~ starting music school ~

~ just the nuts and bolts of it, mostly :)

'energize your own learning in life through education, exploration and discovery ...'

 

 

In a nutshell. Simply to help super brand new theorists start their learning pathway to understanding their music by picking up a couple of solid rudiments that will apply to all of our Americana musics. Along the way we use musical vocabulary words that we all can share in common that create keyword links to new discussions on other pages.

So based on your curiosities and what you need to create your musics, create your pathway forward, stopping in route as necessary to rote learn everything along the way. Remember too that a 'top to bottom' working through of any page in this entire book, is an organized and proper way to proceed also. And if we wander too far ... there's that 'e' book magic in the back button :)

"Not all those who wander are lost."
wiki ~ Tolkien

Home ~ away ~ home. I learned this a couple of decades ago now at an elementary school I was visiting. The teacher had a song about our own feelings of our 'home', sounded out by a 'C' major chord. A 'G7' chord was next, representing our travels 'away' from our home, to which we return. Sequenced thus, a true core of all music is revealed. Example 1.

Ah, the adventures of venturing forth, followed by sense of arrival back, in musical sounds. A starting point for all departures in understanding our musics. Musicians in the know surely know that wherever we go, we will always have a home within our own hearts with our musics. And that the more we can share our music with others, the more global our 'home' can be :)

Nut in shell / phrasing. That we have the components to speak and write words to express emotion, in music, we have the same range of emotional expression with the sounds of music. And like our expressions in letters and words, in our notes and phrases we can convey any thought, any stream of emotions, any sort of nuance. We just need to consciously remember to do it and also of course, figure out how :)

That once pitches are physically under the fingers, the the 'art of phrasing' evolves. A super conscious effort to connect the dots between our heart ~ head ~ hands, one pitch at a time and forward. Sing the pitch in all its emotion, find that expressive on your git. Sing and play.

In the Americana musics, we get to complicate this process by 'making up these ideas' as we go along. To improvise. Through practice, we each strengthen this process. So one part of our tasking, if we choose to take up the challenge, is to develop our ability to think and express our emotions in our music.

So while making up the music as it goes along, 'improvising' it as we say, to think of expressing the joy in your heart, some mystery or sadness, a poignant frieze to the longing of begging, to straight up 'happy' right on through to contentment,

Luckily, improvisation study is simply both preparation, preparation and preparation. We add a dash of luck and show up to perform with musicians who have also been preparing to improvise. We combine our musical voices to express our emotional, choosing songs, or writing ones if needed, that fit the mood and tells our stories.

Pretty simple really. Yet, how you phrase is unique and yours. An artistic signature that only you own. And only you can decide whether to share. When you do your listeners might empathize with your musical voice, and the more they do, the more your musical voice becomes your way into the communities of all peoples.

musical phrasing = express our emotions in music :)

"The only place where success comes before work is in the dictionary."
wiki ~ Vincent Lombardi

Perfectly closed loops of pitches. This next idea of 'loops' is really an easy way to get our arms completely around our understanding of music. That however we group up the pitches, if we extend its sequencing long enough, we'll always arrive back to our starting letter name pitch. Always? Yep, always.

Seems crazy with all of the various musics we've had over the millennia but in theory, this is the law. For example, here's our basic alphabet loop of musical letters to name seven of our pitches. Example 1.

A B C D E F G A B C D E ...

So just like in our alphabet, when we get to 'Z' we've run out of letters and back to the top we go. In music it is even easier as we only go to 'G', gee. 'A to G', easy :) Recognize these on the piano keys? Example 1a.

How many loops of this 'A to A' do we get at the piano? Measured in octaves (A to A) , as many as seven octaves on many a pianos and even modern keyboard instruments. That's a lot of pitches, range and combinations. Oh, and octave? New term? Read on :)

All based on the perfection of sound. In our AmerEuro musics, its architecture is all based on the idea of an 'aural perfection of musical sound.' From this start point of pitch, we create our combinations of two pitches. These notes we can measure, and become our 'perfect' intervals. The idea of an interval is between two things yes? In our case are musical pitches.

We've three perfect intervals; the octave, perfect 5th and its inverse the perfect 4th. Octaves are the same letter name so no 'inverting' necessary. That an interval up a 5th creates the same letter name pitches as an interval down a 4th. Examine the pitches from our root pitch 'C.' Count the letter names on your fingers.

Up a perfect 5th; A up to E; A B C D E.

Down a perfect 4th; A down to E; A G F E.

Here's the notation. Example 2.

Ever count the lines and spaces on the staff as numbers ? Another first? Right on !

Aural perfection. This idea of aural perfection gives us a basis to build upon. It is determined by how smoothly two pitches aurally meld themselves together. The octave interval is most perfect sounding, thus becomes the basis of our whole theory tamale. While today, there's a few ways to scientifically measure this, back in the days when smart folks started up our music theory, they did it all by ear. 'Let your ear be the guide.'

wiki ~ aural / hearing

And the natural half steps. Thinking of the letter name alphabet pitches, we can use the piano to locate the 'built right in' half step intervals of our relative major / natural minor group of pitches. Notice the '2 / 3' occurrence of the black key groupings? Know what interval lives between this sequence? Between 'E' and 'F' and 'B' and 'C?' If you know or guessed the half step, cool. If not just rote learn it right now for it never changes :) Examine a pic of the keys of most any piano we might ever bump into. Example 3.

Look familiar? Cool. Find these pitches and run them right to left so downward in pitch and find some of your own melodies and motifs to sequence. These pitches are the as 'old as the hills' ones, for near as we might figure for certain. The key of 'C' major and 'A' minor are easy, using just the white keys at the piano, thus no need for any accidentals. The black key pitches are for the 'Gb' pentatonic major and 'Eb' pentatonic minor colors. The remaining key centers we'll need the sharps ( # ) and flats ( b ) to place the half steps in their exact spots and work their magic.

The natural half steps and the chromatic nature of our guitars. So built right into our gits are the half steps throughout. For each fret measures off a half step of the strings to give us the chromatic scale on every string. Examine the following illustration and click on it to hear it some of the chromatic color. Example 3a.

Try and sing along with the pitches. Recognize that bit of melody at the close of the line?

wiki ~ entrance of the gladiators

Need to learn the letter names of the pitches? Easy do. Start with the open strings and work it all from there. Ever jumble up their letters? 'E, A, D, G, B, high 'E?' All kinds of coolness with these pitches of course. The open 'G' major triad might be tops, the 'G, B and D' notes.

And yea, the chromatic color is for wizards. Learning the rest of the pitches takes some work for sure. From the graphic we see that the two outside strings have the same letters. Then just four strings to go. Separated by two octaves, these 1st and 6th string pitches give us the handy reference points. Is knowing the letter names of the pitches akin to knowing the alphabet letters when making words? Yep, sure is. Just begin to rote learn them, even ASAP, and then have them forevermore :) Anything happen special after the 12th fret ?

Not reading music notation yet? No worries at all. Start right now :) For in an 'e' cyberbook the written musical examples play back what notation is written. So a solid pairing of notation and playing by ear built right in. Use the string grid and the lower staff tab to help locate the pitches. Know this melody yet ? Example 4.

Recognize the line? Cool. Under the fingers by ear? Does reading help ? Sing and play wins the day :)

A second way to jump-start improving our reading skills is to begin to clap the rhythms of written music as notated. This helps to train the keep the eye moving, a very key part of the process; keep the eyes moving. With practice, the note symbols become rote. And reading is just like learning most things, just a matter of wanting to do it and teaching ourselves how. Count it off and clap out the following line. Example 4a.

Cool? So a couple of ways into the reading. Huge pile of 'undiscovered' music for those that get familiar enough with a treble clef to sort things out. Why, even just the music written for the flute has got to be a couple of feet high. Its music goes back 500 years ... and so does written guitar music for that matter :)

So the magic of this book makes our learning here quite modern all around. Knowing the letter names of the lines and spaces of the treble clef staff, the five horizontal lines with a treble clef is an of itself huge knowledge when starting out. Here is the treble staff and letter names. Example 4b.

wiki ~ mensural notation
'G' / treble clef
treble clef lines and spaces

Just rote learn the letter names on the staff. Most of the examples in this book are in are in 'C' major / 'A' minor.' These key centers hold the pitches of the white keys on a piano. So no accidentals, no sharps (#) or flats (b). For in writing music that is to be read it is often said that; whatever way to notate our music, that makes it easiest to read, is always a good place to start. Examine the letters of the relative keys 'C major and A natural minor.' Example 4c.

Familiar? Cool. No? Next time near a piano try them out. Not uncommon to push a bit past the staff lines in both directions, to notate the pitches. As 'C' is a main note for our discussions and music in general, here's its expanded notation using ledger lines, just abbreviated lines that follow the loop of letter names for the high and low notes. Example 4d.

Quick review. Set in stone theory here? Yep. Global too nowadays. This should get you started on the road to reading. Rote learn the symbols and over time their recognition can and will become second nature. Just work at it and don't quit. Learning to hand clap out the rhythms of written notation is oftentimes the first step in understanding the rhythm part of reading notation. Just do it a bit everyday and it'll happen for you.

Seven steps to Parnassus. This idea goes back to the ancient Greeks, some of whose ideas started on us on this understanding our music journey. Parnassus is a mountain in Greece on who's top a grand tribute is built to the wisdom and intellect of these peoples and their spiritual and philosophical aspirations. The seven steps are the levels of knowledge one ascends to acquire a wide spectrum of wisdom to further build upon.

And while our understanding of our music is hopefully ever growing and evolving, a sort of puzzle whose pieces can often refit together a number of ways, having a big picture of our resources and organizing systems creates an inner 'thought structure', a personal framework for organizing our knowledge. So as new ideas come along throughout our careers, we can tie it into our existing information, building up our knowledge base for immediate recall when needed.

For whether you perform, produce, arrange, write and record, or for now just hang with those who do, these skills and their theory should make you a stronger player and contributing asset to your artistic teams.

The seven steps. Take each in turn, rote learn their basics and take their vocabulary quiz to seal the deal.

Mt. Parnassus, Alaska.

And upon arrival ? And upon reach the pinnacle of Parnassus? To collect a 'rock from the top ... ' as some say ... that we are simply able to play anything we can hear. In music, mine and merry :) Up a half step? Sure. And ... be able to read and write it all out.

Super theory game changers. Ah the game changers, those nuggets of knowledge that can shift in a blink whole paradigms of understanding. Here we liken them to the steps of the mind mountain we aspire to ascend, upon whose top lives written in stone, the understanding of our own music. This 'start' page is chock full of 'em.

Some 'changers' are nuts and bolts theory and others are in artistic perspective. The nuts and bolts stuff should be rote learned, thus committed to memory for quick recall. For this knowledge is mostly a just dozen symbols or so placed in their unique magical orders. We rote learn the streams of these symbols. And given the improv nature of our Americana musics, creating music from memory, we'll be sure glad we did.

The art perspective changers are probably just more like 'food for thought.' For while they too are theory based, they are 'opinion theory based', which may raise some eyebrows I'd imagine. Just use what works to expand your dreams, your ability to focus on your music to further your work. Stay hungry for more, always stay hungry for your learning.

For we each will end up building 'one game changer upon another', their way stacking and placement based on how we learn and what we already know. Purely natural that our own understanding of music will evolve as we work at it. When new ideas evolve, share them with your fellow musicians and see what they think.

Learn melodies. Playing a real melody that we might already know is a great place to start. If you got a git tune it up regular. No git yet? Just sing along. Know this melody yet? "Shortnin"? Goes way way back into our Americana. In C, here's the 'hook' of the line. Example 5.

Just the four bars? Yep, easiest place to start, with a four bar phrase. We see that a lot of these in our music. Riff on that scale shape up and down the neck a bit, for this is the center shape of what was once termed the 'box' scales, might still be too. Cool? Here's another possible 'game changer' for understanding your music.

Three in one; scale / arpeggio / chord. The basis of our Americana music flows from the relationships between which pitches we group up together and how we sound them out. As theorists we can think of a 'group of pitches' from which we can create scales, arpeggios and chords. Thus we can create a scale, an arpeggio and chords from the same group of pitches. These become the diatonic core building blocks of all our musics.

In this next idea, we change key centers and use the group of pitches that form the 'G' major scale. Guitarists love the 'G' / 'E' minor key pairing for the way their pitches lay out on the guitar's fretboard. This layout, covering a full 12 frets, becomes the basis for the jazz guitar method included in this text. Dig this super game changer of evolution; scale / arpeggio / chord. Ex 6.

