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.

Monday, March 7, 2016

Seeking Primary Chords

For the guitarist (or any musician for that matter), Primary Chords (I, IV, V) are essential to the sound of most music. Being able to play them in any key will help when learning new music, composing new music and making you a better musician overall.

In a previous post entitled Finding Chords With the Circle of Fifths we looked at a way of finding any chords by using that big round graphic organizer. I wanted to break down that process and focus squarely on Primary Chords.

First we have to know the names of the lines and spaces on the staff:

Next we have to realize that the circle of fifths shows us what notes on the staff get changed by a b or a # in any given key.

Here is the key of Bb Major:

If I look at the names of the lines and spaces above, I can see that someone has put a flat on the B line and another on the space for E. This tells me that The key of Bb has 2 flats (Bb and Eb).
My Bb Major scale looks like this:
Bb, C, D, Eb, F, G, A, Bb
You'll notice that the only notes affected by the key signature are the ones mentioned earlier (Bb, Eb).

This means that my Primary Chords (I, IV, V) in Bb are: Bb, Eb, and F

Lets try another example...

What are the primary chords in the key of A Major?

If I look on the Circle of Fifths I can see that the Key of A Major looks like this:

There are #s on F, C, and (moving one space above F) G

My A Major Scale looks like this:
A, B, C#, D, E, F#, G#, A

This means my primary chords (I, IV, V) in the Key of A Major are:
A, D, E

We will try some examples in class to make sure you have a complete understanding of this concept.

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

Time to Teach!

Okay folks it's time to show me what you can do. Today you are going to teach something you can do on the guitar to an audience of non-guitarists.
The result will be a short (2-3 min.) video demonstrating a chord, technique, riff, part of song etc. Keep in mind, your video is aimed at an audience of inexperienced guitarists so you have to be clear with your explanation and your demonstration. The video does not need to include your face, just your hands, the guitar and your voice.

Your video lesson will be posted to Google Classroom by the end of the class period.

Guitar II Class Codemopzf9c

Monday, February 22, 2016

Finding Chords With the Circle of Fifths

So the Circle of fifths is the most common graphic organizer used in music. It is an orderly and functional way of sorting Major and minor key signatures. It gets it's name by the fact that moving clockwise around the circle by the interval of a fifth identifies key signatures incrementally.

Here is that famous graphic organizer...

In this case the circle shows the Major keys (outer ring letters) and the minor keys (inner ring letters) and the key signature for each (far outer layer).

For example, the key of G Major (and e minor) has one # in the key signature (F#) so the notes in G Major are: G, A, B, C, D, E, F#. Those are also the same notes you would find in e minor, just in a different order: E, F#, G, A, B, C, D.

This is helpful when trying to identify the chords in any key. The chords in a Major key have the same quality regardless of the key signature. Quality refers the whether the chord is Major or minor (or sometimes...diminished or augmented). Here is the list of chord qualities in a Major scale:

I- Major
ii- minor
iii- minor
IV- Major
V- Major
vi- minor
viio- diminished

If we apply this to G Major this is what we get:

I- Major = G
ii- minor = Am
iii- minor = Bm
IV- Major = C
V- Major = D
vi- minor = Em
viio- diminished = F#o

Musicians will use this knowledge to help when working out chords to songs. Since a great deal of music focuses around the primary chords (I, IV, V), knowing what keys these chords come from will help you find other chords in a song you want to play. Additionally, songwriters understand the relationship between these chords and will use this information when putting together chord progressions for songs.

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

The Diminished Chord: The Joy of Parallel Movement

...This is a post that has information about diminished chords. In Guitar 2 we have been discussing diminished chords. This post should help you understand why and how we can use them...

A while back we had a post called "You Too Can Write Your Own Song..."

In that post I displayed a chart that showed a chord matrix. In this matrix, we showed chords by family.

One chord that was greyed out on the chart was an interesting one called the diminished chord.

Here is the chart again for reference:

You'll notice the final chords in the matrix for the key of G, D, A, and E are all diminished chords (dim).

These are great sounding chords that have a special quality. The notes in the chords create a parallel relationship. That means that you can move these chord shapes up and/or down by 3 frets and you will get basically the same chord (just higher or lower).

Here is a diagram of a diminished shape.

You can form a C diminished chord by placing your pinky on the 8th fret of the first string. Other diminished chords can be found in the same way. Wherever your pinky falls on the first string, you have that diminished chord.

Here are the notes on the First String (E String):

Two other common Diminished chord shapes use the 6th string and 5th string to determine the naming note:
               6th string                                                                  5th string

Monday, February 1, 2016

The Pentatonic Scale Across the Neck

The pentatonic scale is a guitarists dream. Ample material for creative soloing and riff making, but without the hassle of "wrong" notes. We tend, however, to get locked into one "box" position when playing the pentatonic scale. In our efforts to become "neck-mappers" it is important to start breaking out of the boxes and seeing what else is on our guitar neck. To that end, I have borrowed this helpful diagram which illustrates the 5 positions of the pentatonic scale. The chart calls these shapes "minor" pentatonic but I am going to just refer to them as pentatonic scales. Pos. 1 is the classic "box" shape I was referring to. Each shape connects and flows into each successive shape.

 If we apply the same understanding of the 6th string that we have for moveable bar chords we can play any number of different minor pentatonic scales. If you start position 1 on the 3rd fret, you are now playing the Gminor pentatonic. Start at the 6th fret and you are playing the Bbminor pentatonic, etc.

Notes in First Position

As we move up and down the neck of the guitar, you will hear me talk in terms of "positions." This is how guitarists describe areas of the neck where the musical action will take place.
We get our start in 1st position. We call this 1st position because our 1st finger is used in the 1st fret. Guitarists sometimes refer to this as "open" position because we make use of the open strings. 

Here is what the natural notes (ones with no #'s or b's) look like in 1st position:


...and here is what that looks like in musical notation and tablature:

The natural notes are the ones that make up the C Major scale. If you look at the above neck diagram, you will probably be able to find the chords from C Major hidden inside there.
Try to find these chords:

C, Dm, Em, F, G7, Am

Play through this 1st position and play through the above chords. Do you see how they are connected?