friend grabbed a little bottle of tea tree oil and poured it all over his hands.

When I asked what he was doing, he told me that he had gone surfing earlier in the day.

“The ocean water softened my callouses and I’m getting blisters from my [drum] sticks.”

Clearly, he could see that I was confused.

He continued, “Whenever I need to rebuild my calluses, I just rub this stuff onto my hands. Tomorrow morning when I wake up my blisters will have turned into calluses.”

I had never heard of such a thing and almost couldn’t believe it, but I had to give it a try.

Even after years of playing, my fingers still burn and blister after long, intense rehearsals and practice sessions.

The next day I went out and picked up a bottle of tea tree oil.

After my practice session, I applied the oil to the tips of my fingers.

I remember it smelled funny and made my fingers tingle, but I was anxious to see if it worked the way my friend had described.

Lo and behold, the next morning my fingers were sporting calluses that were stronger than ever.

I picked up the guitar and went off into my own little world, completely free of pain.

I couldn’t believe I had never heard of this stuff!

It was miraculous how well it worked and now I carry it with me wherever I go.

 

 

Music Theory: Friend or Foe? (Part 2)

Oftentimes when people think of the words “music theory,” they think of rules and regulations. They have two unconscious beliefs that go something like this:

  1. “If I know the rules, then I will have to follow them.”
  2. “If I follow the rules, then I won’t have an original sound.”

In Part 2 of this article, we’re going to tackle both of these assumptions. Let’s get started!

“If I know the rules, then I will have to follow them.”

This is just false. There is no “theory police” that’s going to give you a ticket or lock you up if you break the rules. Knowing the rules and following the rules are two entirely different things. Moreover, music theory isn’t just about rules. Music theory allows you to label sounds and ideas, making them easy to communicate to yourself and others.

Creative ideas are fleeting. If it’s not written down, it could be lost forever. Say you come up with a musical idea and don’t have time to record it. Sure, you might be able to remember it, but studies show that memory is never an exact replica of the original thought.

Music theory provides you with a vocabulary, which allows you to communicate easily with other musicians. Ever try to communicate with someone who didn’t speak a word of English? How did you do it? Draw pictures? Point to objects? Act something out? Sure communication is still possible. That said, think of all the time and energy that would be saved if you already spoke the same language.

Let’s move on to the second assumption regarding music theory:

 

“If I follow the rules, then I won’t have an original sound.”

This is also false. Although I’ve been calling them “rules,” they’re really just guidelines. Think of “college ruled” notebook paper. In this case, the rules (lines) really are guidelines.

Let me ask you a question: Does lined paper ruin your creative writing?

No. It doesn’t affect the content whatsoever; it just makes it look more organized and legible.

This is exactly what theory does. It actually makes everything easier!

 

A Word on Originality

It is strongly recommended that you do some composing strictly within the guidelines when you are first learning to apply music theory. As a result, this music will end up sounding like things you’ve heard before; hence, unoriginal. This is merely a stepping-stone as you enhance your musicianship. Think of these as exercises. You don’t have to try to sell this stuff, but you certainly can if you’d like. Either way, it as a learning experience.

If originality is a legitimate concern for you, then I would suggest never listening to anyone else’s music ever again. Every piece of music that you have ever heard has, in some way, influenced the way you play and compose. So really, it’s already too late. You will never be 100% original.

Music theory can actually help with your originality. Through music theory and analysis, however, you can identify exactly what is and isn’t original.

Before you go, I’d like to show you an interesting case of just that:

A few years back, guitar virtuoso Joe Satriani nearly sued Coldplay for ripping off one of his songs. Someone actually analyzed the music theory to compare similarities and differences, creating a clear case of musical plagiarism. Check it out!

http://youtu.be/OEGGFJLpbu4?t=5s

http://youtu.be/YJWLfpOecyE?t=3s

 

 

 

Music Theory: Friend or Foe? (Part 1)

“I don’t need to know theory. It will just get in the way of my creativity.”

-Every musician who doesn’t understand music theory

Many (dare I say, “most”?) musicians go their entire lives with little to no knowledge of music theory. Of course, these musicians tend to be amateurs and hobbyists. However, there’s a handful of pros who never bothered to learn music theory—some of the greats, in fact. Guys like Jimi Hendrix, Stevie Ray Vaughan, Eric Clapton, and even film composer Danny Elfman created highly successful careers in music without ever having learned the rules of the game, so to speak. So, what does this mean for the rest of us?

First of all, it goes without saying that these are examples of outliers. They were all gifted with an extraordinary ear, allowing them to understand music in their own way.

(Sometimes I wonder if Hendrix himself referred to an E7(#9) chord by name, or if he just called it “The Hendrix Chord” like his successors.)

Taking this into account, there is no definite answer as to whether or not you need to learn music theory. BUT…and this is a big “but”…it’s very likely that you are not in the 0.000001% of players like those mentioned. They also worked incredibly hard at their craft, allowing them to bypass some of the most traditional methods of learning.

For the rest of us mere mortals, let’s consider an analogy.

Imagine you have a 5-year-old son who wants to get involved in sports. Other kids in the neighborhood have been taking up soccer and your little boy is inspired to start playing, too. Here’s a question for you: What’s the best way to help your son develop into an effective soccer player? We’re not talking about priming him for the pros; just becoming effective on the field.

Would you explain all the rules, positions, and strategies before tossing a ball his way? Of course not! Theory (i.e. “rules) are far too abstract for anyone to learn prior to real-world experience. This goes for kids, adults, and everyone in between. The first step to effective learning is to get out there and try it. Mess around and get a feel for it. This heuristic approach will give context to the rules.

Of course, your son might be naturally gifted in athletics. He might be able to run faster and kick the ball farther than most kids his age. He might be “the Jimi Hendrix of soccer”. Then…he starts getting a whistle blown at him every minute or two. Why? Because he’s offside. Because he’s fouling the other team. Because he’s taking the ball out of bounds. Because he doesn’t understand the RULES.

Now that your son has gotten a feel for the game and experienced the perils of ignoring the rules, he’s eager to figure out how to keep the game going without causing any whistle-blowing. He’s ready to learn the rules of the game and how to strategize a game plan within the confines of those rules. From week to week, month to month, and year to year, your son develops into a formidable opponent on the field.

Think about this as you continue your development as a musician. Sure you can play by your own rules. You wouldn’t be the first. But imagine how much more effective you would be (not to mention how much faster you would learn and retain new information) if you took an interest in the rules of the game.

Check out Part 2 of this article for more on music theory.

 

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