Thursday, December 18, 2014

Chord Relationships and Substitutions (Keep your options open)

We have been learning to play chords for quite some time. Many of you are really smoothing out the transition from chord to chord, exploring your favorite music or even writing your own ideas (Great!)

At some point we have to deal with the issue of what is in these chords we are playing and why do we play them when we do in music. So here is where we start the conversation and lay out some chord construction theory and the idea of substitution.

First lets look at the major building block of harmony and that is the Major scale:

The scale shown above is the C Major scale. You've heard this scale many times... Do, Re, Mi, etc.

When we build chords we create what are know as triads. Triads are 3 note chords that are based on the Major scale. We simply start stacking notes on top of each other by the interval (distance) of a third. In practical terms you place notes on the next line or space based on where your first note is located. (see example)

These stacked up thirds or triads are the fundamental harmonies of Western music. On the guitar you may notice we play more than three notes. Sometime we strum four to six strings. In those cases we are doubling notes of the triad. If a C chord has the notes C, E, and G, we might play C, E, G, C, and E (as is the case with an open position C chord.)

When we play the triads in a Major scale, these are the qualities (major, minor diminished) of the resulting chords:

When we spell the notes of the chords they look like this:
C= C, E, G
Dm= D, F, A
Em= E, G, B
F= F, A, C
G= G, B, D
Am= A, C, E
Bdim= B, D, F

When you see the notes of the chords, you can hopefully see some relationships that connect them.
For instance, a C chord has the notes C, E, G while the Am chord has the notes A, C, E. These chords have two notes in common and one that is only a step away. These chords are often substituted for each other. It is a great way to vary the sound of what you are playing and sometimes inspires new ideas and new approaches to a chord progression or a song. Here are a list of some of our basic chords and chords that can sometimes work as substitutes. Keep in mind that your ear will ultimately tell you whether the chord works or not as a substitute.

Chord                        Possible Substitutions
C                                Am, Em
F                                 Dm, Am
G                                Em, Bm
D                                F#m, Bm
E                                 G#m, C#m
A                                C#m, F#m

This relationship works inversely as well. You can substitute C for Am as easily as you can substitute Am for C. This can sometime be helpful when working on a song. Having trouble with that pesky C#m chord? Try an E chord and see if you are satisfied with the sound.

Keep strumming!

Monday, December 15, 2014

Friday, December 12, 2014

The Diminished Chord: The Joy of Parallel Movement (Repost)

...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

Friday, December 5, 2014

Rock Ballad Strum

A classic strum pattern for slow to moderately slow rock and folk songs is the Rock Ballad Strum.

This is what the pattern looks like in music notation...

Once you can say the pattern (down, down, down, downup, downup, down, down, down) over and over, try getting your strumming hand to do that with an basic chord of your choosing. 

You will soon be applying this pattern over all sorts of chord progressions and songs.

The songs linked on the pedal chord post are great examples of songs that can use the rock ballad strum.


Thursday, December 4, 2014

The Banana Song - A bminor chord banana opus!

This song sprang from a discussion in Guitar 1about songwriting, bminor chords and bananas.

Banana Song  Chords/Lyrics by S. Trombley


Chiquita, Chiquita 
So happy to meet ya
My little yellow friend
             Am                    D
With a tough protective skin

Chiquita, Chiquita
You pointy saffron creature
Peel me a dozen
Am                    D
Six for me and six for my cousin


Bm                                    Cadd9
I brought one home and I tried it
     Bm.                          Cadd9
It was a bit mushy so I cried it out and then I said...


Chiquita, Chiquita 
You're my favorite fruity feature
I love those yellow bunches 
      Am                      D
I'll always want you that what my hunch is


Bm                                           Cadd9
While I watch some M. Night Shamalan
Bm                          Cadd9
I will be eating a banana man

Banana Song Audio Clip

GHS Guitar: You Too Can Write Your Own Song! (or, at the very ...

GHS Guitar: You Too Can Write Your Own Song! (or, at the very ...: Beginning Guitar You Too Can Write Your Own Song! At this point you should all have the basic skill sets for writing your own music. ...

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

The Bminor Bar Chord: A Popular Choice in Bar Chords

As you begin to explore the use of bar chords you will see the bminor bar chord (bm) come up quite frequently. Many of you are searching out songs by chords and lyrics and you see that pesky bm chord again and again. It is no coincidence. It has to do with the keys of these songs and the chord choices of the songwriters.

First, the chord shapes...

The first bar chord shape is a 5-string bar chord shape that is formed at the 2nd fret on the guitar.

The second shape is a 6-string bar chord shape formed at the 7th fret.

When we look at a few of the popular keys that guitarists like to use, you will see the bminor chord popping up.

