Thursday, March 31, 2011


Intervals: Are the incremental building blocks from which melodies are constructed.An interval is also the distance between two notes. The smallest interval in Western music is the half step (the distance from one fret to another on guitar). All intervals can be measured by the amount of half steps they contain, but the most common way to identify intervals is to refer to them by their proper names. The names of intervals are bases on the scale steps of the major scale. 

**Here is an example of the intervals of the C Major Scale:

Written on the staff are two octaves of the C major scale, with the scale steps written above. The brackets below the staff measure the distance between the tonic and the other notes of the scale. Intervals within the first octave of the scale are called simple intervals. Notice that the name of these intervals directly correspond to the scale steps. For instance, the distance between the tonic and the second scale step is called a major 2nd; the distance between the tonic and the third step is called a major 3rd ect. Once the octave is reached, higher number take over. These "beyond the octave" intervals are called compound intervals. In all cases, the number (2nd, 5th, 7th, ect.) describes the interval quantity (number of scale steps); and the adjective (major, minor, perfect, ect.) describes the interval quality (number of half steps).

Monday, March 28, 2011

Slayer Does Not Need Music Theory To Sound Cool!!

The more I read interviews and articles by some of my favorite musicians the more I noticed how many of them were never classically trained, had lessons from a guitar guru or even bothered picking up a scale book. Take Kerry King from the band Slayer for example.This guy can practically break the sound barrier with his face-melting guitar solos and can write brutal riffs that would whip any audience into a frenzy. But he doesn't know shit about music theory!! He just knows what he likes and what he thinks his fans will like. Slayer has been around for almost 30 years so they must have found a "formula" that works. The article below goes a bit more in depth as to Kerry King's thoughts on music theory and also has some advice on economical fingering techniques. 

Friday, March 18, 2011


The end of the first portion of the quarter has arrived. I will now be taking the next 10 days off to spend time outside and in the sun. See you for part two of my project very soon!

Thursday, March 17, 2011

The Internet Is The Coolest Thing EVER!!!

The more I listen to music and play the guitar the more I have noticed that ear training is a skill I want to get better at. When  I hear a particular piece of music I always seem to be curious about what key the song is in or what chords are being used and in what tuning. I know that listening is useful tool when it comes to learning music. Sometimes you have to stop making your own sound and listen to the sounds coming from the outside world. 

While looking around on the internet I found two really cool tools that I will be able to use for a long time. I found a virtual guitar and a virtual bass. They are completely interactive. By using these websites I can learn each individual note on both the guitar and the bass by sound alone. The sites also have the fretboard marked so I can learn to associate what sound goes with which note and where to find that note on the fretboard. This is probably one of the most useful things I have found during the course of this project. I have provided the links below. Very Cool!

Monday, March 14, 2011

Sharps, Flats, Accidentals Lesson

The black keys on a piano are named after their nearest white-key neighbor with a corresponding sharp or flat. For example, the black key between C and D is either C-sharp or D-flat. As a general rule the black keys are sharp if the music is ascending (moving up), such as from C to C-sharp. If it is descending (moving down), we call the black key a flat, such as moving down from D to D-flat.

Half Step: Moving from one pitch to the next pitch (up or down) is a half-step.
Think of the chromatic scale as a ladder. (The Latin origin of “scale” means “ladder.”) When you climb a ladder, you usually go one step at a time. It makes sense, then, to think that when you move from one pitch to the next up or down the chromatic scale, you are moving by step, which is true, but there’s a quirk:

Each step up or down the chromatic scale is a a half-step. 

On the piano, it doesn’t matter whether the key is white or black; moving from one key to the next is a half-step. For example, when you move from C to C-sharp you are moving up a half-step; C-sharp to D is up a half-step. D to D-flat is down a half-step, and so on. There are no black keys between B and C, and E and F. Because they are next to each other, B to C is a half-step, and E to F is a half-step. This diagram shows some examples of half-steps:

Whole Step: Two half-steps equal one whole-step.
It takes two pitches to equal a whole step. To move up or down a whole-step on the piano, you have to skip a key. Again, it doesn’t matter whether the key is black or white. Let’s say you’re starting on B and you want to move up a whole step. You skip the C and go to the next key, C-sharp.


Accidentals: Sharps and flats in music notation are called accidentals. They indicate that the notated pitch should be raised or lowered a half-step.

