~ glossary of musical terms ~

~ labeling the theory ~

~ letters A to L / M - Z ~


This glossary works to aquaint the reader to our musical and theoretical terms. Please note that in our own Americana and even to a certain extent with our Euro bretheren and its centuries long history of musical evolutionary studies, that any one term can have various shades of meanings, that any one component can have a couple of different handles depending on the historical era from which it comes.

What we call a something often depends on where we find it in the literature or use the term when speaking about understanding the theories, styles of music etc, flexibility is the key to enjoying and engaging the dialect. Some say 'poe tay toe and some say pa taa toe :) ... For example, the term 'downbeat's meaning is all over the map in our Americana pro musics. Click to explore.

So in knowing this out front here just try to be flexible along the way. When you bump into this situation just be curious. And then of course there's the slang terms, like when we use 'downbeat' to describe what time the band 'hits' or starts their public performance? Exactly :)

Academically though, all of the core theory definitions below are paraphrased from and referenced to the Harvard Brief Dictonary Of Music (HBDM). When definitions are derived from Wikipedia they are linked there for descriptions (wiki). Slang terms and artistic concepts are defined by the author and contain the symbol (S) to designate and differentiate these entries from the Harvard or Wiki. Anything left over I probably made up along the way :)

"Imagination is more important than intellect." wiki ~ Albert Einstein

a cappella

Italian meaning "in the chapel", for choral music without instrumental accompaniment, can apply to solo voice as well.

a gem

Used as an adjective, as in 'wow ... that is a gem of a song ...', a gem of 'a something' can really be anything, or even many facets of a thing, each of which are oftentimes very very beautiful, so that each individually contributes to make the whole of it a 'gem.'

A to A on the piano keys

a song

A song could be thought of as simply a musical story that tells the thoughts of the topic from composer's point of view.

a wee bit sharp

'A wee bit sharp' applies to how equal temper tuning corrals nature's tuning to create its own magic by making certain intervals as much as 6 cents sharp. While all of the 12 half steps in equal temper equal octave are 100 cents, there are intervals that 'suffer' more dramatically from this equal 'homoginization of pitch' more than others. Luckily with this approach to the tuning, anything from anywhere is now the rule of their day and we can bend pitches and 'warm them with up' with vibrato.

Mathwise, equal temper is simply a 'finer' numerical divi-up of the octave. The older, natural tuning's total focus on pure melody created melodies that sound a 'more natural?' Recreating the natural sweetness of each interval becomes a part of our own journey to understand how to portray our human emotions such as joy and sorrow, longing and fulfill, anger and reconciliation.

The bad news in all of this 'wee bit sharp' tuning is that in so many ways, the 3rd above the root pitch is nearly always a true cornerstone of a song, and unfortunatetly just due to the physics of it all, the natural 3rd's fair rather poorly pitchwise after being filtered through the equal temper math. While the major 3rd is a 'wee bit sharp' thus losing some sweetness, the minor 3rd, our beloved Americana blue note is a 'wee bit flat', and often needs a push up a bit to a more convincing level in slower tempos. So be it. Thanks to the nature of our gits and really every ax excepting the piano family of fixed tuned instruments, we've a way between it all to where the essence of the these improtant notes often live. So, what can piano players do?

As an additional 'thanks' from this equality of tuning evolution, 300 years later, midi evolves. Imagine that. While MIDI has its fans and detractors, it can surely give so many more folks a way into expressing their themselves through music.

A World Lit Only By Fire

A wonderful read about a way of life.


A gradual speeding up of the tempo and pulse of the music.


A symbol used to alter a pitch, almost always by just half step, most common accidentals including the sharp ( # ) and flat ( b ) and others. Here we see the sharps and flats arranged by key center around the cycle of fifth's.


The science of sound.

add one pitch

Adding or altering just one pitch at a time is a cool way to understand the theory. Once we know the letter names and what they represent, we can shed various common 'evolutions' of the resource by the adding or altering of one pitch. When we shift letters to numbers, we start to cook the whole tamale.


Is really just any pitch changed, usually by half step, from its diatonic identity within a key center. In strict chord theory lingo; any pitch in any chord altered from its diatonic pitch while still functioning the same way as the diatonic version, we could legally call as being altered. Mostly, altered pitches are non-diatonic tones and part of V7 and its extensions. Some theory cats go further and would say that altered chords combine augmented and diminished qualities in the same chord voicing such as 'b9b5.'


Musical atmosphere, environment.


The idea of AmerEuro simply attempts to inclusively describe the entire library of music that has been created over the last 500 years or so. Vast in its contents as it combines the 'Amer' i.e., American and 'Euro' i.e., European, for nearly all of this music is built with varying degrees of the same music theory principles, pitches, forms and basic elements of time. So 500 years ago Galileo's pop was a star lutenist with an equal tempered ax, while on the other side of the pond our American ancestors sang together as a family and drummed. As Monteverdi's opera 'Orpheo' marks the beginning of the homophonic sounds, 'Greensleeves' is the rage of London. What I really want to know is was there a piano on the Mayflower ... ? Was it equal temper tuned? Was the early banjo five stringed and tuned to open G? Did the classical Spanish guitar make its way up through South America and across the Rio Grande to land in the hands of the Texans? Did the cats playing banjo tune their first guitars in the banjo's open G tuning? Is the 'Spanish tuning' open G? How influential was the American public education music program for the jazz players of the 20th century? And what influences from European classical cats expanded the American sounds? All of this combines to include what the term 'AmerEuro" tries to encompass and explore.

American guitarist

Only because this is a theory text is this distinction really being made. In American guitar we get to combine the Euro evolved equal temper precision of tuning and the more naturally created, indigenous tuning of just intonation on the one ax. A key distinction between these two systems is that while just intonation gives us all the pitches, we need the precision of equal temper to create the entire spectrum of chords we enjoy on our modern guitars.

Americana core
Our core musical Americana includes the basic musical elements that we can find somewhere in all of the myriad of different styles and genres of American music. These include 'just' intonated pitches and the blue notes, the 2 and 4 rhythmic pulse and the full range of pitches, harmonies and keys as created by the equal tempered tuning system.

amen effect
My term, describes moving from the One chord to the Four back to One, generally associated with gospel music.

American dream

Life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.'

another first

This saying is more of a joke among friends here in AK than any music theory thing etc. As so much of what we often do or share, many times it is a 'first' for someone in the group. So if someone says ... 'wow I didn't know that', we quip ... 'yet another first ...' and are thankful for our ever renewing local universe and the discovering of its mysteries.


Usually two or four bars in length, the 'question' or first part of a musical phrase. Most often 'answered' by the consequent phrase. These two parts are neally always the same measure length.


Italian 'to lean', one pitch leaning off another.

arpeggiating the harmony

Common with non chordal instruments whereby the artist simply arpeggiates each chord in the progression, usually an easy way to clearly outline the chords /harmonic progression of a song.

arpeggio  / arpeggio degrees

Arpeggios are a created by skipping every other note in a scale, stepwise scales are respelt in major and minor 3rd's into arpeggios; scale #'s 12345678 become arpeggio numbers 1 3 5 7 9 11 13 and 15.

scale degree
root (1)
scale pitches
arpeggio degree
root (1)
arpeggio pitches

arpeggio saxophone kings

The importance of the arpeggio in the evolution of our musics is profound. In this entry here we choose three jazz artists who each 'revolutionized the music of their day' by featuring the more verticle arpeggio shaped ideas than horizontal stepwise lines. And while there are surely others, Coleman Hawkins, Charlie Parker and John Coltrane create clear examples of the power of the arpeggios in our musics.


Arrangements. The format that the performance of composition will follow, a 'map' of the tune, i.e., intro, head, solos, tag etc. that the band decides upon and often recorded in sound, writing or notation to be remembered for next time.

An 'arrangement' is simply a term we use to describe the format of how we're going to play a particular song and tons of theory can come into play; what key, what style, intro, form, chords and substitutions, which instrument plays what, ending, on and on really. There's a whole group of musicians that call themselves arrangers, many of whom are composers too. They specialize in taking the melody gems in their rawest of forms and polish them into works of art. Professional arrangers work with shaping music for whatever projects come along. From Hollywood film scores to Broadway shows and everything in between. If playong an instrument is not your thing, writing cool music for others to play is a cool way to work in music and oftentimes a nice payday too :)

 arrangements while you wait

Slang for working out the arrangement the band will play immediately preceding the performance of the tune, generally done while on the bandstand, although greatly increasing the risk of a train wreak, seasoned players do this all the time, especially on "casuals" or pick up gigs.

array of chords

Thanks to equal temper tuning, we guitarists get an incredibly vast array of diatonic chords. Throw in a few altered colortones or blue notes and kaboom. Here's the math on it. 7 diatonic chords x 12 keys x 4 basic inversions x 5 altered colortones x 2 polytonal builds = 3,360 possibilities ... wow that was quick :)


Representative expression of the creative energies of the human intellect.

 art / theory

Simply an idea of how things come about and evolve. Kind of like the "which came first ... the chicken or the egg." In our music studies, we theorists often come along after the art is created and discover the coolness within the music in theoretical terms. The flip side, when the "well is dry", we can use the theory to generate new ideas for creating new art.

 artistic filters

To pass a motif through an existing structure, style or concept.

 artistic license

Artistically fitting round pegs in square holes, what an artist might want to have when their ideas are a bit ahead of their time etc., allows an artist to "stretch" conventional guidelines, norms and standards.

 artistic signature

Aurally recognizable components of a particular players artistic statement, i.e., tone, articulation, phrasing etc. Often identified by artists who's fane is so great they can go by just one name and everyone knows who were thinking of for example; Bono, Madonna, Elvis, Jeter, MJ, Picasso, Warhol, Adele, Drake, Enya, Beyonce.


Music having no tonal center or sense of tonic.

augment (ed)

To enlarge or supplement, usually associated with musical intervals, melodically often associated with the whole tone scale, chordally we find the augmented term associated with the triad and the 4th and 5th degrees of the dominant seventh chord.

augmented 6th chords

More found in traditional or classical music, so named by the interval between the root and one of the upper voices, which forms the interval of an augmented 6th which most of us know as flat 7, blue 7th or dominant 7th.


The physical ability for us to be able to hear, thus become listeners.

aural abilities

The intellectual ability for us to be able to hear the structures of diatonic music .

aural color

Just a way to describe different musical sounds or chords is to describe them in a similar manner to how we talk about visual color.

aural evolutionary process

Big verbiage to describe how our ability to hear gradually evolves, even following along a similar numerical as with the evolution of musical styles. Hearing the theory.

It can also simply be a matter of what we'll accept in regards to function tonal gravity, aural predictability etc.

Formal schooling in music theory includes ear training classes, where you listen to music and write down what's taking place in standard music notation. They are paired with sight singing, a combination of singing and reading standard notation.

aural perfection

Aural purity. Our system of music theory all comes from our Mother Nature and the natual acoustics she has provided us with. The most aurally pleasing sounds of our pitch combinations is the basis of all. This idea of aural perfection is measured when pitches are sounded together, we count how many 'beats' we can hear when sounded together. The beats are the oscillations of sound waves created by each of the pitches.

So, the less beats the purer the sound, the more perfect their combined sound is said to be. As music theory scientists, we can and often do 'measure' all of this 'between the pitches' business and label the near endless combinations as intervals; the length of space between the pitches.

Aural purity is still the basis of our own organizing of the pitches today; in this book termed our 'silent architecture.' Thus the diatonic octave, fifth and fourth are titled as 'perfect' in comparison to our other diatonic combinations, i.e., major and minor seconds, thirds, sixths and seventh's, their further alterations and combos beyond. Upon this aural perfection the musical house is built.

sound waves / beats

aural predictability

Often alighned with the phenomina of 'tonal gravity' in this work, aural predictability is simply a way to describe how we hear and can sense where the music is going. This includes all of musics features; lyrics, melodies, chords, rhythms, cadences and form. All of this can be numerically laid out; low numbers of whatever elements usually creates a more predictable song. More elements and we can begin to 'cat and mouse' our intent and as we do so, our style can morph from children's songs, folk and country towards the blues, rock and pop to jazz, where all 12 tones are often in play.


A type of chord cadencing using tonic, One ( I ) and dominant, Five chords ( V ) motion.


Slang term for instrument.

Bach chorales

One of the composer, player, conductor kings of European Baroque music.

Bach, J.S.

Johann Sebastion Bach (1685-1750) was the unhearalded King Of The European Continent at the close of the Baroque era. As often quipped on this side of the Atlantic, in Bach's own dayhe was 'the greatest keyboard player that we never heard of.' At this key historical juncture, the loud / soft key mechanism for the piano forte was invented. Composers had already been demanding more keys of the 12 pitch cycle, some more successful than others depending on their piano tuners. As Europe was still coming to terms with equal temper tuning, Bach comes along and writes his collection titled the "Well Temered Clavier." While there's still controversy today of the tuning of Bach's keyboard in creating this work, there's zero arguement about that fact that his music is 24 unique pieces, each in one of the 12 major or minor key centers. Once this work was reintroduced to a wider range of players, having all of the key centers on the one piano not made sense but composers wrote more music and modulations within to 'remote' keys. Once this full 12 key range was available through the equal temper tuning of the pitches, we've really never looked bach ... I mean back :) Here's JS, the master himself, working the magic.

