Newsletter Vol. 4 # 17 – December 15, 2011
Welcome to Volume 4, Issue #17 of Guitar Noise News!
In This Issue:
- Greetings, News and Announcements
- Guitar Noise Featured Artist
- Topic of the Month
- New Articles, Lessons, Reviews and Stuff
- Great Advice from Great Teachers
- Events Horizon
- Random Thoughts
Greetings, News and Announcements
Hello and welcome to the last issue of Guitar Noise News for 2011. The next issue of your free twice-a-month newsletter from Guitar Noise comes out on New Year’s Day.
So let me take a moment to wish all of you, as well as your families and friends a safe and joyful holiday season, for whichever holidays you celebrate!
As you read last time out, our latest song lesson to return to the pages of Guitar Noise is “Hey There, Delilah,” which joins our three R.E.M. song lessons – “Man on the Moon,” “Losing My Religion” and “Driver Eight” (each with all the music, tablature and lyrics) – back on our “Easy Songs for Beginners” lessons page. Again, and always, we’d like to thank Alfred Music Publishing for working with us in order to bring copyrighted material back into our song lessons.
And speaking of both Alfred Music and the Guitar Noise song lessons, Paul and I are also pleased to announce that Alfred has contracted me to write a book of song lessons in the Guitar Noise style.The title is tentatively “Songs Made Simple” and the first book will have between twenty and twenty-five song lessons in it as well as an audio CD with the various musical examples from the book. The full table of contents is still being decided but as soon as it is, we’ll make sure you know all about it! If all goes according to schedule, this book should be out sometime during the summer of 2012. Also (again if all goes well) we’re hoping that this book is the first of a series of such books. Again, we’ll definitely keep you posted on all the latest about it.
Guitar Noise Featured Artist
It’s been just over ten years since George Harrison passed away.We’re celebrating his life and music all through the month of December as our featured artist. Read all about him on the Guitar Noise Profile Page.
Topic of the Month
It’s beginning to sound a lot like Christmas! We’ve always prided ourselves when it comes to the incredibly diverse selection in our “Easy Christmas Songs for Guitar” lessons. So it’s a bit of a no-brainer to feature these terrific tutorials as the Guitar Noise Topic of the Month for December. Stop by the Guitar Noise home page and click on the latest “Topic of the Month” up at the top of the page, just below the blue banner. That will take you to some fun and easy lessons that will get you in the holiday spirit in no time! Plus you’ll have a great time impressing your friends and family.
New Articles, Lessons, Reviews and Stuff
Everything You Ever Wanted To Know About Scales – Parts 1 and 2
by Tom Serb
Believe it or not, scales are your friend. There is no reason scales should scare or confuse guitar players and with Tom’s help we’re going prove that. Part 1 covers the Minor Pentatonic Scale and the Blues Scale is the subject of Part 2.
How To Play Guitar Standing Up
by David Hodge
Most people tend to play their guitars really low because it looks really cool. It’s actually a lot harder to play well that way. So what is good posture? David gives some sane and simple advice in this Q & A.
The Music Margin: Why Technique Equals Musicality
by Jamie Andreas
To allow your musical feeling to emerge and give life to the notes you play, you must have the technique required to produce those notes in the first place.Jamie Andreas discusses the “music margin” and gives some excellent advice sure to help you with becoming more musical with your guitar.
HOW NOT TO BE CREATIVE
by Gerald Kickstein
Gerald Klickstein, author of “The Musician’s Way,” offers up this very creative discussion on how to not be creative! Great advice, as always, from Jerry!
Great Advice From Great Teachers
Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About Scales – Part 4
The Major Scale
Now we’ll get into the grand-daddy of music theory, the major scale.
The major scale is important to theory, because it’s the yardstick by which we measure all other scales… when I’ve said that the minor pentatonic is 1-b3-4-5-b7, I’ve meant that those are the pitches compared to the major scale.
To understand the structure of the major scale, we first need to look at the spacing between the letter names. Not all letter names are the same distance apart. The letters B and C are just one fret apart, and the letters E and F are one fret apart – all the other letters are separated by two frets. That leaves one fret in between the other letters… a fret between A and B, C and D, D and E, F and G, and one between G and A.
