Learn the theme song for Parks and Recreation on guitar

Learn the theme song for Parks and Recreation on guitar

This post is a tutorial on how to play the theme song for Parks and Recreation on guitar. This is likely to be a very challenging solo for many guitar solo enthusiasts, so I've rated this solo at a 6/10 difficulty level. In other words, don't attempt this tutorial if you're brand new to solo guitar. If you have a great deal of guitar solos under your belt, perhaps around 30-40 of them, then give this solo a shot.

The solo that I'll be showing you is a note-for-note transcription of this theme, and it's best played on electric guitar.

What skills are required? What are the benefits to learning this solo?

This guitar solo requires at least some familiarity with alternate picking, especially with regards to string crossings. Second, you must be at least moderately familiar with the challenges of syncing your picking and your fretting hands. 

The benefits of learning this solo are roughly the same: Alternate picking, string crossings, and sync. If you feel like all three of these could use a workout, then the Parks and Recreation theme should make an excellent etude for you.

Getting familiar with this guitar solo

Parks and Recreation is a brilliant ensemble comedy, one that never ceased to tickle my soul with it's unbelievable humor and quick wit. I binge-watched so many episodes in a row that by the time I decided to learn it I knew the melody inside and out.

I recommend that you do the same.

Being able to sing or hum any song before you start learning it will no doubt make your job so much easier, and the work you must do to play it so much lighter.

One way to do this is a little bit of score study: Why not listen to the theme and read a totally awesome tab I've put together for you at the same time? I've done this exact workflow with other pieces before I've played them, and I've ripped them to shreds in a quarter of the amount of time it'd take me if I didn't.

Breaking the solo into chunks

After the score study part is done, it's time to jump into the good stuff! I will break the guitar solo up into four chunks. I'll show you the fingerings as we're going through the chunks, and then I'll share some general tips in the troubleshooting section later on in this blog entry. Don't forget that having a solid tab for this solo as you're learning the parts can be a big time-saver.

Here's where you can find all the particular chunks on the YouTube video, (posted below for your convenience):

  • Chunk #1 — 2:12
  • Chunk #2 — 2:56
  • Chunk #3 — 4:24
  • Chunk #4 — 5:58

Next: Combine all of the chunks

If you have all the chunks together on their own, and at a moderately slow tempo, it's time to start combining them. Start by combining the first and second chunks, then do the second and third, and finally the third and fourth. Next, combine chunks one, two, and three. I think you get the idea. Do this until you have the entire solo together as one huge chunk.

Take it slow to solidify the mechanics

Once the entire solo is together, don't take it too fast! You need a little time to get used to the mechanics, and going fast prematurely will mess with you. Instead, I'd say play it slower than you want to. This is a great step for solidifying all of the work you've done so far with this solo.

Push the tempo to master the solo

Make sure that you can play this note-perfectly at a slow tempo before you speed it up. Why? Well, if you speed up a mistake, it'll still be a mistake and it'll not sound precise. Wouldn't you rather you play it right? Once you have it at about 10-15 BPM faster than the record, I'd say that this is a good tempo, since you could easily play along with the show at that point.

Troubleshooting this guitar solo

"My picking hand and my fretting hand never sync up when I take this faster. Wtf?"

Ahhhh yes! You've stumbled upon the best reason to learn this guitar solo: Sync.

Some shred guitarists are really fast with their picking but their fretting fingers just don't match up at all. The result is imprecise and mushy. If this is happening to you, I have two recommendations.

First, turn off your distortion. Distortion is only going to cover your mistakes. I dislike using too much distortion for this reason (though at times, I'm no different than any other shredder; I want my Marshall too). Playing without distortion forces you to see if your left and right hands are in sync, and often, you'll get brutally clear feedback.

If it turns out that you turned the distortion off and you just can't play this solo fast and synced without hearing that picking mush, you need to go slower. Seriously. Quit messing around about it. You need to see that your mechanics are solid before you speed up the solo. If you need clear direction on how to do this, try the Metronome 10 workflow. This workflow is a spectacular way to improve your picking mechanics.

"I've got the mechanics at a slower pace, but how do I take it faster without it falling apart?"

One of the biggest things I ask my students is "How did your practicing go this week?" I never refer to how much time they put in, but rather how they shifted their practicing routine, their process, to solve their problems. Sometimes, you need to practice in a completely different way to solve a problem. So, for you, I ask this question: If speeding it up your way isn't working, why not try a different way altogether?

If you're stuck for ideas, try the Up 10 Down 5 workflow or High Edge workflow. These are very gentle ways of speeding up any guitar lick, not just the one in this tutorial.

"How are you getting that sound?"

The Line 6 Pod! So good! Get it here.

"How will I know if I've mastered this solo?"

Here’s the way I know when I've got something or not: When I can play along with the recorded version of any solo from start to finish without a single thought entering my mind, I've got it! It really has to do with the degree of thoughtlessness. If you can play something without any thought, you’ve got it. It's yours, and it's time to pat yourself on the back for accomplishing a very difficult solo.

Resources mentioned in this article

Parks and Recreation - Tab
0.99 1.99

A wonderful theme song to learn for alternate picking, string crossing, and it makes a great sync etude. Includes a custom designed song sheet, chord sheet, and song map. Fully printable, and beautifully designed.

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Metronome 10 - Workflow
1.49 1.99

This workflow is extremely powerful. It will help you solidify any rhythm to such a degree that it can survive greater amounts of duress, like during a music lesson or performance. Going slow helps you build very strong muscle memory.

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Up 10 Down 5 – Workflow
0.59 0.99

This workflow offers you a gentle and gradual manner of building ability to play any exercise or song faster.

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High Edge - Workflow
0.59 0.99

The big benefit of using this workflow is that musical passages will naturally become faster and more fluid.

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