200 + 1 Guitarists – by Mike Overly

October 30, 2014

Guitar ImageGuitar is such an amazing instrument if for no other reason than it is found in virtually every genre and style of music. This list of 200 guitarists proves that!

Simply stated, genre is a category and style is a sub-category. For example, rock is a genre and heavy metal is a style. The following 200 acoustic and electric guitarists are included on this list because of their importance in the world of music and guitar. Importances which include: innovation, influence, impact on other players, respect from other players, as well as legendary status, notoriety and fame. They are included here because of their creativity, technical prowess, versatility, and depth of musical knowledge. All of these listed guitarists express tremendous performing skills and some also exhibit remarkable composing talent. They all share vitality, originality and energy, and most exhibit heightened improvisational skills. The overall effect these 200 guitarist have had on shaping the world of music and guitar is reason enough for you to give them a listen!
The order of this list is arbitrary and not hierarchical. In other words, there is no number one guitarist because no guitarist is better than another. They are just different. Said another way: just like snowflakes, no two guitarist are alike, each one is unique.

1. Andres Segovia (classical)
2. Django Reinhardt (jazz)
3. Chet Atkins, (country)
4. Jimi Hendrix (rock)
5. Paco de Lucia (flamenco)
6. Agustin Barrios Mangore (classical)
7. Ramon Montoya (flamenco)
8. Julian Bream (classical)
9. Charlie Christian (jazz)
10. B.B. King (blues)
11. T-Bone Walker (blues)
12. Merle Travis (country)
13. Wes Montgomery (jazz)
14. John Williams (classical)
15. Michael Hedges (contemporary finger-style)
16. Lonnie Johnson (blues)
17. Eddie Lang (jazz)
18. Lenny Breau (jazz)
19. John McLaughlin (fusion, jazz)
20. Joe Pass (jazz)
21. Sabicas (flamenco)
22. Blind Blake (ragtime, blues)
23. Robert Johnson (blues)
24. John Fahey (folk finger-style)
25. Davey Graham (folk finger-style)
26. Doc Watson (folk)
27. Danny Gatton (rockabilly)
28. Adrian Legg (contemporary finger-style)
29. Narciso Yepes (classical)
30. Laurindo Almeida (brazilian)
31. Les Paul (jazz)
32. Christopher Parkening (classical)
33. Pat Metheny (fusion, jazz)
34. Sol Ho’opi’i (hawaiian slide guitar)
35. Jeff Beck (rock)
36. Eddie Van Halen (rock)
37. Ritchie Blackmore (rock)
38. Alexandre Lagoya and Ida Presti (classical)
39. Phil Keaggy (christian rock, contemporary finger-style)
40. Allan Holdsworth (fusion)
41. Baden Powell (brazilian)
42. Nino Ricardo (flamenco)
43. George Van Eps (jazz)
44. Jim Hall (jazz)
45. Ed Bickert (jazz)
46. Kenny Burrell (jazz)
47. Franco (soukous, rumba)
48. Carlos Paredes (fado)
49. Freddie Green (jazz)
50. Eric Clapton (rock, blues)
51. Jimmy Page (rock)
52. Albert King (blues)
53. Hank Garland (country, jazz)
54. Chuck Berry (rock)
55. Tommy Emmanuel (contemporary finger-style)
56. Leo Kottke (contemporary finger-style)
57. Tony Iommi (rock)
58. King Bennie Nawahi (hawaiian)
59. Enver Izmailov (fusion)
60. Stanley Jordan (jazz, fusion)
61. Robert Fripp (avant-garde, rock)
62. Oscar Moore (jazz)
63. Ernest Ranglin (ska, jazz)
64. Gabby Pahinui (hawaiian slack key)
65. Vishwa Mohan Bhatt (indian)
66. Johnny Smith (jazz)
67. Roy Buchanan (country blues/rock)
68. Bill Frisell (fusion, jazz)
69. Manuel Barrueco (classical)
70. Kazuhito Yamashita (classical)
71. Jimmy Bryant (country, jazz)
72. Duane Allman (rock, blues)
73. James Burton (rockabilly)
74. Freddie King (blues)
75. Elmore James (blues)
76. Earl Hooker (blues)
77. Juanjo Dominguez (tango)
