~ art ~

~ the creative process ~

~ concepts / techniques ~

~ art topics a to z ~

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

Art in a nutshell. Imagine that, art in a nutshell. Pretty big nut I'd imagine :) This page is like a topical table of contents, an alphabetical index of sorts and is hopefully a way for you to begin to find a way into our music theory (with a bit of history) story and create your own pathway and storyline through this Essential's theory text. 'All journeys, short, long, even medium, will all need a first step. Please take one now. Thank you.

biographies (reading)
hammer on
pull off

In a nutshell again. The topics and discussions on this 'art' page are really just an expanded glossary at heart. The difference is that instead of just defining and linking one word or idea, the entries are usually a weave of two or more ideas into a brief musical arts discussion. Art discussions will energize art expression and that my friend, is a very good thing. For any idea, even by its very own nature, must come from somewhere.

Writing about art. The style of writing in these discussions is more about the 'art' of things than the theory. Or, putting the theory into practice. So no real limits defined by the theory of the topic, wherever the discussion needs to go ... it goes.

So what is the energy of art? Capturing a thought we conjure up expressed in a tangible and transferable form? Musical art? A way to express the soul of our thought on its journey from beginning to end, expressed aurally through pitch, timbre and vibrations, all woven together and motored along through metered time?

In theory, creating the music we each love most can become a three dimensional model of elements; rhythm (s) in time, variability of pitch and their tuning schemes and sequencing, that totally human thing we all tend to do second nature to find a balance.

Conjure up, create and express something new. Simply the capture in a tangible form of a thought we conjure up? Ranging from the doodles in the sand to stick figure twisty animals in ancient caves to flat one dimensional representations to full on 3d sculptures, rocket ships into space that helps us travel to beyond the beyond? All of this wide spectrum contains the same simple application; that our creative thinking brings forth something new either from existing work or right out of the blue.

What is music? Music is something which lives outside the realm of the tangible arts yet conjures its own unique physical presence in the human motivating energies it creates. People hear a beat and begin to dance. That no human feeling is outside its expressive bounds shows us the universal expressive strengths it holds.

By our own physical actions we get to transfer our thoughts and ideas to recreate our ideas in sensations of sounds and rhythm. That we can synch up our thoughts with others in our band in real time and share with all who listen is surely a human bonding that goes way back in our communal histories.

What is our own music? Music is the expression of our thoughts in a medium which lives outside the realm of the tangible yet energizes 'to set in motion' what it conjures up. That in our curiosities in learning about music we look to strengthen our abilities to fine tune and express our ideas and experiences and make our music our own, as unique as each one of us truly are. We all share a common DNA yet we each are unique in our own ways, so the same with our own unique emotional, artistic and musical expressions.

wiki ~ DNA

Artistic concepts. The following topics are simply ideas about the musical arts. They range from intellectual theories about learning and how we learn to aspects of the musical arts that probably deserve whole chapters, and do get whole chapters, in other books. They are included together on this page to facilitate the writing in other sections of this work while also providing additional food for thought for the browsing, emerging modern guitarist, theorist and musician.


These topical discussions are all about conceptual ideas to consider as we hone our craft throughout our careers. Many entries suggest ways of viewing the musical resources we have, shaping a possible perspective of our music. Choose what works for you, consider the rest perhaps, for we never know where the next good idea might come from.

"There was no one near to confuse me, so I was forced to become original."

wiki ~ Joseph Haydn

A modern guitarist ~ or the evolution of the artist, which can apply to all artists of all medias. Here in Essentials, a modern guitarist or artist is one who wants to 'modernize' their work by understanding the basic theory and organization of what is already under their fingers today that they regularly use to create and express their own art. This becomes the start point for a lifetime of evolutions as one idea simply energizes another and forward on till we decide to stop.

Once this entry process is initiated based on a learner's existing knowledge, this start point quickly gives each reader a way into the progressions and evolutions of each of the topical discussions in this text. Along this pathway of learning we can gradually become better at recognizing common elements and their patterns in any art we might encounter, which can further generate ideas for our own explorations and evolutions.

As you work through the text please realize that as you begin to skip links in discussions because the terms are already familiar, you're learning the vocabulary of the theory. The vocabulary represents musical sounds. Sounds are often character of musical styles, as we evolve our sound our artistic evolution begins anew.

That we have theory 'pioneers' to follow makes our work here so much easier. Dismantling the theory is truly the academic, after the art is created, hindsight thing. Along the way we get to explore what has come before helping to shape our own ideas and evolve. Nearly everyone has borrowed and learned from those whom have come before us. Those who do not generally need not. Rare. Like hen's teeth rare? Yep.

A cool part of 'modern guitar' theory is that it can give us a way into really any music we ever might hear. While listening, once we recognize a pattern or two, we've found a way into the music. It builds from there as newly discovered pieces fall in place. Each new piece a potential 'modernization' of the program. The ideas we hear and emulate as we go along collect into phrases, becoming the basis of our musical conversations. Through shedding we can 'modernize' these ideas by filtering theory loops and solving compositional puzzles.

For pure theory bang for the buck, correlating letter name pitches with appropriate numerical positions within a chosen key center could be tops. For in these numerical equivalents we can discuss; scale degrees, arpeggio degrees, color tones, blue notes, altered color tones, chord degrees, chord color tones, altered chord color tones, chord progressions and chord substitution in any of our 12 major or 12 minor keys. Imagine that :)

An important modernization for many is starting to think and play 'more through the changes than over them.' Here the linear parent scales give way to the vertical arpeggios. Which when added to improvised lines can quickly modernize our sound. Finding a gallop rhythm for each of our main styles to deepen the swing is a modernization for many. Simply being able to find and lock in on 2 and 4 and groove is for many a solid step up that opens news doors.

Learning musical forms is a way to modernize. Understanding the balancing of melodic ideas in song and its many forms opens a vast vast vista of potentials in addition to the numerical evolutions. Combining form and melodic shapes is probably the whole ball of theory wax. Strengthening our sense of form also enables cats to 'stretch out', creating longer improvisations on the themes of their music in performance. This is a fairly big piece of the traditional jazz performance pie.

More profound, intuitively energized self understandings of one's own art will often just organically evolve as the theory takes hold. Especially when encouraged in a collaborative environment. These often follow along the lines of borrowing sounds from various musical styles into one's existing ideas, which oftentimes become the creative basis for new works and pathways to explore.

Strive to know enough of the theory so as to allow an initial way into any of our American styles of music. What this gives us is an unlimited resource for new ideas and ways to evolve our own music if we so choose. So depending on where we are artistically today and look to get to over time, there's a grounded, theory based pathway of understanding to help us get there.

Accelerate the learning. In the educational theory of writing textbooks, this work is written so that each reader uses what they already know to navigate through the linked discussions. Links on the right of many paragraph entries are designed to do a couple of things. Vocabulary for sure, to related components that can advance the topic at hand.

Way forward links. When a reader already knows the topic under discussion and needs a new way forward in the theory. These 'forward' links are often written just that way; 'a way forward' or 'building on this idea', 'imagine that' are a few. The progression of the theory is most often directed by simply adding new pitches to existing groups. As we expand the pitch resource we've more combinations. These new combinations often translate into expanding musical style.

So simply more pitches in our chords or melody? Towards jazz. Less pitches on down to our core five? Then towards our Americana blues and folk. Numerically more clicks in our tempos? Deeper rhythm subdivisions into the measures? Ideas like 4/4 into 12/8 and beyond? Eighth notes? Towards jazz. Less clicks, subdivisions and towards half and whole notes? Towards the folk end of the spectrum.

Adding the 7th. Adding a 7th to a triad is probably at or near the top of the 'super theory game changer' list of theory ideas that are paradigm shifters for the evolving Americana artist and guitarist. For in this one additional pitch to our triads we advance our first move along our musical styles spectrum. Think of musical styles where there simply are no 7th's added to the triads. Children's songs and a wide swath of the folk musics. And this would include anything globally that is 'roots' music; here theory defined as music whose are harmonies created solely from triads.

For once the 7th comes into play, our tonal center and its gravity begins the softening process and we open up 'suggestions' for the music to go beyond its diatonic borders as we create our art. We have the flip side of this of course; music whose diatonic center holds true regardless. Lest we foget the power of a V7 chord to return us to our original tonic pitch of any song.

Once the 7th is added to our triads we energize the blues and jazz Americana qualities that easily mix anywhere into the Americana fabric of musics. To 'jazz it up' as folks used to say. The ideas and theory principles of chord type, chord function and the entire topic of chord substitution manifests with adding a 7th to a triad and really for most player / theorists, that's plenty. Not only does our root motion thus story lines evolve, we open up the other color tones. Once comfortable through the full arpeggio we can symmetricalize our intervals and blast off to #15 and then beyond to create the evolved tritone pairing of the Lydian / Dorian splice, that when presented at a 432 hz. tuning pitch level basis, should turn our whole thing around to a more loving, caring and sharing universe. So often described in the endless verse we've created over the millenia, and as some will probably create today, and of course all of the readily available books ready to be read :)

adding the 7th
wiki ~ roots music
wiki ~ concert pitch / 432 hz.

Advance the challenge. This seems to be a way of artists throughout all of the styles through all of history. The 'what if' questions that require a new way forward bringing a greater challenge to the artist to complete the piece. Age old and hopefully something that will never go away.

So ... 'bored with your own playing?' Need something new to explore? U b not alone amigo, we all struggle to advance. In any style learn a new song

With folk styles explore an open tuning.

With the blues try an open 'G' tuning with a slide. Or add in a new chord or two to the 12 bar blues with chord substitutions.

With country add in the 6th to your chords and swing.

In pop music, work through the 'diatonic 3 and 3' theory.

In jazz guitar, go through the five diatonic scale shapes in 12 keys in localized position. For chords, run the Two / Five / One chords through 12 keys in localized positions.

Have all this under your fingers ? Cool. Consider exploring the #15 arpeggio, working through chord substitutions and adding more chromaticism into your single note lines and learn new songs or compose some of your own.

Explore the additional links included from those points forward.

Advance the learning. 'Advance the learning' is an 'e text' feature whereby an author can project directions where the theory can and will go, then provide the links to these next topics in the spirit of the evolution of the style / pitch intellectual dynamic that often centers these types of books. So on many pages within there's a suggestion or two for advancing the discussion on that page. The links included here are a few'advance the learning' starters.

So if you're already hip to the topic, there's 'advance the learning' suggestions for ways forward to related topics, advancing the current discussions. Format wise, the links to the right in any paragraph these 'advances.' So cats can click ahead in a discussion to new learning challenges of that topic. The oft included quip used of 'those in the know will know', is a sort of hidden hint of text that somethings afoot nearby in the theory evolution and its click is probably right at hand.

So I've been doin' this for a while now and over the decades I've heard players who are true serious about their thing say stuff like ... ; 'man I need something new', 'even just one new idea a week', 'really bored with my playing', 'just striving not to suck', 'man I sound like doo doo'. And to this day I still say and hear that last quip on a fairly regular basis :)

Regardless, creating art everyday and the boredom with the effort just seem to go together sometimes and is a very natural cycle. Artists of all stripes can shed their boredom away. One solution is to simply create ways to up our own game. Endless possibilities for those so inclined. The theory itself becomes a ring of keys to unlock doors to explore.

And the cool thing is once we choose a thing to 'advance' on any given day, once engaged the boredom often will soon vanish, poof, gone ... Stick with the 'advance' process and over time we can get better and better at what we want to do. Performing your music these days? Have a warm up routine yet?

Totally advance the learning ~ shedding the whole tamale. Ready to 'advance' for the foreseeable future your listing of things to practice? Jazz saxophonist John Coltrane throws down the gauntlet here for us as career minded, mostly leaning jazz cats or anyone crazy enough I guess, to think about what it takes to not only exhaust, develop and evolve their own musical resources, but to compose and create representatively meaningful and lasting musical art, of this whole tonal transitional process along the way.

And while there are so many additional great players who have done this, Trane is historically recognized as the artist that completed the Americana musical journey from totally inside diatonic to totally outside 12 tone art while never losing the blues anywhere along this array of musics and thus becomes the model of musical evolution for this book. By having today the songs that Mr. Coltrane's wrote, with a ballpark historical order created by their recording and release on audio records, we have a pathway for the evolution of Americana tonality from tonal to atonal, diatonic and blues based art on through to 12 tone abstract. For jazz artists, the 'anything from anywhere' through the 12 relative major and minor keys really becomes the shedding that creates the whole tamale. For once the basic theory is in place, it comes down to shedding to get the resource under our fingers. Then there's the musical time considerations, so ..

the whole tamale

All V7 and beyond. Our Americana jazz harmony of today evolves to where players will make every chord a V7 chord type. This creates a sort of seamless, bluesy and decidedly chromatic sound to the music.

Another aspect at this level is that the written chord changes do not necessarily have to be in their written order. So the root motion of the written pitches has more flexibility.

For when there's a few voices involved; say guitar, bass, piano, drums, a horn or two and everyone's wailing away thinking along these lines, all the pitches combine to create this seamless chromatic buzz that rides along on the groove. Here's Pythagoras, probably thinking from the root to keep track of things :)

evolution of the harmony
chromatic buzz

Alternating bass. One / Five / One. This usually describes a guitar technique that finds us using one chord shape whose root pitch is on the 5th string. Coolness built right in as its fifth is located right below, same fret, on the 6th string. There's a solid handful of these combos and they form a nice core for performing in the bossa nova styles.

wiki ~ bossa nova

Americana. As broad a topical heading we might ever find for our musics, what theory constitutes, creates and validates Americana in our music is quite simple really. Two sets of the same pitches where one set is precisely tuned and the art of improvisation. For as soon as we pair equal tempered tuned pitches to create chords with blue notes from a slide guitar, that's the core Americana spice. From this slight variance of tuning pitches and then rubbing them together all else flows and follows.

rubbing pitches together

An idea. So just how much of what we do as people starts with an idea? Just about everything right? Any different for creating art? Nope. Often through the simple necessity to express ourselves, the artist captures an idea in such a way so that it can be understood, shared and enjoyed by those who choose to experience it. If there's a universality to the idea, a special quality to it that helps all of us identify and unify with it, then all the better.

wiki ~ creativity

As musicians, what makes up this 'captured idea' is really limitless. One pitch and a rhythm loop will do it. Two pitches, an interval and a rhythm can be enough. Beethoven's Fifth Symphony. Maybe a word or two? "The Truth Is." Or even just a vision, perception or feeling we get from without that vibrates us within.

wiki ~ Beethoven's Fifth

Of something from our everyday lives to inspire us to create; of love, beauty, joy, a sadness or a true story of our doings. All continually generate those true universal sparks to explore and develop.

So just a real good chance that these works were sparked to life by one idea, that came to these artists to initiate the process of creating and composing. Then the work begins. And this is where the theory looms large. For in developing an idea into a full work, there's those 'tricks of the trade' composers have to help form up an idea to its completion. Tricks are often disguised as music theory. Imagine that :)


In Essentials there's really just two theory tricks. One is that composing, which includes both writing it out and improvisation, becomes a puzzle. The second is that our music theory and its silent architecture systems are created by a series of filters and layered together.

The concept of a puzzle is pretty straightforward. A full on Beethoven symphony puzzle probably has a 1000 pieces or so. A 12 bar blues puzzle maybe just two or three. Each can be inspired by just two or three pitches, each present their own unique challenges of form and balance. In finding the other pieces that fit around our original idea and puzzling it all into place, we then usually know when a work is done.

The idea of the architectural systems and 'filtering' is simply about the hierarchy of the theory created by the number of pitches we each use in imagining and creating the music we each love to play. Our own inner music if you will. Theory architecture encourages us to correlate musical style with number of pitches.

Each of the core components of a song; its story, melody, chords, rhythms and form each in themselves have this sort of numerical build process. Each additional piece along their evolutions creating a new filter of sorts. We simply try our original idea through the filters and see how it shapes the puzzle piece we are searching for. Career development along these lines is why many dig the theory.


Sound academic? Cool, it's supposed to be because theory is academic. As long as we stay true to the original idea we had, make all the parts sing-able for the players involved and tell a story, our collective histories remind us that even musical puzzles of a 1000 pieces or more, if each piece is lovingly crafted to puzzle together perfectly, there's no bounds to the evolutions of our own craftsmanship.

Arms around the resource. This is just an intellectual idea that in theory we've only 12 pitches to work with. Once they are rote learned we've got our arms around them, they form a loop and we begin to fill things in with a more organized manner.

Artistic balance. This idea of artistic balance is like 'beauty is in the eye of the beholder." I think. A challenge to put into words mostly, artistic balance in music is even more slippery as tangible and visual become aural. Coolness prevails here in that we each get to visualize our own version. So artistic balance in a song, or music in general, might be depicted by a hanging mobile, where seemingly disparate sized pieces make a whole piece of art that floats in the air.

7 bar A section
wiki ~ mobile sculpture
your art

Artistic filters; melodic, harmonic and rhythmic. This idea is an intellectual idea that becomes a musical exercise. We simply take one idea and 'filter' it through a pattern to create new combinations. For example, we can filter major triads through a whole tone scale. Or filter a rhythm sequence through the chords and form of the 12 bar blues. Lyricists will filter their idea through word combinations. Jazz players will permutate one melodic idea through various sounding filters, i.e., major, minor, augmented and diminished, a song's form etc.

Artistic signature. Know anybody else who signs their name like you do? Know anyone else who speaks and laughs like you? Plays the same melodic turns and twists? No? So each of us is unique in so many positive ways yes? To sing with our own voices a joyous phrase and play that line and speak that joy through our chosen instrument. That's cool and surely satisfies the expressive nature of our need to make art.

How or is the need to express ourselves simply part of our core sentient being as an evolved animal type unit on a hurtling, through endless space on this rock of a planet? Just something to Google for the DNA curious?

wiki ~ DNA

Why? To convey the joy and compassion of our hearts through the music we play? To tell our stories with the sounds of music we shape and create? Just sing and play which gets us out of that other sense of daily time that we measure on a wristwatch? Beginning to sound a bit like mantra question time all without answers? 

Will aspiring to solve for ourselves these understandings and goals shape our own unique artistic signatures? Do you have a favorite musical artist? Can you recognize their sound wherever or whenever you hear it? Yes? Well, that's how their artistic signature sounds yes?

For emerging improvising musicians, the concept of artistic signature is to a certain degree initially founded in the exciting ability to sing the line, play the line. As each of us is unique in our own ways, so may our musical creations and own personal sound project our uniqueness. This basis of sing the line / play the line is contingent on having something to say I guess and as with verbal language, is partially based on one's internalized vocabulary of words. Same principles apply to the music? Yep. So how do we build up our musical vocabulary to have something to say?

Well, potentially lots of ways. In all of the art forms, the study of the recognized masters and their careers is potentially a large part of the development process of the emerging talent. This knowledge of the historical development of a musical style and its creators, coupled with the new ideas from our own searching and experiences, helps to gradually shape our own artistic voice and in doing so, we each help to continue and pass along this historical process. So, have so many of the great artists we love studied the work of the great artists before them, and those artists studied with those before them, and back and back and back in history to go forward, forward, forward in time?

Listening to music is often the essential part of this process, while knowledge of music theory can help organize and internalize the sounds we hear. The aural, theoretically interpretive ability of sing the line, play the line can provide an inexhaustible source for new artistic ideas. Combining this simple idea of 'sing and play' with a gradually expanding understanding of the theoretical structure of our music system, we set in motion a proven program of study to initiate the development our own artistic signatures. Adding our signature to the ledger of the music history includes us in the collective energy to bring forth and share the joy, sorrows and challenges of the world we live in, past, present and the future.

Each of the broad categories of our Americana music styles can to a certain degree shape a players concept and sound to fall into certain historical parameters. This is in a sense a recognition and respect for the historical tradition of a particular style of music and the players who have created and developed that style over the decades. While listening to music, we can often identify our musical hero's by simply hearing a few notes of their music. This identification of the artist by their sound is the aural recognition of a player's artistic signature.

The idea to consider here is how each of us can use the strengths we are given and develop to create our own unique signature. This is hopefully an ever evolving process of searching, whereby our artistic statement and signature evolves and matures as we ourselves evolve and mature, as artists and human beings, as we channel the universal energy and share our discoveries in music with those who join around us. 

So, is the concept of artistic signature important for everyone? Nope, but searching for and solidifying one's artistic identity can be a healthy endeavor, regardless of one's aspirations artistically or professionally. Just knowing of the concept oftentimes helps to validate an artistic direction we might choose to go. And although we might not really know what might develop from our labors, perhaps it is the lessons learned through searching that help shape our being. Artistic signature, and the search for each of us to capture our own, becomes an integral part in the continued collective growth and development of the various styles of Americana music. Seek and ye shall find eh?

The greatest discovery of my generation is that you can change your circumstances by changing your attitudes of mind. 

wiki ~ William James

ASAP. Part pun, as if there is an need for anything asap in music theory but also another way to find start points into this book, that over the decades now of learning, doing and teaching music theory to interested folks, have on occasion the quip, 'I wish I knew that back when I first started.' We each probably have a few of those I'd imagine :) So the few topics in this entry are just those sort of things; theory ideas and components that help create a big or bigger picture right now; asap, and get our arms around the resource in a stronger, intellectual way that can energize our shedding to get the theory under our fingers.

Aural predictability. This idea is about playing with a listeners expectations as we create our musics. We can sound like we are going to go there and go there or hint that we might go there and then not go there or even go somewhere else. Sorry :) So children's songs are for the most part clearly predictable for most musicians. While for the same players, most of modern jazz is not. (yet :) Form in music, sequences, and rhythm patterns all help in creating or not as the case might be, the predictability of the basic tension / release dynamic of our musics.

Back / middle / front of the beat. Simply a realization that in our phrasing of musical ideas, we can find different spots on the beat, each of which can effect the artistic and emotional statement of the line. 'Out in front' finds the rhythm section playing a sort of catch up, call and response with the lead line and can be a great way to tell a story. Ray Charles' version of the classic "Georgia On My Mind" comes to mind. Rolling right down the middle of the thing are the American arpeggio kings Coleman Hawkins, Charlie Parker and John Coltrane. No question about the time strength and integrity of 'where it is.' Phrasing behind the beat, a bit or a whole lot, is probably most common over the spectrum. Jazz wise Dexter Gordon might be the king of back of the beat in telling his tales.

