hmmm. Theory

Boyd Small HugeSmall@AOL.COM
Wed Nov 8 03:56:19 EST 1995

Sorry. That was a typo. I meant to say PUTTING the cart before the horse.
What I meant was that the  music comes first and the Theory comes second as a
descriptive language. I was in a hurry and probably should have waited before
posting. But while we're on the subject, there seems to be 2 main questions
in the discussion on Theory and Blues. The first is the question of whether
or not learning  Music Theory is harmful to ones ability to play blues. The
answer in my opinion is DEFINITLY NOT. BUT one's ability to focus on the
style they are playing at any given time and play within the genre could be
at risk. A little knowledge IS a dangerous thing. Terry Robb is a good
example. He is schooled in many different styles an is VERY adept at his
instrument. This hasn't hampered his ability to play traditional blues but
occasionally during a live performance of a traditional blues song he gets a
wild hair and throws in 'something else'. I know Terry personally and he has
no desire to be known as a 'traditional bluesman', so I don't think it is an
inability to concentrate that causes this. He just wanted to raise some
eyebrows is usually the case. And when he wants to play a traditional blues
tune and sound like a traditional bluesman he can. But like an American who
learns a little Spanish and then cannot find the correct word or phrase to
express what he is trying to say while shopping in Tijuana and resorts to
speaking English and gets no response, or says the wrong thing in Spanish and
offends someone, it is important to learn the entire language before trying
to speak it. Thus it is important to learn the ENTIRE Blues language before
trying to speak IT.  The knowledge of Classical music theory can be very
helpful when trying to express exactly what you want someone to play in a
blues band because it is a common language that is easily understood. But it
would be better for all the musicians in the band to know Blues music theory.
Ive done several gigs with Jimmy Rogers and when he would say "Make sure
everyone kicks it on the turnaround" I would turn to some of the bandmembers
and say "accent the AND  of TWO when you get to the twelfth bar on the V." It
should also be known that Hubert Sumlin and several other Bluesmen that I
have played with use the terms I, IV, and V (one , four , and five) rather
than saying C, F, and G (while playing in the key of C) because it is easier.
Which brings up the other question is the knowledge of Classical music theory
useful when playing blues? The answer is definately YES. The more knowledge
you have of all musical styles helps one define exactly what style they are
trying to play. When Bluesmen such as those I have mentioned say "this is a
shuffle in C" or  "this is a slow blues in F minor" shows that they have a
knowledge of classical music theory (because they said "C" and "F minor").
Even though it is limited in the "Classical" sense they have expanded on it
to create Blues music theory.
The main point I guess is that it is very important to listen to as much
blues as you possibly can if you want to play it. And it is very important to
learn as much Classical music theory as you can if you want to be a
professional musician. It is also very important to learn as much Blues music
theory as you can if you want to be a professional Blues musician. One way to
do this is to hang out with Jimmy Rogers, Hubert Sumlin, Guitar Shorty,
Pinetop Perkins and other Bluesmen, drink whiskey and talk about blues. Or
you can watch and read interviews with these men, listen to all their
records, cop all their licks and worship them like Gods. Either way you've
got sa lots of woyk to do so gets busy baby!

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