Woke with a chord question

Seamus

Country Gent
Feb 25, 2011
1,131
New England
I’ve always just thought in terms of the ordinal position of each chord, within the tone center. So:

I Major
II minor
III minor
IV Major
V Dom
VI minor
VII dim

The flaw in this, is that it doesn’t adapt well as a form of shorthand for chord charts, but it’s dandy for analyzing songs and tone centers.

Outside of weirdness like the blues, I tend to think this way, too. But then I encounter something like the progression of "All of Me," and I ask myself, "Self, what is this madness?"

C6-E7-A7-Dm
E7-Am-D7-Dm/G

aka

I-III7-VI7-IIm
III7-VIm-II7-IIm/V7

Every jazz guy (I'm not a jazz guy, but a guy who plays some jazz) I know says the same thing:
<shrugs shoulders> "I just follow the chords."
 

Maguchi

Gretschie
Aug 11, 2022
172
Lalaland
Could you give some clarification on how to handle Diminished chords? Any shorthand for Augmented?
Like a couple of people have already said, there are no universal standards. However I've seen ° used for diminished and + for augmented. For example B° and C+ for B diminished and C augmented. If they're 7th chords and not triads you just add the 7 i.e. B°7 and C+7.
 
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Henry

I Bleed Orange
Apr 9, 2014
19,212
Petaluma
I think it is pretty universal that capitals is major and not cap is minor. Also used for the M/m.

Cm7 is with minor or flat 3 and 7.

CM7 is with major or natural 3 and 7.

C7 is a mix, uses the major 3 and minor 7.
 

Synchro

The artist formerly known as: Synchro
Staff member
Jun 2, 2008
26,695
Tucson
That makes perfect sense as long as the tune is strictly diatonic. Where you get into problems is when major or dominant chords are used instead of the within key diatonic minors. This turns up a lot in folk music, jazz, or blues . For example the typical 5 of 5 progression, 1>2>5>1, in C, C>D(7)>G(7)>C. This works because D(7)is the 5th of G(7) which is the 5th of the tonic C.
also I’m reminded of the Salty Dog Blues, a fairly common folk and bluegrass tune that goes 1>6>2>5, all major or dominant. In G it goes G>E(7)>A(7)>D(7)>G.
I deal with that simply by recognizing tone centers. For example, what are sometimes called Ragtime Changes.

C / / / E7 / / / A7 / / / D7 / / / G7 / / /

I would see this as the I of C Maj, the V of A harmonic minor, the V of D Jazz Minor, the V of G Major and the V of C Major. I’ve been doing this for so long, that when I look at changes, I automatically divided them into tone centers, really without conscious thought.

When you get into a song with complex harmonic structure, such as Mandel’s The Shadow Of Your Smile, it comes in very handy. That song changes tone centers constantly, and it’s almost impossible for me to comprehend without thinking of it in terms of Major, harmonic minor, and Jazz minor tone centers. You could abbreviate it in Nashville Number shorthand, but it would be confusing. OTOH, if you think of it in terms of tone centers, it’s just a series of II-V cadences in various Major or minor keys.
 

Synchro

The artist formerly known as: Synchro
Staff member
Jun 2, 2008
26,695
Tucson
Outside of weirdness like the blues, I tend to think this way, too. But then I encounter something like the progression of "All of Me," and I ask myself, "Self, what is this madness?"

C6-E7-A7-Dm
E7-Am-D7-Dm/G

aka

I-III7-VI7-IIm
III7-VIm-II7-IIm/V7

Every jazz guy (I'm not a jazz guy, but a guy who plays some jazz) I know says the same thing:
<shrugs shoulders> "I just follow the chords."
I play All Of Me, but I do it in G, so it fits my vocal range better. Believe it or not, all of the chords actually do make sense, but there are Major, harmonic minor and jazz minor tone centers. It’s a great song.
I think it is pretty universal that capitals is major and not cap is minor. Also used for the M/m.

Cm7 is with minor or flat 3 and 7.

CM7 is with major or natural 3 and 7.

C7 is a mix, uses the major 3 and minor 7.
Seventh chords are confusing. The second chord most of us learned was G7, but it took my a long time to figure out why Dom 7 chords had a minor 7th interval in it.
 

