The GuitArchitect’s Guide To Modes – Part 15 Not-peggios – Harmonic Minor Version

Hey everyone,

As promised, here’s a follow-up lesson that takes the approach I explored in Part 13 and Part 14 and now applies it to the Harmonic Minor scale.

I’ll use C Harmonic Minor in this case – but this idea will work on any root.

Chords

Before we get too far into the lick side of this let’s look at the chords to see what we can play this over.

Here are the diatonic triads and 7th chords.

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Try playing the initial C Harmonic Minor shape over any of these chords…
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Harmonic Minor Notes:

  • C Harmonic Minor is spelled C, D, Eb, F, G, Ab, B, C – and from the root note the step and a 1/2 between the Ab and the B is a very distinctive sound of the scale.  
  • This scale has a lot of cool arpeggios and chord scale associations, but the most commonly used scales and modes are the root scale and the mode based on the 5th of the scale (R, b2, 3, 4, 5, b6, b7).  Having said that, modes starting on the b3 and 4th add some really cool sounds as well.

Now let’s talk about visualizing the scale.

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Harmonic Minor

I’ve talked about my approach to Harmonic Minor briefly in part 9 of this series – but as a brief review:

Major Scale/Modal Visualization Review

  • The guitar fingerboard can be divided into 3 sets of two strings. Any 2-string fingering pattern that starts on the B string can be moved to the same starting pitch on the D or the low E string and keep the same fingering.
  • The major scale can be broken down into seven two-string modes that follow a specific order based on its scale degree from the parent scale (Ionian, Dorian, Phrygian, Lydian, Mixolydian, Aeolian, Locrian). The two-string patterns are modular and can be adapted to positional playing.
  • Instead of thinking of individual modes when playing,  I tend to think of larger tonal systems (i.e. I think of C Major all over the fingerboard instead of D Dorian or A Aeolian.)
  • By thinking of the fingerboard in a larger scale – it makes it easier for me to navigate Melodic and Harmonic Minor as – solely from a fingering/sonic visualization standpoint – I just see it as variations of the Major scale patterns.

To visualize Harmonic Minor patterns – simply flat the 3rd and the 6th of the Parent Major scale. (i.e. to visualize C Melodic Minor just play C major but change every E  to Eb, and change every A to Ab).

It’s important to note that all of the fingering conventions mentioned here are solely to assist with visualization as Melodic and Harmonic Minor really aren’t directly related to the Major scale sonically.

Here’s C Major

Here’s the audio.

Note:

In all the audio examples, I’ve played the example first as sextuplets – then at a slower tempo (i.e. 16ths) – then as sextuplets again.

 

Here’s C Harmonic Minor

(the only differences are

the E has been changed to Eb and

the A has been changed to Ab)

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Harmonic Minor short cuts:

To visualize Harmonic Minor Patterns – simply flat the 3rd and the 6th of the Parent Major scale.

(i.e. to visualize C Harmonic Minor just play C major but change every E  to Eb and every A  to Ab).

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Here are the pattern adaptations.  In a situation like this, it can get confusing to remember a formula like “Dorian b2, b5” so as an alternative you may just want to try remembering something like “Pattern 1” for Ionian b3, b6, “Pattern 2” for Dorian b2, b5, etc.

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Here’s the same scale pattern – I left off the text “Pattern 6” in the example be by mistake but the sequence is Ionian b3, b6 (Pattern 1 ), Locrian b4 (Pattern 7) and Ionian b5, bRoot (Pattern 6).  You can really see this if you compare it to the initial major patterns.
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Not-Peggios

Now let’s take this not-peggio idea from the last lesson and apply it to C Harmonic Minor starting from G.

In each of the following I’ll show the 2-string pattern followed by the 4-note “notpeggio” extraction from that fingering and then show the multi octave form.

Note:  The extraction always starts from the second note of the 6-note pattern – so while the first example is extracted from the F Lydian fingering – it’s viewed as a G based pattern.

From G

F Based Pattern

Note: this G-based pattern is the same as the C major and the C Melodic Minor G shape. It’s functional but a little plain sounding over a G major chord.

From Ab

G Based Pattern

Note: this R-3-#4-5 extraction works great as a lydian sound from the Root (Ab Lydian in this case) or a Dorian Sound over the vi (F minor in this case)

From B

Ab Based Pattern

Note: even though the original shape is different, this R-b3-b4th-b5 extraction is the same as the Melodic Minor pattern and is something you may want to explore over diminished chords.

From C

B Based Pattern

Note: this C pattern shape is the same as the C-Based C Melodic Minor pattern.

From D


C Based Pattern

Note: this R-b3-4-b5 extraction is right out of the D-Blues scale and can be used in the same context (just remember to resolve the Ab!)

From Eb

D Based Pattern

Note: this is a new shape from the other patterns we’ve seen. The R-3-4-b5 (i.e. major b5 (add 11) sound mixed with the min3-min2-augmented 2nd construction and the added chromatic weight from the G to Ab  makes it sound a bit harmonically unsettled over an Eb root.  I think it’s one of the more interesting sounds of the scale along with the final extraction….

From F

Eb Based Pattern

Note: this is a new shape from the other patterns we’ve seen. The R-b3-#4-5 (i.e. minor add (#11)) sound is a really nice spice to incorporate in your melodic ideas!

Here’s an audio sample of the 3/4 measures in ascending order from G

Next TIme?

In the next lesson I’ll look at using these extractions positionally.  It’s a Scott Collins original idea – and not one that I’ve heard anyone else really employ in this manner!
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Practice Tips

As always, focus on the 3 T’s (Timing, Tone and hand Tension) when playing through these and make sure to have the timing locked in as you increase the metronome speed.  This approach is just a short cut to getting the patterns under your fingers.  By practicing them slowly and increasing the performance tempo gradually, you’re also getting the sound of them in your head – which is critical if they’re something you want to integrate in your playing!
As always, I hope this helps and thanks for reading!
– SC
PS – One plug here.  If you like this idea – I go MUCH deeper into similar concepts in my Guide to Chord Scales book – which covers every unique melodic combination from 3 notes to 12-note scales!!
Print editions of this book are available  on lulu.com or on Amazon (amazon.comamazon.co.uk, or amazon.fr).
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P.S. If you like this post – you may also like:

BOOKS:

 

Podcast #4: Separating The Suck From Success

Hello Everyone!

Guit-A-Grip podcast #4 is in the bag!

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Subscription Notes:

  • You can subscribe through iTunes here
  • You can use this link to subscribe with any other feed based service
  • or you can right-click here to download it.
  • or you can stream this episode below:

http://traffic.libsyn.com/guitagrip/Guit-A-Grip_Podcast_Episode_4.mp3

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Tech Note:

A trip to Radio Shack netted me a score on a $6 boom stand and a replacement wind screen for my Shure so audio wise hopefully this is a step up from podcasts 1-3.  I’m still sussing levels out (like at the end of the podcast when the music drowns me out a little bit  while I’m hawking my wares so I guess I’ll take that as a lesson to make sure that I keep my energy level up from beginning to end!

Guit-A-Grip Episode #4 – Show Notes

When I recorded this podcast, I was sitting about 4 feet away from Mrs. Collins who was sound asleep but listening back to it, it sounds like a late night cough suppressant commercial!  I hope that no one mistakes my dry delivery on this as being lacksidasical about the subject matter.  It’s just that volume may have subdued my passion.

It’s easy to get sucked into the trappings of using someone else’s definition of success and not realize it. (Hence the title of the podcast). One thing alluded to in the podcast (but not stated out right) is that as an artist, you need to have as objective a view about your skill set as you can.  Telling yourself that you suck at something isn’t going to make you better at it.

At a certain point, everyone sucks at everything.

It’s called being a baby.

You have no skills as a baby.  You suck at walking, at talking, Hell even craping in a socially acceptable manner is a dismal failure.  However, you learn all of those skills – because they’re just skill sets and behaviors that you have to learn – and no one expects you to be awesome at anything out of the gate.

So you’re not a baby anymore, but adopting a mindset that everything is a skill that can be learned will probably help you grow much faster than adopting a mindset that says, “I suck at this.”  There’s a story in the podcast that touches on this idea as well.

Mindsets

This is the topic of a whole other podcast, but the important thing to note about mindsets is that they can be changed.

As humans, we have the capacity to be adaptive individuals.

The good news is that you don’t have to maintain a defeatist mindset.

The “bad news” is that you have to be self-aware enough to understand your mindset, and emotionally distant enough to analyze your reaction and make a conscious decision to react to situations differently.

