'Americana musical origins ~ a spiritual song'

"The spiritual is a tradition of African American traditions and European Christian hymns."

"Its DNA is within every Black American musical tradition that followed. It lead to the blues and jazz and gospel, which led to R & B, which led to rock and roll, which led to hip hop. Spirituals differ from what we understand as gospel because they were originally unaccompanied by music, created solely by a chorus of voices in a space without access to instruments, in a field, or cabin, or hollow.

Spirituals are a meditations on the triumph of the metaphysical over the physical realities of slavery. They attempt to answer profound questions: What happens to an enslaved person when she dies ? What does it mean if her life has been so denigrated on earth ? What does freedom feel like if your only access to it is in your imagination ? What miracles of God are needed to get free ? "

"It always seems impossible until it's done."
wiki ~ Nelson Mandela

Indigenous Peoples. It's been said and believed by many now that our Native America's peoples pondered one of life's essential question as ...

What can I become in this lifetime ?

And while Euro / Western Civilization peoples also pondered this 'what can I become' energy, they heartily and earnestly include ...

What can I acquire in this lifetime ?

Here in Americana 2021, both energies continue their helix weave creating the fabric of our written American histories. For our musics combine these Amer ~ Euro core philosophies, to answer to these two questions to a continual perfection throughout history. And as the artist within us discovers answers to these questions, we balance our own way through a musical life.

In a nutshell / our pitches. In pure theory and its available mathematical measuring basis, we Americano's have two 'sets' of pitches we combine to create our sounds. 'A B C D E F G', are their basic letter names. And While our two sets are near identical in letter name, it's in the precision of their tuning where there is a difference. We've a naturally tuned set for making melodies, and a precision tuned set for making chords. Weaving these two sets together creates the 'Americana weave of musics.'

Spirituals. From both tuning compass points we gain our foundation we term 'spirituals.' Theses are songs created with voices, acappella, with words and melodies sung together by the musicians. In this style of performance, it's all about voices together telling one story together, joined in common belief through their experiences of life together.

Compare the early European and Americana spirituals on the sides and then Native American on top and pure poly rhythm American foundation ... then run the Bach and Coltrane in the middle :) Example 1.

Amazing what happens when the voices take center stage alone yes ? As these examples spanning a 1000 years or so, tis' an amazing thing that similar pitches can morph into all of these unique musics. And what of your musical art ? Have you begun to shape your creative ?

Americana universe relighters. So thanks to the wizardry of what was then a modern analogue tube radio with maybe three stations depending on the weather ... to the now forward to satellite digital total global radio of today, where the 'new coolness' travels global in say six minutes ... give or take. Music's 'new' arrived via the airwaves, its waves could sweep a country by storm, oftentimes evolving our musical language overnight, as everyone heard the new songs at nearly the same time. And some songs become hits.

These artists relight their times with a mix of music probably that had never been heard before. And many included are prominent composers of their style of Americana music. Read their biographies, they are rich stories of our Americana histories. And to strengthen your own resolve to find a way forward with your own music making, to relight with your energies and make community with your music.

wiki ~ Louis Armstrong 1920's

wiki ~ Jimmy Rodgers later 1930's

wiki ~ Benny Goodman later 1930's

wiki ~ Charlie Christian later 1930's

wiki ~ Judy Garland 1940's

wiki ~ Charlie Parker 1940's

wiki ~ Hank Williams 1940's

wiki ~ Billie Holiday 1940's

wiki ~ Louis Jordan 1950's

wiki ~ Ella Fitzgerald 1940's

wiki ~ Elvis Presley 1950's

wiki ~ 1950's

wiki ~ John Coltrane 1950's

wiki ~ Muddy Waters 1950's

wiki ~ Wes Montgomery 1950's

wiki ~ Patsy Cline 1950's

wiki ~ Chuck Berry later 1950's

wiki ~ Ray Charles late 1950's

wiki ~ Merle Haggard 1960's

wiki ~ The Beatles 1960's

wiki ~ Stevie Wonder 1960's

wiki ~ Johnny Cash 1960's

wiki ~ Jimi Hendrix 1960's

wiki ~ Charlie Pride 1960's

wiki ~ Jerry Garcia 1970's

wiki ~ Michael Jackson later 1970's

wiki ~ Madonna 1980's

wiki ~ Eddie Van Halen 1980's

wiki ~ Pat Metheny 1980's

Well that's a start anyway. And how about you? Re-lighting your own universe with your songs and telling the stories needed to be told? Cool.

