Value of Learning the Beach Boys Music on Guitar



The music of the Beach Boys has a lot of value waiting to be explored for guitar players. Within their songs lies the opportunity for some excellent learning that can come out of studying their unique chord harmonies on the Guitar...

That's why we're going to look at the, "Value of Learning the Beach Boys on Guitar," on this episode of the GuitarBlog Insider. 

The Video Lesson:



The Beach Boys music speaks to people, and it does so in a way that's hard to put into words. For most listeners, it gives them a feeling of peace and happiness when listening to those classic Beach Boys songs.



The Beach Boys song-writing style, and the ways that their music was organized in harmonies, just seems to absorb the listener at an emotional level. And, when you spend time examining their songs, (and especially when you begin playing them), you'll start to find that the Beach Boys wrote with very interesting chord structures.

This ended up producing pieces that contain a lot of great chord changes - that are also a lot of fun to practice on guitar. Plus, the pieces also lend themselves to some really "good to know" techniques that guitar players should develop the skill for. If you wanted to, you could even use these chord ideas to create some very cool improvising situations based upon the song harmonies as well.



When you study a Beach Boys song, you discover fairly quickly, that part of Brian Wilson's brilliance comes from the fact that he broke a lot of new ground in his music. And, this was actually (despite the fact) that he did not really have too much formal music training.

I am not suggesting that his intention was anything other than to write great pop songs. But, as a musician, he was creating a new kind of "pop music harmony" that ended up becoming studied by a lot of other musicians for years to come.

In getting started, I wanted to begin with one of the interesting chord harmony ideas that the Beach Boys music liked to exploit. This idea works on taking a standard chord harmony from a key and adding in a chord from the keys relative tonality.

In my first example, we'll look at chord changes similar to those used in the Beach Boys song, "In My Room." The Verse section of this piece is in "A Major." However, around the chords of "A," "Bm" and "E" we'll introduce a "G" major chord. This is borrowed from the "A Minor" key. And, this technique is referred to as "Modal Interchange," it produces a very cool sounding effect, and one that the Beach Boys used a lot, it's also a big part of the harmony in their hit "California Girls."

 Example #1). Modal Interchange

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Another really nice strategy that we find used across many of the Beach Boys songs (also used in the piece, "In My Room" and in their hit "Good Vibrations"), is the effect of adding "bass note passing tones" (often called "Triad over bass-Note" progressions)...

In example two, I've used a passage where a "Bm" chord is leading over to a "Dsus4' chord. But, instead of moving into the next chord, behind the "Bm" (which would be an "A" chord), the progression only uses the "A" as a bass-tone and maintains the "Bm" chord above.

A, "Dsus2" chord enters next, and then the "E major" appears at the end to wrap things up. Overall, this simple triad over bass-note idea, makes for a well connected harmony. And. also keep in mind the use of that "Dsus2." The Beach Boys use of suspended chords are a large factor in that classic Beach Boys sound.
Example #2). Bass Note Passing Tones

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Before wrapping up, I just wanted to mention one more interesting concept that's found within the harmonies of a lot of the Beach Boys music, and it has to do with the use of jazz harmony.

The Beach Boys, wrote songs like their hit "Kokomo," "Surfer Girl," and "Caroline No" which included harmonies normally found within R and B songs by 70’s artists along the lines of Earth Wind and Fire, and Stevie Wonder. So, let's take a look at this type of sound.

The technique for this approach involves the application of using both seventh quality chord harmony as well as, the use of modal interchange chords like those found in our first example.

Let's run through my final progression that takes a group of chord changes similar to the one's found in their song Kokomo, and applies both 7th-chord's as well as, modal interchange

Example #3a). The Use of Seventh Quality Chords

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Example #3b). Expanding upon the sense of jazz harmony

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There's no arguing that the Beach Boys used some brilliant chord movements, great melody, and advanced harmony on all their classic recordings. Perhaps, it was because Brian Wilson was the group's bass player and also the keyboardist, that he was able to take his skill with those instruments and create those classic  harmony lines in the Beach Boys music.

Brian's skill with harmony was an essential component to what made those songs what they are. And, to a practicing Guitar Player, these harmonies (and all of the chord strategies) are most certainly worth studying. They'll give you a great sense of exposure to how the pop music of the 70's was layered with really interesting chord changes and of course that fantastic Beach Boys harmony.


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