Cool with this bit of the puzzle? Same pitches, so all diatonic. Reconfigured to create the three main components for our composing palette. Guitar is the rare instrument that gets all three possibilities. Plus, we can bend strings, the pitch of a note. What's not to love :)

Please rote learn. That the pitches of a scale are sequenced step by step. These steps are the half step, one fret, and whole step interval, a two fret span. Arpeggios are created by skipping every other pitch of the scale. Known as a 'leap', these wider 'skipping' intervals are how we measure the distance between an arpeggio's pitches. Known as '3rd's', they are either major or minor.

So we simply skip a scale step between each of the scale pitches to build arpeggios? Yep, arpeggios become 'every other pitch' of a sequence of scale notes / letters. And chords? In creating chords, we simply divide up an arpeggio's pitches into groups of three, four, even five pitches or more. We stack them up one atop one another, and sound them together as a chord. Next, examine the evolution of stepwise scale letter name pitches into arpeggio skips of thirds in chart form. Example 6a.

steps
.
1
1
1/2
1
1
1
1/2
G major scale
G
A
B
C
D
E
F#
G
leaps
.
maj 3
min 3
maj 3
min 3
min 3
maj 3
min3
G major arpeggio
G
B
D
F#
A
C
E
G

Understanding this evolution of our musical components from scale into arpeggio into chords can be a game changer for so many us. They form a perfectly closed loop of pitches. As such, any one pitch can become a start point creating its own center of gravity and corresponding scale, arpeggio and chords. These we commonly call the modes. If you're a jazz leaning artist reading here, and are looking to play through chord changes, and are challenged spelling chords, this scale / arpeggio / chord evolution is a solid key to acquire. And next up? Why, another stgc'r of course :)

Americana time. This next sequence of ideas form the basis of how we motor our Americana musics along. There's a couple of key skills knitted together to create a basis for understanding Americana time. Learn them here if need be please.

Time, timing, tempo, rhythms, a groove, a feel etc., are all terms we use to describe the flow of our music as it moves through measurable time. Clearly found in the 'walking along' of marching band music, three essential beats / rhythms have historically combined to base and create our Americana musical time. These are; the big four, the accenting of the 2nd and 4th beats of the big 4, and the triplet figure, which places notes together into groups of three and creates the Amer ~ Euro gallop.

Once we understand the big four beat of four quarter notes per measure, so much Americana music becomes possible. Known as 4/4 time, it is the same 'boom boom boom boom' pulse found throughout all of the world's music. Back in the 1880's or so and then forward, some of our Americana styles of music started to accent the 2 and 4 beats. Once there's this 'backbeat' feel in the big four, any sort of triplet starts the Americana swing in motion. And the rest as they say, 'is history.' :) R. O. !

Counting measures of a four bar phrase. In this first idea about time, count so that the first number in each group corresponds along with the appropriate measure. Example 7.

1 2 3 4 / 2 2 3 4 / 3 2 3 4 / 4 2 3 4 and repeat ...

Cool? This is how we count measures. Say this last sequence aloud a couple of times and you'll have it forever. Use if for any length of phrase or music form. Here measure counting for a 12 bar blues. Example 7a.

1 2 3 4 / 2 2 3 4 / 3 2 3 4 / 4 2 3 4

5 2 3 4 / 6 2 3 4 / 7 2 3 4 / 8 2 3 4

9 2 3 4 / 10 2 3 4 / 11 2 3 4 / 12 2 3 4

And back to the top. Cool? Do this exercise a couple of times and you'll own 12 bar blues forever.

So is everything in Americana music a four bar phrase? Well maybe not but don't be too surprised how true this might turn out to be. Thankfully we can always go to the radio and check in, see what length of phrases are rockin' the airwaves. Tune on in to any Americana station and snap fingers or clap along on the 2 and 4 beats, and just keep counting along. Look to find the beginning of each phrase as '1 2 3 4, 2 2 34 etc. And use this simple method to count any number of measures in 4/4 time.

For the triplet, find a three syllable word, one for each of the three eighth notes. 'Trip-a-let' works fine; 'van-nil-la' and 'choc-co-lat' and 'straw-ber-ry' too :) Example 7b.

Feel the pulse from 2 and 4? Cool with the snapping your fingers along? If so then you're creating the pocket and groove of all Americana, and congratulations. It's also a fine way to count things off with the band. And how about the triplet? Feel a bit of the gallop that makes it seem to jump a bit? The gallop is in the Americana DNA here. Creating the gallop leads to feeling the pull of swing. Just take your time and enjoy this discovery, for it is a building block for a lifelong pursuit of time.

The easy part, what swing is. Tis quite a challenge to teach someone how to swing. There's just so many individual moving parts plus, we each swing our own unique way. Teaching someone what swing is, well that's just a lot easier, a horse of a different color. And the easiest way to teach it? Is to create a way for someone to create and bodily feel the physical effects of 'swing.'

The pull of swing. Click on Franz and count yourself into the clicks, finding 2 and 4 with your snaps. Do this by simply saying '1' before each click. So, 'one / click / one / click.' Do this for a spell and then add your finger snaps to the clicks. So, '1 / snap / 1 / snap / 1 / snap.' Now your finger snaps are on the 2 and 4 beats and we're moving through real time :) We're now actually grooving along 'in the pocket' so please ... don't stop :)

Now, try to wait and hold back your snaps a bit. Be 'late' to each of the clicks. Keep this going for a bit. Feel some pull in the time? That pull is swing. Want to swing harder? Then try to wait longer to snap your fingers on the clicks. The feeling of the 'pull' gets stronger yes? Wait too long and fall off the 'back' of the beat? Oh well that happens :) Just figure out a way back into the pocket and commence a swinging on :) Here's Franz, set at 60, to provide some clicks to lean into.

Feel it? Cool. So that sense of a physical, bodily 'pull' between the unaccented beats, 1 and 3, and the accented beats of 2 and 4, is the essence of what Americana swing is, and how it physically feels to an artist as the musical time moves along. Now all we have to do is to figure out how to harness the 'pull' and work it into playing our notes and rhythms on our guitars. R.O. !

R.O. !

Now the hard part. Feel the pull? That's the physical sensation of swing. Easy. The hard part? That each of us must figure out how to create this sense of 'pull' in our own musics, our sense of time, rhythms et all. We still must physically 'push the buttons' to recreate this sensation of 'pulling' or 'stretching' musical time and ... mix it into the groove around us. This is one solid reason that we jam with other cats, or a super solid reason to work with a metronome etc., we get real musical time to lean right on into.

So does it make you smile when you find the clicks and 'pull' back on your snaps ? Cool, and no surprise there. Swing is a very pure joy :) You, me and everyone it reaches digs swing's joyful magic! We got to pause here to thank Mr. Louis Armstrong, credited with swing's discovery and invention ! So join with Louis and find this physical sense of pull to interpret melodies and bring it with your rhythms to share with all and be truly truly golden forevermore :)

wiki ~ Louis Armstrong

It's all in our syllables, the easy part II. Forgetting the lyrics of the song for the moment and any personal embarrassment for what's to follow here, an easy easy sure way into internalizing the pull of swing is to simply sing melody lines, and get those to swing. For if I swing when I sing, I got it. For if I swing when I sing, I got it. For if I swing when I sing, I got it.

Then I just have to figure out how to transfer the way I sing and swing a melody and make those sounds on my axe. 'If I swing when I sing then I know it's a thing :)' So, the syllables we sing are a first key to unlock this pure time magic of swing and begin an evolution of our whole musical being. To start, turn the syllables such as ...

... te te te ... into ... twee twee twee ... or ...

... de de de ... into dwee dwee dwee ... :)

The more staccato 'te' and 'de' gain some legato in 'twee' and 'dwee.' In doing so we get a little less definition in the syllable, but gain some wiggle time to negotiate the swing. We each find our own way in all of this, and how we scat sing is a refection of our artistic signature, who we are and what we bring. The 'negotiate' part is all about creating the feel of swing with other musical artists. Just listen close, sing your swing and play it :)

So, back to the drawing board. Have you found a few melodies from way back in your own life history yet? Remember the first melodies ya learned as a kid? Lots of great old melodies included here. Find one, for if we swing when we sing then all we need to do is figure out how to transfer over to the strings of my guitar. Sing the line , play the line? Exactly.

The gallop. Just turns out that there's a couple of extra tricks we have to get things grooving in a swing feel. Along with the triplet, the gallop, as its name implies, is a rhythm that once set in motion, has a way of creating a sense of forward motion in time. We here borrow the lick from the classical book, the "William Tell' overture by Rossini. Here in 'C' major. Example 8.

Wiki ~ Rossini

Feel that sense of motion? Cool. If new to all this, may take a while to figure out how to get this motion into your lines. Knowing it exists is a first step to discovering a magic of musical time, rhythms and motion.

The 'chickadee' boom and the zero wiggle. Ever heard of this lick? It's old school for sure and more for bass lines, but is just too cool not to mention here also when starting out. For some, it'll be the game changer for getting their lines to swing, and swing harder and harder, once your ideas are already getting up off the ground, gettin' some air as they say. Cboom is the bowstring :)

The 'chick a dee' is clearly a funny, three syllable word that we can easily apply to the three notes of the triplet rhythm figure. We use it to create a sense of forward motion and accent towards the downbeat of any measure, leaving zero wiggle as to where the music is going. Here in a walking bass line, super cliche chictyboom motion to Four. Example 9.

Sense that motion to Four ? Cool. If U B new to all this, may take a while to figure out how to get this motion into your lines. Knowing it exists is always a solid first step to discovering a magic of musical time, rhythms and motion. Here we kick the 'boom boom boom ... ' of the big 4 off with one off with a 'chictyboom' from way back. Example 9a.

Sounds like an intro to a slow blues huh? Yea, sure does. Just another way to spice up our Americana lines.

Hear the real deal. Now to create some 'time' closure for this 'start' discussion. Flip the switch on a radio and spin your radio dial to any AM or FM station and find some sort of rockin' poppin Americana music and listen in. In any Americana music on the airwaves, there's a super good chance that there's the 2 and 4 pop in the mix, usually on the snare drum. Snap your fingers on the 2 and 4 and count along; 1 2 3 4, 2 2 3 4 etc.

Once you've found the pocket, have counted in and found its 2 and 4 pulse, click along for a spell. With your 'locked in' snaps / claps on 2 and 4, begin to hold back on your 2 and 4 against the clicks off the radio. Feel the pull? Cool. No? Keep trying, for it's there somewhere :)

Feel the pull? Cool. But wait ... :) The radio is playing a rock tune. Exactly. Creating this pull in a rock groove is often termed the 'big beat.' From the Doors of the 60's on through to Eddie in the 90's, the big beat rocks the house. And in a sense it's the same swing, same sort of 'late pulling' on 2 and 4 that can live in all our styles. Oh, and don't forget the accent :) For many of us, ya just can't accent 2 and 4 too much :) So rock swings too?

Now spin the dial to the next station with music and repeat the process. Find 2 and 4 in the mix and snap or clap your hands along. Count some measures, look for the beginning of the four bar phrases. Most times there's a fill of sorts to mark their end / beginning point. Determine a style? Can you feel the 2 and 4? Create the swing in this style too? Hold back on your snaps? Feel the pull against the 2 and 4?

Off to the next station, same process. Anytime there's a 2 and 4 and we snap along we'll find the swing right nearby. It might be subtle or might be wide, we might have to make it up ourselves too, but with the 2 and 4 pulse in 4 / 4 time we easily can. Any style? Yea pert near any style will swing.

Spin to the Euro classical music station. And sure enough, the 2 and 4 vanishes. Poof. Gone. Crazy huh? Yea there's like zero 2 and 4 in classical music. In this library of music, beats 1 and 3 rule the day. Ever see them cats count off a thing by snapping their fingers on 2 and 4? Nope? Well neither has anyone else probably, because that's not their thing. No 2 and 4? No swing. Simple as that. In 3/4? Yes, later :)

Teach any legit player to snap their fingers on 2 and 4 of a big 4 beat and at least they'll have a way in to getting into swing time. Some historians will say that back in the 1880's it was legit players, who socially pushed out of their legit work and into the honky tonks, that birthed the ragtime style which became jass, which became jazz forevermore. And ragtime is some very serious music requiring some very serious chops to even contemplate performing, let alone compose and arrange.