That requires habitual behavior, awareness and discipline.

A topic for another time…but something to consider as this podcast rolls along.

I hope the thoughts on success help! If you like the podcast please let me know. If you really like it – leaving a rating on iTunes would be really appreciated.

More posts and podcasts are on their way. Thanks again!

-SC

 
 
 
 

Tim Ferriss, Martial Arts, Focus And Guitar

The Four Hour???

In a press tour promoting his new book, The 4-Hour Chef, Tim Ferriss (the author of The 4-Hour Work Week and The 4-Hour Body), made an interesting comment to The Metro paper (underlined emphasis is mine).

What are the common misconceptions of learning?
One of the bigger misconceptions of learning is that many skills take a lifetime to get world-class at, or 10,000 hours to become world-class at. If you want to be Tiger Woods at age 8, you’re going to know you have the potential because you’ll be drawing sketches of people hitting balls with different irons, which he was, instead of pirate ships. But, if you want to be the best in your circle of friends or in the top five percent in the U.S. population at golf, swimming, Spanish, Japanese, whatever it might be, I firmly believe that you can accomplish that in most cases in six months or less. To be functionally fluent in a language, for instance, you need about 1,200 words. If you really train someone well, they can acquire 200 to 300 words a day, which means that in a week they can acquire the vocabulary necessary to speak a language.”

http://www.metro.us/newyork/national/article/1156482–the-art-of-learning

Here’s a related quote from the Amazon page for the book, “WHAT IF YOU COULD BECOME WORLD-CLASS IN ANYTHING IN 6 MONTHS OR LESS?….The 4-Hour Chef isn’t just a cookbook. It’s a choose-your-own-adventure guide to the world of rapid learning.”

This is a competition mentality applied to learning and it’s also a symptom of a key thing that’s wrong with our culture.

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The process of learning something shouldn’t simply be rooted in a desire to  become better at something than the next person, instead, one should engage in the process of learning things to become a better version of oneself.

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Just ask a martial artist.

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Martial Arts

Martial arts originally developed as a survival mechanism.  If you were attacked by a robber or fighting in a battle and could fight better than the person attacking you, having  that skill meant that you had a better chance of getting out alive.

But then someone brought a gun to the party.

Initially, guns took a long time for load and fire and weren’t that accurate so they were more of a long range weapon.  But that changed over time and when it did, hand to hand combat increasingly couldn’t compete with a gun.  An obscure deadly kick that you’ve developed to perfection after years of practice is not going to stop someone just out of range from pulling a trigger (or stop a sniper from taking you out from a foot ball field away).

But did this stop people from learning martial arts?  Not at all.  Martial arts kept going because martial artists recognized that fighting was only one aspect of any martial arts.  In working through the discipline needed to develop those skills, martial artists made themselves better people and better artists.  They focused on training and competition and belts, because there was rarely a need to use it in self defense on the streets.

On a whole, the focus changed from self-defense to self betterment.

I should mention here that Tim Ferriss won a Chinese National Kickboxing championship with relatively minimal training.  Since contestants were disqualified by stepping outside of a box in the fighting area, he won the competition by pushing each of his opponents outside the box to win.

So he won a title, but only learned little about the art.

In contrast, consider this David Lee Roth story.  On one of his appearances on the Howard Stern show, Roth was asked how many black belts he had and he said (please note – all quotes here are paraphrased), “Well I only have one because I’m only working in one style right now”.  Stern then asked, “But you’ve been doing this for years so how come you only have one belt?” Roth replied, “Well I have a lot of belts from all of the different styles I’ve worked on over the years but I don’t think you can call yourself a black belt in Kung-Fu if you haven’t done it in a while.”

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Semantics

I should mention that I’ve read The 4-hour work week.  It’s an interesting book (the whole idea of outsourcing routine money making things was really interesting),  but it’s a deceptive title.

Tim Ferriss spent countless hours promoting that book, he just didn’t call it work.  He’s a driven guy and a very hard worker and that (in addition to providing products with a unique point of view) got him to where he is.

But the people who are reading these books are learning the wrong lesson.

Tim Ferriss is a master.  But he’s a master at running and sustaining the Tim Ferris machine, and that’s something he’s put a lifetime of work into and not four hours a week.

This other concept of short-term mastery comes back to my original point.

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What is it you want to do?

This idea of short term mastery is nothing new.  Thousands of people have already adapted this idea by getting quick licks under their fingers and posting them on YouTube.

But they’re not master players.  They’re technicians.

And a lot of those videos are awful.  Terrible tone, shaky timing, questionable technique….It has nothing to do with mastery of anything and is instead simply about being better than the people around them.

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In contrast, here’s a 2010 quote from Jonas Hellborg:

“In order to function as a human being, you have to be able to focus.  You have to be able to center.  Some people are into religion.  They pray or meditate or they do this or that.  Music is such a thing.  It’s a discipline and you use it for the purpose of focusing your mental, your spiritual activity in one direction and become whole.  As you do that you will get more and more capacity as a musician.  But if you can express what you need to express with just a limited vocabulary, you can still do that.  It’s not about the vocabulary.  It’s not about how many words you can use; it’s about what you can say.”

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I’ll throw out a Branford quote as well,

“…We live in a country that seems to be in a massive state of delusion where the idea of what you are is more important than you actually being that.   My students…all they want to hear is how good they are and how talented they are but most of them are not really willing to work to the degree to live up to that.”

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Do you want to be the person who’s the best at something in a room or do you want to be the best person you can?

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Going back to the martial art idea, with all of the other means of making and/or hearing music at one’s disposal, there’s not much reason to play guitar except as a means of developing who you are as a person and taking short cuts in that arena is just cheating yourself of a deeper knowledge of who you are..

I hope this helps and as always, thanks for reading!

-SC

Embracing The Setback

I was working on a project last night that wasn’t going particularly well.

In fact, I had been avoiding it for the last year or so, and I remembered last night why this wasn’t done before as my usual modus operandi of:

  • tacking the project head on
  • getting reminded by a kick in the face of why I had abandoned it previously and
  • ultimately reaching a frustration threshold that required putting the project on hold again

was already in full swing.  

And then I remembered something, from the Hagakure,

“Seven times down.  Eight times up.”

I’ve written before about increasing one’s awareness for potential lessons that you can learn from a given situation, but I think it’s important to revisit this area periodically as it can be a stumbling block.

Old Definitions

I used to get really frustrated when things didn’t work out.  Admittedly, my capacity to fail at things is world class.  For a long time my success rate for projects turning out positively as I expected them to was about 5%.

I would look at those situations, and analyze them endlessly to try to figure out what was wrong and see what I could learn from them.

But there was a commonality with the 90-95% failure rate.

That commonality was me.

Re-defined results

Once I stopped blaming external forces, and started taking on the blame, I realized that this issue wasn’t execution – it was expectation.  I had expectations of making things work through sheer force of will, even when a more objective observation would have revealed that financial, technical or scheduling shortcomings were things that could not always be overcome by sheer force of will.

So I started working on a modified time set.  I didn’t worry about how long it took for me to get something down.  I didn’t worry about having to have something perfect.  I just did the best work that I could do, and did it as often as I could.

If I had written my first guitar book and expected it to set the world on fire, I would have been crushed at never getting it out the door.

Instead, I developed another project and used the skills and focus from the first project to make a better book.

My print editions are now getting proper covers – some of them TWO YEARS after I wrote them.  If I settled on a crappy design and locked myself into that two years ago, I would have had something amateurish that I would have been ashamed of.  Now I have something I can stand behind.

That never would have happened if I had been in a rush.  If I had had expectations that it was going to be perfect or be nothing.

Now I have 10 books that I’ve written (8 of them published).  I’ll write more.  But if I had stopped when the first (still unpublished one) didn’t pan out – I never would have completed the others.

You will face setbacks in whatever you do.  The reason to embrace them is that if you have a setback, it’s because you’re doing something.

Consider this for a moment.  If you try to move 100 small things forward and 95 of them fail – you’re still 5 things further ahead than you were.

So now I’m plowing through that project – as painful and slow going as it is – not because I have to get it done, but because the intertia in getting that thing done will act as fuel for all the other things I have to do.

And there’s a lot to do.

I hope this helps!

As always thanks for reading.