An easy way to feel these spots in time is to work with a metronome. getting the clicks on 2 and 4 and singing along with the clicks, finding the various 'spots' of where the pitches and rhythms lay into the time.

wiki ~ Ray Charles
wiki ~ Charlie Parker
wiki ~ John Coltrane
wiki ~ Dexter Gordon

Backing a soloist. This is a performance consideration and really comes down to one thing. To not distract them from what they are doing while they are doing it. If this means not playing at all (tacit) so be it. Also to be sure to watch the volume of the parts. Getting 'under' the soloist's volume is important and not always easy. Stepping all over the soloist is an easy way to loose the gig. Shedding will take care of the rest of what we need to play. Ask the soloist what they dig and think of trying to do that. Communication, if there's time, is usually always a good place to start if nothing else.

Even a great soloist needs a nudge from time to time. As 'call and response' and 'theme and variations' core the Americana dialogue, it only takes one idea to begin the process among players. In the backing part of this, once the new idea is manifest, the solo cat is still soloing and as such, still needs the space and our support to succeed.

At the turnaround of the form is oftentimes where the backing part can get dicey. Do we lay off and give the soloist the room to decide ... or as backing cats, help to drive it all home like a big dog to ensure another chorus go-around of the form of the song being performed? Talking with everyone at rehearsal, on the break and close of the performance about these spots surely helps in creating fun and exciting music for the players and dancers alike :) Just try remember that in improvised musics, when we get under the stage lights things often change from what was discussed. That getting under the soloist in terms of volume is usually makes for a good start.

Banish the boredom. Creating art everyday and the boredom with the effort seem to go together sometimes. Cats shed their boredom away. One solution is to simply create ways to up our own game. Endless possibilities for those so inclined. And the cool thing is once we choose a thing to 'advance' on any given day, once engaged, the boredom often will vanish, poof, gone ... Stick with the 'advance' process and over time we get better and better at what we want to do.

Bass line stories. I do not really understand this but I know it is important. Its hard to understand I think because I am a writer too. So words just start coming with the vibe of the music. But what the bass line story is hard for me to put into words ... imagine that :) Seriously, I know this important because it comes to us here from Mr. Clarke Terry and I can hear and sense this magic. So here goes ...

Simply the idea that the bass line of a song that supports the melodies and moves along by the written roots of the chords, tells us the story of the song. These 'stories' can then fall into just a couple of 'categories.' The blues is surely one such category. Others? Not really sure but for ballads, rhythm changes and both 32 bar song forms might have a similar storyline.

That composers enjoy and study the work of the works of other writers is also a part of this bass line story. Songs such as "Summertime" by the Gershwin Brothers is an Americana classic that has been loved by so many and has probably spawned many a new song from admiring artists. Included in this work is my own inspiration that probably has some roots in "Summertime." Titled "Voices From The River", there's just a commonality of essence from one to the other.

Knowing of this might help us group similar songs to facilitate their learning and encourage the cross pollination between similar storylines. That most guitarists play some bass and vice versa is a possible way to cross pollinate this process.

So thanks in part to the uniqueness of each of us and peeps and artists, there's endless variations to the basic forms and ideas of a bass line story. The gist of this I think is to simply recognize that they do indeed exist and that in that recognition, we get a way in to music we might be unfamiliar with at first hearing, in a jam session etc. Thus we just might get a better shot of making sense of new music if we can hear its bass story line.

wiki ~ Clark Terry

"Voices From The River"

Become an expert. No reason in the world not to become an expert at something. If we figure out what we love to do and become an expert at it, our chosen work becomes a pleasure and we show up every day ready and raring' to go :) All professions have experts and as in all the disciplines, music experts have potentially a couple of lifetime's worth of scholarly explorations available to those so impassioned. Humble readers will know this ... 'the more I know the less I think I know.'

Big four. This term comes here via the Ken Burns 'Jazz' series and is spoken by Wynton Marsalis. It might originally come from the marching band drummers that create the beat for the parades in New Orleans. 'Boom boom boom boom' of the bass drums creates the quarter note pulse of one measure of 4/4 time. We can then add an accent on 2 and 4 and bring on more a bit more swing. Any approximation of a 'walking' bass line is probably an example of the 'big four.'

Art ~ reading biographies. Thifix

Blues' hue / color. In every nook and cranny of possible genres of Americana music there's usually a way to tastefully wiggle in some blues hue. For even the stingiest of efforts in any sort of song we can spark a blue note or two.

Blues guitar. Not being a blues player there's very little I can offer here. And with all the real deal cats to hang with however these days there's no need too. Three things to share in the theory of it all;

"Muddy Waters walkdown."

"Elmore James intro."

"One in the 10th bar of the turnaround." Heard too many great recordings of blues soloists no to to mention this lick. Simply that by totally stinging the root pitch right on the top of the beat of the key on the first beat of the 10th bar of the 12 bar blues form, whatever happens after, or not as the lick might be, the rest of the band should know exactly where to go with it to get into the next chorus. Here's a 12 bar 'A' blues, stinging the pitch 'A' on beat one, bar 10. I use the muddy walkdown to close the form and get into the next chorus.

Blues' in A. This is a common way that players 'call' a tune when performing especially in jam sessions or cats sitting in with the band etc., so mostly unrehearsed situations. And while it sounds simple enough, there's quite a bit of musicality involved, much of which is just 'understood' by the musicians involved; of course the root pitch is A, it's in a blues styled major key, the three principle chords are A7, D7 and E7 and it's probably a 12 bar blues form. The rest you'll just have to hear and find your way in. A 'muddy' lick of sorts will often kick it off and could be part of the turnaround too. The time, tempo and feel of it is often described in terms such as; a shuffle, swing, rockin', swampy etc. How the leader counts it off is often the best clue; 1234 with accents on 2 and 4 for any kind of swing feel, 123 - 456 spoken as triplets for the 12/8 of a shuffle etc. Listening to the records is most often the preparation for strengthening these combined skills.

Blues Societies / Americana.

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 b

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.'

Body dance. My slang term that describes ANY signs that the rhythm joy of the music is having a physical effect on folks hearing the music being created. Wide range here; from full on jump for joy dancing to the age old toe tapping to finger taps to the gentlest of cerebral nods ... a body must and will somehow find the dance :) Is this why so many love the blues? Could very well be. And surely it is the magic of swing is insatiable.

wiki ~ dance

Borrowing pitches. For the music theorist to sort things out, ideally all lives within a diatonic world; meaning that everything we need to create our music comes from the pitches of a key center. And while this is often true in children's songs and folk music, even the first mention of a blue note in the music usually means we're borrowing a pitch from outside our diatonic key center. Problem with this? No, not at all. We as theorists just generally want to know where its coming from, i.e., its organic or diatonic source :) Once known we can recreate the coolness when needed.

What does the borrowed pitch do for us? Back in the day there was an expression to 'jazz it up' to give a thing a bit of something new, something exciting, something different. From a dash of salt for a stew to a new color to a different cut of cloth for a coat to a new dance step to using C# in the key of C major, we often look to 'jazz a thing up a bit' to freshen up what might have become the mundane. We all look to do it in our lives, as musical artists and now music theorists, we simply look to understand the why of the 'jazzing up' so to speak. In doing so, creative new ideas for how to jazz something up are energized, and begins the whole process anew.

The theory. Once we realize that a pitch we come across is not diatonic to the song we're working on, we can investigate what it is adding to the music we are making. Is it just one non diatonic pitch in a melody line? Probably a blue note or passing tone. Is it a non diatonic pitch in a chord and progression? What key is that chord diatonic too? Can we look at that key for ideas or resources to better understand and create solutions for voicings, find a parent scale for soloing over or through the chord? These sorts of investigative tools are what the theory cats use to find new ways to solve the same old same old. Is part of an artist always looking for something new, a new combination of elements to better express their ideas and emotional statement? Could be.

The evolution of our Americana musics over the last 100 years find many of our legends also as the exploratory visionaries of their day, that looked to push the existing boundaries of their art worlds. Does this happen in just music? No. All the fine arts have their visionaries and an evolution to the theory of the principles of their artform. It's just a natural process as new generations of folks come along, learn the existing body of knowledge in their times and create anew. For example, can you visualize when painted pictures were two dimensional?

Bowl of gumption. Not sure where this comes from as it been around for so long now. But at some point some boss somewhere said to a crew member 'better get a bigger bowl of gumption in the AM if you want to work with this crew.' Cool. Gumption. Good. I thought oh ... like oats for the horses. Gumption is our inner voice that says 'I got this.' Gumption is also very sticky stuff, makes us stick to it, see it all through and finish strong.

Break the rules. Established rules in music tend to create a particular sound and style of music, often of a distinct historical period. For example, if we follow the part writing rules of 17th century counterpoint we'll probably sound a bit baroque and hopefully a bit like Bach. 'Learn the rules first then break them' as your music demands. Rules also create real forms which gets us all collectively on the same page, right now. So things just go along quicker and when the 'breaks' do occur in the art being created, it's really no big deal. It's more of an evolution from an existing form or style than something out of the blue. Is there really anything out of the blue in music anymore?

wiki ~ J.S.Bach

Build a solo. This is the challenge that many of us as American improvising musicians face on a regular basis. Too many variables to consider here, but the core of it is to tell a story based on the theme of the song chosen for performance. Our own 'version' of the tale so to speak. Beginners should find the melody of the song. In days now past the 'rule' was that if I didn't have the melody of the song under my fingers, I didn't really qualify to get to take a solo on that number. In some of the bluesier styles, climaxing the ride is the essential pure joy of the process. The whole band, audience and especially the dancers, join to build it all up together, insuring all get to join in at the moment to release the tension that built up to the climax ... then kaboom as they often said :) Sing the line play the line is probably the first mantra in this.

By ear. This is generally the way most of us learn Americana music and is a natural way to learn any instrument. Vocally sing, hum or scat the line you want to play and find it on your ax. As there's only 12 pitches we've already narrowed down our search considerably. Learning melodies by ear will help lock in the pitches and intervals. The melodies we learned way back as kids might be the perfect music to start this whole 'by ear' process off. Listening to our favorite players is a good source for new ideas. Sing along with the recordings then find them as best you can on your ax. Hearts to hands is the connection we often seek to be the storyteller.

By the numbers. At some point in learning the theory a cat might begin to think of things in terms of under-standing their musings by simply replacing a letter name pitch with the number that represents it, all within a key center at its key signature. Advancing into this one perspective can truly accelerate ones learning. I just don't think there's really any loopholes in this; anything in musical letter names can be represented in numbers when viewed from within a key centered on a tonic pitch. What we gain is the ability to project our 'numerical theory' into and onto any musical color, setting or pitch combinations, that we might conjure up in any of our 12 major or 12 minor key centers. Blues too? Yep, blues too. So the whole tamale? Yep, the numbers work in understanding the whole tamale.

For example, a letter named pitch such as 'C' is numerically represented as '1' in the key centers of C major and C minor. So in a song written in the key of C minor, a chord whose root pitch is 'C', numerically can be represented as a '1' / I / One chord. So in any key major or minor, the chord built on key's root pitch is One. So whatever happens with a One chord will be the same for each of our key centers.

145 / 251 / 3625 ... Another quite common application of numerical equivalents is with the root pitches of chord progression. A song written with 'three chords and the truth', for instance a 'G, C, D' er', is also a One/Four/Five chord progression in the key of G major. This numerical designation we can extend into any chord progression both diatonic and non diatonic, pitches of the arpeggios and color tones etc.

Call and response. This age old back and forth is perhaps the original way it all goes down. Still as valid today as ever, the back and forth dynamic runs deep in our sense of creating community and togetherness in performances. We can bring this to any style of interplay between musical ideas to really any mix of styles. For example, a common call and response event with kids learning tunes is to sing a song as a 'round.' "Row Your Boat" is a favorite round for many.

wiki ~ call and response (music)
wiki ~ a 'round' (music)

Composers. So just how important is music theory to those of us who compose our own music? Here in Essentials, a part of composing is viewed as solving puzzles and the theory can help generate possible pieces. The discussion titled 'anything from anywhere' is the jazz end while the 'diatonic 3 and 3' towards the folks side.

Chord function / quality. Rhythm and time considerations aside for the moment, does the pitch, arpeggio or chord we hear as the music goes by in time give us the sense of being at rest or in motion? This basic property becomes the initial basis of defining the function of really any pitch, arpeggio, chord or even rhythm in our music. That all music basically works in this fashion, this 'either or' is a perfect way to initially define function, to get a sense of the musical function of any component. How we understand our resource and design our music is often shaped by this one component; a sense of being in motion to a place where we come to rest.

Chord quality. The idea of chord quality is mostly a jazz concept and is based on the type of 3rd and 7th in any given chord. No 7th? Then it's probably some sort of triad. So is a chord a major chord or minor? And is its 7th degree a major or dominant 7th? For these intervals define our chord type. Once in this realm, any chord can be defined by type, opening up new possibilities for viewing harmony and function in composition.

Chord type / pitch, arpeggio, chord. Mostly a jazz concept, chord type is simply a way to catalogue chords together that will function the same way in similar musical settings. There are three categories of chord types here in Essentials; One, Two and Five.

Closure ( perfect ). The idea of a perfect closure is really two parts. One is that any loop of pitches in any interval configuration will always close back to its starting point if extended far enough along. This helps us to prove up our theory machinations.

Second has to do with the more modern application of equal temper tuning to our 12 pitches. This way of tuning creates a perfect closure for the pitches and is the basis of the 'anything from anywhere' concept for the evolving modern guitarist.

Colors / palette. This representation is simply a way to organize our musical resources in a one dimensional picture that lays out our musical components as the way a painter might with their colors.

Common tones. A common tone is simply a pitch that is shared by two or more successive components in the music. We find them in all of the styles and they really can help glue things together as well as create excitement when placed in repetitive situations.

Cadential motion in Americana music. This should probably read 'complete cadential motion to get there', with 'there' being any of our diatonic destinations within a key center. 'Complete' also signifies an end point within a topic of music theory. There will always be new ways as younger cats make new discoveries based on what they grow up with, just nice to create at least in theory an end point clearly marked as 'complete' to build upon. That there is, in theory, a 'perfect authentic cadence' that creates a sense of complete closure to a phrase of music. Nice to have that foundation. Here it is in C major, Five to One. First in major then minor.

End of phrase end of story ... ? Perfectly authentic :)

Simply stated; in a folk song in G, a G chord often is followed by C. This is diatonic motion of One to Four so no real chord cadencing or cadential aspects. We'll use A D chord to set up the return to G. In a blues styled tune, this same G chord often becomes G7 before the C7 chord is sounded. Again V7 or D7 becomes the Five chord to One/ G7. In our theory system, Five to One motion can be the core of it all for our cadences. Really just depends on style and the endless ethnicity of the folk musics worldwide.


In pop to varying degrees, not uncommon to use the full or more complete F / G 7 to C, ( IV / V7 / I ) whereby complete means that we use the full weight and potential of the gospel Four to the tritone bearing V7 to solidly resolve itself to One. This cadential motion creates a true Americana sense that we've arrived at a resting point or even used to modulate to a new key center. This One / Four / Five is the core of the 'diatonic 3 and 3.'

Jazz very often uses a full or complete cadence between any and all chords within a song. Crazy sounding for sure but seems as if any opportunity to use a chord or two to set up the direction of the music the we got it. Jazz evolves the gospel / pop chord progression of IV / V7 / I cadential motion by often subbing a Two ( ii -7 ) for Four. Two / Five / One is just a sleeker motion and as such can move things along at a faster clip. This allows jazz tempos to accelerate. We see this 'Two chord acceleration" in the music in the 1930's and forward.

In the 40's, Charlie Parker continues this acceleration of the music that demanded these sleeker cadential motions. For in his compositions we'll find the divvying up of the diatonic pie into ever thinner slices for his explorations. To fully arpeggiate and blusify the cadential motions through a tonal center at blazing speeds opened up new cadential options for the jazz artist. A decade later through the arpeggiation of chord substitution principles, John Coltrane will create a 'sheets of sound' approach to soloing through the changes that take Mr. Parker's ideas to yet another pinnacle of development; the edge of chromaticism.

wiki ~ Charlie Parker
wiki ~ sheets of sound
wiki ~ John Coltrane

Composing in real time. This is really just the art of improvisation. That we compose music in real time, as we go along, is part of the core Americans magic. That we can create musical settings to do this is what many cats strive for throughout their careers. Finding the right players to get with that allow for this cerebral process to take place is often the trick for each of us brings our own uniqueness to the process.

Concentration. This is the game changer that not only changes the game but is also the elevator that raises us up to who we are as critters on this big rock. Developing the ability to concentrate and stay focused is the key to a successful musical process.

Cool with the numbers. Becoming cool with the numbers is all about swapping letter names for their representative numbers within a designated key center. This simple process can become a giant facilitator in our music. Here's a chart spelling out the diatonic triads in A major. From the chart we become cool with the numbers by thinking that; Our root pitch A is #1 of our scale, arpeggio and triad, Two is B, Three is C# etc.

scale numerical degrees
A major scale pitches
arpeggio numerical degrees
A major arpeggio pitches
chord number / quality
vii - b5

triad pitches


add the seventh


Surely there's more to the relationships between the pitches, in a key center, and the numerical ways we can identify them. Click 'music and math' to explore.

Core five elements of music. Time, melody, harmony, form and a story to tell ... plus some improv, to make our Americana magics.

Core groups of pitches. Our core groups of pitches for creating Americana musics are three in number, two of which build up from the first group of five, now ancient pitches. So we've five in the core pentatonic scale, then add one to six in the blues, then add two making seven in the natural, relative major / minor group of pitches.

Damping the strings. A term used to describe how we can start and stop the vibration of the strings thus their sound. These techniques give us greater control over things in general and especially in matching up chords etc., and rhythms. This becomes key when getting it all to swing. We do this by simply keeping our fretboard fingers in their places and reducing the pressure that allows them to sound. Click the pic to hear the damping of chords, four to the bar; in G major.

The dancers and animal sounds. Dancers are probably the original reason why we started to make music in the first place. There's just a fascination with the dancing process that is potentially mesmerizing for all involved. In predictable music such as the 12 bar blues, dancers often follow right along with the recognizable form of the song, expressing their body thoughts through their movement in form. In the the less predictable sounds of say jazz music, there's a free flow of energy that is released that just shakes of the dust of everyday life. When playing bass on blues gigs, once the song is started and depending on the whole vibe, I'll watch the dancers to lock in with their time, very cool things happen once they feel that they are the setting the pulse and wow do they ever love it.

As musicians, we probably first got our musical sounds from the earth critters too. When we emulate their sounds on our instruments it nearly always while bring a smile to those involved. Search around and find a full orchestra going through their instruments finding the critter's natural sounds. Even better, find some aural documentation of the critter's mating calls, then find some of these licks on your blues guitar :)

wiki ~ dance
those involved

Dennis DeBlasio discussion. Luckily a few years back now I got to hang out for a 1/2 hour or so with jazzman Dennis DeBlasio and talk music theory after his music seminar presentation at the Alaska Jazz Workshop summer camp for kids. The conversation went partially of like this. I paraphrase a few years later into this.

"Hi Mr. DeBlasio time for one more question? Sure man, call me Dennis please. Right on thank you. Dennis, what's the hardest tune in The Real Book Volume One, without hesitation, ... why Coltrane's "Moments Notice." I smiled broadly and asked why? Well, because you have to come up with an idea and then modulate it halfway through to get to its conclusion. In that era it was among the 'new' challenges some cats were hungry for. Remember the tempo is near 210 or so, so it's scooting right along and the tune is chock full of nice changes to spell through." Thanks to Dennis.

Jacmuse takeaway. "Moment's Notice" was among the first of true evolutions after bebop recodified the Americana jazz language in the 40's by thoroughly exhausting the diatonic pie. With its writing and recording, Coltrane has started his diatonic based, harmonic evolution. This will culminate within three years or so with "Giant Steps." The later period of decidedly more chromaticism of Coltrane is near to follow right after. In between is the exhaustive 'sheets of sound' arpeggiation of the full dominant V7b9 substitution potentials projected from any V7 or cadential motion.

Alaska Jazz Workshop
wiki ~ Real Book Volume One
wiki ~ "Moments Notice"
wiki ~ 'sheets of sound'
wiki ~ "Giant Steps"
evolution of Americana harmony

Diatonic ~ non diatonic. So are the pitches under our theory scrutiny in a key and within its signature or not? If they are in a key we term them to be 'diatonic.' If the pitch is not in the key center of the music we are examining? We simply term that 'non-diatonic.'

As the vast majority of American music is centered in one key and its pitches, we use this distinction to keep track of any additional pitches that come along. Seven diatonic plus the five blue notes makes the 12 pitches of the chromatic scale. No more no less :)

Diatonic core. 7 + 5 = 12. In most of songs, seven pitches of the key center provide the diatonic core pitches to generate the groups of pitches or scales, which become arpeggios, which are segmented or stacked into chords. The the 'other' five pitches, are the blue notes mostly. Added back all up make twelve, the number of pitches in the chromatic scale. Understand these relationships and you're climbing on the Steps to Parnassus.

wiki ~ Steps to Parnassum

Diatonic pie. This is my term for describing what the seven pitches of the diatonic scale create. For in visualizing all this as a pie we get our heads completely around the resource which we can carve it up any old way into songs and also add to it. In doing so we can include all of our musical styles. The main theory components for baking the Americana pie; the big 4, relative major / minor group of pitches and the blue notes and the diatonic 3 and 3 for the chords. Of course we also need a good story line or hook to kick it all off.