We can think of an ‘in between’ fret as a letter name that has been inflected, or changed a little bit. The Second fret of the first string can be thought of as a little bit higher than F (F-sharp, or F#), but it can also be seen as a little bit lower than G (G-flat, or Gb). As a result, each of these in-between pitches have two names.
The two names are called “enharmonic”, which means they’re written differently, but they sound the same. Some guitarists will tell you this means the names are interchangeable, but they’re not.
The major scale is our first diatonic (through-the-tones, or seven note) major scale. That means it’s going to have exactly one of each letter name.
To illustrate that, I’ll use the A major scale. We’ll need one of each letter name: A, B, C, D, E, F, and G.
The pattern of the major scale is whole step (two frets), whole step, half step (one fret), whole step, whole step, whole step, and half step. So if we started on the open fifth string, we’d get this:
---------------------- ---------------------- ---------------------- ---------------------- -0-2-4-5-7-9-11-12 ----------------------
The open string is A, and two frets above it will be B. Our next scale pitch is two frets higher than that – on one of the ‘in between’ notes… it’s either C# or Db. The pitch after that falls one fret higher, on D.
If we call the scale note Db, we’ll end up with TWO D notes (one flat, one ‘natural’, or unchanged). Because our major scale is diatonic, we MUST call this note C# in the context of the scale.
After D, we go up two frets to E, and then we have to go up two frets again – to the pitch between F and G. Since we haven’t used the letter F yet, this note must be F#. Two frets higher than that must be G#, because we’ve already used A as our starting point.
That means our A major scale spelling will be A-B-C#-D-E-F#-G#-A. When we’re looking at any scale or chord with an A root, that’s our yardstick for comparison: anything containing C natural will have a b3 – which means it will be ‘minor’.
The next thing to realize about our major scale is that we’ll have to play three notes on most of the strings because of the way the notes are spaced. Unlike the simple pentatonic scales, this means we’ll have a LOT more fingering choices!
Only two fingerings will put all the major scale notes underneath your fingers. One is the major scale with the root on the 6th string under your 2nd finger – here’s the C major scale in that fingering:
-7- 8-(10)- -8-10- -7-9-10- -7-9-10- -7-8-10- -(7)-8-10-
The notes I’ve marked in parenthesis lie above or below the scale root – they’re part of the scale, but they’re not part of a complete octave in this fingering. That means when you’re using the scale to improvise, these notes are available… but when you’re practicing the scale, you want to start and end with a C note; otherwise it won’t sound like C major, and you want to get your ears used to the sound of the notes in relation to ‘home base’. That’s going to be important later on when we look at the modes of the major scale.
The other fingering that puts all the notes under your fingers starts with the root under your fourth finger on the 5th string. In C major, that’s in 12th position:
-(12)-(13)-(15)- -12-13-(15)- -12-14- -12-14-15- -(12)-(14)-15- -(12)-(13)-(15)-
Many other fingerings are possible, and there are variations of these fingerings. For example, if you start with the root under your fourth finger on the 6th string (in the key of C, that’s in fifth position) you’ll find you have to stretch for one note – in the key of C, there’s a B note that’s not right under your fingers. You can get it by stretching or shifting on the fourth string, like this:
-5-7-8- -5-6-8- -5-7- -5-7-9- -5-7-8- -(5)-(7)-8-
Or by stretching or shifting on the third string, like this:
-5-7-8- -5-6-8- -4-5-7- -5-7- -5-7-8- -(5)-(7)-8-
These choices actually create three different fingerings of the major scale in this position! In the first, you’ll hit the B by stretching your fourth finger to the 9th fret; in the second, you’ll stretch to reach the B on the 4th fret… and because you’re stretching, you’ll return to position by also playing the C with your first finger, playing the 3rd string notes with a 1-1-3 fingering… or you can shift to fourth position for the 3rd string, playing those notes with a 1-2-4 fingering, and returning to fifth position for the 2nd string notes.
