Brother Henning asked about the relationship between bass playing and Excel skill.

Part of the answer is in a previous blogpost where I surmise that there’s a relationship between Data Managers and people who play bass and drums. There’s a mindset committed to laying down a foundation for everyone else to dance on top of: dancers, lead singers, clients, business owners, etc.

But my answer to Henning is Excel specific.


I’ve been in bands where we’ve had to learn popular songs, and original songs written by the bandleader. By far, the toughest songs to learn are originals because:

  • There’s often no identifiable structure
  • The bandleaders teach the song from straight out of their heads–nothing written down.

I developed a practice of writing songs out in a grid. Good songs tend to have an identifiable structure. Such songs feel good to listeners because there’s comfort and a degree of predictability. And a musician who’s learning the songs can map out what’s going on so that they can play the song, support the song and/or create a solo.

Let’s look at a section of Michael Jackson’s Human Nature.

Why use Excel if I’m a frikken musician?* You can buy the sheet music and it’s going to have the song organized on the sheet in such a way to not waste paper. It’s hard to see the structure and patterns this way. You can have 4 bars on one line, 6 bars on the next line, and the 6th bar is the start of a new section. To the eye (especially a young musician’s eye) this can look like WTF? and something to just plain memorize. So, let’s open Excel, create an Excel music chart and calm everything down.

Analysis of the Song

The Intro is 8 bars; really just 4 bars played 2 times.

The song form is 24 measures. Typical. No surprises. Songs tend to be in 4, 8, 12, 16 or 24-bar forms.

There are no 1-bar sections that come out of nowhere.

But there are some surprises in the way some of the chords land on the 4th beat instead of 1 or 3. But this is easy to uncover when structured on a neat grid.

Imagine looking at the sheet music and going from the Em7 to the G but it’s not G(addA). The grid keeps you from freaking out because plain G doesn’t look crazy because you’re now in a clearly defined new section that has nothing more to do with the G(addA).

Some songs have a 2 or 4-bar pre-chorus. In a grid … BAM!! it’d be easy to see, easy to learn and memorize … it’d also increase the chances of delivering a kick-ass show for your audience. It is a drag to play music in front of people when one’s attention is on memorization of exotic chord structures.

Songwriters do your bands a favor Chart your songs out in a neat grid (waste the paper if you can get clarity). This makes songs so much easier to learn. This can also help you (songwriters) notice if your songs are a meandering parade of chord progressions.

The music and the listeners deserve it.

Brother Henning, I hope this shows a relationship between Excel and music. What is music? Music is another form of communication and managing of data. Wink

*Excel is not required. The point to grasp is the structure. Draw a grid on paper, use Word, Google’s spreadsheet, graph paper, anything. Just get some clearly identifiable structure.