-SC

Let’s Stop Blaming File Sharing And Start Building B(r)and Loyalty

A good friend of mine (producer, mixer, engineer and man about town Will Kennedy) was kind enough to hip me to an Atlantic Wire post that concerned Chan Marshall from Cat Power declaring bankruptcy and not being able to mobilize funds to tour.  The article went on to state:

“Everyone knows that artists go out on a financial limb by committing to creativity as a career. But it’s beginning to look like even the most successful musicians—the ones that grace magazine covers and inspire bloggers to gush out 2,000-word think-pieces—soon won’t be able to eke out a living from their craft.”

As a possibly relevant aside, the article also speculates that recent trips to Mt. Sanai (including one in 2006 for alcohol addiction), and possible complications from angioedema might also play into monetary woes faced by Ms. Marshall.

Will posted this piece on Facebook and talked about how people should consider this story when they think that file sharing doesn’t affect artists.

And he’s right.  Filesharing is a problem.

But in my opinion, Will’s comment is what really got down to the core issue.  File sharing is only part of the problem.  The much bigger issue at play concerns people’s perception of file sharing and what they’re willing to pay for.

“NRA quotes?  Really?”

The NRA has an awful slogan/ bumper sticker of, “Guns don’t kill people.  People kill people.”  To which I would say that people can kill other people but they can do it more easily (and be more cavalier in the initial act) with a gun – so both people and guns kill people.  I’ve seen several heated arguments escalate to the point where if someone had a gun, they would have used it. It would have been regretted a second or two later, but where a fist fight generally goes a couple of punches before someone’s body says, “Ugh this hurts.  I don’t want to do this anymore.”, a gun in the hand of an inexperienced user provides a distanced violent immediacy that removes that moment of analysis/realization.  People pull the trigger first and then deal with the consequences later.

Building on this metaphor, if filesharing is the gun that everyone worries about then apathetic consumers are the ones who pull the trigger in a cavalier way not knowing or caring how it affects the people who made the thing they’re using.

And make no mistake about it, the consequences for musicians trying to support themselves through music are economically violent.  Consider this for a moment, despite the fact that more musicians than ever are playing and recording music and releasing it on their own labels, the number of musicians I know who support themselves through music in any capacity decreases every year.

Money for Nothing and chicks for free”

The most interesting thing about the post for me were the comments after the story.  I was surprised by the number of informed musicians (and people close to musicians) who brought up a number of interesting points like this:

“Speaking from personal experience, you do not go into the indie music business without an entrepreneurial attitude. Being in a band these days is no different than running a start-up technology company… you have to be agile, you have to produce, you have to capitalize on every opportunity and revenue stream. If you think otherwise, your endeavor will fail. I get a lot of flack for saying “entrepreneurs thrive, artists starve”… but it is true and I will continue to repeat it as a mantra to every young band that I council.”

However, as artists we need to recognize that many people still view the arts like this:

“”I have a job where I get paid by the hour. Guarantee that I have made less in the last 10 years than she did last year alone. Boo Hoo. You are more than likely correct in your statement that she just can’t manage her money. Or entrusted her finances to someone who was a leach. either way, no sympathies.”

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I remember the first time I came home from college and people would say things to me like, “Oh music.  It must be nice to sit around and just strum your guitar all day.  I actually had to work in my classes.”  If you’ve ever been to a college level aural skills/ ear training class you know how much work goes into getting through that material.

But the public perception is that musician’s don’t work.  They party hard, sleep late and play some music in between.  The public perception is that musicians lead a charmed life where the cash just rolls in for doing nothing.

Changing public perception and opinion…

As artists we need to stop blaming file sharing for all of our economic woes because people don’t care about how it affects artists.

We need to build brand loyalty (or in many of our cases BAND loyalty).  If consumers have no emotional connection to artists or services, they’re not going to pay for them.  Or they’re going to use services like Spotify and think that they’re supporting artists in some way even though the actual payments to artists are more symbolic than anything.

As artists, we’re going to have to start subversively educating the public about how much work goes into what we do.  The whole, “I work really hard to not make any money.” blanket statement hasn’t gotten us anywhere, so we need to change tactics and connect with people to garner support.

When the general public hears that musician’s can’t support themselves they say, “Awww….little Jimmy guitar is going to have to work for a living now.”

But many of those same people would also say, “Oh my son Jesse!  He went to school for anthropology.  $60,000 in debt and he can’t get a job.  It’s awful to spend so much money studying something and work so hard and not be able to support yourself doing it….”

While personal contact provides the deepest connection, it may make sense to work large and then small.

…one episode at a time

Perhaps what we need is something like a reality show.

That is, IF the show were a gritty reality show with creative involvement by working musicians that followed a struggling band (with likable and preferably good looking musicians) trying to make it, and showed how much work goes into gigging and how little it pays.  There have been several “get in the van” -style documentaries like this – but I think a weekly show (more intervention and less American Idle) could be the type of thing that could do it.

You think it’s a bad idea?  Sharon Osbourne was quietly managing dozens of bands before the Ozzy reality show.  Now she’s an actual celebrity and their children Jack and Kelly have also parlayed the jumpstart of public awareness of them into actual careers.  Reality shows give a temporary boost in public profile to individuals, but I think the format could be subverted that in a way that it showcased and act AND acted as a platform for larger issues.

In terms of demographics it should probably be a country band in a large city like New York or a big theatrical band like GWAR,  Watching people (an audience likes) sleep in vans and postering for shows all day to play a gig and make little or no money is a struggle that an audience could identify with.

I’m being a little glib about this – but the point is that as musicians we need to start a process of getting the public to identify with what we do and we need to do it it a subtle, if not entirely subversive, way.

Why do people buy girl scout cookies?

Because they like cookies.

But they also buy Girl Scout Cookies as opposed to any store bought cookies because they’re supporting the people behind the cookies.

It’s not just you

And to clarify, the problem of supporting yourself through your work isn’t just for indie artists.   Classical music can’t figure it out either.  Large symphonies can’t put on a show without massive corporate underwriting and they still need to charge $60-$120 per ticket.  Museums need funding and underwriting.  Clubs make their money on the two-drink minimum or the meals served.

Two types of musicians

There’s a huge generation gap in the music industry.  Older musicians are, by and large, horse and buggy users.  Wet eyed and maudlin about the good old days, they all own cars but can’t understand why no one wants to pay to ride on their buggy when it’s such a good buggy and people always used to want to ride it.

Many of the current crop of musicians are used to not making money.  They expect that they’re going to have to make money from other things.

The entrepreneurs on both sides of those fences work on things that make money.  They keep expenses down and watch money.  They diversify streams of revenue.  They don’t count on one thing and the successful ones work harder than most 9-5ers.

Again with the Kindle book Plug?

I’ve talked a lot about this in both of my Kindle books (An Indie Musician Wake Up Call and Selling It Versus Selling Out), but the issue is that, as musicians, we haven’t built brand loyalty.  And, economically we offer a silly product.

I’m not overly fond of the comparison between paying for coffee and paying for music (even though I’ve used it myself) but the difference between the two is telling.

When you buy a coffee you make a decision about the place selling the coffee.  If you like the coffee and you perceive it to be a good value, when you want a coffee you might be more inclined to go with the known quantity and buy one at the place you got it before (if it’s convenient for you to do so).

Musicians sell mp3 of their music but when you buy the mp3 you never have to buy that mp3 again.  It’s like a bottomless cup of coffee you can enjoy at home. Additionally, instead of people coming back to get coffee from us when they want one, musicians only get another sale if we offer a different coffee that apeals to someone.  People buy your cd and they’ll only buy another one from you when you have another one out.

Find the fan and turn (him or her) on

This is where fans come in.  Fans get things (mp3s, videos, etc) from wherever they can because they want them now, but they buy things from you, because they want to turn other people onto it.  For about 3 years, every time I’d find the Mimi cd (Mimi Goese solo record on Luaka Bop) in a record store (remember those?), I’d buy it and give it to a friend of mine.

Fans spread the word and even when they can get them for free, they’ll buy things from you because they feel connected to you.

So, as artists we have two choices

a.) we can find new ways to reach people, educate people to garner sympathy and support, build connections and develop a fan base to support what we do

or

b.) we can blame file sharing for why no one has any money and talk about how great it was back in the day.

We can either start defining the future or be defined by it.  Which do you want to do?

As always, thanks for reading!

-SC

ps – As I mentioned before, much of this is addressed (in much more depth) between my two Kindle books, (An Indie Musician Wake Up Call and Selling It Versus Selling Out).  If you don’t own a Kindle, the kindle app to read it on your phone, tablet or computer is free from Amazon.

And if you already have a copy of either book and could take a moment to write short review on Amazon, I’d be truly grateful.

