The Process of Learning by Mike Overly

September 25, 2014

Mike Overly Custom Schaefer GuiatrA few months ago I asked my students to list ten questions they had about playing music and the guitar. I thought that the vast majority of questions would overlap and I could make a simple top ten list. But guess what?  Nobody asked exactly the same question. What I learned from this random sample of guitar players of all ages, levels and styles is that like snowflakes, no two musicians playing the guitar are alike, each one is unique!

Here are a few of their questions:   

Why is there a nut?
How do I make a solo sound interesting?
How do I tune by ear?
What are some common blues turnarounds?
What does modulation mean?
What is a triad and how many are there?
Which is easier to play, electric or acoustic?
What are inversions?
What is alternate tuning?
What does a whammy bar do?
Why are there two dots on fret 12?
Is learning to read music important?
How much should I practice each day?
How do I know what key I’m in?
How do I overcome nervousness when performing?
What is a power chord?
What is the definition of enharmonic?
What is a moderately slow shuffle?
What are flat wound strings?

And finally, how can you play lots of songs on the guitar if there are only six strings? This last question reminds us that there are no stupid questions – only stupid answers!

Now, even though these students didn’t ask the same questions, the questions they did ask fell into three broad categories which are sometimes hard to separate: music theory, guitar theory and the musician.

Simply stated, theory is what and how we think about music and the guitar, and technique is skill or, how well we play. In other words, we play what we think and we think what we’ve learned. Now, if playing is the result of learning, and learning is the result of questions answered, then how exactly do we learn? The easy answer is: slowly at the speed of thought, transforming understanding into knowledge, in order to practice. Practice is simply the repetition of what we’ve learned until we can play what we’ve practiced at a steady performance tempo. Tempo is the rate of speed of the steady beat. Said a different way, we learn, then practice, and then play.

So, what are we going to learn?

Basically, we learn three important concepts:

1. What to play: scales, arpeggios and chords, and how to apply them,
2. When to play what we’ve learned: time as rhythm, and
3. How  to play what we’ve learned: dynamics and techniques, such as bend, slide, etc..

Future lessons will go into greater detail about the “what, when and how” of music and the guitar, but for now, let’s answer one of the student’s questions: What is the definition of enharmonic?  
Enharmonic is “the same pitch” but not the same letter or scale degree tone number. For example, G sharp (G#) sounds the same as A flat (Ab), however, in the key of C major, G# is tone sharp 5 (#5), whereas Ab is flat six (b6). As you can see, the letter and scale degree tone number of any pitch is determined by the key you’re in, but that’s another question.

So, ’til next time, I invite all of you to send me your questions, or answers, which in turn will generate even more questions and answers. This is our dialogue ~ this is the Process of Learning.

http://www.12tonemusic.com

Guitar Image: Mike Overly Custom by Ed Schaefer Guitars.


Harmony Symbolism – by Mike Overly

May 1, 2014

Harmony Symbol Three TypesThere are many systems used to notate harmony, whether that harmony is an interval, an arpeggio, or a chord. For example, orchestral music uses staff notation, harmonic analysis uses Roman numerals, and the Baroque era used figured bass. However, the most popular harmony symbol used in today’s music is the macro symbol, more simply known as a “chord symbol.”

Simply stated, a harmony symbol consists of two parts: the Letter of the harmony and the Type. And although these symbols are seldom used in classical music, they are universally used to specify the harmony of popular music as found in fake books, lead sheets and chord charts. Therefore, a clear and simple understanding of harmony symbolization is essential.

A quick internet search of harmony symbol notation will present you with an overwhelming amount of confusing, incomplete and, dare I say it, wrong information. So, let’s clean the slate, start at the beginning and discover that harmony notation isn’t overwhelming or confusing at all.

For the examples used in this lesson, we will use the C major scale. Let’s begin by presenting the C major scale as seven letters and seven tone numbers, also known as scale degrees. In the first octave they are 1 C, 2 D, 3 E, 4 F, 5 G, 6 A, 7 B. In the second octave they become 8 C, 9 D, 10 E, 11 F, 12 G, 13 A, 14 B. Now, the first thing we need to realize about harmony is that harmony begins with one sound! To many this just doesn’t seem correct, but it is.

Think of it this way. If we were to begin with a complex harmony symbol, say C major 13, which contains the letters and tones 1 C, 3 E, 5 G, 7 B, 9 D, 11 F, 13 A, we would probably quit because as a beginner, that’s a frightening chord! However, if we were to “reduce” this complex harmony by deleting six tones and letters, then, only one tone and letter would remain: 1 C. And that isn’t complex at all. In fact, it’s very simple. Now you can understand that harmony, no matter how complex, begins with one sound, one letter and one tone number. Let’s continue.

Harmony of two sounds is called an interval. In other words, an interval contains two letters and two tone numbers. For this lesson, we will begin with the following intervals: Perfect Fifth: natural 5, Diminished Fifth: flat 5, and Augmented Fifth: sharp 5.