"I learn about things by talking about them."
wiki ~ Laurie Anderson from NYTimes 10/06/2021

The Americana 'in theory' nutshell. Thinking in theory terms, and thanks to our four century history of diversity of peoples from all parts of our globe, we Americano's get all the 12 pitches, all of their bends, find the bends with slides, can create all of their arpeggios stacked into all the chords, projected equally from all 12 root pitches of the relative major and minor keys, while motored with rhythms collected from around the world, often based on our own version of the 'big 4' and Latin 'clave' beats, often combined together, creating the weave of Americana grooves to set toes a tappin', feet's a dancin' near every time :)

Equal temper tuning. To aurally empower this resource we tune the same 12 pitches two unique ways, and then weave them back together into one group of pitches to create our Americana musics, all through our spectrum of styles. One tuning is for building up harmony / chords and is very precise. We call it 'equal temper tuning.' It tunes the piano and comes to us here from Europe.

'Just' tuning. And one tuning method polishes up the pitches for melodies and includes the blue notes, leaning more towards their original purity of pitch and intonation from Mother Nature. We call them 'just' tuned, or 'just intonation.' Coming from our Native Americans and African ancestors, they combine with equal temper pitches to create our modern melodic palette.

Read on !

Historical evolutions of tuning our pitches. In tuning up our Americana pitches of today we begin by using the basics from Mother Nature and our earthly acoustics from the overtone series. Going back a few thousand years, we can find the ancient Greek Pythagoras and his pals understanding this natural organization, and mapping out a way to understand and recreate the process with a stringed instrument. We still use these same pitches, 'just' tweaking their intonation. These pitches become the basis of our 'just' melody notes.

To create our chords, we need to refine the tuning of these 'just' pitches through the mathematics of the equal temper tuning method, a very very precise and super math scientific method of tuning the pitches that 'compromises' some of the pitch's natural color a wee bit. Though compromised, they now beautifully stack up, one atop another, to create chords. Further, that we can create all and any triads and chords from each of Pythagoras' original 12 pitches is the added on bonus upgrade that spices the whole tamale. These 12 we often term the chromatic scale.

The 'twelve tone diatonic Americana.' In putting these four words together we create quite a mashup of ideas. For each has its own meaning within our studies of music in general. In this combination, they reduce down to quite a simple formula for creating our pitches. That we only have the 12 letter name pitches in total, that in our diatonic realm we need seven to create the full diatonic grouping. That leaves us five pitches which become the blue notes in relation to the diatonic seven. That we can project this mashup equally from each of our 12 notes is really the whole tamale.

Time. In Americana musical time we have the unique character of what is commonly termed 'swing.' Swing is a sort of 'pulling' on the beats as they go merrily along in the 4 / 4 time, the base pulse of native American music and into New Orleans marching style with the band.

Boom boom boom boom Boom boom boom boom ...

as goes the 'big 4.'

Swing is the physical feeling of 'pull' that we achieve by instead accenting 2 and 4. So from the 'big 4', the swing is built right in, like this ... :)

boom Boom boom Boom boom Boom boom Boom ...

Snap or clap along and sing a note, keep clicking, find the pulse and then ... then hold back on the timing of your note a wee bit, that 'pull' feeling is the magical sensation of swing. Learning to shape it and bring it to the music, that is what we call to bring the swing.

Melody. Americana melodies have a sort of dual thread to them. For while their pitches and rhythms are steeped in the many unique cultures from around the world, most songs try to bring the Amer - i - can spirit of 'I can.' We thread this drive of self earnestness with the indomitable spirits of the blue notes and the blue hue they bring to all of our collective Americana stories.

That whenever and wherever spoken, the blue notes remind us that our pursuit of 'free and equal' is ever generational, and must be taken up and carried forth by each of us along the way. And while slow blue notes are sad, faster blue notes swing big, bring big joy and verve to do what we each need to do to get it done. Blue notes and swing rhythms always win the Americana day.

Harmony / gospel. The Americana spectrum of musics creates a full array of what the equal tempered tuned pitches can give us. Octaves, two note metal 5th's, three note triads, four note V7 chords, and to five or more with added color tones to #15. Which of these pitches, and how many we choose to stack up, helps define our genres and styles. Knowing, that in near every song we have, there's harmonic motion to Four, the subdominant, this is the essence of bringing a 'gospel feel' to near any style of music. So we can borrow this 'motion to Four / gospel' from all of the styles to make our own version.