Art ~ (pure) Diatonic theory. In our musical world today, where our melodies are nearly always supported by chords, pure diatonic theory dictates that only the pitches of the parent scale of the melody can be used to create the chords. Thus, melody and chords are in perfect alignment to one another. When pitches vary between melody and supporting harmony, we call them non-diatonic tones. In our Americana musical sounds, with its blues hue, we rarely ever get to this level of diatonic purity. We, as theorists, use it more as a benchmark to build up and understand where the pitches are coming from to create the magic.

Art ~ (The) Diatonic three and three. The diatonic 'three and three' is just a quip of a term to remind us that in each of our key centers we can build up the six chords ( 3 + 3 ) that are used to create the majority of our Americana musics. Each of the two groups of three create the One / Four / Five chord progressions. The 'three chords and the truth' associated with the fine art of crafting many many fine songs? Yep.

Diatonic triads. The vast majority of American music is diatonic and the diatonic triads are the basis of the chords or harmony of a song. We often ask, 'what key center is that triad diatonic to?' This helps us understand the theory as we've a key center created by a set of pitches to work from and lean against.

The dots. In this Essentials text, while the theory discussions often center on the diatonic C major / A natural minor pairing, the method for learning the scales, arpeggios and chords is almost always the G major / E minor pairing. One reason for this dichotomy of keys is that the dots on most guitars locate the modal groupings of E Dorian and G Lydian loops of pitches. There's also the pentatonic groups of both, major and minor located by the dot placement. A second reason is how well the core five scale shapes, that cover the first 12 frets on our guitars, fit into this overall scheme.

From the open low 'E' string there's a minor 3rd followed by four whole steps and then another minor 3rd to close the octave. These pitches outline the Dorian modal color. From the perspective of 'G' as the root, we get most of the Lydian group. And even going back to the open 5 sting banjo, the markers follows along these lines too, especially when finding the blue notes in G.

So just a bit of food for thought and a prompt to explore to find the origins of the fret markers placements. And though just musing here. these are the facts and can't help to think that there's more to it than meets the eye :)


The dots lay out the Dorian / Lydian modes. Turns out that the layout of the dots or fretmarkers we find on most guitars points us to a Dorian / Lydian physical organization of the pitches. Examine the pitches of the root pitches 'E' and 'G' pairing and then a picture of the fingerboard markers. Example 1.

scale degrees
Dorian mode pitches
Lydian mode pitches

Double Two / Five. As the name implies, the double Two / Five is simply a Two / Five cadential motion doubled up. So two, so Two / Five motions linked together that are a half step apart. So a chromatic motion that encourages the improvisor to create an idea and have to modulate the idea up or down by half step in mid flight so to speak. This is certain settings will ramp up our improv challenge quite nicely :) This harmonic motion has a special place here in Essentials. For it is the first of the evolutions that we find in the written, original music of John Coltrane.

Dynamics. Is simply about the soft to loud range of sounds we apply to crafting our music. Most common perhaps is to 'bring it down' at the top of a new pairing of choruses in a 12 bar blues. In the improv world, getting our own volume underneath the soloist is the key, to be supportive and not interfere with their process. 'Piano' meaning soft and 'forte' which is loud, perhaps to simply think of our musical dynamics as with our speaking voices, to avoid the monotone so often dreaded that sets us to a snoozin' ... :)

With performing music that is written, the dynamic markings are usually written in the score and correspond to the wishes of the composer. It's a solid aspect to build climaxes in the story. With the Americana sounds, where most performances are with players not reading the music, we count on someone in the group 'conducting' things and 'reminding' folks in the band to indeed bring it down. Sometimes being that cat has its problems. I guess we just have to choose between the band being LOUD all the time which kind of ____ or being the boss in the group and motioning bandmates to bring it down on agreed upon points in the music and incurring the risk being the ____.

An easy way to fix this is watch the dance floor and see the way the dancers react to the soft / loud dynamics of the band. Usually that's proof enough of craftily employing the magic of dynamics to convince even the most stubborn of the loudsters.

'E' book magic. The HTML protocol that I used to put this book together is the magic to make the musical examples play back. Thus empowered, we true 'non-reading notation' artists now have a way in to the theory through the aural tradition. This basic 'trick' of an 'e' book happens only because of the internet browser that we open the book with and that runs the whole show. So here's the one last thing; in this browser environment we can right click to highlight any words we are curious about. Any can be highlighted. If the hardware running the software is on-line, then all the words and what they represent within can be explored beyond this work on the world wide web. Try it with the google chrome link.

google chrome

Emotional environment. This is my term that is used throughout the text to describe the mood of a song, i.e., its 'emotional environment.' An environment can include; major / minor, modal, ethnic, atonal and then into styles; folk, pop, punk etc. Folks who write the songs often are looking to capture their emotional idea for a song in the musical sounds. If there's words and a melody, that usually sums it up and directs the supporting chords, which support the 'environment' intended by the composer.

Instrumental music is a whole 'nother ball of wax' and maybe even a bit more of a challenge. Jazz is often instrumental, players skilled in finding the emotional hues that pitches in time impart. Cats that play the horns, single line producing instruments, maybe they get a leg up on us chordal cats in finding the emotional qualities of a line. So we guitarists that have the best of both, melody and chords and even both together, have options to consider in creating our emotional environments.

Essential theory ~ the basics. If ever needed to recreate our Americana music making capacity from scratch the following guidelines will help. They also form the basis of the 'in 20 minutes or so' discussion of the theory and its nutshell among interested peers. Combined together the following steps will create a method narrative for helping new learners understand Americana musics and its basic theories. Explore into the links if needed.

Time, rhythm and phrasing are first. Find the 'big 4' then 2 and 4 and count a four bar phrase. Count and number the measures of a 12 bar blues in 4/4 time. Find the 'pull' of the swing from 2 and 4. This is a core Americana pulse.

That diatonic sets and defines the group of pitches for melody and chords in a song, is most likely the diatonic scale, relative major / minor. This defines the theory perimeter of the melody pitches of song / style.

Numerical addition of pitches 1 by 1 from the pentatonic core. Add a one pitch tritone to minor create a six pitch blues scale. A perfect fourth to major to create a six pitch 'hybrid Americana.' Add a two pitch tritone for the seven pitch diatonic relatives major and minor. Discuss the modes by shifting the start points, thus the intervals, of the natural diatonic scale.

How scales become arpeggios. How arpeggios become chords. Spell out the diatonic triads. Explore why chords happen in 12 keys thanks to equal temper tuning.

That all of the pitches needed to build up the diatonic chords are the exact ones to build up the diatonic relative major and natural minor scale. This theory is the basis for determining a chord's parent scale.

Numerical evolution of chords and their color tones through musical style. Their gradual lessening of tonal predictability as their colors expand through the additional color tone pitches and on into polytonality.

Discuss the blues rub, the combination of the tuned chords and variably tuned melody pitches. This tuning combination of the pitches becomes one of the true roots of the various Americana musics and is the theory basis of the 'blue hue', the original Americana spice.

Art ~ encircling the theory. This idea is about somehow creating within each of us a sense that we know and understand the looping quality our system of 12 pitches as soon as possible in their studies. For once a musician has their 'arms around the theory' or their minds around the resource, we've created a defined line that helps us understand any individual component within our music within the complete theory system of pitches.

The simplest expression of this would be understanding the 12 pitches of the chromatic scale as an unbreakable yet repeatable, through additional octaves, as a loop of pitches. Theorywise no more no less pitches yet endless new combinations of the 12 forever.


Art ~ evolutions. Just a 'bus' stop really to click ahead in various discussions of varies theory pathways.

Evolution of dominant harmony. The evolution of dominant harmony is to a certain extent based on what we'll accept as a functioning dominant chord. V7 has and continues to rule the day in most American styles. It is the basis of blues harmony. In jazz, V7 has evolved to now include all of the colortones and alterations. There's all of the 'b9' substitution properties explored through the 40's and into the 50's of the beboppers. This cores Coltrane's 'sheets of sound' of the late 50's and encourages his further explorations into the whole tone color and on into "Giant Steps." Today's 'chromatic buzz' (my term) among modern jazzers is based on V7 preceding every chord of a song or replacing every chord in a song. And as the chords are altered and sounded in brighter tempos, the buzz arrives :) Scroll to the bottom of this next graphic and follow the triangles up for a progression of the V7 harmonic theory as put forth in this Essentials text.

Describing the red triangle just above (please scroll up); starting at the bottom, a spark of an idea represented by a base point of a triangle that through study grows to become a body of knowledge that can plateau and thus point to a new focus point to be achieved by discovery learning. That each new focus point of knowledge bases the next generational evolution towards another pinnacle, which can provide a new way of thinking, the paradigm shifting of thought we experience as we evolve and mature as sentient beings creating musical art. We hear these evolutions and label them with theory vocabulary.

This chart bottom to top (red to red triangles closing a seven chakra loop) represents a 100 or so years of Americana harmonic evolutions. These evolutions become in theory, a pathway of the historical theory evolutions that can define a pathway of shedding for the improvising artist. Follow the arrows up to best understand the progression of the harmonic theory.

an idea
Americana harmony

From a purely theoretical sense, Mr. Coltrane's composition 'Giant Steps' is viewed here in Essentials as the most organically evolved of our American harmonic song cycles to date (2017). For there was nothing quite like it before and even today, no such harmonic structures have emerged in the popular literature that goes the next step beyond this core harmonic cycle. So while players have subbed on top of subs, made every chord in a progression a dominant V7 type chord and created all sort of chromatic buzzing one still might ask; 'has any one musical composition provided us a similar 'new' evolution of elements while still retaining the potential of all of the essential Americana components; the big 4, 2 and 4, a melody line that will swing, have room for some gospel or blues hue, all in a cycle of harmony created from traditional components in a form of perfect closure ... ? That mon amigo is the one theory question we might ever seek to answer ... yet perhaps there is a diatonic way beyond into a new loop.


Someday another such evolution will surely come along. Cats today are working every day just like Mr. Coltrane, sifting through the pitches looking for the new way forward in melody, harmony and swing. In a couple of instances in our historical development, the one in between melody and chords, the arpeggios, have provided the stimulus for players to evolve and point the way to a next level. Maybe it will again be the arpeggios that will point the new way forward.

arpeggios point the new way forward

Evolution of a jazz artist. Is based on the evolution of how they hear the elements of the music and what they will accept as a functioning component in the common reoccurring spots in the music. So cadential motions? Pretty much. Or just running through the cadence as if it was never there. So what the jazz artist accepts as V7 in a sense also figures into the style of jazz they dig to play. So era and style all play into this evolution. Dixieland cats, wanting to work as Dixie players, are going to play those sounds that make that music. Which today is nearing 100 years old. So a 100 year old chord style, musical forms, melodies, group improv and so forth.

So does the artist evolve throughout a career playing 100 year old music correctly? How? I'm not too sure but sure time and swing play a part and learning new songs and their melodies, forms and poetry. For many of us still play the old melodies, sometimes in new ways, just trying to get deeper into the emotional expression of the music. For those so impassioned, thankfully there's just no end to the songs to be learned.

Evolution of Americana harmony. In this Essentials work, the evolution of Americana harmony revolves around a pairing up of musical styles and the number of chords found in their harmonic progressions and the added color tones to the basic diatonic triads. For the number of chords and use of additional color tones to these chords generally trends an increasing complexity in our styles of music.

On the folk end of our style spectrum, we mostly find a triad basis and the One / Four / Five chords. As this evolves we include both diatonic major and minor triads. A next evolution is adding in color tones for the move from folk into blues, rock and country and towards pop. As we begin to find chords in between the diatonic positions, add additional color tones and substitute one chord for another, we are stylistically on our way to the jazz realms of our style spectrum. So it's a numerics thing mostly, 'the number of elements ... which becomes the way to measure (?) and locate ourselves along the evolution of our Americana harmony.

Evolution of Americana melody. The theory of the evolution of American melody in this text is based on correlating number of different pitches and musical style. That from our five pitch pentatonic groups to the twelve of the chromatic scale, we can see a rather clear and corresponding evolution of musical style; from children's songs and folk melodies to the atonal 12 tone lines of modern jazz. So, can a jazz melody have just five different pitches? Yes of course. Can a folk melody have 12 different pitches and still be a folk melody? Well I reckon' that depends on how we define 'folk' in regards to melody but probably that's a no; no 12 pitch folk melodies in the book ... yet :)

Evolution of musical styles. Here in Essentials, an 'art' aspect of musical styles is simply that songs in a style are representative of telling stories from the different walks of life. And that a style's predominant musical features characterize the life lead from within its culture. Our common names for styles Americana; folk, country, blues, rock, pop and jazz, are fairly reflective of where the music is sourced from. So for composers, just looking to capture the essence of their story in a particular style, and even a particular era in history, knowing the theory of a styles core elements and some of its cliché licks is a serious step forward in the composing and performing process. The musical cats in Hollywood are masters at this way of crafting music; composing music that captures a style and the historical era that their story is being told within.

For the evolving guitarist, understanding the numerical theory of musical style helps us reshape the elements in our work as we look to add a style's character to influence our work. The most common cliche of wordplay here is to think along the lines of 'jazzing it up', done by adding in new pitches to the ones we are using. The theories here in Essentials that track the evolution or morphing between our musical styles all revolves around the number of diatonic pitches involved to generally create that unique style or sound we associate with a style and its variously endless number of genres.

The melodies of children's songs are often four or five pitches from the pentatonic scale. We only get two triads from the five pitches. If we add a sixth or seventh pitch to these five, the simplistic character of a child's melody can take on a wider range as our number of pitches increases. With each added pitch our harmonic potential increases quite dramatically. Folk music chords are mostly triads, so the harmony of folk music is based on three pitches. If we begin to add a pitch or two to these three pitches our chords take on a new sound and character, and that character, while maybe folk based, also has added some blues, country, rock, pop or jazz chord colors adding to the mix. Succeeding generations often pull one aspect of an existing art and recreate a new, somewhat simpler version of its parent's DNA into a new genre for the younger generation.

Evolution of swing. Decade by decade, the core Americana swing has evolved in a simply 'reversing of the gravities within a band that makes the swing in the first place. Early swing the 1920's, was created over a 4/4 time and rhythm that really chopped the quarter notes, which many would say swing the hardest. Well the melody lines over that chop chop chop where created mostly by floating over the top in really any manner that worked to get the melody across. This non- metrical combination creates the pull of swing.

Later the dotted 1/8 and 16th, or tied triplet creates the 'lope' that became more come in the 30's and 40's. This also becomes the basis of swing in any and every other Americana styles that look to get their music swinging. Very very common even today.

From the 40's on with the addition of the Latin flavored vibe, the eighth note, swing's lingua franca, gradually evens up the lope of the 1/8th note triplet. This direction has continued up and to including today, where 'even 1/8's' rule the day among top jazz artists. So while the 'chop chop chop' of the rhythm section is generally no longer the groove, the 1/8th note swing lines on top have become the chop, just way faster. A next step in this direction is to accent the 2nd eighth note of each pairing. Which can be very difficult to maintain over long lines of 1/8 notes with a robust rhythm section.

Evolution of the theory. There's two main aspects to these discussions. One is centered on how additional pitches morph us between musical styles. The second is the evolution of the theory as based on the actual tuning of the pitches.

Evolution of improv to "Giant Steps." This next discussion of the evolution of harmony, and to a certain extent Americana improvisation itself, which culminates in the song "Giant Steps", is my own pure historical hindsight and theory musing. It is based on the idea that Coltrane exhausted the potential at each level thus necessitating the devising of new harmonic challenges for himself in his own penned compositions. Through his shedding, ideas and themes for compositions came along that incorporated these evolutions of harmonic improvisatory challenges.

wiki ~ "Giant Steps"

The theory of this harmonic evolution comes about by knitting together pieces of Coltrane compositions as they were recorded and released in the years between 1957 and 1960 with Mr. Coltrane as the leader on the recording sessions. Based on the multiple resolving qualities of the perfectly symmetrical fully diminished 7th chord, this evolution runs like this.

From the blues basis of One / Four / Five 12 bar form and cadential motion, Four evolves into a Two chord which creates the Two / Five cadential cell. Nothing heavy here, just basic streamlining of the harmony for the brighter tempos of the 30's and 40's. Coltrane's first new 'advance the challenge' is to double up the Two / Five motion as found in "Moment's Notice," recorded and released in 1957.

wiki ~ "Moment's Notice"

In this evolution the double Two / Five comes from the minor 3rd properties of the fully diminished 7th chord as found in V7b9, allowing the Three / Six portion of the standard harmonic motion of Three / Six / Two / Five, to be in theory moved in it's entirety down a minor 3rd. In doing so Coltrane achieves the basic double Two / Five chromatic cadential motion that energizes the harmonic motions and art of "Moment's Notice." Examine the chord symbols and this proposed evolution in Eb major, the written tonic key for this song.

fully diminished 7th chord
3 / 6 / 2 / 5 / 1
Eb major pitches
iii -7
G Bb D F
fully diminished 7th
VI 7b9
C E G Bb Db
E G Bb Db
ii -7
F Ab C Eb
V 7b9
Bb D F Ab Cb
bii -7
bV 7b9
A C# E G Bb
E G Bb C# (Db)

What this new motion creates is a wonderfully modified Two / Five cadential cell that creates the forward motion and support for a truly gospel sounding Americana melody that uses the classic 'common tone pitch between chords' compositional technique to glue up this exciting new harmonic element. So what helps to allow and support this song to sound 'seamless' and pure Americana in melody, in turn becomes quite a harmonic tour de force improv extravaganza for melodic improv through these changes when the soloing begins.

This new challenge requires the improvisor to create an idea then modulate this idea up a half step in flight. So an added twist organically evolved from the same old same old. That it is widely held that Coltrane had a rather robust practice regime, the 'double Two / Five' is part of Coltrane's 'ramping up the challenge' and to find something new to conquer.

The next phase of this evolution is here in Essentials is based upon the substitution properties associated with the V7b9 chord. As seen just above, the minor 3rd symmetry of the upper structure fully diminished 7th chord found within V7b9 can encourage us to move things in minor 3rd intervals, a three fret span on our guitars. Pairing this minor 3rd with the traditional cadential motion to resolve to One, moving up the interval of a perfect 4th, we arrive at the basic root motion for the composition "Giant Steps." Termed 'Coltrane changes', or sometimes as a part of 'post bop symmetry, it was the next evolution from the Two / Five / One extravaganzas of the boppers of the 40's and on into the early 50's. In C, here is the basic root motion of the minor 3rd / perfect 4th cycle. Example 1.

C / Eb7 / Ab maj 7 / B7 / E maj 7.

wiki ~ Coltrane changes

Note the descending tonal centers are a major 3rd apart, whose combined root pitches create an augmented triad thus whole tone scale potential. Also note the absence of a Two chord in the cadential motion to each tonic. Might have Coltrane exhausted the V7b9 diminished potentials and organically moved on to the whole tone / augmented colors? At least in regards to his harmonic structures for composition? Might we ever know? Probably not but at least the organic pathway for self development, the shedding from 'inside to outside' or 'tonal to atonal' is fairly clear in Coltrane's own evolution. Thank you Sir for providing the pathway for this musical ascension !!! Also note that this cycle of chord changes appears as the bridge of the 1937 show tune that became a standard song among jazz artists; "Have You Met Miss Jones ?", a song Mr. Coltrane surely must of known.

wiki ~ Have You Met Miss Jones ?

So why important? Well, it was back in the 1960's a next and stunning evolution in the music. It required even the most studied improvisor of the day to 'think differently' as their process unfolds. For those who aspire to this level organically from a blues based start point, as Coltrane did, it's amazing how this chord change cycle, being run in even a moderate tempo, has the ability to 'throw off' the 'through the changes' thought process of the artist as their momentum builds, let alone to create nice melodic lines (coolness determined by each artist :) Thus, an intellectual strengthener for the improvising jazz artist and a portal to expand our vocabularies. And again to say, that reaching this level of thinking provides and lays out a big part of the organic 'inside / outside' pathway for development of the evolving improvising artist of our indigenous Americana musics.

wiki ~ 1950's jazz

In getting to "Giant Steps" there are two other quite remarkable Coltrane songs that use this minor 3rd / perfect 4th harmonic motion in their construction. The jazz artist here should consider reading through the exquisite ballad "Naima" and the exciting minor 3rd modulating Two / Five romp "Lazybird." Both contain the harmonic elements that Coltrane condensed into the harmonic cycling in "Giant Steps." All three point to what would become the the next two evolutions that get us to today's modern sounds; placing an added V7 chord before every chord in a song and making every chord in a song V7 for the soloing sections in performance.

V7 before each chord
V7 for every chord / improv

Evolution of the gear. That for guitarists and bassists, the evolution of the electronic gear has transformed the music for the last 40 years or so. For example, that full bar chords were once the staple for rockers gave way to the 5th's of metal as the overdrive quality of the amps and pedals could no longer process all of the pitches in the full barre chords. Also the 5th's are just sleeker, less cumbersome, thus potentially a faster way to get there.

"Excellence is a habit." Just riffing on Aristotle. But how true and it is that the excellence we might inspire to in all things in life can become the results of a conscious, day to day habitual thought process of continuing self improvement simply by making good choices as the myriad of life's events come our way each day. And in our own education back to the philosophy of Honest Abe ...

wiki ~ Aristotle

Existing information. Is what each reader already knows about music theory and brings to the text. This self held knowledge becomes the key (s) to open new doors to explore. While most often based on the vocabulary of musical words, ideas and needs also become keys to ways to wander and explore for ...

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

wiki ~ Tolkien

Fanning. Is a guitar technique whereby the strum hand rapidly and consecutively starts the strings in motion.

Faster tempos. As the tempos of the songs we play get faster, eventually we'll time out of most of the styles and move into the myriad of jazz stylings. So for us mere mortal guitar players faster tempos is a way physical thing. Which over the years and decades can take a physical toll on our fingers, hands, wrists, elbows, shoulders and back. So lots to consider; posture, posture and posture for we each are unique. Just a thought here to be conscious of the thing and sort it out, be amendable to change as the years go by.

