Friday, 20 December 2013

Post Eighteen PART 3 - My Sound

My Sound
After the previous posts I can discuss how I get my sound and explain it in a way that others can easily follow adapt and modify to come up with their own. In saying this my aim is to extend my sound so that I can make it more of my own.

There is a couple of elements that describe where I am at the moment. Firstly; I like to reduce my possibilities to create a decisive tonal place to work from. If your work is going to be identifiable it needs to have a signature. By diversifying too much the colour can be watered down until it is vague and tasteless. I like working from the Dorian mode as a starting point on most occasions. 

To qualify this, the modes I like using (without saying I like all of them) and trying to put them in an order of most visited, are the Dorian, Mixolydian, Phrygian, Ionian. That gives me two minor and two major modes to work from.

If the first point was to limit my sonic palette. the second point is to have the minor and major ambiguous. This incorporates two scales working simultaneously and a good example is Chuck Berry but the technique is widely used. A Minor Pentatonic with a Mixolydian scale underneath.

The third ingredient is to identify chords that use the limited notes in the sound. To put it another way - to play notes in the scale together to make interesting combinations. This was developed while playing flamenco guitar and the technique is best described by listening to flamenco music. I am still developing it in rock music. It will be my aim to explain this approach and develop it as I dictate it here for others to understand and assimilate.

Chords around the 10th fret
These chords above are centred around the D Dorian on the six string. Both these pages are labelled from the perspective of the Mixolydian scale, root 5 on the 10th and root 6 on the 3rd fret. I have identified these chords by ear. Going through the chord book and finding chords that sit with the minor Pentatonic scale and Mixolydian. I then charted these chords and collected the best sounding chords. The best sounding chords were populated around the D Dorian mode and this was where I have my tonal center.

The chords being located at this mode could have been a major factor in realising I need to play in the Doian mode when playing a minor key. It is because I have so many more opportunities in this mode. I also like the sound more than the natural minor.

I also found a lot of good sounding chords around the Mixoydian mode and this backed up using the Mixolydian major scale underneath the Dorian. You will find chords all over the fret board but this will give you the idea and the understanding to be able to start collecting your own. 

It is also a good idea to start to utilise two note chords and three note chords. This will enable your solos to build rather than going from six strings to one string. If you are in a three piece band with one guitar you really feel the need to solo using small chords.The next step is to incorporate these chords or groups of notes into your guitar playing.

Thursday, 17 October 2013

Post Seventeen - Exercises

Exercise is good.
Practice these phases as a loop over and over. You should get fast at them in time, but start off slowly. The b means bend the note.

Have fun.

II ------------------------------------- I-------------
II -----------------------------5------ I-------

II -----8-----5-------------------------- I-------------

II --------8------5-----------------5---- I-------

II -----8-----5-----------5-------------- I-------------

II -----8------5--------------5---------- I-------

Monday, 14 October 2013

Post Sixteen - Bends

One very distinctive effect in guitar playing is the bend. Below are some notes to bend in your Pentatonic scale.

There are three notes here: C, D and G to bend. The main notes are the D and G. The D bends to makes the E or the 5th in the scale, the G bends to make the A. Practise by bending the note up until it sounds exactly the same as the note you want, play it first. 

The C is different as it does not want to be bent to C#, semitone or half-step, it just wants to move a quarter-step. This bend will sound good dropping to the A after the bend; you should recognise it and how far to bend the note.

Double bends
These bends are similar to the first, except you play a note while bending another note at the same time. In the first example the E is fretted by the first finger, the D with the 3rd, as you bend the E you hear the D bend up until it meets the same note. This is good practise for the single bend.

The second example is similar, but the third and fourth fingers are used. The last example can be easier bent down or towards you. Try resolving this bend to the A on the 4th string.

Triple bends
The first two examples have two notes held down while you bend the third and they have a nice full sound. The third example is a C chord bent up a quarter step, the same as you did on the C note. This is not difficult, but easier with lighter gauge strings.

Sunday, 13 October 2013

Post Fifteen - What is a solo?