Americana blues has it own forms and harmony. Based deeply on the dominant V7 chord colors all along now, we weave V7 harmony with plain old diatonic triad harmony and create the gospel sounds of Americana musics. And just as with the blues, gospel qualities remind us of what's important in our own lives and ways. Motown style, rhythm up gospel pitches and chords, and we've a joyous Americana palette for writing the new songs that inspire us to do our gospel better together.

"Harmoniously is just a better way to live."

Bending pitches. Thinking in theory terms, we Americano music magicians get to bring the best of both of each of the 12 pitches; a tuned up version to make chords and what we commonly term as a 'bent' one for nuancing melodies. That each style of our spectrum has its character ways of shaping their melody notes, through all manner of techniques on each instrument, can be the basis of our curiosity here.

Once energized, our learning here is simply to recognize the pitch 'warbles' when we hear 'em, those 'hemi-demi-semi quavers' of yore, which often bring a smile when we play some.' Pair this with knowing a bit of the historical story of how we've tuned up over the centuries, and off we go into our studies through listening to the musics we love and emulating what we dig to make it our own.

In discussions here of Americana pitches, bending notes falls into one of three ways; to 'warm' a pitch up, by bending down into the desired pitch, and bending up to a pitch. So with only 12 notes, the theory of this goes pretty quick, for there's just a handful to start. Once rolling, the rest is up to you, with a lot of it just finding the same bend lick in a different spot on our instruments. And in truth, of all the things a musician gets to do to put their own 'signature' to art, finding each 'pitch proper' of a melody, just might be our most challenging adventure of discovery when we begin to shape our melody notes with a bit of bending ... or more :)

12 pitches
wiki ~ hemi semi demi quavers
history of tuning

Improv Americana. That we get to improvise so much of our day to day lives is just the way it rolls. For while we've routines for our tasks, and to get life done each day, things often change, necessitating us to change, to improvise a solution to complete the task at hand. These changes are what make life fun and interesting, create an opportunity for learning, thus an opportunity to evolve our understanding of the process we are creating. Thinking along these lines in any task brings our creative into play, and once engaged, new learning takes place.

wiki ~ creativity
"A problem is a chance for you to do your best."
wiki ~ Duke Ellington

In our Americana styles of music, we've much the same challenges. In its performance, as a solo artist or in a group setting, we're very often not reading the music. We rote memorize our musics, then collaborate our individual parts together. We play from memory.

We're melding together our own individual thinking with those within our group, who also rote learned their music. All involved follow the steady beat, counting along, 'measuring the time' with bar lines to keep them together. So the resulting music is in a sense improvised anew each time.

And as such gives each of us a chance to 'bring it', to emotionally express ourselves with the support of the rest of the band. Each player that wants, gets a ride. In this way we reach out to our listeners, who are included also 'in time', following along with the beat of our story. Ya got something to say yet ?

History overview of 'improv Americana and Louis.' Five historical 'spokes' of improvisation eras can build our wheel of evolutions in our Americana musics. The following ideas and discussions are mostly about jazz music, so blues roots too, but jazz mostly, as it was a big part of America's spectrum of 'pop' music, say from the 1880's to then 1950's, and collaborative improvisation a core ingredient of its making.

Early on in the 1880's, the two handed, multi pitch ragtime piano music was divided up into the four musical parts; bass tenor, alto and soprano, just like a vocal choir. In newly forming Dixieland bands of this era and beyond, the bass story lines went to the tubas, and the melody went to everyone else, the horn players.

Songs of the day were written so that if these two lines combined by skillful, improvising melody players, the harmony chords filled right in as the song's progression moved along. In Euro classical music this style is termed polyphony, which reigned in the 1600's.

Horn players, banjo too, simply learned both the melody and bass line, and improvised their parts from the pitches in between. The form of the song and its chord progression, which follow the narrative or storyline lyrics of each song, adding that extra 'glue' to hold it all together through all kinds of weather. For when all these melody notes get powered up by the 'big 4' Americana rhythm motor, and the 1/8 notes start to cook, look out for surely here comes the swing :)

wiki ~ ragtime piano
wiki ~ dixieland bands
wiki ~ narrative
evo 1/8th's
the 1/8th note triplet and swing