 Here are some things to know about accidentals:
  • The accidental always goes before the note that it’s changing
  • The accidental always goes on the same line or space of the note that it is changing.
  • The accidental only affects the note at the octave where it is indicated. For example, the D-sharp above raises D4 a half-step. If there were a D5 in that same measure (before the vertical line through the staff), the D5 would not be a D-sharp.
  • The accidental lasts for the entire measure (until the vertical line through the staff). If there were more than one D4 in the example after the accidental, they would all be D-sharps.
  • An accidental may be canceled at any time with the natural symbol (see table below).
Sharps and flats aren’t the only accidentals. The table below shows the most common accidentals used in music notation:

Friday, March 11, 2011

Notes: Music Element #2: A Lesson by Victor Wooten

"When most teachers talk about music theory, which element are they usually talking about?"
I thought for a few seconds, "Well, 'notes,' I guess."
"Good. What else?"
I tried but I couldn't think of anything else.
"Notes," I repeated.
"That's right," he laughed. "Notes, pitches, and that's it!" All the fuss about learning music theory, and now we see that most teachers only teach you how to use one tenth of the elements in music. Their music theory only teaches you to use notes, and it's only a theory! That's it! Nothing else! It doesn't teach you about dynamics, feel, tone, or anything else on the list, only notes. It should be called note theory, not music theory, because it doesn't teach you Music."

"You can't speak Music with notes alone, but you can speak Music without notes at all! I can program a computer to play notes, and it won't sound like Music! You need these other elements to make it complete! Without them, notes are lifeless!! Music theory is shallow! Incomplete! It does not deserve all the attention it gets! But at the same time, notes are important!"

"Most musicians think that Music is made up of notes. They forget that notes are just a part of Music, and a small part at that. If you stopped playing them, Music would still exist. Think about that! The reason many musicians get frustrated when they start to play, especially when they start to solo, is that they rely mostly on notes to express themselves. There are only twelve notes. Imagine trying to speak a whole language using only twelve words."

"Many musicians are afraid of those two notes. If they hit the 'wrong' one, they get scared and quickly leave that notes in search of the 'right' one. That's what you were doing when you trying to find the key. If you make friends with whichever note you happened to land on, it will give you directions to where you are trying to go."

"There are how many notes in Western Music?"
"Twelve," I answered.
"How many notes are there in most of the key signatures we play in?"
"Seven," I replied.
"Correct. In any key, there are seven so-called 'right' notes which leave only five so-called 'wrong' notes. What this means is even if we don't know what key we are in and guess which note to play, we will be 'right' more than half the time!"
"You are never more than half-step away from a 'right' note. Never! So, what are you so afraid of? You can't be lost. If you land on a 'wrong' note, just step off of it in either direction, and you are 'right' again. 'I once was lost, but now am found.' The real beauty is this: If you use your ears to listen to that accidental note, you may find that it actually sounds better than the 'right' note you intended to play."

LESSON: If You Stopped Playing Notes, Music Would Still Exist!

Thursday, March 10, 2011

The Pain Of Progress

It seems the more I get excited about playing guitar the faster I fatigue and cramp up. I want to play faster but I want to also have control and consistency. Having hurt my wrist earlier in this project I have injured it further from playing guitar. So, today I looked around on the internet to see if there was anything I could do to reduce the pain from playing guitar or avoid it all together. I found some very helpful video tutorials that have great advice for guitarists.

Here is an old Guitar World article by the guitarist of Metallica that had some useful advice when it came to taking care of your hands. **CLICK ON THE ARTICLE PICTURE TO ENLARGE**

**While looking for information I found this video first. It is done by a guitarist named John Petrucci who is a professional guitarist for a band called Dream Theater. The video had some very practical information that I will try to incorporate into my routine.**

**This video also proved to be very helpful. I will definitely use some of these techniques from now on!!

**This is a video from a classical guitar instructor. With a wider neck on his guitar, the need for him to be able to stretch his fingers across as many frets as possible is essential.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Find A Groove, Find A Pulse, Find A Drummer

The more I play guitar the more it becomes important to have a good sense of rhythm. When playing alone it is easy to forget that you are actually playing in your own time and not in a specific one either. Solo playing allows you the one chance to not be considered behind the beat or before the beat. When you are alone, you are on time, all the time. However, you start to realize that when performing with other musicians, each player can't be on their "own time" and still sound good as a cohesive band. 

Recently I have learned that you can learn to play consistently on beat while keeping the feel, the pulse of the music and do it without assistance of a drummer. That is, at least a human one. 

I have recently discovered  that the use of a metronome and a drum machine are amazing tools to have when learning how to keep time and improve your speed. It is better to start slow and be accurate than be fast and sloppy. Easier said than done, you know?

**Example of the online drum machine I found. Very easy to use and easy to play along with.


**Here is a picture of the metronome I just bought for under $20. Super easy to use and affordable!!

 **Here is a online version of a metronome I found that is very helpful. It doesn't have all of the functions of the Korg Metronome but gets the job done.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Groove: Music Element #1: A Music Lesson by Victor Wooten

I was at a friend's house earlier this week. They have a "jam" room at their house and it was wall to wall with instruments. Guitars, basses, speaker cabinets, a full drum set, keyboards, you name it they had it. On this particular day I was watching them jam out and the bass player wanted to know if I would take over for him while he had a smoke. Though hesitant at first, I remembered a passage from Victor Wooten's book that gave me the confidence to take the bass and not be too worried about playing "the right notes."

