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How does Beyoncé use music theory to make “Singles Ladies” hit harder?

How does Beyoncé use music theory to make “Singles Ladies” hit harder?

 Chelsea Zellner and Steve Newbrough


8/12/21

The quick answer is that Beyoncé uses a bass lines to imply the minor iv chord in the second chorus right on the word “shoulda...” (this is 51 seconds into the song). Notice how this makes you feel as a listener. What was light hearted jam suddenly becomes more serious and heavy.

The harmonic analysis of Single Ladies is actually hotly debated in the music theory community. This piece of music is extremely unique, and deceptively complex given the apparent simplicity of it on the page. It contains a pretty simple melodic line, percussive accompaniment, and very little harmonic support (pitched instruments playing harmonies). Because of this, there is some room for interpretation. While some minds feel this song is an example of polytonality and some pretty complex borrowed chords, there is abundant evidence pointing to the...

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How Can I Increase My Income as a Professional Musician?

How Can I Increase My Income as a Professional Musician?

Charles Carpenter and Steve Newbrough


7/28/21

1) Strengthen your music skills.

2) Launch your music business. 

3) Teach music lessons.

4) Seek out opportunities to make passive income.

5) Utilize Patreon.

6) Develop your own unique brand.

7) Stick with it! 

 

Earning a living as a musician isn’t as impossible as many people make it out to be. The reason it’s so hard for musicians to make good money is that many rely on a single revenue stream, whether it’s playing live gigs, selling albums, or releasing music on popular streaming platforms. Putting all your eggs in one basket severely limits your earning potential—and leaves you vulnerable to major unexpected events like a global pandemic. If you want to make more money, diversification is essential!

Try to treat your musical career like a business rather than a side gig. Look for ways to build multiple streams of income and balance...

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Why should I learn to play the blues?

Why should I learn to play the blues?

Casey Saulpaugh and Steve Newbrough


3/27/21 

The blues have set roots in many genres, making it a staple for learning and playing guitar, especially for modern players. The blues idiom is classic, timeless, yet still modern and relevant to a high degree. 

 

Every person can relate to the blues: everyone has had days where they felt down, yet optimistic that times of hope and joy are around the corner.  It is the expressive opportunity, the possibilities for sharing your voice that makes the blues appealing for guitar players worldwide. 

 

The blues has been a significant force in music, especially in the 20th century. 

 

Its music has branched into jazz, pop, soul, folk, country, funk, and so many other genres.  It holds simple truths, with deep emotions, and still gets those feet tappin’.  Luckily for guitar players, the instrument lends itself greatly for conveying the blues spirit....

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How can easily I play across the guitar neck? Use the the Diagonal Pentatonic Method!

How can easily I play across the guitar neck? Use the the Diagonal Pentatonic Method!

 Casey Saulpaugh and Steve Newbrough


3/27/21

While many guitarists use the CAGED system to navigate the fretboard with pentatonic scales, the diagonal pentatonic scales can allow a guitarist to break out of those overused boxes. As described below, placing two or three note sets per string can allow a guitarist to use a simpler and more consistent left hand fingering.

 

Like any musician, as guitarists we strive to articulate the musical ideas we hear in our head through our instrument.  However, with multiple strings, scale shapes, and keys, it can seem like there are endless possibilities to playing just one idea.  This can seem promising, but also overwhelming: with so many possibilities sometimes utilizing the fretboard can feel like being lost in a maze. 

 

Luckily, as with any maze, there is a way out, and the Diagonal Pentatonic Method is like having an...

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Why are there two letters in the chord name? What are Slash chords?

Why are there two different letters in the chord name? What are slash chords?


3/23/21 
 
The first letter stands for the chord that needs to be played. The second letter stands for the bass note or the lowest note that should be played instead of the root of the chord.
 
For instance, in the "C" chord, the lowest note played would be "C." In an "C/G" chord, all of the notes of the C chord would ring but you would also play the low G on the sixth string (third fret). 
 
 
In the lingo, musicians would call C/G, "C over G." Meaning the C chord will literally be ringing over an G bass note. Here's a diagram of a C/G:
 
Just in case you're unsure, the bottom part of your third finger can mute the fifth string.
 
What are some common songs with slash chords?
 
This list could get long... I'm going to add more songs at the end of the...
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Why do people have a hard time learning music theory?