Jelly Roll Horton

Country Gent
Nov 10, 2017
2,041
Portland, OR
I don’t fully get the v vii IV why upper case why lower case and what does it mean? I do believe it is the progression first fif they seventh etc but the I see people using upper case lower case or mixing it up. That confuses me.

I was recently listening to acoustic metal. I messaged a friend who has a golden ear. It seemed like acoustic bass and guitar not sure how many. But it also seemed like a drop d on guitar but not quite so he tell am yea drop d common but that all strings were down tunes a half step as well First.
then I remember listening to Dance To I gut but by Paul McCartnet on mandolin wondering if that’s a seventh or augmented chord of some sort. Gets my head going because I notice something other but can’t quite pick it out yet.

That leads to over thinking and dreaming about weird things. Then these questions.

The songs were Puddle of Mud acoustic of Control. And Eleine’s acoustic metal album these probably not being good to post pinkos of here

and Dance tonight.

We’ll probably never meet, and that’s too bad. We seem to have similar experience and questions, and a Saturday jam might be fun. :cool:
 

Bertotti

Gretschified
Jul 20, 2017
10,157
South Dakota
We’ll probably never meet, and that’s too bad. We seem to have similar experience and questions, and a Saturday jam might be fun. :cool:
When I say I am not a good player I mean it. Not enough practice time but if I know the chord progression I can usually keep it in my head and keep time. Usually! Which mean not always! Hahhaha

Anyone gets to red neck gun totting SD send me a PM! Don’t be afraid when you see me some are. Not sure why.
 

Bertotti

Gretschified
Jul 20, 2017
10,157
South Dakota
I’m currently trying to wrap my head around chord centers. I’m of the impression that being taught the pentatonic scales may not have been the best path, most patterns I would have to brush up on anyway but I think it has limited my thinking. I need to work on the major scales perhaps. wwhwwwh at least I think that’s correct!

I also have to learn chords much much better. At one point I knew my bar chords five and six strings and three shapes in each. And some first position cowboy chords. Sadly I couldn’t recall those off the top of my head I tend to just move my fingers until the tone sounds correct but I’m sometimes hitting a road block trying to find a chord where it has the right sound! Not a major or minor sometimes seventh is close but I suspect one of them might be right of Inuse a different voicing. Which is another reason I ask chord questions. So I can get it through my thick skull how to make and voice a chord I want!
 

Synchro

The artist formerly known as: Synchro
Staff member
Jun 2, 2008
26,695
Tucson
Explaining tone centers might best be done in small steps. If you are playing a song in C Major, the most common chords will be C Maj & G7. F and D minor are other likely chords, with E minor and A minor being somewhat less common. B minor 7 b5 is feasible, but uncommon. If you spell out all of those chords, you will find that all of them exclusively use notes found in the key of C Major. I could go deeper, but for the sake of the discussion, I‘ll keep it simple.

But what happens when you are playing a song and come across a chord that has notes in it that are not notes from the key that the song is in? When I was learning to analyze songs, I noticed that I would occasionally see an E7 in a song in C Major. There aren’t any G# notes in the key of C Major, so that chord has to come from somewhere else.

An A harmonic minor scale has these notes:

A, B, C, D, E, F G#, A

An E7 chord had an E, a G#, a B and a D, so it is possible to build an E7 based upon the notes of an A harmonic minor scale.

An A Major scale has these notes:

A, B, C#, D, E, F# G# A

Once again, an E7 could come from an A Major scale. So, how do we know which? If we look at the chord following the E7, that usually tells the tale. If the next chord is an A minor, than the E7 was probably in an A harmonic minor tone center. If the chord following the E7 is an A Major, then the tone center is most likely A Major.

The A harmonic minor tone center isn’t all that surprising; A is the relative minor of C Major, so it’s no big surprise if a C Major song shifts into an A. harmonic minor tone center. If it went into an A Major tone center, that is feasible, and the song might stay in A Major for one or more measures, but it would almost certainly work it’s way back to C Major, by the end of the song.

There are other scales from which an E7 could be constructed, but I’m going to confine my comments to fairly common scenarios, at least for the time being. My entire point, is just that songs change keys, for a measure, or two, all the time. There are a lot of ways this can happen, and I’ll post more about this in the future, and maybe even some examples, but I don’t want to move too fast, because it takes a while for anyone to grasp this concept.