So this bit of the story provides one half of the theory of our Americana musics. Was there a piano on the Mayflower? Or one floated down the eastern US seaboard. If so there's a chance it was equal temper tuned. As such, Americans now had the full range of key center and modulation that Europe had. We also musics that were


In regards to our Americana musics, we catch up with Herr Bach's magic towards the apex of his career. For in the early 1720' he's composing his collection of songs for the WTC. By it's completion we Americano's have all the harmony we'll ever need to create all of our indigenous 'folk musics' for ever after. For in this collection we find all the changes. Of course there's no swing in the timing when classically performed yet this exhaustive seaching of the harmony is as complete as any we might have today. That is until Parker and Coltrane came along.


The 2nd and 4th beats of a measure of 4/4 time, often accented and sometimes sharpely accented; a pop on 2 and 4 created by the snare drum, which becomes the heartbeat a wide swath of the spectrum of our Americana styles. This accenting on the offbeats of 4/4 time is what creates the feeling of 'pull' between the unaccented 1 and 3 beats accented beats of 2 and 4, this 'feeling of the pull' between the beats creates Americana swing.


From riding a bicycle I'd imagine, motion by perfect fourths, counter-clockwise on the cycle of fifths organization of our 12 pitches. In the progression 1 3 6 2 5 1 root cadential motion in C major, starting on 1 / C then jumps across a bit to 3 / E, then pedal backwards back to C by passing by through A / 6, D / 2, and G / 5, to get there. 1 3 6 2 5 1.

In backpedaling, each of the pitches is the V of the one it preceeds, anywhere in or along this loop of our 12 pitches.


Slang for something easily done.


bad action

Strings to high for easy of playing.

bag of licks

A collection of your own favorite musical phrases or chord changes.

baking bread

There's an old time fairy tale about this, who wants to help bake the bread then who wants to help eat the bread. Find yourself some bakers. John Lennon baked bread.


A style of song characterized by a slower, stately tempo with an emotional content usually centered on the topic of love.

wiki ~ ballad

Oldtime 4 string tenor banjo.


A style or period of European music and architecture characterized by it's emphasis on ornamentation of line, sequential mostly diatonic sequences, historically spanning the years of 1600 to 1750.

Baroque ~ ornate and super well crafted

Baroque era

Baroque guitar

history of Europe

bar / measure

A word to describe a measure of length in our music, in both actual time depending on tempo and as a way to notate our music with written symbols .


A chord shape on stringed instruments whereby the index finger of the fretting hand perpendicularly covers all of the strings, in effect replacing the nut of the instrument creating movable chord forms.


Lowest vocal register, lowest pitch of a chord, foundation of the music, a cleff.

bass player

Lowest vocal register, lowest pitch of a chord, foundation of the music, a cleff.


A rather virtuostic more listening than dancing style of American jazz which historically evolved from the late 1930's through the 40's. Pioneered by Charlie Parker, Thelonius Monk, Dizzy Gillespie, Max Roach, Charlie Christian and so many others, bebop is characterized by bright tempos, intricate melodies, polyrhythms, extensive modulation, simply exhausting every knook and cranny of the diatonic harmony potential of key center, chord substitution at the fastest tempos ever, thus tremendous excitement for the players and listeners alike.


Pitches the fine art of changing pitch by physically altering the creation of the pitch, i.e., pushing or pulling a string, using a slide on the strings, tightening the embouchure for horn players, bending pitches is often essential in delivering the more elementary blues styles.

big beat / big four

The big beat or big four is for the most part just the successive sounding of four quarter notes in common four / four time. Most of the American sounds follows this beat, it creates the core 'pocket' for swing, makes for a very predictable groove for dancers.

big hits

Big hits are songs that chart well on the Billboard top 100, or top 40, or top 10 and then may even go on to win a Grammy award.


Usually associated with form in music, basically meaning two parts making up the whole, as in the number 25 is a binary number.

birds' eye

Slang for fermata, a symbol for suspending the forward motion / time of the music.

birds eye view

Add one select pitch to a five pitch pentatonic core and the essential six note, tritone bearing blues scale arrives. Its pervasive influence everywhere in our Americana sounds simply cannot be denied. Next, from a six pitch grouping to the seven pitches of the major and minor diatonic scales and modes, creating the pitch groups for not only the endlessly evolving crossover styles of all things Americana but most of the harmony as well.

Then a gradual peppering back in of the remaining five blue notes to our seven pitch grouping, completing our 12 pitches of half step chromaticism, stylized in jazz and all that is beyond. And the harmony? We can follow a similar numerical evolution; increasing numbers of pitches in our chords corresponding to a morphing between our American musical styles.

Bird Lives

A biography of Charlie Parker.


Two distinctly different aural colors used together.

block chords

Refers to voicing each melody note with it's own chord / harmony.


Jazz speak slang for soloing, from the horn players I'd imagine.


In this text it is used to describe basic harmonic formulas or key musical elements that are often associated with and even define a popular musical style.

blue notes

The ones that make us tear up and cry, makes our hair stand up and bodies swaying, the pitches of the blues scale, also those pitches named in relation to the seven pitches of the diatonic major scale; the sharp one, minor third, augmented fourth, augmented fifth and minor seventh, i.e., the other five pitches.


An indigenously organic, aural core of our Americana music styles in pitches, rhythms, poetry, musical form and improvisation.


Slang, the method of making something non-blues into something blues, or even just adding a dab of the blue color somewhere in the music we're creating.

blues anchor

My term for a musical device that can quickly retonally center our improvisations, regardless of how style as the blues lives within near all Americana. Driving on the tonic One is one such anchor :)

blues and beyond

With varying tempos and additional chord changes, not end to the blues in Americana.

blues chords

Blues chords. In common practice, all the chords in a major keyed song are dominant 7th chords, thus they contain a tritone interval within their four pitches 1 3 5 b7. This V7 sound creates half of what is termed here the 'blues rub', the other half being the sound of the blue notes rubbing up against the tritone in the chord.

This is the basic diatonic combination that creates the blues we love. No end to combinations. With frets we git players can bend pitches, find notes in between, long a tradition in the blues in finding the blue notes. Find cool ones by rubbing them over the essential V7 chords that support.

That's blues in a major key. Blues tunes written in a minor key are way simpler in theory with the chords. Minor triad based harmony supports minor pentatonic melody pitches that have been single pitched, tritone enhanced.

blues harmony

The unique non-diatonic harmony traditionally used to support the American blues sounds.

blues 'rub'

The idea of a blues rub is all about how the blue minor third melody note sits on top of the major third that lives within the major triad which forms the basis of V7, the basic blues chordal color we use to support our blues lines, thus: minor 3rd in melody + major third in chord = blues 'rub.'

blues scale

In Essentials simply a minor pentatonic group with a one pitch tritone slipped perfectly in the middle of the octave closure pitches; A C D Eb E G A .

a blues lick

This term is total slang of course but simply describes placing a blues lick into a spot in the music where it artistically fits. Doesn't have to be a blues tune. We hear this all the time in rock, jazz, pop tunes. For in actual practice, there really is no spot where it won't work, it's just about artistic taste and the setting of where the music is being created, surely everyone in the room should know this flavor :)


My term to obscure the clarity, in this text usually to obscure the tonal direction and defy the tonal gravity of a musical phrase.

borrow (ing)

A term to help understand the concept of how we can bring in pitches from other key centers to spice up our diatonic realm. If you play songs that modulate key centers then you're already borrowing pitches. Blue notes are a way to neatly 'borrow' a new pitch or two right now !!!

bossa / jazz

These two styles are so similar in theory that they're most often grouped together in discussions of; scales, arpeggios, chords, chord progressions and imprvisation.


My term for turning any sort of music into a bossa nova style with a bossa beat.

Bowie, David

'Che che che changes' was just one of many wonderful hooks created by Mr. Bowie.

breaks (instrumental)

Pre-arranged spots in the music where the band stops on a dime and one of the members gets a couple of bars to solo unaccompanied. Usually one, two or four bars in length, once completed the band joins banck in and off they go.

bridal chorus

Of course we Americans mostly know this as Here Comes The Bride", the lick is Richard Wagner's wedding march from his opera "Lohengrin." 1850 (1)


slang for the 'B' section of the A / A / B / A form, the bridge lives between A sections and most often is a different melodic ide, a contrasting theme. In pop and other styles of music it is also called the release, refrain even if there are repeated words, in verse / chorus pairings, the chorus (B) becomes the 'bridge' between verses (A) etc.

bring it

just a slang term really, mostly for improvisors, that implies that when it's time for an artist to step up and testify and bring the house down, they muster the juice of whatever and do just that, they bring all their energies to capture the mood of the moment in their improvisation and tell their listeners their version of the story of the music being played.

broken chord
Sounding the notes of a chord in succession as opposed to being struck together, slang for arpeggio.

big roar

59 burst


My term for a style of modern jazz whereby dominant harmony substitutes for all the chords, the improvised line tends to become more chromatic and the tempo is blisteringly fast. Also, what horn players do with their mouthpiece to initiate their sound on brass instruments.

by ear

The term 'by ear' describes how we as musicians use our hearing to understand what is happening in the music. As theorists we often apply a theory label to an event or component, getting a handle on it which oftentimes help us communicate our ideas to the other players in our group. Hip cats who play well by listening are said to have; 'big ears' and 'good radar.'

C to A on the piano keys


Seemingly unrelated combinations of sounds, i.e., noise. In actual music often as an affection, created by using multiple tonal centers simultaneously of combined, random chromatic motion between instruments.


Usually two or more pitches or chords chords that bring a sense of closure or rest to musical tension. In melodies; 2 down to to 1 and 7 up to 8 are common cadences. With chords, V7 to I is the general basis of a chord cadence. See the next entry titled 'cadential motions' for various types of chord cadencing.

essential vocabulary

for rote memorization

cadential motions

Cadential motions; two or more chords ending an event of musical tension, most commonly V7 to I. See the next entry titled cadential motions for various types of chord cadencing.

Also, a musical term that describes the various ways of creating chordal solutions to support a melody's tension and release dynamic, i.e., its tonal gravity and aural predictability within a musical style. Common varieties include;

Authentic cadence. Basically any Five to One chord motion for both minor and major keys and songs. Want to set up C major as the center of the music?

Somebody say amen. Dig deeper on your own if needed for the terms of a 'perfect' authentic cadence.

Half cadence. Includes harmonic motions that end on the Five chord, thus halfway there or thought to be incomplete.

Plagel cadence. Usually will generally apply to any motions of the Four chord moving to One.

Deceptive cadence. Five or V7 going to the minor Six chord. Five to major Six is far less common but an essential touch in spots.

Modal cadences. Using the above three main cadential motions but thinking modally, i.e., creating loops within loops, both diatonic and altered. These might be substitute turnarounds, i.e., modal turnarounds, when placed into other diatonic or pitch environments.

Vamp ~ cadence. Probably not really a true cadence theorywise, but surely our vamps can cycle any conventional cadential motion or grouping. Even 'three times and out' probably qualifies.

Non resolving cadential motion. Cycles of changes both diatonic and enhanced. A chord progression such as; Three / Six / Two / Five, or half step double Two / Five are fairly common, essential and cool.

Giant Steps changes. A new evolution of motion combining our traditional cadential motion into a new harmonic cycle.

cadentially reinforced

Probably more 'art' than glossary, we can in the general scheme of things reinforce how one chord evolves into another by tweaking their pitches to ramp up the sense of gravity between them or obscure the direction we're going to create unexpected twists and surprises in the music.


An open section where a player gets to play solo and unaccompanied, usually found at the end of a song.

Cadillac Jack

the main character of a book by the same title authored by Larry McMurtry.

call and response

Initially developed from community services, whereby the leader sings a phrase to which the people respond, surely among the most common forms of communication between sentinent beings.


Slang for choosing a tune while on the bandstand. A callable tune (standard) is one usually familiar to most players in the group.

capitalized numbers

When a number is written out and capitolized it represents that numerical scale or arpeggio degree or color tone. One through Eight are the usual scale degrees. Once above Eight we're into the colortones and beyond. Caps on a number just sets it into a diatonic basis, and we just figure the rest out from there.


A device used by guitar players that "clamps" all the strings across the fingerboard, allowing open position chords to create other keys.


career musician

Career musician. Would be one who has decided that music will always be a part of their whole lives in whatever capacities become available; ranging from studying and playing an instrument for fun to researching a favorite style and its players, to becoming a scholar, teacher and professional performer et al.


A gig characterized as the name implies, a casual musical job or performance, maybe once in a while as opposed to a steady, which happens on a regular basis. Most often these gigs are with a pickup band; who is available on that date and time and is willing to come out and testify.

Oftentimes the phone rings, a leader has a job and needs musicians. They have a list of players they like to work with; drums, bass piano guitar horns etc. And depending on the job and its requirements; a club, concert, wedding etc., they hire the best cats for the gig. Always best to get a phone number and really really try to keep it ... good for biz :)


In putting this work together, I had to simplify things by assigning all of the popular styles of the American sounds into one of six catgories; Metal, Folk, Blues, Rock, Pop and Jazz. These are where the breakpoints in the theory are most easily visible, especially via the harmony. So broadly label your style as one of the six and you'll find lots of ways into the theory.

catalog guitars


Simply oldtime American slang for a musician, player, artist or friend. Credited to trumpeter, vocalist band leader Louis Armstrong, the father of American swing.


A term that describes a musical idea, usually a snippet of melody or a combination of chords, that is used as a core idea for further expansion and development in musical composition / artistic work.


One of the ways we numerically measure and label our pitches. There are 100 cents in each of our half step intervals.

changes ( the )

"Che che che changes ... " (words, actually the hook to a popular song sorry :) Slang for the chords of a song. Getting 'hip to the changes' is slang among musicians for knowing the chords to the song.


Slang for a written musical score or lead sheet. Need charts for your band? Once you want to find some sheet music to study, put the word out to you 'local universe' and it will provide; for there's a ton or more of it out there; from friends, teachers, libraries, schools, music stores, used book stores etc.