What is a solo?
We talked about singing the scales to really make music, to help do this I would like to give you a melodic pattern to practice with. We will start with the G mixolydian mode. Remember the main chords in the key are G, C, Dm

Now let’s practice the G major arpeggio. Once learned we can add this to our improvisational repertoire. Practise playing the exercise up and down the fretboard as you sing the notes, as this will increase your familiarity and ability to utilise them while improvising.

The arpeggio grown progressively on each diagram. The third shape is the G b7th Arpeggio notice the sound of the b7th added, and finally the G b7th scale or Mixolydian mode.

Now when we go to the C instead of using the major voice I want you to modulate by using the same Mixolydian scale, starting on the 5th string so it looks like this:

You will recognise the shape as your Dorian shape starting on the G. Modulation is an important tool where you use the same sound but change where it starts. Another popular modulation is to raise the whole song up two frets, try it.

One chord that compliments this scale and sound is C9


Sing the arpeggio for the chord. And then sing the full C9th scale or Mixolydian mode. You can do this exercise with other positions and other sounds, and the more that become familiar to you the better.

Saturday, 12 October 2013

Post Fourteen - Additional chords

Additional Chords
The easiest way to use additional chords is to play more that one note in the scale, any combination will make a valid chord - some sounding better than others. I have made a compilation of chords that fit in the scale for the positions of Am and G Mixolydian, so you can start using them in your art. Once these have been used or learned you will also be able to break out of the selected notes and go off. This is an easy way to realise that all notes have a place if used at the right time.

Addition cords in the G position

Additional chords for the Am position
Movable Chord Shapes
Below are Root 6. Root 5 and Root 4 movable shapes. Learn the most useful first or the ones you like the sound of.

Friday, 11 October 2013

Post Thirteen b5

In flamenco the use of the harmonic minor scale adds colour to the minor and is used often. So you can add the harmonic minor when you are playing A minor and it will sound good. This extra note in the Am scale the Ab can also be used in other modes. When used in the Dorian mode another popular mode in rock music we find we have a b5. This is a very dark note in the scale and one effective exponent was Black Sabbath though it has been around since the first blues players. It is a popular tonal variation in rock music and is vital in your repertoire. This note needs to be learnt all over the fret board in all the positions.

This explanation exposes the D Dorian scale as an important full scale when playing blues because the b5 rightly belongs to this mode. In playing in any key my first option is to have my tonal center as the Dorian if I am playing in a minor key.

A Harmonic Minor and the b5 on D Dorian

Thursday, 10 October 2013

Post Twelve - Major Key

Major Key
If we look at the Major scale and its three cords we find the similar 6-note scale common to the three cords, except starting on the C, F and G.

Starting on F             Starting on G          Starting on C
Even though you are using the same pattern, because you are starting on a different note you will get an entirely different sound! Now you will be able play in the Major key of C in the same way you played over the minor chords.

The b3 is useful here and gives the same effect that the b5 did in the A minor scale.

Because songs do not always use just three chords, we need to know our other five positions. We also need to learn the seven starting positions for each chord we looked at earlier, this takes a little time.

It is important to know that the third in popular music is often ambiguous. This means that we play minor and Major at the same time. If your playing in A minor you will play A Major as well. This will take time to understand and to introduce into your playing. 
Listening to music will be a big help. The effect is quite nice and it will be a really good discovery when you get it. Below is the same information for A Major so you can mix it in with your A minor licks.

Some songs will be modal, or centre on a different starting position other than C or Am. If we are in the key of C and the song centres around G Maj we are playing G mixolydian mode, the name given to this particular scale or starting position.

This is a particularly useful mode in rock music as many good songs use it! If we are using this scale as our sound center the three chords would change to G, C Dm, I, IV and V. If you centered the song on D minor in the key of C, the main chords would be Dm, G and Am, I, IV and V.

When we talk of having an ambiguous third and playing Maj and minor simultaneously my first choice is to use the Dorian mode for minor and the Mixolydian mode for Major. In rock music the guitar will often be playing the pentatonic minor and the bass will play the Mixolydian Major. This is an easily identifiable way to hear the minor/Major playing simultaneously.