Analysis Of A Film Score

Recently, Gary Mairs, a filmmaker and faculty member at CalArts, asked me to create a score for a screening of Teinosuke Kinugasa’s landmark silent film, Kurutta Ippēji  (aka, Page of Madness” aka “A Page out of order”) in his Film History Class.

Accompanying silent films was a gig I had for several years at the school and enjoyed it so much that I started doing live scoring in other venues as well.  Gary’s class gave me the opportunity to create scores (with artists such as Carmina Escobar and the Rough Hewn Trio’s Craig Bunch and Chris Lavender) for many films including The Cabinet of Dr. CaligariBroken BlossomsThe Smiling Madame Beaudet, Faust and Phantom of The Opera.  

The experience with Carmina Escobar was so successful that when the opportunity arose to create a live score as part of the Cha’ak’ab Paaxil Festival in Mérida, Mexico ( and present a workshop on “Structured Improvisation in Film Accompaniment” at the Edificio de Artes Visuales – Escuela Superior de Artes de Yucatán) I took it immediately.

Of all the films I’ve accompanied though,  Page of Madness holds a special place in my heart.  The initial score that Carmina and I improvised for Gary’s class was a moment that resonated strongly with everyone in the room and I knew immediately that it was something that I wanted to add to my live repertoire.  When I moved to NY, I knew I wouldn’t be able to accompany Gary’s class live anymore but having the opportunity to do this was a way for me to create some kind of document of that time so I gladly took it on.

The process I used to improvise for film (and how I teach other people to do improvise in that manner) is too long to go into here so for now I’ll discuss some technical and non-technical aspects of how I approached the film.

The Film

Originally released in 1926, Page of Madness was assumed lost for decades until the director found in a rice tin in 1971.  He added a score (that I liked a great deal by the way) and cut about 1/3 of the original film and any known prints are based around the 1971 version.  In terms of the cuts effect on the story, I don’t know if the original cut’s pacing was more linear, but I suspect it wasn’t.

As the acting in early silent films was rooted in theatrical acting (with actors making large gesticulations and exaggerated characterizations to play to the people in the back of the room), many silent films haven’t aged particularly well. In that regard, one remarkable thing to me about this film is how well it has held up over time.  The entire action of the film takes place in and around a mental institution and the energy all the actors put into the characterizations works exceptionally well.

Avante-garde doesn’t even begin to describe this film which (like Murnau’s The last Laugh) uses no title cards and takes place solely in and on the grounds of an institution.  In addition to some jarring visual superimpositions, Page also features a story line that uses a series of flash backs and non-linear narratives that complicate the story. The end result is a film that is nostalgic on one hand and surprisingly contemporary on the other.

For those of you who are interested, I’ve uploaded about 30 minutes of the Quicktime film and the score to discuss what, why and how I did what I did.

Technical Notes:

I used Logic for this project.  Here’s a screenshot of the session.

You might notice a distinct lack of midi in the score.  The majority of work I did was created with audio and samples rather than midi and I’ll try to explain differences in the video breakdown.

Here’s the film:

 

(If the link isn’t showing above in your browser – you can also see it here.)

 

Decisions, Decisions

Right off the bat, let me say I approached this completely differently than I would have approached scoring a traditional film.

If I got a gig creating cues for a video or a theatrical release, I would tailor the sounds and experience to audio locked into a film print.  As this score would be used to accompany a silent film in a film history class, my goal was to create a score that would simulate a live experience of someone accompanying the film but I also wanted to add foley and FX to create a depth of experience outside of merely adding music.

Working with Limitations

My original scoring idea was to accompany the film with a multitracked session of my recorded voice using extended techniques like overtone singing.  While I think it would have been really effective the lack of an isolated recording environment to record that cleanly nixed that idea ultimately.

After I had put a series of sound effects in, I remembered that I had a source recording of Carmina and I accompanying the same film at another venue and I realized that this might be the best way to tie in the loose live performance feel I was going for with the more orchestrated foley I employed.  The source audio of the live recording was fairly clean overall except for some places where the bass frequencies were distorting.  If you look at the track labelled “duodenum”, you’ll see some edits I made to either create space or deal with the frequency issue (I basically moved the offending audio to another track and processed it into something useable).

I used a Quicktime film in Logic to score to and exported the audio.  I sent Gary AIF, mp3 files and the Quicktime film so he could see how I imagined the synchronization, but I needed to leave the score open enough that even if the synch fell off that the score would still make sense.  Again, for a theatrical release I would have used Midi and SMPTE  to have everything synch perfectly but given that this is going to be an audio file that plays through the sound system while an actual film is screening through a film projector I decided to try to synch up a few things and leave the rest of it open.

Before I added any music, I spent a LOT of time on foley.  I pulled a number of samples from Free Sound dot org, and then spent countless hours cutting things up in Fission (A great 2-track editor from the makers of Audio Hijack Pro) and then further mutating them with endless plug ins in Logic.

Cue Notes:

Okay, here are some notes from the session from the video.

00:00 – 00:42 – Synch points and establishing tone

I synched up some audio of a man counting backwards from 1-10 in Japanese with the pre-roll to help Gary synch the audio for the class.  I decided to use a temple bell sound to help set the mood and synched that to the page turns.

00:46 – 02:09 –  Silence

I wasn’t sure if this would actually be a part of the screening.  In a traditional accompaniment, you’d typically hear some organist pull an old-time radio drama score over any type of credits or title cards.  To me, it’s emotionally not part of the actual film so I left it blank.  It also helps people focus on the story.

02:10 – 03:05 – Title sequence

The bell motive returned here.  I added in some Noh Drama type percussion but used a sparse rhythmic motive. In the background some reverse guitar loops begin.

Again, most of the initial work done was on foley and placement.  Once I added in the music track the score was largely a matter of balancing the mix and placement of what I had already done.  I took out about 25% of the foley work I’d done to make space for the score.

03:07 – 04:02 – Rain

I decided to treat rain almost as a character in this film.  I saw it (and still see it) as the truth and realization that the husband doesn’t want to face through the whole film.  It’s a psychological foreboding of what’s he’s been avoiding and ultimately acceptance of how things are. Multiple rain loops are employed in the beginning of the film but a single rain loop I created runs in the background of the whole film and continues past the last scene before it cuts to the last image when the sound fades to silence.  It’s a subtle detail but one that adds something to the environment.

04:03 – 05:06 – Dream state and Transition.

Detailing the nuances of the actual improvisation process we utilized is something that would be worthy of a much longer discussion but I feel that I should discuss at least one aspect of the structured improvisation Carmina and I utilized.  By structured improvisation, I mean that we worked out cues in the film of things that we were aiming for but what would happen before and after those points were an improvised path to reach an emotional moment at those cues and the actual cue itself might not be specific.  It might be something like, “When we get to the first fight – lets create a dense loop texture.” or it might be a specific melody or rhythmic device.  For this scene we wanted something dreamlike and other worldly so I went with a repeating figure while Carmina sang long tones over it.

Percussion was added to the loop to act as a foreshadowing of the dancing sequence to follow.

05:07 – 05:06 – Reality and Creating the Asylum

The gate door closing was part of a transition to bring the viewer back to our reality and show that this is how the inmate views the world.  There were a number of samples that all run during any of the asylum scenes to help set a claustrophobic tone of the institution. After the introduction, the outdoor scenes were the only time the asylum samples weren’t played.

Minor percussion and storm effects were added to Carmina’s loops to help build tension.

At 06:37, I stopped the percussion to highlight the fact that what this woman heard is outside the rhythm of the institution and is an internal force that she is compelled to interact with.  I think Carmina’s voices do a brilliant job of conveying that idea of multiple voices fighting for attention.

At 07:27 or so, exhaustion gives way to the sounds around the dancer and reality starts to envelop her again.  Carmina sang a variation of the earlier melody as a motif.  In the performance, I still had a loop I faded out on guitar and the low drum sound was created by me hitting a road case in the reverberation of the theater space.

At 08:01 or so – I began to add in a series of samples of heavily affected backwards speaking to represent the voices the wife hears.  I use this sound as the general sound of insanity in the asylum, so it comes to the foreground when the wife is on screen but stays back most of the time as another part of the environment.

08:15 – The Husband Enters.
All of the characters had a theme except for the husband.  I wanted to have the husband be a character that is adrift in this world around him.  I thought it would create a silence to contrast all of the other sounds against.

I tried to remain very aware of the spaces in the film.  Even though there aren’t any spaces of complete silence (until the end) I wanted to have sparse moments to contrast the rest of the film against.