Then in the 1920's, from this 'everyone plays the melody' past, Louis Armstrong emerges first and foremost as the soloist melody player, through his vocals, scat singing and trumpet. From this historical point forward in jazz performance, stating the melody of a song, and its mostly 'theme and variations' improvisations, becomes the 'feature' of an individual within the band. A 'star is born' in Mr. Armstrong, and he shared his vision to know a true Americana music. Some say there's a new star born every day. I believe it ... do U ? :)

wiki ~ Louis Armstrong

Now with a strong solo voice out in front of the band, lights dimmed a bit and all eyes on Louis ... ', the supportive instruments now create the background for the song and story. The rhythm section more prominent and dynamic. In this setting, the harmony becomes more vertically integrated, so there's a piano player, who both drives the rhythm with sounds the harmony, and the rest becomes history. For in a decade or so further on up the road as we'll soon see, there's a change in the weather and rhythm section players are a hot commodity.

The 'roaring 20's Dixieland jazz bands of seven or so grows over the decade to become the orchestras of 15 to 20 pieces during the 1930's. These are the dance bands of the swing era, dance and swing contests and all. Along with the stars of the show, composers and arrangers have the big payday here also, in owning the copyrights to publish the music. And most everyone around the world has a radio or wants to get one.

In 1938 saxophonist Coleman Hawkins records a version of "Body And Soul" whereby the melody is set aside in favor of creating new melodies from the pitches of the written chords of the song. From this point forward, 'theme and variations' evolves towards 'what have U got to say over these chord changes / bass story line.' Both have ruled their respective domains to this very day :)

wiki ~ Dixieland
dancers
wiki ~ Swing music

By the later 1940's, jazz improvisation becomes a true 'soloist's art.' Paying audiences are enthralled in smaller group formats, now usually numbering four or five. The star soloists taking on the status of stars as in other disciplines; acting, athletics, the fine arts etc., as interpreters through song, the day to day of Americana.

The fourth jazz development in our improvisation comes about in the late 1950's. John Coltrane is the pioneer here. While chord progressions are still the basis of soloing ' through the changes', Mr. Coltrane now applies a 'parent' pentatonic styled group for each chord. We can hear this application clearly in his "Giant Steps."

From this point forward, the five note pentatonic scale take on a whole new position in jazz improvisation. From the ancient five pitches that create the melodies such as "House Of The Rising Sun', now entire texts are devoted to the study of how this five pitch cell, clearly outlines any chord, in any progression, at any tempo. So from this point forward, artists have a new way to solo through chord changes. While it's been the basis all along, Coltrane discovers the new way forward with the ancient pentatonic group of pitches.

From the early 60's and onward till today, the pentatonic evolution cushions the move towards the chromaticism that we enjoy today in many modern jazz improvisations. Chromatic jazz abstract art. For when we combine all of the four approaches above, and include all of the harmonic evolutions, we end up with a complex weave of potentials, that when handled in accelerated tempos, creates a remarkable new sense reflecting the Americana day to day. While still blues and gospel based, all 12 tones are simultaneously and continually in play, in each of the traditional voices included; so bass, chords and melody. Termed within this work as the 'chromatic blur', it's a fluid marvel of aural color and beyond complex in all its musicality combined.

And today ? Jazz, and blues too, inherits these formats, and we mix and match their variables depending on the art in our hearts. And as our ear evolves, and becomes more accepting of the new and cool as we venture beyond our diatonic realm, our music evolves through our core Americana styles of music. Motored today more than ever by the 'big 4' beat, turn on the radio to any song and find the '2 and 4' beat. Next station, next song, '2 and 4.' Spin, find '2 and 4.' Spin ... '2 and 4' boom boom is in near every song's rhythms. And if we got a '2 and '4 pule in any 4/4, we can bring the swing too, any style any tempo, the Americana way.

Americana 'modern.' That the idea of 'modern' in the title of this work, Understand Your Music / Essentials Of Modern Guitar, is that through our studies modernize our own playing music. In whatever way we each as artists choose to explore.

Applied to a 'guitarist', or any instrument of course, by understanding the basic theory we can sense a fluid spectrum of our musical styles. Folk to jazz and blue's hued all in between, rhythms and gear shapes styles with the same colors. Expanding the palette is modernization, at least here, and style wise this leans towards a blues and jazz curriculum and method, and the rhythms that motor the magic.

In doing so, we become theory self sustaining and fully empowered to 'modernize' our own art in any stylistic direction they may choose. Like a blues artist who wants more jazz, a folk artist less of the triads and more colortones, a jazz artist an ancient folk melody, a rocker another 4 /12 cab whatever :) All modernize our art and lives through change.