C Maj and G Maj combined
(D Dorian and D Mixolydian together)
Combined Scales

Other sounds
You can make different sounds by using other notes. If you use them all we call that a chromatic scale. Classical music convention employs a melodic minor scale on the way up and a natural minor scale (the one we know) to go down, giving it a unique sound. Another good tonal change is the harmonic minor scale as mentioned earlier.

Chromatic scale,    Melodic minor up & Natural down,    Harmonic minor

Tuesday, 8 October 2013

Post Eleven - Know your fret board

Know your fretboard!
Our first step is to be able to play the Am Pentatonic all over the fret board, with an understanding of where the additional notes are so that we can use them at will.

So the fret board now looks like this:

Even though you can change scales to match the change of chord it is better, if you want to set yourself up to be a good player learn, to sing the notes so that when you change chord you know what you want to play rather than just playing a new position. This will make a big difference.

By singing the melody you play, you will automatically be phasing the solo, rather than running through your positions. You will be making melodic statements that people will hear and notice. Practice by singing the Pentatonic scale and then adding the additional notes. It does not matter if you can sing or pitch the notes it’s the intention of pushing the notes into a musical form that is important.

Monday, 7 October 2013

Post Ten - Scales/modes

Am in the key of C is called a mode because we are starting the scale in a different place and this gives it a different sound.

If we look at the notes in C major (or A minor) we can see the chords of the key within the notes.
Em at the nut, Am on the 5th fret, Dm on the 10th fret and so on.

 We are also introduced to the A minor scale and we can use these additional notes with our pentatonic scale. 

If we look at the Em and the Dm we will see that they have totally different patterns and because of this, different sounds.

But they also have the same pentatonic shape within them and that’s what makes this 5-note scale so strong. It contains a common element or the same intervals with the other minor chords of the key.

So if you play these scales when you change chords you can play the same pentatonic shape but it will have different additional notes; these additional notes will colour the sound differently.

A pattern to follow the 7 chords:

Fancy Names for the Modes
We will need these so we can discuss how we use them in practice.
Am -  Aeolian (Traditional Minor)
B  - Locrian (diminished)
C -Ionian (Traditional Major)
Dm - Dorian
Em - Phrygian
F - Lydian
G - Mixoydian

Post Nine - 8VA

Tablature & sight-reading 8VA

Tab is a good way to illustrate where notes are found on a fret board. There are six lines representing six strings - the high string at the top. Numbers are used to represent which fret is fingered. Eg.

This first chord represents the Em chord.

Musical notation for guitar is written an octave higher than it sounds to fit it on the G cleft or musical staff. This means that your middle C will actually be played an octave lower than concert.

The C major scale
The Major scale gives us the predominant sound of western music, it does this by the intervals between the notes, and it should be familiar to you. The simplest form of the Major scale is C major, as it has no sharps or flats. In other words when we play it on the piano from C to C it has no black notes.

C  D  E  F  G  A  B  C

What chords are in a key?
When we put notes on top of these notes on the musical staff we get our basic chord family

Three chord theory!
In the key of C Major there are three main chords in the key C F G these three contain all the notes in the key. You will find the three Major chords to be the principle chords in most popular songs. Mastering the use of these will go a long way in your education and in understanding the idiom.

They are also called the I, IV and V chords in the key; as we count up the chords you will see why. Am is the relative minor or the main minor chord in the key, so in the key of Am you will have this same chord family. The principle chords in Am are the minor chords Am, Dm and Em. If we start to count from the A we will have again the I, IV and V in the scale. This only leaves the VII cord (a diminished). Familiarise yourself with the sound each make, how the minor chords sound amongst the Majors and the other way around. You will find hundreds of songs based around just these three chords I, IV and V.

Saturday, 5 October 2013

Post Eight - PART 2 - Minor Pentatonic

Minor pentatonic scale
Why this scale first? This scale is the main sound in rock music. It has a strong sound because it eliminates the weakest notes from the full scale. (In this case the B and F)

How do we practise this scale? First we familiarise ourselves with the fingering: first finger for the 5th fret, 3rd finger for the 7th fret and 4th finger for the 8th fret. Make sure we can play it with all down strokes and then alternate strokes meaning up and down strokes. Once you feel comfortable with this, play the scale with the lower palm of the hand over the strings to dampen the sound, we should be able to lift the palm to lessen the dampening; we do this with all down strokes and alternate up and down strokes.