11:49 – Flashback

We sidestep the asylum briefly to see how the wife got to where she is today.  Musically, I kept things open except for the mob scenes.  I began to build a loop texture on guitar.  The melodies and counterpoint are based around some Hirajoshi-inspired ideas.  I wanted to make sure that the percussion and melodic material I was providing has small hints of music inspired by traditional Japanese music while applying those ideas in a very western way.  The end result is something sonically that’s difficult to put your finger on.

19:31 – The build up

There are two fight sequences that Carmina and I knew that we wanted to make big sonically.  In the scenes leading up to this, I slowly began to make the loops more active and dense to show the tension underneath the surface of the Doctor’s routine walkthrough.  At 19:31 the textures start evolving in a different direction and slowly moving to the disturbance at 24:59 that leads to the full on freak out at 27:30 or so.  After that we bring it down and create another plateau to build from again later in the film.

Ending notes:

The process was really pretty simple.  It involved creating an environment and then removing absolutely everything that didn’t have to be there.  I should also mention that had Carmina and I tried to play really tight specific cues to the original film that flying in a full performance never would have worked.  The conversation that the two of us had during the film was something that would have been impossible to replicate completely and aesthetically, I really liked the idea of the music just being a part of a stream that flows along with the film.

Have a plan B

One last thing I should mention is that the process of actually creating the stereo file and synched video was no picnic.

For some reason, the Audio bounce in logic failed every time I tried it.  It would run for 7-8 hours and I’d have to force quit the file.

What I decided to do instead was use the aforementioned Audio Hijack Pro, to record the playback output of the logic file.  Once I had a stereo file.  I edited it in fusion to start at the 3 count lead in and imported the audio and video in iMovie and synched the hits there and output the Quicktime film.  I would have been REALLY stuck without Audio Hijack Pro, so I’m grateful that (3 days and 4 real time bounce attempts later) that I came up with that workaround.

All in, there’s about 40-50 hours of work in it.

There’s a few different things going on sonically in the second half, but this post explains a lot of the reasons behind what I did what I did, and perhaps that’s helpful, insightful or just interesting to some of you.

If people are interested, I’ll post the second half at some point and offer some more observations on what was done and why.

Until next time.  From the earlobe of Hurricane Sandy – stay dry (and thanks for reading)!

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p.s. For the tech oriented amongst you.  Guitar sounds were FnH UltraSonic–> Digitech Space Station–>Apogee Duet–>macbook Pro->AuLab–>Pod farm–> Sooperlooper (Both controlled by a Line 6 Mark II pedal board) –>Atomic Reactor amp.

Notes From A Lecture

“What’s with all these words and where’s the shred stuff?”

I know I’ve been veering away form strictly guitar stuff lately on this blog.  (Don’t worry though, the pure guitar thing is never too far away. A number of new (strictly guitar related) posts have made their way to Guitar-Muse and there’s some new material that will be released either in Kindle or e-book format.)  A large part of the shift in content here is due to a move from focusing on working through the how (how do you play modes on guitar) and shifting the focus more to the why (i.e. my philosophy).  I’ve talked about this before but without a strong sense of why you do what you do, progressing and improving in the long term will fall apart as you face the numerous challenges and obstacles that you’ll be faced with on the long haul.

As someone who plays and teaches, I’m often asked, “How long does it take to learn to play guitar?” It’s a surprisingly easy question to answer.  It depends on what you want to do on the instrument.  If you want to learn to play a few chords to serenade someone on a tune you can get some basic chord forms and strum patterns down in as little as a few weeks.

If you want to really say something unique to you on the instrument, it will take years or decades of hard work and those before you who have already been on the path for decades will tell you that they’re still working on defining and articulating what they say on the instrument. This leads directly into my first point.

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The heretic’s statement

While I love the guitar dearly, it’s just a tool of expression.

Guitar playing is only a reflection of who I am at the time I’m playing.  It’s a sonic documentary.  It’s a voice that I control with my fingers.

I need a pen to write ideas down on a piece of paper, but ultimately the ideas behind the writing are a lot more important than some scribbles on a page.

It’s a symbiotic relationship.  As I play guitar, I develop as a person as well.  As a person I take a number of influences that inspire me (like literature, film and other people’s music) and use those as spring boards for expression.

While I work at being a better guitarist, I’m also working at being a better person and vice-versa.

To me – it’s all guitar playing.

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The How and Albert Ellis

For those of you unfamiliar with the man, Albert Ellis is not some brilliant up and coming underground shredder that will show you how to stuff 15 notes in a 5 note bag.  Mr. Ellis was a particularly brilliant psychologist who had taken some cues from Stoicism, and Levi-Strauss and created a new form of therapy known as REBT (Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy). I had first discovered Ellis’ work in college and while I found his books to be somewhat bizarre in their tone (the writing style seemed to be mired in the 1950’s with references to things like “Pollyannaish thinking”) his approach of using rational thought to break people out of emotional traps they had fallen into was particularly insightful to me and spoke to my own approach to removing emotions from problems and tackling them for what they are.

In the 1990’s I saw that an Adult Education division was going to bring Albert Ellis to speak at the lecture.  To say that Ellis was a brusque man is stating it mildly.  Throughout the lecture he swore like a sailor, called b-s on any number of things and took anonymous audience questions about problems they were having on stage and then talked through how to approach the problem.

When the lecture was over.  People were congregating around to talk to him and he yelled “Excuse me” and “Get out of my way” as he bolted out the door and went to his car.  I believe his logic was, he was paid to speak for two hours, people could ask him whatever they wanted during that time and he wasn’t going to hang out for another hour or two afterwards.  The audience hated this but I saw it as a man who practiced what he preached.  (If you read below, you’ll see that this wasn’t solely about the money – The Ellis Institutecontinues to offer the Friday Night public workshop that Ellis discusses below for the inflation adjusted price of $15 per person.  It’s about not getting entangled in things you don’t wish to).

I made a number of notes at the lecture and I’ve posted them below.  In terms of content, its a little rough and tumble and should act as little more than a “Cliff notes” version of his approach – but you might find it to be an interesting overview in how to remove emotions from problems and attack them in a systematic process.

If you find feelings of anger, depression or inadequacy acting as obstacles in your practicing, playing or goals, you might find Ellis’ approach helpful. I’ll include any new notes in brackets [ ].

Notes on an Albert Ellis lecture in Boston.  December 8, 1994.

Albert Ellis, Ph.D. is the head of the Institute for Rational-Emotive Therapy (RET). [Ellis used the terms RET and REBT in the lecture interchangeably] He conducts interviews every Friday night at the Institute for $5.

Ellis’ methodology is borne out of a philosophical tradition rather than a psychological one. Of primary influence to his methodology were the Greeks and their focus on the analytical.

You are a talented screwball.

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The RET observations:

1.  All people want to be loved and accepted.

2. People meet conflicts with this goal.  The experience rejection/frustration /disappointment.

3.  People refuse to change

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Three causes for Neurosis

1. EGO – I am the center fo the universe

2.  Anger / Rage

3. A perception that there has to be environmental control.

#2 and #3 –> refusal to accept (rationalize)

The two words that cure all neurosis?:  Tough shit.

Past events are not the causes for present conditions.

Humans are born with two tendencies

1.  Posessing goals, values, desires, etc and demanding what you want.  Ellis seems to view people generally as babies where immediate needs are the primary focus.  That egocentricity makes people very upsettable.

2.  People have a constructive self-actualizing tendency.  You are born to think.

The net effect of these two statements is that while you can disturb yourself, you can also undisturb yourself.

You balance the rational and the unrational. The Universe is ambivalent.

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Three Insights of RET

1.  No one (or nothing) ever upset you.  You choose to upset yourself.

2.  When it [the depression/anxiety/problematic emotion] started is irrelevant.  It lasts because you believe it.  You can’t change people or situations – only perception.

3.  There is no magic. No one’s going to come down from the sky to save you. There is only work and practice.

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How to change:

Cognitive thinking

1. Dispute the “musts”  “I must be this…I must do this.” Why must you? [Ellis refers to this in some of his writing as ‘musterbation”]

2. Along similar lines…”I can’t bear it (rejection, etc)” or  “I can’t stand it.” The implication is –   “I can’t stand it and be happy at all.”

3.  “When I fail, I am worthless” in reality – “I acted badly – but I screwed up and I am human.”

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There are two solutions to a poor sense of self-worth

1.  I’m okay because I am alive. (I’m okay because I choose to be okay.)

2.  I’m neither good or bad as good implies perfection and bad implies damnable [The terms are all or nothings propositions for Ellis].  I am a human who behaves well and when I agree to reach/perform certain moral ethical deeds, I am behaving well but good deeds do not make me good.  (preferred method). I am not my acts/behaviours.