Slang for a players ability to execute musical phrases. An accomplished musican is said to 'have some chops.' To get said chops we each have to learn how to push the buttons. No one else can push the buttons for us. Call it practicing or whatever, players with chops have paid some dues shedding in the woodshed. Which for many turns out to really be a very cool place to hang out ... :)


Different pitches, vertically stacked and struck, sounded together.

Chord Chemistry


This cat knew all the changes.

Bless you Ted Greene, my you forever be with us in music, spirit and love.



chord degree

Numerical label for pitches within a chord or arpeggio, i.e., 1st, 3rd, 5th, 7th etc. These would be the same numbers as found within an arpeggio.

chord family

Viewing any chord or harmony in one of three families in relation to the major tonality, chords in each of the families provide one of three basic artistic elements, these are stability (tonic), passing chord (two) and tension (five).

chord melody

A style of guitar where melody notes and harmony are positioned to create complete musical arrangements, style of performance where melody pitch is the highest note of each chord.

chord progression
Specific cycles of chords, the motion of one chord to another. The harmonic motions that help a song be a song :)

chord quality

The various properties of a chord that define its role in the specific setting within the actual music where we find it. This is most often theory determined by chord type; 3rd and 7th.

chord 'coffee' spelling chart

The following chart is a likeness of the one created for me by Larry Tutt over coffee one day at music school. It became the key for me to eventually unlock it all.

scale # degrees
C major scale
arpeggio # degrees
C major arpeggio
chord # / quality
diatonic 7th chords

chord substitution

Simply replacing one chord with another, or slipping in additional chords between the written changes of a song, generally of the same chord type. Surely a mostly blues and jazz thing, especially jazz where the artist is looking to solo through chord changes.

Chord symbols are just the shorthand for designating the various chords most often found in a lead sheet presentation. Lots of variation in these through the decades. Here are some of the more common ones of today.

chord tone(s)

Refers to a pitch used in the creation of a chord, the pitches used to create a particular chord, chord tones also create the arpeggios. Pitches not part of the chord? Right, non-chord tones :)

chord type

The theory of chord type allows us to streamline three unique interval combinations to create three unique families of chords. The idea is to be able to identify any chord by its 'type', placing it into a family which helps in organizing our practicing and understanding of where we will commonly find and use each of the three types in the music.

The two key elements of determing a chord's 'type' are the quality of the triad and its added 7th degree. Here our choices are one of two; either major or minor. Is our triad major or minor? And is our 7th a major or minor 7th interval above our root pitch. It's in the three basic combinations of these choices where the idea of chord type evolves from.

The three categories of chord type , i.e., tonic ( I ), Two ( ii ) or Five ( V ) viewed in relation to the major tonality, chords in each of the categories provide one of three basic artistic elements, these are stability ( tonic ), passing chord ( Two ) and tension ( Five ).

chord voicing

Chord voicings refer to the arrangement of the pitches or chord tones within a chord.

(a) chorus

In this text and generally, one complete cycle of the entire form of a piece of music. These forms can be anything really as the song's story dictates the length and form. Common American forms include; a four bar phrase, an eight bar phrase, the 12 bar blues, and 16 and 32 bar song forms.

chromatic (motion)

Melodic or harmonic motion of consecutive half steps in either direction. Do read on ...


The idea of chromaticism falls along the lines of really anything chromatic in nature, i.e., using half steps within the diatonic realm of things. A bit further along these lines, chromaticism often reflects a more continual addition of half steps, giving the music an overall chromatic tone through an entire piece or section within. Do read on ...

chromatic buzz

My slang term to describe the way I hear some of today's music that is created by a mostly continuous stream of dominant chord substitution, often altered dominants, where the colortones are tightly voiced and articulated in rapid tempos. That everything seems to blend towards the chromatic with a corresponding loss of a sense of key center, aural predictability and tonal gravity. Do read on ...

chromatic enhancement

Discovering various ways to evolve a musical phrase by inserting half steps or the blue notes in a diatonic melodic line, to approach pitches of a musical idea by half step above or below. Jazz players such as Charlie Parker perfected this bluesy nuanced style of melodic line back in the 40's and dramatically evolved the jazz vocabulary for creating melodic lines. Do read on ...

chromatic helmet

Safety device worn by musically adventurous folks. Note the solid, strength of the incoming beam of info light to the modern artist. I'd say Ms' right hand is on some sort of synth keyboard and she's looking at the drummer, and thanking them for being the motor :) Do read on ...

chromatic scale

Twelve pitches, a group of pitches created exclusively with the interval of a half step, containing 12 pitches within one octave. Twelve pitches is, in theory, all we get. Need more? Start bending :) Got chromatic ?



Join historical order, to understand a series events in the historical sequence in which they occurred our group of pitches created exclusively with the interval of a half step, containing 12 pitches within one octave.

church modes

Called 'church' modes because that is where their historical records where preserved, a medieval system of four scales; Dorian, Phrygian, Lydian and Mixolydian, each consisting of the tones of the basic diatonic scale of todays white keys of the piano, a system of pitches later enlarged in the 16th century with two additional scales; Ionian and Aeolian, all of which was incorporated into our present system of equal temper tuning. HBDM.

circle of fifths

A pictorial 'clocklike' representation and way to organize the 12 tonal or key centers of the equal temperament system, based on the root motion of perfect fifths, usually clockwise, or it's inverse, the perfect fourth (counterclockwise).


classic sounds

In Essentials here, the idea of "classic sounds" nearly always implies that there's only one spot to generate a certain classic sound on our instruments. While there are other places on the neck where identical pitches by letter name live, most often there's only one way and one spot to get certain sounds. Any of the open string licks would qualify here as well as some of the character blues licks.

classical guitar / nylon string / Spanish guitar / Flamenco guitar / a nylon string classical guitar ... or ... a Bossa Nova ride :)

classical theory

The theory of European classical music and our American music theory differs in really just one aspect; there's no real blues music or its influence in classical music. No blue notes, no big four, no 2 and 4. Call and response? Yes, that's in there. Using a dominant chord type as the One, Four and Five chords? No, just not in the mix.

Futher, that we Americano's have used the slang term 'legit' to describe various aspects of the classical musical world, its players, musics and most importantly here, its approach to understanding the theories of the music.


Stereotypical musical phrase spanning generations of players. Part of the trick here is to develop ways to play cliche licks and make them sound legit. Their historical origins helps find us a pathway to our own articulations of what are somewhat ancient ideas coming round anew.

click track

Recording studio term for a metronomical beat usually delivered via headphones to the recording players to help solidify the groove.


High point of solo, release of music tension.

close key centers

Close key centers is a term that reflects the the proximity of a letter name key center on the cycle of 5th's. For in either direction of travel, each click brings just one new pitch into the mix. In this graphic, thinking from the pitch C at the 12 o'clock position, the keys centers of 'G' and 'F' are said to be closely related to the key of 'C.'

C: C D E F G A B C

G: G A B C D E F# G

F: F G A Bb C D E F

close voicings

Pitches of a chord voicing that are within one octave.


To bring a sequential group of elements back to it's starting point creating a closed loop, also used pedagogically within the text to bring a theoretical concept of artistic skill to conclusion 'by doing' as part of the learning process.


Usually a group of 3 to 5 pitches or so that are sequenced into a cool idea, then rapidly articulated. oftentimes they are then pushed through a larger cycle, i.e., chromatic, fifths, fourths, minor third / fourths etc.


Italian for "tail", a section of music added on to common musical forms to provide perfect closure to the artistic idea of the piece.


Another super cool feature with music as art is that it is a collaborative process. That all the fun we can have making music can be multiplied by the number of musical artists involved.


Usually a combination of somewhat disparate elements in creating piece of art.


My term for describing a musical sound, like using the color terms of the seven chakras to describe traveling in time spiral path of refracted light through a prism.

color tones

Any pitch used in a chord that is not part of the 3 note triad can be termed a color tone as it adds 'color' to any three note triad, color tone is also a common slang term for upper structure chord tones of diatonic harmony, i.e., 7th, 9th, 11th, 13th etc. and all their alterations. These color tone pitches are also know as chord tensions, extensions and such depending on which academia one ascribes to.


Coltrane, John

American jazz saxophonist John Coltrane's work forms a basis of this Essentials work to understand the evolution of the harmony of Americana music. Following in his path, here recreated by a historical timeline of the recording and release of his original compositions, we create a study of the development of our Americana tonality and its modernization of the last century or so.

As a single note melody player, my belief is that Mr. Coltrane's journey is partly driven by simple boredom. As his practicing standards are legendary, Coltrane simply exhausted things and moved to a new level of challenge simply by evolving the harmonic complexities of his compositions through basic theoretical manipulations of the pitches and intervals; he continually sought a greater challenge in the harmonic structures of his compositions. And like many other artists in all fields of study, when existing forms do not exist to capture and express ideas, they create their own.

Remember, that we're thinking of improv 'through the changes.' That new or additional chords in a chord progression gives the improvisor another opportunity for exploration. In doing so advances the harmonic schemes of the day into new and yet unviewed vistas of creative opportunity for those who follow. Read on ...

Coltrane's harmonic evolution

Coltrane's harmonic evolution. With triangles and colors to create our seven chakras, we can apply the basic theoretical evolution that gets us from our core essential One / Five / One cadential motion through "Moments Notice" into "LazyBird" and "Naima" and on to our endpoint of the new cadential and harmonic cycle motion championed by Mr. Coltrane's seminal composition "Giant Steps."

(where the ) coolness hangs

Jacmuse slang to describe a unique property of our guitars. That while there's often a way or two to play the pitches of a lick, oftentimes there's just one way to capture 'it.' Also that each of the common pitches, for example the pitch 'E' or 'G' when playing blues, each unique location on the neck create its own unique timbre, that the same lick in different spots produces somewhat different results. Thus the need to find one cool idea in other spots on the ax. Surely one's technique plays a decisive role in where and how the coolness hangs :)

common practice
As the term implies what everybody does, oftentimes defined by an era of history whereby folks basically used the same artistic elements to create their sounds thus creating and defining a style of music within a particular era of history.

common time

4 / 4 time; four beats per measure and the quarter note gets the beat.

common tone

Two musical components sharing a common pitch / pitches, extendable to any length of phrase, components etc.


Providing harmonic background for soloist, vocalist.


While the term usually implies one who writes music, in our American ways of music making, oftentimes we all get to make it up a bit as we go along, thus the idea that we all get to compose to a greater or lessor degree. And thinking in this way just might encourage us to write more and become composers, as in the more traditional sense and use of the word.


In this text, creating music, both spontaneously improvised within musical time or written out.

compound intervals

intervals that exceed the span of one octave; one octave + _____ = compound.

# of half steps
# of whole steps
commonly called
C up octave to C# augmented octave 13 6.5 sharp octave?
C up octave to Db minor ninth 13 6.5 flat nine
C up octave to D major ninth 14 7 ninth
C up octave to D# augmented ninth 15 7.5 sharp nine
C up octave to Eb minor tenth 15 7.5 minor tenth
C up octave to E major tenth 16 8 tenth
C up octave to F perfect eleventh 17 8.5 eleventh
C up octave to F# augmented eleventh 18 9 sharp eleven
C up octave to Gb diminished twelfth 18 9 diminished twelfth
C up octave to G perfect twelfth 19 9.5 twelfth
C up octave to G# augmented twelfth 20 10 sharp twelve
C up octave to Ab minor thirteenth 20 10 flat thirteen
C up octave to A major thirteenth 21 10.5 thirteenth
C up octave to A# augmented thirteenth 22 11 sharp thirteen
C up octave to Bb minor fourteenth 22 11 flat seven
C up octave to B major fourteenth 23 11.5 leading tone
C up 2 octaves to C major fifteenth 24 12 octave
C up 2 octaves + 1/2 step to C# augmented fifteenth 25 12.5 sharp fifteen
C up 2 octaves + 1/2 step to Db minor sixteenth 25 12.5 flat nine
C up 2 octaves + whole step to D major seventeenth 26 13 ninth
C up 2 octaves + 3 1/2 steps to D# augmented seventeenth 27 13.5 sharp nine
C up 2 octaves + 3 1/2 steps to Eb minor eighteenth 27 13.5 minor third
C up 2 octaves + 2 whole steps to E major eighteenth 28 14 8 av. tenth?

concert tuning

Concert tuning has to do with the pitch A below middle C tuned to 440 hz. Concert or standard tuning is also the common way we tune our gitfiddles; EADGBE. Also, used in regards to transposing instruments such as the trumpet in Bb, and the saxophones family, Bb for tenor and bari and Eb for alto and soprano. For example an Eb concert note is F for say tenor sax and C for alto.

concord /


the idea that two pitches sound well together when their ratios of frequency are of small numbers; 2:1, 3:2 etc.


As the term implies, in joining all of the creative and emotional aspects of artistic performers and their audience and the exchange of energies on so many different levels that happens between them, i.e., the dynamics of a rewarding and fulfilling performance for all involved.


the "answer" to the question or first part of a musical phrase, see antecedent.


the opposite of dissonant, describes a harmonious relationship between pitches.

constant structure

Simply moving the same chord voicing or shape up or down in pitch. The half step lead in, the minor third of the diminished group and whole step with whole tone colors are common examples. Chromatic motion = by 1/2 step.


contrary motion

Implies when two voices, as say within a chord, move in opposite directions in regards to pitch, motion of chord voices in opposite directions, opposite of parallel motion, which implies voices moving directionally together either up or down.

contrasting theme

In a musical composition containing two themes, the most important theme is termed the principle theme, while the second theme is said to be in "contrast", thus the contrasting theme.