So on then to the next radio station of Americana music and guess what's back? Right, an accented 2 and 4 has returned to create the core dance in all of our Americana musics. For in all our Americana styles, there's a subtle to obvious 2 and 4 pop, that basic beat that brings the swing and usually fills the dance floor :)

Last, practice counting off music in 4/4 time. Find the tempo of your song. Adjust your inner tempo to the clicks of a metronome. Make the clicks the 2 and 4. Simply verbally count a '1' before the click. So, '1' / click, '1' / click, '1' / click etc. Then verbally add in 2 and 4 for the clicks. Count it in to start. Here's Franz for some clicks. Example 10.

Quick review. These musical time ideas and exercises are some giant steps to master for the newly minted theorist. Hopefully in just trying them out you'll know what swing feels like. A first step to mastery of its magics. Getting your music to swing is now all about how you work it, transferring what you feel into your rhythm expressions. Working with a radio or having real clicks to lean into, unlocks the secrets of 2 and 4.

Diatonic, the key word. Diatonic, just one of a couple of ways to refer to one of our very oldest Americana melody maker group of pitches. Major scale, Ionian mode, relative major / minor are a few other ways. Remember this winter holiday melody? Here in E major, and all pitches sounded on our top string. Examine the diatonic letter name pitches and corresponding numerical equivalents for 'E' major. Example 11.

scale # degrees
8
7
6
5
4
3
2
1
E major scale
E
D#
C#
B
A
G#
F#
E

Sound familiar? Cool. Only these seven pitches are diatonic to the key center of 'E' major. The octave '8' the perfect closure. This is great line to run through the 12 major keys. Ever done that? Run one major key melody through all 12 major key centers ? Oh and, nice to have a melody line on just the one string :)

Rule of thumb. In this work, in discussing the theories of Americana music, the basis of all is this term diatonic. Harvard Brief describes diatonic as originating from the Greeks, and meaning 'through the tones.' These tones for us today are the 7 / seven pitches of the diatonic scale, leaving five remaining pitches of our original 12.

The idea of 'diatonic' bases all of our theory in thought and process as it defines any one pitch, arpeggio or chord within a key center. Once we know its root source, we can sort out even the jumbliest jumbles of pitches to understand where they come from and their relationships to one another in the music under scrutiny.

We can simply ask 'what key center is this pitch (es) diatonic to.' From there we untangle and build. Nine out of ten times in most Americana musics our pitches are diatonic to the key of the music, from a closely related key center or simply adding in a bit of the blue hue spice of coolness.

So we only have 12 different letter name pitches? Yep, in our theory musings we've only get the 12. Of course we generally get a couple of octaves usually but historically, that was not always the case. Know of these 12 pitches, and can you find identify them on your ax and or at a piano keyboard? Example 11a.

Why this plays so heavily right out of the gate is due to the near and ever present influence of the blue notes in the Americana sounds we love. And these essential blue notes are also the remaining five pitches of our total of 12? Exactly. And are they diatonic? No they are not diatonic to a key center as defined just above. We theorists 'borrow them' to jazz up and bluesify the seven diatonic pitches in innumerable ways.

A problem? No, not at all and really only my problem in trying to describe the nuts, bolts and art of the music in theoretical terms. But as long as you're hip to the idea of diatonic, and what it implies, all is groovy in Theoryville. Part of what makes American music so wonderful from a historical / global / enjoyment perspective is the artful blending and ofttimes continual improvisational merging of the seven diatonic pitches with the five blue ones. This all created by artists making new art in the moment.

Our dear ancestor's music from across the pond to the east, often termed European classical music, has historically been diatonic. Every pitch in any music 'theory assignable' to a diatonic key center or borrowed from one. Any real blue notes rubbed over a diatonic harmony? No. Any backbeat accent on 2 and 4 to swell the pulse and open up the groove to swing? No. At least in our Americana sense. Any improv to speak of? No. Yet this European influence becomes the basis of all of our Americana harmony. How?

Anything to do with tuning the pitches, and building up of these pitches into chords, historically originates from Europe. Throughout our discussions I call this seven pitch diatonic / five pitch blue note combination the 'blues rub.' We'll feel it again and again as we learn to understand the relationships of combining these two groups of pitches in our music.

Learn to spell triads / chords. So you're thinking that learning to spell chords might get you another step along to your own private Parnassum? Cool. We at Essentials do too :) For many reading here, developing the ability to quickly and accurately spell any chord becomes the basis of their theory knowledge. Begin to master this skill now if need be and the rote learn the results; to spell out the letter pitches of any triad or chord. (P.s., its easy )

Pick a song find its key. Most songs we have are created in a key center with a set group of pitches that we use to create its melody, arpeggios and chords. These pitches we term 'diatonic.' Most often its the seven pitch relative major / minor group of pitches. These are the same pitches we use to spell its triads / chords. For by relating a triad to a key center, we quickly get its basic pitches and negotiate the rest from there. So, we picked "Oh Susanna" for our song in the key of 'C' major? Cool, let's build up our triad spelling chart.

Scale degree. So from the above discussion of diatonic we begin anew with seven pitches, upon each of which we can build a diatonic triad. That in each and any key center we can number the letter name pitches of our chosen, parent scale. We call these our scale degrees.

Mostly one (1) through (8), which gives us our octave closure, we then simply fill in whatever letter name pitches of the key center we choose. Will these same 1 through 8 numbers apply as scale degrees to any of our 12 major / minor key centers? Yep. And if you understand this ya just got a bingo :) Examine the ascending numbers of our scale degrees. Example 12.

scale # degrees
1
2
3
4
5
6
7
8

Apply letter name pitches. Cool? Easy do yes? When we theorize within a key center, we can use these numerical designations to locate what we're talking about. Do these numbers also represent our root pitches for chord progressions as in One, Four and Five? Yes these are those numbers too. Let's add in the letters that represent the notes of our chosen key center. We're thinking 'C' major here yes? Example 12a.

scale # degrees
1
2
3
4
5
6
7
8
C major scale
C
D
E
F
G
A
B
C

Ah, recognize the diatonic pitches of 'C' major? And again the octave closure One through Eight. No loose ends allowed :) So now we've a corresponding number with a letter name for a pitch. So when cats talk about the first scale degree of 'C' major the pitch is 'C.' Sixth scale degree is 'A.' The third scale degree is 'E' etc., this is how it all makes sense. Cool? Surely rote memorize this number / pitch relationship. Got a hankering to master this? Write out and rote memorize this chart for our 12 major key centers. Minor key centers too? Sure, works the exact same way so why not.

Add arpeggio numbers / arpeggio degrees. Just like adding numbers to scale degrees, we can add numbers to our arpeggios too. We can simply call these our arpeggio degrees. These numbers open up our chord spelling abilities. We spell our chords in thirds, meaning we need to simply skip every other note in our stepwise scale. In doing so we create an arpeggio.

So do we skip every other number in our scale to create the arpeggio? Yep, but there's a twist in this as we ascend past and expand our octave closure interval to two full octaves. Really? Yep, we need two full octaves to work this chord spelling magic. Problems? Nope we do this all the time in our theory musings. Examine the new set of numbers. Example 12b.

scale # degrees
1
2
3
4
5
6
7
8
C major scale
C
D
E
F
G
A
B
C
arpeggio # degrees
1
3
5
7
9
11
13
15

Exact same letters right ? Yep. So is this the source of the '1, 3, 5 of triads ?' Sure is. And 1, 3, 5 are the numericals for building the triads? Roger that Amigo. Let's add in the arpeggio letter names to our scale degree chart. Example 12c.

scale # degrees
1
2
3
4
5
6
7
8
C major scale
C
D
E
F
G
A
B
C
arpeggio # degrees
1
3
5
7
9
11
13
15
C major arpeggio
C
E
G
B
D
F
A
C

Clear as mud? Skipped every other letter of the scale to create the arpeggio. See the looping in the pitches of the octave closure? Can you imagine a 'C' between the 'B' and 'D' of the '7 and 9' numbers of the arpeggio? Is that where we get into the second octave? Sure is. Cool with this and you be golden, as they say in some parts.

Rote learn. Just a suggestion here but consider rote learning the letter names of the 'C' major scale and then respelling these pitches into its arpeggio format. And in some ways, speed counts. Rote learn it so that you can spell the letters out in the blink of an eye, or two shakes of a lamb's tail if you live agrarian. Fast? Fast. Leaning towards jazz and soloing through chord changes? Run this bit through the 12 major key centers.

Chord quality / Roman numerals. In our next line of our triad spelling chart we layer in Roman numerals. Luckily with these we get two varieties; upper and lower case, just like our capitol or lower case letters. We theory scientists use these two varieties to designate whether our triad is major or minor in its aural color. Again back to the 'one through eight' sequence, examine the designations of our diatonic triads. Example 12d.

scale # degrees
1
2
3
4
5
6
7
8
C major scale
C
D
E
F
G
A
B
C
arpeggio # degrees
1
3
5
7
9
11
13
15
C major arpeggio
C
E
G
B
D
F
A
C
chord # / quality
I
ii
iii
IV
V
vi
vii
VIII

From the Roman numerals it looks like we get a few major triads and a few minor triads within each key center. Yep. Is this the legendary diatonic '3 and 3?' Sure is. Legendary in that 95 out of a 100 Americana songs are based on these six chords. And many of these don't even get to all six, but use just three. 'Three chords and the truth?' Yep. Three chords and the truth.

Let's spell the triads. So this chart works like this. We decide which chord we want to spell in the key center of 'C' major. Find that note as a scale degree. Then find that letter name note in the arpeggio which becomes the root pitch / 1 / One of the chord. We then read to the right to find its 3rd and 5th, completing the three notes of our triad. Let's spell the triad built on One in the key of 'C' major. Example 12e.

scale # degrees
1
2
3
4
5
6
7
8
C major scale
C
D
E
F
G
A
B
C
arpeggio # degrees
1
3
5
7
9
11
13
15
C major arpeggio
C
E
G
B
D
F
A
C
chord # / quality
I
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
diatonic triad
CEG
.
.
.
.
.
.
.

Cool? Rocket science this is surely not but it is surely a potential game changer for our intellectual evolutions in understanding our musics. So the triad built on the 1st scale degree of the key of 'C' major is a major triad spelt 'C, E, G / 1 3 5 / a root, a 3rd and a 5th.

Spell the triad built on Two. So in spelling Two, we need a root, 3rd and 5th. Examine the chart. Ex. 12f.

scale # degrees
1
2
3
4
5
6
7
8
C major scale
C
D
E
F
G
A
B
C
arpeggio # degrees
.
.
.
.
1
3
5
.
C major arpeggio
C
E
G
B
D
F
A
C
chord # / quality
.
ii
.
.
.
.
.
.
diatonic triad
.
D F A
.
.
.
.
.
.

What? See how we moved the arpeggio degree numbers so that the #1 is above the letter name of the root pitch of the triad we're wanting to spell? Magic revealed? Magic revealed. Try for the Three chord?

Spell the triad built on Three. So in spelling Three, we need a root, 3rd and 5th. Examine the chart. Ex. 12g.

scale # degrees
1
2
3
4
5
6
7
8
C major scale
C
D
E
F
G
A
B
C
arpeggio # degrees
.
1
3
5
.
.
.
.
C major arpeggio
C
E
G
B
D
F
A
C
chord # / quality
.
.
iii
.
.
.
.
.
diatonic triad
.
.
E G B
.
.
.
.
.

Again we need to slide our arpeggios degree numbers to designate our 3rd scale degree as the root / One of the triad. The rest is a breeze n'est-ce pas?

Spell the triad built on Four. So in spelling Four, we need a root, 3rd and 5th. Examine the chart. Ex. 12h.

scale # degrees
1
2
3
4
5
6
7
8
C major scale
C
D
E
F
G
A
B
C
arpeggio # degrees
.
.
.
.
.
1
3
5
C major arpeggio
C
E
G
B
D
F
A
C
chord # / quality
.
.
.
IV
.
.
.
.
diatonic triad
.
.
.
F A C
.
.
.
.

Spell the triad built on Five. So in spelling Five, we need a root, 3rd and 5th. Examine the chart. Ex. 12i.

scale # degrees
1
2
3
4
5
6
7
8
C major scale
C
D
E
F
G
A
B
C
arpeggio # degrees
.
.
1
3
5
.
.
.
C major arpeggio
C
E
G
B
D
F
A
C
chord # / quality
.
.
.
.
V
.
.
.
diatonic triad
.
.
.
.
G B D
.
.
.

