Theory in Reality

Hello readers!

For my first post this semester, I was assigned to write about a time I used my theory training in a real life situation. Many people probably look at music theory (sort of like math) and think, “When am I ever going to need this?” Personally, I think I use music theory almost every day. I’m a guitar player, and when I’m learning a new song, I would much rather try to teach myself how to play it first. If I absolutely can’t figure it out, I will resort to looking it up online (though it usually makes me feel like I fail as a musician).

Luckily, the further I go into my theory training, the more I learn about chord progressions and how they fit together. When I sit down and try to figure out a song and how to play it while I sing, if I can’t figure out a chord, I’ll start by narrowing it down to what chords it could possibly be in. Whether it sounds major or minor, what chords are in the key signature, things like that. Once I narrow it down to possible chords, I usually try to figure out the solfege to one part that I’m singing, and I’ll try to narrow the chord possibilities down further by distinguishing which chords have the dynamic note in it. If there are multiple possible chords from there, I play the chords one by one and try to harmonize with it to figure it out (though fortunately, it usually doesn’t have to go that far).

Like I mentioned earlier, I absolutely loathe having to look up guitar chords and tabs. I personally love the feeling of knowing I figured it out on my own. I honestly love music theory because the more I study and practice it, the better I become at figuring out possible chords and melody lines in songs. It honestly has helped me so much not only in knowledge, but I believe it has definitely made me a better guitar player. Thanks for reading!

-Bailey Shea

Hello readers! For this blog post, I’ve decided to share some of my personal feelings that I’ve been experiencing for a while now. This is my second semester at UMHB and it has been incredibly stressful. I’ve been sick multiple times, so I’ve missed many classes, therefore my grades have been slipping. Being sick also takes a major toll on one’s voice and when you’re a vocal track music education major with a two week sinus infection, things get pretty tough.

For a while now, all these things have been really falling down on me. Last semester I always had time to practice, I was never sick, I was making great grades. Making bad grades and not being able to practice as much because of work or being sick this semester was not good at all for my self esteem. For the past month, I’ve been debating changing majors because I was so unsure of myself as a musician. For my entire life, music has meant everything to me. It’s the only thing that’s always been able to help me when I’m down, and it’s always been my go-to for any and every situation that I come across. So feeling like I wasn’t good enough to be a musician, or that it just wasn’t for me anymore was incredibly hard on me. This semester, I also haven’t been going to church as much as I used to. I don’t read my bible or pray as much as I used to. The other day, thinking about all these things really hit me hard, and I sat in my dorm and actually prayed for an answer on what to do, or at least some sort of sign.

Yesterday, I logged onto my computer so I could download a program for music scoring for my theory class (ha ha). I figured while I was online I might as well check my school email. I opened it and saw that I had an email from one of the music professors at UMHB. I then remembered a few months ago, I sent in an audition video to him for the Chapel Band next year. When I saw that the first words were “hi Bailey,” I immediately freaked out. I thought “Oh no, I didn’t make the Chapel Band and he’s just letting me know. This isn’t what I need right now, it’s not helping my case at all.” I went on to read the email, and found out he sent it to let me know he wants me to lead the Chapel Band for next semester!

I definitely feel like this is a sign that I need to continue to major in music at UMHB. I truly believe I am right where God wants me to be and that he heard my prayer. I am so excited to keep pursuing this degree and lead the Chapel Band next year. I can’t wait to see what else is in store for me. Thanks for reading!

“I will call upon Your name, and keep my eyes above the waves.” -Hillsong United

-Bailey Shea

What If I Say I’m Not Like The Others?

Hello readers! So I wasn’t exactly sure what to write about in this blog, so I decided to make this an inspirational post. My subject isn’t necessarily somebody who played a part in making me realize music is what I’m meant to do. He isn’t somebody that has been there for me my whole life, he isn’t even somebody I know, nor is he my only inspiration. But Dave Grohl has played a huge part in keeping me going even through my rough patches.

