Local musician and artist David Youngman will host a Music Theory Workshop at his studio in downtown Hillsdale on Feb. 26 from 6 to 7 p.m. For $10, attendees will have the chance to learn essential note patterns and relationships from one of the region’s finest musicians.
Upon finding that many of his adult students had a disjointed comprehension of music, Youngman began offering music theory workshops to help them understand the relationships between chords and equip them to transpose.
“Theory is just describing why something sounds the way it does; why it sounds good and why it sounds bad. I’ve simplified music theory and made it step by step,” he said. “I know music theory inside and out. I get music theory, but I’m also very much on the organic side of music. It’s how you feel; it’s expressing something.”
Interested in art from a young age, Youngman found his love of music around the age of 12. He learned to play a variety of instruments, and remembers staying up late countless nights after school to work on music projects. Making do with limited equipment, his earliest foray into mixing required only two tape decks. After recording himself into one, he played the recordings back and accompanied them into the other recorder to combine the two.
A Lakeview, Michigan native, Youngman studied at Spring Arbor University, where he earned a degree in trumpet performance and met his wife, Liz Youngman. During college, he toured with his brother and a friend throughout the Midwest, gaining valuable experience in the performance and business aspects of a musical career.
Youngman and his friend made a few albums together, but when his friend decided to go on to graduate school, Youngman sold his trumpets and devoted himself to guitar, an instrument he felt would be more conducive to a solo career. Shortly after, however, he developed wrist problems that prevented him from playing.
After dabbling in watercolor painting for a time, he found an instructor in Ann Arbor who could help him overcome his wrist injury, and studied under him diligently for two years.
“I completely started over, which was so hard,” he said. “I think of those two years as my unofficial graduate school.”
After relearning to play guitar, Youngman went on to study the Alexander Technique, which he describes as, “learning to use your body as efficiently and effortlessly as possible,” and was thus prepared to launch his solo career.
Youngman wrote a number of songs and played at coffee shops and churches, but encountered difficulty securing venues for solo performances. He realized he would need to make a name for himself in order to launch his career, so entered the top three fingerstyle guitar competitions: the Indiana State Fingerstyle Guitar Competition, the Canadian Guitar Festival Fingerstyle Guitar Competition, and the International Fingerstyle Guitar Competition in Kansas.
His first year of competition, he took 2nd place in the Canadian competition. Determined to improve his ranking, he observed the technique of the most successful competitors and wrote songs to showcase his style accordingly, which enabled him to place 2nd in Canada and Indiana and 3rd in Kansas. Still not satisfied, he had a custom guitar built by the man he considers the best guitar builder in the world, and finally won both the Indiana and International competitions.
Youngman’s competitive accomplishments jump-started his solo career, and he began performing throughout the Midwest. Designing, engineering, and executing his shows on his own, he pioneered a style of performance involving lights and video projection that has since become exceedingly popular. The guitarist has released four solo albums, and is featured on a number of group albums.
In recent years, Youngman has switched his attention to art, producing works in various styles of photography, painting, and drawing. But he continues to operate his recording studio and offer music lessons and instrument repairs, and hopes to make music theory accessible through his workshops.
“His vision right now is to be more connected with people through music,” said Juli Yoder, who got to know Youngman through the praise team at their church. “It’s meant to be relational and reach out to people.”
Eric Moore has studied guitar under Youngman for about two years, and is impressed by his honesty and patience.
“I can’t say enough good things about him,” he said. “His knowledge of music is awesome, and he’s really able to break it down.”
Indeed, Youngman has created a worksheet packet for the workshop which he has tested on his 10-year-old son, and is confident anyone can understand music theory.
“Theory can put you in a box, but think of the first person to ever play music. What do you do? Once you start finding notes that sound good together or similar to each other, you’ll start seeing a pattern.”
To reserve a spot at the the upcoming Music Theory Workshop, message David Youngman on Facebook.