Spell the triad built on Six. So in spelling Six, we need a root, 3rd and 5th. Examine the chart. Example 12j.

scale # degrees
1
2
3
4
5
6
7
8
C major scale
C
D
E
F
G
A
B
C
arpeggio # degrees
3
5
.
.
.
.
1
3
C major arpeggio
C
E
G
B
D
F
A
C
chord # / quality
.
.
.
.
.
vi
.
.
diatonic triad
.
.
.
.
.
A C E
.
.

Seems we ran out of chart there. Did you figure out the necessary process? No worries really, we just loop back and keep on spelling. Ancient wisdom says; 'all things music theory always loop back to their starting point for perfect closure.' When we add colortones to jazz up the triads, this will happen as we spell the pitches of the 7th, 9th, 11th, and 13th chords. Cool?

Spell the triad built on Seven. So in spelling Seven, we need a root, 3rd and 5th. Examine the chart. Ex. 12k.

scale # degrees
1
2
3
4
5
6
7
8
C major scale
C
D
E
F
G
A
B
C
arpeggio # degrees
.
.
.
1
3
5
.
.
C major arpeggio
C
E
G
B
D
F
A
C
chord # / quality
.
.
.
.
.
.
vii
.
diatonic triad
.
.
.
.
.
.
B D F
.

Easy enough eh? And Eight takes us right back to where we started. Perfectly closed loop? Yep, perfectly closed. Example 12l.

scale # degrees
1
2
3
4
5
6
7
8
C major scale
C
D
E
F
G
A
B
C
arpeggio # degrees
.
.
.
1
3
5
.
.
C major arpeggio
.
E
G
B
D
F
A
C
chord # / quality
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
VIII
diatonic triad
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
C E G

The whole triad spelling tamale. Putting all of the charts together we can create our official 'essentials' chord spelling chart 'C' major. Example 12m.

rote learn this chart
scale # degrees
1
2
3
4
5
6
7
8
C major scale
C
D
E
F
G
A
B
C
arpeggio # degrees
1
3
5
7
9
11
13
15
C major arpeggio
C
E
G
B
D
F
A
C
chord # / quality
I
ii
iii
IV
V
vi
vii
VIII
diatonic 7th chords
CEG
DFA
EGB
FAC
GBD
ACE
BDF
CEG

Now ain't that a beauty :) Master this chart and how it all works and own it forevermore. Another giant step forward for the emerging theorist. Spelling chords goes right along with improvisation, especially as we move from blues and rock soloing over the changes and into a more jazz approach of 'soloing through the changes.'

This 'through the changes' is the jazz improv stylings that began to happen in the later 30's and forward, as players moved from the melody to the chord progressions of a song, as the basis for their improvised and written melody lines. Arpeggiating the pitches of the chords becomes the way non-chordal instruments; i.e., the horns, can super clearly tell their harmonic story.

For those readers here leaning to jazz, we've a very thin but absolute sure link to Charlie Parker through Jackie McLean, whom a dear friend here in AK had a chance to study with back in the 70's. During a lesson, Mr. McLean wrote this on the music under scrutiny that day in their lesson. Example 12n.

'Spell' is the last of the three words in McLean's own handwriting, and we can just see the D major 7th arpeggio pitches in the measure on the left. So when shedding and sifting through for ideas, simply spelling the chords with his horn, as the changes flow, by is a way to search for and generate new ideas. That's they way Eli explained it to me.

~ super theory game changer ~

Cool with triads? Adding the 7th. We can easily add the 7th to each of our diatonic triads. In doing so we evolve our chords beyond the three note triads that form the basis for traditional folk and country sounds and begin to jazz things up towards the blues, rock and on into pop styles. Easy start with this next chart, we add a 7th to a 'C' major triad. Example 13.

arpeggio # degrees
1
3
5
7
9
11
13
15
C major arpeggio
C
E
G
B
D
F
A
C

Cool? RO! Not cool ? RO! Just reading left to right up the arpeggio pitches yes ? In adding a 7th to a '1 3 5' triad, we open up new pathways to explore. Chord type evolves, additional color tones and chord substitution. Of course our musical styles will most likely transition as we move along this 'adding colortones' pathway.

Once we get a sense of this structural 'type' of chord and create the three essential categories, our whole tamale of mathematically logical, perfectly closed, tuned and balanced system of pitches becomes infinitely more three dimensional. Just by adding a 7th to a major or minor triad? Yep, the 7th pairs with the 3rd and away we go.

Once begun, we have the option to further expand our harmonic palette of colors, think along the lines of creating a parent scale for each chord. We use our chords and their progressions to suggest melodies and improvisations.

So by just adding a 7th to a triad we get this paradigm shift of sorts? Pretty much amigo, adding the 7th is a portal for new colors to add into the mix, creating new ways to express the art in our hearts.

So adding the 7th to each of the diatonic triads is a snap really, as we'll just tack on the next pitch in the arpeggio to the three notes of the triad. Here's the 'tack on' process in bold type for our tonic, One, 'C' major 7th chord. Just like the one above? Yep, but now with all the diatonic extras to make the whole tamale. Example 13a.

scale # degrees
1
2
3
4
5
6
7
8
C major scale
C
D
E
F
G
A
B
C
arpeggio # degrees
1
3
5
7
9
11
13
15
C major arpeggio
C
E
G
B
D
F
A
C
chord # / quality
Imaj7
ii-7
iii-7
IVmaj7
V7
vi-7
vii-7
VIII
diatonic 7th chords
CEGB
DFAC
EGBD
FACE
GBDF
ACEG
BDFA
CEGB

Easy do yes? Here's the chart for spelling out the Two minor 7th chord. Example 13b.

scale # degrees
1
2
3
4
5
6
7
8
C major scale
C
D
E
F
G
A
B
C
arpeggio # degrees
.
.
.
.
1
3
5
7
C major arpeggio
C
E
G
B
D
F
A
C
chord # / quality
Imaj7
ii-7
iii-7
IVmaj7
V7
vi-7
vii-7
VIII
diatonic 7th chords
CEGB
DFAC
EGBD
FACE
GBDF
ACEG
BDFA
CEGB

Easy do yes? Here's the Five 7th chord. Example 13c.

scale # degrees
1
2
3
4
5
6
7
8
C major scale
C
D
E
F
G
A
B
C
arpeggio # degrees
.
.
1
3
5
7
.
.
C major arpeggio
C
E
G
B
D
F
A
C
chord # / quality
Imaj7
ii-7
iii-7
IVmaj7
V7
vi-7
vii-7
VIII
diatonic 7th chords
CEGB
DFAC
EGBD
FACE
GBDF
ACEG
BDFA
CEGB
Cool ? Just spelling chords from arpeggios, arpeggios from scales. Scales are special groups that all form loops. And we do get solid blocks of each of the Two / Five / One voicings / motions, from within our core five scale shapes, which all combined make a path to melodic parnassus.

Quick review. Easy do yes? Same for all of the triads and 7th chords? Yep. In any key? Yep. Major or minor? Yep. Call a tune, pick a key, build up its relative major / minor scale, arpeggiate this scale in thirds, pick your root pitch, locate that pitch and read to the right; 1, 3, 5, 7 and onward to all points beyond.

Spelling chords is all about the 'slide' of the #1 of the arpeggio degrees sequence. We find the root letter name of a chord, this becomes our root pitch, tonic, #1. We then read to the right as we would normally do reading.

' 1 3 5 7 9 11 13 ~ becomes ~ C E G B D F A '

' ~ or ~ '

' C E G B D F A ~ becomes ~ 1 3 5 7 9 11 13 :)

For the other color tones, associated with our fancier chords, 'b9' '#9', '#11' etc., just follow the same process? Exactly, just continue reading letters to the right of the arpeggio beyond 7 for 9, 11, and 13. And adjust the letter name pitch by half step as needed.

~ super theory game changer ~

The diatonic 3 and 3 ~ simply beyond amazing. Everyone reading here probably knows, and if not soon will, that we can build up a chord on each of the seven unique pitches of a major scale. Numbered One through Seven. What's not commonly known it seems, is that the three chords needed to create the One / Four / Five chord progression, for both major and minor, is in these six chords. All within each key center. Examine the letter pitches in the key center of 'C' major. Example 14.

scale # degrees
1
2
3
4
5
6
7
8
C major scale
C
D
E
F
G
A
B
C
1 / 4 / 5 chords
I
.
.
IV
V
.
.
.
root pitches / triads
C E G
.
.
F A C
G B D
.
.
.

And for our relative minor. Ah yes, the perfection of balance and hue from within the ancient loop. Ex. 14a.

scale # degrees
1
2
3
4
5
6
7
8
A minor scale
A
B
C
D
E
F
G
A
1 / 4 / 5 chords
I
.
.
IV
V
.
.
.
root pitches / triads
A C E
.
.
D F A
E G B
.
.
.

So did you already know this? Cool. So what's the kaboom on this? It's a harmony kaboom this time. The One / Four / Five chord progression is the most common basis for our songs. Writer's have called such songs 'three chords and the truth' for a solid handful of decades now. And while any three chords are eligible for this elevated status, the 1 4 5 motions, by far and away, is tops for creating a true 'tcatt' song.

Diatonic harmony in songs. Furthermore, unless we're playing a really jazzed up song, these six diatonic triads combined, the 1 4 5 major triads + 1 4 5 minor triads, in endless combinations, create nearly all the other songs in our Americana songbook. Near all ? Yep, and have done so for the last couple of centuries or so. Lullabys, folk, blues and rock, bluegrass, country and into pop, even towards jazz to a certain degree, all of theses songs are written with these core six, diatonic triads.

Variations and adjustments on these six chords? Endless variations. Number of tunes written with these six (or less) chords in any and every combination imaginable? An endless number of songs. Songs to be written in this rich tradition? Endless. What's not to love :) Changing key centers, here are the 'diatonic 3 and 3' in G major, using the open chord voicings. Example 14b.

Look familiar? Cool. No? Just start to learn them here if need be. Rhythm guitar players unite ! So there's a fair to midland size shifting here in the understanding of things, we've 'modulated' to 'G' major in our discussions. If a key change is a big deal 'understanding theory' wise for you, no worries, it'll all come together, just stay on your path.

We switch to the 'G major / E minor' key pairing to line up with the guitar method mostly. Turns out the dot pattern on the neck is now ancient, and builders have been using the same pattern mostly for like 500 years now. Same dots as the earlier lutes? Not sure but probably. There are lutes with fixed frets laid out by the 'rule of 18.' Regardless, the dots show a pattern of grouping the pitches, that gets built right into the way our instruments have the ability to create all the pitches, all the arpeggios and all the chords, in all the keys, fully motorized and in perfect tune all through. Who knew !

That in so much of our Americana musics, the diatonic One, Four and Five chords are the principle chords that motor a song along. Placed in various sequences, they drive a seemingly endless array of grooves through a wide spectrum of styles. One / Four and Five. The 12 bar blues, in both major and minor, perhaps the first best of many reasons to rote learn all of this. That we get this three chord group, in both major and minor, from one group of pitches is just downright a shame not to know right now. Termed in this Essentials work the 'diatonic 3 and 3, the sooner a cat digs into this and understands its multipoint magics, the sooner another step to their own Parnassus becomes manifest, is taken and conquered.

Clear Americana examples of One / Four / Five songs? My 'tcatt's are "Blue Eyes Crying In The Rain" and "Blue Sky." Speaking of blues, again the 12 bar blues form in both major and minor keys could be an easier start point, if necessary and rote learned. Any rockin' of anything in this 12 bar form is going to be totally cored on the 1, 4 and 5 chords. Just might be that the motion to Four is the core harmonic motion of it all, in all of the Americana musics we love.

Take my word for it :) And if we mix these chords together, this 'diatonic 3 & 3', the 145 major / 145 minor chords into the same song somehow, we now cover the basic harmony of probably nine out of ten Americana songs, spanning through all of our musical styles. Throw in 'blues hue' chord or two and a modulation somewhere and we might be talkin' 10 out of 10 tunes here. The author's own "When You Coming Back" included in this work just by chance has 'em all :)

And in regards to making melody ... Hip to the idea of 'relative major / minor scale? You mean the major scale? Or the diatonic scale? Or the natural minor scale? Oh, Aeolian mode right? Yea, Ionian mode whew :) Are all these groupings all created with the exact same pitches? Yep, they are, the exact same pitches.

One loop of pitches begets all by weaving major and minor together simply by starting from 2 different points within the same loop of pitches. Exact same group of letter name pitches just with different start points within the closed loop. How can this be ? By the 1/2 step locations between the pitches of a group ?