78. Roberto Grela (tango)
79. Mother Maybelle Carter (country)
80. Stevie Ray Vaughan (blues)
81. Steve Vai (rock)
82. Yngwie Malmsteen (rock)
83. Steve Morse (rock)
84. Eric Johnson (rock)
85. Tony Rice (bluegrass)
86. Bola Sete (brazilian)
87. Richard Thompson ( folk)
88. John Renbourn ( folk)
89. Bert Jansch ( folk)
90. Buddy Guy (blues)
91. Steve Cropper (r&b, blues)
92. Robert White/Joe Messina/Eddie Willis (r&b)
93. Scotty Moore (rockabilly)
94. Barney Kessel (jazz)
95. Tal Farlow (jazz)
96. Jimmy Raney (jazz)
97. Howard Roberts (jazz)
98. George Benson (jazz, soul)
99. Debashish Bhattacharya (indian)
100. Ry Cooder (blues, slide)
101. Roy Nichols (country)
102. Brian May (rock)
103. Carlos Santana (rock)
104. David Gilmour (rock)
105. Jan Akkerman (rock)
106. Larry Carlton (fusion)
107. Larry Coryell (fusion, jazz)
108. Al DiMeola (fusion)
109. Steve Howe (rock)
110. Shawn Lane (fusion)
111. Joe Satriani (rock)
112. Rev. Gary Davis (ragtime, blues)
113. Derek Bailey (avant-garde)
114. Sonny Sharrock (jazz, avant-garde)
115. Sonny Greenwich (jazz, avant-garde)
116. James Blood Ulmer (jazz, avant-garde)
117. Pepe Romero (classical)
118. Angel Romero (classical)
119. Carlos Montoya (flamenco)
120. Martin Taylor (jazz)
121. Alirio Diaz (classical)
122. David Russell (classical)
123. Sandy Bull (folk)
124. Koo Nimo (highlife)
125. Paulinho Nogueira (brazilian)
126. Grant Green (jazz, soul)
127. Diblo Dibala (soukous)
128. Doctor Nico (soukous)
129. Paul Galbraith (classical)
130. Mario Escudero (flamenco)
131. Joe Maphis (country)
132. Luiz Bonfa (brazilian)
133. Pat Martino (jazz)
134. Steve Hackett (rock)
135. John Abercrombie (fusion)
136. Ralph Towner (fusion)
137. John Scofield (jazz, fusion)
138. Otis Rush (blues)
139. Melchor de Marchena (flamenco)
140. Brent Mason (country)
141. Oscar Aleman (jazz)
142. Goran Sollscher (classical)
143. Eliot Fisk (classical)
144. Marcel Dadi (contemporary finger-style)
145. Pierre Bensusan (contemporary finger-style)
146. Bob Brozman (blues, hawaiian, folk)
147. Ledward Ka’apana (hawaiian slack key)
148. Pete Townshend (rock)
149. Robbie Basho (folk finger-style)
150. Manolo Sanlucar (flamenco)
151. Serranito (flamenco)
152. Albert Lee (country)
153. Sharon Isbin (classical)
154. Randy Rhoads (rock)
155. Alex Lifeson (rock)
156. Gary Moore (rock, blues)
157. Mike Bloomfield (blues, rock)
158. Mark Knopfler (rock)
159. Johnny Guitar Watson (blues)
160. Carlos Barbosa-Lima (brazilian, classical)
161. Charlie Byrd (jazz, brazilian)
162. Lonnie Mack (rock, blues)
163. Dick Dale (rock)
164. Link Wray (rock)
165. EK Nyame (highlife)
166. Big Bill Broonzy (blues)
167. Roy Lanham (country)
168. Scotty Anderson (country)
169. Jimmy Nolen (funk)
170. Clarence White (country)
171. Jerry Reed (country)
172. Roy Clark (country)
173. Grady Martin (country)
174. Albert Collins (blues)
175. George Harrison (rock)
176. Keith Richards (rock)
177. Eldon Shamblin (western swing)
178. Johnny Winter (blues)
179. Jerry Garcia (rock)
180. Henry Kaiser (avant-garde)
181. Eugene Chadbourne (avant-garde)
182. Alex Konadu (highlife)
183. Marty Friedman (rock)
184. Uli Jon Roth (rock)
185. Michael Schenker (rock)
186. Preston Reed (contemporary finger-style)
187. Herb Ellis (jazz)
188. Mike Stern (jazz, fusion)
189. Junior Brown (country)
190. Terje Rypdal (fusion)
191. Blind Lemon Jefferson (blues)
192. Alvin Lee (rock)
193. Peter Green (blues, rock)
194. Eddie Hazel (rock)
195. Vinnie Moore (rock)
196. Fred Frith (avant-garde)
197. Vicente Amigo (flamenco)
198. Martin Simpson (celtic)
199. Tommy Tedesco (jazz, classical, rock)
200. Blind Willie Johnson (blues)
201. Frank Zappa (psychedelic rock)