Key of G Chords:
I    ii    iii   IV  V  vi
G Am Bm C    D  Em

Key of D Chords:
I    ii    iii     IV  V  vi
D  Em F#m G   A  Bm

Key of A Chords:
I    ii     iii     IV  V  vi
A  Bm C#m D    E  F#m

Have fun with our Bminor friend!


Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Adding Pedal Tones to Familiar Chords

How do some of our favorite groups get those distinctive sounds on seemingly familiar chords? One little trick involves creating pedal tones within a chord. A pedal tone is a sustained note that carries through changes in harmonies or chords. We usually think of a pedal tone as being in the lower or bass part of a chord or harmony, but there is nothing to prevent us from creating pedal notes in the higher notes of a chord.

Here are examples of pedal notes transforming otherwise familiar chords:


Chords like these are used quite a bit in rock music to change the sound and make it a bit more memorable.

Here are links to a few songs that make good use of these "pedal-type" chords.

Every Rose Has it's Thorn- Poison
Wonderwall- Oasis
You and Me- Lifehouse

Try them for yourself and come up with your own ideas!

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Notes on the 2nd string

The notes on the 2nd string follow the same pattern as the notes on the first string. Here is an image showing the notes on the staff and their position on the neck of the guitar.

This duet uses notes on the first 3 strings. The top line of the duet uses notes from the first two strings.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Seasonal Finger-style Guitar

This time of year is a great time for music. To that end, I have written you a short finger-style arrangement of a seasonal classic, Jingle Bells.
This arrangement is just for the chorus section and not the verse. Perhaps I can add that at a later time, but it is slightly more complicated and I thought this would be a good starting point. Technically this arrangement is meant to challenge you to keep your thumb moving and alternating. The thumb is such an important part of "driving" the rhythm in finger-style playing. I have added an audio clip of this arrangement to give you an idea of how it could sound.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Moveable Bar Chords on the 6th String

Bar chords are often torturous for beginning guitarists, but they unlock the neck of the guitar like no other chords can do.
With the 3 chord shapes in this post and knowledge of the 6th string (to the 12th fret), you now have 36 chords at your disposal (theoretically more if you count enharmonic equivalents as different chords-but let's not worry about that too much).

First, let's look at the 3 shapes in question:




These shapes are based around the open position E chord. If you take away the first finger bar, you probably can see the the E, Em and E7 shape.

These chords change letter name based on where you place that first finger bar. When you know the notes on the 6th string, you really have some options.

These are the first steps in mapping the neck of the guitar. Happy chord hunting!

Monday, October 27, 2014

A Post For Jack Bruce

My very first CD was the Very Best of Cream. The original power rock trio. I was initially interested in the guitar playing of Eric Clapton, but became a huge Jack Bruce fan because of his powerful voice and adventurous, fuzzed-out, fretless bass playing.
Jack Bruce passed away this past weekend and I wanted to honor him by presenting a couple of his great contributions to guitar lick-dom. The first song and lick is the Cream classic White Room.

The opening of this song is an essential riff on the D chord that has been copied and re-imagined by countless other groups.

It is a descending bass pattern that breaks up the D chord.


Here is the White Room riff in notation and Tab.

Sunshine of Your Love Coming Up Next...

Quarter 1: Self Reflection

All Students in Guitar 1 must complete the following self-reflection survey at the end of Quarter 1.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

You Too Can Write Your Own Song! (or, at the very least, collaborate nicely on one)

Beginning Guitar
You Too Can Write Your Own Song!

At this point you should all have the basic skill sets for writing your own music.
  • Basic Chord Vocabulary
  • A variety of strumming, picking and finger-style patterns
  • A guitar

With those skills and the guitar (which isn’t so much a skill as more a medium through which your musical ideas can find an expressive outlet) You Too Can Write Your Own Song!

To make this process easier for you, I have outlined the basic chords in a chord matrix to help you get started. Play around with these chords. Put them in different order. Try different strumming and plucking patterns, different tempo (speed), etc.

Chord Family Matrix (The grayed out chords are ones we have not reviewed in class, but feel free to explore them as well.)
Often we play these chords in a line across this matrix (G-C-D7-G), staying within the same family. But many times when we experiment with chords outside a family we can get interesting results.
Ex. D-B7-Em-G These chords are from different families, but it may be a sound you like or can work with.

 Remember a D chord can be spiced up by using a sus2 or a sus4

Write down your ideas so you remember your original chord progressions and any other notes that can help you remember your ideas.

The key ingredient is experimentation. Some musicians spend hours going back and forth over chords using trial and error to come up with a sound they like. You will be surprised with what you can come up with when you experiment a little bit.