The Perfect Fifth, P5, is simply the fifth sound of the major scale, tone 5 letter G. And when the perfect fifth is combined with the first sound of the scale, tone 1 letter C, the perfect fifth interval is the result. The perfect fifth interval may be played melodically, which means one at a time, or, harmonically, which means at the same time. Now, to understand the next two intervals, a simple understanding of flat (b) and sharp (#) is necessary. Simply stated, on any instrument, flat is one half-step lower in pitch and sharp is one half-step higher in pitch. To a right-handed player of guitar or bass, flat is one fret lower (to the left) of any letter or tone number, and sharp is one fret higher (to the right) of any letter or tone number. That was easy!

The definition of Diminished is to shrink or make smaller. Therefore, the diminished fifth is simply the fifth sound of the major scale flatted, in other words: tone b5, which is bG in the C Major scale. When the diminished fifth, b5 bG is combined with tone 1 C, the diminished fifth interval is the result. The diminished fifth interval may be played melodically (one sound at a time), or harmonically (at the same time).

The definition of Augmented is to expand or make larger. Therefore, the augmented fifth is simply the fifth sound of the major scale sharped, or, tone #5 which is #G in the C Major scale. When the augmented fifth, #5 #G is combined with tone 1 C, the augmented fifth interval is the result. The augmented fifth interval may also be played melodically or harmonically.

Let’s present the three intervals that are based on tone 3. They are Major: natural 3, Minor: flat 3 and Suspended: sharp 3. You will notice that even though we used the flat and sharp signs with the third intervals, we did not use the designation diminished and augmented!

The Major Third, M3, is simply the third sound of the major scale, tone 3 which is E in the C Major scale. When the major third, tone 3, is combined with the first sound of the scale, tone 1, the major third interval is the result. The major third interval may be played melodically or harmonically.

The Minor Third, m3, is simply the third sound of the major scale flatted, tone b3 letter bE. When the minor third is combined with the first sound of the scale, tone 1, the minor third interval is the result. The minor third interval may be played melodically or harmonically.

The Suspended Third, sus3, is simply the third sound of the major scale sharped, tone #3 letter #E. When the major third is combined with the first sound of the scale, tone 1, the suspended third interval is the result. The suspended third interval may also be played melodically or harmonically.

One more thought. The definition of enharmonic is one sound with more than one symbol. Therefore, it’s important to point out that when C is tone 1, tone #3 is the letter #E and sounds the same as tone 4 letter F, but they are two different symbols. For further clarification of this important concept, see page 102 of Guitar Fretboard Facts http://www.12tonemusic.com/guitar/facts/, or, Bass Fretboard Facts http://www.12tonemusic.com/bass/facts/.

Okay, it’s now time to use the above information to create Nine Triads of Three Types.

Tri is Greek for three. Therefore, triads are arpeggio and chord harmonies which are spelled with three different letters and three different tone numbers. Here’s the essential idea, there are only nine triads upon which all arpeggios and chords are based! These nine triads are created by combining the three third types: major, minor and suspended, with the three fifth types: perfect, diminished and augmented. In the following examples, C is tone 1. Tone 1 is also known as the root, tonic and fundamental. To learn more about the following nine triads, see page 10 of Guitar EncycloMedia http://www.12tonemusic.com/guitar/encyclomedia/, or, Bass EncycloMedia http://www.12tonemusic.com/bass/encyclomedia/.

Nine Triads

Now, here is something very important. Notice that the harmony symbol for major is nothing. In other words, there is a harmony letter for major, but there is no type symbol for major. Said a different way, when you see nothing — and yes, you can see nothing — it means something! In other words, in this case, when you don’t see a type symbol after the harmony letter, it means major. Think of it this way, when reading the harmony symbol C, you think, say and play C major.

You will notice that each of the nine triads only have one Type, Name, Tone Spelling and Letter Spelling. However, since there is no standardization of harmony symbolism, some of the nine triads have more than one Harmony Symbol. This really shouldn’t be the case because more often than not, this simply leads to confusion. But, oh well, that’s the way it is.

So, ’til next time, have some nine triad fun… I’ll be listening!

http://www.12tonemusic.com


21 Revelation – by Mike Overly

April 5, 2014

Hello Everyone,

Welcome, and thank you for visiting this first 12tonemusic blog. The purpose of this blog is to share with you what goes on in my mind as music meets the guitar and bass fretboard.

I would like to share with you, in no particular chronological order, the very quick and raw, unedited hand written pages before I sit down at the computer and spend way too much time editing and polishing these original rough words and illustrations into a polished article or book.

So, here’s my plan. I’ll scan in the page, write a few words of presentation, and then get out-of-the-way… sounds simple enough.

Okay, let’s begin with a 21st Century Revelation I had in September of 2002. It’s simple on the surface, but like leverage ~ a simple fulcrum can move great weight. Here’s was my idea: if there are 7 natural letters, then there has to be 7 flat letters and 7 sharp letters. In other words, 7 + 7 + 7 = 21! Or, said a different way, if one Octave has 12 Sounds, then, one octave must have 21 Symbols. This was a major epiphany for me, it clarified a whole life of prior music knowledge… and it just might do the same for you.

Here’s the first rough draft of this path-breaking thought.

12 Sounds, 21 Symbolic Letters and 15 Major Keys

To begin understanding the leverage of this simple 21 symbol fulcrum is to realize that it answers the traditional question: if there are only 12 sounds in one octave, why are there 15 Major keys… but that’s another post.

So, till next time, play and have fun ~ I’ll be listening!

http://www.12tonemusic.com


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