Speed with guitar generally translates into a lot of notes in succession. Pick players could visualizing the width of their chosen pick and the with of the string. Realizing that once the pick has sounded the note and is past the string, how far past and where it goes factors into the speed of it all. The speedsters call this pick travel I think. Getting faster is about pushing the buttons with a super intellectual focus on this motion, often with a metronome. To simply discipline the hands to minimize pick travel. As it all ramps up it'll become second nature as you find your own best way with help from friends.

Mike Kova
Olli Soikkeli

'Fear not the melody.' This really applies to artists who play instrumental music or play the melody in their improv. I took a lesson with a while back with a cat who told me the story about one of their college professors who would use this bit of a quip when their students played the melody in a scared of and tentative manner. It was meant as an encouragement to gain greater expression for the lines. The melodies included in the songs' section are selected with this intent in mind; to overcome any fears we might have with playing the melody, simply by rote learning lines we've known all along. For if we can play these confidently, and fear not the melody, it'll all eventually transfer to whatever melody lines we choose to play.

Form in music. For many, form in music is initially a bit of a mystery, as it is part of the 'silent architecture' of the pitches we use to create songs. Yet like the pitches and knowing which one is which in relation to a tonic pitch, we can learn to hear the form of the song by first finding the downbeat of the measures and then beat one at the top of the form being used. For our Americana musics, the 12 bar blues is a perfect starting point for finding the top of and getting our arms around a common form. In 4/4 time, simply count the measures while listening to a 12 bar blues ( click the pic for a chorus ).

If a song tells a story, in either words or melody, it probably has a form. And the story being told usually defines the form of the music. This is not all that one sided really, for there's often a balance to the form that helps shape the story. So part of the challenge for composers is to balance the relationship between these two components. Story and form; that delicate balance that gets to live in all art forms I'd imagine.

Forward motion. Forward motion is a term and concept that describes the way we create the sense of a musical line moving forward through musical time. Players talk about feeling a 'sense for forward motion in the line.' Common ways to start this sense of motion are to use an upbeat 8th note to start off a line. In advanced playing any beat can work and it's in the nature of the line that creates the sense of motion. All about mastering time? Yep, pretty much. Working with a metronome?

Four bar phrase. Is everything musical in our vast expanse of Americana musical sounds neatly wrapped up in a four bar phrase? For example, isn't the original core blues form a single four bar phrase? A 'modal blues'... as often termed by the academic musical community? Tis' is. Also, there's three, four bar phrases for the 12 bar blues form yes? The form which bases most blues songs of the last 100 years or so and most of the early rock and roll songs of the 50's? That 12 bar form? Yep, that's the 12 bar form.

So, ever counted a four bar phrase in 4/4 by the numbers like this ?

1234 / 2234 / 3234 / 4234 ... repeats ...

1234 / 2234 / 3234 / 4234 ... etc,

So the downbeat of each of the four measures the first number of each grouping? Yep. Hopefully easy to do for you and a big step for all of us to create the absolute closure for this essential component of our resources.

When listening to the radio, cue up any station with music, find the beginning of a phrase and count along with the music in tempo with the above method; and when you get to the start of a new phrase don't be surprised if something changes in the music. Maybe new words, a new instrument in the mix, change of an accent with the beat, chord change, just something to mark the end of one phrase and the beginning of the next, each four bars one after another after another.

Of course four doubles to eight, the eight bar length of phrase also super strong and common and the basis of the two of our main compositional song forms. There's a masters project right there; history and the evolutions of our song form, i.e., sonata allegro.

wiki ~ sonata allegro

Depending on various factors, when a phrase is not four bars we might sense something amiss, feels a bit off balance perhaps? Depending on where and how we find it, great art comes in all shapes. Sometimes so well crafted we don't know it for decades anyway. As time permits check out the Grammy winning "Michelle" and second lovely ballad "Yesterday" by Beatle bassman Paul McCartney ... and count their measures :)

wiki ~ Grammy awards
wiki ~ "Michelle" song
wiki ~ "Yesterday" song
wiki ~ Paul McCartney

Future music. Or ... music of the future ... who knows :) One way forward might be with the arpeggios created in a symmetrical format of intervals; major 3rd / minor 3rd and its reverse of minor 3rd / major 3rd. On up to #15 and beyond? Yep.

Gear. In today's modern world of guitar wizardry, there's really no end to the ways we can process our electric signals and create all manner of sounds. With the evolution of MIDI in the 90's, a whole knew 'symphony' of sounds becomes part of a modern guitarist's resources.

The crux of this very brief discussion here is simply to make the reader aware that the actual sound we make on our guitars totally effects how we physically play and phrase our musics. So if your a metal leaning cat learning on an acoustic guitar ... for the crux of the crux in this is our ability to create sustain of a struck note.

Various devices; reverbs, compressors, delays, distortions and overdrives etc., all help our notes to sustain to varying degrees. This has a big influence on how we phrase our ideas. For example, up and coming electric instrument players initially working on acoustic guitars will not have the sustain of pitch often associated with the electric styles they dig. So be realistic and just keep shedding with what ya got, eventually you'll find and get what you need to make the big roar.

wiki ~ MIDI

Global theory. Is it the same principles of music theory in this primer that is in most other Americana theory books? Sure is. Is this the same theory for Western European musics? Sure is. Is this the same theory and its vocabulary used by musicians of the combined AmerEuro traditions in Alaska, Seattle, San Francisco, LA, Dallas, Nashville, New York, New Orleans, London, Paris, Berlin, Moscow, Beijing and Hawaii? Plus any points in between? You betcha :)

Great accelerators. Really? Yea, the great accelerators. There's a couple of quite common musical devices that just have a way of making music in a live performance setting seem as if the cats laying it down are pushing on an musical accelerator pedal, ramping up the energy they're putting out. No science here just really what I hear and feel happening in the music.


The first is using the fully diminished 7th chord between diatonic chords. Seems to work best between One and Two although between Two and Three is not uncommon. So, slipping a #i dim 7 between tonic One and Two or the #ii dim 7 between Two and Three.

We've a close rival accelerator in the blues, subbing a #iv dim 7 chord after Four during the second four bar phrase in the 12 bar form. So, the 6th bar.

Heading towards the rhythm side of this, another of these accelerators is the very common technique often termed the half step lead in. Then there's the gallop. A superimposing of three beats over two in various ways that get things scooting right along. Rockers should check out the longer live version of "Freebird" by Lynard Skynard. Their gallop kicks in around the 7th minute or so and onward to the close.

Hair stand up. Ever experience something that makes your hair stand up? I know I have. And not talking about the scary stuff here. It has surely been a while now but I can to this day recall a time or two when the hair I no longer have stood right up ... and what I realized at that moment when my hair felt that it was standing right up, was that what I was reading or experiencing at that moment was a truth that went to the core of my being. Hope this is true for you too ... :)

Half step lead in. Of all of our techniques and treatments, this half step chromatic motion is quite possibly the hands down king of swing. For fingerstyle chord plucking, there may not be a tighter way to articulate our rhythmic ideas. The basic idea here is using a half step motion from above or below to get to our target chord. 99 times out of 100 it is the same chord shape. And surely thanks for that as it would be some nifty hand moves to get it all to work. Like on the piano keys Exactly.

Hammer - on. An age old technique whereby the sound of the like is created and energized by the fingerboard hand finger hammering on the desired note. Very common in blues. With electric gear it's generally easier to create and a way into the realm of electronic feedback.

Hear the theory. "Take out pencil and paper and jot this down ..." Ever hear your teacher say that to your class? Surely at some point yes? Well what if they then proceed to play a melody at the piano and ask you to write it down in standard notation ...

This is a common exercise in legit music schools often included in music theory termed ear training. When I got to go to college, my Monday and Wednesday theory classes were paired up with Tuesday and Thursday ear training classes, a part of which was sight singing, or sight screaming for me as my reading skills of standard notation with my voice were zero during this period.

In Essentials, this translates into hearing the theory as we listen to music being performed. Live, on recordings whatever, as the music goes along we can identify in theory terms what is being laid down. And this challenge, like so many self taught American players, I totally loved. For me, the fascination initially centered on hearing the chord changes.

If you're just getting into this sort of exercise, maybe start start with trying to consistently hear between major and minor chords. The top or downbeat of a 12 bar blue form to strengthen your sense of musical forms. Chord progressions in any musical style are a good challenge too. Finding the melody caps off the process.

Horn lines. Many of our most cherished voices on Americana style guitar music are created by artists that have spoken of searching to achieve a 'horn like' quality to their own lines. So like trying to make pitches created by strings and frets sound like air through a flute ... ? Pretty much. And overcoming the physical difference of strings to wind is a key basis of this transformation. In a word? The concept of playing 'legato' meaning ...? Smoothly connected notes to express the emotion we're getting across. Like our speaking voices? Exactly.

How to do? For starters, just be conscious of this quality and work to smooth out the sound of your pitches. Hold notes for their full time value. This is especially true for bass players. And surely listen to the players you love, or perhaps some of those suggested here, and try to capture their legato and horn qualities. Do remember that good ideas for phrasing can come from any instrument for it is the artist that creates the emotion that speaks through their chosen instrument. And if all else fails ...? Well then just add more vibrato !

How it comes to you. So much of our learning as American musicians often comes from what we pick up along the way of our musical adventures while getting around and performing with other players. So how the information comes to you tends to shape an overall perspective of our entire theory system. So oftentimes this becomes an organization of the theory whole tamale. Which of course becomes your own recipe of this nourishing culinary delight from which to imagine and bring to life the art in your heart. Here in Essentials the over arching goal is to create as complete picture of the entire resource asap. A reverse engineering of the usual learning method, i.e., piece by piece. We can achieve this over arching view by knowledge and understanding of the 12 pitches of the chromatic scale. For there are 'no more ... no less' as they say and all our musics comes from this loop of pitches.

Stylewise depending, a cat might not ever get to them all, but the awareness of this perimeter of the theory created by these pitches is the goal. For in this way we've a structure upon which to build and understand anything that might ever come along in our musical travels and adventures. For until a greater division of the octave goes mainstream, the 12 pitches of the chromatic scale is all we get yet ... there's the blues hue yes?

So however whatever musical knowledge you have today has come along to you, consider finding a way to catalogue it within this chromatic scheme of things. On one end of this spectrum might be understanding how we extract a certain five pitches from the 12. On the other end is probably the 'anything from anywhere' concept, the long term goal for the jazz leaning artist.

Improvising musicians. In so many circles of the Americana music scene, the players are not reading the music as they perform it. Folk players might have the words of their song with chord letters above written out. When I play bass with my blues crew I'll have my notebook to refer to about the bass lines of songs or to make production notes. I've yet to see any kind or rock'n roll act reading on the stand. And in today's hip hop and rap, a lot is sequenced so no reading required. So a lot of rote memorizing going on. I saw a jazz group last eve that was reading the music they were performing. Most likely also reading through the chord changes for the solos. Not at all uncommon.

So the majority of our American music is performed by rote, from memory that was learned by repetition. Surely the improv / soloing is most often created spontaneously by the players from their existing knowledge. So this improvisation aspect of our Americana musics reflects the earlier times of Americana history. 'Do what ya can with what you've got on hand' ... till something better comes along. And for those that want to do the work, something surely will.

wiki ~ rote learning

Infusing blue. Infusing a bit of the blues sounds into any non blues settings is super common in our musics, often providing a bit of character Americana to the mix. The blue notes are the true all Americana spice that changes the way music sounds and gets made. And while there's a whole style of the blues, in every nook and cranny of our musical style spectrum we'll can find and dig a bit of the blue musical color sifted into the mix of what's going down. In folk it'll often be a bit of a pitch slide or vibrato in the voice between the minor blue third and the major third. In any kind of rock and country rock, minor pentatonic with some bends will feed this blues hue bulldog. Jazz historically comes right out of the traditional blues from wayback, so it is in its DNA.

wiki ~ DNA

Inside / outside. The idea of inside / outside is simply about the diatonic scheme of things. Inside means we are creating our ideas with the pitches of a key center. Outside implies that we are borrowing pitches from other key centers to use in creating ideas within the original key. The other five pitches? Yep. Whole schools of free playing are based on the 12 tones as the key center pitches. Other times we just borrow a bit to blur the tonal direction and create some surprises in the music.

Interesting art. A rather subjective heading here but included as just food for thought. What makes interesting art to each of us? How does our own mood of the day influence our view of interesting art? How do we create interesting art?

wiki ~ art
wiki ~ the creative process

In the know. Can't speak for everyone of course but I don't ever recall anyone ever forgetting the theory once they really learned it by rote. So once 'in the know, always in the know?' Hopefully that is the case yes. And depending on one's own core intellectual structure of the theory, once in place, any new data that comes along from any source throughout our careers can be added to the same knowledge base for later recall.

In a nutshell once we know; the # of pitches in the chromatic scale, major / minor, diatonic scale formula, about intervals and loops, how scales become arpeggios, how arpeggios become chords, how to spell chords, understand diatonic chord motions and chord progressions, know the 'other' five pitches and the blue notes, have a sense of a four bar phrase and musical form and can find 2 and 4 in the music from any radio station, when cats come along talking about the modes, chord inversions, altered scales, symmetrical scales, polytonality, polyrhythms and subdivisions of the beat, jazz and on and on, we've got a real basis to explore these new musical ideas from, for 'we're in the know' of the theory basis of the Americana fabric of musics.

Ionian mode. Skipping forward a few thousand years from the Divje cave bear flute into the near wayback to discover Ionian character melodies in the early vocal masters in France, preserved by the Benedictine Monks of Fontgombault Abbey in writing and recreated yet today in what is often termed plainchant. Next to the then newly evolving pianos and acceptance of equal temper tuning and the mastery of J.S. Bach and his "Well Tempered Clavier" collection of Ionian and Aeolian pairings. Now nearing one hundred years old, its modern counterpart today could be jazz legend Charlie Parker's compositions, collected in The Charlie Parker Omnibook created by Jamie Aebersold and Ken Slone. Written in standard notation as transcribed by and first published in 1973, of the 55 original Parker pieces in the work, 51 are also written with the Ionian mode as the core group of pitches. So it just makes historical sense to follow these leads in creating this Essentials view of the theory from the Ionian perspective with no dis ever ever intended whatsoever to Aeolian centered artists :)

wiki ~ Ionian mode
wiki ~ the piano
wiki ~ "Well Tempered Clavier"
wiki ~ Benedictine Monks of Fontgombault Abbey

And especially in this work as there's a new way forward theorywise that is Lydian ~ Dorian based, not Ionian. By following George Russell's Lydian Chromatic Concept work first published in 1977 and my learning of the #15 colortone in 1984, in my system the #15 becomes a portal opening into a new dimension for our core 12 pitch equal temper tuned resource for composition and improvisation. Where Russell and I differ is that my work is more symmetrically arpeggio based. I've simply employed the two possible tertian arpeggio cycles; major 3rd / minor 3rd and minor 3rd / major 3rd, and created a new system that gets that ol' devil tritone, the now ancient 'musica diabolus', if not completely off the palette, integrated in a new way as the #11, thus tonally softened from its traditional place in our musics.

wiki ~ Lydian Chromatic Concept / George Russell

As the essential tension within V7, in reshaping the two pitch tritone we loose our dominant chord abilities to direct the music; for V7 is the traffic cop for a good portion of our intact library of musics today. So no clear tritone, you're kidding right? As once a 'tritone king' chord substitutor myself, it's a crazy way to think I know. Truly so as the 'sheets of sound' substitutions created and established by Coltrane in the later 1950's becomes today's dominant 'blurring' of standard arpeggiated harmonic motions, creating what is termed here as the 'chromatic buzz.' Which, when I think in terms of what the world needs now from its musics, just might be a Darwinian 'withering end' for music created in our AmerEuro tradition. I think of the otherworldly spatial coolness of musical sounds that Dr. Spock was jammin, on some sort of far out string rig in a Star Trek movie as the healing music for Urantia. And surely that I, not being able to create this chromatic buzz of musical sounds and thus feel its magical vibe, am just really jealous ... yet I have always loved melody :)

wiki ~ Charles Darwin
wiki ~ Dr. Spock
wiki ~ Urantia

Jamming. As the term implies, we're having fun playing music with other cats, artists, sitting in, with jam tracks, with a band, a drummer, Franz and all his kin whatever, we be jammin' with something with a beat that we get to 'lean our own mojo into.' For that's what makes the 'jam' in jamming ... I think :)

The only real trick I know in this I learned from my drumming buddy the Dutchman and it involves quite a bit of ongoing concentration to work the magic. For oftentimes jamming goes on for many, many minutes without stopping in a fairly repetitive manner. The beat goes on and on and on as the saying goes.

The explanation of the trick to jamming, to paraphrase Dutch's quote ... "just keep playing the same thing till ya get to the end of the phrase (usually 4 bars), then alter it just a wee bit and add this 'new alteration' into the next four bar phrase, which at the end of it gets altered again a wee bit which carries over into the next 4 bar phrase ... and on and on and on :)

That the alterations for each new phrase come organically from the previous one glues it all together And if 4 bars goes by with nothing new play, just keep jamming and sure enough something will come along.

Check out the off to the horizon 'jam focus' of intent of an original 6 string master.


wiki ~ Pythagoras

Jazz it up. This expression has been a part of our American lingo for probably a hundred years or so now. It simply implies to 'do something to whatever' to give it a bit of jazz, or pizazz as folks used to say. For we can and often do, 'jazz up' everything in our everyday lives, maybe just to deliver us from the tedium of sameness. From a splash of cream in our coffee to wearing some funky shoes, to re-spicing up our foods and the ever evolving slang of conversations, many love to 'jazz up' their everyday doings; the creative spirit in each of us seeking something new, unique or fun.

With our own music, jazzing it up is probably about one's own perspective of the art they're changing. Evolving any style by adding in elements from another style could be thought of as jazzing it up. We often 'theory' do and hear this in the music a couple of easy ways. Depending on the musical style to be jazzed; we can add in a pitch or two to a styles core group, try open tunings, add in a bit more swing into the groove, accent 2 and 4 a wee bit more, use the color tones to enhance our chords, add in cliche jazz style ideas into other styles, use the half step lead in more frequently, and chromatically enhance whatever music we're working with. This line of reason could go on of course and bring in potentially endless new ways, as we as artists each choose how to 'jazz up' our own creative explorations and the reshaping of our art.

Deeper into theory to 'jazz it up'; add in some risk to the tonality and metrical time of the music being created to make all less predictable. Again, open and modal tunings can do this nicely for music from the folkier points of our style spectrum. Maybe change up the starting points in melodic phrases. Discover new ways to move from One to Four, maybe through different bass pitch motions, then work a new way back. Evolve Four into Two and explore the Two / Five motions. Pepper in some chromatics to your melodies, use 'even 1/8 notes' to add some new styled swing sparkle to the lines. Down this road there might be more chromatics and faster tempos of today's modern guitarist.

wiki ~ tonality

Jobs in music and showbiz. Does understanding your music help in getting some work in showbizz? Could very well, unless ya inadvertently somehow 'lord over high brow' your theory knowledge to somebody, who might be a bigger star than you and is not yet hip to the changes, then it probably yea it won't help. Otherwise, with a good attitude and art vibe, no limit to where knowledge of understanding the theories of your music can help a musical career along not only for yourself but other artists too. The global budget for showbizz is probably around a trillion bucks a year give or take a few dollars. Big green pie of loot for sure and some of it is local where we each be. For, we all love to be entertained yes? There's a superwide spectrum of job opportunities in the making of music, creating its community and sharing it in showbizz. While most of the jobs are volunteer at first based on your own natural enjoyment of your music, there's paying gigs in all manner of showbiz, everything from creating the day to day life accommodations for touring artists to becoming a touring artist ourselves. All the tech involved in shows and the capturing of a performance, the amount of this work which might have doubled from the 70's onward thanks to the addition of video, to the studio folks who arrange, edit and polish takes for the art folks to package up as the 'final' that becomes the merch that creates the 'memory of' for the new owner. There's just a ton of wires in all of this and the bizz always needs folks that know where they go and can hang with the talent. There's all the 'legal-eze' people and its systems of copyrights with intellectual property and ownership, all the monetary accounting for those risks associated with a bigger slice of the green pie, on into the promotion of the musical arts and all the executive that evolves with stewardship of the venues for all the stars that make the big loot, who are elevated by the entourage of critics in the media who help make them stars in the first place. There's work and paydays all along in show bizz :)

For even Coltrane's 'sheets of sound', among the most prominent steps in our Americana theory evolutions that is the pinnacle as presented here in Essentials, was coined by a music critic that provides a bit of closure to the shedding process pioneered by Mr. Coltrane. For us theorists reading here, this 'theory capture' phrase by a passionate listener, probably didn't realize the complex organization of the theory that was being sounded out.

wiki ~ sheets of sound

Does it matter? Maybe but was does matter is that this music critic who wrote reviews for this publication that worked out of this building all were energized by the magic of 'a life in showbizz.' While surely not for everyone, music is life and life is music. When life is love with music too, all is groovy. And who knows, your theory knowledge in whatever capacity you're finding employment in, just might help to spark finding that next puzzle piece for yourself or someone else or even finding that 'lost chord', now wouldn't that be cool.

wiki ~ the lost chord

Art ... 'just one time.' This idea is about flipping bits that might not ever get flipped because the the suggestion 'to do' is just too wacky to contemplate for the 'serious' artist. Needless to say the suggestions all be here because I heard them from, yes a serious artist, somewhere along the way. Ya think even I could make all of this up? No way amigo. The crazy part is that even doing these suggestions once, cognitive bits get flipped and our arms may get a better hold of the resources; intellectually as well as when hanging with other artists and we be ... 'making art happen.'

count four bars
rehearse the band by singing
find 2 and 4 with a metronome
sing a chromatic scale
add a diatonic 7th to every chord in a song
play the bass line first when learning a new song
warm up slowly :)
warm up with a dozen choruses or so of the 12 bar blues form keeping tack of 2 and 4 by tapping your foot / picking a new key every couple of days
sing the line, play the line
Play the first melody you ever learned by ear as emotionally heartfelt and even satirically sounded as you ever have, just to max out your emotional input into a melody you've personally known for a long, long, time and connect up all of those wires in your physical and emotional artistic being.