Classic Chord Progressions (These ones have already been used a lot!)
G-Em-C-D7-G-Em-C-D7, etc. (Many songs of the 50’s and 60’s)

G-C7-G-G-C7-C7-G-G-D7-C7-G-G (The blues. Played everyday since 1890 or so.)

Monday, October 20, 2014

Chord Families

We can play quite a few primary chords within a number of chord families. Remember the primary chords are the I-IV-V of any given key. We can play chord families in Major and minor keys. Here is a rundown of what we can do...

Guitar 1:

Key of G

Key of A

Key of D

Key of E

Key of Em

Key of Am

Guitar 2: All of above and...

Key of C

Key of F

Key of Bb

Key of Eb

Key of Ab

Key of Db

Key of Cb

Key of B

Key of F#

Key of C#

These examples are all listed in Major tonality. Guitar 2 students should play all of these chord families in both major and minor. In minor, the 1st and 4th chords would use a minor shape.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

The Blues Shuffle

Here is a post on the Blues shuffle. It is one of the most classic riffs in all of guitardom and I wanted to commit it to the blog. This "shuffle" is the early sound of rock guitar. This is the model in which blues guitarists still make their music and with which rock guitarists build their style. (image 1)

The A minor pentatonic scale is one of the most common scale patterns used by guitarists to build solos and write classic riffs for songs. (image 2)

To finish off your blues you might want to use this classic lick that has been passed down through the decades... (image 3)

The blues shuffle pattern at the top of the post (image 1) is the backbone. That is your foundation. On top of that you can play a solo using the pentatonic scale (image 2) and incorporate your classic blues lick (image 3).

Monday, October 6, 2014

Compose a Simple Melody: Getting familiar with Noteflight

Today we will play with a new music notation program.
You will compose using Noteflight an online/cloud-based notation program. Noteflight allows you to compose on a desktop and/or tablet. It allows you to collaborate on composition much as you would a shared document. During class, we will learn how to work with Noteflight. The object is to start building familiarity with the program.
Here is a quick assignment to try your hand at finishing a melody.

Friday, October 3, 2014

Good Riddance (Time of Your Life)

Here are the chords and some of the lyrics to the Green Day song. This song works with a fast syncopated strumming pattern. This is a good song with which to practice chord transitions. 

"Good Riddance (Time Of Your Life)"

                            G                               C                       D        
Another turning point, a fork stuck in the road
                      G                                        C                          D
Time grabs you by the wrist, directs you where to go
                       Em               D               C                          G
So make the best of this test, and don't ask why
                         Em         D                    C                        G
It's not a question, but a lesson learned in time

                                                                                                                                         Em                    G                Em                G                                             It's something unpredictable, but in the end it's right.
                                 Em                       D               G
I hope you had the time of your life.

                      G                                         C                         D  
So take the photographs, and still frames in your mind
                         G                           C                              D
Hang it on a shelf in good health and good time
                            Em           D                  C                  G
Tattoos of memories and dead skin on trial
                           Em               D                 C                  G
For what it's worth it was worth all the while

                          Em                   G                Em                G
It's something unpredictable, but in the end it's right.
                        Em                      D                G
                     I hope you had the time of your life.

                      Em                   G               Em                G
It's something unpredictable, but in the end it's right.
                        Em                      D                G
                     I hope you had the time of your life.

                     Em                    G               Em                  G
It's something unpredictable, but in the end it's right.
                        Em                      D                G
                     I hope you had the time of your life.

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Power Chords!

Power Chords are awesome! These wonderful 2-note chords can function as Major, or minor chords and can move all over the fingerboard. Just by learning one simple form, you are now able to play dozens of chords anywhere on the guitar.

Sounds great, right? Well the sound is something you have to consider when using the power chord. Because the chord can be used as both Major and minor, the chord does not sound either Major or minor. For certain styles this is perfect because we are not interested in the quality of the chord, we just want something that has a strong sound. This is why these chords are used quite a bit in rock and metal styles.
You may notice that some of these shapes use 3 fingers, 2 fingers or 1 finger. This depends on the position of the chord (open pos. vs. moveable) or if you want to double the root note with your pinky.

When placing your power chords, you have to have a good idea of the mapping on the 5th and 6th string of the guitar. Here are the notes on those strings to help guide you when playing moveable chords.

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Sample Finger-style Patterns

Here is a collection of finger-style patterns for many musical occasions. The patterns are broken into two categories: Patterns in 4/4 time and patterns in 3/4 time. Even though music can be played in many different types of time signatures, 4/4 and 3/4 are among the most common. These patterns can be starting points for even more exploration.

Alternating Thumb and finger pluck:



Plucking Arpeggios:
An arpeggio is also known as a broken chord. Rather than strumming the notes of the chord together, an arpeggio breaks them up.