Just as notes are the rhythm symbol of melody, harmony marks are the rhythm symbol of harmony. Unfortunately, most traditional guitar and bass methods use a meter slash as the rhythm symbol of harmony. This is a fatal flaw. The only purpose of a meter slash is to make a beat visible, they do not help us in knowing what rhythm to play on that beat. For that to be known, harmony marks are needed!
You have been led to believe that if you want to be “serious” about learning guitar, you must first learn to read the “notes.” This isn’t true. Unless you are a drummer, you must learn the letters of the staff before you read the notes.
When you first started to play guitar, you did the same thing we all do: you bought a guitar and a guitar method book 1. This seemed logical, however, this is where your problems began.
Let’s say you bought a method book 1 and are all set to play some guitar. After a few pages of stuff that you skip over, like: what a guitar looks like, how to tune and how to hold the guitar and pick, you encounter a page that has a whole bunch of music symbols on it. You know this must be important and that you probably should memorize it, but, you’re so overwhelmed that you just end up turning the page.
So, let’s slow down and discover a different way to make sense of all those music symbols. We’ll begin with the staff because this is the first idea of traditional music theory, and for a musician playing guitar, it’s the start of many unfolding problems.
Traditional music theory teaches that the staff has 5 lines and 4 spaces between the lines. The following illustrates the 5 lines of the staff.
And here are the 4 spaces between the lines.
The Clef is the next idea presented on the music symbols page and it isn’t even a symbol, it’s a sign! Good thing we learned in the Tone Note® Music Method for Guitar Book 1 that a symbol represents something and a sign tells you to do something.
The purpose of the clef sign is to tell you where to place the letters of pitch on the lines and spaces of the staff. Although there are many different clef signs, the G Clef, also known as the Treble Clef, is used for guitar staff note music. The following diagram places the G Clef at the beginning the staff.
The name of the G Clef is very helpful because it tells you with certainty that the letter G is placed on line 2 of the staff. The Treble Clef’s name isn’t as helpful because the definition of treble is “high sounds” and that’s a bit ambiguous.
The following example illustrates the staff, the G Clef and the pitch letter G on line 2 of the staff. Notice that the “curly part” of the G Clef wraps around line 2.
Since you now know where the letter G is located on the staff, you can easily understand where the other letters are located on the lines of the staff by simply skipping a letter in the 7 letter musical alphabet order. Think of it this way: A B C D E F G A B C D E F G A….
This letter skipping order for the 5 lines of the staff is easily remembered by this sentence: Every Good Beginner Does Fine! The following example illustrates the five letters of pitch on the 5 lines of the staff.
Now, you will easily understand where the 4 space letters are located on the staff by again skipping a letter in the 7 letter musical alphabet. Again, think of it this way: A B C D E F G A B C D E F G A….
This skipping letter order creates a word for the 4 spaces of the staff: F A C E. The following diagram illustrates the four letters on the 4 spaces of the staff.
For the remainder of this lesson, a quarter note will be placed on a line or space of the staff to imply the letter of pitch that is to be thought. Notice that the stem that is attached to the head of the quarter note may be up or down. This is done to keep the stem on the staff. In our next lesson, Introduction to Staff Notes Part 2, we’ll go into much greater detail about notes and rhythm.
Now, here’s something interesting. Although there are many reasons why learning fails, there are two that are most common. Neither one is your fault, they’re both the fault of your teacher!
Stated simply, learning fails if the teacher: 1) shows, tells or uses something that you were not taught, or, 2) teaches you something and then doesn’t use it until much later, if ever. Without immediate reinforcement there will be no long-term memory. In other words, you failed to learn because you fail to remember. But, it’s not your fault!
A typical guitar method book 1 presents a perfect example of using something that you were not taught. Remember, you were told that there are 4 spaces on the staff, however, the following 3 staff notes are what you are expected to learn first.
Do you see the problem? If you are asked what space the quarter note is placed for the letter G, you will not have an answer. This is because it isn’t on one of the 4 spaces that you were taught. Said one more time, something is being used that you were not taught!