This list just scratches the surface, so, consider it as a place to begin. Remember, there are many more excellent players for you to discover. And who knows, maybe next time your name will be on the list.’til then, play and have fun no matter what genre or style you play… I’ll be listening!

Image by Lindi Levison

Mental Fun is Fundamental (Harmonics on the 4 String Bass) – by Mike Overly

October 23, 2014

HarmonicsSimply stated, the fundamental is the lowest and loudest frequency of a single string vibrating as a whole. It is the pitch by which we identify the letter name of the root, which is also known as the tone 1 scale degree. In Physics, a node is the exact point on a vibrating string where there is no vibration and therefore no sound! On the bass, the nut and the bridge are nodes.

Ratio is the relationship between the length of one whole string to the number of equal parts that it can be divided into. For example, a one-to-two ratio (1:2 ratio) means that one whole string has been divided into two equal parts. Now, if we consider the fundamental to be one string vibrating as one part, that would be a one-to-one relationship or a 1:1 ratio. This 1:1 ratio is also known as a unison interval. For this lesson, our fundamental reference frequency will be E, tone 1 at the nut and bridge of string 4.

Harmonics, also called overtones or partials, are higher frequencies produced by the vibrations of a string divided into any number of equal parts. Harmonics occur because strings not only vibrate as a whole, but they also vibrate in parts or fractions such as halves, thirds, fourths, fifths and so on. Now, whenever a fundamental is sounded, on any instrument whether it is sung, plucked, struck, blown or bowed, there is an entire harmonic series of frequencies that naturally vibrate with it at the same time. This harmonic series is a specific order of frequencies that climb like a ladder through a predictable series of intervals. And each harmonic step of the ladder is a precise multiple of the fundamental frequency.

Let’s begin with octave harmonics, which divide the string into an even number of equal parts:
Harmonic 3

Bass Harmonics Fretboard



Notice that tone 8, the 1st harmonic, is a 1:2 ratio that is produced by dividing the string into two equal parts directly over the 12th fret node. The node  is the exact point that divides the string into equal parts. This forces the string to vibrate twice as fast as the tone 1 fundamental and to sound one octave higher in pitch, tone 8.  Also notice that the same harmonic may be sounded on each side of the 12th fret: the nut side or the bridge side. For example: tone 15, the 3rd harmonic, may be sounded directly over both fret 5 and fret 24 because both frets are the same distance from the 12th fret! Also, notice that some of the harmonics occur directly above frets while other harmonics are in-between the frets or fractions such as 1/4. The reason for this has to do with just temperament, mean temperament and equal temperament, but that’s another lesson.