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Self Esteem is an illness

When I am doing okay, I am okay – otherwise I’m a worm and even when I am okay – I worry about being a worm.

Low self-esteem: Because people don’t love me enough and because I act well I am okay.

High Self-Esteem I’m okay when I’m beautiful.

Self esteem is conditional.  The goal is unconditional self-acceptance.  Unconditional acceptance must be taught.

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Coping methods

Referencing:  When you do something compulsively bad –  you write down all of the disadvantages of the act and review often.

Rational coping self-statement:  Effective view philosophy [Also written – also reviewed often]

“I don’t need – but I would like.”

There is nothing awful – only inconvenient. “Mind you getting slowly tortured to death is inconvenient but it is not a worse case scenario.  You could always be tortured more slowly.”  [What was implied by Ellis is that you can not be faced with the most awful thing or situation.]

Psycho-educational techniques:  Good books, video, etc prosleytize and teach so that you can learn.

Modeling:  find good role models

Role Playing: stop at anxious (or appropriate sensation) moments and analyze.  What am I thinking right now?

Positive thinking is okay but does have it’s limitations.  Its achilles heel is that it can reinforce the “must” syndrome.

If you’re afraid of something. Do it.  repeatedly.  Rewards afterwards and “punish” if you fall through. [Ellis used a couple of examples here but he said to a woman trying to lose weight, “Okay.  You want to loose weight.  And you eat cookies all the time so as one step of this, you’re going to stop eating cookies.  What do you hate to do in the world more than anything? ‘Call my mother-in-law.’ Okay then.  So from now on if you eat a cookie, you’ll have to call your mother-in-law and talk to her.  But you really have to do it!  It only works if you follow through.” In more extreme cases, Ellis recommends people burn money as a punishment.  “After someone burns their second $20 bill, they stop doing what they’re doing pretty quickly”]

You let other people affect you but not disturb you.

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Grief vs depression.

Grief is okay.

Grief:  I’ve lost something and that is bad

Depression: Isn’t it too bad that I’ve lost something?

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Problematic Solutions

When a situation is bad – do not leave when you are upset because you’ll take those emotions with you into every other situation.

1.  Analyze how upset you are

2.  Act rationally.

The approach seems to have several steps.

1.  Problem identification

2.  Statement and picturing of the worst thing that could happen.

3.  Identifying feelings with that scenario.

4.  Changing feelings/perceptions of the worse case scenario used rational coping self statements repeatedly and setting up small reward/punishment systems to work on those statements daily.

This last step implies a lot of time.  There is no quick panacea for your problems.

Dr. Ellis has a hard methodology.  It makes the individual fully responsible for his/her actions, works within a closed system and puts emphasis on the body’s cognitive powers. He is violently opposed to most forms of therapy which he feels puts too much emphasis on past actions and events and not enough on present responsibility.  While he isn’t opposed to all forms of psychotherapy, his motto certainly seems to be, let the buyer beware.

His lecture was filled with cursing.  It seems to be a part of his shtick, but one of the things that it did was keep the audience laughing – and laughter (along with responsibility, work and perception) seems to be a very important part of the RET methodology.

*Those are all the notes I had from the lecture.

I hope you found this interesting, insightful, or helpful in some way and, as always, thanks for reading.

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GuitArchitect’s Guide to Modes Part 10 – Getting into Modal Arpeggios – Triads

Hello everyone!!

I’ll be delving into individual modes in more depth in the coming weeks and months ahead but as a preliminary step, I wanted to get into modal arpeggios a bit as they’ll be important components in future lessons.

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Scales = Chords

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Since chords and scales are made up of the building blocks (notes), they are essentially 2 sides of the same coin.

For example, let’s look at an ascending C major scale on the B and E strings:

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If we remove every other note of the first for notes we can see arpeggiated versions of the triads associated with those modes.

While 2-string arpeggios are often neglected by guitarists, they are certainly worth investigating for helping with visualization.

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2-String Triadic Visualization

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The major scale is made up of three types of triads:  major, minor and diminished. Played as unique notes, any triad has three typical voicings:

  • Root position with the root as the bass note: (i.e. Root, 3rd, 5th)
  • 1st inversion with the 3rd as the bass note: (i.e. 3rd, 5th, Root)
  • 2nd inversion with the 5th as the bass note: (i.e. 5th, Root, 3rd)

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Here are some sample fingerings of each of the chord types played as 2-string arpeggios in each inversion:

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2-string Major Scale Triads

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Now I’ll apply each of these arpeggio shapes to the C major scale starting with the root position.

As a reminder here are the triads of the C major scale.

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Since the fingerings are on 2-strings, they’ll be the same on the E/A, D/G and B/e strings.

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Here are the arpeggios in 1st inversion.  Again, since the fingerings are on 2-strings, they’ll be the same on the E/A and B/e strings as well.

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C major scale triads in 1st inversion ascending by scale degree

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And finally, here are the arpeggios in 2nd inversion.

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Putting it together positionally

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At the top of the page, I showed how I extracted arpeggios from ascending 2 string patterns.  This same process can be applied positionally.  For example, here’s a 3-note per string C major scale played  in 8th position.

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Now I’ll apply each of these arpeggio shapes to the C major scale starting with the root position. To create a modal arpeggio, simply remove every other note.  Doing so with this scale creates a C Ionian modal arpeggio.

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Modal arpeggios are sonically cool because they convey the full sound of the mode but break it out of a scalar pattern.

Modal arpeggios are cool in this method, because if you can visualize a scale then making the arpeggio is relatively easy.

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The trouble with Ionian

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The “problem” with the Ionian mode in general is that the natural 4th is an avoid tone over major 7th chords with the same root.  (i.e. C Ionian played over C maj7).  For this reason, I generally avoid Ionian as a mode and instead focus on the major scale for visualization purposes.  

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With that in mind, here ‘s another approach for using this arpeggio.

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I really dig playing this particular arpeggio over D minor – to create a D Dorian type of sound. In the example below, I’ve used the C and the E pitches on the low E string to encircle the D (one note above and one below) to help emphasize the D minor 13 sound of the arpeggio and end it on the 9th.

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The final visualization trick

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If we look at the positional arpeggio again:

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Take a close look at the positional modal arpeggio!  If you look at it as a group of 3-note shapes you’ll see that it’s actually made of of 3 triadic arpeggios: C Major, B diminished and A minor.  

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C Ionian = C maj + B dim + A min

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Going back to the 2-string scalar observation in part 3 of this post, as the pitches ascend, the related arpeggios descend.  This is true of any of the modal arpeggios – so it might be a cool way for you to visualize it! Try it with your own arpeggio forms!

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In the next post, I’ll go through 7th chord arpeggios.  In the meantime, try practicing the 2-string arpeggios over all of the chords of the C major scale:

  • C maj 7
  • D min 7
  • E min 7
  • F maj 7
  • G7
  • A min 7
  • B min7 b5

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and then over whatever other tonal centers inspire youI hope this helps!  As always, thanks for reading!

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PS  – if you like this post, you may also like:

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Books:

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Lessons

The GuitArchitect’s Guide To Modes Part 9 – Visualizing Melodic and Harmonic Minor

A while ago, I had posted that given an hour, I could get almost anyone at an intermediate level to visualize any of the Major, Melodic Minor or Harmonic Minor modes anywhere on the guitar.  In this overdue return to the serialization of the guide to modes book –  I guess this is my put up or shut up moment. ; )  Since this is print as a pixel based medium – I’m going to cover it in a lot more detail than I might normally in, say a 1/2 hour lesson.
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As a precursor, all of the information here works off of the 2-string (3 note-per string) pattern visualization method that I’ve covered in parts 3a and 3b of this series, if any of the initial shapes (or connecting ideas) in this post seem confusing, just go back and review the following:

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THE GUITARCHITECT’S GUIDE TO MODES PART 3B – Seeing The Six-String Major Scale

THE GUITARCHITECT’S GUIDE TO MODES PART 3A – Seeing The Six-String Major Scale

THE GUITARCHITECT’S GUIDE TO MODES PART 2 – Seeing The Two String Major Scale

THE GUITARCHITECT’S GUIDE TO MODES PART 1 – Seeing The Single String Major Scale

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A Pedagogical note (taken from part 2)

Since the initial emphasis of this lesson series is on sonic visualization and making sense out of 2-string and positional fingerings, I’m only dealing with visualizing parent scales (Major, Melodic Minor or Harmonic Minor in this case)  as a whole here.