If you don’t know who Dave Grohl is, he is the lead singer and guitarist of the band Foo Fighters, and used to be the drummer of Nirvana. He is a fantastic musician, but what I admire even more about Grohl is his personality. To be completely honest, I’m not entirely sure Dave Grohl even knows he’s famous. It doesn’t seem to matter to him whether or not people like him, because he’s happy where he’s at. He plays the music he plays not to impress anybody else, but just because it’s what he likes to play and sing. So many artists now just try to fit in with what everybody else is doing and what’s popular at the time. Grohl has such an intense passion for music and believes everybody should just do what they want to do. He thinks everybody is going to have an opinion and you’re not going to impress everybody, but you can impress somebody, so in the end you’ll be much happier just doing what you want to do, and do it for you.

“Who should we ask to determine the value of a voice? Maybe The Voice? Can you imagine Bob Dylan singing ‘Blowing In the Wind’ in front of Christina Aguilera?”  -Dave Grohl

I strongly believe music is something that can appeal to everybody, and very often, it’s not the same cookie-cutter voice and progression that catches somebody’s attention. It’s a unique voice color or melody. Stevie Nicks and Ed Sheeran are two of my personal favorites, and they both have voices that can’t be mistaken for many else. As far as progressions go in contemporary stuff, who cares if you want to play a G D Em C progression all mixed up? If it fits and you like it, that should be enough. Somebody out there will enjoy and appreciate it, and that to me is a better feeling than knowing somebody just finds it catchy because it sounds like everything else on the radio at the moment. Dave Grohl has really opened my eyes to this mindset and that is why I’m so inspired by him. Thanks for reading!

-Bailey Shea

“I’ll Stand Before My Lord With Song”

Obviously, music can serve many different purposes for many different people. It can help pick you up when you’re feeling sad about something, or you can scream a fast and aggressive song if you need to “vent,” or it could even relax you. Sometimes, a certain song can give a person such a good feeling and be such a strong reminder of a loved one that it becomes “their song.” But what a lot of people don’t really notice is that music plays an incredibly strong part in worship. Think about it, have you ever been to a church or special service that doesn’t have some sort of music playing at the beginning and/or end? Many modern churches use the method of putting the lyrics on the screen for the congregation to sing along with, while many other churches, like my own, use the old hymnals that provide the words and the sheet music for it as well. To me, there are advantages and disadvantages to both. For the contemporary stuff, you can’t always tell how the melody or rhythm is going to sound until you hear it a few times, but sometimes it seems to have a better way of “building” up to a high point in the song. The hymnals have the pitches and rhythms right there on the page, but this isn’t always helpful if one can’t read music, and sometimes we tend to focus so much on getting every note and rhythm right, we don’t pay enough attention to the lyrics and the power in them.

Personally, I like the hymnals better. Don’t get me wrong, I think the modern stuff is amazing too, primarily because of the meaning and the inspiration behind the songs. However, you can usually take an old hymn and make it your own if you try for it. Brad Paisley, Carrie Underwood, and Vince Gill have all successfully taken some of their favorites and sang them in their own style, and all these performances were so well thought out and had so much emotion behind them. Every now and then, my church will ask my dad and me to bring our guitars and sing on some Sundays, and we’ve done many different songs. I like playing the ones that everybody knows and no one needs a book for, because at that point, nobody in the room is focusing on the written melody. Everybody pays attention to the words so much better when they don’t have a book sitting in front of them. Some of my favorites include The Old Rugged Cross, I’ll Fly Away, Mansion Over the Hilltop, and though it may not really be considered a Christian song to many, I really love Hallelujah. These songs always get the crowd singing and it’s so much fun every time.

I go to a southern gospel music school every July for about two weeks called TSGSM (Texas Southern Gospel School of Music). I’ve been attending since I was thirteen and it has been such a great experience for me both musically and spiritually. For two weeks, we learn about music and God, and on top of that, we get to sing about God ALL THE TIME! We have devotionals every morning, and at the end of the two weeks, we make a CD of all the songs we’ve learned and hold a concert the last night. I even played and sang The Old Rugged Cross at the concert one year, and the crowd’s reaction was so uplifting. To this day, I still consider that one of the best spiritual experiences of my life.