I will, however, include an example that everyone here will probably recognize. Stray Cat Strut changes tone centers in its first phrase.

C min / Bb Maj / Ab Maj / G7

C minor is a slam dunk, the song is in the key of C minor. The Bb Major chord is the fifth degree of an Eb Major scale, which is the relative Major of C minor. The Ab Major chord is the fourth degree of the Eb Major scale, and G7 is the fifth degree Of a C harmonic minor scale. So Stray Cat Strut weaves out of C minor and into Eb Major, then back to C minor.

By the way, this chord sequence is known as the Andalusian Cadence, and is common to many songs. Walk, Don’t Run is based upon the same pattern, for example. The Andalusian Cadence is thought to date back thousands of years, and probably originated in the Middle East.

I won’t provide any other examples in this post, but I will state that learning to recognize chord patterns, such as the Andalusian Cadence, makes it easier to remember songs, and easier to recognize patterns, when you hear a song.

I should also add that all of this is fully compatible with pentatonics. Pentatonic scales are a great tool, both sonically, and in organizing the way you travel on the neck of the instrument. No single approach covers it all. Learning Major and minor scales in all of the keys is a great idea, but a lot of music from the past 70 years bears a strong relationship to pentatonic scales.
 

Seamus

Country Gent
Feb 25, 2011
1,131
New England
Explaining tone centers might best be done in small steps. If you are playing a song in C Major, the most common chords will be C Maj & G7. F and D minor are other likely chords, with E minor and A minor being somewhat less common. B minor 7 b5 is feasible, but uncommon. If you spell out all of those chords, you will find that all of them exclusively use notes found in the key of C Major. I could go deeper, but for the sake of the discussion, I‘ll keep it simple.

But what happens when you are playing a song and come across a chord that has notes in it that are not notes from the key that the song is in? When I was learning to analyze songs, I noticed that I would occasionally see an E7 in a song in C Major. There aren’t any G# notes in the key of C Major, so that chord has to come from somewhere else.

An A harmonic minor scale has these notes:

A, B, C, D, E, F G#, A

An E7 chord had an E, a G#, a B and a D, so it is possible to build an E7 based upon the notes of an A harmonic minor scale.

An A Major scale has these notes:

A, B, C#, D, E, F# G# A

Once again, an E7 could come from an A Major scale. So, how do we know which? If we look at the chord following the E7, that usually tells the tale. If the next chord is an A minor, than the E7 was probably in an A harmonic minor tone center. If the chord following the E7 is an A Major, then the tone center is most likely A Major.

The A harmonic minor tone center isn’t all that surprising; A is the relative minor of C Major, so it’s no big surprise if a C Major song shifts into an A. harmonic minor tone center. If it went into an A Major tone center, that is feasible, and the song might stay in A Major for one or more measures, but it would almost certainly work it’s way back to C Major, by the end of the song.

There are other scales from which an E7 could be constructed, but I’m going to confine my comments to fairly common scenarios, at least for the time being. My entire point, is just that songs change keys, for a measure, or two, all the time. There are a lot of ways this can happen, and I’ll post more about this in the future, and maybe even some examples, but I don’t want to move too fast, because it takes a while for anyone to grasp this concept.

I will, however, include an example that everyone here will probably recognize. Stray Cat Strut changes tone centers in its first phrase.

C min / Bb Maj / Ab Maj / G7

C minor is a slam dunk, the song is in the key of C minor. The Bb Major chord is the fifth degree of an Eb Major scale, which is the relative Major of C minor. The Ab Major chord is the fourth degree of the Eb Major scale, and G7 is the fifth degree Of a C harmonic minor scale. So Stray Cat Strut weaves out of C minor and into Eb Major, then back to C minor.

By the way, this chord sequence is known as the Andalusian Cadence, and is common to many songs. Walk, Don’t Run is based upon the same pattern, for example. The Andalusian Cadence is thought to date back thousands of years, and probably originated in the Middle East.

I won’t provide any other examples in this post, but I will state that learning to recognize chord patterns, such as the Andalusian Cadence, makes it easier to remember songs, and easier to recognize patterns, when you hear a song.

I should also add that all of this is fully compatible with pentatonics. Pentatonic scales are a great tool, both sonically, and in organizing the way you travel on the neck of the instrument. No single approach covers it all. Learning Major and minor scales in all of the keys is a great idea, but a lot of music from the past 70 years bears a strong relationship to pentatonic scales.