The leading tone / Seven. The leading tone becomes a bit of the North Star for pointing us in the direction to a key center and its central tonic pitch. Even before the harmony becomes truly codified through equal temper tuning and fully involves the leading tone in V7 harmonies, the sense of direction and tension it creates shaped the melodic world. In the Americana blues sounds, we commonly find the leading tone within V7 paired with the major 3rd to make the 'two pitch tritone within.' While 11 times out of 10 in the melody line we love the b7 we need the leading tone 7th to make the principle blues chord. More blues rub? Yep.

wiki ~ North Star

Learning juice. One thing learning music theory can do is get our inner juices going to be curious for learning. The theory itself is perfect in many ways but theory of anything really tends to be that way. And math theory for sure. Music and math yes? So as we each explore on our own terms, the impassioned learner will discover by their own volition; by their own energies or learning juice, the silent mathematical architecture of the music they want to create. For once even a basic theory understanding is in place, there's really no limit to where and how new ideas can come from to enhance our own creative artistic doings. That our music theory is fairly global now, and been the same for a couple of hundred years, gives us an awful lot to look into and discover.

For younger cats coming up, from later teen years through their 30's or so, there's a built in accelerator to our species that can empower us to supernova achieve whatever it is we are challenging ourselves with. I guess we'd call that a built in juicer :) Regardless, it is this inner energizer that makes us want to figure it out, get to the bottom of it and then get to the bottom of that, to conquer by thinking what our mind has imagined. So ... how much gumption and learning juice you got?

Learning tunes ( songs ) / melodies. In this Essentials music theory book, a core foundation of the learning and method is based on getting a dozen or more of our core Americana melodies under our fingers, in the same key in the same fret position on our instruments. And while there's a written chart for each of the melodies included, the learner is encouraged to sound these out by ear. As many of these lines can go way back in our own memories, they're just a cool way to begin strengthening all our skills with playing melodies initially rote learned thus from the heart.

And while we might not ever 'gig' these lines, they can be humourous quotes within other lines, easy to run around in 12 keys and above all, in their simplicity we get a better chance to interpret thus express them our own way and make the rhythm SWING :) For if I can get a three or four pitch lick to really swing in a 2 and 4 pocket by ear with a lot of my heart and soul phrasing, then I've found my way into the art of Americana swing. For once we each 'feel' the swing inside and can coax it forth out of thin air with just the clicks of 2 and 4, a new way forward emerges for the creative musician in so many cool ways for players of all of our musical styles. That there is no easier way to do this than with a simple melody we learned as kids is probably the core tenet of this entire learning method.

Art ~ 'hey ... leave the root out ...' Sounds as if we've a bass player on the gig, right on. As guitarists we now gain the option of not worrying about the root of the chord. And even if all my chords are root position and I always think from the root, I still have the option to de-emphasize my sounding of the root pitch in what I play. Leaving the root note of chords out opens a new window of giant harmonic solutions we theorists generally call 'inversions' thanks to the bassists of the world :)

Listening. Just sort of a natural thing that those that dig making music dig listening to music too. Taylor made for those of us who aspire to create the musical arts on a regular basis. Pour moi I had the early Beatles Capitol 45's, so every song was a potential #1 and had a traditional crafting to its melody. Little did I know then that it was a great combination to evolve into a gigging instrumentalist of the jazz traditions a decade or two later. Speaking of which, its time warm up and practice for Saturday's gig :)

wiki ~ The Beatles
wiki ~ Capitol Records

And your listening? In the most natural of all human ways we each end up finding our mentor in what we pursue. That the universe provides as many love to say. Luckily it only takes one. There can be many of course, but one will suffice. So stay tuned up and find your musical 'whatever from wherever' and master it. If all the stars align then simply sing along with the music and find your melody lines. Do this over and over till the phrases are rote memorized. Once 'roted up' they're inside and ya got them. Then shed to find them on your own chosen instrument. Nothing could be simpler :) No mentor ... ? Gotta be your own till one comes along.

Local universe. This is a lot of things really, the span of related topics pretty vast. Bottom line here simply becomes; developing the ability to adapt to what is available in your own 'local universe' to get your show on the road. In a perfectly pure world of music theory, the seven pitch diatonic realm is the first local universe. Five note pentatonics and the five related blue notes? Simply the core of our true Americana magics. From these origins the build process adds equal tuning for the chords and voila ... off to the stars :)

Localized playing. Localized playing is about staying in one area of the fingerboard and running an idea through various filters. Usually this 'area' is four of five frets. Lots of example options here; running a folk song's melody and chords in open position, using a capo to change keys keeps the chords local, running a turnaround through a cycle of keys in say 5th position, or play a jazz song chock full of mostly diatonic chords in a localized area etc.

open position

Musical lines developed across the strings within a few frets are localized in comparison to a more linear shaped idea that all happens on one or two strings, created by moving up or down the neck as needed. Jazz guitar players often dig localized playing as tempos accelerate and the changes start to whiz on by, minimizing physical distances and motions can ramp up the fun and success in playing through the changes.

Loops of pitches. This idea is a super core concept for our Essentials Americana music theory based on the realization that anything pitch wise is part of a closed loop of elements. If we carry any musical sequence out long enough and maintain its interval integrity, it will always close back upon its staring point. Really? Yep. No exceptions? Nope. Do the pitches have to be equal temper tuned to form perfect loops? No, any tuning is cool. And while any arpeggio loops will perfectly close, we'll need the precision of equal temper tuned pitches to stack up and make the loops for chords.

Loops of chords. Probably just a fancy name as loops of chords usually turn out to be chord progressions for songs created within a key center. For combined with the musical form of a song, most songs cycle through their form and the chords are the same each time, forming a loop of sorts. Keep in mind that in most of our styles, it is motion from One to Four and back getting most of the attention for writing Americana songs. For it is in these two diatonic points that we get a near perfect similarity of aural color that provides the two main arc points upon which we drape a song's storyline to engage and perk the curiosities of our listeners. One and Four of both major or minor? Yep.

Folk loops. In one key center; One / Four / Five in major or minor or a mixing of both.

Blues loops. In one key center; One / Four / Five in major with all chords being a V7 / Five chord type. In one key center; One / Four / Five in minor with all chords being a minor 7th or Two chord type. Endless variations mainly through chord substitution.

Country loops. In one key center; One / Four / Five in major or minor or a mixing of both.

Metal loops. Perfect 5th's moved in the diatonic pitches of a song's parent scale, which is most often the minor pentatonic group plus various tritones.

Rock loops. In one key center; One / Four / Five in major or minor or a mixing of both. Blues based loops are very common i.e., "Johnny B. Goode" and forward.

Pop loops. Mostly in one key center; One / Four / Five in major or minor or a mixing of both, some modulation and borrowing of chords.

Jazz loops. Multiple key centers; Two / Five as a cell or as a fully resolving cadential motion to any point within the seven diatonic major and minor pitches, a mixing of both and all five of the chromatic points in between or ...and endless variety of loops of chords that become vamps for whatever grooves we can conjure.

wiki ~ Johnny B. Goode

Love songs. So an easy way to understand the art of the love song, in theory, practice and day to day is to simply quote some lyrics, these by Paul McCartney; who states that ... "Some people want to fill the world with silly love songs.' And then a bit further on, "what's wrong with that ... I need to know, 'cause here I go ... again ..." Love makes the world go round they say, and I agree. There's so much magic in love for everyone there just doesn't have to be a reason to do it. For it is the reason that is always in season ... :)

wiki ~ Silly Love Songs

Lyrics. The words of a song tell its story and how that story is told becomes the recognizable craftsmanship of the author. Not really sure there's a music theory for writing lyrics. Surely some folks have a knack for it. Probably a combination of just living life, staying receptive to the ideas, and working hard at one's craft to get that bit of extra luck that comes from plain old hard stickin' to it work that energizes the magic of the next line or hook, and then of course to remember to write it down when it all comes along. So as to avoid the crazyness of "I Let A Song Go Out Of My Heart ..."

wiki ~ "I Let A Song Go Out Of My Heart."
wiki ~ iambic pentameter

The magics in our music is many things. Simply the energy that we each can bring to the music, it's creation, making and sharing. Into the wayback to find the times when there was no exacting science in the world and folks just thought that the coolness of the 'aligning of the stars' the magical order of the universe. Turns out there was more; the beginnings of science being about the measuring, thus comparing of elements, of whatever someone was curious about. How and why something worked the way it did. In our musics, science has centered on the tuning of our 12 pitches over the last few millennia. That equal temper tuning was in place once electricity came back in the mix, no end to the development of new music making devices. Thus today we have MIDI and explore beyond.

Theorizing the magic. "Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain ... " 'Oh oh ... did we just reveal the source of the magic?' In doing so, is its 'magical powers' somehow diminished? Sometimes surely but as performing musicians ... ? Na, were cool. Really? Sure, just ask any performer what they are thinking when they step on stage under the lights and say hi to the audience, tell them about the next song. If it's a romantic story that they wrote about a friend, as are 90 out of a 100 tunes are themed, believe you me they ain't thinking about music theory :)

So why know theory? Knowing the theory helps in preparing this song for its performance, especially if there's a few players in the mix. Their combined experience as players, articulated theoretically with common vocabularies can just make things go way way quicker, saving precious time in building up a song. And if the song to be played is written by someone not in your group, the theory simply helps to decipher and interpret their puzzle. For when the lights come up and there is an audience waiting to be entertained, the last thing we're thinking of is the theory of it all; we're conjuring up pure magic and putting it out there for all to join in and enjoy.

Diatonic magic or not?As lovers of music, when we hear some music we dig or some one thing in the music that we dig, as theorists we often want to know just what it was that perked our curiosities. If it is an aural aspect of the music; a special melody note, a cool single chord or progression of chord changes, the initial basis of our investigations of this magical sound is very often; is the pitch or pitches in this music diatonic to the key center that the song is written in. And upon that basis we have a sure footed pathway to explore the there and beyond.

Major scales. Linked here as a hub of sorts, the diatonic major scale is the core perspective of the writing here in Essentials. Every theory text I have and know of except one, writes about our music theory with the major scale as its center point. Absolutely zero anything new here. From this basis of the 'diatonic scale' and its relatives; natural minor and the modes, all manner of organic music and theories grow and flow and provide a perspective and all the way back in music history.

Melodic treatments / filters. The idea of 'treatments' and 'filters' for our pitches is simply a way to discuss the theories of what we composers of Americana do with our 12 pitches. We can; loop, interval sequence, group, motive sequence, permutate, arpeggiate, stack into chords, blusify, chromaticize, whole tone and diminish to any degree of anything to our hearts content :)

For example, here in 'Essentials' there's often a nudge for the reader to 'run an idea' through say a blues filter, or through an interval cycle of pitches, diatonic cycle of arpeggios or chords to create a sequence of any sort.

Melodic treatments help us 'e x p a n d' a musical motif into larger, fuller sections or musical forms when composing songs. All depending of course, even just a hook of a couple of pitches is for some cats all they need to initiate their creative process. Mostly through a trial and error process sparked by the hook, we 'treat' the idea into a phrase, two or four bars? Can I slip this phrase into a blues form? Or is it better suited to an eight bar length and into a 32 bar form? Or is it filterable through a series of tonal centers for improvisational exploration and jamming, becoming its own song on down the road?

This idea of treatment or filter is a way into musical eras and styles. For how composers did certain things with the pitches based on the resources they had at hand in any particular time in history creates over arching eras of musical styles. For example, Euro baroque era composers loved to sequence a melodic idea in a diatonic treatment of their pitches. That Euro classical composers had better tuned harmonies and instruments (piano), to modulate their ideas to any of the 12 key center colors, gave rise to more adventurous storytelling. Americana ragtime players did include both of these and also cycled a lot of V7 chords, blues hued all the time. Like Charlie Parker with the bebop? Yep, Bird, bebop and the blues.

wiki ~ Baroque music
wiki ~ Classical music
wiki ~ Ragtime music
wiki ~ Charlie Parker

Memorize / rote learning. Surely among our most remarkable people attributes is our ability to remember all sorts of information in all sorts of forms for recall at all other points in time. No surprise really then that it turns out that the easiest and quickest way into the music theory is through rote memorization. We just go over the material till we have it memorized. Then, when need some bit of info we just think of it, remember it and put it to use. We hopefully recreate this process with lots of cool and essential things in our lives.

wiki ~ rote

For most of our memorization with theory, once we learn it, it sticks around. There's just a dozen letter names, numbers counting up to 15 and a couple of numeric and symbol sequences. These formulas apply to really any of our music styles. This memorization can go very quickly for those so energized. Once in place the ability to discuss music theories and follow right along with discussions, wherever they may be, for exploring and finding new ideas ramps up dramatically.

Here's is a suggested first ordering of music theory ideas to be rote memorized. Try STGC for more pathways.

12 pitches in the chromatic scale

interval formula major scale 1 1/2 1 1 1 1/2

pitches of the C major scale CDEFGABC

natural relative minor pitches of the C major scale


these letter name pitches are the white keys on a piano

turn a C major scale into its C major arpeggio


spell seven diatonic triads from arpeggio


Divide rhythms in 4 / 4 time

1 whole note = 2 half notes = 4 quarter notes = 8 eighth notes = 16 sixteenth notes.

Measure number count a four bar phrase

1234 2234 3234 4234 and repeat

... off to a good start ?

Minor. The dusty side of everyday life that we wash away with our music. The minor colors are a somber collection that reflects our more sorrowful leaning heartfelt emotions. Yet while there's a sadness there's also passion, compassion, empathy and a longing for our evolutions as sentient beings in global community.

Mix and match. Crazy idea but once the substitutions start flowing, along with possible sequences of interval skips, leaps and bounds, we begin the potentially endless process of mixing and matching what we find in music and the musical sounds we dig. This is a process that contributes to build one's own artistic signature. For in mix and match we'll find the ways we each dig to express the art in our hearts.

'Modern guitar.' The idea of modern in the title of this work is about developing a theoretical perspective of how select groups of pitches have consistently created the broad categories of our musical styles over the last 100 years or so. Thus, as modern guitarists we then might aspire to gain insights into how musical style can theoretically evolve, morph, transition or cross over from one style towards another, simply by the addition or subtraction of select pitches to the core grouping of pitches that originally creates a certain style.

Modulation. Modulation is the basic term we theorists often use to describe changing key centers in the music. We 'modulate' from say C major to Eb major. Any combination is possible thanks in part to our equal tempered pitches which allows for the in tune harmony to fully support even the most distant of modulations. We can use the cycle of fifth's to begin to determine the distance between key centers.

So the key centers of 'C' and 'Gb' are furthest apart in sound? That's the basic idea here yes. And minor keys? Exact same principle.

Motion to Four. Harmonic motion from One moving to Four is at the core of our Americana / AmerEuro traditions. For from the early 19th century gospel and popular songs to the blues to today's pop and rock, if a tune starts on One chances are it'll go to Four. Starts on Four, or Two, or Five? Probably going work its way back to One. Tried, true and tested over an over, folks love this motion as One and Four have two similar but different points of interest for storytelling in both major and minor. The chordal back and forth vamp motion between One to Four and Four to One covers everything from sitting in a rocker pickin' and grinnin' to rockin out' stadiums with the big noise.

Of music, math and numbers. That we can mostly just use our fingers and occasionally add in our toes to count all of the necessary numbers involved with our music theory is surely by grander design. Crazy hard to believe but just having the counting skills and understanding the numbers up to 15 and we're golden :)

Number 1 through 8 for scale degrees.

Number 1 through 15 for the arpeggios.

Number 1 (I) through 7 (vii) for chord progressions.

For there's really no end to the relationship of these two disciplines of music and math. Even way back. That the common number symbols of math can so readily identify music's theoretical components just seems well, like by Mother Nature's design, the added bonus. And it just so happens that however we dice up the pitches and their corresponding numbers, there's always that element of 'perfect or correct closure' we also find in basic math equations etc., for example;

3 + 3 + 1 = 7 or 3 + 1 + 3 = 7 or 1 + 3 + 3 = 7

Here in Essentials we're totally not shy with correlating all manner of math, numbers and music relationships. For anytime we can 'mathematize' our theory, we do :) Even musical styles. And thanks to our modern equal temper tuned pitches, 'once the concept of a 'numerical equivalent' is in place, any and all theory formulas and machinations are equally projected from all of our 12 pitches.' This basic idea can be a super theory game changer for those so inclined to follow the numerical theory pathway.

For a super easy way into the theory for those interested is to simply swap pitch letter names for numbers within a chosen key center. For example; C D E F G A B C becomes 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8, for one full octave of the key of C major. That's the easy part. The tricky part to this easy way is that each of our essential components such as time, scales (last example), arpeggios, triads and colortones, various progressions and cycles, the intervals and the way deeper science math of ratios and frequencies, each have a their own unique way of counting their components. That they're all related to one another, each forming a closed loop of there elements that when combined is the basis for all our Americana styles and their endless genres within.

The organic yet mathematical possible beginnings. So first there's the labeling mathematics of pitch associated with the breakdown of one note into its overtone series. Then there's the mathematics of tuning our pitches over the last two millennia; beginning with our older tuning relationships between pitches based on simple ratios of whole numbers and later to the refinement of today's equal temper tuning, which by the 'mathematics of the 12th root of 2', creating 12 'equal tuned', fully stackable pitches into all chords all keys within one octave.

wiki ~ '12th root of 2'

We also apply this pitch tuning math to building many of our modern instruments. For guitar, a big part of this becomes the fret layout or spacing on the neck. Termed an instrument's 'scale length', a physical measure of nut to bridge, number crunching math helps us uniformly reduce the space between ascending frets, each next fret up in pitch a wee bit smaller than the one before.

In our pitch labeling systems, all throughout this Essentials work we can and often do apply or assign numerical symbols to most of the musical elements we use to create the American musical sounds we love. We can identify any pitch or chord by measuring the interval distance various ways and assign a numerical value to this distance. We can physically count these interval distances between pitches even today when written in near 1000 year old music notation symbols, where rhythms are also counted 1234.

We can also create a numerical core for the entire system of our theory by choosing one pitch to be the center of our music. This becomes the number One. From this center we can numerically identify any other pitch or combination of pitches in relation to this core. And with the mathematically created equal temper tuning, we can project this numerical representation of center, One, equally from the 12 pitches available from within the chromatic scale and include all the chords associated with all the melodies of all the key centers. Yes, a vast system of pitches and combinations.

Another more modern component of music and math is in the digital and computer worlds of 'MIDI.' Of course all of this is based on math with the mathematics of equal temper tuning at its core. Beyond this point there's surely further mathematical divisions of the octave, some of which are achieved through midi, some not, which can redefine our existing collection of pitches to include the 'notes between the notes.' And surely succeeding generations of players will continue this pathway of exploration, seeking new possibilities by correlating artistic music and numerical math :)

We can even numericize all the chords through chord type and color tones. Defined by its quality of 3rd and 7th, there are just four possible solutions of chords, three of which become chord types; One, Two and Five as determined by a diatonic key center. Color tone numbers are generated from above the 1 3 5 of the triads in their arpeggios; both diatonic and altered. Thinking along these lines streamlines learning and dramatically condenses the shedding. Really mostly a jazz players thing yet super handy for all in streamlining the learning of our entire harmonic resource.

There's re-occurring two / three pattern of black keys while ascending on the piano. This 'builds' into all our keyboards the half step interval locations for creating the scale formula for the relative A minor and C major groups of pitches.

Last and surely least, again that by understanding the number of pitches in a style's melody, as varied as that might seem, we can see and quantify a numerical evolution in a group of pitches as we add in additional pitches to our core five pitch pentatonic groups. Five to six then the seven pitch group. With five remaining as the blue notes and chord color tones.

7 + 5 = 12. This simple math formula contains all of the theory we might ever really need. For when we realize that the diatonic realm is created with seven pitches, with five left over from out of a total of twelve, exploring what these five pitches can do to influence the diatonic seven is surely a way to understand the silent architecture of our American musics.

Muse. Need a new melody for a new radio add you're working on. Maybe your muse can help. Our muse is our own creative 'alter ego' or some such inspirational inner spirit, that historically has helped an artist to find their way to create and express.

wiki ~Muse

Music mysteries. The topics of things we each do not yet know about music theory that keep us hauling on to discover or create new answers to our questions. Some of which are profound and may alter the course of world history. As the energy to keep searching is a core of our human spirit, it's all built right in, we just have to energize and sustain.

wiki ~ history

Musical styles. In this Essentials music theory text, our musical styles are in part determined by our numerical spectrum of pitches used to create melodies. Creating a linear spectrum view from left to right, we find the five notes of the pentatonic group expanding towards the 12 of the chromatic group on the right side. From children's song's of four and five pitch melodies into the six pitches of the blues, seven of our natural scale, the relative major minor group and forward, eight for the symmetrical diminished and pitch by pitch for the various chromatically altered groups up to the full 12 of the chromatic scale for jazz.

total # of pitches
1 ...
scale degree #'s

children's songs (5)


folk (6)


blues and rock (6)

pop (7)
jazz (12)

Part of the idea of 'modern' in the title of this work is about developing a theoretical perspective of how set, select groups of pitches have consistently created the broad categories of our musical styles over the last 100 years or so. Thus, as modern guitarists, we can aspire to gain insights into how musical styles will merge with one another, creating new genres, or sub-styles from the main groups. To try and understand the theory of which pitches nudges one style towards another, the blues hues, groove morphs, style transitions and segues or 'cross over' from one style towards another, simply by adding or subtracting key pitches at key moments to our group of melody pitches.

And then there's musical styles and musical time. That more beats and faster tempos runs right along left to right of this style spectrum and bolts right up with number of pitches. A couple of beats for youngster songs, then grouping into two for the eighth note, then the three note triplet for the blues and old time swing. Four beats per measure is the 'big 4' that cores Americana. Groups of four become the 'even eighths' of Latin and its crossover into our modern swing eighths of today, the lingua franca of jazz improv from then till now. On to the tighter 16th's of funk and fusion.