Fortunately, this problem has a simple solution: there are 6 spaces! And these 6 spaces have 6 letters: D FACE G. The following diagram illustrates the 6 space locations on the staff with their 6 letter names.
We’ll end this lesson by revealing this new staff note truth of 5 lines and 6 spaces.
‘til next time, have some 5 Line, 6 Space staff note fun… I’ll be listening!
Follow Legendary GRAMMY® Nominated Music Educator Mike Overly as he presents essential Guitar Finger Picking tips, techniques, insights and more in this classic Vintage Video. <https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RE3tXTQ-Hts>
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Let’s state the case simply, symbolic music is complex. By symbolic music, I mean the written symbols and signs of music and guitar that are needed to produce one sound. This lesson will present seven ideas needed to play a melody. Harmony uses additional symbols and signs and will be presented later in a different lesson. So, stay tuned.
Symbolic music on guitar is complicated because it takes seven ideas to make one sound: 1. key letter, 2. time signature, 3. tempo, 4. dynamic, 5. tone number, 6. note or rest, and 7. strum. Before we go any further, let’s ask a simple question: What is the difference between a thought and an idea? For many, this question may seem a bit esoteric, but really it isn’t. Think of it this way. A thought is an energy that moves in time through the space of the mind to find an idea to bring back to the thinker. Here’s an example. Consider this question as a thought: How much is 1 + 1? Now, consider the answer as an idea: more than 1. Easy enough, the thought question found the answer idea and brought it back to the thinker. Let’s continue. I’m sure you noticed that I didn’t answer the question the way you were probably expecting me too. This is because all that is needed to answer the question, how much is 1 + 1, is the concept of “oneness.” In other words, 1 + 1 is more than 1. Or, said a different way, how much more than one is 1 + 1? The answer is again 1. The point is, we don’t need to learn or know anything new to answer the question… 1 is all we need!This “1 + 1 is more than 1” example is analogous to Russian Nesting Dolls. By that I mean, after we know that 1 + 1 is 1 more than 1, we can “nest” the concept of “one more than one” into a new word… two. In other words, after all that thinking about 1 + 1, we can now simply say the number 2!I can hear you asking, “What does all this have to do with playing music on the guitar?” Well, here’s what. Consider this thought question: How do I make one sound on the guitar? And it’s idea answer: “nest” seven ideas. Let’s say it again, symbolic music is complex because it takes seven ideas just to play one sound! To help organize these seven ideas, we’ll divide them into two groups.
In the first group, before you play, there are three ideas needed: key letter, time signature and tempo. In the second group, as you play, there are four ideas needed: dynamic, tone number, note or rest, and strum. Let’s look at each of these seven ideas one at a time.
The first idea is key. Key is simply the letter of tone 1, and is symbolized by a letter in a circle. Let’s compare this with the “key-signature” of traditional staff-notation.
Traditional staff-notation uses a 5 line staff, a clef and a key signature which limits you to playing a song in only one key! In contrast, the revolutionary Tone Note® Music Method does not utilize a staff, a clef or a key signature. By eliminating these elements, you can play any song in any key! This is impossible with traditional staff-notation. Here’s why. The key signature represents the unseen letters of the staff, and when you change the key signature, all the unseen staff-note letters change. This is not the case with the Tone Note® Music Method, because when you change the key, all the tone numbers remain the same, and only the letter of tone 1 changes. Let’s proceed.
After the key letter is known, the second idea is the time signature. The Tone Note® Music Method uses the same stacked meter and value time-signature as traditional staff-notation.
The third idea is tempo, the rate of speed of the steady beat. The Tone Note® Music Method uses the same beats-per-minute sign as traditional staff-notation.
Now, let’s review the three ideas needed before you play “nested” into one thought: key, time signature and tempo.
Next, let’s present the four ideas that are needed as you play. The first idea is the dynamic sign, which tells you how quiet or loud to play a sound. The Tone Note® Music Method uses the same dynamic signs as traditional staff-notation, for example: piano (quiet), forte (loud), mezzo-piano (medium quiet), and mezzo-forte (medium loud). It’s interesting to note that traditional staff-notation does not use mezzo (medium) by itself, but only as a qualifier to piano and forte. I find that curious.