"Nothing changes if nothing changes."
Jacmuse

1930's public school education. So based on a fairly recent discovery of this work, the melodies for mastering here are the same one's our musical blues and jazz heros learned in their regular public school music education, including many if not all of the stars aligned just above. So near all the songs included all come from this one music book, which was a basic public school music text during the 20th century era.

And while now dated, there' a reason a melody gets to stick around and be played from generation to generation. Each has its own magic, often gets us to lock in on a particular pitch of the scale and as crazy as it sounds, many of these melodies made up of just big 'ol quarter notes, will swing beyond measure.

Review / learning tasks. Our learning basis throughout is by understanding which of the 12 pitches are consistently combined into many songs of a defined style within the genres of Americana, and that taken together, these songs can create a nice set list of songs for each style.

The piano has one way of tuning the pitches, and the voice has one. Guitar is like piano tuned, but we can bend or slide on the strings too, for the blues. Fretted chord instruments tune up together with pianos.

The voice, our own voice, gives us the slide flexibility of pitch to nuance the story we are telling, on which ever 'voice' that play the melody, such a the horns. And who really cares how these notes are tuned as long as they still make sense and, make our hair stand up every once in a while too :) It's just the best of both.

And similar to all cultures, Americana has a spectrum of ancient indigenous musics, that have evolved over succeeding generations, that met on this continent. Woven into a historical timeline of the musicians who wrote, played and passed the songs along to each new generation, learning pathways are revealed that overviews all of the cultural styles. Find yours.

Americana musics is traditionally an aural tradition. The basics are rote learned for super long term memory, for sharing in performance and the passing of the music along generationally.

Today, our musics are created by combining the math precisely tuned pitches we must have to make chords, with melody notes more naturally tuned to make the blue notes for our own unique Americana blues. Our core rhythm is the heart beating Native American heartbeat pulse that we group in fours, capable of fully supporting all the Afro and Latin syncopations and polyrhythms, which alone or combined, bring the sensation of a swinging rhythm.

Artists of all genres have adapted the swing feel into all of our Americana styles and genres, and with sincere thanks to the radio waves, we've a global presence for near the last 100 years. So we know in our hearts that the swing rhythm with a blue's hue, will always be true Americana and bring those folks of the American spirit together and share in the 'bluesy folk a rockin' poppin' country gospel bossa jazz it up on' songs, that fill dancefloors everywhere.

"Everywhere can be a dancefloor."

"And there can be a dancefloor anywhere."

Americana improvisation. For the last couple of hundred years, there's a lot of Americana music performed by rote that includes varying degrees of improvisation along the way. While we do love to make it up along the way, we Americano improvising artists also inherit a tradition of musical forms which act to 'architect' our collaborative improvisational musics into songs, mostly centered for storytelling and dancing.

Over the last century or so, we've used these structures to support an evolution of individual improvisation through the generations, and have creatively evolved the improvising soloist as a main feature within our musics. Combining our own individual soloist's energies into band of like minded artists, that unmistakable sense of 'taking chances improv' energizes performances, creating that sense of 'newness' for players and listeners alike each time around, all glued together by the blues.

Preservation of cultures and musics. That the scope of Essentials Of Modern Guitar is designed to include enough information so that in 1000 years, future cats might come along and want to recreate the original blues of Americana, then jazz it up and then make some rock and roll, write silly pop songs for their lovers and even get their ya ya's out.

So we include in this opus, the math of how the pitches get tuned, which ones can make chords, where the frets go, how pitches get rubbed together to make the blues, how to make time swing and get toes tappin', make the smiles happenin' and get the dancers up on the dance floor. From the science of the pitches to evolving a newer modern pitch portal pathway for their journeys, EMG knits the theories for an Americana music story.

"You put your hand to the plow, you finish the row."
wiki ~ Alice Paul

References. References for this page's information comes from school, books and the bandstand and made way easier by the folks along the way.

References academia Alaska. And when you need university level answers to your questions and musings, and especially if you are considering a career in music and looking to continue your formal studies, begin to e-reach out to the Alaska University Music Campus communities and begin a dialogue with some of Alaska's own and finest resident maestros !

'I was obliged to be industrious. Whoever is equally industrious will succeed equally well.'

J. S. Bach 1685-1750

'Invest yourself in everything you do. There's fun in being serious.'

John Coltrane 1926-1967