Anyone Can Play Guitar: A Conversation with Warren Lain

Published by Sean Perrin on

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If you’ve ever tried to learn a Radiohead song on Guitar, you probably learned it on YouTube, and probably from Warren Lain’s YouTube channel called “Warren Music.” Warren has over 30 thousand subscribers, but is perhaps best known for his viral analysis of Videotape that received over 5 million veiws. Today, we get to know a little about Warren’s musical upbringing, which includes a degree in ethnomusicology (don’t worry he’ll explain what that is), how Radiohead completely blew his mind musically and completely changed the direction of his career, and some of his tips and tricks for learning tunes by ear.


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Glossary and Mentions

Presented in chronological order.

Discussion Topics

[2:05] – Warren’s Musical Upbringing

  • Warren’s first musical inspiration as a child
  • “If a piece of music doesn’t move you deep down, it hasn’t done it’s job”
  • What is the secret to keeping your musical passion alive?
  • Music as language and a form of communication.
  • “The music I make is directly connected to the fact that I love music. I want to help people make that connection”

[7:20] – What is “Ethnomusicology”?

  • Looking at music as a function of the people who make it.
  • A study of “all the other music” that didn’t fit into the European Classical Standard.
  • “How do we classify this music?”
  • Understanding music in the way that the people who made it understand it.
  • A human perspective on music.
  • Mention of The Beatles, Philip Glass

[11:25] – Why do you love Radiohead?

  • Becase they keep innovating
  • “I thought you needed to write something that could be included in the ‘canon’ of acceptable music. I didn’t realize people could give themselves permission to write whatever they wanted. I can hear that in Radiohead’s music.”

[12:35] – Radiohead and the “Goldilocks Principle”

  • Mention of Brad Osborn, author of “Everything in Its Right Place.
  • Radiohead pushes musical boundaries “just right”, never too far or not enough.
  • “Terminally climactic” song form (ABC, not ABA)
  • Karma Police

[14:35] – Discovering Radiohead for the first time.

  • “My brain was hurting. It broke my mind. How are these all the same band?! How have I gone this long without knowing that all these songs I liked… that they were all the same band.”
  • Discovering Radiohead as a deep personal and musical revelation.
  • “How am I going to proceed musically for the rest of my life. This was a life changing moment.”
  • Listening to In Rainbows for the first time.

[19:55] – The start of Warren’s YouTube channel.

  • Learning Faust Arp the day In Rainbows came out.
  • How his friend inspired him to learn the song and encourage him to post it online.
  • Being pushed out of your comfort zone.

[22:10] – How can one get better at learning songs by ear?

  • Host Sean Perrin learning Street Spirit from Warren back in 2009.
  • How do you get started with learning a song on the guitar?
  • Chord books are unfortunately often inaccurate.
  • “I view a song as if it’s musical information.” (Which it is!)
  • The alternate tuning in Nude.

[27:10] – The Needle in the Haystack.

  • Little hidden musical realizations that unlock, for example, the key of the music or tuning of the guitar.
  • Warren grabs his guitar and gives us a demo.
  • Mention of These Are My Twisted Words and Morning Bell.

[31:00] – Thom Yorke can’t even read music. How does he do it?

  • Maybe he understand music in his own way.
  • People without a theory background can still connect with you about the music.
  • Maybe the band is transcending our understanding of music.
  • Using the fluency of music itself as the language without need for words.
  • Mention of Matthew Good.

[35:32] – Has Radiohead ever re-learned their songs from your videos?

  • “I hope not!”
  • Another artist forgot a song that Warren learned and he became a co-songwriter.
  • Don’t forget your own songs! Write down your songs.
  • “I’m just one guy trying my best to learn songs by ear.”

[41:20] – Vox and the “Videotape” Phenomenon

  • What was it like getting featured on Vox?
  • Scary to leave “safety” of YouTube audience.
  • How to handle the feedback “Whatever amount of feedback you think you’re going to get, multiply it by 1000. Every possible opinion that someone could possibly have about whatever you’re saying, is said.”
  • Being recognized at a random music festival in Prague.
  • Mention of Sean Perrin’s album “Dreamsongs.”

[48:10] – Warren’s Online Music Theory and Ear Training Course.

[49:40] – Listener Questions

  1. Talk about the hidden rhythm in Little By Little.
    Musical demo. Audio goes to shit briefly… sorry!
  2. How is it possible I’m always hearing new things in Radiohead’s Music?
    “Radiohead is the Christopher Nolin of Music
  3. How do you think Radiohead constructs a cohesive album?
    By writing a lot and cutting. Starting with songs, and ending up with a lot of B-sides that didn’t work.
  4. What do you think Radiohead knows or understands about their music that we don’t?
    “The imperfections.”
  5. Thanks Warren for helping me learn Nice Dream and Airbag!
    “Your’e welcome!”

[59:20] – Lightning Round Questions

  1. Have you seen Radiohead live? What was the first time like?
    “It sucked!” (What?!)
  2. Have you ever Met any of the Band Members?
    Nigel Godrich. (WTF?! Amazing. This was not expected.)
  3. Which is the most profound thing you associate with Radiohead’s music?
    “The people I’ve met.”
  4. What are three other albums that Radiohead fans should check out?
    Antiphon “Alpha Mist”
    Dawn of Midi “Dysnomia”
    Anything by The War on Drugs
  5. What is another passion you have outside of Radiohead?
    Cooking and biking.
  6. What is something you do every day that you feel leads to your success?
    “I get over myself.”


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1 Comment

Julie · June 2, 2018 at 9:43 pm

The Language of Radiohead – what an awesome statement from Warren today – great program, thank you!

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