And here’s something strange. Traditional staff-notation defines the dynamic sign piano as soft, and forte as loud. This doesn’t make any sense. Here’s why. Ask your child this question: What is the opposite of loud? I’m sure they said quiet and not soft. So, how did traditional staff-notation get the dynamics of acoustics wrong? In other words, why does traditional staff-notation teach loud and soft, but never quiet and hard? The simple answer is, they confused force with dynamic. It helps to think of it this way. While it’s true that on an acoustic instrument a hard force is necessary to produce a loud sound, and a soft force is needed to produce a quiet sound, force and dynamics are not the same and should not be used interchangeably.
Okay, now that we know that dynamics is quiet and loud, the second idea is pitch as tone number. In traditional staff-notation a tone number is called a scale-degree. Simply stated, tone 1 is the key letter and is the first sound of any scale.
The third idea is rhythm, and it has two components: the note of sound, and the rest of silence. The Tone Note® Music Method uses the same notes and rests as traditional staff-notation, for example: quarter, half, dotted-half, and whole. The fourth idea is not a music idea, but rather a guitar idea: strum. Four strums are needed to play guitar efficiently: two strokes: down and up, and two ghosts: down and up. A stroke is a strum which produces a sound and a ghost is a strum that produces no sound. Now, let’s review the four ideas needed as you play into one thought: dynamic, tone number, note or rest and strum.Okay, let’s end this lesson by “nesting” the seven ideas needed to play one sound into one recapitulated thought: 1. key, 2. time signature, 3. tempo,4. dynamic, 5. tone number, 6. note or rest, and 7. strum.
’til next time, have some thought and idea fun… I’ll be listening!
A 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.
Guitar Image: Mike Overly Custom by Ed Schaefer Guitars.
On the cover of the Tone Note® Music Method for Guitar is a connect the dots picture of a bass which presents four very important ideas that a connect the dots picture teaches us: 1. start at the beginning, 2. continue in order, 3. the end connects to the beginning, and 4. when the last dot is connected ~ you can see the picture! These four ideas form the basis of this book.
The Tone Note® Music Method for Guitar 1 contains a method book, rhythm book and song book. Each book is designed to present the benefits of the Tone Note® system with clear and simple step-by-step instruction. And each lesson within each book connects and continues with the last in a progressive order so that a person new to music and guitar will learn the symbols and signs of music quickly and develop the skill to play guitar easily. You will play and enjoy music and guitar from the very beginning just like you hoped you would and as you practice, progress and improve, the better you will get, and the better you get ~ the more fun you have!
The purpose of the Tone Note® Music Method for Guitar is to introduce a beginner of any age to the simple pitch Letters, tone (scale degree) Numbers and harmony Numerals of music. The following flowchart illustrates this.
The Tone Note® Music Method for Guitar answers this simple question: why is it so hard to learn to play guitar? Is it the fault of the student, or is it the fault of the instructor? The answer is neither, it’s the fault of false methods. So, let’s clean the slate and begin anew with a truly unique 21st century revolutionary music method for guitar.
Over the centuries, guitarists have believed many false ideas and have kept adding more false ideas over time. This has created much confusion and has made learning music and the guitar a problem. The Tone Note® Music Method for Guitar solves this problem by keeping only the truth of the past and leaving the false behind.
And the truth is, music is a simple language that may be learned easily by anyone of any age. All that is needed is a clear and simple step-by-step method which will introduces what you need to know, when you need to know it. In other words, a method that presents one idea and then connects it to the next idea. Learning in this manner guarantees that you do not have any gaps between your thoughts and ideas about music and the guitar. The benefit is, you will never feel overwhelmed or confused, and more importantly, you will never stop or quit! Understanding music on the guitar will always be easy for you.
By the end of the Tone Note® Music Method for Guitar 1 your technique will have greatly improved and you will have gained a solid theoretical foundation that will last you a lifetime and prepare you to connect and continue with the Tone Note® Music Method for Guitar 2. Meet you there!
Here is a short video that will introduce you to the Tone Note® Music Method for Guitar 1: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=z7yK9IrNZLM
’til next time, have some Tone Note® guitar fun… I’ll be listening!
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…