You explain these things extremely well, Synchro! Here's the hands-on, "OMG what do I do now" lesson I learned from following the antics of better players than me in my example of "All of Me." Regardless of tone centers, a very cool concept that certainly leads to some sophisticated approaches, I learned to do something simple when soloing -- connect the "out of key" chord to the nearest chord that's more clearly in-key.

So you're doing your thing, happily C-ing it up, then suddenly there's an E7. Gulp. Turns out you can play right through that by simply using notes from the E7 and an F. I'm not entirely sure how "proper" that may be, but once I dropped my concern about sounding "wrong," I started doing that -- following the weird chord by arpeggiating it straight-up and using any nearby notes in the proper key.

I bet Synchro can tell me why it works less well in the same song if you do it over the A7 and connect notes from C -- I imagine that's because the A, with its C#, has a tonal center even farther away from the key of C, and doesn't "want" to be resolved into C (maybe D minor?). It still works, but you have to use your ears more, and be ready to move off any notes that sound really strange. Fortunately, that's usually easy at the blistering tempos of jazz manouche! :)

Which is all to say, if you're soloing over something weird, can be a handy go-to to connect the notes here and there while you pray for a better chord to arrive.

PS -- Hmm. Maybe I'm just using tone centers without knowing it? 🤔
 

Synchro

The artist formerly known as: Synchro
Staff member
Jun 2, 2008
26,695
Tucson
You explain these things extremely well, Synchro! Here's the hands-on, "OMG what do I do now" lesson I learned from following the antics of better players than me in my example of "All of Me." Regardless of tone centers, a very cool concept that certainly leads to some sophisticated approaches, I learned to do something simple when soloing -- connect the "out of key" chord to the nearest chord that's more clearly in-key.

So you're doing your thing, happily C-ing it up, then suddenly there's an E7. Gulp. Turns out you can play right through that by simply using notes from the E7 and an F. I'm not entirely sure how "proper" that may be, but once I dropped my concern about sounding "wrong," I started doing that -- following the weird chord by arpeggiating it straight-up and using any nearby notes in the proper key.

I bet Synchro can tell me why it works less well in the same song if you do it over the A7 and connect notes from C -- I imagine that's because the A, with its C#, has a tonal center even farther away from the key of C, and doesn't "want" to be resolved into C (maybe D minor?). It still works, but you have to use your ears more, and be ready to move off any notes that sound really strange. Fortunately, that's usually easy at the blistering tempos of jazz manouche! :)

Which is all to say, if you're soloing over something weird, can be a handy go-to to connect the notes here and there while you pray for a better chord to arrive.

PS -- Hmm. Maybe I'm just using tone centers without knowing it? 🤔
Thanks Seamus. At heart, I guess I’m still just a guitar teacher.

There are a lot of approaches to this. Mine is analytical, some are more pattern-based, and then there are freaks of nature, like Django, who seemed to have all of this hardwired at the chip level. :)

The one thing that I want to make sure to point out is that playing scales over chords doesn’t equate to improvising, even if the scale is perfectly fitted to the chords. However, if you know the scale upon which a chord sequence is based, this gives you a real boost with regard to selecting notes for your solo. If I’m thinking about anything at all, when I’m soloing, it would be triads and tone centers. Good sounding solos are played out of chord forms, and that is true, even on non-chordal instruments. If you listen to the great Sax solos in Billy Joel’s Just The Way You Are, even though it’s a jazzy sounding solo, there are pentatonic Majors throughout, based upon chord forms. That’s why I keep triads in mind, and the triad might not be the same as the chord being played.

For example, if I’m playing over a GMaj 7, voiced as G, F#, B, D (3x443x) the F#, B and D are a B minor triad, so I might use a B minor pentatonic as a way to position my hands, and to move on the neck. The doesn’t necessarily mean that I will play a B minor pentatonic scale, but it means that I will use that B minor pentatonic to position my left hand, and I may select some notes from that scale. I might also select notes that are not part of that scale, but I will use the B minor pentatonic as a way of orienting my playing.

One other thing that should be pointed out, at this moment, is that chord changes can come along fast and furious. In many cases, there isn’t time to do much more than hit the high spots.