Because we have so many choices, guitarists take one of two approaches to learn the major scale. Option 1 is to memorize just a few fingering patterns (typically four to six) that let you get all the major scale notes on the fretboard. Option 2 is to learn the spellings of the major scale in each key, and the name of each note on the fretboard. In my opinion, while option 1 is ‘faster’, option 2 is better for two reasons: first, because you won’t be locked into ‘box’ playing when you’re improvising you’ll be able to find easier fingerings for many passages; second, learning the spellings and note locations will be a great help when you’re dealing with other things, like complex chord structures.
On to some of the other useful fingerings – if you put the root under the second finger on the 5th string, you’ll reach for two notes, the fourth note of the scale on the 1st and 6th strings. In the key of C, you’ll be in second position:
-(1)-(3)-(5)- -(3)-(5)- -2-4-5- -2-3-5- -(2)-3-5- -(1)-(3)-(5)-
Scales can also be started with the first finger, and many guitarists use these for a reason I’ll get into shortly. With the root on the 6th string, our first note is on the 8th fret in C; you can think of this as eighth position or ninth – the difference is what notes your second finger plays. In 8th position, your second finger will get the 9th fret, and you’ll stretch for the 12th fret notes… in 9th position, your second finger will get the 10th fret, and it’s the first finger that’s doing the stretching. Here’s C major again:
-8-(10)-(12)- -8-10-12- -9-10- -9-10-12- -8-10-12- -8-10-12-
Just to add one more variation, the G note on the 8th fret of the second string is also found on the 12th fret of the 3rd string, so you could do this instead – if you’re keeping track, that means you have four possible ways to finger the scale in this position:
-8-(10)-(12)- -10-12- -9-10-12- -9-10-12- -8-10-12- -8-10-12-
Starting from a 5th string root, we can also do C major in 3rd position, which looks like this:
-(3)-(5)-(7)- -(3)-(5)-(6)- -4-5- -3-5-7- -3-5-7- -(3)-(5)-(7)-
Or like this:
-(3)-(5)-(7)- -(5)-(6)- -4-5-(7)- -3-5-7- -3-5-7- -(3)-(5)-(7)-
The reason these fingerings are widely used in spite of the stretching involved is because they start with a first finger root, and put three notes on almost every string. When you have three notes on a string, you can use economy picking – playing the first note down, the second one up, the third note down… and continuing the downstroke to the next string. If you’re going down the scale, you can reverse this, playing the highest note on each string with an upstroke.
Economy picking conserves motion, allowing you to play a bit faster. If we combine these scale forms with a shift of position on the second string, you can get a quick scale run that spans almost 2-1/2 octaves:
-10-12-13- -10-12-13- -9-10-12- -9-10-12- -8-10-12- -8-10-12-
There are even more possible fingerings – the ones that start with your third finger on a scale root. But as these require even more stretching, they’re seldom used. If you’ve got the inclination to try them (and I play them sometimes as finger stretching exercises), apply what you’ve learned so far to the fretboard.
Our “Events Horizon” calendar on the Guitar Noise blog covers from today through Christmas Day.
Paul and I got an email the other day from Amanda Nable, who works with the “Sparks of Life” program at New York Methodist Hospital, in Brooklyn, New You. They are looking for volunteer musicians to spread the joy of music to their patients in their various pediatric, physical rehabilitation, geriatric and oncology units. They are very flexible in terms of scheduling and more than willing to work with you to help them brighten the days of their patients. It can be a once-in-a-while gig or a regular ongoing one depending on your schedule.
Any musician, guitarist or otherwise, is more than welcome. You should have a variety of music to play as you’ll be dealing with people from all ages and background. Obviously you’ll also want to have good communication and people skills.
If you live in the Brooklyn area and are willing to help by sharing your talent, please give Amanda a call at (718)780-5397, extension 105, or email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Here’s hoping we can get some of our New York Guitar Noise community members hooked up with Amanda’s program and bring some music to people truly in need of it throughout 2012 and beyond.
Until our next newsletter, play well and play often. And for those of you going out and about, my best wishes for safe travel.
And, as always,