While modes are always associated with a chord or a chord progression, I’m limiting harmonic options only to C Major/Melodic Minor/Harmonic Minor  for now.

Extremely important elements in this process, such as harmony, modal interchange, arpeggios, individual modes and actual music making are the topics for other posts.  Having said that, it is important to state again, that modes (or any scale), in and of themselves, are not music but are only a tool in making music.   Anything I post here should always be filtered through your own aesthetic and utilized, adapted or even ignored accordingly (i.e. take what works for you).

With that in mind here’s a review of much of the information as it relates to C major.  For the Melodic and Harmonic minor shapes – just skip down to the next section.

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Major Scale/Modal Visualization Review

  • The guitar fingerboard can be divided into 3 sets of two strings. Any 2-string fingering pattern that starts on the B string can be moved to the same starting pitch on the D or the low E string and keep the same fingering.
  • The major scale can be broken down into seven two-string modes that follow a specific order based on its scale degree from the parent scale (Ionian, Dorian, Phrygian, Lydian, Mixolydian, Aeolian, Locrian). The two-string patterns are modular and can be adapted to positional playing (see rules above).

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The modular 2 string modal shapes I use look like this (The numbers represent fingers).

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Here’s a C major scale played  on only the B and E strings:

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Comparing the initial shapes to the ascending pattern, the positional patterns can be broken down into the seven 2-string modal fingerings that ascend in sequential order  (i.e. C Ionian, D Dorian, E Phrygian, F Lydian, G Mixolydian, A Aeolian and B Locrian).

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Since the two-string patterns are modular they can also be adapted to positional playing.  So if we look at a C Major scale played in the 8th position and starting from C:

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This 6-string fingering can be seen as containing three distinct patterns:

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 Two-string sets of C Ionian

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Here are the important things you need to know for visualizing this:

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As the fingering pattern ascends across the strings,

the six note modal fingerings descend to the next modal pattern.  

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Like wise, as the fingering pattern descends across the strings,

the six-note modal fingerings ascend to the next modal pattern.    

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This is true of any 2-string pattern.

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Adapting Major shapes to create Melodic and Harmonic Minor fingerings

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I’ve talked before about the modal microscope and seeing things on the parent major level.  The advantage of this comes into play right here. First, let’s take another look at a C major scale played in the 8th position again:

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Here’s the audio.

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Note:

In all the audio examples, I’ve played the example first as sextuplets – then at a slower tempo (i.e. 16ths) – then as sextuplets again.

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Each mode is associated with chords as well.  Here’s a chart of the triad and 7th chords  for C Major:

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In all of the chord examples below, I’ve taken sample diatonic 7th chord shapes for the E, D, G and B strings with the roots on the low E string. These are certainly not the only way to play these chords, but if you’re not familiar with the voicings they’re not a bad place to start.  Also, while I’ve notated each chord as a 1/4 note, I’ve held each chord for 2 bar lengths (i.e. 8 beats) to be able to play the scale patterns against.

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Also, distortion tends to wash out chords with larger voicings, so for all the examples in this exercise, I’ve used a clean setting courtesy of Scuffham Amps.

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Melodic Minor

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To visualize Melodic Minor Patterns – simply flat the 3rd of the Parent Major scale.

(i.e. to visualize C Melodic Minor just play C major but change every E  to Eb).

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It’s important to note that all of the fingering conventions mentioned here are solely to assist with visualization. Melodic and Harmonic Minor really aren’t directly related to the Major scale sonically.  

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Melodic Minor short cuts:

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Using the Parent Major patterns above here’s a list of short cut’s to help you visualize the patterns.

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Note: in the F Lydian shape – there’s no change from the major shape since there’s no Eb in the 2-string pattern.

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Here’s the initial melodic pattern with the modified major fingerings written above the 2-string shapes:

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Here are the diatonic triads and 7th chords.

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Try playing the initial C Melodic Minor shape over any of these chords..

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Harmonic Minor

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To visualize Harmonic Minor Patterns – simply flat the 3rd and the 6th of the Parent Major scale.

(i.e. to visualize C Harmonic Minor just play C major but change every E  to Eb and every A  to Ab).

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Here are the pattern adaptations.  In a situation like this, it can get confusing to remember a formula like “Dorian b2, b5” so as an alternative you may just want to try remembering something like “Pattern 1” for Ionian b3, b6, “Pattern 2” for Dorian b2, b5, etc.

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Here’s the same scale pattern – I left off Pattern 6 by mistake but the sequence is Ionian b3, b6 (Pattern 1 ), Locrian b4 (Pattern 7) and Ionian b5, bRoot (Pattern 6).  You can really see this if you compare it to the initial major patterns.
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Here are the diatonic triads and 7th chords:
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Try playing the initial C Harmonic Minor shape over any of these chords…
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Performance Notes:

  • This whole process just a short cut for a visualization process to see C Major/Melodic Minor/Harmonic Minor on the fingerboard.  In parts 3a and 3b of this series, I’ve provided every C major positional fingering.  As a first step, you should consider adapting each of those fingerings to Melodic and Harmonic Minor.  After you get the shapes under your fingers, try moving them to other keys as well.
  • In addition to using a time keeping device of some kind (like a metronome, drum loop, etc) playing along to a chord or a bass note will help establish tonality and help associate each pattern with a sound).  I’ll get more into application in further lessons, but for now try playing the patterns over any of the bass notes or chords in the mp3s and once you get familiar with the chord shapes, try writing tunes or solos with the material.

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Technical Notes:

  • While it’s natural to want to progress quickly, trying to play too quickly too soon results in excess hand tension which will increase the difficulty of what you’re trying to play.  Fluidity comes from focused, relaxed repetition.  
  • Fretting hand: When playing these patterns, practice using just the fingertip to fret the notes and use the minimum amount of tension needed for the note to sound cleanly.  Additionally, try to keep the fingers down on the strings when playing and remove them from the string only when necessary.
  • Picking Hand:  Try using the above picking pattern on the top two strings or alternate picking.
  • Practice the scale ascending and descending and really focus on clarity of notes, hand tension and timing.  Even many intermediate to advanced players can gain something by really focusing on making clean transitions between the fingering shapes.
  • Isolate problem areas and work out.  You’re not going to be able to play the sequence cleanly if any of the individual components aren’t 100%.  This isn’t a bad thing.  Things you develop over time are more likely to stay with you (and thus be accessible when you’re improvising).

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Musical:

  • Making music from the patterns is a whole other skill set, but you need to know where to put your fingers on the strings while you  bend, slide and phrase your way into making music.  Having said that, since the visualization process doesn’t take that long,  as soon as you get the shapes down I’d recommend to start manipulating them to try to make them more musical to your ear.   See Part 2 of this series for more specifics or the making music out of scales post for some suggestions for how to do this.

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Like I said before, I’ll be going deeper into using these scales (and using them in other harmonic contexts) in future posts.  With any lesson material, I recommend you just go through the lesson at your own pace and return as you need to.  Please feel free to post any questions you might have (or pm me at guitar.blueprint@gmail.com).

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I hope this helps.   As always, thanks for reading!

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-SC

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P.S. If you like this post – you may also like:

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Books:

The GuitArchitect’s Guide To Modes: Harmonic Combinatorics “Pre-Release” Now Available

THE GUITARCHITECT’S POSITIONAL EXPLORATION PRE-RELEASE NOW AVAILABLE

THE GUITARCHITECT’S GUIDE TO MODES: MELODIC PATTERNS BOOK “PRE-RELEASE” NOW AVAILABLE

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LESSONS

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Modes:

The Modal Microscope And A Sequenced Arpeggio Approach

Slash and Burn – Creating More Complex Sounds With Slash Chords

The GuitArchitect’s Guide to Modes Part 8 – Major Positional Modal Interchange and Complimenting Modes with Chords

THE GUITARCHITECT’S GUIDE TO MODES PART 7 – MINOR POSITIONAL MODAL INTERCHANGE AND COMPLIMENTING MODES WITH CHORDS

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THE GUITARCHITECT’S GUIDE TO MODES PART 6 – THE CIRCLE OF 5THS AND MODAL INTERCHANGE

THE GUITARCHITECT’S GUIDE TO MODES PART 5 – MAKING THE MOST OF ONE PATTERN

The GuitArchitect’s Guide To Modes Part 4 – Modes and Chords

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THE GUITARCHITECT’S GUIDE TO MODES PART 3B – SEEING THE SIX-STRING MAJOR SCALE

