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?