To arrive at a destination or resolution, the morphing of one tonal color to another, the theory which creates labels of the colors often referred to in this text as "lines of tonal convergence."


When ya see this question in the dialogue there's two simple answers. Yes ... I'm cool with knowing whatever we're talking about. Or, no I'm not ... but at the very least now I know that such a musical component does exist and needs to be explored at some point, the 'when to explore' based on our own artistic needs, directions and paydays. Outboard choices to ask a question or two? ? Jacmuse on Facebook or to the author, who answers questions as time allows.

cool jazz

Style of American jazz that evolved in the 50's characterized by more relaxed tempos, sparser harmonies and more languid melodic lines, in part inspired from the Miles Davis recording "Kind of Blue", the emergence of "cool jazz", notably on the West Coast as pioneered by locals C. Baker, J. Mulligan, and many others, today, late 90's and onward, also used to define some contemporary and new age jazz.

common practice
As the term implies the idea of a 'common practice' initially applies to two aspects of our music; a defined historical era based on how composers and players wove and worked their magic and second, as a description of the way we generally do a thing i.e., such as using the index finger for our barre finger in creating barre chords.

core chords

The chords designated as core are the shapes or voicings that come right out of the five scale shapes that give us a key center over the entire range of the guitar. Forming a closed loop of shapes, the five scale shapes anchor the EMG guitar method.

core colors

My term to describe the pentatonic group of pitches and it's two added tritone brethren, the Blues scale and the major / relative minor groups, that these are the core colors of American melody.

core of it all

The core of the American sound is a couple of things really, 4 / 4 time while an accent on 2 and 4 creates the pull of swing. Chords support melodies with blue notes, creating the essential rub in it all.

core scale formula

My term to describe the whole step (1) / half step (1/2) interval formula for the diatonic / major relative minor scale group of pitches.

1 ~ 1 ~ 1/2 ~ 1 ~ 1 ~ 1 ~ 1/2

core scale shapes

These scale shapes are the five scale shapes that give us the major / relative minor key center over the entire range of the guitar. Forming a closed loop of shapes, the five scale shapes anchor the EMG jazz guitar method. Illustrated here in the relative keys of G major / E minor.

could be

Really means that I personally think so, my opinion in favor of the idea postulated in the text, prompting the 'could be' or even a 'could very well be.'


Counterpoint. In the music world, counterpoint means literally point 'counter' point, where the points are pitches, for in the olden days written notes on the staff looked like and were referred to as a 'point.' Counterpoint is the theoretical study of how one pitch moves to the next in a melodic line, then between two or more melodic lines. etc. It is a style of composition once popular during the Baroque period, a century or so prior to the rise of the piano, equal temper tuning and the new style of composition homophony.

At its apex, composers would weave even four or more melodic lines together in their point vs point music. As the music gets busier, more notes end up lining up vertically and getting sounded together as chords. Once equal temper tuning became the norm during the early 18th century, we see dominance of homophonic composing; one main melody supported by chords. Here the counterpoint of old becomes the voice leaning of the new.

Voice leading is how each pitch of each chord resolves to each pitch of the next chord as the music moves along. And while there are the 'rules' of all this from the old days, we moderne's of today have a greater degree of freedom. If we do chose to play by the rules of say 18th century counterpoint, then there's a chances that what we compose could sound 'dated' to that era. As the generations pass and the rules evolve, so does the sound of the music. When we consider European orchestral music and the symphony orchestra, often with 50, 60, 70 or more musicians, both counterpoint and voice leading loom large in a composer's process.

cover tunes

Slang term for popular songs, many of which are often top 40, often found in dance band repertoires in any of the American styles of music.

creating melodies

Start by singing the melody you want to play i.e., "sing the line ... play the line."

creative juice

My term for the spark of intellect and energy that we each have as musicians that compel us to create the music we create, also known as "mojo" in the blues stylings.

Cristofori, Bartolomeo

Cristofori is said to be the artist who developed the mechanism whereby each key of the piano keyboard became dynamically sensative to the touch of the player. This was really the last hurdle in the development of the keyboard instruments for composers and players alike back in the early 1700's. With this new ability to play soft and loud, determined by how hard a piano key was struck, the game as they say was changed forever.

And while equal temper tuning was surely known of and in the process of winning its way with the players during Cristofori's day, with the emergence of his piano-forte, i.e., the soft and loud dynamic ability, it wasn't really to long after that the players wanted, some even demanding, that this new touch ability be paired with 'equal' pitches tuned as to allow players with complete access to all of the 12 key centers, major and minor, and of course all the harmonies too. This new combination of elements helped drive the music towards the homophonic style we've used nearly ever since.

crossover tune

A crossover tune or song is one that finds its way into distictly different styles as say when a traditional folk song gets a jazz treatment.

Count Basie

That quarter notes swing the hardest is an opinion I formed after hearing all kinds of jazz and realized that Mr. Basie and his style of American jazz consistently features the 'four to bar' big quarter note swing in different many tempos. Luckily for us we can hear his groove on nearly everything his bands recorded. An all-time favorite for players, listeners and dancers alike is of course his classic jump written with rhythm changes "Jumpin' At The Woodside."


A cyberbook is simply a book that is written about a topic in which the modern wizardry of today's 'cyber' world is built into the text. What we hope to gain in this format is the ability to present the information so that any interested learner, with every imaginable background of experience, has a way into the topic. From there, it's all about one's own determination to succeed that fuels the direction and intensity of studies and the intellectual results.

Beginning theorists must only have a desire to learn and a cyberbook, any book for that manner, can provide a beginning pathway. Learners of intermediate levels of knowledge will have essential theory discussions that include links to accelelrate their studies beyond the core nuts and bolts of our American theory. Advanced learners will quickly gain an overview of our tonal resources and hopefully find and accept some new rather steep challenges.

A cyberbook, as it is written in html. / internet language, allows the writer to create a three dimensional text by creating links out into the world wide web. The combined magic of this format, when used in an online web browser, also allows the learner to simply highlight anything within and search the web for additional information such as; the artists whose work we love and admire, our music history, the science of something, influences of such and such, double and triple check the enormous artistic and theoretical claims and boasts the author makes :) thus beyond the boundries of what is included in this work.

The core of it is to create a book that individualizes instruction for every learner of every persuasion of every style and genre that lives within the history of our American music; past, present and future. And luckily for us theorists, the aural mechanics of the core theory is the same for all styles, in all eras for all of our recorded history of Western civilization. So how cool is that?


A set order of sequenced events or elements forming a closed loop.

cycles of fifths

A way of thinking and viewing the 12 pitches in a clockwise motion of perfect fifth intervals. If we view each pitch as the tonic pitch of a key center, we can then sense the proximity of one key to another, each new letter key designation changing one pitch as we move around the cycle in a clockwise fashion.

cycles of fourths

A way of thinking and viewing the 12 pitches in a counterclockwise motion of perfect fourth intervals. If we view each pitch as a the tonic pitch of a key center, the sense the proximity of one key to another, each letter changing one pitch as we move around the cycle to the left.

cycles per second

The frequency that a pitch vibrates at, i.e., the tuning pitch A, a minor 3rd below middle C on the piano, vibrates at 440 cycles per second.

cycle of pitches

A pictorial 'clocklike' representation and way to organize the 12 tonal or key centers of the equal temperament system, based on the root motion of perfect fifths, usually clockwise, or it's inverse, the perfect fourth (counterclockwise). Cycles of pitches become a way to organize our music. The individual letter name pitches could be a key center, mode, scale or chord etc.

cyclical harmonies

On this text, cyclical harmonies are just chord progressions for the most part, that follow along diatonic lines that are placed within a larger interval structure to form the cycle. The augmented major triad of Coltrane's "Giant Steps" is included as the basis of this compositional technique.

dc / da capo

Italian for "head", denoting the start of the musical form or song.

deceptive cadence

Harmonic motion whereby the major triad Five chord resolves by moving 'deceptively' to diatonic minor Six instead of a tonic major One chord.


In computer lingo, the original settings of the software, in this text the 'default' becomes various mainstays in American music, it's performance and theories of organization.


The term degree in our music theory vocaulary is a 'helper' adjective that simply is about creating numerical labels for anything interval, pitch, scale, arpeggio or chord-wise we may find.

Delta Blues

A style of American blues that developed along the southern Delta of the Mississippi River. Guitarist Robert Johnson is perhaps its most celebrated and emulated artist.

delta changes

my slang term for downright basic, simple in the mud blues chord changes, to 'play primitive' as I've heard it been described, all derived from the style Delta Blues.


Describes musical motion of pitches moving downward. The second half of the song "Greenseelves" features a descending melody.


Diatonic, from the Greeks, while simply meaning 'through the tones', (HBDM p. 80) the concept of diatonic becomes the essential breakpoint of decoding the pitches in American music.

Each pitch used to create any piece of music is said to be either diatonic or not, which we term non-diatonic. The pitches that are included in a song's key signature are diatonic.

For example; in the key of C major, the diatonic pitches C, D, E, F, G, A, B and C. Thus; Db, Eb, Gb, Ab and Bb are not and are termed to be non-diatonic. This simple breakdown of our 12 pitches creates the formula 7 + 5 = 12.

And while this 'rule' applies to the study of all musics globally, not all global musics have the American blues element at a similar historical position in its core DNA. The theory rub in all this lies in the relationship between the pitches of the melody and the pitches stacked up creating the chords that are support the melody. A theoretically 'wrong' note here or there in the melody, as viewed from the pitches creating the chords, becomes the 'right' note on a Saturday night gig downtown, especially if lights are low and the dance floor is packed tight.

diatonic harmony

Diatonic harmony and generally functional harmony also, describes the chords or harmony created to support a song's melody created only from the pitches of the key signature associated with that piece of music. Pitches outside the signature used in building the chords are said to be the 'non-diatonic' or 'altered' chord tones.

diatonic scale

The seven pitch major / minor scale. Most often only pitches within a given key signature or scale grouping is termed diatonic, these become our ditaonic pitches, the seven pitch major / relative minor scale is also historically known as the diatonic scale, the remaining five pitches would be non-diatonic or in our Amercian musical mix and theory, the blue notes

diatonic scale degree names

The legit theory names for our diatonic pitches of the major and minor scales.


Euro slang for a mathematical calculator?


To make intervals smaller, reducing an interval by half step.

diminished triad / 7th chord

Stacking intervals of a minor third, i.e., C, Eb, Gb, A etc.

diminished interval

Usually associated with reducing the size of the perfect intervals by half step, also reducing the size of minor intervals by half step.

diminished scale

Adding neighbor tones to the diminished chord to create a symmetrical scale group such as the whole step / half step configuration of C, D, Eb, F, Gb, Ab, A, B, C etc.


To figure something out by inductive reasoning of the facts and information already at hand.


One use of the word 'discipline' in Essentials means an inner personal 'intellectual, lifelong study we can fully share that never really ends as long as we continue to pursue and be curious about. Essential's discipline is music theory, other disciplines in this definition light would surely include all of the additional fine arts; the painting, sculpt, design et all, the numerical mathematics of anything; music, astronomy, all the earth sciences, the legal of it all. 'The discipline of one's career.


Disclosure. All Sales Are Final. No returns or refunds. As this is asmall digital file that is downloaded, once the transaction is completed, it cannot be undone. And while we each can teach one another the knowledge we own by learning, illegal sharing of this copywrited Essentials book file is a breach of ownership and might very well realighn one's musical karma in unknown ways.


To mask or obscure one's appearance or intent. In our music we can create surprises in the music that disguise our tonal intent and directions.


Combining aural sounds creating an unpleasant effect.


Just a slang term used to describe a melodic or musical idea that comes along into our muse from out of the heavens above. Usually associated with country and the bluegrass genres.

dixieland jazz

A polyphony of melody lines created by of mostly marching band instruments over a steady four beat, dixieland jazz is the keel of the Americana musical boat as we might know it today as it comes of age with the advent and wide distribution of the radio and cruises along on its eventual global waves. Evolving out of piano ragtime, the weaving of four or five voices, in dixieland jazz each of these voices gets their own ax and become individual melody lines, each of which can carry the blues hue and stylistic cliche in their own chracter voice; cornet, clarinet, trombone, saxophone et al. Drums are the motor of course. Banjo covers the changes and adds its own gallop to the groove and horn / tuba (?) on bass. These elements combine to take the theory of dixie music back to a time when chords / harmony did not have a seat at the table. So there's a freeness there and especially in the improv nature of the Americana musical arts.

doe ray me ... :)

The first few pitch syllables of the Solfegio System developed for singers. We theorists combine these pneumonics with our numerical pitch designations, interlocking the systems to strengthen our own full spectrum of musical knowledge.


A crazy way to describe this but our own DNA is just like our music theory DNA. Quite old, still original and capable of endless combinations for creating an endless uniqueness of character. As musical components, DNA means that no what how we shape it or where we might find it, it really is the same critter inside.


The fifth scale degree, term used to designate the pitch which is a perfect fifth interval above the fundamental, as say in the major / relative minor scales, chords built on this 5th scale degree are termed dominant chords.

dominant 7th harmony

Diatonic seventh chords built on the 5th scale degree of the major / relative minor scales ( and other scales that contain a pitch a perfect 5th above the root ). The essence of a dominant chord is in its tension of sound as the chord contains a two pitch tritone interval between its 3rd and 7th degrees. Dominant harmony is also used to describe the tonal environment generally associated with American blues music written in a major key.

dominant seventh / V7

A theory term to describe any chordal color that incorporates a two pitch tritone interval between the third and the seventh degrees of the chord. Also one of three chord types. The Roman numeral designation, 'V7' is upper case denoting its major triad basis.

dots (the)

The dot markers on the guitar fingerboard have a bit of mystery as to the 'why' of their usual current locations and the history of how they got there. In examining the research and the picture which follows, the following theory emerges; the dots or fret markers for the most part line out the pitches of the Dorian mode built from the open root pitch 'E' or Lydian from 'G.'