To produce a loud and clear harmonic on your bass, touch the string very lightly at the node. Do not push the string down toward the fret. Strike the string near the bridge with force. The string will then vibrate in smaller equal parts and this will produce the sound of the harmonic. New strings and perfect intonation, an adjustment at the bridge which assures that fret 12 is at the exact middle of the string, will also help. Be sure to quickly lift your finger off the string after sounding the harmonic, so that you don’t dampen the vibrating string.

Now, let’s discover some of the other harmonics that are between the octave harmonics:
Harmonic 4

Bass Harmonics 2



Tone 12, which is tone 5 in the second octave, is the 2nd harmonic and has a 2:3 ratio that is produced by dividing the string into three equal parts directly above the fret 7 node. Fret 7 is 1/3 of the strings length. Since it is impossible for a string to vibrate in two unequal parts, the remaining 2/3’s of the string divides itself in half which produces three equal string lengths or parts!

As long as you continue to divide the string into smaller and smaller equal parts, an ever higher and higher series of harmonics will be produced. The sounds of which will be limited only by your strings, hearing and technique. Some harmonics are easy to play, others take more practice.

The important idea to take away from all this, is that the individual timbre (tam-burr) or tone quality of your bass results from the presents or absence of particular harmonics and their relative volumes. It is this balance between the fundamental and its harmonics that makes one bass sound different from another, even when the fundamental pitch they play is the same. In other words, no two basses, no matter how similar, have the same blend of harmonics or the same tone. Each bass is unique!

To learn more about the Bass, please visit: http://www.12tonemusic.com/bass/facts/

Image © C.Chris Peters 2010

Words and Terms of Music, Bass and Musician – by Mike Overly

October 16, 2014

Music GlossaryA glossary is an alphabetical list of words and terms about a specific subject, followed by their definition. A glossary is like a brief dictionary. Always remember, a words definition can change over time!

In ancient Greece, glossa meant: a word or term which needed to be defined or explained. Then, around 1550, glossa’s meaning change to: the definition or explanation of a difficult word or term. And, as we all know, if it’s difficult ~ it’s probably important. Over time, glossa was shortened to gloss, and today gloss means: to define, explain, interpret, translate, or paraphrase a word or term.

Ary derives from the Medieval Latin, aris meaning: belonging to, and arius  meaning: connected with. So, gloss (words and terms) + ary (belonging to music and connected with the bass) = glossary.

Abridged means: not complete, and since every word and term used to communicate music, bass and musician can’t be listed, let’s discover a few words and terms taken from the Tone Note® Music Method for Bass Book 1 to get you started.

Ability – capable of technique, skill
Accidentals – natural, flat and sharp signs
Again – more than one time, repeat
Analog – does not stop, continuous, connected from the beginning to the end
Anchor Finger – the left hand finger that is connected to the key letter; form
Arpeggio – harmony of three or more different letters sounded one at a time
Attention – conscious of perceiving only one
Audition – hearing, listening, or, a music competition
Aware(ness) – conscious of perceiving more than one

Bass – instrument of 4, 5 or 6 strings and 12 frets in one octave, low frequency
Beat – a steady counted pulse, tempo, rhythm
Beginning – where you should start
B.P.M. – beats per minute, steady and even tempo, metronome mark
Bridge – bass part opposite the nut, or, a song part that connects the verse to the chorus

Change – to become something different, variable
Chorus – song part that usually states the title
Chromatic – flat and sharp, not natural
Clock – steady and regular 60 beats per minute, does not change
Choose – using reason to decide “which one”; logic, philosophy, mind
Chord – harmony of three or more different letters sounded at the same time
Coda – ending, stop
Combine – to add, join or link together
Count – give beat numbers to a steady pulse, meter, time signature

