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BBC launches major rock tutor series

Article from Music UK, November 1983

Auntie Learns to Rock — BBC to screen Rockschool. What's it all about?

Whatever else you've got planned, make certain that you're near a TV set on November 1st at 6.10 pm. That's when BBC 2 starts its ROCKSCHOOL Series — an event which promises to be a major turning point in the presentation of Rock on TV. But ROCKSCHOOL is no mere general viewer's programme — it's a specially devised series, designed to appeal to musicians interested in developing their abilities to play Rock.

The basic format of ROCKSCHOOL will be to feature three musicians who will cover, as the series develops, the majority of current Rock music playing styles. Deirdre Cartwright (guitar), Henry Thomas (bass) and Geoff Nichols (drums) will explore different themes of playing each week, in front of a small audience, and the programmes will concentrate on various contemporary playing styles.

In addition to the studio sections, however, Producer Chris Lent and his team have spent this past summer chasing musicians and equipment manufacturers across the world. Filmed segments for the series will include interviews with such players as Gary Moore, Neil Murray and Ian Paice, Carl Palmer, John Entwistle, Wilko Johnson, Andy Gill and Sarah Lee, Bootsy Collins, Nile Rodgers and Bernard Edwards, Larry Graham, Sly Dunbar and Robbie Shakespeare, plus Chet Atkins. Filmed inserts will include footage on Jimi Hendrix, Chuck Berry, Motorhead, Status Quo and many others.

On the equipment side, the BBC 2 team have visited the Gibson factory in Nashville and the Marshall factory in Milton Keynes. Programme 1 in the series will concentrate on an introduction to the electric guitar, the bass and the fundamental 5 drum kit. Basic amp types will be discussed, along with effects pedals. The Gibson factory trip will be featured in this initial programme.

On the second show, ROCKSCHOOL will be looking at strings, drum tuning and damping — a technical (and very valuable) look at the actual mechanics of the instruments used in Rock.

Programme 3 will pick up a major theme of the Series — how the three basic Rock instruments work together. It will also cover right and left hand guitar and bass techniques and drum fundamentals.

By the time ROCKSCHOOL gets into its fourth episode, they're into very specific styles. This week's show will concentrate on Blues techniques — relating it to music as diverse as Reggae and Heavy Metal. The players will discuss time signatures in the 12 bar format, the Blues scale, and its relationship to Rock soloing generally. Week 5 sees Heavy Metal making the running. Riffs from the Blues (or pentatonic) scale will be covered plus vibrato, string bending techniques and other 'tricks'.

Funk forms the basis of ROCKSCHOOL 6, and will delve into the mysteries of chord structures played against the relentless 4/4 rhythm of Disco music. Bass 'slapping' styles will be covered.

Two more shows left to go in this first run of the Series (initial reaction to pre-screenings has been so positive that a second transmission is scheduled even before the first broadcast goes out!) and the next subject to be covered is Reggae, working around the 'one-drop', 'stepper' and 'Rockers Rhythm' styles. Dub will be looked at, too. The final programme in this adventurous new series will draw together the threads of the previous programmes and will attempt to look into the future.

MUSIC U.K. has been lucky enough to attend a recording of one of the ROCKSCHOOL editions, and our impression is that players will be astonished by just how much information is going to be up for grabs in this series. We've talked to Producer Chris Lent, the camera and sound team, the presenters and several of the manufacturers who've been involved since the BBC decided to give ROCKSCHOOL the 'green light'. We reckon that ROCKSCHOOL is going to be the most valuable assistance to Rock players ever devised by any TV network, and can only say that we're jealous as hell of the ability provided by moving pictures of players at work. Almost regardless of what style you play in, ROCKSCHOOL looks like it'll have something for you — unless, of course, you play keyboards as they've been (curiously) ignored in this initial series.

By the time the second screening of the programme gets round (in 1984) ROCKSCHOOL will have a book on offer as part of their series too and (blush, blush) contributors to it will include both MUSIC U.K.'s Editor Gary Cooper and Rick Palmer, our resident drum writer.

In case you suspect us of some form of prejudice, just check out that first programme for yourselves. From what we've learned of the plans afoot and the tremendous amount of research already undertaken by the ROCKSCHOOL team, it promises to be the most exciting development yet in the way television can teach instrument playing, without patronising the player or (almost deliberately) teaching them the 'orthodox', 'safe' or sterile (which is what it almost always is) styles. ROCKSCHOOL will be a must for all MUSIC U.K. readers — and we hope that it will be just the start of great things to come from Producer Chris Lent and his team. At last — real help for Rock players via our television system! Remember that date — ROCKSCHOOL hits the airwaves on November 1st, BBC 2 at 6.10 pm, and the eight 25 minute programmes will be on the following Tuesdays. Is ROCKSCHOOL the shape of viewing to come? We hope so!

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Publisher: Music UK - Folly Publications

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Music UK - Nov 1983


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