We’ve all been there. Same riffs, solos, and chord progressions played over and over again. The pizzazz they had when they were fresh and new to our ears and fingers faded a long time ago. Instead of moving forward, your playing now feels stagnant and boredom is quickly becoming the new, though unwanted, normal. Okay, let’s take a breath right here and pause for a minute as we slightly change our thought pattern.
Often times, the simple solution to get moving again is not what you’re playing but, rather, what you’re thinking about as you analyze the music in front of you. Guitarists may find themselves struggling to learn the inner workings of music, not because they don’t study, but because they may not ask why the music is written the way it is.
- Why is there a note or chord that is out of key?
- What was the composer/band trying to convey when they wrote this piece of music?
By just asking Why?, musicians can lead themselves into a world of unexplored possibility and untapped creativity. Sometimes the answers are obvious, but other times, they will result in fresh ideas that lead them down the rabbit hole of new ways of thinking and playing music.
Let’s look at an E7 to Am chord progression, for example. There is no key that would naturally contain these two chords, yet the movement from one chord to the next is undeniably strong and a little haunting. Why? I could easily fill up a book to explain this, but the simple answer is these chords derive from what is known as the harmonic minor scale (confession, there are other “special” scales that can contain these two chords but you will find that the harmonic minor is one of the more common ones). What’s the harmonic scale, you ask? Well now it’s time to crack open those books, search online, or ask your instructor what this could all mean.
My point is that you can easily expand your musical knowledge, and in turn, your playing, by taking the time to analyze the music you enjoy. You will find that most great songwriters/guitarists were influenced by other great songwriters/guitarists. Imagine all that you could achieve with your own playing by just exploring the music in front of you just a little bit deeper. So start by asking Why?, and see where the information takes you. Why? Because the potential that lies within music is limitless; and, if you love music and are ready to snap out of stagnation and boredom, this one word question will propel you in ways that’ll spark excitement, intrigue, and new possibilities!