Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Basic Chord Substitutions

While tinkering in the guitar laboratory, we have come to the concept of chord substitution.

Musicians tinker with chord substitution all the time, trying to find cool sounding alternative chords for the the tired combinations played over and over again.

The first stop on this journey will be the substitution of relative Major or minor chords.

Every chord has a relative. For every Major chord there is a relative minor (and vice versa) that shares it's key signature.

Here are relative Majors and minors in list form:
C - am
G - em
D - bm
A - f#m
E - c#m
B - g#m
G# - e#m
C# - a#m
F - dm
Bb - gm
Eb - cm
Ab - fm
Db - bbm
Gb - ebm
Cb - abm

Try swapping out a substitute Major or minor chord next time you are playing your favorite song. Your ear will be the final judge as to whether it works or not, but it can sometime produce interesting results.

Another interesting sounding substitution is swapping a Major chord with the minor chord that is the 3rd of the Major key.

Here is a list of those combinations:
C - em
G - bm
D - f#m
A - c#m
E - g#m
B - d#m
G# - b#m
C# - e#m
F - am
Bb - dm
Eb - gm
Ab - cm
Db - fm
Gb - bbm
Cb - ebm

Try swapping a substitute 3 chord next time you are playing a familiar chord progression.
Listen to the results.

Friday, April 1, 2016

Common Chord Progressions: Major Keys

People with a lot of time on their hands have analyzed tons of music to find out why and how things work. One thing that came form this study of music is the Common Chord Progression Chart. This chart shows how chords often move from one to the other. When one chord is played it has tendencies that pull it toward other chords. This is why you can play so many songs with the same few chords, or why many songs have similar chord progressions.
Here is what the chord chart looks like:

So, what does this mean?

If we take a key like C Major and think about the chords we get this pattern...

C   Dm  Em   F    G7   Am     Bo
I     ii     iii     IV  V7    vi       viio

The chart tells us (starting with the I chord on the far right side) that

  • The I chord can go anywhere.
  • The iii chord tends to go the the vi chord
  • The vi chord tends to go to the ii or IV chord
  • The ii or IV tends to go to the V or viio
  • The V or viio tends to go to the I 
  • The I chord can go anywhere...
So how might this look in the key of C Major?

C could go to Dm which might go to G7 which could go to C

I                      ii                                  V7                               I

What kind of patterns can you come up with?

Connecting The Pentatonics

Some of you are exploring the Pentatonic Scale and it's movement and patterns along the neck of the guitar. One of the great features about learning those patterns, is the opportunity to connect them to create more interesting and expansive solo ideas. Here are those 5 Pentatonic patterns in a color-coded diagram:

A first step in connecting these patterns is to connect adjacent patterns. Here is a quick video to demonstrate this concept.

Monday, March 28, 2016

Thursday, March 17, 2016

What's in a Chord?

Once you start to build a good working knowledge of the fretboard you can combine that with your understanding of chord shapes. This will help you to start unlocking the inner workings of chords.

Please complete the worksheet called "What's in a Chord?" found in our Google Classroom.
You are encouraged to collaborate and work through the questions together.

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Mapping the Fretboard

As guitarists, you have many ways to learn how to do nearly anything on the guitar. Many of those ways will give you short cuts (not that it's a bad thing) that certainly solve the problem of immediacy, but often those methods lack long-term understanding of the guitar.
It is easy enough to show you where to place your hand for chords, scale, etc. but as you advance, you are going to want to have the freedom to build your own chords, find new voicing, and expand your understanding of how to build and shape scales. In order to do this, it is important to have a solid working knowledge of the landscape of the guitar fretboard. While it can seem daunting ("Geez, there are a bunch of strings and a whole mess of frets...") there is a method to the madness if we take a moment and investigate...

Here is where you can find all the natural notes on the guitar. The natural notes consist of A, B, C, D, E, F and G (No #'s and b's)

First off, the distance or interval from one fret to the next is called a semitone or half step (that is the smallest interval in Western music) . The distance between two frets is called a whole tone or whole step (basically 2 semitones or half steps).

Important questions to consider...

  • Do you notice any patterns on the fretboard when you look at all the natural notes?

  • What happens in those frets that don't have a letters or notes shown in the diagram?

As you work through the map of the neck, your first priority should be the E strings and the A string. These strings are the starting points for most of your chords and scales.

Monday, March 14, 2016

Compare and Contrast: Minor Pentatonic and The Blues

Let's take a look at two scales that are closely related and used over and over again by guitarists of all kinds.

I'm talking about the Eminor Pentatonic scale (Fig. 1) and the E Blues Scale (Fig. 2)
(Fig. 1)
(Fig. 2)

Since guitar players love to play in the key of E, (big sounding open-string chords like E and A) the Eminor pentatonic and E Blues really fit the bill.

Pentatonic scales are useful when improvising and composing because they refine the sound of a scale by removing the notes that cause 1/2 step intervals. These notes are the ones that tend to cause clashes or dissonance. In the case of minor pentatonic, the 2nd and 6th note of the minor scale have been removed leaving the 5 note scale found above (Fig. 1).

The blues scale expands on the sound of the minor pentatonic by adding the "blue" note. The "blue" note is an approximation of the sounds made by early singers of field hollers and work songs. These notes where generally slid into or "bent"vocally and gave the vocalist a more plaintive or yearning sound. Guitarists will often bend into and out of these notes to simulate the sound of the human voice.

Try out each scale and compare the sound of the minor pentatonic and the Blues scale.