New pathways / variety. Even the longest journeys will have a first step. And even after taking a seemingly endless number of steps, the advanced cat might still want to journey on. Luckily for us musicians, there's really no end to our musical universe; songs to write songs and learn, mentoring new players coming up, sharing what we've learned with those so inclined, why even new books to write as one topic unfolds from another, in an endless cycle of learning and discovery. Here are a half dozen or so theory evolutions within Essentials for possible new paths for the advanced artist.

Numbers of pitches = evolution. The theory basis of this work centers on the basic premise that as we add new 'anythings' to whatever we are working with, we increase the number of different possible combinations. That we've a finite number of pitches; the 12 pitches of the chromatic scale, gets our arms around the resource. And as our components evolve, they become capable of different musical explorations and expressions. Our most common additions are new pitches and chords added to the core groups that we commonly use to work the magic.

By creating a theory spectrum of musical styles based on the number of pitches we generally find in their creation; from children's songs and folk into blues, country, rock and pop to jazz, that by adding or subtracting pitches to our core group, we evolve the group and its capabilities to venture into other stylistic realms. As there are only 12 pitches in total, this is just an easy way to begin to understand the process of morphing one style to another. Understanding this 'morph between styles' from the theory perspective of number of pitches is the basis of this work's evolving of a 'modern' guitarist.

Nutshell. Two parts to this really. One is the idea of the kernel of knowledge 'in a nutshell', which is the lead paragraph of near every page and topic in this work.

Second is the theory nutshell which goes like this; So how many eggs in a dozen? How many pitches in the chromatic scale? How many hours depicted on an old fashioned clock? How many pitches in the chromatic scale? Right 12. Is everything either major or minor in our music? Yes it is. Really? Yep, there's a helix of two ancient musical colors created by a closed looping of their pitches. This is our diatonic scale. Can we make any of the 12 pitches the diatonic center pitch of the loop? Yep. How many loops in a song usually? Well always one for sure, sometimes one or two or more. Any combination of major and minor cool? Yep. Is there a correlation between number of loops in a song and musical style? Yep, at least in this theory book. Are the arpeggios created with these loops? Yep. Chords too? With today's chords? Absolutely, once the pitches are equal temper tuned then yes. Are there diatonic rhythm loops just like with the pitches? Yep. Do they define style also? Yep. Is there a numerical way to represent all of these elements of this diatonic looping of pitches into scales, arpeggios, chords and rhythms? Yep. Is time, feel and groove just as important in making music as the pitches? Yep. Making music with folks? Double yep. Is sharing our music a source of love energy to bring our own art to life in our communities? Absolutely yep :)

The octave. As the purest sounding of all our musical intervals when we sound two notes of different pitch together, the octave interval is the initial basis of our theory as the 12 core pitches live within the octave span. As its perfect purity of sound is bested by no other, no surprise we find it in so many cherished melodies, throughout our entire range of styles. Mathematically represented by our simplest of ratios; 2:1, we can historically trace the octave basis for our music theory to the ancient Greek Pythagoras, whose sharp hearing and keen mind began the process of music and math.

wiki ~ Pythagoras

Octave melodies. The purest sounding of all or musical intervals, the octave interval is often found in memorable melodies. Here are a few suggestions to explore.

wiki ~ "Over The Rainbow"

wiki ~ "Falling In Love With Love"

wiki ~ "This Masquerade"

wiki ~ "Moonlight In Vermont"

wiki ~ "It's Only A Paper Moon"

wiki ~ "Lush Life"

One / Four / Five. These numbers represent the most common of our pitch / root motions / chord progression motions. We'll find it in every style. As chords they back a myriad of different blues styled 12 bar forms. Discovering that in each diatonic key center we get a One / Four and Five chord for both relative major and minor is for some a super theory game changer. I know it was for me. .

One idea per chorus. This is mostly a jazz performance concept for improvisation. While perhaps most common with the 12 bar blues, it works in any form. The idea is to develop one motif through the body of a song's form and harmonies. In each new chorus, have a new idea to work through the form. Build idea upon idea, each developed through a song's form.

I first got hip to this idea from tenor saxophonist Frank Foster back around '81' or so. I was the guitar, chordal player in a jazz quintet named "Moment's Notice." This of course is the title of Coltrane's pivotal song. Mr. Foster was in town to help straighten out our college big band on the finer points of Count Bill Basie's fine art so I booked a date for the quintet hoping we could get Foster to sit in. When I asked Mr. Foster if he'd like to sit in on our gig he asked what the name of our band was. Upon hearing our name he asked if we played that song. I and my bandmates told him it was our theme song and we played it every performance. Luckily all the stars aligned and we all got to work the magic together that evening.

wiki ~ Frank Foster
wiki ~ "Moment's Notice"
wiki ~ Count Basie

When Mr. Foster sat in and called "Moment's Notice" we played our arrangement down. When we got to Foster's solo, he easily blew for 20 minutes on the form of the song. Ya could of heard a pin drop in the club as he worked the magic of his melodic ideas, working through the early 'double Two / Five' evolutions of harmonies of what would become in a few short years the Coltrane changes.

On the next break I asked Mr. Foster how he could find so many things to say on these changes. "I really didn't have that many different ideas Joe, I simply took one idea and worked it through the harmony cycles of the song. Hmm ... one idea per chorus. "So ideas like; the rhythmic melody major 3rd lick adjusted to the changing harmony? Exactly. A next idea was to simply spelling out the chords with arpeggios, then a permutation of these arpeggios for a chorus or two, then add a blues hue to each new key center, then use a bit of the gospel of the last phrase of the melody, I also quoted a couple of hooks from other songs and ran them through the cycle of the song. You get the idea; one idea per chorus developed through the body of a song." Got it? Yes Sir thanks to you I sure do ... thanks! :)

A one pitch tritone. How possible? How can one pitch be a tritone? Needs some help yes? Sure does. We'll most commonly find a one pitch tritone at the perfect center of an enhanced minor pentatonic scale. This added pitch to the five makes six, and we commonly call it the blues scale.

Another common spot for a one pitch tritone is as #11, easily found in a tonic major or dominant V7 arpeggio. By raising up the diatonic 11 by half step, we sidestep the problem of matching up the major 3rd and the diatonic 11, avoiding the b9 clash with the major 3rd.

Open tunings. Open tunings are a game changer for those so inclined. While there's a myriad of possibilities thanks to the guitar's versatility, just three; the open G, open E and 'Hawaiian 6/9' are included in this work's first edition.

An open tuning allows the overall desired mood of a song to be created simply by strumming the open strings of the instrument. In the three tunings included here, each one initially needs just one or two chord shapes to get us moving up and down the fingerboard and through basic chord progressions. Also, as the instrument is tuned to a sonorous chord using the open strings, using just a slide or barre finger gets us a ton of mileage.

Open tunings ~ vocalist with guitar. An artist whose main instrument is their voice might explore the open tunings as the new accompaniment sounds will encourage looking deeper into their melody pitches and various intonations as created with their voice, as the instrument in an open tuning no longer provides the degree of doubling of pitch as provided by many of its common open chords in traditional concert tuning, i.e., E A D G B E. Also, that due to the nature of open tunings, the enhanced orchestral sound created by including more of the open strings can re-energize the motor hand to find new patterns for strumming. Try a thin pick at first and find a gallop.

wiki ~ Ani Defranco

Open tunings ~ blues guitar. The open G tuning comes to us today from the banjo of early America and is a game changer for those so inclined. Super easy to do and with added slide, the blues just burst forth from the first couple of frets. Any beater acoustic, the beater the better sometimes, well something fairly tunable surely.

Open E might be considered nowadays as the core slide tuning for Southern rock styles and all it has brought forth since Duane Allman showed us a way forward in the late 60's early 70's.

wiki ~ Duane Allman

The Hawaiian 6/9 is a 12 stringers delight. As common with open tunings, one or two chord shapes can open up the entire range of the instrument in minutes. Of course 6/9 is a wonderful slide key too.

Over an 'E' pedal tone. In creating musical examples for this study, while C major bases a lot of the letter / pitch discussions, aural examples are quite often based in E major / minor, as I could then sound the low E string to create a pedal tone bass note to support and focus the example pitches on the high E and B strings.

Over or through the changes. This is the basic pedological distinction in regards to improv. For in most of our styles, artists are blowing over the changes with a parent scale, most often the key of the music. As the shedding deepens, players find themselves finding ideas for each new chord that comes along in the chord progression of the song. While way more of a jazz approach, lots of very hip cats in all of our styles will combine both; over and through the changes.

Paradigm shift. Simply when one's perspective and understanding of a topic or idea evolves in a kind of big way after careful study and a lot of thought ... or not, as the case might be. As in 'voilà' ? Exactly. What if ?

Plane-ing / parallel motion. This is a chordal technique whereby the same chord shape or voicing is moved up or down the frets. Stacked perfect 4th's of quartile harmony is common in this motion. While any and all intervals are available, root bass pitch patterns of the song or vamp often determines the intervals and sequence. The jazz and blues style of chromatic enhancement of the half step lead in with chords probably wins the day.

Perfect closure. Simply means that no matter how we dice up and order the pitches, if we run the pattern out long enough, our loop of pitches will always close back on its original starting point. Scales, modes, arpeggios, chords, progressions ... even with rhythms, whose four bar phrase rules the day here in the Americana sounds.

Permutation. Permutation is simply the process by which we as artists will recombine our existing elements into new patterns. ABC becomes CBA, BAC, BCA, CAB ACB etc. Each of these can be sequenced various ways; chromatic motions, cycles of intervals, diatonically through scale degrees.

Piano theory. For many of us the perfectly linear nature of the pitch layout of the piano will facilitate creating solid visualizations of the theories, pitches, arpeggios, chords, root motions, that can open up new ways of understanding of much of what we do as guitarists. Plus there's that magical sustain pedal. So what's not to like? Here's some free advice; any time spent theorizing at the piano is probably time well spent.

wiki ~ piano

(At what) point in the loop. Essentials uses two basic visuals to illustrate the music theory. There's a left to right horizon line perspective which is illustrative of musical styles. There's also a loop, like a string of pearls, that represents groups of pitches; our scales, modes, and arpeggios. While each also has its place, there's a way to bend the style horizon line also into a loop.

Why would we want to do this? Well, in certain compositional settings, the theory allows us to evolve or morph between contrasts; major to minor, consonant to dissonant, from style to style. That musical style and the number of pitches in its melodies becomes a basis to build theories upon and write into musical compositions that require stylistic evolutions. Like a theatre show? Yep. Movie scores? Surely.

This loop concept might encourage us to graph out groups of pitches that gradually add or subtract, pitch by pitch, each step creating a new shades of color. These could become tone rows or even microtonal tunings, (where there's more than 12 pitches within an octave span,) or within equal temper tuning, arpeggiating our two types of thirds into the Dorian and Lydian loops of the #15 theories.

wiki ~ microtonal tunings

Practicing. Most players that we dig to listen to probably like to practice. And like most things, just the joy of getting better at something keeps us keeping on. Usually there's tons of stuff to practice, pro leaning players know this. For performance in any style demands concentration to focus and we can strengthen that through practice in the woodshed

Suggestions for how to practice.

Strum just once between problematic chord voicings. We usually have the strumming part just need to work on the physical reshape between the two chords.

Visualize the width of the pick and the width of the string to minimize how far the pick needs to travel to strike the string. Minimizing pick travel helps smooth things out and makes for faster melodic lines.

Work with a metronome to gain a sense of your own perceptions of musical time and how accurate you are when measured with a metronome. Adjust as needed to express the art in your heart.

Teach what you know to others for having to rework the knowledge and techniques so that another understands is a solid way to better understand what we already know.

Remember that practice makes permanent, that what we practice is what we'll perform.

Extract the tricky spots in your music and play them over and over till ya got them solid.

Sing the line, play the line. Infuse all of your emotions into your music by singing the parts you wish to play, then sound out your ideas. This is the easiest way to get our lines and rhythms to swing.

Listening to other music is a good way to practice and pick up new ideas to mix into your own art.

Preparing for performance. We each find our way to settle in to create the magic live. Success can dictate how the prep might go for each of us. If you perform successfully simply try to recreate the whole process the same way each time you gig, tweaking as needed. For according to the now ancient Aristotle, 'excellence is a habit', to be honed, repeated, perfected.

wiki ~ Aristotle

If all the stars align I'm warming up an hour or so prior to performing. When out on the highway playing the AK roadhouses, I'll start the load in and warm ups about three hours out front. Hit the ground running as many are fond of saying.

Performance is a process. From working with and hearing Alaska pianist Tom Bargelski I often recall an idea of Art Blakey; that whenever we assemble to work the magic, from informal run throughs to the wearing of the formal blacks, make every note count.

wiki ~ Art Blakey

Also, as the time to start approaches perhaps to remember the simple rule of music making in the club atmosphere. From Alaska bassist David Arrowsmith; 'that if the band has fun, everyone has fun.' So all the prep is done and now it is time to have some fun. True.

Phrasing. Think of how you laugh. Anyone else really laugh like you? Can it be the same with our music? That our own voice is as unique as unique can ever be? Singular, only one and surely one of a kind? That's a built in coolness of this art. Sing the line play the line. Sing the swing, feel the swing. That's how I first learned to swing, by singing the feel of it as my pitch is often challenged. Combine phrasing, time and tone and we get the main elements of our artistic signature. Got one?

Print and post. It's nothing short of amazing what might get conjured when we theorists view an organization of the pitches while we are honing our craft, i.e., practicing or just hanging in the shed working on our music. So included in this 'e' book are printable files of pictures that depict various sorts of music theory relationships between pitch letter names and numbers, various cycles of pitches and their organization and even adding in colors and their relationships to one another to contrast for composing.

Proudly proclaim that they don't know. Not sure why this happens but it is worth noting. As theorists we can bump into cats who seem to proudly proclaim what they 'don't know' about music theory, often as applied to the music being performed etc. Not too sure why this happens, it's probably about 'learning blocks' with adult learners. Might be best to get on a reclining couch and talk and draw pictures about it all :) Regardless, this is a tread lightly zone to keep the harmony of the band and get the sounds and combinations you're all after to happen asap.

For nine times out of ten artists eventually come around and are curious as to what makes the music tick theorywise. Generally called a 'teachable moment', one suggestion is to 'individualize instruction', to just try to get into their existing thought process and knowledge base of how they understand their music. Hopefully to find a way to lash up the new theory ideas with how they know what they profess to not know. Crazy huh?

individualize instruction

Public school. For a long time now I've wondered to what effect the basic public school music education of the 20's through the 60's has had on many of the musicians we idolize today. And did the early training that they had, from regular attendance at public school, provide the basic skill set to go forward into pro careers? I probably am curious here about the melodies they played as kids at school and what effect it had on their mature composing careers. Surely the songs in school swung in rhythm as so many of our childhood songs often beg to do in the hands of swing players. The Let Music Ring curriculum book has provided a view into this early American public school work for me. Most of the melodies on the song page are from this book. Core philosophy here in Essentials; if we each can get these public school songs to swing, chances are way better that we'll get our more mature lines to swing just as freely and totally heartfelt, played and swung right from the heart. To play all our lines from the heart like we've known the pitches forever :)

Pull off. This is a string technique that simply finds the finger 'popping' off the string. Lots of ways to do this. Some advanced cats will 'tap' and 'pull off' with a coordinated approach with both hands. The straight up 'pull off' is with just the string stopper fingers, mostly the index and middle.

The root pitch. 'The root pitch of a C major scale is C.' As fundamental to our theory studies as any one thing, the root pitch of a musical element defines its place in the musical universe. That by theoretically thinking from the root of 'something', we eliminate any questions about how to place the pitch and what it might be carrying into our musics. Harnessed up with the term diatonic and what it implies, these two theories alone or combined, create 90% of how the theory is presented in Essentials. That in 'thinking from the root we'll never get lost' is not completely fool proof, sure is solid start to start.

Radio dial. Into the waybac machine near 100 years now to when the radio first became available to a wide swath of folks here in America. Total game changer then and it can still be today, for those looking to evolve their music. For the radio brought the country and its musics, and more, together anywhere the waves would reach and for many musicians, it opened them up to fantastical sounds not of their own locales that inspired their own works with what they had at hand. And if the listeners wherever were dancers, they danced to the music over the radio waves. And the musicians who were with them ... maybe learned those tunes and the styles to fill up their own dance floors, have a little fun.

That these same radios are today just about everywhere, they become a super accessible way for a cat to get into the theory by simply listening to the radio and spinning the dial. Cruising up and down the AM and FM bandwidths we get to hear a dozen or so different styles in just a few minutes. And while the same theory architecture bases all of the styles, each of course has its own unique way of ordering up the pitches, presenting them with various colors of instruments and setting them in motion through time. That all combines to become the basis of style. By working with diatonically defined groups of pitches we find the core basis of each style. In this text we correlate the number of different pitches used to create a melody with musical style. This creates our spectrum of Americana styles. And that as evolving creative artists we may aspire to be, we then begin to borrow pitches from one style for another.

Here's a few beginning musical elements to locate in each of our 'passes' up and down the bandwidth. So flip the switch and dial it in, for over the airwaves has always been, a way to hear the cool and new, and find your sounds and inner groove.

Turn it on.

Pick AM or FM.

Scroll to the bottom and find so Americana music; folk, rock, blues, pop jazz whatever.

Find the 2 and 4 of the groove and snap along with your fingers and count.

Count four bar phrases and note any musical events that occur at the close of each phrase.

Is the song in major or minor?

Find the key center pitch of the song.

Distinguish between major and minor chords.

Listen for the chord progression, its cycle in the song.

Listen for the motion to Four.

Listen for the hook, verse, chorus and ending.

If you find a rythmic, melodic or chord idea you dig, clap it out, sing it out, find the chords.

Scroll to the next station with Americana music and repeat the process the above steps.

Scroll repeat, scroll repeat etc.

wiki ~ the waybac machine

The repetitions. All through this work the same few ideas are repeated becoming links from different angles as the theory discussions unfold. For repetition is a way of the learning method by rote. As you begin to pass by once unfamiliar theory vocabulary because you've learned it, it becomes a measure of your learning.

Also in repetition; teaching the theory to friends helps to put things in your own terms. Simple verbal, mental or written reciting of spelling out the pitches of key centers, their scales, arpeggios and chords is strengthening in the whole process.

Resolving motions (core). All through this work and many others for that matter, is the idea that our musical energy current is created by our human sense of tension and its release. The basis of the release we theorists often term a 'cadential motion.' We cadence to a resting point in the music.

That each of our musical styles has their own essential ways of creating this juice to energize the stories being told. As theorists, we just want to know the nuts and bolts of these tension / release mechanisms. We can generally trace them through the styles by the number of pitches used to generate the magic. Having one or two of these under our fingers and to know their theory is a sure start to the tension / release dynamic for creating exciting and memorable art.

Rule of thumbs. Here's a few basics that not only work like a charm but work like a charm almost every time.

'Think from the root of the chord and you'll never get lost.'

'Sing the line, play the line.' Just a simple way to always play from the heart, say what we mean and mean what we say :)

'When comping, always get underneath the volume of the soloist, even to drop out, 'tacet', if needed.'

If a pitch is given as just a letter name, usually that implies it is a 'major' version of whatever element. A song in Eb implies it is written in Eb major. A D chord is a D major chord and probably a triad as no other designations are included to describe the component.

Slow it down, learn the lick, then work it up to speed.

When improvising, find one idea a run it through the form of the tune for each chorus of your solo. Evolve this idea into a new one for the next chorus.

Run through 12 keys. This idea is probably more of a theory exercise, chops builder and know you horn sort of endeavor. In this process we simply take one melody and learn it in one key. We then 'run' the line through the remaining 11 key centers, transposing the pitches along the way. Works equally well for both major and minor melodies and really helps to get our heads and hands around the pitches.

That we can find the same melody from the 12 different start points is part of the theory closure here. So in this '12 key' exercise we find 'theory bedrock closure' of the pitches; that everything we create with the 12 pitches lives within a perfectly closed system of theory. And with this same solid 'silent architecture' that we all share, we all can bring and build our music together, energized with the coolness of our own creativity to collaborate together on this solid, common ground.

Running the changes. This phrase comes to us from my reading about Charlie Parker. In this we are creating improvised melodic lines through the chord progression of our song. So it turns out that 'running the changes', a practice / warm up exercise of creating a melodic line through the chord changes of a song, was what Parker was doing when he realized something new in his understanding of the relationships between arpeggios and chords. That the upper structure color tones would provide the next evolution in American jazz through Parker's own style of jazz that is know to us today as bebop. Coltrane is thought to have followed the same process of running the changes a decade or so later with his development of what we know as 'sheets of sound.'

wiki ~ Charlie Parker
wiki ~ sheets of sound

Art ~ Same old pitches. So how do the same old pitches we have had forever continue to create new musical art that sounds different from the music we already have? How does the same old 12 bar blues form seem to have have endless hooks and storylines? fixfix

oldest pitches ... ?

Art ~ Same theory any key. Simply the idea that as the modern owners in common of 12 equal tempered pitches perhaps best represented by the guitar and various keyboard instruments, that whatever theory we learn about one pitch from any angle; as a diatonic key center, a scale, a mode, an arpeggio, chord, lick, line or song, equally applies to them all. A core of being Americana? Ideally yes in many ways yes.

Art ~ Scales / arpeggios / chords. The central core of our aural music resources are wrapped up together in these three components. Understanding the theory of how scales are formed, then reshaped into arpeggios, and how the arpeggios are segmented into three, four or more pitches and then stacked up into chords, could very well be in itself, well worth the price of admission here. Add in understanding how to spell out the pitches of any chord and you're surely breaking even here :) As we find in the musics we each love, there's just no end to what these three organizations of the same pitches can create and knowing the theory is an energizer for players, writers and musical artists of all stripes. In this next idea we turn a C major scale into its arpeggio and then the arpeggio into a few of its chords.

So is this a way to spell out the letter names of chords?