Back in the earliest days of Jazz, improvisation was simply a matter of coming up with an alternate melody. Later on, the idea of playing over changes became preponderant, and that means paying a degree of homage to every chord change. It would be possible, even easy, to play a solo taking into account nothing but the chord changes, but that approach risks reducing the solo to mathematics, with no feeling. IMHO, a truly great solo will employ a bit of both approaches.The melody is on the shoulders of the player. Playing over the changes can be, at least, assisted, by applying some theory.

If I were going to blow a solo over All Of Me, when the first change, and I hit that E7, coming out of being very solidly rooted in the key of C Major, I would probably try to incorporate at least some notes that were in that E7 chord, and not in the C Major chord, just to make it clear that there had been a change. Interpreting the tone center involves some judgment, but if you consider E7 as the V chord of A harmonic minor, you are moving to a tone center which only differs from the key of C Major on one note, the G#. Not all tone center changes are this smooth, but this one is pretty friendly.

The next chord is A7 which is the V chord for the key of D Major, D harmonic minor or D jazz minor. (By jazz minor, I mean a melodic minor that remains the same on ascending and descending passages, as opposed to changing, the way a melodic minor does.) The notes of a D jazz minor are D, E, F, G, A, B, C#, D. Every not is the same as C Major, except the C itself, which is sharped. So, I will choose to call A7, the V chord of D jazz minor.

The next chord is a D minor, and I’m going to treat this as the I chord of D jazz minor. It’s simple, makes sense, and only has one note not in common with the key of C Major.

Then the chords go back to E7, again the V chord of A harmonic minor. Then it lands on A minor, which I would probably treat as being in the tone center of A harmonic minor, but, if someone chose to interpret that as the II chord of G Major, I wouldn’t lose respect for them. And it makes a degree of sense, because of where the song goes next.

Which is D7, the V chord of G Major. Once again, this tone center, has only one note that differs from the key of C Major, the F#. The next chord is G7, which is the V chord of the key of C Major.

The only other chord change of great interest is an F Major to F minor. I would treat the F Maj chord as the IV of the key of C Major, and the F minor I would treat as being the I chord of F jazz minor.

There are other approaches. A Dominant 7th that is followed by a change to a chord one fourth away, can frequently be treated as the VII chord of a jazz minor, so E7 could be played over with notes from an F jazz minor, an A7 could be played over with notes from a Bb jazz minor, etc. While this provides some interesting sounds, it can easily become hackneyed and clichéd.

You could also play whole-tone scales, or half-tone-whole-tone scales, but the results would be mixed. Ultimately, you can play anything, but not everything will sound good.
 

Seamus

Country Gent
Feb 25, 2011
1,131
New England
There are a lot of approaches to this. Mine is analytical, some are more pattern-based, and then there are freaks of nature, like Django, who seemed to have all of this hardwired at the chip level. :)

Your whole guide/manifesto there makes great sense. I think we are very much in the same ballpark when it comes to approach. It's just that, as a self-taught near-moron, I do more pantsing with less knowledge than you. I always wish I had more proper music education, but I'm really happy that after a long time studying Gypsy jazz, I don't find music theory talk a foreign language at all. (Yet, ironically, it's my understanding that most actual Roma players seem to learn the style by pattern, not theory at all!)
 

Bertotti

Gretschified
Jul 20, 2017
10,157
South Dakota
Your whole guide/manifesto there makes great sense. I think we are very much in the same ballpark when it comes to approach. It's just that, as a self-taught near-moron, I do more pantsing with less knowledge than you. I always wish I had more proper music education, but I'm really happy that after a long time studying Gypsy jazz, I don't find music theory talk a foreign language at all. (Yet, ironically, it's my understanding that most actual Roma players seem to learn the style by pattern, not theory at all!)
You should see the Johnny Smith book he told me to work through. I‘m still working on the first 15 pages! But I bet you would love it! Worth whatever I paid for it and so far over my head but slowly it will sink in. But these last couple dozen brain cells are working over time. They are so busy InthinknI’ve started making more brain cells!

maybe we can talk the owners mods powered to be into adding a @Synchro Johnny Smith sub forum to discuss this stuff!