~ scale formulas ~

Yes, 1/2 step locations between the pitches within any group determines its character. Anything else? No, not really with these '3 and 3's.' Thirds, fifths and sevenths are good. Thus into chord type? Yep pretty much as all six qualify for this lofty harmonic 'type' status :)

~ chord type ~

And we've additional start points as in 'the modes within' of any loop or group of pitches yes? Sure do. Then please add another four or five ways to identify this same group of letter name pitches. We'll do the 'why and how' of this in another discussion. For now, begin to study this mash up of vocab labels by examining the pitches of G major / E minor, our guitar's structural theory core of pitches and key centers. Example 14c.

scale degrees
1
2
3
4
5
6
7
8
G major
G
A
B
C
D
E
F#
G
G diatonic
G
A
B
C
D
E
F#
G
G Ionian
G
A
B
C
D
E
F#
G
E relative minor
E
F#
G
A
B
C
D
E
E natural minor
E
F#
G
A
B
C
D
E
E Aeolian
E
F#
G
A
B
C
D
E

Not too shabby; half dozen groups with the same letter name pitches. Why all the different names? The naming of each group is mostly historical or geographically generated, or both in some cases. Any modal name is way old and from Europe. G major is the common vernacular among folk, country and bluegrass stylings. When 'relative' enters the discussion, here comes some organizational theory usually.

From the chart we see that coolness does reign in the simplicity of our letter pitch organizations, it's the labeling of that can often create initial confusion. And how's your knowledge of the fingerboard and the letter names of the pitches these days? Can you find the 'G' / 'E' relatives on your chosen instrument?

So, just might be time to lock it all together; pitch location / letter name and theory, when understanding the theory is just so straight forward and balanced. Same pitches for guitar and bass correct? On my four string bass the pitches are the same as the low four strings on my guitar. They just sound an octave lower. So the same fingerboard chart of the letter name pitches works for both instruments.

Sourcing the triads for the 'diatonic 3 and 3.' With a refinement in tuning of the natural scale, additional coolness awaits as the diatonic 3 and 3 is built right up from these very same pitches. The 1 4 5 major chords come from the major scale and the 1 4 5 minor come from the pitches of the natural minor group. These become the parent scales for these chords. Examine the pitches. Example 14d.

scale degrees
1
2
3
4
5
6
7
8
G major
G
A
B
C
D
E
F#
G
arpeggio pitches
G
B
D
F#
A
C
E
G
One / G major
G
B
D
.
.
.
.
.
Four / C major
.
.
.
.
.
C
E
G
Five / D major
.
.
D
F#
A
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
E minor
E
F#
G
A
B
C
D
E
arpeggio
E
G
B
D
F#
A
C
E
One / E minor
E
G
B
.
.
.
.
.
Four / A minor
.
.
.
.
.
A
C
E
Five / B minor
.
.
B
D
F#
.
.
.

Ever seen such a layout of the pitches in this manner ? This is a common way to chart up and spell out the letter name pitches of the diatonic chords. Created from the perspective of the 'G' major center, then 'E' natural minor, we measure and numerically label each of the pitches from 'G' and 'E' as One. These are the root pitches for the 1, 4 and 5 chords. We then spell out their triads as usual from their diatonic arpeggio layout.

Author's note. This adding of the numbers to represent letters is nothing short of potentially game changing for the emerging theorist. Using numbers instead of letters allows us to project most any theory idea, principle or combination of pitches equally from any of the 12 pitches of the chromatic scale. This one idea alone can advance our understanding of the entire system more than any of our other 'STGC.'

And as we add more pitches into the mix; more pitches in a melody, extend three note triads into chords with color tones, expand chord progressions and root motion story lines, through subdivision of the beat and adding measures in our forms, our style of music evolves from the more numerically simple folk side through blues, country, rock and pop and on into the full 12 pitch numeric of the jazz language.

Too cool ! Two sets of One / Four / Five chords, one major, one minor from the same pitches. The ultimate sets of '3's for the Americana harmony mix and match. No end to the chord progressions they might create in all of our styles. Super rote learn these ideas and chords for maximum success. Example 14e.

Wow, in this one musical graphic we get a variety of theory coolness. Diatonic relative pitches and keys, the upper (major) and lower (minor) case Roman numeral chord degree symbols, standard notation of the pitches, string tab note locators and line grids for chord shapes.

As these chords generously allow for, do consider working in some fingerpicking to help locate your single line melodies from within these big open chords. Sing, hum or buzz along with your melody to get it just how you want it to sound, feel and flow. Make it all dance :)

Bass lines often begin by just playing the roots of the chords. Then by using the other diatonic pitches as passing tones between the roots of the chords in a song's chord progression, creating a story line.

So did you already have these chord shapes under your fingers? Cool. No? Then just learn them here if need be. And did you know they were all diatonically related? Ya do now :) So in learning new chord shapes, try to slowly strum each chord just a time or two then move to the new shape, strum once and move to next shape etc. Simply back and forth with one strum till the new shape is mastered. The strumming is usually the easy part, shifting pitch fingers between shapes the challenge.

wiki ~ the guitar

OK with the last barre chord B minor in the last idea? Here it is again. As it is the same core shape as A minor just up two frets, the index finger becoming the barre replacing the nut of the open strings. Evolving open chords to the movable barre chords is often a dramatic step for the evolving guitarist, rockers take note.

Coolness with the relative chords. As mentioned above, these six chords provide the gist of the harmony for all our Americana musics. While of course not always in G major / E minor, most folk through pop styled tunes are based on combinations or chord progressions of these six diatonic chords. A capo often employed to reset the pitches for any other key, most often to better suit the vocal range of an artist.

For bass, in this sort of diatonic chord motion, connecting the roots of the chords with various rhythm patterns creates a bassline that tells a song's story. Rote learn these changes by pitch letter name and by ear, as there's only six, it is fairly easy.

This next idea finds two quite common ways of working the E minor triad, which is built on the sixth scale degree of G major, into the One / Four / Five of G major. Both are used in a lot of memorable songs. Example 14f.

Glad you memorized the chords right ? Both of these motions make for great songs, a solid Americana storyline to tell our tales. Hear anything come to mind ?

More coolness with the relative chords. This next idea has all six diatonic chords woven together into an four bar phrase, which ends with a deceptive cadence. Example 14g.

Cool ? Cool. Just stepwise motion moving up the scale and building a triad on each scale degree. Notice that one chord is missing? Where's the Seven chord ? Not part of the 'diatonic 3 and 3', Seven is a diminished triad that is rarely used in these diatonic progressions.

In the music styles based on triads, it's just way more common to find the Seven triad as part of the dominant Five 7 chord, which in the key of 'G' major makes for a D7 chord. Examine and compare the letter pitches and their sounds. Example 14h.

scale degrees
1
2
3
4
5
6
7
8
G major
G
A
B
C
D
E
F#
G
arpeggio
G
B
D
F#
A
C
E
G
arpeggio # degrees
.
.
.
1
3
5
.
.
Seven / F# minor
.
.
.
F#
A
C
.
.
arpeggio # degrees
.
.
1
3
5
7
.
.
Five / D7
.
.
D
F#
A
C
.
.

Sounds common enough yes? So where is Seven in the music? Mostly a chord in jazz, we'll also see it quite often in pop tunes, as it brings its jazz as well as a bit of a 'classical' influence, depending on the setting.

Cool with the open D7 shape? Sounds nice and clear. We're just trying to get at the theory of the pitches etc., where a thing comes from, its own purely diatonic basis. So clarity counts.

Review the 'diatonic 3 and 3.' Solid now with the term diatonic and what it can imply? That we get the 1 4 5 chords of both major and minor in each key center? That in mixing these six up we get near all of our chord progressions for our songs? Through a wide range of our styles? Oh, and can you add a 7th to any of our diatonic triads? Evolving our thinking to think in terms of a chord's 'type?' Click to explore adding the 7th's or see what's next right here ...

~ super theory game changer ~

Play our music by ear. Generally termed 'playing by ear', we hear music and simply figure out how to recreate it on our chosen instrument. By tradition, we share and pass so much to each new generations by this method. Orally telling a story with our voices in words and aurally telling our stories through making music.

And while we surely do see Americana players reading written music in performance, most often these are jazz leaning musicians. Ever see folk, rock, country or blues players reading the music while performing? No not too often. Maybe reading the words to the song. If there's a string section in pop music performances those cats are usually reading their parts. Studio or session musicians, in many cases are solid readers of standard notation.

So to start to learn to play by ear, find a melody or two that goes deep into your own music history, sing some of the melody then find and sound out these pitches on your instruments to match your voice. Build it all out from there one phrase at a time.

Once you've got the line under your fingers, sing different interpretations, jazz em' up, add some of your own mojo juice, be overly theatrical in your vocalizations and then discover how to impart these 'nuances' with your fingers.

This is a basis of making Americana musics. This is also the basis of creating your own unique sound, an artistic signature as they say in the biz :) Click the link for a dozen or so 'melodies by ear' suggestions.

~ super theory game changer ~

Major or minor? Can you distinguish between the sound of something major and something minor? If so, this show is over, please move right along :)

If not, then surely take a minute to begin to understand this two-part distinction, as nearly everything we musically own; our scales, arpeggios, chords, keys and songs in our Americana music, is really one or the other, major or minor.

That we often play one off another and balance between the two in one song is also super common in most of our styles. Hearing the difference is a solid step in one's ascent to their Parnassus.

For the emerging theorist, try to distinguish between our major and minor chords / triads sounds by ear? Click on the following icons and see if you can. Example 9.

#1
#2
#3
#4

Answers. Hold up to mirror :) ronim / rojam / rojam / ronim.

Well how did you do? Get a few? Get them all? Miss them all? Miss them all but reverse? That's a good sign :) Try them again? Keep trying and by the close of this discussion and through the main page major / minor link to the right, I predict you'll be on the road to major / minor aural recognition perfection! Regardless, do take the link on the right to a rather full nuts and bolts examination of this essential major / minor dichotomy.

~ super theory game changer ~

Twelve pitches of the chromatic scale. So how many eggs in a dozen? How many numbers representing the hours on the face of an old fashioned clock? How many different pitches in our musical system? Number of pitches in the chromatic scale? If you're thinking along the lines of 12, cool, and all is well here in downtown theoryville. For in theory, 12 is all we get.

Way one. We've initially two basic ways to organize this entire grouping of our pitches. One is going to be stepwise or scaler, termed the chromatic scale, a symmetrical scale built exclusively the half step interval, one fret on our guitars. Click the music and sing along with the 12 unique chromatic scale pitches. Ex. 15.

How did your singing along go? Ever try to sing a chromatic scale? Another first? Right on and try again if need be. Accurately singing a chromatic scale puts the pitches on our own inner map to stay.

Notice how some of the pitches in the descending group have flat accidentals while the ascending line uses a sharp (#) to designate pitch? Cool, both of course are correct. We term these pitches enharmonic equivalents; that a 'C#' is the same as 'Db.'

And while flats tend to go down while sharps go up, the actual accidental used to identify any pitch is best determined by the key center of the music we are looking to understand.

Way two. A second way to present our 12 letter name notes is to create a picture of pitches resembling the face of our clocks, which we call a cycle of fifths. We often use this depiction in talking about key signatures, the basis of our diatonic, tonally centered view of the theory. Example 15a.

Cool? 12 pitches no more no less, in theory anyway. Thus empowered we've our arms completely around our pitch resource. That all of our musical components, for making music in any style, become available from with this closed and tuned loop of pitches is a basis for all.

~ super theory game changer ~

Improvisation. In the musical styles you dig to listen to and aspire to perform, is there improvisation in the mix? Do you get to 'take a lead' and spontaneously create your part during sections of the song? Americana music styles each have their own improvised parts, and there is a span of degrees of how much the music is improvised.

From the folk end of the spectrum and on through into pop, with the melody line most often sung with words, most of the music we hear, especially performed live, is created from rote memory of each of the musicians.

Players rote learned their parts and then collaborate their memories together in real time, into one consciousness to make the music come alive. So they're improvising their parts in real time by playing their parts by heart.

Based on memory, focus and concentration, this process of re-creating from memory with others is probably the coolest thing we get to do as musical artists. Projecting this collective thought process to create other communal activities, might be the coolest part about being upright, sentient, two legged critters.

