Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Fundamental Bebop (Intermediate level)

Standard Dominant 7th Arpeggios are built on the 1-3-5-7 tones

In the Key of C, the V7 chord is G7. It's corresponding arpeggio is made of the notes

1 3 5 7

In Bebop music, they quite often played off the "higher extensions" of the chords
These arpeggios are built off of the 3-5-7-9-11-13 tones.

The "higher extension" Arpeggios are used as devices to create melodies and improvise over the ii-V7 chord progression

Each of the arpeggios below fit a G7 chord

3-5-7-9 or B-D-F-A

5-7-9-11 or D-F-A-C

7-9-11-13 F-A-C-E

I highly recommend doing this in all 12 keys.
So, let's look at the arpeggios in another key

In the key of G, the V7 chord is D7

so once again

3-5-7-9 is F# A C E
5-7-9-11 is A C E G
7-9-11-13 is C E G B

These will fit a D7 chord (and an A minor chord, but that's for another lesson :P :P)

Friday, November 20, 2009

Musical Alphabet

The Musical Alphabet is notated using letters.

This alphabet consists of the letters A through G. There are no notes named H, I, and so on. Once you get to G, it starts back at A.

Let's start with letters A through G:


These notes are called NATURAL notes. There are SEVEN of them.
In our Western system of written musical notation there are a total of TWELVE unique
pitches. So where do the other Five come from?
It turns out that in between each of the notes A through G there are other pitches.

These notes will be designated as SHARPS or FLATS.

For example, one pitch higher than A is called an A SHARP
One pitch lower than D is called a D FLAT

SHARPS are notes raised by a fret or a Semitone.
FLATS are notes lowered by a fret or a Semitone
(Sharps are notated via a "#" symbol, FLATS are notated via a lowercase "b")

Please note that each of these "in between" pitches can be named by both a flat and sharp.

To further clarify:
We said that one pitch higher than A is an A#; well, one pitch lower than a B is a Bb. These notes while appearing to have different names, actually sound the same on your instrument of choice. A# and Bb are called ENHARMONIC EQUIVALENTS of each other. The reason we pick one name over the other will be explained in a later installment.

So, our Complete Musical Alphabet is as follows:

A Bb B C Db D Eb E F Gb G Ab
    A#         C#     D#       F#      G#

As you read through the Alphabet please note that in between E and F there are no sharps or flats, and none between B and C.

A common error that is often made is to state that there is no such thing as Cb or Fb....or B# and E#
Cb DOES exist, however, in our Western Musical system the SOUND is the same as the note B. Hence when we write the musical alphabet out one doesn't see Cb in between B and C. Same goes for E and Fb.

Once again, Cb=B and Fb=E which is the reason we do not write sharps/flats in between those pitches in our musical alphabet.

NEXT TIME-Major Scale Construction

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Playing Chords and Melody Simultaneously Part II 

We now know our G major chord in a number of spots on the fingerboard.

Let's use this knowledge to play some melodies. I have decided that the old hymn "I'll Fly Away" is a good melody to demonstrate how to use chords to play a melody.

B         G        D      G        B            B     B     C   B
Some Glad Morning When this Life is Over.

-8-----8--- 0----8-----8---8---8------8----

That's the first part of "I'll Fly Away" played entirely using G major Chords. The only one we don't play as a chord is the C. However, you could simply play the chord proceeding that note and add a C note instead of a B.

This will be finished later

Friday, May 29, 2009

Playing Chords and Melody Simultaneously

Over the course of the next few months I will discuss how to play melody and chords simultaneously.

Stringed instruments such as the banjo and guitar have many strings. However, a lot of attention is placed on "single-note" lines that don't take advantage of the multiphonic capabilities of the instruments. We are talking about techniques such as double stops, harmonizing melody notes with chords, etc. As one advances, polyphony or playing multiple parts at once, is even possible.

I believe that teaching chords and melody at the same time will lead to quicker comprehension of the instrument. Think of the piano, one plays the chords with their left hand and the melody with their right. Very often they are playing both of these parts at once.
Let's start with the G Major Chord and some background before we get into a song:

The notes that make up a G Major Chord are G-B-D.
Any arrangement of these notes yields a G Chord.
For example- G B D, B D G, and D G B are all G major chords.

The only thing that changes between them is which note is on "top". To Clarify, I mean which note is highest in pitch.
In G B D, the D note is on "top." In B D G, the G note is on "top."

One should know each chord so well that one can play it with ANY of the chord tones on top.