AA76FC93-96DD-4946-9B2C-C3009345D970.jpeg
 

Synchro

The artist formerly known as: Synchro
Staff member
Jun 2, 2008
26,695
Tucson
Your whole guide/manifesto there makes great sense. I think we are very much in the same ballpark when it comes to approach. It's just that, as a self-taught near-moron, I do more pantsing with less knowledge than you. I always wish I had more proper music education, but I'm really happy that after a long time studying Gypsy jazz, I don't find music theory talk a foreign language at all. (Yet, ironically, it's my understanding that most actual Roma players seem to learn the style by pattern, not theory at all!)
I’ve been fortunate, in having had some great instructors, along the way. Perhaps the best was my father, who had a great collection of older music, which as a latchkey kid, I had plenty of time to explore. So I heard what was possible, at a fairly early age. I remember one record, with a bunch of tenor banjo chord-melody material. What I wouldn’t give to hear that again.

But I also had a couple of great music teachers in my school years, Mrs. LaVonne and Caroline May. I actually had the opportunity to thank Caroline May, in person, about 10 years ago. And I had some great guitar teachers, who expanded my horizons. A lot of the theory came from a handful of books, including a book for Jazz pianists by John Mehegan. One day, someone explained that songs could employ multiple tone centers and, quite suddenly, it just sort of all came together and I started to see the patterns of logic. For the next couple of months, I would sometimes wake up in the middle of the night with a new idea, because my mind had been working through all of this. It was somewhat overwhelming, but after that, I found that I could reverse engineer most songs, in real time.

One thing that really helped was having practiced Major and harmonic minor scales in all twelve keys. The logic of that is enough to cover almost any song in the music of Western Civilization. Add Hungarian minors (think Miserlou) and Melodic minors and you will have to search long and hard to find a song that can’t be explained. Simpsons Theme? That’s one of the few exceptions, but it’s just the Lydian mode.

You should see the Johnny Smith book he told me to work through. I‘m still working on the first 15 pages! But I bet you would love it! Worth whatever I paid for it and so far over my head but slowly it will sink in. But these last couple dozen brain cells are working over time. They are so busy InthinknI’ve started making more brain cells!

maybe we can talk the owners mods powered to be into adding a @Synchro Johnny Smith sub forum to discuss this stuff!
Page 15? You’re catching up to me, I’m halfway through page 17, but then again, I’ve only been at it for 46 years. :)

In all seriousness, that method book changed my entire approach to music. Johnny Smith claims that he didn’t have anything to do with that book, although that may be a protest rooted in the fact that apparently he was never paid any royalties on the book, which bears his name.

I would surmise that Brian Setzer seems to employ some of the techniques in that book, if not directly, then perhaps from techniques his instructor taught. When I watch Setzer, a lot of what I see seems very familiar.

Let me give it some thought, but if we confine it to that book, I’d probably be glad to do something like that. The reason I would want to confine it to that book, is that I wouldn’t want it to turn into a free-for-all regarding various approaches. The Smith book is one approach, and certainly not the only approach, but it’s a very rich, very encompassing, approach. Also, it’s not geared towards Rock or Blues. A lot of what is taught in this approach can be applied to these genres, but the book is more like a Classical approach, to plectrum guitar. It’s foundational information that can be applied to a lot of different situations, but it’s definitely a disciplined approach.

There is, however, one overriding benefit that I would defend to my last breath, and that is the fact that learning these scale forms, chords, triads and arpeggios gives you incredible flexibility. It took years before I could play the arpeggios in this book fluently, but, by gum, being able to play a three octave arpeggio that covers 6 strings and 12 frets in 16th notes, is a handy skill to possess. It can be adapted to any number of situations. From experience, I must caution, it doesn’t happen overnight. I started in this book 46 years ago, almost to the day, and the first few months were not easy, but the benefits started almost immediately and have only grown over the years.

I would love to see this book revised, so that the scale forms were presented more graphically, in addition to how they are written. There’s a possibility I may explore, but it would be a few years before I could afford the time required. One thing I promise you, is that no one gets rich writing guitar methods.
 

Bertotti

Gretschified
Jul 20, 2017
10,157
South Dakota
Yes page 15 and it is a terrible struggle at which point I turn around and don it again. I suspect it will be months and months before I am comfortable enough to move on maybe a lot longer! I try to move on even when some things don’t click because I have a bad habit of sitting on something until I think it’s perfect but if I had take a few extra steps and went back to it it would have come quicker.
 