Diagonal – 45 degree angle, slanted line
Different – not the same, variation, enharmonic
Digital – not connected, discrete, separated, fraction, fragment
Dimension: measurement,
1st dimension – width, 1D, how wide something is, interval
2nd dimension – height, 2D, how high something is, treble
3rd dimension – depth, 3D, how deep something is, bass
4th dimension – time, 4D, how much space is between two sounds, motion, rhythm
Down – right hand strum, low to high pitch, thick string to thin string, stroke or ghost
Duration – the length of time a sound or silence lasts, rhythm

End – the opposite of start at the beginning, coda, stop
Enharmonic – same sound, different symbol
Even – regular, equal, same, no variation
Exponential – two or more ideas or thoughts multiplied by each other

Flat Sign – not natural or sharp, one fret lower from any letter or tone number
Fine – the place between the beginning and the end of a song that the music is finished
Form – pattern created by the placement the musician’s anchor finger on a bass string, fraction
Fraction – a part or a piece, the disconnected and separated form, not the whole
Fragment – fraction of a fraction, a part or a piece of a form
Fret – vertical metal strip on the bass fretboard
Fret Zero – the sound at the nut played by using a left hand finger
Frequency – the number of vibrations per second, oscillation, pitch
Fundamental – tone 1, scale degree 1, root, tonic

Genre – categories such as: rock, blues, jazz, classical, etc.
Ghost Strum – a right hand motion, down or up, which does not make sound

Half-Step – interval of one fret
Harmony – interval, arpeggio or chord, letter or numeral symbol
Hearing – touching at a distance, listening, audition
Holistic – connected fragments and form fractions, not the whole
Horizontal – east and west, sideways, bass strings

Idea  – the knowledge that thought carries, theory, mind
Improvise – free to choose,”variable, reason, mind
Interlude – play in the middle, usually between the chorus and the verse
Interval – distance or difference between two sounds or symbols
Isotonic – one sound with one location on the fretboard
Isotonic Thinking – one thought with one idea, theory, mind

Key – the letter of tone 1Key Letter – the letter of tone 1, scale degree 1, root, fundamental or tonic
Key Signature – the letters of tones 1 through 7; key plus signature
Key Tone – tone 1, scale degree 1, root, fundamental or tonic
Knowledge – that which is learned as an idea, carried back to the thinker as thought, mind

Layer – one in front of the other, music symbols seen on the bass fretboard
Learn – understand, comprehend, memorize and remember, mind
Left Hand – finger numbers 1 2 3 4, which fret the strings
Letter – first music symbol of pitch
Lick – a tone row of high sounds, 2D
Listening – awareness and attention to sound, more than just hearing
Location – the string and fret “place” of a pitch on the bass fretboard, position
Logic – thoughts and ideas “in-order,” using reasoning to “choose,” philosophy, mind

Mark – written symbol or sign; rhythm symbol of harmony
Measure – group of beats set by the meter, time signature
Meter – to measure, number of beats per bar or measure, top number of the time signature
Metronome – variable clock, steady and even pulse, tempo, bpm
Metronome Mark – beats per minute number, tempo, time
Melody – in-order scale played out of order, sounds one at a time that can’t be changed
Mind – musician, location of the “thought carries idea” process, theory, thinking, philosophy
Modulate – change the letter of tone 1 for only a part of the song
Music – Art: sound of Nature, artificial: sound of man, artifact: recording of man’s sound
Musician – the one who thinks music symbols to play music’s sound, mind

Natural Sign- not flat or sharp, the original 7 letters and tone numbers
Note – rhythm symbol of duration, connected to a tone number or placed on the staff
Number – numeric symbol for place and order
Numeral – third symbol of pitch, numeric symbol of harmony which indicates type
Numeric – the word, number and numeral for place or order: one, 1, I
Nut –  part of the bass opposite the bridge, turned into fret zero or open by the musician

Octave – the same letter 12 frets apart, a first octave tone number plus 7 (1+7=8, 2+7=9, etc.)
Open – the sound at the nut not played by a left hand finger
Order – in or out of place, numeric
Oscillation – a single swing in one direction of a bass string, vibration, frequency, pitch

