Craig Hall

In “Garage Band Theory” Duke Sharp has delivered to us the anti-textbook. Apparently inspired less by the tired approaches of endless theory books on the local music store rack, than by, say, Dave Barry’s delightful drollery, GBT reads at moments like a coffee shop conversation twixt rock band sidemen at a restaurant after a questionable gig, complete with puns both good and bad, musician ‘inside humor’ and self-demeaning laments.

The genius within the madness is that after finally acquiescing to the har-har humor, the reader will find himself actually learning a lot about music along the way. More to the point, learning how band-stand musicians THINK about music.

There has forever been a gap between the way music theorist negotiate their topic and what a pianist is thinking about when he glances at an upcoming C#7#11. (The truth is, he may still be thinking about the joke he heard last break.) The gap between traditional theorists and the musicians who play mostly “by ear” is even wider. GBT comes very close to bridging those gaps.

Mr. Sharp has taken a shot across the bow of academia (this isn’t how I was taught theory!) and delivered to us a quite accurate and unconventionally authoritative romp through the slightly circuitous logic of a guy making a hundred bucks on a stage somewhere tonight.

Funneling in most effectively on guitarists, other instrumentalists need not fret. (Sorry. It’s contagious.) The book also reads well to other fretted stringites, with a plethora of TAB and notation layouts for banjologists and mandolinonians. Truthfully any humor-deprived soul interested in how pitches relates to another might be advised to take the GBT plunge, if only to research just how absolutely twisted we habitual pickers are.

With dozens of relevant music examples ranging from the pen of King Henry the Eighth to recent pop, a few thematic threads are recognizable throughout the book, two being: “Experiment. A lot.” And, “You can learn this stuff! If I can do this you CERTAINLY can do this!”

I recommend this superficially light but painstakingly complete and well-crafted book to anyone who enjoys pondering, for example, one of its many included quotes: “I know canned music makes chickens lay more eggs and makes factory workers produce more. But how much more can they get out of you on an elevator?” (Victor Borge.)