Old Rookie

Electromatic
Gold Supporting Member
Nov 5, 2022
28
Minnesota
While I understand less than half of what’s being said in this thread, I find it fascinating, and educational. And I feel good about the (less than) half I do understand. Thank you everybody.
 

Seamus

Country Gent
Feb 25, 2011
1,131
New England
I’ve been fortunate, in having had some great instructors, along the way. Perhaps the best was my father, who had a great collection of older music, which as a latchkey kid, I had plenty of time to explore. So I heard what was possible, at a fairly early age. I remember one record, with a bunch of tenor banjo chord-melody material. What I wouldn’t give to hear that again.

But I also had a couple of great music teachers in my school years, Mrs. LaVonne and Caroline May. I actually had the opportunity to thank Caroline May, in person, about 10 years ago. And I had some great guitar teachers, who expanded my horizons. A lot of the theory came from a handful of books, including a book for Jazz pianists by John Mehegan. One day, someone explained that songs could employ multiple tone centers and, quite suddenly, it just sort of all came together and I started to see the patterns of logic. For the next couple of months, I would sometimes wake up in the middle of the night with a new idea, because my mind had been working through all of this. It was somewhat overwhelming, but after that, I found that I could reverse engineer most songs, in real time.

One thing that really helped was having practiced Major and harmonic minor scales in all twelve keys. The logic of that is enough to cover almost any song in the music of Western Civilization. Add Hungarian minors (think Miserlou) and Melodic minors and you will have to search long and hard to find a song that can’t be explained. Simpsons Theme? That’s one of the few exceptions, but it’s just the Lydian mode.


Page 15? You’re catching up to me, I’m halfway through page 17, but then again, I’ve only been at it for 46 years. :)

In all seriousness, that method book changed my entire approach to music. Johnny Smith claims that he didn’t have anything to do with that book, although that may be a protest rooted in the fact that apparently he was never paid any royalties on the book, which bears his name.

I would surmise that Brian Setzer seems to employ some of the techniques in that book, if not directly, then perhaps from techniques his instructor taught. When I watch Setzer, a lot of what I see seems very familiar.

Let me give it some thought, but if we confine it to that book, I’d probably be glad to do something like that. The reason I would want to confine it to that book, is that I wouldn’t want it to turn into a free-for-all regarding various approaches. The Smith book is one approach, and certainly not the only approach, but it’s a very rich, very encompassing, approach. Also, it’s not geared towards Rock or Blues. A lot of what is taught in this approach can be applied to these genres, but the book is more like a Classical approach, to plectrum guitar. It’s foundational information that can be applied to a lot of different situations, but it’s definitely a disciplined approach.

There is, however, one overriding benefit that I would defend to my last breath, and that is the fact that learning these scale forms, chords, triads and arpeggios gives you incredible flexibility. It took years before I could play the arpeggios in this book fluently, but, by gum, being able to play a three octave arpeggio that covers 6 strings and 12 frets in 16th notes, is a handy skill to possess. It can be adapted to any number of situations. From experience, I must caution, it doesn’t happen overnight. I started in this book 46 years ago, almost to the day, and the first few months were not easy, but the benefits started almost immediately and have only grown over the years.

I would love to see this book revised, so that the scale forms were presented more graphically, in addition to how they are written. There’s a possibility I may explore, but it would be a few years before I could afford the time required. One thing I promise you, is that no one gets rich writing guitar methods.
The key to everything for me was a really plain-jane book my Dad must have bought in the late '70s (I was learning to play in earnest around the mid-'80s). I just spent a little while trying to track it down, and finally found it! The trouble is that it's called How to Play the Guitar. Great title! :rolleyes:
 

Seamus

Country Gent
Feb 25, 2011
1,131
New England
Ugh. Didn't mean to stop there! But this thing won't let me move the cursor past the emoji. Anyway. Here's the book, in all its '70s glory. Mine didn't have the dustjacket.
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It's a very thorough treatment, and made tons of sense to a total beginner. Well, not total -- I had a couple of years of piano lessons, so I could read music and had some basic notions. But this book really put it all together in a very good, very accessible way. And now I'll have to check out this other book! Never cracked it!

The one I own that makes my head explode is Mark Levine's Jazz Theory. Helps a ton with understanding theory in general, but I often wonder if anyone really approaches playing with the kind of insane overthink that book engenders. It's overwhelming.
 


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