Guitarist, Teacher, Performer, and Managing Editor of Guitar Dad Publications, Lily Maase, on “Music Theory You Can Use”

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Lily Maase, well-respected guitarist, teacher, performer, managing editor of Guitar Dad Publications, and daughter to the late Steve Maase, shares with Guitar Girl Magazine how her father’s book, Music Theory You Can Use, was created. Lily continues her father’s legacy and passion through this book and in her own music she is currently writing and performing. Her father, Steve, was and continues to be regarded as a highly respected teacher and guitarist. Music Theory You Can Use is a book for the guitarist striving to become a solid, well-rounded, and informed player for every situation to be encountered. All levels and styles of music apply.

Steve Maase – Photo by Marita Weil

Lily, can you share with us a bit about your father, Steve Maase, and his book, Music Theory You Can Use?

Steve has been in the business of teaching, playing, and recording the electric and acoustic guitar since the earliest days of rock and roll, even before the Beatles were a thing! He came up alongside Buddy Holly, working with Norman Petty at his studio in Clovis, NM.  Many of his students, including myself, have gone on to do remarkable things. Tim Pierce, the world’s most prolific session guitarist, was a student of his. So was George Clinton/Funkadelic guitarist Eric McFadden, as well, Mikey Wright, who was a major contributor to The Voice for over a decade. Steve never left New Mexico, but still managed to have a fairly prolific career; he taught 80-100 private lessons a week for decades, repaired guitars, played locally most weekends, and recorded on countless commercials and regional recordings before he passed away in 2016. His recorded version of Jimi Hendrix’s “Little Wing” was, in their own words, ‘the finest cover of the song they have heard to date.’

You are a well-respected guitarist, teacher, performer, and also managing editor with Guitar Dad Publications. How much were you proactively involved in the writing process of your father’s book?

That’s an excellent question, and one nobody else has thought to ask! I first saw a working draft of Music Theory You Could Use in 1997 when I was still in high school. I did the copy-editing and typesetting of the first version, which was originally called, Intervals Study, and read a little bit like an instructional manual for a DVD player. A few years ago, following a bout with cancer, my father approached me and asked for my help in creating a modernized version of the manuscript. We talked heavily about the content of the book, the intended audience, and the value of what we do as a family. The thing missing from the book, I felt, was a sense of who my father was, not just as a player, but as a person. And, so we settled on the idea of creating a theory manual that also functioned as a memoir.  Like most guitarists, my father was primarily self-taught. So, this format of the book explains not only how he learned what he did, but why he needed to know the things he figured out.

For two summers, I flew back and forth from New York to New Mexico on the red-eye flight, and we spent three-day weekends tucked away in a coffee shop in New Mexico when I wasn’t away on gigs. Steve was incredibly gracious in accepting my guidance and taking my suggestions as an editor and someone with a shared mastery of the material to heart, and the resulting collaboration is something I feel is entirely unique to us as a family. Steve, unfortunately, passed away the same night he finished the manuscript, October 1, 2016, and it fell to me to turn the text into a final published work. Two accomplished Brooklyn-based designers, Scott Friedlander and Wesley Jones, were very gracious in working closely with me to make sure the final version was as close to my father’s original vision as possible.

Cover art by Marcelo Gallegos. Cover design by Scott Friedlander

What do you think was your father’s main objective, vision, for this book? 

Steve’s objective was twofold. First, at the end of his teaching career, he had grown interested not in teaching guitar students, but in teaching aspiring guitar teachers, how best to communicate with emerging players. He was a true ‘guru’ in this sense, and very few have been able to make complex ideas seem as accessible as he did. Steve’s other objective was to give the average guitarist access to a working knowledge of the fingerboard, without having to go through the rigors of a formal music education. Many guitar students who have tried to learn music in a more ‘traditional’ setting often find the experience somewhat off-putting, and he and I both share the belief that the tradition of the guitar, as we understand it, will only survive if players in all walks of life are able to preserve and advance the music together. In layman’s terms, we don’t think you need a college degree in order to be able to find your way around the guitar!

