Learn Guitar and Bass with Grammy Nominated Music Educator Mike Overly

August 14, 2014

Here is an impromptu video interview I did last week with www.findaguitarteacher.com ~ please check it out and let me know what you think. And when you have a moment, watch more of my instructional videos on the 12tonemusic.com YouTube channel www.youtube.com/user/12tonemusic. Thank You.


If You Move Two Frets, You’ve Moved To Far – by Mike Overly

July 31, 2014

Barre Guitar ChordWouldn’t you like to change chords faster? You could if you played them closer.

Where do chords originate? The simple answer is: from the letters and tone numbers of a scale. In other words, it’s just like the Scrabble® word game. You know how to play that game, select some letters and then see how many words you can spell with those letters. Well, guess what? Music is exactly the same. You select the letters of a scale and then you see how many chords you can spell with those letters!

Since there are many scales from which you can select letters to spell chords from, we will limit this lesson to the G major scale and its chord triads. A chord triad is harmony of three different letters played simultaneously. Many books have been written about this “music-spelling” game. They are known as Music Theory books. These books go into great detail explaining the rules of spelling such as: intervals, inversions, extensions, alterations and so on, until you become a Ph.D. at the spelling game. But who has that kind of time? So, here’s a very simple concept that will have you easily spelling 7 different chord triads from the G major scale. Ready? Just select “every-other-letter” from the scale. Wow, that sure was simple!

Let’s begin by illustrating the G major scale as letters and scale degree tone numbers in two octaves. Figure 1.

 The following ilustrates the circle-6-2, G major scale as letters and tone numbers on the guitar fretboard. Figure 2.

Now, let’s start the chord triad spelling game. The first chord of the G major scale is the G major chord, which is spelled with three “every-other-letters: G B D. This first chord of the G major scale is symbolized by Harmony Numeral I (one). Figure 3.

Here’s another fun game, find the hidden picture. In other words, find the hidden chord! Do you see the circle 6-1 G major chord hidding within the circle 6-2 G major scale? Here is something interesting. Even though there are only three lettes, this chord has six sounds. Figure 4.

And now, a bit of the rules that was mentioned earlier. Since the G major chord begins on the tone 1 (also known as the root and tonic) of the G Major scale, it is called the I (one) major chord. Scale degrees tone numbers: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 symbolize single pitches. In contrast, harmony numerals: I ii iii IV V vi viib5 symbolize groups of pitches called chords or arpeggios. Chord tones are played at the same time and arpeggio tones are played one at a time with no sustain. The harmonies I, IV and V are major, while the ii, iii and vi are minor. The viib5 is a minor flat five. Traditional music theory calls harmony seven of the major scale: diminished.

Now, let’s proceed. In the key of G major, the ii minor chord is A minor (Am, A C E) and is shown in circle 6-3. Figures 5 and 6.

The iii minor chord is B minor (Bm, B D #F) shown in circle 5-1. Figures 7 and 8.

The IV major chord is C major (C E G) also in circle 5-1. Figures 9 and 10.

The V major chord is D major (D F# A) in circle 5-4. Figures 11 and 12.

The vi minor chord is E minor (Em, E G B) in circle 4-1. Figures 13 and 14.

And finally, the viib5 minor flat five chord is F#mb5 (F#mb5, F# A C) in circle 6-1 and circle 4-1. As we previously said, traditional theory  calls this a diminished triad. Figures 15, 16 and 17.


As you can now see, all the chords of the G major scale, or any scale for that matter, are within one fret of any other chord. You can’t get any closer, or faster, than that!

So, ’til next time, have some fun playing closer and faster chord changes… I’ll be listening!

http://www.12tonemusic.com


Plan Your Practice and Practice Your Plan – by Mike Overly

June 19, 2014

metronomeAre you spending a lot of time and effort practicing and yet never seem to make any progress?  Then maybe you need to re-think what practice is and what you can do to make it more productive.

To the ancient Greeks, practice was definied as: do. Today, the definition of practice is: repeated action to acquire proficiency. You’ve heard the old saying, practice makes perfect, well, this is not entirely true!  Repetition alone will not make you perfect. You must practice perfection, or else you run the risk of repeating previous mistakes… and what good are perfect mistakes?

It’s been said that it takes seven repetitions for a memory to take hold and thirty five repetitions to erase that previously learned memory. Therefore, the concept of perfect practice becomes a necessity, otherwise you’ll end-up spending all your practice time trying to unlearn mistakes – with no time remaining to make progress! This unnecessary waste of time results in frustration, disappointment and lack of confidence. In other words, you feel like quitting. So, to help you avoid this and many other negatives – remember: Prior Planning Prevents Poor Performance.

Some say that the goal of practice is the performance. I tend to think of it this way: practice is for yourself and performance is for others. However, I would agree that practice is the learning of the individual parts and that performance is putting the parts together holistically so as to play them as a whole from the beginning to the end. In other words, practice is digital (start and stop) while performance is analog (continuous).