As we move along our spectrum away from folk and into the country and especially the bluegrass sounds and styles, instrumental breaks become more and more of a feature in performance. Players often spending some serious shedding time building up their improv chops, licks, ditties and how it all fits together. History has always recorded these players in some form or another from whom we can study and learn new ideas.

Jam. To jam is something many players just dig to do. In these sessions, cats bring their rote memorized music skills and collaborate their parts unrehearsed, their ears are their guide to the musical part they create to contribute to the mix.

Theory plays a role in helping the artist understand the music around them and helping them find ways into the jam. These sessions historically have created many new bands, as like minded players get a chance to meet new artists and find players they groove well with.

The usual looseness of the sessions encourage explorations oftentimes not encouraged in other performance settings enabling like minded artists to explore together, often beginning new friendships that encourage making new art together.

In blues and jazz. While all of our styles will follow a musical form in a song, in the 12 bar form of blues and various larger forms of jazz, spontaneous improvisation is a fair share of the performance time. In many settings it is expected and anticipated, as each soloist gets a turn to 'cut loose' and create / improvise on the energy of the song being performed in their own unique way. Taking a full turn or two of a song's form, termed a 'chorus', is the basis here and the beginning point for emerging artists.

The prep. While these improv parts are mostly improvised anew each time by the artist, there's in most cases a lot of preparation to improvisation. And more so with jazz than the blues. In both musics, when under the lights and called upon to solo, it's just time to bring it.

A super easy way to begin to improvise is by creating variations on the theme of the song being played and the mimicking of ideas between soloist and backing band, a back and forth dialogue often termed call and response.

Over or through the changes. This 'either or' is where the theory becomes a solid way into understanding and creating your own improv magic. We use the term 'changes', which is a slang word for the chords of a song, and soloing 'over or through' the chords is the basic fork in the road theorywise. Soloing over the changes covers just about all of styles excepting jazz, where cats start a new conversation about 'inside / outside.'

Jazz, through the changes. In the jazz traditions of improvisation, there's a real legacy of creating improvised lines whose pitches are a direct reflection of the pitches of each chord as they pass by. To hear the chord changes in the improvised line becomes the goal many artists strive for.

This is the 'inside' playing mentioned just above. The pitches of the improvised melody are 'inside' the pitches that make up the chords. Compare the two motions of One to Four and then the improv lines they might generate. Jot down the changes. Example 16.

So the jazz changes (chords) simply may provide more harmonic opportunity for expression. Here's an 'over' then 'through' the changes improvised idea. Ex. 16a.

In the first two bars above, we're creating a melody from the 'C' major scale, the parent scale of the two chords. In measures three and four, we closely align the melody notes with chord tones. We also create a chromatic passing tone, the 'Db', at the close of measure three.

So do more chord changes generally mean more pitches in the line? Usually. That said, more chord changes provides more 'opportunity' in the line, to weave in and out of the harmony. We can clearly track this in the literature. More harmonic opportunity has translated into more pitches for sure.

The jazz artist is also looking for more of a harmonic challenge to base their ideas. Remember, that as you read this here, we've a 100 years or so now of Americana musical evolutions. And in this documented history we have various evolutions to examine. Around 1940, players began to maximize the diatonic potential between cadential points in a song. Examine the chords in this next eight bar phrase. Here we simply move from One to Four, and back. Root pitches in melody create guide tone line for the changes. In 'F' major, example 16b.

wiki ~ 1940's in jazz

Think the jazz artist might be looking for a different degree of challenge in getting to the Four chord and back? This last phrase is fairly typical of the 1940's bebop style and indicates just such as vision. Paired with accelerated tempos, 'running the changes' creates a great degree of excitement for everyone in the mix.

11 of the 12. So we got in seven of our 12 pitches in just the roots of the chords, in one phrase of harmonic motion moving from One to Four. Simply by including the seven diatonic notes of 'F' major. For a 'through the changes' improv cat, that's a payday ! Why, even a vanilla styled arpeggiating of the triads provides a solid line.

The other five? So we need a 'C#' for the 'A7' bar 2, a 'B' for the 'G7' bar 3, an 'Eb' for the 'F7' bar 4 and an 'F#' for the 'D7' bar 6. So four more pitches plus 7 makes 11, out of our 12 pitches total, to make the chords for just one, eight bar phrase. Cool. The remaining pitch ...? Ab, the key of 'F' major's fave blue note :) Here's a realization of the above eight bar phrase. Example 16c.

Pretty notey huh ? Yea and that's part of what drives the show here. Jazz artists dream in streams of eighth notes. It's our most basic rhythm figure and its evolution over the last century or so helps understand the musics they created, as well as a view of the Americana fabric of musics, for the eighth note lives in all of our styles. Bluegrass and jazz especially though. Eight's are cool in that we get a 'two for one' on every beat of the music. That one of these 1/8th's is an upbeat seals the deal.

"The more upbeats you have in the music the more it swings."

wiki ~ Dizzy Gillespie

The chromatic nature of jazz. So in understanding our musics, with all of the nuts and bolts involved, the sum of the parts helps us understand and create a style of music. For the jazz leaning artist, this can translate into a chromatically enhanced pathway. Simply begin to find places in your music for the pitches 'in between' the pitches you play now. Chances are they'll become passing tones with the blue hue to them :)

While there's lots of angles to this, there's an easy way to add it all up. That ...

the seven diatonic pitches + the five blue notes = the 12 pitches of the chromatic scale

Is this why we might 'always' think from the root ?' Meaning thinking diatonically? Probably. And the blue notes also become the chord color tones, the 7th, b9, 9, 11, #11, b5, #5 and 13th ? Yep. And #15? Hmm ... ok :)

"I don't know if Charlie Parker was the first to use chromatic ideas in his blues lines, but he sure was the King of doing it."

wiki ~ Herb Ellis

And the importance of understanding diatonic. In soloing through the changes, we might get our most important lesson as to why understanding the properties of 'diatonic' solves a ton of our improvisational mysteries. For as we create improvised melodic lines using the pitches of the chords, knowing their overall diatonic origins is a huge help in generating pitches, what we term a 'parent scale.'

For example, we often ask the question; 'this G7 chord is part of what diatonic key center ?' Well, it's the dominant / Five chord in 'C' major. So the 'C' major scale becomes a parent scale for this chord. Easy :) All the other diatonic chords in 'C' major share this parent scale.

Arpeggios play a big part in this process both in our day to day improv and historically as well, as they clearly outline the harmony of a song. It's the way horn players can play chords. As our jazz music has evolved over the decades, evolution of the harmony by horn players through arpeggios has been a key element.

Improvisation 101, theme and variations. Brand new to improv? Cool, all journeys need a first step. To begin this process here, rote learn this next theme. Do this by combining; singing the idea and sounding it out on your ax. Once under the fingers, make a loop / cycle of the theme and do it a couple of times in a row. First theme, we'll get to the variation next. Example 17.

Straight 'C' major descending, surely a highway 101 lick. By the 2nd or 3rd time, they'll be a nuance in the line you sing. Repeat this nuance a time or two to lock it in. Chances are it'll be both a pitch wiggle of sorts plus a rhythm variation. Stop and take a minute and find this vocalized nuance on your ax. Once under the fingers, start looping and vocalizing the scale anew, searching for a next idea generated by the theme. Repeat this process.

Here's the trick. If you go slow enough, this looping of sing and play starts to happen in real time. Once begun, we slip this looping process into phrases and forms. Add in a metronome when ready, and we're good to go. Music and ideas that come out of this are yours to keep :)

Recreating this age old process of theme and variations in this manner, you are now officially improvising and creating new art from your heart, articulated by your voice and spoken out through your instrument. Your sing and play process, to create variations on the theme, is the improvisational generator here. Around forever, it's also how we develop the ability to 'interpret' a melody with our own artistic signature.

This first variation. Like the pattern in the variation pitches generated by the theme? Here it is again. Example 17a.

Thinking diatonically, each of the pitches of the main theme are approached by step from above. Termed a permutation of the theme, each two note group is termed an 'episode' within the lick. Got it under your fingers? Like the idea, A first 'lick' for you?

While these sorts of episodes are endless, there are 'studies' for emerging improvisors to strengthen their skills with pitches and intervals. Patterns for creating sequences from a motif. Tis' up to you to shed the basic resources and then bring the coolness you discover :)

Listening to the music we each love and transcribing what we hear to our instruments is the tried and true historical way we've all been first smitten with music, then developed and matured, thus evolved. Hands down, it is the way we each have found our own way. And not only in music, all the arts share this 'pass along' magic as the new generations come along.

In minor. Similar idea here but in the relative, natural minor key to 'C' major, 'A' minor. Example 17d.

Again, sense the pattern in the variation pitches? This time we group in three notes and ascend stepwise. Five episodes to close the line of a four bar phrase. Isn't the four bar phrase at the core of it all? What's 'it?' Onward we go :)

~ super theory game changer ~

Sequencing. In music, the term sequence means the same as in other arts of life; that a series of events follow a definite pattern of order as designed by an artist. Finding a melodic cell you dig and sequencing it through various filters is as an organic way to start your musical journey as any ever devised. Why?

It's just what we do as peeps I think; that all of life's facets are sequences of events in a regular order. It's among the coolest thing we probably can do as a sentient being, to create artistic sequences.

For in truth we do tend to sequence near everything in our lives and when applied to our life doings, we very often end up getting important things done. Sequencing in and of itself creates an energy. In its repetitions it charges up and creates a sense of forward motion and natural closure of form that is potentially all self balancing. How we each achieve balance in art and life becomes our own artistry, and over the course of our careers helps define and shape the journey :)

For as an artist matures the elements to be balanced and their juxtaposition into art also mature, and an increasing complexity is not only uncommon but sought. In music, the Beethoven string quartets would be an illuminating Euro example of this evolution, of an artist's reaching for a greater complexity of elements to work with over their lifelong career span.

Surely this evolutionary arc is also clear as day in our own Americana with John Coltrane, whose evolution to a 12 tone system of all blue notes evolved from a colossal ability to create improvised dialogue 'inside' the changes.

wiki ~ Beethoven string quartets

A start to pitch sequencing. With this in mind, this START page continues our sequencing studies with two ideas. First is the three notes of the triads, the basis of our chords, their pitches sequenced from each note of an ascending major scale. Example 18.

Cool sound yes? We love triads and their evolutions.

Second is a descending, four note melodic sequence of the natural minor scale. Example 18a.

Cool? These two sequences contain bits or whole chunks that will fit in lots of musical places. And with some transposition to close keys and permutations, these two sequences combine to become a lot of musical resource for a wide range of the Americana sounds we love. Can any idea be sequenced? Probably. And beyond the diatonic realm? Oh yea, that's part of a jazz players skill set; anything from anywhere. Along these lines, here's a major pentatonic group of pitches cycled through a minor 3rd, perfect 4th filter. Example 19b.

Coltrane's "Giant Steps" changes? Post bop symmetry? Yep. A pinnacle of Americana compositional evolution. It is included in the in The Real Book volume 1 where I first got hip. The author's most fave changes for improv after the 12 bar blues? "Giant Steps?" Probably, while fairly easy to rote learn it's still super tricky and often played quickly like the original recording, it's just such an exciting and challenging improv thought process :)

~ super theory game changer ~

Finding the top of the form. Easiest thing in the world really. Really easy do with the 12 bar blues. In 4/4 time simply count:

1234 2234 3234 4234

5234 6234 7234 8234

9234 10 234 11 234 12 234

... and begin again at the top

top 234 2234 3234 etc.

 

Hearing this spot in the music changes the game for many emerging artists. It applies to all of our musics in all of their forms, that musical stories told in songs have a beginning and an end.

~ super theory game changer ~

By the numbers. For the emerging artist wanting a better understanding of their music, so much of learning can be facilitated by exchanging the letter names of pitches for a numerical representation of the pitch. For example,

the pitch 'C' becomes the # 1

The trick to doing this is that we choose one pitch as a tonal center, and create a diatonic key center group of pitches to support the center pitch. This central pitch becomes One, and all other pitches are 'measured' as intervals from this note and designated by numbers.

