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Diary of A So-Called Shredder: The Dance Party U.S.A. Challenge

Terry Syrek works out your transcription skills with an original tune. Are you up for the challenge?

Chops: Intermediate
Theory: Intermediate
Lesson Overview:
• Develop critical listening and transcribing skills.
• Learn how to move past the era of horrible internet tabs.
• Understand how to internalize a piece of music by ear.

Welcome to the next installment of Diary Of A So-Called Shredder. I’d like to take a brief moment and thank everyone for taking the time to post feedback and comments thus far. I appreciate all of them, even those of a not-so-positive variety. Those simply reaffirm that I need desperately to keep doing what I do to save you all from the doom that lurks ever one step behind you. But even if you don't enjoy what we're doing here you still thought it important enough to use your time to comment. And for that, I humbly say thanks!

However, I did figure I’d approach this month in a somewhat more serious manner for those of us that may be slightly more challenged in the emotion of things humorous and not so serious. I’m attempting to screw my face up in my best version of Robert Fripp watching "Hot Problems" on YouTube for the first time right now.

Damn, I slipped there, didn't I? Ok, serious from now on in. I’m serious.

This month, I’m going to do something a little different for a guitar column. I’m going to make you work. But you'll be learning some valuable things in the process.

And so, I present you with a challenge. Seriously. I’ve written a little hummable ditty I’ve titled "Dance Party In The U.S.A." that I’d like whomever decides to pick up the gauntlet to learn and play. Here’s the catch.

I want you to video it and send me the link of your performance to post and I seriously will post it—on my very own Facebook page. I want the entire world to see your best attempt at facing the dreaded, the doom-laden, the extremely serious “Dance Party In The U.S.A.” Challenge!

Totally serious.

Oh, c'mon, now, it's not that bad. It's so easy even your little sister could play it!

But here's the other catch: I’m not going to show you what I’m playing. [Flashback to the Fripp face]


Part of the challenge is that you transcribe it yourself and use your ear. No improv, just play the parts. I do, however, think it’s completely fair to provide you with a sound clip of the portion of the song we're having our little challenge on. Seriously. I’m not totally without mercy, or tenuous grasp on reality, for that matter.

Let me just make a brief statement that I believe it is incredibly important to learn to use your ear as much as possible. We are in an age of internet, TAB, and YouTube spoon-feeding and many people, especially younger ones, grow up never struggling to figure something out by ear alone. If I can attribute one thing as being a primary force in making me into the player I am today, I’d have to say it was the countless hours of struggling to figure out my favorite songs by ear.

So let's get down to it.

Should you choose to accept the “Dance Party In The U.S.A.” challenge, below are two streams and download links for separate sound files. Now, keep in mind that it would be seriously wrong for me to challenge you to all seven minutes or whatnot of the entire song, so we'll just work on the first small bit. So, the two sound clips will be of just the section our challenge entails. Which incidentally is probably the easiest part. One clip is the actual track with me being very serious on the guitar. The other is a backing version. You, who accept the challenge, are to learn my lead parts, video yourself performing them with the backing track and then put it up somewhere online (such as YouTube), after which you will send me the link and I will post it upon my very own Facebook page and some of you might make it into next month’s column. Dig?

Download: Backing Track
Download: Guitar Track

You can submit in the comments section below. Once my personal website is back in order, I may post the best versions there, too. Friend me on Facebook and I may even drop a hint or two to help, if provoked.

You have a month. Are you in? It’ll be fun! I mean... in a serious way, but not too much fun. No, no, no.

In my next column, I will post the transcription and we shall see who came the closest in figuring it out. I’m looking forward to seeing what you come up with!

Terry Syrek has been teaching guitar for over 25 years and is a senior faculty member of the National Guitar Workshop. He is the author of Shred Is Not Dead and continues to punish all comers with a combination of blistering speed, over-the-top distortion, and boyish charm. For more information, visit