**Here is a paraphrase and and an excerpt from the book that I was referring to. The scene takes place at a house with two musicians. One of them is playing a song and asks the other join in. Before the other musician joins in he asks the other guy what key he was in. The musician refuses to tell the other guy the key and this frustrates him. After fiddling around on his instrument the frustrated musician finally finds the key of the song. Immediately after the first musician stops playing.

 "Do you always know what you're gonna say before you start talking?"
"And does that stop you from talking?"
"Not usually."
"Okay, then play!"...I fumbled around trying to find the root note so I could figure out something good to play but quickly got frustrated and put down my bass.

"What were you thinking about when you were playing?"
"I was trying to find the right key."
"And you need to find the right key before you can play Music?"
"It helps."
"I need to find the right key so that I can play the right notes."
"I see. Notes are so important that all Music stops until you find the right ones?"
 "I didn't say that."
"Yes, you did. You said it clearly with your bass."
"Well, tell me then; when should I find the right notes?"
"You shouldn't."
"I shouldn't?"
"No! Not at first anyway. There is something more important you should find first."
"And what is that?"
"The groove? Wait a minute. So the first thing I should do is find the groove when I start playing?"

"No. You should find the groove before you start playing. It doesn't matter whether you know the song or not. If you need to, let a few measures go by while you figure out what the groove is saying. Once you find the groove, it doesn't matter what note comes out; it will 'feel' right to the listener. People generally feel Music before they listen to it anyway. If finding the key is so important to you, at least find it while you groove...Forget about your instrument. Forget about the key. Forget about technique. Hear and feel the groove. Then allow yourself to become part of the Music!! (pg. 30-31).

Lesson: You should never lose the groove in order to find a note.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Crash Course In Chord Theory:

I don't know how many times I have you looked at guitar chord charts and wondered how the chords were constructed in the first place. I know chords are important to the guitar but what exactly are they and more importantly why do some work and some don't?

When you first start learning the guitar, pretty much one of the first things you learn to play are the basic major guitar chords, such as C-major, G-major, etc, and you learn to read guitar chord diagrams like this one which shows the C-major chord:

It became very clear early on that knowing about chords and how chords are constructed is quite useful. Perhaps the most important thing about chord construction is that it will help you find chord shapes anywhere on the fretboard. Also, if you want to play lead guitar,having some understanding of how chords are built from scales will let you create much better sounding solos. Guitar chords, or just any chords in music are created by choosing certain notes from a particular scale. Here, we’re going to look at chords created from the major scale.
Here are the notes & guitar tab for the C-major guitar scale:

The colored numbers in the middle are important. These are known the scale degrees, which are the note’s number within the scale. The notes marked in blue are the root notes of the scale, since this is the C-major scale, the root note is the note ‘C’ (3rd fret, 5th string on the fretboard). The notes marked in yellow are the other (non-root) notes of the scale.

To build a basic major chord, take the 1st, 3rd and 5th notes from the major scale, and play them together at the same time. Here is the same diagram as above, but now the notes that will form the C-major chord are highlighted:

The basic major chord consists only of these scale notes 1, 3, 5, and none of the others. If we play these 3 notes together, we get the basic C-major chord, also known as the C-major triad:

If you play all the scale notes on your guitar, then only the 1, 3, 5 notes shown, you will get an idea of the sound of the basic major chord.These 3 notes form the bottom part of the C-major chord in the chord chart shown above. To get the other 2 notes, we just repeat the scale notes 1 & 3 (notes C and E), and stack these on top, to get the full C-major chord:

All basic major chords consist only of these 3 scale degrees, 1 (root), 3 and 5 taken from the major scale. 

To apply this for a different chord, you would start off with the major scale (e.g. the G-major scale), and take notes 1, 3 & 5 from it.

Question: How can this help when playing lead guitar?
Answer: If the rhythm chords are C-major followed by F-major, and you’re playing a solo over these. As we’ve seen from above, the notes in the C-major chord are C, E, G. While the rhythm is playing the C-major chord, then lead licks and phrases that start or end on one of these notes, will overall, tend to sound a better ‘fit’ with this chord than other notes from the C-major scale.When the rhythm changes to the F-major chord, the notes in this chord are the 1, 3 & 5 scale degrees of the F-major scale, which are the notes F, A & C. You would change your licks & phrases to start or end on these notes while the rhythm is playing this chord.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

I Watched The Coolest Documentary Today!!

 Today a good friend of mine mentioned that I may like the documentary film "The Heart Is A Drum Machine." I found it streaming online and had to watch it. This was a great film with a great cast of musicians and scientists who talk about music in ways only musicians do. I have provided the link and recommend that any music lover watches it. Very interesting!!