Whatever your performance goals are, daily practice is essential for the goal to be reached. By setting aside a short amount of time, at the same time each day, you will start to develop the process of practicing and begin to create good practice habits that will last a lifetime.

It’s important to note that each practice session is made up of many sections. And when each section is followed routinely, your practice session will become more productive. This will lead you to a more successful performance. Although the responsibility to practice is yours alone, encouragement from a parent, spouse, friend, band member or teacher can certainly help you become more disciplined. So, be sure to share this article with them. Now, with that said, here are a few suggestions on how to structure your practice session to make your practice time more efficient and effective and your performances more successful too.

Let’s begin with the practice area. It should be a relatively quiet place with good lighting and a comfortable armless chair. It should also be free of interruptions from the computer, phone, fax, pager, tablet, TV and a host of other distractions that can break your concentration. In addition to your instrument, here are some other items that you will find useful: a music stand, metronome, drum machine or sequencer, tuner, CD, recorder, pencils, eraser and your music books. The idea is to have everything close at hand, so that you won’t have to stop practicing to go get something.  Next, begin to prepare mentally by focusing on what you want to achieve in this particular practice session. If you have the time, think about what you would like to accomplish this week, this month, or perhaps even this year. The more defined your goals, the easier it is to attain them.

To prepare physically, begin by relaxing and releasing any tensions from your body. This promotes correct body alignment and will help to avoid any future health problems such as carpal tunnel and tendinitis. Don’t forget, prevention is the best cure!

Okay, now we’re ready to begin the actual practice session. First tune-up your instrument, and yes, make sure the piano is in tune! Start by warming-up with technical exercises. These will include various scales, arpeggios, chords, etudes and other finger pattern exercises and studies. When you feel that you are sufficiently warmed-up, proceed to the next step of the practice session.

At this stage of the practice session, time is provided for a re-view of previously learned material. The definition of the prefix “re” is: again, therefore, rehearsal could be thought of as “re-hear-all” or, to hear it all again. This review of previously acquired skills creates a connection with the new material being learned. Other topics that may present themselves for review at this time are: rhythm, melody, harmony, sight-reading, analysis, tone production, and dynamics. Daily practice gives you the ability to proceed to the new material with confidence and optimism. That’s a very good thing!

The next stage of the practice session is the actual learning of new material. This is when you thoroughly examine the new material to learn as much as you can before you play it. Some of the things you might encounter at this time are: key signatures, time signatures, tempo, fingerings, phrasing, and lots of other direction signs from the composer. After carefully considering all these elements, you are ready to begin practicing, starting at the beginning and proceeding slowly and perfectly until you reach the end.

You will find it beneficial to break a whole song into smaller sections (even bar by bar) and then link those sections together. This will enable you to minimize, and hopefully eliminate, mistakes at this stage of the practice session.

Sometimes the fastest way is to go slow: think of the tortoise and the hare! A perfect practice is only possible if you begin slowly. Slow enough to think before you play. Another benefit of going slow is that you can break the habit of stopping and repeating from the beginning whenever you make a mistake. This in itself is a mistake! Instead, you learn to isolate and focus on a mistake as it occurs, then re-think it through as many times as necessary to get it correct before moving on. This is much better than wasting time repeating what you already know.

It also helps if you can record your practice so that you can objectively hear what you really played. This will help you identify any problem areas, correct them quickly and improve your future performances. And finally, a progressive practice guarantees that each practice session builds upon the last and that each sequential practice assures your continued ability to confidently proceed from perfect practice to successful perfect performance.

Now, with your eyes on the music, your hands on your instrument, and your ears on the sound, be sure to plan your practice and practice your plan. I’ll be listening…

http://www.12tonemusic.com


All the Chords I Needed to Know I Learned at My First Lesson – by Mike Overly

May 22, 2014

Mike Overly Custom Guitar by Ed SchaefferAt a recent Homeschool Convention someone asked me: How many chords are there on the guitar? That’s a very good question, I replied. Is the answer, six, ten thousand, a million, who knows? What we do know is that there are only five simple open shapes from which all chords originate!

Let’s begin by imagining the picture on the cover of a puzzle box. Visualize the picture on the box and see it as a whole picture. See this whole picture as the seven letter of music on your fretboard. When these seven letters of music: A, B, C, D, E, F, G are horizontally connected on the 6 strings and 12 frets of your guitar, the following picture is revealed.

Now, imagine taking a pair of scissors and cutting this whole fretboard picture into five pieces, which we will call fractions. How hard would it be to put together a puzzle if it only had five pieces – Playskool® right? Well, the five puzzle pieces are the five open major chords: E, D, C, A, G which like an anagram can be rearranged into the word: CAGED. You probably know these five open shapes already.

Next, let’s see how these five shapes become movable forms on the holistic fretboard. Simply stated, the definition of holistic is forms interlocked. To see this holistic connection, we need to know that a chord contains at least three different letters that are played at the same time. For example, an F major chord is spelled with these three different letters: F A C. However, unlike English, these 3 letters may be arranged in any combination, for example: F A C, A C F, C F A, F C A and the chord will still be F major. These different letter orders are called inversions. In the following example, we’ll group the three F major chord letters vertically as we move up the fretboard, and like magic, the five F major chord forms appear!