There are so many different ways to connect to somebody spiritually, but I think music is the best way to speak to that side of me. I hope you all enjoyed this post, and even more, I hope you give music a chance to speak to you spiritually, whether it be a hymnal or a contemporary piece. Thank you for reading!

“Shout joyfully to the LORD, all the earth; Break forth and sing for joy and sing praises.” -Psalms 98:4

“Even though it all went wrong, I’ll stand before my Lord with song and nothing on my tongue but Hallelujah.” -Leonard Cohen, “Hallelujah”

-Bailey Shea

Purple Rain

Hello readers, and welcome to my blog!

For my first post, I was assigned to write about a song that I didn’t like at first, but grew on me the more I listened. Now I’ve heard multiple songs in my life that I started out hating but eventually learned to like them. James Blunt, OneRepublic, even some rap, believe it or not. But one song that I really started to love the more I listened is Purple Rain by Prince.

When I was younger, my mom and stepdad would always have 70s and 80s classics playing in the house. Now I would always jam along to Def Leppard and Aerosmith, but the couple times I heard Purple Rain I just didn’t care for it.

This past summer, I met a good friend of mine, and he just happened to be a major music junkie just like me. He was into all the same music (I mean really, what other 20 year old is going to sing John Waite with me?) and so music was most of what we talked about. We were talking about Prince one day and I mentioned how I didn’t care for him all that much. He told me Purple Rain was his favorite and that I needed to listen to it, but like I do every time someone tells me I should look up a song, I blew it off. “I will!” Not.

One night right before I started my first semester of college, I was driving over to his house to hang out and when I drive, I always have to have music playing. So I got in my car and put my phone on the aux cord and pressed the shuffle button for all 800-something songs in my library. The second or third song that played made the hairs on the back of my neck stand up with the first chord struck. The progression gave me chills and when he started singing, I immediately turned it all the way up and tuned in entirely. I didn’t even recognize it! I’m sitting here thinking “What is this song and why have I never heard it??” Then I hear “I only want to see you laughing in the purple rain” and thought “ohhhh….” I got to his house about four minutes into the song and literally sat in the driveway for four more minutes listening to the rest of it. To this day, it is the only eight minute song I will listen to all the way through.

So why do I love Purple Rain so much? First, the progression. The chords are pretty basic. It’s the order that makes the progression so beautiful. Instead of playing a I V vi IV or vi IV I V that is heard pretty regularly in most modern songs (Taylor Swift is a great example of this), the progression is actually a I vi V IV pattern. Sounds difficult, but overall, not a hard song to play and is still stunning.

Second, THE VOCALS. If you’re planning on ever writing out the melody line for the vocals of Purple Rain, step one is don’t even attempt it, there is no set rhythm or pitch in the majority of the song, which makes it all the more emotional to me. This is definitely a hard song to match vocally, but if anything, I think it just makes the song even more powerful. Not to mention his falsetto run at the end. I WISH I could sing as high as Prince.

Third, lyrics. If anybody has ever lost someone close, they can probably relate. Now to me, this song doesn’t sound like it’s about death, but maybe losing touch with someone that once meant the world to them.

And last, just a random fact about Purple Rain that really sends it over the edge for me, Purple Rain was never recorded by Prince in a studio. That eight minute long song you can find on iTunes was recorded live. At some points, especially near the end, you can even hear feedback and the audience clapping and cheering. Cool, huh?

I couldn’t find a YouTube recording of the version I’ve been raving about, so I attached a cover that at least shows off the vocals and progression a bit. However, my favorite version can be found on iTunes on the album “The Very Best of Prince.” I encourage you all to listen if you haven’t heard it before and I hope you enjoy it as much as I do. Thanks for reading!

-Bailey Shea