Why do people have a hard time learning music theory?


3/20/21
 
Music theory is like chess: it doesn't take long to learn the rules and get started, but its a deep well that you can explore and learn about for a lifetime. Unfortunately, most people who approach music theory get tossed into the deep end before they're ready. Here, we plan to offer a three step approach to not only get started learning theory but retaining what you've learned so that you can use it in song writing, improvisation, or as an aid in performing music.   
 
 
To be clear, only a few of the concepts of music theory are going to be explained in this article. Think of this article as guide to how you can approach a book, or even a teacher, to obtain a working knowledge of music theory.
 
Let's wade in...
 
What concepts do I need to know about music theory?
 
This depends on the type of music that you're interested in writing but there are some...
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What are Hammer-Ons, Pull-Offs, and other Slurs on the Guitar?

What are Hammer-Ons, Pull-Offs, and other Slurs on the Guitar?


3/4/2021
 
Hammer-ons and pull-offs are performed by hitting or pulling the string with the left hand so that right hand does not need to pick. When played well, slurs add a smoothness or legato to the sound. From Vivaldi's Concerto For Lute in D or Pearl Jam's Yellow Ledbetter, slurs are integral to the sound of some of the greatest music written.
 
Even while writing this article, I know that I'm going to be correcting this common mistake for as long as I teach lessons. Most guitar students have no idea how to play slurs. Among guitarists, slurs are more commonly labeled as one of the following: hammer-ons, pull-offs, and slides.   
 
So many guitarists struggle with slurs! So many things can go wrong until you know what to do. Let's tackle this beast.
 
1) They're called "hammer-ons" for a reason. 
 
Let's do a hammer-on together to get...
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What are the benefits of playing improvised music on guitar? And how do you start?!

What are the benefits of playing improvised music on guitar? And how do you start?!

Casey Saulpaugh and Steve Newbrough


3/1/2021

Improvising music is a fantastic neural challenge. It requires the performer to instantly taking into account what notes will sound the best with the harmonies and rhythms of the tune. A performer can get started by improvising over music with minimal harmonic change, any typical pop song will work.

 

Musicians can improvise on many different levels: from playing a couple notes spontaneously that weren’t in the original melody, to burning through complex changes in a bebop tune that is so fast it burns.  Whether a player wants to dabble in improvisation, or advance on a deeper level, learning improvisation can go a long way for the player. 

 

For instance, since improvisation is a form of music composition, this is an excellent skill for song writers. Developing a knowledge of common and uncommon chord progressions, the...

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What are chord-melody fingerstyle arrangements? And why are they amazing?

What are chord-melody fingerstyle arrangements? And why are they amazing?

Casey Saulpaugh and  Steve Newbrough


3/1/2021

What is a chord-melody arrangement? That's when a guitarist plays both the chords or harmonies of a song while also playing the melody. The reason people bother to say chord/melody rather than just "arrangement" is because it is so blasted difficult to play chords and melody simultaneously on the guitar! 

 

There aren’t many greater feelings than hearing one of your favorite guitarists play an awe-inspiring, soul-stirring solo that gives you goosebumps down to the bones. Add a killer band with rhythms that groove and tones that please, and the music is undeniably powerful.

 

Any guitarist or listener knows this power that music can have: lifting spirits, conveying deep emotions, and bringing people together with harmony. But this electrifying sensation isn’t just limited to groups or bands communicating what they feel...

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Why have sharps AND flats in music? Why not just use one of them??

Why have sharps AND flats in music? Why not just use one of them?? 

 

3/1/2021 
 
When describing music, sometimes it makes more sense to use sharps and sometimes it makes more sense to use flats. For instance, if we called the key of B flat by its enharmonic equivalent A sharp, there would be 10 sharps in the key signature. Since B flat only has two flats, it makes much more sense to use the key of B flat rather than A sharp.
 
It's crazy to think that I've been teaching music for almost 20 years. In that time, I've had the privilege of helping hundreds of people get started playing guitar and also improving on the guitar skills they already have. It's funny how often a lot of the same questions are asked over and over. 
 
One of these recurring questions goes something like this, "why do some notes have two names? Why is A# also called Bb? Why don't we just pick one???" 
 
This is a valid question! For someone who...
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