Perhaps you’re having a little trouble seeing them? The following animated gif image we help you visualize these five shapes more clearly, by highlighting the three F major chord letters, FAC, into the five movable major chord forms.

Congratulations! You can now see all five F major chord forms on your holistic fretboard.

Now, here’s the important part, no one knows any more F major chords than you do… there are only five! And by simply moving these five major chord barre forms to a different letter location the fretboard, all major chords can easily be played – but that’s another lesson…

So, till next time, have some fun interlocking your five form holistic puzzle pieces ~ I’ll be listening . . .

http://www.12tonemusic.com


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


The Process of Progress on Bass Guitar – by Mike Overly

April 24, 2014

Tone Note® Music Method for Bass

There are many reasons why students quit their bass lessons. Sometimes it’s because the teacher doesn’t inspire them, or because the lessons aren’t focused enough on their specific goals. In some cases, it could be that the teacher isn’t qualified and really doesn’t know how to help the student become the musician they would like to be. Then again, it could be that the student’s relationship with the teacher and the teachings aren’t as focused as they need to be in order for the student to progress.

Having taught fretboard music successfully for many decades and to many students, I have come to realize that the way in which a student relates to the teacher has a very meaningful effect on the student’s development. Different students get varied results from the same teacher and teachings. This is because different students approach the learning process uniquely. For example, one student might believe to know better than the teacher and eventually quits, while another student learns and applies everything that is presented and becomes a world-class bass player. We all understand the wonderful attitudes, aptitudes and behaviors of the student that goes on to become a world-class player, however, let’s look more carefully at different types of behaviors commonly displayed by students who can easily become frustrated and quit their bass lessons.

I want to be perfect.

Some students want to master everything that is presented in a lesson before moving on to something else. This may seem like a good idea, but in reality, it is not the most effective way to progress. Music is best learned when many elements are worked on simultaneously without worrying about mastering any one given component. For example, the student must work on the technique of playing the bass, while at the same time learning the theory of harmony, improvisation and composition. The point is, after learning something new, don’t hesitate to begin combining it with everything else you have previously learned. Application and integration are essential elements that must be developed from the very beginning. By proceeding in this way, the student will not let one aspect of their learning get too far ahead of the other things that they know. Approaching music and the bass in this multi-tasking manner will keep the student in balance.

I only want the new.

Some students think that each lesson should consist mainly of new material. However, this isn’t necessarily the best approach. The simple reason is that too much new information leads to the feeling of being overwhelmed. This is because there is not enough time to integrate this new information with past information. Being overwhelmed is what causes most students to become frustrated and quit. Here’s an important point: simply learning new information will not improve technique. Technique takes time to develop and demands more than just simply being aware of a new musical concept. In other words,  it requires lots of  practice to achieve the fluency of technical skill needed to play the bass proficiently. Remember, you can buy knowledge, but can’t buy technique — technique must be earned!
Said again, the student may think that learning something new in each lesson is a good thing, but, as time goes by they will notice that they are not making significant technical progress. At this point, the student may want to quit because they think lessons aren’t effective, however, that is not really the reason for their lack of progress. Said a different way, learning new musical information is an important part of lessons, but, if the student is only interested in learning the new, they will probably not continue with lessons and will miss out on one of the most important aspects of taking lessons which is the unfoldment of knowledge. Unfoldment being the in-order process which leads to the progress of information presented. It is this in-order presentation of knowledge that makes bass lessons so valuable. The student will need to practice patience to realize this and gain the benefits of unfolding learning over time.

I know what’s best.

Some students have been playing for a while and perhaps have studied with other bass teachers. These students may have preconceived ideas about what their lessons should be and may wish to control what and how they are taught. Asking questions and expressing goals to the teacher is a good thing, but trying to direct the teacher as to what and how to teach is not. If the student seeks help from a qualified teacher, they should trust the teacher and accept the fact that the teacher knows more about music and bass than they do and therefore can successfully teach the student.

With that said, all bass teachers are not the same, some are more qualified than others. This is why the student needs to clearly communicate their goals, and challenges to the teacher. That way, if the student is not receiving what they communicated, then they should seek a different teacher. What’s important is that the student needs to have faith and belief in the teacher they have selected and commit themselves to the lessons.

If the teacher has helped others to succeed, then probably that teacher will be able to help you as well. Just remember, the teacher’s ability to help you will be limited and delayed if you constantly question everything that is taught. Working with a qualified teacher is the fastest and most efficient way for you to achieve your goals. So, if you truly want to accelerate the process of progress, then you should think about your relationship with your teacher to see if there is any room for improvement.

There are many other factors that affect the rate of progress when learning music and the bass. But, if you study with a qualified teacher, follow the most effective music method, for example the Tone Note® Music Method for Bass http://www.12tonemusic.com/bass/tonenote, and develop rewarding practice habits, then you will become the musician playing bass that you have always wanted to be!


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