Pattern  – a group of things; letter pattern, tone pattern, rhythm pattern
Perform(ance) – the result of practice, playing for others, technique, skill
Philosophy – thinking about thinking, choice, logic, reason, mind
Pick – a plectrum held by the right hand to strum the strings
Pitch – frequency, vibration, oscillation, letter, number, numeral and staff
Place – string and fret location on the bass fretboard, position
Play – will, ability, technique, skill
Position – a four-fret and 4, 5 or 6 string area on the bass fretboard; location, place
Practice – repetition which leads to performance, technique, skill
Process – the analog flow of thought and idea, theory, mind
Pulse – a “sound in time” that is not a beat because it is not counted

Reason(ing) – method used to decide what to choose,”logic, philosophy, mind
Re – again, one more time
Refer – to bring the answer back to the question
Regular – equal distant, steady and even like a clock, metronome, tempo, rhythm, bpm
Repeat – more than one time, a music sign meaning to do again
Represent – present the sound again as symbol; letter, tone number, numeral, staff-note
Result  – a consequence or outcome
reWrite® – to convert staff-note into tone number to create
Tone Note® Rhythm – beat plus notes or marks, two or more analog patterns at the same time
Riff – a tone row of low sounds
Right Hand – finger letters: T i m a c, which strum the strings
Root – tone 1, scale degree 1, fundamental, tonic, key tone or key letter

Same – not different, no variation
Separated – digital, fragment, form fraction
Scale – in-order sounds connect by steps; half-step (one fret) and whole-step (two frets)
Scale Degree – numeric tone number; also used to locate harmony numeral
Sharp Sign – not natural or flat, one fret higher from any letter or tone number
Sign – a call to action, tells you to do something, direction
Signature – what something is, key signature, time signature
Similar – to share somethings but not all
Skill – ability and technique, practice, perform
Stack – one above the other, time signature
Staff – 5 horizontal parallel lines, pitch as letters, not TAB
Staff Note – a connection of a rhythm note with a staff letter
Start – the best place to begin, there are many places to start but only one beginning
Steady – regular and even like a clock, tempo, beat, metronome
Steps – half step (one fret) and whole step (two frets), interval
Stop – at the end, coda
Strings – Bass has 4, 5 or 6
Stroke – a right hand strum down or up which makes sound
Strum – a right hand motion down or up; stroke or ghost
Style – a sub-category of a genre, such as: classic rock, smooth jazz, heavy metal, etc.
Symbol – represents sound as: letter, number, numeral, note, etc.

TAB – 4, 5 or 6 horizontal parallel lines (bass strings) with “layered” fret numbers, not staff
Technique – skill and ability, gets better over time; repeat, practice, perform
Tempo – rate of speed (slow or fast) of the steady beat, bpm, metronome mark
Theme – the original melody or “tone row”
Theory – to think, thought connected to idea, mind
Think(ing) – process of connecting thought with idea, awareness and attention
Thought – carries an idea (knowledge) back to the thinker; refer, theory, mind
Tie – a “curved line” that “connects” sound (tones and notes); silence (rests) do not get tied
Time – rhythm, motion, when a sound or silence occurs, pulse, beat, tempo, count
Time Signature – meter and value numbers “stacked” one above the other
Tonic – tone 1, scale degree, fundamental, root
Tone Note® – the connection of a rhythm note with a tone number
Tone Number – second music symbol of pitch, scale degree
Tone Row – series of connected pitches as tone numbers; melody, lick, riff, etc.
Transpose – change the key of the entire song
Treble – high frequency
Type – what kind of scale, arpeggio or chord; major, minor, whole tone, etc.