Set in stone. Sometimes we just need the rock to define the hard place so that we can stand on a thing and see further on down the road. If we totally rote learn about these rocks and the hard spots, we've built a theory structure within each of us that should really know no bounds. Totally just suggestions here but these are the main and essential theory 'tripper-uppers' that can hang up an awful lot of discussions.

Seven Americana performance skills. Totally subjective surely, but honing each of these seven skills will help keep a cat who can get along with others keep bizzy making all sorts of Americana music in their communities.

Seven theory skills. Simply a short listing in a sequential order of theory skills and knowledge which combine to create a solid base for understanding our Americana music theory. A sort of pathway through the theory for the do it your-self-er.

Sequencing. If your reading this sequence of words and understanding the direction of this idea ... and project further to realize that our entire trip through time can be thought of as an ongoing sequence of events, or perhaps a series of sequences combined together, that knit together through our day to day and forward, then perhaps no surprise that in all of our musics, the sequencing of events is part of the glue that helps to get our stories told.

Trendy European classical melodic and harmonic sequences ruled the day in the 1600's throughout Europe. African peoples who were moved North in slavery during these years and forward brought the rhythm sequences which motor the music. By 1800 or so the merge was well on its way. Americana music becomes sequences of diatonic melody pitches and associated chords propelled by a rather predictable rhythmic loop. 16 quarter notes to be exact. The counting; 1234 2234 3234 4234 of a four bar phrase.

So all combined it just turns out that through the sequencing of the parts, every listener can to some degree predict where the music is going. Thus empowered, the expressive 'dance' improvisations can and will follow right along with the improv of the band. Americans used to love to dance. A global first back then, so many folks of today still totally dig this combined improv nature of our music, with its steadfast organic cores, thus a degree of predictability of line that everyone can follow along with, still can get folks up on the dance floor, smiling and having some fun while following along by the sequences they can recognize.

Shake. Just digging into one pitch on the neck somewhere and shaking it into a blue note :)

Show biz. That colossal seemingly without limits part of our economic infrastructure. Two key components for the success of a show are, according the 'boss' himself Bruce Springsteen;

1) make folks feel of welcome to your show.

2) surprise them somehow in a memorable way.

wiki ~ Bruce Springsteen

Silent architecture. Kind of seems crazy how the lines and symbols drafted on paper can become realized into colossal musics of all and any imaginations, whose inner theory structure and architectural chemistries are capable of being exponentialed out to any degree of valanced extent and still remains all so absolutely silent.

Sing the line / play the line. This idea comes to us here directly from trumpeter Clark Terry. Mr. Terry came to work with our college band back in '81.' "Sing the line play the line" was one of his mantras. "If you can sing it then you'll play it ... and from the heart too."

Softening of the colors. In one sense this idea gradually builds the theory up pitch by pitch till we reach the V7b9, at which point we use the four leading tones of the diminished 7th chord within V7b9 to create pathways of resolutions. Once cool with that, we use these same minor third diminished motion pathways with softer sounding versions of the diminished color.

These softer colors; half diminished, melodic minor and V7, are oftentimes extended by adding in their own diatonic Two chord to energize the harmonic direction via the Two / Five / One motion. Both the major and minor tonalities are included. An awful lot of this can be clearly done with the arpeggios.

Further along here we might split the minor third a couple of ways; whole / half step, half / whole step and then chromatic, each a potential opening for new coolness to be discovered. This is a juncture to where V7 begins to precede each chord and then on to become every chord as we head towards the chromatic buzz.

Soloing. That soloing and improvisation are a true part of Americana, in our musics and beyond is a true part of our DNA. Once beyond the idea of theme and variations, here in Essentials there's really just two basic approaches or avenues explored; soloing over the chord changes of a song or soloing through the chord changes, using each chord as a launch point for the magic.

wiki ~ DNA



Space ... :) Sometimes it's just best to put some in for it surely re-frames whatever will follow :) Jazz guitarist Jim Hall, bless now his resting soul, I think was a master of music and the space in between the notes.



wiki ~ Jim Hall

Spectrum of styles. Here we're theory basing the transitions between styles by the number of pitches in the melody. Thinking general categories with the myriad of genres in between ...

children's songs ~ folk ~ blues ~ country ~ rock ~ pop ~ jazz

What no disco ... ? :) With its 'four on the floor' ... ?

wiki ~ disco
the hammonator

Art ~ spelling any chord. If the only thing discovered and mastered from working here in Essentials is the ability to spell any chord, then I'd say I've earned your price of admission to the show. For this is a skill that can apply to every aspect of understanding the music and theories of any music really, that could be described as within the realm of Western Civilization.

Perhaps needless to say that developing this ability is a step or so past entry level understandings, but for those so energized, it's simply a two step process that will work for any chord in any key. Really? Even blues chords? Jazz chords too? Well yes ... but it'll take some rote learning study for blues chords as its theory basis is a bit shifted from our mainly diatonic perspective of building up our understanding of our musics. Jazz chords? As long as they are diatonic, piece of cake. And with a wee bit of imagination, correctly spelling all of their colortone pitches is a snap. Altered colortones? Well that's where imagination kicks in ... at least in theory :) "Imagination is more important than knowledge." Albert Einstein

Why spell chords? Spelling out the letter names of the pitches of chords helps in our own understanding and creating music and is key to our own evolving of our harmonies into the upper color tones thus style expansion. Here's a chart for spelling the diatonic 7th chords in C major. Swap out these letter name pitches with any of the other 11 diatonic major scales to spell all the chords in that key. Same chart format works for minor keys and actually any group of pitches we place into it. Imagine that :)

Diatonic chords. If the only thing discovered and mastered from working here in Essentials is the ability to spell any chord, then I'd say I've earned your price of admission to the show. For this is a skill that can apply to every aspect of understanding the music and theories of any music that could be described as within the realm of Western Civilization.

wiki ~ Western Civilization
wiki ~ Albert Einstein
scale # degrees
C major scale
arpeggio # degrees
C major arpeggio
chord # / quality
diatonic 7th chords

A personal note; when I first ventured to college to better understand music I started in January, thus the spring semester, so I ran right into music theory II and the harmonic analysis of Bach chorales. And I was lost, quite completely. As we often can 'get by with a little help from our friends', an upperclass bebop alto sax monster Larry Tutt taught me how to diatonically spell chords. It took me about the amount of time it takes to drink a cup of coffee and refill in the cafeteria to learn the process and magic from Larry. Thus empowered, I ran the theory through all 12 keys and within a couple of weeks had every chord's letter name pitches in every key in the palm of my hand. Back to the Bach analysis I went with this new tool for understanding the theory of his magic. Eureka ! On through Bach and onto Beethoven and Wagner, Joplin and Ellington, to the Gershwin's, Berlin, Parker, Coltrane, and anywhere my muse has ever taken me, my ability to spell any chord has always given me a way into understanding a composer's written art.

wiki ~ Bach
wiki ~ Beethoven
wiki ~ Wagner
wiki ~ Joplin
wiki ~ Ellington
wiki ~ Gershwins
wiki ~ Irving Berlin
wiki ~ Rodgers and Hart
wiki ~ Charlie Parker
wiki ~ John Coltrane

Spelling any chord. This all gets a wee bit trickier than the diatonic spelling of chords within a key center illuminated just above. Oftentimes in learning and performing various musics, we have to work from what is termed a 'lead sheet.' These leadsheets give us the melody line; its pitches and rhythms, and chord symbols of the harmony that supports the line. Placed above the melody at the points where they occur, we then get the chord progression of the song.

So in spelling any chord in a song there's a basic distinction to be made; is the chord diatonic to that key center or do we need to borrow a pitch or two from another key to spell out the pitches of the chord. So making this distinction is all about experience and rote learning. For most of our styles it's all diatonic, so easy to sort things out. It's in the blues and surely into jazz , where we use additional color tones that we need some additional skills and tools and spell out any chord that comes along.

Triads are easy; three notes with a steady root pitch and a fifth and two choices for a third; major or minor. Which being just a half step apart from one another make things generally easy to cypher. Adding the 7th gives us the clue we need to locate any chord within any key center. And once there the pitches of any chord come to the surface. We do this by placing any 7th chord into a 'chord type.' There are three 'types' of chords, that always live in the same spots of any given key center.

Once we have these basics, we have the tools to spell any chord that might come along in a lead sheet, or verbally suggested by another in our group, really from whatever source they come along. Like most things with this understanding music, there are theory principles and then some rote learning. Knowing that the number of pitches are finite at 12, creates a learning boundary to be mastered. And once we've our arms around this we can sort it out into parts and memorize what we need at any given moment. As we go down the road we bump into new chords to spell. Having the understanding to place them into their diatonic source is the key to their spelling, recognizing them by their chord type, the major / minor quality of their 3rd and 7th pairing is what gets it all done. Eventuall all is wrote learned and our intuition and knowledge base conquers all :)

This spelling of any triad or chord with color tones becomes a lot more important when an artist moves from soloing over the changes to soloing through the chord changes of a song. While surely mostly a jazz thing, this soloing 'through the changes' is probably the most important way to evolve and takes a rather advanced degree of understanding the music. Applicable to any style really, developing this understanding and ability opens the limitless vista that many evolving artitsts seek. Accurately spelling out the pitches of any chord in any key in any style is just a part of the educational basis to be mastered and rote learned, as we become more expert at what we do. Here's the 'coffee' spelling chord chart in 'C' major; scale / arpeggio / chord with colortone 7'ths.

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

Strength of the player. This idea is a description of a musician; their strength as an musical artist. While very subjective of course, we theorists have a sort of check list that adds up to strengthening our abilities. And while there's really no end to how we might increase our strengths or with what elements, there's two components that base so much of what we do in performing our music working as a single and working with others in a group that gives us a place to start; form and time.

Understanding and hearing music forms and sharpening our awareness of accurate musical time as created from a metronome are good 'first strengtheners.' For they combine and give foundation of the thought process that goes on for each member of our group in 'real time' as the music moves along. That if we're all thinking in the same place of the form of the song and stay together in time, we've a solid chance of collaborative creative success. Which is really just a fancy name for the fun part of making music together :)

Successful folks. What Successful People ( Who Are Actually Happy ) Do Differently. From the NYTimes Online edition of 01/15/2017 by Dr. Travis Bradberry,
author of #1 bestselling book, Emotional Intelligence 2.0, and president of TalentSmart, world's leading provider of emotional intelligence.

Happiness: They pursued activities that produced pleasure and satisfaction.

Achievement: They pursued activities that got tangible results.

Significance: They pursued activities that made a positive impact on the people who matter most.

Legacy: They pursued activities through which they could pass their values and knowledge on to others.

Lasting fulfillment comes when you pursue activities that address all four of these needs. When any one of them is missing, you get a nagging sense that you should be doing more (or something different).

The behaviors that follow are the hallmarks of people who are successful and happy because they address these four needs. Try them out and see what they do for you.

1. They are passionate.

2. They swim against the current.

3. They finish what they start.

4. They are resilient. Resilient people have two critical things in common: they were terrible at imagining failure, and they tended not to care what other people thought of them.

5. They make their health a priority.

6. They don't dwell on problems. They focus on solutions.

7. They celebrate other people's successes. Confident people focus outward, which allows them to see all the wonderful things that other people bring to the table. Praising people for their contributions is a natural result of this.

8. They live outside the box. Successful people are out challenging the status quo and exposing themselves to new ideas.

9. They keep an open mind. Try to glean at least one interesting or useful thing from every conversation you have.

10. They don't let anyone limit their joy. Regardless of what people think of you at any particular moment, one thing is certain -- you're never as good or bad as they say you are.

Emotional Intelligence 2.0
by Travis Bradberry, Jean Greaves
What Successful People (Who Are Actually Happy) Do Differently.

Super Hoot. Super Hoot is simply about having fun; a hoot, and making it way more by adding in something extra super; community. As included in this Essentials theory text, Super Hoot is four individual components; original music for group performance, an idea for a movie script based on Super Hoot ring tones for the phone, a musical love story about the fame and fortunes of music stars and a theatre production about how inclusiveness in our society is the strengthener for the times when we have troubles.

STGC ~ super theory game changers. Crazy name for sure but when you rote learn and master the theory of any one or two or three or maybe four or five ... then there's a real good chance you've have evolved your own art forward a giant step or two or three :) For you choose the topics, and in what order, based on what you bring intellectually to this book. Also, choose topics to enhance your performing if that's a real and valid direction for you.

Super theory gamechangers most often get right to the core theory of the theory. The 'why' this particular element is what it is and where it comes from. Also there are STGC'ers that build up theory skills that advance a cat's learning. Many are just essential to accelerating one's own knowledge and ability to learn deeper into the theory.

Pour moi, I want to bring a good $ value for your investment in purchasing this ebook, I'm confident that these discussions help to do so.

time ~ 2 and 4

To qualify as a STGC'er, a 'changer' simply has to have one quality, that for just one artist, changes the whole tamale theory game for that one cat. If you've been in the music long enough you've hopefully had your own share of STGC'ers along the way.

A few of these 'changers' are ways to create and view various slices of the big picture of our resources. This way of understanding allows us to get our intellectual arms completely around the topic. It might take years to fill in the space we intellectually can conceive, but in this approach we can energize our own learning. And often do it away from our instruments when we've a bit of idle time; to muse through the pitches working out various finer points of the theory. The perfect closure of the pitches is a good example of this. Spelling out all 12 major and relative minor scales, the triads in 12 key centers. Working through the 'softening' of the diminished colors looking for new chord substitutions and sussing out parent scales and their modes. On and on really, but self empowered learning is the prize.

These discussions are often the 'lightning strikes' that create the flicker that becomes the light for a new way forward in a person's art. Looking at the list of links to the right, easy to sense that each of the 'changers' are topics often discussed by emerging and intermediate theorists during lessons, on line topics etc.

For advanced cats, there's four or five 'evolutionary' theory ideas that may or may not be already under their fingers. Then there's the challenge of composing, both in written works and improvisation. In composing, the challenge provided here is mostly with composing works in our most common Americana musical forms. In the improv, there's two core views which combine to create the whole tamale.

wiki ~ sheets of sound

"Giant Steps"

V7 before every chord

Finally, there's my new '#15' system, an organic way forward through our existing diatonic theory for an expanded organization of our original 12 pitches. Same ones from we inherited from Pythagoras? Yep, imagine that, that nearly three millennia later these same 12 pitches became equal temper tuned thus enabling and encouraging my #15 system and organization of the pitches to evolve.

Sustain, 'If I only had sustain.' This is just meant to be a fun play on words from a Harold Arlen song from the 1939 blockbuster movie "The Wizard Of Oz." In the story, Scarecrow meets up with Dorothy who's on her way to the wizard for help to get back home to Kansas. Turns out Scarecrow needs a brain to be more effective working as a scarecrow, so Dorothy encourages him to come along to see the wizard, who maybe can help him out. He sings a wonderful song with the hook ... 'if I only had a brain.'

wiki ~ Harold Arlen
wiki ~ "Wizard Of Oz"

Well, this melody my bandmates and I parodied into ... 'if I only had sustain.' For unlike keyboard players who have a pedal to 'lift' the hammers or work the synth magics, we guitar players simply did not have a real sustain pedal. Fast forward 30 years or so ... in today's electronic wizardry, there are lots of ways to process our signals that give us various types of sustain, some quite endless. This ranges from the various compressions and overdrives of signal processors to today's midi synth capabilities which must have a way to 'pedal' sustain for guitar and stringed instruments in general.

An awful lot of this tone thing plays huge in our musical style and phrasing. For with sustain we not only get to hold long notes out but also fill the spaces between faster played notes that can evolve the stylistic qualities of the phrasing. And when we're developing our ideas along the lines of a certain genre of music and its core sounds, it's a long row to hoe if in trying to recreate and capture that sound, we don't have the ability to sound shape our pitches in the style of the music we're trying to create. Like the metalist who yearns to shred working with a nylon sting acoustic? Exactly.

For example, trying to passionately play some of blues rocker's Jimi Hendrix without some fuzzy sustain is a challenge for sure. But even through a 10 watt transistor practice amp that can be fuzzed, all of a sudden the essence of the music begins to come to life. Check out the video link to see and hear how our various processed sounds match up with various musical styles. How the exact same pitches can take on a whole new hue with, as we said in the old days 'with the press of a button.'

Metheny styled video

Nirvana's "Smells Like Teen Spirit" provides a solid example of contrasting guitar tones. Pat Metheny's "Phase Dance" brings a 'new' guitar tone to the fore.Carlos Santana's 'singing' guitar work on the wonderful pop tune "The Game Of Love." And Jimi Hendrix at Woodstock, another first, now that's some interesting combinations of the electric tones and more.

wiki ~ Nirvana
wiki ~ Pat Metheny
wiki ~ Carlos Santana
wiki ~ Jimi Hendrix

Swing. The idea of a 'swing feel' in the time and rhythm of music is a purely Americana invention. And most anyone who comes in contact with this magic loves it. For in every Americana style, cats can bring just a wee bit or a whole ton of swing depending, and when they do, feet start a tappin.' There's no denying its magics ...

Brought forth and recorded by Louis Armstrong in the later 1920's, swing seemed to have evolved from the big four as a way to play melody lines over the four beat boom boom boom boom of the big bass, especially in brighter tempos. The four to the bar chunk not quite as danceable. With a sort of 'half time' melody over this beat, the origins of swing came forth. The four quarter notes soon subdividing to become the eighth notes of the modern soloist.

Swing mostly lives on the 2nd and 4th beats of 4/4 time. Once these 2 and 4 beats are accented, there's a sense of 'pull' between the accented two and four and the unaccented beats 1 and 3. How hard the feel of this pull becomes is how hard the music swings. It can vary measure to measure, phrase to phrase, section to section, song to song.

wiki ~ march music

We, my pals and I, used to dream of a rhythm section that could find whatever tempo a soloist might choose, stated in the two bar written break that lives between the choruses of many many standards. That the soloist could set their time with the phrasing of their break, the rhythm quickly finding and playing the soloist's time. Super common to use the original tempo throughout for all, this was an evolutionary step that didn't really catch on to good :) I think we even tried it a time or two but for lack of a better word, it was a wee bit too threatening all around; rhythm and horns. Maybe just too much tradition to try and buck.

There is the thing Wynton Marsalis brought along. The slide from half time to double time to ballad and back to the starting point over eight bar phrases, as the main sections in the A A B A / 32 bar song form. Makes your hair stand right the up. Drummer Jeff Watts has this 'time slide' absolutely rock solid.

wiki ~ Wynton Marsalis
wiki ~ Jeff "Tain" Watts

That the unaccented is also the downbeat ... well there in lies the rub :) For historically up to that point beat one the downbeat, got the accent. And still usually does in any kind of rock groove. BOOM boom boom boom. While there's still a 'push' on 2 and 4, rock hits on the first beat of the measure. This 'pull' of swing is about 2 and 4. Controlling this pull is the task to master and to get one's ideas to swing.


Take it out. Is a slang term to signal or describe how to end a song during performance or in its arranging etc. 'Three times and out' is the most common. Lots of ways really and each style has their own couple of cliche ways to take a song out depending on its mood; a ballad, medium, a blues number, a jump blues, folk tunes, pop and jazz etc.

Tension and release or dissonant and consonant.Dissonant tension and its consonant release, a sense of direction and arrival. Much of our musical storytelling is based on creating a sense of anticipation to and the respite we feel upon arrival to our destinations. As our story unfolds, we find ourselves recreating the story's events with our musical ideas. All manner of expressions, suspensions, travels through and happy and sad endings are possible. For a sense of peace and respite we've the One and Four pitches and chords. To direct the flow of all the parts we've the dominant Five pitch and chords. To ascend stepwise we've the Two and Three chords. Motion to Six shades our tale with a longing or sadness, an empathy of sentient hearts to the natural minor. Seven is the magical portal between our two thespian (theatre) masks and also to points beyond the diatonic realm.

Theme and variations. Essentials defines this as the age old way we've composed our ideas into a 'finished work' since the dawn of it all. Super simple in that we can often come up with a good motif or hook, but developing it into a full song often requires the theme of the song to be complimented by interesting variations of it. Some are super easy as we can just sing the hook and rhyme along bumping into coolness. Some are not and require hours into days into weeks into months into months and months to years to complete. Like a giant Herr Beethoven Symphony # 10 ? One can only imagine. Oh well, as if we had something better to do than to create the musics to heal our own worlds.

The early take of this process in Americana is of course the 'call and response' format. Older than the more formal theme and variations, today 'call and response' is usually done in time, the rhythms being laid down generating the back and forth of the responses. Off the cuff, improvising and thriving on a riff :) Of course all can be written out and often is, when polishing songs for performance.

The need to resolve. This is surely something in our artistic and life DNA. Some of us are just programmed to want to resolve things in our lives. We are solution orientated, some even driven to find solutions. Our music reflects that need in its storytelling. The central tonality of our music systemically has that built right in. Those that don't dig the resolution might have the tension vibe. Surely their art reflects that need for the ongoing drama and tension of the normal everyday expressed in music. Amazing how the same theory and pitches fully supports the musical depictions of both. And then there's the overall motoring of it all; the time, timing, groove and rhythms. Each of which can create, shape and influence the who, what, when, where and why of the need to resolve.

Theory keys. Is there a series of musical theory keys, that studied roughly in listed order, combine to unlock an inner perspective that builds a foundation for endless explorations for the curious and evolving musical artist? There could very well be.

(In) theory (in) practice. While probably self explanatory in theory we rote learn guidelines and a lot of math sort of numerical mechanics. Thus empowered, in practice we follow the muse and create solutions to the ideas that come along. For the more we understand our own musics, .

rote learning
music and math
a numerical perspective
wiki ~ Muse

Theory names. Just turns out the while the basic elements for creating and presenting our music has pretty much stayed the same, their labeling names have evolved over the millennia. So the same group of pitches today can have a couple of different names and then there's slang of course which we each get to invent to a certain degree :) The suggestion here is to just be flexible and simply adjust as ya go and marvel at the myriad of ways cats will describe their music and the elements within it.