Also termed the 'tonic' pitch, this One / tonic pitch is the central note and core of the diatonic realm. Most if not all of our Americana musics are of the diatonic realm, where the diatonic pie comes with the soup de jour :) Examine the following chart as we line up the rows of numbers that we need for transformation. Example 20.

scale # degrees
1
2
3
4
5
6
7
8
arpeggio # degrees
1
3
5
7
9
11
13
15
triad # / quality
I
ii
iii
IV
V
vi
vii
VIII

Scale degrees. "1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8." Know this row of numbers? Cool. Super common. The first set, one through eight is the set in stone foundation from all the way back, and spans one full octave. Most commonly associated with the natural major / relative natural minor group of pitches spanning the one octave, a 'scale degree' is quite simply a numerical equivalent for a letter name pitch. Thinking 'C' major examine the pairing of pitch numbers and letters over the span of one octave. Example 20a.

scale # degrees
1
2
3
4
5
6
7
8
C major scale
C
D
E
F
G
A
B
C

Thinking 'A' natural minor. Example 20b.

scale # degrees
1
2
3
4
5
6
7
8
A minor scale
A
B
C
D
E
F
G
A

Descending scales one full octave. Example 20c.

descending C major scale
descending A minor scale

We can use the same numerics for any of our relative groups of pitches. Moving up a whole step, same numbers apply; D major / B minor. Ex. 20d.

Thinking 'D' major. Example 20e.

scale # degrees
1
2
3
4
5
6
7
8
D major scale
D
E
F#
G
A
B
C#
A

Thinking 'B' minor. Example 20f.

scale # degrees
1
2
3
4
5
6
7
8
B minor scale
B
C#
D
E
F#
G
A
B
ascending D major scale
ascending B minor scale

Scale degrees will apply to any key center. Any group of pitches, scale or mode even. Most times it is numbered one through eight but not always. Number identities of the blue notes might need some wiggle; sharp Four / flat Nine etc. Just try to be flexible and use what works for you now to better understand your own musics.

The rote learn key to lock in with scale degrees is the octave span, 1 through 8. So if we stay with the 'C' major scale and its full octave of eight scale degrees, we should be able to create eight arpeggio degrees yes ?

Arpeggio degrees. "1 3 5 7 9 11 13 15." Know this number sequence yet? Not quite to Fibinachi's just yet as we are just skipping every other number but absolutely still needing to have all eight to work the magic. Eight scale degrees give us eight arpeggio degrees. Thus in both, the perfect octave closure. With scales one full octave. With arpeggios; two full octaves. This key theory concept is subtly reflected in the numbers. Compare the two sets. Example 20g.

scale # degrees
1
2
3
4
5
6
7
8
arpeggio # degrees
1
3
5
7
9
11
13
15

So if Eight is the scale degree one full octave above One, and between Seven and Nine of the arpeggio there's usually an Eight, we need two full octaves to get to Fifteen? Yep, two full octaves to create the perfect arpeggio closure. Examine the same scale pitches now presented in their arpeggio format. Example 20h.

arpeggio #'s
1
3
5
7
9
11
13
15
C major arpeggio
C
E
G
B
D
F
A
C

Quick review. Making sense? Simply skipping notes and adding a second octave to cover the notes we skipped. Rapidly articulated arpeggios tell the tale for the single note lines of any style with any instrument really. For the jazz artist they can be the bread or the butter. And it turns out the our Americana arpeggio kings were also the game changers in the evolution of the Americana jazz.

Triad quality. 'Roman numerals.' The last set of numbers in this discussion, to replace the letter name pitches with numbers within a key center, are used to identify the diatonic triads we build on each scale degree. In this next chart, we use the same Aramic numbers, One through the octave Eight for scale degrees, and add One through Eight upper case (major) and lower case (minor) Roman numerals for the triads. Examine these two ancient systems of identifying the same numerical positions. Example 20i.

scale # degrees
1
2
3
4
5
6
7
8
triad # / quality
I
ii
iii
IV
V
vi
vii
VIII

Bolts right up! Tis simply an amazing thing. So for us theory scientists, once we're cool with this transition of symbols, letters to numbers, the golden road of unlimited devotion is revealed. We can easily follow its pathway to illuminate the essential 'diatonic 3 and 3' ideas as we outlined above. In the meantime, dig the diatonic triads One through Eight in 'F' major. Going up! Example 20j.

Sound about right? 'F' major is just a very lovely guitar key to bring out some very warm and rootsy Americana musics. And with just two voicings we create the six chords of the 'diatonic 3 and 3.' And Seven?

Diatonic half diminished Seven can be the portal to all things beyond the diatonic. Add in the fully diminished 7th chord, and wow, the whole tamale evolves. We have those pages and discussions too, just a click or two away if there's a spark of curiosity about these colors.

Turns out 'F' major is also an elevator key for getting us all the way to the top floor of the Diatonic 'F' Building. Like the blues elevator? Or the pentatonic one? The five shapes of the jazz elevator? Yep, handy elevators, locating the pitches up and down the fingerboard.

All of these elevators create a looping of puzzle shapes to get us up and down the fingerboard. Do these 'puzzles of shapes' also loop back to their starting points? Sure do.

When we filter them through their diatonic source, or any consistent interval pattern, they all surely do loop and close. Just as with the pitches, the idea of a 'closed loop' applies to all our various guitar shapes as well. Even rhythm patterns want to loop back to their starting points. Musical forms too. No end really to this looping and closure perfection of our basic resources.

Numbers review. So have a sense of how we correlate numbers and letters to identify and arrive at our tonal destinations within a key center? Cool. Fairly straight forward as the numbers lend their precision to the whole identifying process. Yet while with actual music, our pitches still get some descent wiggle room with the hammer-ons, bending, tapping, slide and open tunings, with or without a whammy bar :)

For once we have arrived to this step of numerical understanding our musics, all the magics we discover and apply to any pitch, scale, arpeggio, chord, song whatever can be transferred to any of our 12 key centers. For instance, any embellishment to a One chord in a song written in the key of 'C' major can also apply to the One chord in other songs in 'Eb' major as well.

We can then study One as a single component, and learn associated aspects that apply to any One chord type wherever we find it in our music. Chord inversions and color tones, chord progressions and form, all through our library of musics. Like learning a new chord shape? Exactly, we learn a One chord instead of a 'C' chord.

So is this 'numbers' discussion now leading to function? It sure is. That in the creation of artistic tension and its release in our musics, we can numerically describe the function of a component in relation to other pitches and chords. In all of our styles? Absolutely.

There's truly many many correlations between music and math. As math is a numerical representation of science, everything from the diatonic ideas described above to the physical measurement of musical sound waves, how we tune the pitches, numbers of measures in musical forms, the mathematical subdivision of the beat, the ratios of intervals to determine aural purity of pitch, sequences of numbers in arpeggios and their color tones, there's just a lot to explore and discover here for math minded and curious artists in general.

So consider rote learning these next three stands of symbols and what they represent for understanding our music, even right here and now, and chances are you'll remember them forever :) Here are the symbols paired up again in review. Writing them out a couple of times usually helps the rote learning process. Example 20k.

wiki ~ 20 K / audio freq.
scale # degrees
1
2
3
4
5
6
7
8
arpeggio # degrees
1
3
5
7
9
11
13
15
triad # / quality
I
ii
iii
IV
V
vi
vii
VIII

Easy do? Cool. Rote memorizing feeds the bulldog.

~ super theory perspective game changer ~

Musical styles and reinventing older into newer. Having now examined a bit of the pitches and their organization into scales, arpeggios and chords, let's go through each of the broad categories of the Americana styles and see which of the pitches play the largest role in creating the melody lines of each of the styles.

To start off, dig the core Essentials philosophy of pitch theory and musical style in chart form; the additive letter name, pitch process and corresponding evolution through our styles. Our spectrum of the Americana sounds is manifested. Thinking from the root pitch 'C', examine the letter pitches. Example 21.

12 total # of pitches
1
2
3
4
5
6
7
8
9
10
11
12
1 ...
scale degree #'s
1
b2
2
b3
3
4
#4
5
#5
6
b7
7
8

children's songs (5)

C
.
D
.
E
.
.
G
.
(A)
.
.
C

folk and gospel (6)

C
.
D
.
E
F
.
G
.
A
.
.
C

blues and rock (6)

C
.
.
Eb
.
F
.
G
.
.
Bb
.
C
pop (7)
C
.
D
.
E
F
.
G
.
A
.
B
C
jazz (12)
C
C#
D
Eb
E
F
F#
G
Ab
A
Bb
B
C

Five to six pitch melodies / children's songs and traditional folk, country and bluegrass musics. Usually telling stories through the lyrics of the song with a fingerstyle or light pick, a strumming or back of the nails fanning technique on the guitar to back up the voice. Usually in 4/4 time, with five note pentatonic melodies (+1) over diatonic triads, with a 7th added on Five. Three chords and the truth is very common for a complete song. As is the mixing of the three major and three minor chords created from the diatonic scale we call here the 'diatonic 3 and 3.'

The musical forms of these styles are connecting up four and eight bar phrases repeated, and in longer stories and songs, written into the 16 and 32 bar song forms, so the A/A/B/A or A/B etc., of sonata allegro. Not a whole lot of improvisation in these musics until the style meter moves toward the country, or especially the bluegrass stylings, then look out.

For solo breaks, bending pitches and improv become way more common. The instrumental wizardry of the players starts to bring the house down, just like the vocals, harmonies and stories being told. Nearly all songs in this grouping of genres have a hook, in the melody line or words, or both combined.

Blues and rock. Again mostly in 4/4 time but now with a 2 and 4 backbeat (especially a snare 'pop' ), melodies are mostly pentatonic over diatonic chord changes, which in the blues are often all V7 chords. Rock players, especially in the later 60's and into the 70's of classic rock, tend to use minor pentatonic color with the blue hue soloing over both major and minor triads / 7th chords, probably the oldest trick in the book to sound cool, right now :)

Blues artists hang way deeper into the pitches of the basic blues scale, the minor pentatonic five + a tritone, regardless of the song's chord changes. 'Honking' on the blue notes is the 'call' of the blues. We used to call it 'whomping on the tonic.' Getting comfortable with the honking and wonking is a real process, as we're 'rubbing' the band with blue, leaning into the time going down with just a pitch or two.

Once rote learned, there's huge 'pull' in these blue notes. Both tuning and time 'pull' combine in the 'howling' notes that everyone seems to enjoy, to greater or lesser extents of course depending :) Yet even adding just one, well done blues pitch into any mix, from a symphony to a 12 tone hurricane, grounds us right back in the good ole' continental musical Americana.

Blues bass lines. The bass line always tells the tale, the emotional 'feel' of a song. In starting out, there's say a half dozen patterns to memorize and two common hand motions to sort out. The triad pitches are king in these lines and outline every chord. So while fairly straight forward, there's a lot to keep track of when performing.

Mostly though, confidently and accurately sounding the root of the chord on the downbeat of any measure feeds the bulldog. Same really for bass lines and pitches in all the styles and especially for up and coming artists, play the root of the chord on one. Connect the roots with triads, arpeggios and passing tones.

Blues hue. 'Adjusting' every pitch in an improvised line is not at all uncommon, and our favorite players in these genres often do just that, that every pitch spoken and struck has a little 'something' added. Or a lot ! Bending one pitch, double bends with two adjacent pitches, wide vibratos, hammer ons and pull offs, shakes, on an on. For the blue notes are a scrappy breed and will take a lot of pushing, get knocked down, and get right back up.

The blues lyrics. Word metering of iambic pentameter often shapes vocal phrases, especially the four bar phrase. In this way of rhythming words, we're looking for 10 syllables to balance out. We then combine three, four bar phrases for the 12 bar blues form. Through all of our styles, we have songs written in the 12 bar form. So by learning this form we learn a lot of songs.

Many of the early rock tunes are also the 12 bar blues form, "Johnny B. Goode" et al. Blues music and blue's hued stylings can evolve simply by working deeper into diatonic chord changes towards a more pop and rhythm and blues stylings, while accelerating the tempos and working chord substitutions into the mix create a jazzy direction. Using passing chords and half step motions, new opportunities for phrasing open up. Working 'over or through' the changes melds into one.

Rock takes us all over the map. While rock most often hits on one, the downbeat, there's always a 2 and 4 backbeat hit to dance to. From a '12 bar early electric blues rockin' good time tear it up' to more theatrical and show groups of later decades, where even pure classical influences are woven into the magic, there are myriad ways and possibilities many for the creative rocker to blend together various styles.

With dozens and dozens of sub genres nowadays, and all varying degrees of improvisation, rock music is just a good way to be creative, express oneself and have some fun making music and telling stories of love, mostly. That the music is historically blues based, and depending on the strength of the individual players involved and what they can bring, rock music is very inclusive, even with just using a couple of chords and pitches. For an artist with some energy, a story to tell and an audience that wants to jump around a bit and have some fun, there's a rockin' good time to be had.