Unison – the same sound in more than one location on the bass fretboard
Unison Thinking – one thought with two or more ideas
Up – right hand strum, high to low pitch, thin string to thick string; stroke or ghost

Value – one beat, bottom number of the time signature, note that gets one beat changes
Variation – to change the original, different, not the same
Variable – able to change; metronome, improvise
Verse – song part that tells the story
Vertical – north and south, up and down; nut, bridge and frets
Vibration – repeated back and forth motion, oscillation, frequency, pitch

Whole – all, complete, undifferentiated fragments, forms fractions; not separated
Whole Step – interval of two frets,
Will – self directed action behind thought and idea, play

Zero – the number 0 before 1, as in fret zero, not the letter O as in open

Congratulations, you now have the necessary vocabulary to begin playing music on your Bass!

’til next time, begin having some vocabulary fun with your new found glossary ~ I’ll be listening . . . http://www.12tonemusic.com/bass/tonenote/

Hand Positions for Guitar – Vintage Video Lesson with Mike Overly

October 9, 2014

Mike Overly GuitarHand Position is one of the most important and least understood aspects of playing guitar.

In this vintage video, presented by GRAMMY®-Nominated Music Educator Mike Overly and recorded in 1996, you will gain valuable insight into important right and left-hand techniques that will enable you to play guitar with much greater comfort and efficiency.

Click here to watch the video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kvtJqmymE_U

Be sure to join Mike at www.12tonemusic.com to explore and expand your knowledge of guitar through a variety of information including: reviews and interviews, tips and tricks, and free lessons of remarkable originality.

Copyright ©2014, 12 Tone Music Publishing LLC, All Rights Reserved.

Improve Your Improvisation – by Mike Overly

October 2, 2014

Improv SignHere is something surprising. Even if you know the key signature of a song, you still don’t know what key you are in. This is because one key signature represents two keys: one major key and one relative minor key. And even after analyzing a song to determine the correct key, you might not be able to improvise. This is because you still need to know what scale to play. As we will learn in this lesson, that’s not always an easy choice to make.

Let’s begin with a traditional definition of improvise, also known as extemporize. Improvise is the creative activity of immediate, in the moment, musical composition. Improvisation combines spontaneous theoretical and technical actions coupled with the communication of feelings and emotions. Improvisation may also include immediate responses to other musicians. Individual musical ideas of improvisation are united on the ground of shared harmonic changes, called chords. And because improvisation is a performative action, which depends on instrumental technique, a major component of improvisation is skill. It’s important to remember that there are musicians who have never improvised, and there are other musicians who have devoted their entire lives to improvisation.

In contrast to the above complex definition, I simply define improvise as: free to choose. By this I mean, the improvisational musician is free to choose any scale or mode that they think sounds good with any chord harmony. For this lesson, let’s simply define a mode as an altered scale. Now, what’s important to remember is that the improvisor is the authority. The improvisor plays what sHe likes, to express how sHe feels!

Improvisational music of “uncertainty” differs from traditional music of “certainty” in that improvisational music enfolds, whereas traditional music unfolds. By that I mean, traditional music begins with one scale which unfolds into many chords with certainty, whereas, improvisational music begins with one chord that enfolds many scales with uncertainty.

With this elementary beginning, we can now understand that improvisational music is the enfolding of one chord into many scales and modes. In other words, improvisation is the traditional unfolding music process reversed in an enfolded retrograde manner. Said in a different way, in traditional music the scale is known first and from that known scale you spell the harmony. In contrast, in improvisational music the harmony is known first and then you are free to choose any scale or mode that you feel sounds good with that harmony. Remember, the choice is always yours.

There are many, many scales and modes that may be played with any given chord. For example, a major chord triad contains the scale degree tone numbers 1 3 5, and any scale or mode that contains these tone numbers may be played. However, don’t forget, this is just a beginning, as there are no right or wrong sounds in improvisation – there are only sounds that you like. Said one more time, as an improvisor, you are free to choose any scale or mode you wish ~ it’s all about you!

The following are a few of the many scales and modes that you may choose to play with the major chord, tones 1 3 5 (one, three, five). At first, a scale or mode may sound unfamiliar and weird to you, that’s okay, just keep playing until that scale or mode becomes familiar. At that point, you will begin to “like it” and begin incorporating it into your improvisation.