The pitches of the open E (12th fret), G, A, B and C# are dotted.

double (ing)

To double refers to a quality within the harmony where one or more of the chord tones is present twice ( doubled ) or more in the same voicing. In melody playing artists often us the octave doubling to bring out the line and the swing, a la Wes Montgomery.

octave doubling


double helix

The idea of a double helix comes from biology and DNA, a scientific way of looking at a blueprint of who we are. In our American music, our double helix includes the combining of the rather strictly defined pitches of equal temper tuning with the more varied blue notes, whose actual pitch are determined by each performer that uses them. The pairing of major and minor within one group of pitches is another of our double helix weaves.

double stop

A term somewhat reserved for the violin family of instruments, so non-fretted. A double stop is articulating two pitches simultaneously which is a whole let less tricky with frets :)


When the tempo of a song is increased to go twice as fast as the original pace, improvising musicians will sometimes do this in performance.


The first beat of a measure, nearly always found on beat one. Also a name of a published music magazine and slang what time the gig / performance / show starts.


"To drag", slang for playing slower than the tempo being employed, i.e., "dragging", not keeping up with the tempo.


In music, often a sound of indeterminate or varying pitch that pulsates through the music, usually associated with primitive indigineous music, this drone has partly evolved into our well tuned, modern day pedal point.

dual tonalities

The mixing of major and minor tonal elements as found in the blues styles, that different tonalities exist within the same grouping of pitches as is with the modes.


Refers to how soft 'piano' or loud 'forte' a note (s) is articulated, i.e., volume of sound.

earlier tuning systems

There's a dozen or so evolutions of tuning over the last few millenia that give us the pitches that we today. We Americana moderne's get the best of both; all manner of ancient to modern melodic lines and the blues too plus all the glorious harmonies that can support and motor any line any time :)


Slang for the top of the tune, form etc.

eighth note

Division of the quarter note into two equal parts. The eight

The eighty eight keys of a standard piano keyboard / manual. Please note the re-occurring pattern of the two / three placement with the black keys. These help locate the E to F and B to C, the natural half steps of the keys of C major and A natural minor.

electric tuner

Modern device that measures the sound waves of pitch.


To supress or pass over in silence, to carry a musical sound across the bar line. In modern playing to make the bar lines go away.

emotional / musical environment

My term to describe the emotional quality created by the various musical elements within American music. Examples of this concept include blues, major, minor etc.

emotional nuance of our musical lines

Chasing the muse? Why do my lines sound like one dimensional cardboard? Oh well, we all surely get to this point at sometime in our careers. So how to capture our muse? Just keep on chasing and it'll surely happen. Our whole being is constructed and wired to solve just such challenges and has been for quite a while. Do you have a natural feel for the music? Then surely your interest is strong, now we just need to strengthen our ability to focus. If this means scrutinizing every picking stroke to get to the bottom of the mechanics of a lick then so be it. Some call this practicing, some shedding and some call this fun and dig the challege to succeed. Which gets us back to how we're wired ... round and round it goes :)

chop shop


To copy something that one admires.


Surrounding the target pitch with other tones.


Two labels for one pitch, i.e., "B#" or "C", "A#" or "Bb", which letter name is chosen is based theoretically on the key of the music, the blue notes often designated by whatever letter name is going to be easiest to read. Another consideration is the intervals involved and the theory relationship between the pitches in the arpeggios and chords. Spelling out the pitches of an E diminished arpeggio or chord are probably going to be E G Bb Db, and not say E G A# C# or E G A# Db, simply in that in the theory DNA of this little diminished critter, all is the minor 3rd E G Bb and Db :)

entire musical resource

The sounds we use to create the various styles of American music, scales, chords, blue notes and all the pitches in between.

environment (emotional)

Authors term to describe a particular musical setting for a song i.e., usually major, minor, modal, blues etc., but also can be used with musical styles; the blues, folk, rock, pop and jazz. The idea of a 'bossa environment' is simply a 'bossa feel.' We can also deepen the emotional quality of an environment with colortones.


Refers to one repetition of the basic motive within a sequence.

equal temperament system

A system of tuning whereby the naturally occurring Pythagorean comma becomes equally distributed over each of the 12 pitches dividing the octave into 12 equal tones. This creates the modern chromatic scale of equal tuned half steps. These equal tuned pitches give us the chords from a to z. Any chord from any pitch in any key.

equal temper tuning

Equal temper tuning. "What is remarkable about Western music is that by its chosen scales, modified through equal temperament, and by developing complex forms and complex instruments, it has raised the expressive power of music to heights and depths unattained in other cultures." Jacques Barzun.

Historically, the application of equal temper tuning to modern music really comes to fruition with the making of the piano around 1700. This is in heart, body and mind the piano that we still know and love of today. Its own ying / yang balances a rigid tuning that on one hand thankfully gives us all the rhythms with all the chords and all of the subtle soft to loud of volume dynamic all in tune with one another, but on the other hand, the rigid tuned pitches of the piano makes us a wee bit stuck pitchwise for creating melody, no real way to slide into each pitch for deeper nuanced expression when compared to other string / percussive instruments, wind instruments etc.

Equal temper tuning is a system of tuning whereby each of the half step intervals within the octave span are equally 100 cents in size. And even though octave purity is rigidly retained, many of the intervals in between and related by tonal center, are altered from their naturally occuring pitch, as in relation to intervals created by the simple ratios of tuning created by a divided string or column of air etc. Some believe that our most beloved major and minor 3rds suffer dramatically under this tuning scheme.

Now applied to most of our musical instruments, the precision of dividing the octave into 12 equal parts, equal temper, is not only completely responsible for our ability to create all of the wonderous chords and harmonies but really any combination of pitches and still sound OK.

Equal tempered tuning is a system of tuning whereby each of the 12 pitches are equally distributed within the octave, thereby rendering them equal to one another. And as applied to a full piano keyboard, this equality is extended over an aural range of seven octaves. Thus with equal temper tuning, all musical events are equally projectable from each of the 12 pitches of the chromatic scale, thus creating the full palette of musical colors enjoyed by the modern guitarist.



Modern Guitar

Essentials Of Modern Guitar

This work is based on the premise that an artist engaged in any sort of work will eventually tire of their existings knowledge and skill set and look to broaden their horizons. As an 'e' book, with links back and forth and to points beyond, just makes for double the explorations and fun. Add playback of the written musical examples and we've got ourselves a platform to modernize whatever aspects we choose of what we bring today. The basis;

That our natural pitches today have been with us since the dawn of humankind.

That there is a direct linking between the number of pitches used in the creation of a song and the musical style we would generally catagorize it in.

That it is the evolution of tuning that has energized the theory to evolve over the last 300 years or so.

That two fairly different tunings combined early on to start up the Americana musical journey which has now continued for a couple of hundred years or so.

That in Americana music, the advancement of the blues has transcended new generations each distinct yet with their own rootsy basis in the blues. That the American public school music curriculum of the last century played a vital role in the development of the artists that dramatically shaped, directed and evolved the music throughout their own liftimes. That the evolution of jazz theory and composition over three generations of players based on the arpeggio and soloing through an evolving harmonic scheme.

In theory, Essentials also attempts to add a new 'path' forward for composition and improvisation using our ancient theory with an added modern twist to create a new arpeggiated dimension to our equal tempered pitches. Sparked to life by jazz pianist Dr. Alan Frank, whose final hold when playing standards often included this extended arpeggio to #15, his personal touch of performance closure.

Essential's philosophy

Essential's philosophy is based on the assessing the number of elements in any given component in our music. That as we increase this number, our artistic options expand. As art options expand, we can morph between styles. That the number of different pitches used in creating a musical work consistently reflects the general category of music style we would place it. Thus our progression of understanding the theory can be simply viewed as a gradual addition of pitches as we expand our core elements, reflected in a gradual morphing from one musical style into another.

For example thinking melody; from the four and five pitch melodies of children's songs into folk, add a sixth for the blues, into the diatonic seven for pop and onto to include all 12 for the jazz palette. With the chords, two note fifth's of metal become three note triads of folk become four note blues chords, five notes and beyond for jazz chords. In rhythms we go through the subdivisions of the beat. In musical forms, we have the number of measures in a form that creates a song. Music and math, from as far back in our memories as we might ever get to go :)


The derivation of a word, the study of how the meaning of individual words evolve over the time.


Attempts top encompass and describe the migration of peoples from Europe to America over the last 500 years or so, the history of their traditions and their ways of making music.

European musical ancestors

European musical ancestors in historical sequence; Bach, Haydn, Mozart, Beethoven, Brahms, Wagner, Debussey, Stravinsky and every one of your "classical" favorites.


Everyone. The inclusiveness of music, its making and events that include its magic, is surely among our most community building activities ever know to man. You, me the band, the fans, the techs, the sound the lights on and on ... When the band has fun everyone has fun and surely everyone can potentially include everyone and anyone who might be wanting to take part. Have we left anybody out? Easier perhaps to include everyone if the song we're playing is from each of our own '____ cana' collections. Luckily here in the Americas, we've a solid dozen or so and with the advent of radio, we're global. Might the 'top 10' of 10 other Now there's a nice world music masters of art discovery; find the 'top 10' that everyone in the room' during a gig at area, songs from as many global cultures that you can, throw them in a pot and stir them up just wee bit, ladel into 10 bowles and examine the mix up mash up you discover


Simply an idea that helps us to understand how things change.

evolution / historical

Many, many moons ago, a collegue from the prestigious Berkeley College of Music and I were discussing the tonal evolution of Americana jazz music from inside to out. And we both marveled at the idea that what took the Euro Cats 400 years to accomplish we Americans did in less than one hundred. Imagine that :) Please read on !

The Evolution Of American Harmony

This is the title of a new work planned by this author that looks to track the evolution of our American musical sounds from diatonic 'inside' to the 12 tone 'outside.' The research is to simply start with the 'top 10' songs of each decade, starting around the middle of the 19th century or so, and explore the evolution of the harmony as it unfolds. This survey will finish in the 1960's, for by that time there's a very strong 'outside' warp in the weave of American jazz and too a certian extent, rock (although this is more through electronics than not.) Estimated publishing date is 2025.




"Crunching" down the theory letter names and numbers to understand the theory. Also that there's a perimeter to the scope of discussions here that are expanded by choosing a word and google it :) Using theoretical explored concepts to generate new combinations.

existing information

Is the information of any topic really that a learner brings to the table in learning any subject. These sorts of discovery learning books are written so that the vocabulary words of any subject become the way into, a starting point, within the text that enables the reader to then proceed by their own curiosities, juice and gumption.

extended / extensions

Refers to chords that include pitches above the three notes of the triad, see upper structure components / colortones.

fake books

Collections of lead sheets showing only chord progressions from various music publishers, also known as "real" books.

A strumming technique where the strings are brushed back and forth, usually by a thin pick or fingernails.

fast four
A blues idea whereby the chords of the tune goes to Four in the second bar, ( a fast move to Four) then back to One for bars three and four and then off to Four again in bar 5, starting off the second phrase.

fear of music theory

I'll call it a learning block, that some players have that makes them resistant to learning about music theory so as to understand their music more fully. Not too sure why as each of us is unique but some Cats just purely want to channel their muse without any interference?

feed the bulldog

Just a slang expression for taking care of business, solving the problem, fulfilling one's responsibility to, also as termed to satiate said critter.


A pause, hold or breath in the musical performance, usually conducted, commonly found at the end of a composition.

fiction (al)

False, imaginative made up, make believe, fantasy narration.

( the ) fifth

Counting from above our root pitch to Five, we come upon its fifth. In its purest form when sounded with its root pitch, the interval of the fifth is said to be perfect, second only to the octave in perfection of sound quality of two distinct pitches sounded together. 'Perfect' in sound simply implies purity or perfection of its sonority or aural sound, surely pleasing to our ears, the perfect fifth is mathematically based in a simple ratio of prime numbers; that of 3:2. We've two ways to alter the perfect fifth using the half step; to diminish the perfct fifth by reducing the size of the interval to the root, known as 'b5' or augmenting the perfect fifth interval by half step up, commonly know as known as '#5 or +5' etc.


My concept and term of artistic creation whereby an artistic idea i.e., a motif, is passed through a structured theory framework or fingerboard pattern etc. For example, to move a triad (motif) chromatically (filter).


A term used to describe how the fret hand finds the pitches. In the American musics for guitar, fingerings are simply about getting the pitches we each want, there's no strict way of fingering really anything. As we each bring our own physical resources to the game, we each must find our way to sound out the pitches. Of course there are common fingerings for tons of guitar stuff, but cats that veer off into bending lots of pitches or delve into the saxophone lines of bebop should be prepared to make the fingerings up as they go along to a certain extent, as these sorts of lines often call for creative fingering solutions discovered by those that look to play these sorts of lines.

The basics; index through pinky on fretboard hand are numbered one through four. Strumming or fingerpicking had; 't' is thumb, then 'i' for index, 'm' for middle and so forth. Classical guitarists have set everything, we Americana cats not so much.

first inversion

A chord voicing where the lowest pitch of the chord is third chord degree, i.e., C / E.

five / 5

In our musics, the number five is the number of pitches that becomes the first full formed grouping of pitches; the pentatonic scale. From this start, both in major and minor, we build up our numerical basis of our understanding theory.

five elements

Fire, water, earth, wood and metal, according to the Chinese way of organizing the universe.