This will help us to create chord arrangements of songs. One of the "rules" for playing a song in chords is to make sure the melody note is the highest in pitch. This enables the melody note to stand out above the rest of the supporting notes within the chord.

To gain flexibility with chords so you'll be able to use them to outline a melody I suggest practicing each chord you learn as follows:
1)Play the chord with the 1 on top.....in this case B-D-G
2)Play the chord with the 3rd on top D-G-B
3)Play the chord with the 5th on top G-B-D

For example:
(The names of the notes are below the Tabulature)


Notice how the "top" line moves through the chord tones G-B-D. In the second example we play through B-D-G. You should commit all of these to memory.
There are many more possibilities for a G major chord and of course there are those that are an octave higher than the ones shown here, but this will suffice for now.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Written Music versus learning by Ear

Let's begin by first explaining the process of learning by ear:

Suppose you wanted to learn how to play a simple nursery rhyme like "London Bridge is Falling Down" or "Three Blind Mice."

One would more than likely not seek out the TAB or sheet music to accomplish this. Why?
Most people have these nursery rhymes in their memory so well they can hum or sing them. The process would consist of humming/singing the tune and then finding it on the instrument of choice through trial and error. The better the hand-to-ear connection, the faster one can find it with less errors.

The process of playing by ear is demonstrated by this skill-to be able to hum/sing something in ones musical mind and be able to find it through your instrument quickly. Eventually the goal is to to find a melody heard on record or in one's musical mind immediately without error.

What steps can one take to obtain this ability?
One can take nursery rhymes and play them starting on different notes. Take "London Bridge" for example and start on an A note, then try it starting on a C note. Play the melody through various keys.
At first, you might be surprised your hand-to-ear connection is slow. However, with enough of this type of work it will speed up.
Once you can do one nursery rhyme try another simple tune. Some to consider
"Mary had a little lamb"
"Three Blind Mice"
"Twinkle Twinkle Little Star"
"Jingle Bells"
National Anthems
Once again, try each one starting on different notes, different octaves, different positions, etc.

Once you can do this fairly well, the next step is to try to transcribe something from a record. This can include Chord Changes, Solos, rhythms, Backup, etc. Start with something well within your grasp. We want this to be a positive experience and not a discouraging one. If you start with something too complicated, it will be too tedious.

How do you properly Transcribe?
1)Put on the recording you wish to transcribe and listen to it over and over
2)Listen to the point that you can hum/sing the part you wish to learn. Yes, you want to practice singing/humming the part along with the record without your instrument.
3)Go to your instrument and try to find the melody/lick of interest without listening to the recording. Do it from aural memory, by singing or humming it and trying to find what you hum on the instrument.
4)If all else fails play the recording and try to find it, piece by piece.
5)If this still doesn't work then Slow it down using software such as Transkribe or The Amazing Slowdowner.

These processes will have you on your way to a better ear.

It is of great err when people make statements about how only a elite/select group of people can learn to play by ear. All but the tone deaf can learn this skill. Granted, some will find it easier than others; but if your "want to" is there you can learn to play by ear.

Now, let's discuss written music.
Written Music also has it's advantages and should be a part of the musicians skills.
If you wanted to learn Bach's Cello Suites, would you want to learn them by ear? One could, but I'd venture to say you'd be spending unnecessary time. There are thousands of other classical musicians that have learned Bach via sheet music and it has not affected their performance. However, it's not as simple as reading the page. They deeply think about dynamics, articulation, fingerings, etc. They have also studied the recordings of those that have went before them with the same piece.

Written Music allows one to learn a song quickly with good sight reading skills. It also enables one to learn chord changes to tunes that our ears can't quite hear yet. Yes, more than likely in your journey as a musician you will want to learn something you can't figure out by ear.

My personal opinion is that written music should be used in conjunction with recordings of the music whenever possible. Written Music can denote many things but it can't explain everything.
Articulation and exact accents are difficult to indicate in music. There is a whole level of EXPRESSION that won't ever translate into symbols on a page.

For those of you that want to improvise, playing only from written music won't help you acquire this skill. For example, a classical musician that's capable of playing Paganini's Caprices isn't equipped with the skills to improvise over "Autumn Leaves." by default. Good sight reading skills and technique don't lead to amazing improvisations. Only training your ear will lead to that skill.
In order to improvise you have to be able to hear the chord changes. One also has to be able play the form without getting lost and place the melody and phrases correctly in time.

In summary, learning by Ear and written music should complement one another. They both leave one with specific skills sets, both of which are important. Train your ear, learn to read music, and study music theory. They will most definitely keep you on the path to becoming a better musician.