For example, say in rehearsing a song in the key of C major with your pickup band that the chord you now know as G7 is referred to as the 'dominant' by the bass player. Then the piano cat chimes in ... 'well as Five we could also.' So G7, the dominant, Five; three names for the same chord that can project the discussion three unique ways that help shape the art part of the music.

Or take the natural or major scale of today. Into the wayback to discover the Ionian mode of 1200 (no written record of this survives yet ?) also becomes the diatonic scale of Swiss master Glareanus in the 1500's which then becomes the major scale today. Natural scale, Ionian mode, diatonic scale and major scale. Again each labeling becoming a pathway to explore as time and resources permit.

wiki ~ WABAC machine

How about the term downbeat in music? It is the 1st beat of a measure, can be the time spot where the lick starts, the solidifyer when things go wonky as in 'listen for the downbeat, the time when a performance starts or 'hits', the downbeat is at 7:30 PM. It's also the title of a music magazine. On and on :)

So does every one of our theory terms have multiple names? Probably so, for as the times change, the fashions change and something new evolves from the already stated and once popular, which simply goes by a different name and is the new 'new' to pursue. As new artists with new ideas create new art with new combinations of the existing elements expressing the stories of their own lives and times, our vocabularies have naturally evolved.

Can we thank the music critics for some of these new labels of innovative art? Absolutely. 'Rock and roll', 'heavy metal', the theory description of 'sheets of sound' in Down Beat magazine. Oh, there's another use for the word 'downbeat' yet again. A recycle of existing elements to bring forth the 'new' through our own creative process.

wiki ~ Down Beat
wiki ~ Thing / Addams Family

Theory rubs. This is really just an Essentials thing and more tongue in cheek, for these three 'pitch rubs' create cool and to some players, the totally essential sounds of their art / style. A theory rub is when the rules tell us one thing and we decide to 'rub' selected pitches and chords together that 'in theory' might create some awful sounds according to the 'rules.' Are we basically breaking the diatonic theory rule here? Sure are but only in the name and spirit of creating Americana art. Initially there are three that live within this text. Top of the 'theory rubs' is the minor 3rd of the blues rub, which creates a bit of a theory tangle. Then we've the #11 and #15, both easily theorized.

This blues rub is the coolness of rubbing the minor 3rd over the major 3rd in a V7 chord. The second comes along with the #11, raised up by half step to avoid the conflict with the major third of the tonic One and V7 based chords. The third rub is with #15, which needs a more perfect symmetry to its interval formula than the diatonic scale formula to ascend to such lofty heights.


Learn the diatonic rule so as to break it and know why. Viewed from the purely driven diatonic, theory rubs are often the 'rule breakers' in regards to the basic ideas of our music theory. We theorists usually 'learn the rules before breaking them', doing so with good reason. To create good art? That's a good reason yes.

Theory rules tend to tell us today how music was put together in another era giving insight into how it was organically created. That if we follow these 'rule's chances are we'll create musical sounds reminiscent of that historical era.

Decades ago now a college professor at SUNY NY at Plattsburgh, Dr. Robert Cancelosi was working with early computers to program in the 17th century counterpoint 'rules' that when prompted with a theme, would then generate music that was reminiscent of that era based on those part writing rules.

SUNY at Plattsburgh
wiki ~ counterpoint

A cycling of dominant chords as found in the 1925 composition "Sweet Georgia Brown" can take us right back to the era of the 'roaring twenties'. No Two chord precedes the V7 chords, and really no additional colortones as the vanilla V7 sets the tone. So no altered 5th's, 9th's, 11th's or 13th's or their mashups needed? Not in the 20's so it seems :)

wiki ~ "Sweet Georgia Brown"
wiki ~ roaring 20's

Theory spectrum of styles. The idea of a theory spectrum of styles is fairly straightforward in our numerical additive process of the pitches. That as we add additional pitches to our core groups that create a style's melody, we see a corresponding increase in the potential combinations of the pitches. And as our combinations increase, our musical styles may evolve from one to another; children's songs into folk to blues and country on to rock, pop and into jazz.

Theory - ville. Theoryville is in theory, very simply a mythical place where all of our theory pitch calculations always balance out and are correct, create the nicest musics of musics simply by number and where like minded art cats hang and muse about the 'what if's' of the world and its theories.

Theory wiggle room. Is the idea of having a wee bit of flexibility with our theory musings that allow for the artist to break basic rules while creating genuine Americana music. As with the 'blues rub?' Yep.


Art ~ playing well with others by thinking ahead in time ~ Surely the more we can do this the more we can avoid the boo boo's. This is all about focus and concentration ... oh no ... Yep. The easisest way to strengthen all is with a metronome.

Count off the part you are working on.

trading fours of silence



Thinking from the root pitch. In thinking from the root pitch of our musical component; scale, arpeggio or chord, we stand a greater chance of keeping track of our place in the music under study by thinking from its root pitch. For in the world of chord substitutions, their parent scales and such, that 'thinking from the root' of helps us to consistently find our way along and keep from getting lost.

While at college our professor Dr. Miller would remind us kinda over and over as we newly energized improvisors looked for ways (searching) to possibly find a shortcut (?) through some new coolness. For example, thinking C major 7 over A minor. Or 'D' diminished over G7b9. So we'd search for the coolness and eventually get all tangled up and Doc would say yet again ... 'if ya think from the root of the chord ol'e boy you'll never get lost.'

Three chords and the truth. Is a quote that lives around composers, probably originating in country music, that states that all an artist really needs to create a good song are three chords and a truth, a story that tells the truth about some aspect of our lives. Most often these three chords are the One, Four and Five chords of a key center. So any song with G,C and D fit right in here. Most blues songs also have three principle core chords.

wiki ~ Harlan Howard
wiki ~ "Helpless" song

Three / Six / Two / Five. These numbers represent a core cycling of root pitch motions within a diatonic key center. We can find it various configurations; diatonic chords, as a series of Two / Five cadences or even as a jazz leaning cycle of dominant type chords forming a full section of a song. This chord progression also energizes a first evolutionary step in harmonic substitution.

By making a diatonic Six chord into a dominant chord type and adding a b9, an A - 7 becomes 'A7b9' for example, we create a fully diminished 7th chord in its structure. Now with its its multiple leading tones and minor third symmetry, we've the 'double Two Five' of our harmonic evolution.

Tonal environment (s). In 'Essentials', the idea of a tonal environment simply tries to correlate the components of music theory with musical style and the various grooves and 'feels' within. Minor, major, funk, jazz rock, country are each a 'tonal environment.' We're simply looking to have a term that sums up the emotional character and content of a song. Then as theorists, we go through the music and look for the elements that create that vibe. We can use this ability a couple of ways; in writing a new work that 'sounds' like something we already know, in putting together a program with multiple selections for performance or to define and describe a piece of music to one another and our listeners.

Tonal gravity / creating a sense of arrival. The energy or force in music created when one pitch is designated as the center of the music, the tonic pitch, that all of the other pitches will gravitate to this center pitch if seeking resolution to a resting point. Tonal gravity is the quality of sound used to create and release artistic tension in the music. This sense of gravity and motion is here in Essentials, often paired with aural predictability, which combine to shape musical style. Moving into this way of thinking, we look to strengthen our ability to borrow components from one style and use them in another to shape the essence or plot of our stories or songs. Knowing the theory of the elements enhances this borrowing potential. Visualize a circle of rainbow chakra themed spectrum of colors representing the seven diatonic pitch valences of tonal gravity centered on our one pitch tonic center :)

wiki ~ chakras
wiki ~ visible color spectrum

That various types and degrees of gravity, motion away from and back to the tonal center, helps us define musical style. For example, in folk music we move often move directly from One to Four while in a jazz style we'll often create a series of chords to get there. Through these degrees of gravity we each find ways to advance our own ideas and artwork, as we pursue our own style and look for ways to expand and organically grow our storytelling abilities, both in written compositions and improv. We often do just this by understanding the elements of creating a tonality centered on one pitch, then experimenting with the tonal gravity and the aural predictability of the pitches we choose to surround it.

Tone / electric guitar. This wee bit here is more about the logistics. Cats spend time on getting the right tone for expressing their ideas. The 'right tone' is also about having an approximation of the traditional, standard tone for a musical style. So that when I need some metal, I've got a preset or pedal that gets me towards a standard metal sound. That without this 'tone' my metal might lack some shred. A real basis of all of the tones is sustain. The degree of sustain available surely influences the phrasing, bending, hammer ons and pull offs that are part of the character kicks and riffs of any style.

video of presets

So if you're a beginning metalist on a beater acoustic, getting you lines to have a shred effect is probably going to be a challenge. The realization of this tone thing early on can be a game changer in sticking with beginning learning long enough to get some chops. And getting some chops becomes the real start. Don't quit a thing till ya can at least make some sort of magic with it, then you'll at least know for yourself.

As there's a ton of gear out there, from stuff just lying around somewhere collecting dust to mail order catalogues now delivered by drone ... well not yet at least here in AK. Persistence in finding something that gives us a tone that stylewise is heading towards the eventual magic of say a 59' burst through a dimed stack is a way to keep it real when doing the initial shedding.

Traffic cop. Remember these folks? We still see them every now and again working to keep the flow on the go. In music I think of the V7 chord as our harmonic traffic director. And just like in heavy traffic, this cop can do any manner of things to solve the riddle of congestion before them. From stopping one car to wait for another to calling in the chopper to air lift out the disabled rig, V7 has the same capabilities. It can direct the sense of forward motion to a particular pitch and key center or direct the music in the blink of an eye towards new places yet unheard in the song.

And traffic cops always have a whistle. When the music traffic cop blows this whistle it most often sounds the 'hold on a minute there we're rerouting a bit, here's a V7 to direct ya.' Very common to then hear some sort of tritone bearing V7 color with its major 3rd and blue 7th. When we hear that tritone sounded, we energize the potential to venture somewhere in the music seeking new resolutions. Where we go depends on which 3rd and 7th combo we choose, supercharging our potential if b9 is in the mix.

Trill. A rapidly articulated warbling on a pitch or two that can quickly suspend the sense of time, tonal gravity and aural predictability in a musical line. as well as emulate animal sounds from nature.

Tritone sub. For some readers here especially jazz and blues leaning artists, this 'tritone sub' theory can be the game changer right here and now and for the long term too. For in its theory is the portal to it all.

tritone sub theory
half step lead in

True roots. Oftentimes we want to get to a song's first rendition or play it in its originally written style. This happens in all musics really. Some artists will play the music written hundreds of years ago on instruments that are hundreds of years old, wow. That's a lot of work and when we hear such musics done well, it can become a time travel to an amazing experience of another era. Many artists are also quite purists to their style, resisting any temptations to modernize their chosen historical art. So be it. There's lots of music and gigs for all of us. We peeps, according to some, survive best through change. An artistic necessity? Are these evolutions the 'periods' of an artist's career? Like Picasso's 'blues?'

survive through change

wiki ~ Charles Darwin

wiki ~ Picasso's blue period

Twenty minute jazz theory update. I had the following discussion with Denis Deblasio after a workshop here in Alaska, a couple of years back now. I paraphrase Denis; "Well Joe, to anyone who is fairly hip to the basics I can usually explain our Americana jazz theory and necessary shedding in about 20 minutes." This statement by Dennis, initiated the following conversation that went something like this, presented here in my own words.

If you're cool with the major / relative minor scale pairing and can spell their arpeggios and create the diatonic 7th chords, project these diatonic components as a key center from each of the twelve pitches of the chromatic scale, rote learn and memorizing all of it for rapid recall. As each key is mastered, learn something of it on your instrument by learning a song written in that key all with an eye towards eventually mastering it all.

Once completed, begin a second pass back and examine the relationships of the five non-diatonic pitches and what they each bring to the diatonic key center. Run this through the 12 key centers. This creates what term the 'anything from anywhere' concept.) The rest is the fun part; learning real music to play with those so inclined. That's it. Cool? Throw in the diatonic interval studies, finding 2 and 4 and learning tunes, and that's the whole tamale for now. And thanks Denis for sharing.

One way of learning the jazz theory is by creating simple systems of numbers for a few of our main components. We then have a basis to project the same 'numerical theory' from any of the 12 pitches of the chromatic scale. Once this thinking is solid, it sort of goes kaboom. The trick then becomes to hear the theory in action :)

Two and four. 'At the core of it all is 2 and 4.' I remember hearing that quip and idea somewhere along the way. This of course applies to our Americana way of creating a groove. That there's a swell, accent or heart beat pulse on the 2nd and 4th beats of a measure of 4/4 time, magically initiates the sense of swing in our music.

Two pitch tritone. Living within V7, his two pitch sound is responsible for mucho in our musics. And with two pitches we're thinking some sort of chord, so equal temper tuned pitches. For as the nature of life is partly founded on creating a tension and the timing of its release, the two pitch tritone, three whole tones apart (tri-tone), is the aural 'tension catalyst' that helps create that sense of forward motion towards an arrival in huge swaths of Americana musics.

Its own basic resolution is pretty harmless; simply a double suspension one of which is of the 'amen' variety. What it energizes in theory and resulting sounds is an endless array of potentials based on its unique spark of discord, a 'rub' of one pitch with another, that cores and directs the varied effects we've enjoyed for the last couple of hundred years or so.

Under the lights ~ make the theory go away. Is the author's way of describing really any performance setting. That when we move in front of folks expecting our music, then we are 'under the lights.' Once there, our preparation to perform kicks in and off we go. Music theory, learning music theory and our learning thought process will nearly vanish when under the lights, for now our music becomes art, our expression and sharing for the enjoyment and betterment of all.



Valence (s). The idea of a 'valence' here in Essentials helps us create a visual image of elements revolving around a center. Like the sun and the planets? Exactly. Or like a molecular level view of the universe? Ya mon. The sun is our key center and the planets in orbit various pitches and chord changes whirling in rhythm.

Simply the idea here in our music that we have a center, such as the key of C major, and around that in various rings or valences are orbits of musical components that, depending on how far from the center, have various influences of gravity in the musical / art creative process. We use music theory to sort it all out. This sense of gravity, a force of pull happing in real, measured musical time, helps conjure forth the swing feel that energizes our Americana musics.

The first ring around the center includes the diatonic triads. Second ring adds the 7th to each triad which enables us to think along the lines of chord type and chord substitution. Third ring begins to use stronger cadential components moving from component to component as we make our way through a song's energy cycle. In the fourth valence ring we begin to bring in the non-diatonic pitches which creates the 'rubs of dissonance' and other various tensions in the music. Fifth and beyond can include additional sections of music within the piece and their tonal centers. By the sixth valence we've got our chromatic helmets on and off to tonal points yet to be explored :)

Vanishing the bar lines. In some styles of music we've a way to play our rhythms to make the bar lines disappear from the aural sound of the music. In doing so we create a seamless flow of music to tell our tales. First coming on the scene in the early 80's or so, in a lot of ways it becomes the basis of smooth jazz.

Variety. In the old days variety was termed the 'spice of life.' In these new days variety here is something we can generate with an understanding of music theory. Chord substitution plays a role in this also, creating a variety of ways to solve our musical puzzles. And as we add new pitch elements for variety, we advance our musical style dynamic across a spectrum of styles.

Vibrato. Warming up the sound of a note by warbling or fluctuating its pitch. So we're actually changing the pitch up and down around the center tuning point a wee bit. Vibrato adds our own personal character, a sort of voice inflection, to really any musical line, melody or phrase.

Warm up. Got one? Like anything else we do, when we're warmed up its usually just more fun. While there's lots of ways to do this, eventually we'll each create our own. The suggestion here is to 'warm up' by being musical within measured, musical time time. So find a melody to learn by rote, count yourself in to your metronome and warm up your musical day.

Well crafted songs. This is a purist art idea based on the song in its historical forms and evolutions. Simply that the elements in a well crafted song often includes; an intro, a hook or melody line, chords and a progression, verses of thoughtful, rhyming words that tell a story, a chorus response to the verse, same balance of melodies for either voice or instrumental works, a form and structure, a solid ending to bring conclusion to the piece.

So, that a well crafted song includes all of these elements is what 'in theory only' helps qualify. All this crafting crosses over to commercial success, a big driver in the music biz scene of stardom and beyond. Does a song need all these components for a song to be considered 'well crafted? No, of course not, but by leaning thus we join the ranks of many composers of super generational success who have created well crafted songs.

What if ...? We sense that the theory bug has bitten us when we become symptomatic of the 'what if' and 'why' questions. This simply shows that the person bit is building within themselves a theory structure that is beginning to generate new questions generated from their existing knowledge. Their quest to get to the bottom of things, a fuller understanding of a topic, has begun. That our topic has a basic math to follow and the perfect closure of its letter and numerical elements enables us to begin to sort it all out. And once this process has started, 'what if' and 'why' is simply the natural process of a curious mind.

What is V7 to you? As we move along in our studies and the curiosity with chords begins our searching through their colortones, what we each will aurally accept as a functioning V7 chord helps to shape our evolutions. Style plays the predominant role here, as it tends to define the colortone limits. For the evolving jazz player, what we'll accept and use as V7 can define our level of understanding and our ability to maintain and articulate in music, the balance of tonal gravity, artistic predictability and making sense with our art. Remember when V7b9 was too dissonant? Or using half diminished over V7 in a blues didn't quite make sense?

Art ~ What the theory allows. As we mo

Art ~ What you bring. A

Wind chimes. That a new motif to energize a melody into song can come our way simply through the natural breezes that waft by outdoor wind chimes of our own or the neighbor's homes is simply too good a thing not to mention in this work. Often we just get a few pitches, who's random sounding in a breeze might know no limit to the possibilities of its own creative combinations. For while these same pitches will always ring true, their potential combinations in pitch and rhythm are as unique as you and me.

The whole tamale. The whole tamale is just a slangy fun term and metaphor to view how we fill in the five spaces between the seven diatonic root pitches, their triads and color tones. We do this in a totallly linear fashion by starting with One and working up through the diatonic steps to the octave closure of Eight. Along the way we use a diminished triad or sometimes even a fully diminished 7th chord, on each of the remaining five steps. Each becomes a catalyst chord that gets us not only to the next diatonic step but suggests new tonal destinations beyond as well.

Further study takes apart each of these fully diminished 7th chords in their common de-evolution into V7 chords, from their we look for parent scales, modes and really all of the possibilities that V7 might generate. Sifting through the possibilities we look for the coolness that might be the next piece in one of the puzzles of music we're working on.

Along the way in cooking up the whole tamale we bump into the Americana common practice; those re-occuring colors we often find in the same spots in various styles. We also try the whole tone / augmented colors in each of the five non diatonic spots, and if lucky enough to find some coolness, can then use a whole tone filter to further explore.

Really just looking for complete closure, arms around the resource. See where each of our styles locates on which ones of the seven diatonic pitches. And discover aspects of the remaining five to jazz up our art. What we gain is a source for possible pieces to solve our musical puzzles, in whatever form they may take.

Shedding ~ the whole tamale. In this exercise, the idea of 'shedding whole tamale' falls under the aegis of the jazz styling; using scales, arpeggios and chords to work step by step through the seven diatonic positions while visiting the five spots in between with various colors along the way.

Written down. In our Americana music, there's a rather high degree of improvisation in creating the music in performance. The idea of writing things down is simply a way to designate between the two. So is a worked out, written down solo not an improvised solo? Or is writing down and rote learning a solo for performance a way to create the best possible ride for that composition? Sure works for the classical musicians among us :)

Your own art and journey. By being determined, patient and steadfast, we can turn your own natural curiosities into a lifelong love of learning about music. A magical sort of love that can always be a part of our world to be conjured to the present right here and now simply by clapping our hands. For we've a vast historical and evolutionary puzzle of seemingly endless pieces to assemble each in our own fashions, which we can weave into a musical life and live in a musical world.

So what sort of music do you want to create? Songs for and reflecting the everyday working life? Like the Americana bluesy work songs of old but maybe with a bit of the modern urban grittyness too? Or to create 'social' music in any style that all can fold into 'Americana pop songs', telling important stories or not as the case might be, that gets folks together and up dancing to create local community energized by your grooves?

Or is your music an expression of your sacred beliefs and deepest spiritual understandings of your universe, reflecting the deepest core of your challenges in life? Is your artistry more reflective of the world at large; that your musical works are aural captures of stories reflecting the times in which you live, energized by the rhythms and pitches which hold the essence of a moment in historical time? To take others along on the coolness you've imagined in music?

"Always think different from the next person. Don't ever do a song as you heard somebody else do it."

wiki ~ Otis Redding

So maybe reflect a bit here about art, your art, your place in the art world and where you want it to go. Then do what you need to do to go there. In the old days they'd say ... 'all roads lead to Rome.' Well it's sort of the same with our music theory. That since the same pitches create all of the styles, their components and thus the art, we can start, explore and master one area of interest. Thus strengthened, we then apply these abilities to mastering other aspects of our art. For all applies somehow to all. And as our muse evolves over the decades, we have an inner intellectual basis to begin to untangle whatever mysteries come along. We also have some chops to bring it all to aural fruition to shape with all the world. For all journey's begin with one step.

This last entry of a rather long page of verbiage also asks the reader to decide enough about where they are going artistically at the moment to find a foothold and begin working on their creative, with or without the theory. For it is in the process of doing that learning so often occurs. So let it begin.

"Excellence is a habit. How well we do the job at hand often determines what opportunities will follow."


Phil Peterson

(1) Isacoff, Stuart. Temperament ... The Idea That Solved Music's Greatest Riddle, p. 40-42. USA Alfred A. Knopf, New York. 2001
(2)Aebersold, Jamey and Slone, Ken. The Charlie Parker Omnibook. New York: Atlantic Music Corp., 1978.
(3) Ottman, Robert. Elementary Harmony, Second Edition. New Jersey: Prentice-Hall, 1970
4) Ottman, Robert. Elementary Harmony, Second Edition. New Jersey: Prentice-Hall, 1970


(1) Isacoff, Stuart. Temperament ... The Idea That Solved Music's Greatest Riddle, p. 40-42. USA Alfred A. Knopf, New York. 2001