Watch School of Rock students cover Tool's Song by Schism in the Studio
School of Rock students are not just learning to master their individual instruments—they’re learning to make amazing music together. And as they grow in skill and musicality, they take on greater and greater challenges…like this amazing cover of the notoriously complex and demanding “Schism,” by Tool.
“Schism,” by Tool, was the first single off the progressive-metal band’s third full-length album, Lateralus, and it won them a 2002 Grammy for Best Metal Performance. It’s a perfect example of why Tool is so well known for the intricacy of their music and the density of their lyrics. While you’re watching this incredible cover of “Schism” by School of Rock student musicians, pay close attention to how the melody moves seamlessly from bass to guitar to singer to keyboard to bass and back again, each musician passing melodic themes like batons between relay runners—but also allow yourself to sink into the song as a whole, because these School of Rock students have come together to produce something far greater than the sum of its parts.
Is "Schism" an easy song to play?
Just the opposite; this is a uniquely difficult song. The song changes meter 47 times, moving among more than 12 different time signatures, almost none of which are anything Mozart (or even the Rolling Stones) ever thought of using—and certainly not all in the same song. Every individual part in this song is tricky to learn and play well all on its own, and layering all those parts together seamlessly and professionally adds another layer of challenge.
The School of Rock AllStars took on this challenge, navigating the intensely acrobatic musical arrangement to produce a cover of “Schism,” by Tool, that has already been viewed almost 300,000 times on YouTube and generated hundreds of admiring comments.
There are few more recognizable bass lines in rock music—and the bass part of “Schism” is one of the more challenging to play. Compare the quick and precise bass line in this video to the equally recognizable but less complex bass riff in Queen’s “Another One Bites the Dust.” The bass in this cover of “Schism,” by Tool, really showcases not just the skill but the endurance of this young musician. He has to work hard to maintain the energetic depth of this part, the deeply emotional thrumming heart of “Schism.”
While the constantly changing time signature in “Schism” is part of what makes this song so compelling to listen to, it also makes it an incredibly difficult song to play, especially for a percussionist, part of whose job it is to keep the momentum of the entire group consistent and correct. In this video, you can see not only the drummer’s intense concentration but also the unforced vitality of his playing. His apparent ease belies the many hours of lessons and practice he has invested over the years.
The guitar parts in “Schism” aren’t simply a series of power chords, but they incorporate a number of advanced techniques such as palm muting, dead notes, and hammer-ons. Not only do the guitarists have to work through the constantly changing tempos of this epic song, but they’re also producing a wide variety of sounds, some melodic and some far more percussive.
Check out the moment where the keyboards reenter the song (around 3:50), picking up the harmonics earlier carried by the singers. That atmospheric, bell-like sound isn’t hard to pick out when you’re listening for it, and then it’s easy to hear just how much even a relatively simple keyboard riff adds to the overall sound of “Schism.”
The two young singers in this group lend their powerful, flexible voices to this gripping and disquieting song, but they also carry most of the emotional weight of the track, weaving the lyrics into and around the constantly changing rhythm of “Schism.”
Then there are the incredible harmonies they produce. Typically, harmonies are sung at a third (or, less often, a fifth) above or below the melody. Singers develop an ear for this interval until it’s relatively easy to produce this kind of harmony. In “Schism,” the interval between the melody and the harmony is uncommonly small, often only a semitone apart. This gives the singers an added challenge since there are fewer reference notes to keep themselves on track. It would be very easy to miss the intended harmony and hit a sour note. But these singers are committed and experienced, and they skillfully allow their voices to meld into a single sound, showcasing their well-tuned sense of pitch and balance.
How did students prepare for this song?
At School of Rock, our students never shy away from demanding music. Students are always going to be more engaged when they’re playing music they love, and songs that have already won their hearts and fired up their imaginations. That said, our instructors don’t give students challenges they don’t think they’re up to. “Schism,” by Tool, provided these students with the perfect balance of complexity and emotional appeal.
The School of Rock AllStars have been studying for years, acquiring advanced techniques, training their memories and learning sophisticated musical concepts. These are committed artists, used to making sacrifices for their music—such as getting up at four in the morning so they can get to a recording session on time.
The musicians in this group began working on their individual parts for “Schism” about five months before getting into the studio, but they had only three rehearsals as a group before recording—not that you’d ever know that from watching the cohesiveness of their performance. Engineering alone can’t account for the finely balanced sound this group produced: their command of musical dynamics is what really makes this cover of “Schism” so solid and enthralling.
Check out more School of Rock performances
Our instructors educate thousands of students every day to play not only with proficiency, but to collaborate and work with other musicians as a band in real, live performances.School of Rock performances