Metal. Understanding metal music follows in the Americana traditions of all of the above styles combined, while looking forward through the most modern electric gear available, sci-fi modern as I've heard it described. Yet, still the original Americana big 4 march beat is again accented on 2 and 4, creating the backbeat for the pull of swing.

Metal melodies and lines often evolve from the eighth note swing to sixteenth note prolation of fusion. Tritones often roar away though the stacks, and chromaticism abounds. While generally faster tempos move the dancing towards, the mosh for those so inclined. Metal artists love to add in odd meter ideas (phrases) in the arrangements, offsetting the 4/4 mainstay grooves temporarily, in distinctly unison riffing fusion sections. So all of the artists are playing the same lick together, in unison. Unison lines make for incredibly epic music. Getting the band to line up on faster passages takes lots and lots and lots of dedication and shedding together.

Very electric in both impact and gear, which for metal guitar features tons of sustain. Drum's advancements include specialized hardware for special effects, all fully mic'd and all run through giant mixers and P.A.'s. Same for bass, a thundering BOOM in unison perfect pitch and rhythmic synch. Singers are often shouters too, which through a giant P.A., gets everyone's attention. For there's a raging in metal that just works better LOUD and thus, is all the rage :)

Creating (playing) metal guitar music nowadays is perhaps first and foremost just a lot about chops. String? Meet a fluttering pick. While everybody in the band really has to be solid, guitar is often the leader with the melodies. That faster adds more wow factor is really just historically correct. Like bop for the jazzers? Exactly. Bop's 190 / 230 and on up tempo range gets the improv barreling right on through the changes. At these numbers we're talking velocity more than tempo, literally hurtling through time so not for the faint of heart :)

Metal digs the power of everyone in the band ripping off blistering lines together, be good listeners and do the homework. Very very cool but be very very very careful of your stereo hearing mechanism. Remember, we need our ears and hearing for so much more that just making the music, and once damaged by loud volume, we're kind of screwed for the duration. Don't risk it, just 'plug and play' away. Who knows, someday you might want to play other styles, instruments and music.

Metal chords in the shredding sections are often just fifth's, so no 3rd in the triads to determine major or minor. The two pitch construction of 5th's interval help them to move rapidly about the neck. Fifth's process well too, and get as well as process well through the shredding gear.

Acoustic guitar interludes are creatively boundless in expressive regards. Though open tunings are kind of rare it seems (?), I honestly do not know, there's a couple of super easy 'evolutions' for an open chord to move on up and down the neck. Some perfect for creating a mellow art balance to the more character metal sonic storm on the horizon.

So while the overall sound is still quite blues based in theory, at least pitch wise, chord progressions are often minor pentatonic based, 1, b3, 4, #4, 5, b7. Melodies of 'three in one minor' and the tritone / #4 / b5 is sounded in various ways all over the style. Lots and lots of one fret half step motions and sounds in metal licks. Just gives them a bit more of the exotic, a pushing of the boundaries, and thus, hair raising moment potentials :)

~ for in theory ~

~ the five pitches of minor pentatonic + one pitch octave split tritone = the six notes of the blues scale yes? ~

~

Vocal melodies in metal are also historically mostly of the minor pentatonic pitches, thus blues and rock based. While more the modern lead lines of today we often find a lot of chromatic motion, thus by half step, creating a de-tuned sense of tonic, thus all 12 of our pitches come into play. Scaler lines often blur on by while sweep picking the arpeggios recreates that 'sheets of sound' effect originated by John Coltrane in the later 50's.

Pop / Dance / Club. Mostly in 4/4 time with the 2 and 4 back beat groove (snare drum) gradually evolving through the decades and becoming the steady 4 beats to the bar pulse (synth) of club in the last 10 years or so. Pop music is mostly created from the seven pitches of the major scale, both in melody in the harmony, where its pitches are tuned up to equal temper. Like all styles really, pop music is a storytelling form, usually young love stories, and it lives on its hooks, those catchy riffs that get stuck in our heads that help make our everyday same old just a wee bit brighter, fun and with love.

There is some improvisation in pop, especially in live shows, but most soloing becomes the lines everyone knows from the record. Most times cats just play the melody or hook of the tune. Good for business :)

These riffs often become classic eight bars of total thought out and perfected coolness, usually with a unique and unmistakable tone that pop players strive to capture when performing live (actually must have if they want to keep the gig).

For guitar players, this 'tone thing' is in itself is a real challenge; for to get the right tone and effect from off the record is often a lot of wires and dials these days. Then to 'pull up that patch' quickly with a couple of clicks, while on the bandstand, before or even during playing tunes is often a whole 'nother ongoing challenge' we look to conquer. While 'pop' guitar gets its share of friendly jokes and digs, like most guitar playing and performance done well, it just ain't as easy as it looks. Yet successful poppers smile an awful lot, hmm ... :)

For as the new tunes come out and get their airplay, the ladies start to croon 'em and the rest as they say, is history. New tunes could mean a new guitar sound, so new mixing of existing colors, something tried and true, or something completely new, often in the same tune. Top 40 guitar players, while getting a built right in 'keeping it fresh' factor from the radio, thus also get a ton of homework to keep up with this week's top 40, which can be from a half dozen genres; hip hop, country, adult contemporary, R&B, smooth jazz, dance electronica :)

Vocal ballads still often rule pop music's day, as torch songs fill the dance floor with couples on any given night. Songs of enduring love and commitment that idealize our love for one another. Pop music is often learned and played right off the recordings, for lots of folks just want to hear their music the way they recognize it from their faves, so they can follow along and never loose their groovy :)

Back in the days of Tin Pan Alley, sheet music was all the rage. And while there's still songbooks out there for artists, a lot of this has gone digital, with audio and video taking the place of sheet music in general. These new tech formats provide the platform for learning most songs right 'off the record', or by ear as in days of old.

wiki ~ Tin Pan Alley
sheet music

A top 40 club pro drummer once described pop music to me as the songs the office girls heard all week on the radio at work and then wanted to hear on Saturday night, when they'd get all dolled up to go out dancing and have a night on the town. Thus the 'pop' within 'popular.' With the advent of the radio in the 20's and later with Elvis on the scene in the 50's, pop music has evolved as our culture has evolved, the music reflecting the changes through the decades of Americana.

Like rock, we've lots of pop sub genres, various crossovers and pollinations between all of the styles into hook based, catchy tunes, which oftentimes become BIG money makers, while the stars set new fashion trends and it all keeps the ladies busy staying current and then up and dancing on Saturday nights ... :)

Jazz. Mostly in 4/4 time, the totally essential core of the Americana big 4 with accented 2 and 4 back beat groove, combine up together to become the motoring components of the swing magic of jazz. Jazz tempos tend to be brighter than other styles excepting bluegrass, which usually cooks right along too. The big difference here is that jazz is a 12 tone music while bluegrass is near pure diatonic, even if a bit blues hued at times.

Jazz melodies and harmony are relative major / minor based, and as with all our styles, motion to Four the most common destination. Unlike the vast majority of songs the other styles though, jazz songs fully modulate or change keys in the course of their storytelling. This helps expand the palette for improvisations by providing additional pitches beyond the original tonal center a song starts off in.

Harmony is built up to near always include the 7th and even beyond, which opens up our discussions for chord type and color tones. On top of this there is a polytonal aspect as well as a continuous 'borrowing' of pitches and chords from other key centers, that 'jazz up' the music so to speak. As jazz music was originally blues based, all the blue notes are always in play :)

Jazz evolution historically has been about exhausting the outer reaches of diatonic harmony, evolving complexity of key schemes and recently towards a true chromatic shaping of melodic line. World influences, especially the Latin grooves, are dominant nowadays as they dance so well and open up an even 8th note style for the soloist. That 'even 8th's turn out swing just as well in the earlier more traditional grooves, while probably the most difficult to master, is the all inclusive of swing magic.

There is near always a blues grounding somewhere in the music, although poppier jazz less so. The 12 bar form rock solid, and will stand up to whatever a cat can bring, forming up the statement in understandable terms and translatable terms to the band. The blue notes will ground any music back to Americana, while chord substitution continues to be a part of the evolution and discovery as each new generation comes along.

Many jazz artists simply dig the excitement of the brighter jazz tempos, the sense of swing in the groove, the freedom to have our whole musical resource to work with as the music so often just flies on by.

So perhaps no real astonishment at finding the jazz style to bookend our styles of Americana musics. For by providing a format that encourages both individual search and collective improvisation, we've an ongoing, continuous opportunity to express the art in our hearts.

Review. Based on the purity of sound, the theoretical core is a perfectly closed loop of 12 pitches. From this loop we simply extract select groupings of five, six or seven pitches. And even beyond to eight, nine all the way back to twelve. Our different musical styles are theoretically differentiable simply by how many of the 12 pitches are in play to create the melody and basic harmony of any song.

As guitar players, our resources can gradually evolve the same way. We start with five pitches and work our way up by adding new pitches one by one. Each new pitches evolves the group and musical style. In this process we gain a sense of how any style has a basis of core pitches that creates its magics.

Understanding the theory of the music advances dramatically when we swap numbers for the letter pitches in any given key center. Once it does, from that point on, the same theory of measuring and numerically labeling the distance between the notes of a song applies the same ways to any other song in any key. All of our systems can have numerical equivalents.

In the longview, this numerical approach opens up the whole tamale, the potential for creating any musical event, melody, arpeggio or chord, any riff, lick, vamp or ditty, sounded from any pitch. 'Anything from anywhere.' We can do this without the numbers of course, the numbers just streamline the process.

Much of a teacher's effectiveness can be traced to how well they assess a learners existing knowledge and how they learn best, their learning style. This 'e' book is written so that whatever knowledge you have now, your own existing knowledge of music, through vocabulary words creates the first steps on your own pathway forward, to understanding more about the music you are interested in and maybe love to play, or listen to, and dance to of course :)

For the theories of Americana music is in some ways just a loop, a loop of pitches that can also spiral in 3d mind you, but still loops with perfect closure. So however each of us find our way into the loop, we all go discovering along the same looping pathways, and eventually come out to where we started.

As you bump into the things you've learned in other discussions, your nearing to close up your loop of understanding the basic theory. The question; 'what is it about music I don't understand' helps plot a course when necessary. Some readers will still want to hear and identify the theory by numbers and musical forms while it moves along in real time. This can take a good while, even after the basics are rote learned and solid. Patient and curious will win this day.

Curiosity and imagination. "Imagination is more important than knowledge" as Albert Einstein once or thrice quipped. This work is written so that once a reader hooks into something of their own existing information, the included links associated with any discussion go both directions along our looping pathway; off to the theory basis of the topic at hand or a step or two forward, using ideas and properties of the discussion at hand to move the discussions along. Be curious.

So with this in mind off we go. Lots of links to lots of discussions with further links to more discussion, all chock full of musical ideas written out in standard notation with guitar tab. Linked up the blinking mp3 playback file. Sure makes all the difference to hear the theories in action :) So find the ones you dig and knit up an understanding of your music and share it all with those you love. These last links here are sequenced top to bottom to run down the core of the theory and philosophies of this cybertext.

"We don’t know what we’re looking for when we pick up a book, no matter how clear-cut the genre. We think we do, but we don’t. Don’t ever give people the thing they expect just because they expect it. Our job is to surprise them, to shake them, to turn their expectations on their heads. And do you know why? Because that’s when the MRI of their brain lights up, and they begin to see."

'Stay hungry.' Some of the best advice I ever got in me college days from my buddy from the Bronx, Jay Swartz. The idea that our physical and intellectual lives could be fueled by a 'built right in DNA driven animal hunger' to know and understand, accepting the fact that we learn more from our mistakes than successes, and that all we need to do is to keep trying and not give up. And while this animal sort of DNA drive doesn't ever guar ran tee a defined success, prolly safe to say that ...

'if we do quit at something, we prolly won't win it.' This might also be a philosophy or sorts :)

So 'stay hungry to solve your curiosities of musical mysteries.' Energize a life that's 'full on' in love for life, in all ways of learning, sharing and caring. Remember that music can always be our own lifelong ticket to the now global show, and all its players. Stay hungry.

Appel, Willie and Ralph T. Daniel. The Harvard Brief Dictionary Of Music, p. 221. New York: Pocket Books, a Simon and Schuster Division of Gulf and Western, 1960.

Burns, Ken.

The Harvard Brief Dictionary Of Music, p. 221. New York: Pocket Books, a Simon and Schuster Division of Gulf and Western, 1960.