Major pentatonic: 1 2 3 5 6
Scriabin: 1 b2 3 5 6
East Indian: 1 3 4 5 b7
Ionian mode: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7
Lydian mode: 1 2 3 #4 5 6 7
Mixolydian mode: 1 2 3 4 5 6 b7
Melodic minor lydian mode: 1 2 3 #4 5 6 b7
Melodic minor mixolydian mode: 1 2 3 4 5 b6 b7
Harmonic minor aeolian mode: 1 #2 3 #4 5 6 7
Hungarian major: 1 #2 3 #4 5 6 b7
Byzantine: 1 b2 3 4 5 b6 7
Hundusian: 1 2 3 4 5 b6 b7
Octotonic hybrid: 1 2 3 4 b5 5 6 7
Symmetric hybrid: 1 b2 b3 3 b5 5 6 b7
Novem hybrid: 1 2 3 4 b5 5 6 b7 7
Taurus hybrid: 1 b2 b3 3 4 5 #5 6 7
OverMoto hybrid: 1 b2 2 3 4 b5 5 b6 6 b7 7

This same improvisational approach may be applied to the minor chord, tones 1 b3 5 (one, flat three, five).

Minor pentatonic: 1 b3 4 5 b7
Balinese: 1 b2 b3 5 b6
Japanese Hiro-Joshi: 1 2 b3 5 b6
Hawaiian: 1 2 b3 5 6
Scriabin minor: 1 b2 b3 5 6
Dorian mode: 1 2 b3 4 5 6 b7
Phrygian mode: 1 b2 b3 4 5 b6 b7
Melodic minor ionian mode: 1 2 b3 4 5 6 7
Melodic minor dorian mode: 1 b2 b3 4 5 6 b7
Harmonic minor ionian mode: 1 2 b3 4 5 b6 7
Harmonic minor lydian mode: 1 2 b3 #4 5 6 b7
Natural minor ionian mode: 1 2 b3 4 5 b6 b7
Natural minor lydian mode: 1 2 b3 4 5 6 b7
Natural minor mixolydian mode: 1 b2 b3 4 5 b6 b7
Neopolitan minor: 1 b2 b3 4 5 b6 7
Hungarian minor: 1 2 b3 #4 5 b6 7
Moroccan: 1 2 b3 #4 5 b6 b7
Romanian: 1 2 b3 #4 5 6 b7
Taurus hybrid: 1 b2 b3 3 4 5 #5 6 7

And finally, this improvisational approach may be applied to the suspended chord, tones 1 #3 5 (one, sharp three, five).

Scriabin: 1 b2 #3 5 6
Japanese Kumoi-Joshi: 1 b2 #3 5 b6
Japanese Kokin-Joshi: 1 b2 #3 5 b7
Korea Ujo: 1 2 #3 5 6
Egyptian: 1 2 #3 5 b7
Korea P’yongjo: 1 2 #3 5 6 b7
Pacific suspended: 1 2 #3 #4 5 6 b7
Lydian suspended: 1 2 #3 #4 5 6 7
Morollian: 1 2 #3 #4 5 b6 b7
Tarrian: 1 #2 #3 #4 5 6 7
Sharno: 1 b2 #3 #4 5 b6 b7
Diamond suspended: 1 b2 #3 #4 5 6 7
Enigmatic hybrid: 1 b2 #3 #4 5 #5 #6 7
Romanian suspended: 1 2 #3 #4 5 6 b7
Belmontian hybrid: 1 b2 2 #3 b5 5 b6 6 b7 7

As was said earlier, there are many more scales and modes that may be learned and applied to chords, so, be sure to study pages 296 and 297 of Guitar EncycloMedia to discover other choices. http://www.12tonemusic.com/guitar/encyclomedia/

‘til next time, have some improvisational fun, no matter what chord you’re playing… I’ll be listening!


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