Print this page

Three Chords and the Truth

Russell Garrigan, Librarian, Teen'Scape,

When Robert Zimmerman, later famous as Bob Dylan, was a young man growing up in Minnesota, he discovered that a friend owned an impressive collection of music records, most notably a collection of Blues recordings, artists such as Bo Didley and Huddie William Ledbetter, famous by his stage name Lead Belly.  Bob Dylan borrowed, unofficially, the music recordings from his friend and though never returned them, Dylan learned all that he could from the music of these great guitar-playing and songwriting legends. 

Aside from the knowledge obtained by studying the musical recordings, Dylan repaired to his hometown’s public library.  There he read everything he could find about music.  Dylan discovered in the local public library, as did other musicians, such as George Harrison of the Beatles and Keith Richards of the Rolling Stones, and Frank Zappa, that their local public library offered a treasure trove of knowledge about music—how to appreciate it, compose it and protect it. 

One concept that these musical greats learned was the three-chord music structure. Imagine—a teen discovered the simple concepts of music at a local public library and took that knowledge to create songs that have been pleasing millions of people for decades.  The three-chord structure means that the sounds that are capable of being played on a musical instrument fall acoustically into a pattern based on three notes, such as A-G-D. 

Today, aspiring musicians not only have the resources of the public library at their disposal, they also have the wealth of knowledge available on such websites as YouTube.  It took Bob Dylan three chords and the truth to create an amazing body of musical works, with a little help from his local public library.  Here are a few resources here at LAPL to get you started on your songwriting career:

The girl's guide to rocking : how to start a band, book gigs, and get rolling to rock stardom by Jessica Hopper.

The craft and business of songwriting : a practical guide to creating and marketing by John Braheny.

Writing better lyrics : the essential guide to powerful songwriting by Pat Pattison.

And please keep in mind that the librarians at LAPL are here to further guide your research.