Five of Five of ...

A cycling of dominant chords, i.e., D7 to G7 to C7 to F7, Bb7 etc.


a music notation symbol (b) that lowers a pitch by half step.

flat picks

A plastic divice used to start the strings in motion. In varying thickness, shapes and sizes, colors too :)

form (musical)

definite patterns and set structures for creating musical compositions, most often in combinations of four, eight and sixteen bar phrases.


Simply using numerical equations of whole steps (1) and half steps (1/2) to create our various musical components.

forward motion

Creating a sense of anticipation in the music, taking advantage of rhythm swing to propel the music forward, commonly achieved by using an offbeat 8th note pickup when starting a line.


Its capitolized number designating a primary diatonic scale degree, Four, the subdominant, provides a secondary resting point within a key center, adds a core essential color for Gospel grace, middle piece of I / IV / V chord progressions, both major and minor.

four finger / four fret

A fairly common technique for guitar players whereby each of the four fingers of the hand fretting the pitches on the fingerboard assume responsibility for articulating their respective pitches within a span of four frets.

four pitches

Among our most common principles in music theory for chords is the use of four pitches in our voicings. These four simply correspond to the voices we find in vocal choirs. From the lowest pitches of the bass, up through tenor to alto and soprano on the top. (bass / tenor / alto / soprano)

fourth inversion

A chord voicing where the lowest pitch of the chord is ninth chord degree, i.e., C / D.

fret point

Simply a numerical designation of where the rubber meets the road ... or in our case, where the finger, string and fret all converge.

the 'freedom' to ...

"What is remarkable about Western music is that by its chosen scales, modified through equal temperament, and by developing complex forms and complex instruments, it has raised the expressive power of music to heights and depths unattained in other cultures." Jacques Barzun.

function (chord)

Chord function, or really the function of any of our musical elements, is simply to understand how that element catalizes and reacts with the elements around it, how a particular chord type reacts within tonal gravity, chord progressions etc., i.e. tonic, minor seventh or dominant chord types. This bases our abilities to create a sense of direction in the music, its degree of aural predictability and can become the basis of substitution of one element for another. At this level of understanding our ability to juxtapose these elements in creating works of art is potentially boundless.

functional harmony

In this text it refers to the building of chords and their progressions as found within one tonal center, i.e., diatonic harmony.


A term used to describe the starting pitch from which an overtone series is created, also starting pitch of musical scales, the root of a chord etc. In the following example of the overtine series, the first pitch 'C' is the fundamental pitch of this series.



A style of inner urban rock / blues popular during the late 70's and onward.


A rhythmic idea that anticipates and sets up the downbeat, and then loops or repeats a few times or many times depending, building momentum and excitement in the music. Think of a horse's hoof rhythms when at a gallop pace, or check out Leonard Skynard's 'Freebird', the live version at 7:00 till the end. Or from the classical library, the 'William Tell Overture' by G. Rossini. We Americanos oftn slip a bit of this rhythm into our lines, beats and grooves to juice it up a bit, to get the swing thing on :)


Music slang term for instruments, amps, processors, reeds, speakers, microphones etc.

genre ( sub )

A broad category or subject heading. In American music, this 'genre / sub genre' relationship becomes a seemingly endless journey as new talent comes up and recombines the elements they are given to create thier own musical art. Then the critics come along and create new labels as needed. These labels could be termed subgenres of the genre ect. For example, the genre blues has its subgenres; blues, rock, blues country, folk blues, jazz blues, punk blues etc. Is there a metal blues yet?

get in the way

Some believe that knowing the theory will spook their muse. That if a musical something has a name to identify it, there's a loss of mojo. And that's cool and probably true for those cats.

Then there's performance and getting under the stage lights. That's when musical time takes over at the downbeat and we have to negotiate real music. Theory goes right out the window, we just dig in and go :)

"Giant Steps"

"Giant Steps" is an American jazz composition by John Coltrane recorded in May, 1959 whose harmonic cycles and theories form one end point of this Essentials work.

In retrospective theory, this song is formed by a perfectly closed and symmetric loop of chords, based on the three pitches of the augmented triad. Two patterns are used to include each of these three key centers in two different cycles.

First the 'A' section, which is comprised of chords whose root motion follows the minor 3rd / perfect 4th cycle. This is repeated twice, which gets us back to its starting point key ceneter. The 'B' section is a cycle of the three major key centers of the aforementioned A section, as structured by the augmented triad pitches using the Two / Five motions to get there.

So for the jazz artist the best of both really; a sort of 'hundred yard dash' on a cycle of chords A section followed by the rapidy moving and modulating cadential motions via the sleek and the so so so ever essential coolness of Two / Five / One.

In the author's trio arrangement, a modal interlude section is added at the close of a certain number of choruses, giving the group a chance to stretch it out and for the soloist to look for a new idea to permutate through the harmonic cycles.


Slang for a lot.



Slang for guitar, or any stringed instrument I'd imagine, the term originates in Newark, New Jersey from the 1960's or so ...?

gig / gigging

Slang for where the music is happening, oftentimes a professional musical job, i.e., "the gig."

global ideas

Just an easy way to say that the theory in this work is the theory of Western music in general and as guitar players, we are equal temper tuned, thus capable of the full spectrum of 12 tone scales, arpeggios and chords. We can also physically bend the pitches to find the coolness between the 12 fretted notes. Global is that anywhere our music has traveled to around Earth, it's music theory has followed. So a D Dorian mode here in Ak will be the same D Dorian where you are reading this and the same anywhere Western music theory is working its magic around the globe. Imagine that :)

grace note

A pitch articulated as a quick lead in to another pitch usually by half step, also a trill or turn of pitches.

grand staff

So named simply in that we find a 'G' treble clef staff linked with a 'F' bass clef staff, used mostly for the piano; left hand bass and right hand treble clef.


Graddus Ad Parnassum

For music theorists, just dusty old text (ha) of music theory by Joseph Fux named after sacred mountains of ancient Greek peoples.

Greek modes

Groups of descending pitches as used by the ancient Greeks; named Dorian, Phrygian, Lydian and Mixolydian, we often use the exact same labels today with the more now modern tuned church modes.

Guitarist Ted Greene

When I first began to realize the extant of our six string guitar's capabilities by listening to jazz guitar players, upon hearing Mr. Greene's collection of American standards titled 'Solo Guitar', my scope of chordal possibilities and sense of swing simply exploded. Even writing this today, when I revisit the musical, artistic and theoretical challenges Mr. Greene thoroughly conquered in his playing, his idea of a 'chunk of harmony', of a newly discovered chord shape yet to find a home in one's music, still brings a chuckle.

Just floored with Ted's musicality, I was completely mesmorized by his harmonizing of melodies magic and sense of swing to motor to life. Upon obtaining a copy of his first book titled Chord Chemistry, even in my first few minutes of thumbing through of the pages, the vast chordal resource identified by Greene is revealed. The chord grid shapes on many pages making for localized position inner voice motions, that can provide a new twist to the same pitches. Put in motion in songs, our ability to loop and loop and loop the pitches in endless patterns of colors and coolness manifests.

groove / pocket

Slang term usually applied to dance music, simply a term that describes all the elements that combine to motor a song along. The groove is that magical combination of various elements that gets toes tapping thus folks up to dance.

groups of pitches

My term describing musical scales, i.e., the C major scale is also the C major grouping of pitches. This slight alteration from the common is based on the idea that in our melody making and improv, if we practice and play scales or lines just might sound that 'scaler' way. Whereas if we're thinking along the lines of having a 'group of pitches to create melodic ideas from', we just might be developing a more lyrical aspect and melody strengthening in our playing. Just word sematics here? Yea probably but ... 'practice does make permanent', what we practice is probably what we'll play.

guide tones

Often sustained pitches creating a stepwise melodic line within a series of chord changes, simple melodic lines that help define the chord quality of the harmony. In a basic form, the roots of the chords in a progression would be a guide tone line. A line of the 3rd of each chord, a line of the 5th's etc. Using the 3rd and 7th of each successive chord is a bit more numerically advanced (using two pitches), and is cool as now we define each chord's type along the way of a song's harmonic progression. When soloing 'through' chord changes, a guide tone line becomes yet another way to create 'inside' improvised dialogue.

3 and 7
chord type

guitar gear

Just stop by most any music store and marvel at all things available for guitar, realizing that a good segment of this pile is theory driven. For once the electric guitar took hold, the electrical engineering shaping process of its signal has become a giant industry, which in turn has shaped the music being created.

And while not quite the tail wagging the dog, one example of this is the overdrive crunchy sounds taking over the harmony pitches, reducing chords down to just root and fifth, that opened up a big, new vista for the rockers and on into metal, with all of its magic and continuing evolutions.

Another is of course the MIDI revolution still being perfected and even its further subdivide of the octave, while players have taken the new instrument voices available to fanstastic artistic heights.

Another gear revolution would be in the looping of the signal. The loopers we often shed and sometimes gig with. We also see the refinement of the theory in the building of the acoustic instruments as well, with all sorts of new ways to voice a guitar in its organic state. On and on really to seven strings, baritone and harp additions, an endless array of stompbox pedals, each with their own bit of magic to add to the mix ...

half cadence

Cadential motion where the tonic goes to the Four or Five chord.

half diminished

Half diminished is something diminished but only half way :) Which in its most common spot is as a 'half diminished 7th chord.' We really should have the 7th to talk about the '1/2 diminished colors.' For it is in comparison the 'fully diminished 7th chord' that the 1/2 really becomes half way. So which half and which way? The diatonic triad on Seven is a diminished triad yes? So its about the added 7th. Yep, read on :)

half diminished 7th chord

A diatonic Two chord in the minor tonality as ii-7b5, and Seven in major vii-7b5, built upon a triad with a minor third and diminished fifth. Also, 'half diminished' is a common name for a generic Two minor seventh chord type but featuring a diminished fifth.

half step

The smallest intervalic division within the system of equal temperament, i.e., by half step or chromatic, both of which translates to one fret on our guitars, 12 half steps in a full octave, each 100 cents of measurable pitch vibrations / occilations. Our 12 pitches letter name pitches by half step;

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

half step lead

In approaching the target pitch or chord from half step above or below.

half step / whole step

Alternate interval approach to creating the diminished color.

Hammond organ

( 'The Hamminator" )


Slang for our mind, memory, instantaneous recall etc., it's on the hardrive :)


A'pure' pitch created by lightly touching a string at specific divisions, i.e., frets, to produce 'harmonics.' Above the fifth, seventh and 12th frets live the natural fourth, fifth and octave harmonics of the open strings.

harmonic series

See overtone series.

harmonic minor scale

A group of pitches based in the natural minor group distinguished by including a minor third, minor sixth and major seventh (leading tone) above the root.

harmonic system

Describes the idea of tertian harmony or chords built by stacking pitches using the interval of major and minor thirds, further implies our ability to project and chord from any pitch thanks to equal temper tuning.

harmonic substitution

Simply replacing one chord, often the written chord in a song or chord progression with another.

harmonic, thus melodic substitution

Mostly a jazz thing, for when we substitute one chord for another, our melodic choices evolve and change. This is very common in jazz 12 bar blues performance as it opens up new groups of pitches for creating our improvisations within this core format.

To add chords (harmony) to support a melody.


i.e., chords, vertical stacking and simultaneous sounding of pitches, the chords used to support a melody.

Harvard Brief Dictionary Of Music

This is a cover picture of the book I've owned for the better part of 40 years now. A simple paperback edition originally $3, its true value incalculatable in my home studies. Find a copy, pony up the big loot and a full spectrum of all musics opens for those who will read.


Slang for the melody of a song, also denotes the top of the form, da capo, Italian for 'the head.' On the bandstand, the leader of a tune will get everyones attention and point their finger to their head, signaling a return to the top of the form of the song being performed.

hen's teeth

My friend KB's expression to describe a range of potential for something that is somewhat rare, scarce and hard to find etc., anchoring one end of the spectrum for locating stuff that is near just downright virtually impossible to locate :)

here in Essentials

Warning ... personal opinions ahead ... :) This is probably more of an author's note really but the concept is simply that ... in art there's generally lots of opinions and lots of approaches to any given topic. Thus the phrase of 'here in Essentials' is included to simply reflect the way that I theoretically think of things and approach particular topics of artistic and musical interest.

here, there and everywhere

While the title of a pop song by The Beatles, here in Essentials this idea refers to the fact that the same music theory lives and rules across great sections of the globe. A major triad here in AK is the same one in NYC, London, Berlin, Peking ... well maybe in some cases, but surely in Moscow and all points where equal temper tuning and its instruments are commonly found.

hip to the changes

Slang for knowing the chords to a song, also knowing about chords, theories, voicings, chord type, progressions, substitutions etc. Also helping those 'unhip' to get 'hip.'


My slang term (?) for making something hip or hipper as the case might be.

hills in which we live

My slang term ( ? ) for our planet Earth.

historical perspective

The 'historical perspective' creates the ever present personal writing connundrum of this Essentials work. As the idea of 'modern' implies a gradually evolving artistic sense within each artist, theory ideas not in historical context might fail to show their modernization and consequent evolution.

As knowing music history is in and of itself such a colossally inspired venture, it is challenging to draw the line between theory and history when describing how things have gone and go in Americana music today. So be it. As they say in Fairbanks ... 'it is what it is.' The curious among us can hopefully left click Mouse and drag to highlight, then right click Mouse to Google and explore at their own free will :)

history of improvisation

Look back as often as you can into the folks that worked the magic. The real biographies of the musical folks we admire really knits it all together, as each new generation comes along and the sounds and the music evolved. In jazz, the arpeggio has been a catalyst for new developments on more than one occasion.

