"Chad – You're Trending!"

Jan 15, 2021

The Dauphin has been lurking about the living room this evening. He's deep into volume four of a five-novel dystopia involving ghosts in a near-future Britain, and usually when he has a kickass book on hand, you won't see him for hours, but for some reason he's been wandering in and out all night. In between novels, he's prone to too-numerous-to-count rereads of comic strips and graphic novels, particularly Calvin and Hobbes, Pearls Before Swine and Big Nate. I'm the one who slipped him the Calvin and Hobbes books long before he was probably supposed to be reading anything that ironic, but he discovered Big Nate all on his own. I have, of course, read my share of Big Nate myself by now, and one of my favorites is when Nate decides he's the only sixth-grader qualified to determine – by sheer dint of merely announcing it – what, or who, is trending around the school. As in: "Chad – you're trending!"

I've been wandering in and out of the comments section of my upcoming theory workshop all night, and unlike Nate, I can tell you from actual observation what's trending there. The two questions I've seen most have been some variation on either "Do you have any ideas about how to understand the fingerboard better?" or "I know what the modes are, I just don't know how to use them." I love these two lines of thought because they both imply an interest in theory not as an end in and of itself, but as a means to more practical, hands-on things: knowing the fingerboard, so you can more easily find the notes you want, or getting a better grip on how to put the modes into action, so you can use them to make some music.

As it turns out, I do have ideas about how to learn the fingerboard, and yes, I do think theory can help you with that. And, I think there is definitely a way to learn and look at the modes that can make it easier to find fingerings for them and know when and where to improvise with them. This isn't a workshop on fingerboard knowledge or improvising per se. My main mission Saturday is to lay out, as clearly and linearly as possible, the building blocks of theory –  to take you from half steps and whole steps, through major scales and triads, to how modes and 7th chords are constructed. But I do hope to make clear how understanding all that can help you do more of what you want to on the guitar. Just knowing the musical alphabet and the difference between half steps and whole steps, for instance, can be a huge help in mapping out the fingerboard. And understanding how to build each of the seven modes from one common root can be a tremendous step towards knowing which mode will work over which kind of seventh chord.

I explain more about the workshop and how it's organized at the link below; there's also a video in which I talk about what I'll be teaching, and why:

Music Theory From Zero To Sixty

Registration is still open, and everyone who participates will have three months' access to a complete replay of the two-hour class. If you can't be there Saturday, you can still register to attend and watch the whole thing on replay when you have the time.

And now, if I'm not mistaken, what's trending around here is a glass of warm milk and a little Robert Browning.