Sunday, February 28, 2010

Guitar II: Figuring and Writing

This template was created with a broad range of styles in mind, and aspects are applicable to other instruments.

The Blocks are not rigid, and progress may be nonlinear and variable in time.  If Block 1 helped you, you are welcome to send thanks, including in money form.  The value of Block 1 might be, on average, $170. 

Block 2

After playing other people's music, learned from outside sources, you might be interested in figuring stuff out "by ear", or writing some of your own music.  You will need to understand how the guitar is laid out, how jumping around and chord forms associate to sounds.  Intervals and basic diatonic theory (below) are for everybody, and pentatonics with additions are basic to styles with a blues-influx.

If you want to create "parts" and/or solos, in other words if you want to be a "guitar player", you might start paying more attention to rhythm.  Half a notion of time signature is helpful, the part that denotes grouping of pulses.  Connect the dots to feel time more continuously.

Guitar players need something to play on, such as single notes, combinations of notes, and percussive sounds.  "Lead players" need more, such as various phrasing notions and "special effects" like harmonics.  Turning/incorperating things into exercises can be helpful.

(The middle one even sits like a guitarist.)

If you want to sing with your guitar, you will need to pay more attention to melody.  Roughly, any musical "story" is melodic, and is commonly carried out via changes in pitch, rhythm, and duration.  This is somewhat akin to be song-sensitive -- setting up various relationships between yourself and the song, which is to say the chords, primary melodies, and lyrics.

Your part in an arrangement is created by the interaction between you and all the other stuff.  In something purely improvised, this interaction is more variable.  But as you perhaps found out in Block 1, even when you know every sound you're going to make in advance, it still comes out different every time.


Here are twelve principle intervals, with applications.  Each interval is one fret greater distance than the last, and as an exercise, figure out and play intervals on adjacent strings.  It may be helpful to learn the numbering and fingering for the major scale first, as this will greatly simplify locating intervals and understanding their names. 

Half Step/Flat 2nd.

A one fret move, in either direction.  String twelve of them together to form (a/the) chromatic scale.

Whole Step/2nd.

String these together to form the whole tone scale.   Neither this nor the chromatic scale may be of immediate use to you, but memorizing the sounds of the intervals will be.

Flat/Minor 3rd.
Moves from a pitch to one a flat 3rd away is ultra common is blues-related music, especially if you tweak the leading note a bit sharp before descending, or the upper pitch when ascending.

Form sequences of minor thirds to create diminished arpeggios.

(Major) 3rd.

With major and minor 3rds, you can form triads.  You met the diminished triad above, formed by stacking a minor third atop another.  If you put the minor 3rd on top of a major 3rd, it's called a major triad.  Switch that to get a minor triad, and stick a major 3rd on top of another and form the augmented triad.

(Perfect) 4th. 

Strike two notes on adjacent strings at the same time to create double stops, of which 4ths form a type of "power chord."

Flat 5th (Sharp Fourth). 

Useful for such things as summoning the devil, and bebop

(Perfect) 5th.

As a double stop, these are the most common "power chords."

Flat/Minor 6th.

In case you lost count, we're up to an interval of eight half-steps/frets, and with this interval it becomes especially useful to extend the double stop concept to strings with one (silent) in between.

Note that the flat/minor 6 is an inversion of a major 3rd.

(Major) 6th.

Learn the major and minor 6ths in different keys as double stops, for a widely useful device, most common in blues, country, and rock directly derived from those sources.

Note that the major 6th is the inversion of a minor 3rd.

Flat/Dominant 7th. 

Not much in use as a double stop, but added atop a major, minor, or diminished triad, you get the recipe for the dominant 7th, minor 7th, and diminished seventh/half-diminished arpeggios.  Unless you play the simplest of pop music, you will need these.

Note that adding the flat 7th to a triad is like sticking another 3rd atop the two below.

Major 7th.

Also not in wide currency as a double stop, but beloved as the makings of the major 7th and major/minor 7th arpeggios.  You get these by adding major 7ths to major and minor triads, and as with the flat 7th, adding the major 7th to a triad is another 3rd atop 3rds.


Full circle, in terms of letter name and in some way I think nobody truly understands -- octaves sound "alike", even though they are clearly not the same pitch.  They are super important to fretboard navigation, starting with the 12th fret as the octave of the open strings, and locations of octaves for strings with one in between them.

If this sort of thing interests you, you might move on to comparing intervals via their relationship to the octave above and below a given pitch, as was done with the 6ths.

If you can learn the sound of each interval and associate them tightly to fretboard jump/configurations, you will be able to instantly play melodies and riffs, both the ones in your head and in the songs you are figuring out, and improvisation becomes possible.  Conceptual/physical knowledge of intervals allows you to do with a guitar what you do naturally with your voice, and makes building chords and understanding their names much easier.  

 If this all seems very abstract to you, go on to Block 3 (forthcoming).

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