That improvisation as a topic is thought here to be colossal and as such deserves its own special research and development. A next Jacmuse book planned and somewhat in production today will take up this topic as part of a broader survey of American song and its development. Working towards a 2025 finish.

history / theory dynamic

That we can trace the evolution of the theory from the 1880's forward in our American music provides us with a timeline of the players who built upon the work that they inherited from previous generations. There are definate milestones along this pathway that in one fell swoop really changes the complexion of what came after. While most of these theory evolutions are associated and documented with musicians; Louis with swing rhythms, Bird with bebop and Trane with post bop symmetry, other theory evolutions are not as easily found; when did the Two chord supplant Four in mainstream jazz, or when does dominant harmony supplant the written changes in high spirited and accelerated improvisations towards the chromatic ? As theorists we often get to create and ask more questions than we can answer, prompting the next 'search' for the impassioned artist.


In music, this term 'hits' is a slang word with a couple uses; it refers to when a particular rhythm get's struck, i.e., that rock music will mostly 'hit' on one, the downbeat of a measure of 4/4 time. Expanding on this meaning, 'hits' is used also among players when the downbeat of a performance is supposed to start, i.e., the gig hits at 8, hit is also what many of us composers would love to write, especially a hit that makes it into the top 100 song list, then a top 40 hit or even a 'top 10 hit' where's there's a chance it'll get to ... #1 ... imagine that :)

"The Hokey Pokey"

The "Hokey Pokey" (USA) is a pop tune with giant 4/4 quarter notes on the downbeat and a solid steady pop on 2 and 4, so a big wide swing potential. Everyone knows it and it might be a line dance too. Though it is possibly attributed back to the 1850's overseas, thus a lighting rod for sparking the later 'British Invasion' (not :), the tune is a rather perfect 8 bar song form.


Hollywood. That crazy place in LA where some very hip players and writers hang who can conjure up the perfect mood, mode or mojo of music for any imaginable visual scene going down. Depending on a lot of factors, we as creative artists might have been influenced by what Hollywood has laid down that represents any given historical era. Horns in 5th's to herald royalty. From East to West, various horns for the sounds of NYC street life to some country twang in a spagetti Western out west, from under the sea low notes of bassons and oboe's. Ever see one of those documentary films about various critters and how the audio uses different orchestra instruments to portray theat animal's instinctive character? Some of those sound / visual pairings are forever locked into Americana cliche thanks to the West Coast visionaries of Hollywood.

So to the moon and back with a whole lot of swing in between, big band to citar to orchestras with brass and strings and all the trimmings and vocals of course, an infinite variety of vocals, Hollywood film and show scoring is a great place to reverse engineer our learning process here; what is the theory of that chord that makes our hair stand up when such and such a scene unfolds ... ? Do we want to label it? We theorists often do :)

For in a practicle way, if we follow a historical timeline from wayback till now, at any point in the historical story we can find a movie or two depicting that time period. Chances are in its musical score of the movie there will be some original music written in the style of the 'theory of the day' so to speak, recreated on actual period instruments. Does this combination guarrantee authenticity of historical era ? In thoughtful, creative hands it just might. Searching for ancient melodies? Me too :) So simply a seemingly endless historical musical extraveganza pairing up the music theory of an era with period instruments and find the groove to make it dance.

Hollywood chords

Slang term that Dr. Miller would use to describe his fancy jazz chords of generally super orchestral proportions and thus, gigantic fingering proportions.


Term that describes a unique texture of music that developed in the 1500's that features one main melody line supported by vertical stacks of pitches or chords. Homophonic music replaces the polyphony style that predominated European music for the previous 200 years or so and comes about as the tuning of our pitches evolve towards the equal temper tuning method. Once this style established, this composing technique of one melody line supported by chords has ruled the day ever since and of course is the the predominant texture historically of the nearly all the Americana sounds we inherit today.

hook (the)

Hook. Oldtime American slang term for the part of the song everyone remembers, usually a catchy phrase, a combination of words and music that gets stuck in our heads, oftentimes one word hooks become one of the top 40 all time classics. In our Americana musics, Willie Nelson's 'Crazy', The Beatles "Help', Eric Clapton's 'Layla', Van Halen's "Jump" are all solid one word hooks. Of course hooks can be any number of words, thus usually a catchy phrase of an idea or image that means something to all of us. "Help Me" by Joni Mitchell, The Temptation's "Just My Imagination." Ms Sheryl Crow's "Every Day Is A Winding Road." Our hooks can even transcend languages as in Stevie Wonder's "My Cherie Amour." Run down any listing of top 40 hits from any era really and the read a list of hooks and you'll get the idea.

Anyone of us can come up with a hook. And really from any where. Often times when the words come along, the have a rhythm to them. Words + rhythm = hook. That's usually the easy part :) Then the work begins to craft it all into a song. Collaboration is often the key here, too many great songwriting teams have proven this over and over and over over the last 10 decades or so. Got something good? Make sure you 'own it' by copyright with Uncle Sam.

Extra hooks from the author :)

"When Ya Coming Back"

"Click Clack"

"Waltz In To My Arms"

"The Truth Is"

"Flow The Love"

"Heard You Talkin' Voodoo ... 'Bout Me"

"Who Dat Dere"

hold ( last )

A hold in music is simply a pause that 'holds' whatever sounds everyone was making at that moment. So collectively for the band this usually becomes a chord. Usually gestured or conducted, we look for the downbeat to continue onward or a strong gesture so as to end the performance of a musical piece all together. This is most often termed the last or final hold and is written in the music as a 'birdseye', formally known as a fermata.


Term that describes the basic shape created by the pitches of a melodic line, generally implying step wise motion.


Used to describe a particular shade of a common color, i.e. the various "hues of green", lime, kelly, neon etc.


An important symbol / device devised by humankind to record a word or concept, allowing ideas to be connected with other ideas with the click of a button.

"I can ..."

Simply what the last four letters of

A M E R- I - C A N spellout ... 'I can.'

iambic pentameter

A common rhythm of verse in the English language that finds five pairs of 'iams' strung together into a phrase. A very common way that the way the words of blues songs are put together into three, four bar phrases of the 12 bar form. For poets and theatre folks, look to the works of Shakespeare for volumes of iambic pentameter magic. Here's a run at an iambic pentameter line.


V to I harmonic cadential motion with the tonic pitch not in both bass and lead of the One chord, so creating a less definite sense of perfect aural closure, the release of tension or coming to a complete or final resting point in the music.

~ improvise ~

~ improvising ~

~ impro- vi - sing ~

Improv; to spontaneously create solutions for challenges in our American music, commonly to mean the creation musical lines in real time with the band. Also 'to solo' is a common substitution for improv, improvisation etc.

In soloing, artists use the form of the song and its harmonies to create their own unique 'theme and variations' of the core storyline of the song being performed. Players can develop their chops throughout their entire careers. Many listeners not only enjoy this but eagerly look forward to this spontaneously creative and most magical process.

While the degree of improv in the music surely vary's by style, if there's a strong soloist with the group, chances are they will be featured at some point. Becoming the feature of the band is the old fashioned way up the ladder in show business.

Essentials improv soloing theory is in two parts; at any given point in the process are we soloing over or through the chord changes? This basic distinction of theory quickly translates into a parent scale or arpeggio approach, the latter leaning to jazz and the whole tamale of its harmonies, substitutions and evolutions. Quite easy to understand the theory of this; over or through, as their basic intervals are different. With a couple of semesters shedding, it all should begin to clarify, the initial capture of the basic bebop level for the 12 bar blues and on into jazz.

In the performance of Americana music, if the players are not reading, then they are playing from memory, by rote and as such, are to varying degrees improvising; making their part up as it all goes along. Is this why music is so much fun to play? Could very well be. Just making it all up as we go along :)

in the lead / lead pitch

Refers to the highest pitch in a chord voicing.


A chord voicing where the lowest pitch of the triad or chord or root is omitted.


Originating in a particular geographical area, native to a land all its own.

individualizing instruction

Creating an educational curriculum for each person based on the existing information they already own and bring to the learning process, plus their own needs and capacities in both creative and intellectual endeavors and their own unique ways of learning.


Slang for music industry.

inside / outside

Jazz slang for musical ideas often associated with improv; 'inside' which uses only a key centers diatonic pitches, the 'correct' pitches as directed by any given chord change and or 'outside'; a musical idea created with non - diatonic pitches deliberately to create an atonal sounding idea over conventional chord changes etc.

(an) instrumental

A song without word if there is such a thing, or perhaps more common, to perform and song without singing the words.

interval (musical)

Interval. Simply a theory way we can 'measure' our musical components to create comparisons between our various elements. The basis of our numerical labeling system.

A term that describes the musical distance between two pitches, most often identified by numbers and description of its sound qualities; major, minor, sharp or flat etc.

The intervals used to create any of our components determines what that thing becomes. For example, thirds make major or minor. Sevenths are either the leading tone or a blue note 7th associated with V7. As measured from the root of any component, its intervals determine it sound and thus what it does in relation to the components around it as the music flows along.

Read on here for additional interval ideas.

interval purity

The music system we enjoy today is mostly based on the purity of natural sound provided by Mother Nature. And there's a hierachy to this purity of how we as peeps hear and perceive our musical sounds. How we've tuned these natural pitches over the millenia surely plays a part, but our core basis originally and of course comes from the Mother Earth. The following listing from top to bottom lists our diatonic scale intervals in order of purity of sound as defined numerically by ratios of numbers, representing the frequencies of the pitches.

perfect octave 2 : 1
perfect 5th 3 : 2
perfect 4th 4 : 3
major 3rd 5 : 4
major 6th 5 : 3
major 2nd 9 : 8
major 7th 15 : 8

interval ratios

The mathematical numerical relationships of our musical intervals. We also credit Pythagoras and his people with first understanding, quantifying and recording for posterity the ratios of the additional pitches generated from within this initial, struck fundamental pitch. Interval ratio values from the Wikipedia Webster.

perfect unison 1 : 1
minor 2nd 16 : 15
major 2nd 9 : 8
minor 3rd 6 : 5
major 3rd 5 : 4
perfect 4th 4 : 3
augmented 4th 45 : 32
perfect 5th 3 : 2
minor 6th 8 : 5
major 6th 5 : 3
minor 7th 16 : 9
major 7th 15 : 8
perfect octave 2 : 1

interval studies

A series of melodic studies that seeks to exhaust the fundamental intervals over the entire playable range of the instrument.

intervallic symmetry

When the intervals used to create a musical component are the same, could also be a combination of intervals which is repeated (cell).

in a nutshell

Putting the ideas of a page's discussion into a few sentences, helping to accelerate the learning for whatever existing information a reader brings to this text.

in the mud

My slang term for an open tuning G or the open chord E7, thumping kind of bottleneck slide moaning of blues.

(an) inner intellectual structure

This is one of the key things that the theory does for us; it creates an understanding of, thus an ability to, organize all of the kibbles and bits associated with our music into our own intellectual structure, that in one sense becomes our musical resource; vocabulary and bag of tricks from which we create and invision our musical art.

intonate your guitar

Just as we use the midway point to find an open string's octave, we can intonate our guitars by comparing the sound of the harmonic over the 12th fret with the pitch created there. If they are different then the instrument is out of tune with itself. We remedy this by changing string length, usually by moving the saddle of the guitar. And read on !


Intonation is about the physical dimensions and layout of our guitars, it's about making the instrument in tune with itself. As fixed fret location determines pitch, and frets are measured into place, just makes sense that there's an 'adjustment' possibility in the design. Most electrics have some sort of tune-a-matic bridge. With the fixed bridge of acoustics, quality of craftmanship tends to play the largest role. So we use the term intonation to describe the fine tune of string length so that the measured in fixed frets create the correct stopping point / string length to sound the pitch we're trying to bring to life. Intonating our guitars helps to insure that all of these pitches are properly tuned to a string's fundamental pitch.

We can adjust an instruments intonation by adjusting its string length relative to the harmonic and stopped pitch located at the 12 fret. With electrics we usually just have a screw to turn. Fixed bridges of acoustics are tricky as we have to build up one side and reduce the other of the string saddle to get to the right string length. When these two match perfectly, that string is then intonated to itself.

Easy to do, simply tune up the open string to its acceptable pitch by whatever means and then sound the harmonic above the 12th fret. Then carefully finger and sound the stopped pitch at the 12 fret pitch. These pitches should match as closely as possible. Adjust your string length at the bridge if you can, to dial these two in together.

While the above intonating is periodically done as general maintenance, a further intonating can be achieved by thinking along the lines of musical style and the key of the next song. If the axe is in tune and the next tune is in G. And you'll be using open chords to motor the magic, surely check the three G's in the open G chord and smooth out any waves that might be lurking. Then there's the common issues with the higher B, 5th string, in that the instrument fights to create a balance between the lower pitched natural major third with the edgy sharpness of equal temper tuning.

intro / outro

Slang for the music that introduces a song; intro. Or the music to take it out; outro.


As the term inversion implies, we're simply flipping our components over to see what might be on the other side. We do this inverting process and juxtaposing of the pitches mostly with musical intervals and stacks of pitches, i.e., chords.

inversions / chord

Chord voicings are where the lowest pitch of the chord is not the named root of the chord. We use the terms, 1st, 2nd and 3rd inversions to designate the third, fifth or seventh degree of the chord as its bass pitch respectively. Ninth in the bass is also fairly common. Beyond this point in the arpeggio it becomes a bit esoteric.


Reversing of a musical interval from ascending to descending or vice versa. With simple intervals; perfect stay perfect, major become minor and minor become major, augmented become diminished and vice versa, and their numbers add up to nine, i.e., up a major 6th C to A inverts to going down a minor 3rd C to A.

inverted (upper) pedal tone

Diatonic common tone in top voice of a chord progression.


