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Beyond E Major

Article from One Two Testing, May 1985

the school of self-education

So where have we got to?

Over the last 13 months, "Beyond E Major" has opened the tobacco tin on chord shapes and the theory behind them; single note runs; how to practise without actually touching the guitar; right-hand plectrum technique; the "three shape system" enabling the player to move from one chord to another at ease; major and minor scales; the mystery of the Alvin Lee Triangle; octave playing; understanding chord charts; and more recently, the rhythm and tonality of yer actual music — probably resulting in those who read this column too closely chucking their guitar away and taking up piano.

Don't do it!

Beethoven (of Roll Over fame), called the guitar the "little orchestra'. Others said that its ability for chording made it a much more versatile instrument than those of the violin family, and that its portability was preferable to a piano. Which is partly why the guitar is such a perfect instrument for self tuition. You can attend music school all day long without having to work nights in the local wine bar to pay for the travelling to and from college. So, for concluding encouragement, here's a day in the life of the self-taught guitarist.


My name is A. Anyperson. Guitar playing has been my main interest in life for two years now. This morning I woke to a cup of tea and Steely Dan on the stereo. Sitting in bed, I listened to each side twice — once for the production and once to pay careful attention to each instrument and their interrelation.

Over toast in the kitchen I warmed my acoustic guitar up by rubbing the neck with my left hand. A sort of 'Good morning guitar and how are you?'. Wiping the jam from my right hand I begin 20 minutes of scales in order to loosen my fingers. My attention is diverted to the Breakfast TV on quietly in the background. "...FEED THE WOOORRLDD..." spews forth from sincere, capped-teethed mouths. I find the pitch on the guitar and attempt to play the lead melody line. Then I hum the melody while working out the chords underneath.

Quickly tiring of that, I reconsider licks from the Steely Dan L.P. Every day I study a different record. Yesterday it was Bob Marley, the day before, Steve Miller. Tunes fill my head as I dress and wander to the paper shop. I imagine how certain lines could be fingered.

Today is 'Kerrang' day, although I also read Melody Maker for the classified ads (maybe I'll get a chance to audition for Dexy's...) and ONE TWO TESTING for everything. I try not to restrict my freedom of reading as I try not to censor my musical diet.

Back home and time for a quick coffee and a browse through the paper. Meanwhile I continue scales on the guitar. I'm not really listening, just flexing the fingers.

My band rehearses two evenings a week. That's all the bass player will do as he has a crappy job as a meat buyer for Sainsburys and feels it's important to have 'something to fall back on'. I wish I could ask him to leave the band, but bassists are few and far between. Everyone wants to play lead. Tomorrow night we'll be running through the set for a gig down the youth club. I spend the hours of my part-time cleaning job considering the running order.

The hotel where I work has a piano in the bar. I tinker about on it whenever I can. I find it helps to widen my approach to music making. Home for a late lunch accompanied by a Pat Metheny tape lent to me by a friend I'm always swapping tapes and records with my friends. Sometimes I can't stand what I hear, but I listen all the same.

Time for some rhythm study. A knife and fork make a good pair of drumsticks as does the rest of the 'kit' — a place mat for a snare, salt cellar for a ride cymbal, knapkin-mounted toms, side plate — floor tom, and tapping feet as the bass drum pedal and hi-hat.

My mate Skunk pops round — he plays guitar, too. We spend an hour jamming over blues sequences. I don't think he's as good as me, so I use the time to tighten my right hand attack, trying to play things he'll respond to, and generally showing off.

On other afternoons I might go round record shops reading sleeve notes, pop to the library to get records out or borrow biographies of musicians. I even listen to Radio Three! I find I have to pursue two lines of thought. My musical development on the one hand, and the music business on the other. I like discussing the business with the manager of the local gear shop. He used to play Hammond organ in bands, yet now he prefers to sell equipment. There must be a moral there. In fact it worries me that so many players give up the boards and take up desk jobs. To me, nothing can beat the buzz of playing, yet there are musicians like Muff Winwood (bassist with the Spencer Davis Group) working in A + R at CBS; Animals' bassist Chas Chandler who managed Jimi Hendrix and Slade; and Dave Dee (of Beaky, Squeeky etc...) in A + R at W.E.A. It may be proof that regular employment can more often be found outside of playing, but it makes me work all the harder.

Some evenings I might go to a gig, although I can't afford to get to many, besides which I get a bit envious which in turn leads to frustration. I watch all the music programmes on TV — The Tube and Other Side Of The Tracks are my favourites, although Whistle Test is a lot better now — by that I mean more informative and educational. Like that bit on musicians' record collections. It just proves what narrow minded specimens most of them are. Rockschool is great too.

About once in a blue moon I go to a party. There's usually a guitar in most houses I visit, so I can slip away and play a few tunes. Sometimes there may be a few people in the room. It then becomes a small recital, or at least. I'll try and make it one. It's harder to play to people face to face than it is to play to many in a large auditorium. I think that's what kept rock dinosaurs like the Who, Yes, and the Rolling Stones going — they just prat about on stage showing off, they don't have to work. The audience is already theirs.

Each different event during the day serves as a different lesson on my self-education course. I've been reading Beyond E Major which has helped me in quite a few ways. At least I'm free to choose the articles I enjoy, and therefore learn from. In fact, thinking about it, the only things my self tuition do not provide which 'proper' music college can, are the disciplines of a timetable and various tutors, and a certificate when you graduate.

But then I know that my discipline is drawn from commitment, and as for 'graduating', I can quote Segovia (said to be the greatest living guitarist, but then he doesn't play electric and wear tight leather trousers). At the age of 92 he's still saying he hasn't stopped learning!


To prove how much the school of self-education can teach you, Billy Jenkins has unleashed his influences and jazz direction on Beyond E Major — The Album. This long playing record rips assunder the popular theories on how Heavy Metal, Country, The Blues and most other stuff can be played by a three piece. Educational (though not in the... er... traditional manner), whacky, and gloriously unhampered by musical inhibitions. It's being distributed through Backs/Cartel (Allmusic Records cat. number ALMS 1). Or write to Allmusic Records, (Contact Details), enclosing a postal order for £4.49 which also covers post, packing, and ensures your copy by return of post. Jenkins has swiped drummer Roy Dodds from Working Weeks and double bassist Steve Berry from Loose Tubes to complete his project. It's wild.

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Mixer Special

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Mellow and Full Bodied

Publisher: One Two Testing - IPC Magazines Ltd, Northern & Shell Ltd.

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One Two Testing - May 1985

Donated by: Colin Potter

Feature by Billy Jenkins

Previous article in this issue:

> Mixer Special

Next article in this issue:

> Mellow and Full Bodied

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