THE GUITARCHITECT’S GUIDE TO MODES PART 3A – SEEING THE SIX-STRING MAJOR SCALE

THE GUITARCHITECT’S GUIDE TO MODES PART 2 – SEEING THE TWO STRING MAJOR SCALE

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The GuitArchitecture Guide To Modes Part 1 – Seeing The Single String Major Scale

Making Music Out Of Scales

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Pentatonics:

Making Sense Of The Pentatonic Scale – Diagonal Forms – Part Two

MAKING SENSE OF THE PENTATONIC SCALE – DIAGONAL FORMS – PART ONE

Free Sweeping Pentatonic Minor Scale Lesson on Live4Guitar.com now online

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2 STRING SHAPES OR MAKING SENSE OF THE PENTATONIC MINOR SCALE

THE BAKER’S DOZEN APPROACH TO PENTATONIC SCALES

GUITARCHITECTURE, SONIC VISUALIZATION AND A PENTATONIC APPROACH FOR THE HOLIDAYS

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Chords/Triads/Superimposition/Arpeggios:

CREATING CHORDS AND LINES FROM ANY SCALE – A HARMONIC COMBINATORICS / SPREAD VOICINGS LESSON

AUGMENT YOUR KNOWLEDGE: SONIC SHAPES AND GETTING MORE FROM AUGMENTED CHORDS

Slash and Burn – Creating More Complex Sounds With Slash Chords

.

GETTING HIPNESS FROM A MAJOR TRIAD OR MORE CHORD RECYCLING PART 3

Getting Hipness From A Major Triad Or More Chord Recycling Part 2

GETTING HIPNESS FROM A MAJOR TRIAD OR MORE CHORD RECYCLING PART 1

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Getting Through The Gig – Negotiating A Chord Chart Part 3

Getting Through The Gig – Negotiating A Chord Chart Part 2

GETTING THROUGH THE GIG – NEGOTIATING A CHORD CHART PART 1

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RECYCLING CHORDS PART II: TRIAD TRANSFORMATION

RECYCLING CHORDS PART I OR WHERE’S THE ROOT?

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FAVORED CURRY OR SPICING UP CHORD SCALES AND TRIADS PART 2

FAVORED CURRY OR SPICING UP CHORD SCALES AND TRIADS PART 1

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RECYCLING SHAPES OR MODULAR ARPEGGIOS FOR FUN AND PROFIT

GLASS NOODLES – ADAPTING A PHILIP GLASS ARPEGGIO APPROACH TO GUITAR

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Practicing:

MELVILLE, MADNESS AND PRACTICING – OR FINDING THE DEEPER LESSON PART 2

Some Useful Online Practice Tools

POSSESSION IS 9/10S OF THE LAW BUT PERCEPTION IS EVERYTHING OR PRACTICING PART VII

TESTING YOUR VOCABULARY OR PRACTICING PART VI

PRACTICE WHAT YOU PLAY OR PRACTICING PART V

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DEFINITIONS AND DOCUMENTS OR PRACTICING PART IV

TENSION AND THE SODA CAN OR PRACTICING PART III

PROPER POSTURE IS REQUIRED FOR PROPER PERFORMANCE – PRACTICING PART II

PRACTICE MAKES BETTER AKA PRACTICING PART I

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Augment Your Knowledge: Sonic Shapes and Getting More From Augmented Chords

Hi everyone!

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I wanted to post a lesson that uses some of the material from my Positional Exploration book in a way that I didn’t get to cover in the text itself.

Back in November when Guitar-Muse posted the second part of my interview with Rob Balducci, Rob brought up a process he called chord morphing.  When I saw it in the video, I slapped my head forehead loudly as I realized that while I mentioned that any of the melodic exercises in the Positional Exploration book could be played as a chord, I didn’t include chord tablature.

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Anyway Rob had this cool idea of taking a 1-2-3-4 chromatic shape and playing it one note per fret on the bottom 4 strings which produces an Augmented chord like this:

Note:

Rob play this up on the 12-15th fret, but I’ve moved it to a low pitch of C for the purposes of explanation.

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He then goes on to lower each note of the chord chromatically one at a time until he ends up with an augmented chord a 1/2 step away from where he started.    I’ve detailed a sample of this below with analysis, when playing it the key to remember is keeping your fingers down and only moving finger playing the individual note that changes.

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Sonic Shapes

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So, I thought that was a cool way to:
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  1. warm up
  2. find some new voicings (1 shape yields 4 chords total) and
  3. see how different chord forms can be created by modifying existing voicings.

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(You can check out my recycling chords post, for a pretty in-depth exploration of this idea with triads!)

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And then I got to thinking about Sonic Shapes.  Back in the day, Howard Roberts used to write a column for Guitar Player magazine and he had a whole series of columns that centered around an idea of sonic shapes, which is moving a fingering to different string sets to create different sounds.  So here, I’ve taken the same 1-2-3-4 augmented shape and moved it to the 5th string:

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And finally moving it to the top four strings:

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Going Deeper

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Then, because I couldn’t leave well enough alone, I started thinking about augmented chords in general.  They’re neat little things because they’re intervallically symmetrical and any note in the chord can be the root.

You can also use them to visualize all of your 3-note major and minor inversions.

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Here’s the first trick using augmented chords that I copped from Pat Martino:

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If you sharp any note of an augmented chord you create a minor chord with the sharped note acting as the root

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In the following chords,  I’ve taken the original 4-note voicing I had (with doubled C) and sharped one note at a time which creates A minor, F minor and Db (or C#) minor.

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Following through on this process, we can find voicings for every minor chord inversion.  First I’ll go through the inversions of the 3-note augmented chord across each group of 3 strings:

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With the augmented inversions outlined, try converting each voicing to a minor chord:

  • Raising C a 1/2 step creates a C#/Db minor chord
  • Raising E a 1/2 step creates a F minor chord
  • Raising G# a 1/2 step creates a A minor chord

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Since augmented chords are symmetrical –  the fingerings for inversions repeat every Major 3rd (i.e. 5 frets higher).

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The next step is to move the entire pattern up 5 frets and repeat the process of converting the chords to minor.

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Going up another 5 frets gives up the final inversion.

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Once you get used to manipulating the augmented patterns to create all three minor chords, try taking one minor voicing (like A minor for example) and using the augmented visualization, try visualizing every inversion of A minor both across the fingerboard as well as on each string set.

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Augmented visualization tip #2:

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Here’s another cool trick from Mr. Martino:

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if you flat any note in an augmented triad, the flatted note becomes the 5th of a major chord.

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You can guess that the next step would be to apply this to all of the above inversions like you did with the minor.

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To Review:

C / E/ G# (Ab) augmented can be transformed into:

  • A minor
  • F minor
  • C#/Db minor
  • C major
  • Ab major
  • E major

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In a future post, I’ll talk about this as a melodic application, but in the meantime think about this:

If all of the above chords are related from C / E / G# augmented, then that augmented chord could be used as a bridge to cross bridge chords in very different key centers.

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For Example:

A minor – C augmented – F minor.

A minor – C augmented – Db minor.

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For those of you who have read my glass noodles post, you’ll see where this is going for a future lesson.

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Enjoy the new voicings and thanks for reading!

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SC

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PS – If you like this idea, you might find my Positional Exploration book, Harmonic Combinatorics Book, Chord Scale Book or Melodic Patterns book really helpful in generating new melodic ideas or approaches.

For posts here, you may also like:

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Chords/Triads/Superimposition/Arpeggios:

GETTING HIPNESS FROM A MAJOR TRIAD OR MORE CHORD RECYCLING PART 3

Getting Hipness From A Major Triad Or More Chord Recycling Part 2

GETTING HIPNESS FROM A MAJOR TRIAD OR MORE CHORD RECYCLING PART 1

.

Getting Through The Gig – Negotiating A Chord Chart Part 3

Getting Through The Gig – Negotiating A Chord Chart Part 2

GETTING THROUGH THE GIG – NEGOTIATING A CHORD CHART PART 1

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RECYCLING CHORDS PART II: TRIAD TRANSFORMATION

RECYCLING CHORDS PART I OR WHERE’S THE ROOT?

.

FAVORED CURRY OR SPICING UP CHORD SCALES AND TRIADS PART 2

FAVORED CURRY OR SPICING UP CHORD SCALES AND TRIADS PART 1

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RECYCLING SHAPES OR MODULAR ARPEGGIOS FOR FUN AND PROFIT

GLASS NOODLES – ADAPTING A PHILIP GLASS ARPEGGIO APPROACH TO GUITAR

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Books

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