A Greek word, older modal or church name used to designate the white keys from C to C, which in the modern era we simply call the major scale.


The idea of 'it' here are the ideas inside your head that represent whatever topic is at hand when the idea of 'it' comes along. So basically how you understand it and what it is to to you. In a cyberbook, the topic is presented in such a way as to allow for readers of every level of experience and knowledge, i.e., their existing information, an opportunity to advance their understanding of the topic, and how the information settles into each of our own unique minds is simply how we each understand it :)

J.S.Bach chorales

A collection of musicfrom the early 1700's that exhausts the then newer compositional format of one melody supported by chords. In formal music school, learners are tasked to theory analyze every pitch in a chorale and relate it to its who, what, when, where and why in the music :)

jam / jamming

A slang term to describe making improvisational music that includes everything from working with a metronome, jamming along with jam tracks and favorite recordings, getting with musical friends at home or at school to work the magic, heading to your area jam sessions to hang with experienced players and advance your own pro career.


Early historical label of the late 19th century for music commonly known today as jazz.


A style of Americana popular music that will commonly employ all of our 12 tones in one song.

sensibilities of the jazz artist

In one sense, the jazz artist is the creative musician that takes on the responsibility to learn, understand and hear the entire spectrum of our American musical styles and all of the theory that goes into their creation. While a tall order for sure, simply gatting one's arms completely around the resource is often enough of a start. Might take decades to fill it all in. No matter. For knowing the theory knowledge base we should always have a way to untagle whatever we come across in any Western Music. It's this 'arms around the resource' that needs to be foundationed kinda asap ... if there is such a need as asap in these sorts of studies.

Of course any artist of any style is equally welcome to the theory. This freedom of thought is core Americana and the basis for the essential philosophy of this work; the evolution of the artist and their art by way of understanding the set in stone nuts and bolts of our music theory. That through understanding the theory, any music we ever dig created in any style becomes a potential source for inspiration (10% ?) ... which always helps and is followed by the perspiration ... said to be around 90% :)

jazz chords

Jazz chords are characterized by a couple of fairly unique attributes that help suit them for creating jazz music. That tempos are often brighter (faster) in jazz often neccessitates that we shape the pitches of chords to be lighter thus quicker all while retaining the harmony's basic functions in the music. These generally include; no doubling, chord shapes tend to be movable, they can include all manner of colortones and variations, we tend to 'type' jazz chords to facilitate their learning and we'll usually puzzle them together with tighter progressions, voice leading and rhythmic inflections (half step lead in).

jazz mantra

My tongue in cheek term for the degree of knowledge and the exhausting of the resources that jazz players enjoy.

jazz process

Here in Essentials this idea of a 'process' is simply the way I learned the musical resources to play the jazz styled songs contained in our Americana songbook. The process becomes a curriculum of study, pedagogy or methodology for internalizing the basic vocabulary of our jazz language.

juice, learning

My term for the inner inspiration that our human spirit brings to our own learning process. Based on a Pat Metheny speech to the Association Of Jazz Educators, that we as a species can undergo quite fantastical leaps of growth during middle to later teen years up through our 30's. Simply that we have the 'juice' to burn the midnight oil day after day after day and into night if needed, to keep at a thing to discover and master what it is we seek to know, regardless of the toll it might take. In Alaska we often say ... 'sleep later.'


Jump is a style of swinging jazz pioneered mainly by Count Basie in the mid 1930's. In its basic theory, jump is created by improvising musicians who based their music on cool riffs learned by rote. These melodies were placed into the 12 bar blues form or rhythm changes to create what we commonly term as a 'head arrangement.'

Bands counted the tune off, played the head and off to the soloing they go. Vamp lines are often used behind the soloists to add momentum. Jump's brighter tempos kept the dancers up and and the gigs coming.

Within a decade or so the jump style and groove crossed over into rockn' roll, rockabilly and really to all points beyond initially based in these styles. Any sort of rockn' thing that also swings with a core sense of 2 and 4 pulse, could find a heritage link to the jump style. Also probably lots of great melodies and vamp lines, all which will mostly swing. So a great library of music to study to learn and capture in your art the ways swing's magic

wiki ~ One O'clock Jump

just intonation

An 18th century system of tuning whereby the intervals of pitches are created by ratios of small whole numbers only, a system of tuning centered in one tonal center whereby the major 3rd and 5th are perfectly acoustically correct while the other pitches of the diatonic scale are derived from these two pure tones above the root note, their inversions and intervals. (paraphrased from Harvard Brief Dictionary p.148.


My term for when a learners existing knowledge of the theory dramatically expands by the addition of one new concept or element, creating a new musical horizon. Also a good name for a band :)


Using the name Kansas, a wonderful state of our Union, here in Essentials is simply a cliche reference to the Wizard of Oz, the 1939 movie classic where the heroine Dorothy gets wisked away to points beyond. So, in music theory terms, Kansas is our diatonic realm and the idea of 'not being in Kansas anymore' ( a line of script ) is just a pun that means that our search for musical and artistic coolness has taken us beyond our diatonic borders.

key center

The tonal center of a musical composition, i.e., a song written or performed in C major is said to be 'in the key of C major.'

key scheme

The idea of key scheme is mostly about composition. Composers often develop a cycle of key centers, a contrasting of tonal centers for different themes, follow traditional key centers and modulations in accordance with musical forms. All of these would be examples of a key scheme, a thought out process of where we are going to go key wise in our music.

key signature

Term used to describe the number of sharps or flats associated with each of the twelve major / minor keys, eases the writing and reading of music by placing diatonic accidentals at the beginning of the piece. Key signature for A major / F# minor in treble clef and common time.

Klezmer music

Klezmer music is a rather oldtime style of music that is part of the Jewish traditions. And while not a real focus here in Essentials as a musical style for performance, part of its theory is unique and beneficial as it takes us to a rare and rather beautiful theoretical spot; a mode built on Five of the harmonic minor grouping of pitches.

label it

This process of identifying and labeling elements is at the core of what a theorist does. In learning about any topic in life, the process is oftentimes the same; we examine structures for its component parts, we identify each part to see what it does and label it, then look to understand how one comonent effects another. The coolness we gain in this process is an understanding of the components as well creating a vocabulary of terms that identify components, encouraging dialogue to further explore and experiment with our resources.


'Layla' is a popular rocking love song from the early 70's that features a smoking guitar riff right out of the gate. Really just a couple of super energized pitches that can alter the local universe wherever it's sounded ... :)

lay out

Slang term meaning "not to play", i.e., to lay out of the mix.

lead (in the)

Refers to the highest pitch ( voice ) in a chord voicing.

lead sheets

Written music including the melody and appropriate chord symbols.


The person responsible for organizing the music and musicians ( sideman ) for a musical event, also the artistic focus of a recording session.

leading tone / 7th scale degree of natural, relative major / minor scale

Our leading tone is a key pitch that energizes our sense of anticipation towards resolution to the key center destinations in our music. As a theory term leading tone designates; the pitch one half step below the tonic as the diatonic 7th degree of the major scale. Leading tone also becomes a first evolution between minor and major in the harmonic minor group of pitches.

We can bundle leading tones together and place them in the music creating multiple points of simultaneous departures as the music flows by in time, V7b9 ideas, this approach the blossom part of our inherited harmonic palette of today, all brought to life by John Coltrane's 'sheets of sound' in the late 50's.

lean against

This is my slang term that implies having some sort of 'time keeping' going on in the music. We 'lean against' the pulse and beat, which gives us a chance to phrase our ideas in with another, creating an artistic essence of musical art as a collaborative effort. Anything from a ticking timer clock to a metronome to a looper, click track and in the best scenario, a drummer who responds in kind :)


Melodic motion of an interval greater than a major second between two pitches. Thus, arpeggios and chords constructed by major and minor third intervals are leaps while scales and their melodic motion are said to be created step-wise.

learning block

Learning block. An obstacle to learning, often created by the learner based on their prior educational and life experiences. Learning blocks are simply obstacles to be identified and overcome, 'obstacles are the things we see when we take our eyes off our goal.' To paraphrase Henry Ford.

The 'I can't ... as in 'I can't do that ... ' is simply and totally un American for the resolution "I can" is built right into the letters of American. The last four letters of 'American' spell our end goal in performing Americana musics; 'I can' and will overcome my own learning blocks.

Attitude. Just try what is being suggested in the discussions even just one time. Counting numbers of measures and beats aloud is a common phobia. Singing the part to be played is also a block for some. Getting everyone in the band to sing their part is a challenge, but can work wonders :)

Try to drop phrases such as ... ' I know that' from your vocabulary and sub in 'really ...? ... in a good attitude of voice. Then listen patiently and see if there's not a new idea to be gleaned and tied into what you already know. Fix impatience with an inner counting system to pass the first few moments of feeling impatient, try counting the measures of a four bar phrase in 4/4 time;

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

Gives us a 'two for one' and we become better listeners too !

We overcome learning blocks in a cyber text by 'tying into one's own existing knowledge' as a sure way to build up new knowledge and energize the energy for working through books such as Essentials. Self directed by the juice of one's own curiosities. For 'these books ...'

wiki ~ Henry Ford
wiki ~ essential theory
wiki ~ public speaking

learning style

By what educational activity or environment an individual best learns, by reading, writing, speaking, playing etc.

learning tunes

The pro advice I pass along comes from professional trombonist Bill Watrous. In learning new songs Mr. Watrous's advice was to learn and memorize the melody, changes, form and the lyrics. Those that will find and spin his recordings will surely hear the lyrics of the songs in his playing.

Mr. Watrous also passed along the idea that for the pro player, learning three tunes a week was a reasonable goal depending. That within just a couple of years of such diligent and disciplined study, a player would have a reference to pretty much anything musical that might come along after :)


A style of phrasing a melodic idea where the pitches of the line are smoothly connected, as little separation between the pitches as possible.

Let Music Ring

A curriculum book for American public school education. This edition is from the 1950's. There are about a million copies of this book out there to be found I'd imagine for "anything can be anywhere."



Letter name pitches. In music our letter name pitches run through the alphabet from 'A' to 'G' whereupon we close the loop. This gives us seven of our 12 total pitches. We create the other five using accidentals, to raise or lower a lettered pitch by half step. Here are the letter named pitches.


Here are the letter name pitches for our six string guitars. The notes for a four string bass are on the lowest four strings.

letter name pitches

The key to the layout of the pitches is in understanding the looping nature of the letter names and their sound. Notice the 'F' to 'F' and 'C' to 'C' towards the top of the graphic? Cool with the octave span? That we just start it all over again at the 12 fret? That we've two strings with the same open letter name? Coolness in the rote learn and memorization of the fingerboard. Do it once thorough and then have them on your harddrive forever after.


A wordbook or dictionary, a list of vocabulary terms associated with a particular subject.

Liberty, Ms

A physical statue that represents the essence of the Americana.


Slang for a musical phrase.

line (the)

Just slang for the melody line, although also used to describe any line in any music anytime, a slang term with flexible and variable qualities.


A straight or nearly straight line, in music to imply the shape of a melodic line usually more horizontal like the horizon than verticle like going up to the moon.

the literature

A general term for the entire body of musical knowledge; in writing, recording, talking about, digital media et all.

localized position

Executing musical ideas in one area of the fingerboard.


Simply a closed set of elements that perfectly closes back upon its starting point after each element has been visited in sequential order.

looping concept

That in all of our music theory, and oftentimes in the art we create and enjoy also, if we extend whatever cycle of pitches we are examining far enough along their pathway, they will always close back upon their starting point. Often termed here in Essentials a 'perfect closure', we theorists thus elightened can self correct our theoretical musings ever they fail to perfectly close or balance out.

loops of pitches

My term to describe when a group of pitches or scale intervalically closes onto itself, or in electronic music, the virtual repetition of a phrase as say an 8 bar drum pattern.

long horns

My term to describe the Medieval horns.

the lute

Stringed instrument and early ancestor to the guitar.


One who builds and repairs guitars.

Lydian Chromatic Concept Of Tonal Organization

Lydian Chromatic Concept Of Tonal Organization. Written by Dr. George Russell, a rather sought after theory book by jazz musicians that basically recreates our system of music theory with the Lydian scale replacing the diatonic scale as our tonal basis. In the more improv leaning American styles, this basic paradigm shifting can have a dramatic effect on the art it creates.

In this Essentials book we in theory evolve from this Lydian grouping through the symmetrical sequencing of an alternating pattern of major and minor thirds. This evolved arpeggio group then includes the #15 interval above the strating root pitch and beyond into a second octave before the expected perfect closure of the loop. in the major / minor 3rd interval sequence. This major Lydian #15 is balanced by the minor Dorian group of pitches which is the flip side of the Lydian #15. For it is built by sequencing a minor 3rd / major 3rd interval pattern and sequencing of the pitches.

Lydian mode

The fourth mode from from our diatonic major scale group of pitches. One of the original modes of the ancient Greeks. Our one diatonic mode that holds the augmented 4th interval as measured from its root pitch; thus three whole tones. Tritone, #4 / b5 / #11 all with that bit of whole tone color.

Lydian b7 mode

A mostly jazz alteration of the Lydian mode whereby its seventh is lowered to create a dominant, minor or blue 7th. This gives it the same pitches as the melodic minor group. As such it becomes a group of pitches in jazz as a melodic substitution.

letters m - z

'Thought is born of failure. Only when the human organism fails to achieve an adequate response to its situation is there material for processes of thought, and the greater the failure the more searching they become.'

wiki ~ Lancelot Law Whyte