This is a big lesson in itself so don’t feel you need to get it all at once. IT IS VERY IMPORTANT TO DO IT SLOWLY AND GET IT RIGHT. As you get better you slowly increase the speed. This will put you on the right track for life. Move the scale up by a tone or fret and then by two tones - we do this to get the muscles used to being able to play in any position or key signature.

Practise while standing up, and with the lights off. 

Friday, 4 October 2013

Post Seven - Twelve-bar shuffle

Twelve Bar

The twelve bar sequence can be played using major and minor chords. It has a number of variations.

If each chord represents a bar it could be written:
Twelve bars in all.
In the key of C. I=C, IV=F and V=G

Other variations:

Adding the other chords of the key

Rhythm exercises in the key of C. These are chords that work together. Get a fell for the combination and practice changing from one to the other.

Am G F Em
Em G Am C
G C Dm C
Am Em Dm Em
Am Dm Em7 Am
Am G Am
C Em F G
Am C D F x2 G
C Am F G


C Am F G (g.a.b) repeat

Twelve-bar shuffle

Twelve bar shuffle is a rhythm used in the twelve bar sequence, and can be played in a number of ways. The triangular note is added after the first two notes are sounded and is played with the root note.

Once the rhythm is established, try using it in a bar position

The arrows above the extended note are the alternate position to use for variation.
Watch the video link below to see a demonstration.

Post Six - Bar Chords Again

Root six bar chords

Practise listening to the sounds of these chords. They are all root 6 bar chords and take their name from the note on the 6th string.

Root five bar chords

These chords are based on the A open chords moved up. The first chord is a D Major.

The last two chords, because they move back from the root note cannot be played as open chords but are still root 5 bar chords, they take their name from the 5th string.

Root 4 bar chords

Root 4 bar chords are D chords raised with the bar. These will be useful if you can learn them. Even when starting, root 4 bar chords are of great use and will become more important as you develop. The B on the first chord, the major is a little hard to play, so when dropped it turns into a Dno3rd. The no3rd gives the chord the sound of not major or minor, a neutral sound and will be really useful in rock guitar.

The 5th string can be played if you like the sound, as it will add the 5th below the root.

Wednesday, 2 October 2013

Post Five - Extended chords

Extended chords

If we extend the scale further we add higher notes
1 2  3  4 5 6  7  8 9 10 11 12 13
A B C D E F G A B  C  D   E   F

Am9 has a B an octave higher
Am11 has a D

The same principle applies for the G in the key of C
Start the scale on the G and the G7 will have an F added.
1  2  3  4  5  6  7  8
G A  B C  D E  F G

For those that want to know what a Maj7 chord is, when you add the 7th to a major chords in the major scale the 1st and 7th have only one semi-tone between them instead of a tone. They look a bit different and sound a lot different and are called a Maj7.

Monday, 30 September 2013

Post Four - Note the position

An example our I-IV-V minor chords are Am-Dm and Em. Note the position. When A is on the 5th fret, 6th string the IV is across one string and the V is up to frets on the 4th.

When the A is on the 5th string we need to go down and across two frets to find the IV and up two frets to find the V which is now next to the starting note or root note.

This demonstrates where Am, Dm and Em are when playing bar chords. If you are playing in a major key the positions will be the same.

Additional Chords
These chords are made up by adding other notes of the scale that can be easily seen if we give each of the notes a number, as we did before.

Am as a scale would look like this:
1 2  3  4 5 6  7  8

Am7 is an Am with a G added, the 7th note
Amb5 would have an Eb

Post Three - Bar Chords

Bar Chords

These four chords when played with a bar will allow you to move them along the fretboard. This will present the entire Major and minor chords possible to your repertoire. The first two chords below are called root 6 bar chords because the follow the notes of the 6th sting, the lowest sounding string, the other two are the root 5 chords following the notes of the A string or 5th string. Root 4 bar chords would follow the 4th string, or D shape up the fret board.

When the four basic bar chords shapes have been practiced it is important to recognise where the I, IV and V chords are situated in relation to your starting position. You will find that both Major and minor chords will be in the same relative position.