What makes this book stand out in comparison to so many guitar instructional methods currently available?

Well, the reviews seem to speak for themselves a bit. A lot of books seem to speak above the heads of the intended audience, and I can’t help but think many authors take a sort of smug satisfaction in making themselves sound superior to their readers by talking circles around them. What we cover are the missing pieces, the foundational elements that often make the information in other books seem out of reach. One of our first readers commented on the fact that Music Theory You Can Use, feels like years’ worth of lessons condensed down into a single ‘how-to’ manual. I was really happy to receive that feedback, as that was exactly what we were trying to do! This book is intended to be a lifelong companion and reference manual for guitarists in all walks of life, interested in all styles of music. The resounding consensus around the Internet has been, so far, so good.

Give us an example of what to expect, how the info is presented in Music Theory You Can Use?

Each chapter consists of three parts: a narrative section, some information, and a corresponding workbook section. Many of the workbooks contain exercises with increasing levels of difficulty, with the idea that it’s possible to take the first layer of information out into real-world playing situations and see what sticks before digging back into the book for more.  We were very careful with our intent to create a book that guitarists actually have to use. There are no ‘hot licks’ or ‘tips and tricks’ because guitarists are notorious for skimming through books for tablature and leaving the content behind. All of our teaching happens through practical application and through chord and scale diagrams. We don’t include any notation, tablature or otherwise, because we want people to dig into their instrument for ideas.

Are they any recordings of your father’s music available?

There will be soon! There are some available exclusively to our Indiegogo backers that we will make available to the public down the line. Some samples of his recorded work are available on YouTube in the meantime. When we were going through the family archives after my father passed, we discovered he had been deep into pre-production for a recording of some jazz-related compositions he had written over the years. Some of these demo recordings are dated as recently as three days before he passed. Chris Livingston—an Albuquerque-based guitarist who also came up through my father’s system—and I are currently preparing to make this record on his behalf. We’ll be featuring some very special guests along the way. Fans of jazz and improvised music will be impressed by this previously very private side of my father’s relationship with the instrument; the man could write a tune!

What’s the best link to check out and to purchase a copy of Music Theory You Can Use? Is it available in hard copy and digital download version?

TheoryForGuitar.com gives information for U.S. and international purchasers. We prefer that you buy directly from us, so we can get to know you! But, the print and Kindle versions are also both available through Amazon.

Lily Maase – Photo by Carl Cederman

I understand you have a new music release in the works. Can you tell us a bit about that and what you’re doing musically? Also, how much would you say your father influenced the music you’re creating?

I have an album of jazz-influenced math rock out on Tzadik Records under the band name the Suite Unraveling. This is heady stuff and not for the faint of heart! It was released in 2014, but due to all of the things happening in my family and this book, we will begin touring the record in 2019. I am delighted to announce that Tyshawn Sorey will be behind the drum set for the duration.

My father’s jazz record should also see release in 2019, though we do not have a date firmed up just yet. The recording sessions for that one are scheduled for the end of November 2018.

For those who are interested in more accessible fare, I have just finished an album with a new sort of ‘all-star’ NYC rock and roll band called, the Reckoning.

I tend to look at my father and I as sort of a continuum in which I am now the sole creative force. My work is very much my own, but his understanding of the instrument and his ability to see all styles of playing as worthy of his obsessive attention to detail are the reason I am able to have such a diverse and fulfilling creative life today.

Where can readers find you online, to find out more about you, your music, and performance dates?

My general website for performance and instruction is LilyMaase.com. You can learn more about my audio production, film scoring, and composition work at HandmaidMusic.org. I can also be reached through Instagram at @msmaize. Guitar Dad is on Instagram under the handle @theory4guitar. We are getting ready to launch some new instructional videos, so now is a great time to plug into what we do!

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