Newsletter Vol. 4 # 22 – March 1, 2012


Welcome to Volume 4, Issue #22 of Guitar Noise News!

In This Issue:

  • Greetings, News and Announcements
  • Guitar Noise Featured Artist
  • Topic of the Month
  • EMail of the Moment
  • New Articles, Lessons, Reviews and Stuff
  • Great Advice from Great Teachers
  • Random Thoughts

Greetings, News and Announcements

I’m half tempted to make some sort of joke that even though it’s March first and you are currently reading the March 1 issue of Guitar Noise News, your free twice-a-month newsletter from Guitar Noise, that we’re still a day later than usual in getting this to you. Leap year, you see. And then I realized that if I had to explain that all to you, it really isn’t that good of a joke. So instead, let me just welcome you to the latest newsletter!

This time of year is a bit tough for writing the newsletter. We’ve got the “Day before Groundhog’s Day” issue, then the “Day After Valentine’s Day” issue and then the “Day After Leap Day” issue. And, then the “Ides of March” issue comes up and then it’s April Fool’s Day yet again. And then the “Taxes Due” issue! No wonder I try to talk Charley into writing these whenever February rolls around.

But Charley seems to have other plans at the moment. For starters, he’s attempting to learn Van Morrison’s “Moondance,” the latest of our returning Guitar Noise song lessons. Starting today, this classic tune joins our other lessons – “Three Marlenas,” “Horse With No Name,” “Hey There, Delilah.” and our three R.E.M. song lessons (“Man on the Moon,” “Losing My Religion” and “Driver Eight)” – back on our “Easy Songs for Beginners” lessons page, where each lesson comes complete with lyrics, music notation and tablature and also a healthy dose of educational and entertaining text. Again (and always), we’d like to thank Alfred Music Publishing for continuing to work with us in order to bring copyrighted material back into our song lessons. It’s great to have a Van Morrison song back on the pages!

Guitar Noise Featured Artist

So great, in fact that we’ve decided to make Van Morrison the Guitar Noise Featured Artist for the month of March! You can read about him on the Guitar Noise Profile Page.

Topic of the Month

And you might be thinking to yourself, “Well, Van Morrison’s Irish and it’s March and Saint Patrick’s Day happens in March so are these guys going to be so lazy that they’ll have “Celtic Music” be the March “Topic of the Month?” Of course we are! Seriously, though, there are some wonderful and beautiful Celtic music arrangements for guitar here on the pages of Guitar Noise. Go to our home page and click on the “Topic of the Month” link up at the top of the page, just below the blue banner and you’ll find a lot of great lessons and articles to satisfy the bit of Irish in all of us. Be sure to check out the arrangements by Doug Sparling!

Email of the Moment

Hi David!

I can’t help but notice (since I live with you) that you, and probably Paul as well, get maybe hundreds of requests to review things each month. Understandably, there’s nowhere near enough time to do so, especially as I know you like to write detailed reviews about anything you hear. But I’d like to suggest that I can help. If you’d like, I’d be more than happy to do short reviews (my time is also fairly limited as I have a lot of naps scheduled through my day) if you’d like. Have Paul check with Lucky, too. I’m betting she would also be more than happy to help. Beats sitting in the clothes dryer!



Hi Lily!

Thanks for offering. Paul has talked with Lucky and we’re both more than happy to have you help us! Please feel free to write up some “mini-reviews” of whatever strikes your fancy. And I’m not even going to ask how you’ve managed to read my emails to find out all this stuff in the first place! I figure that Charley probably gave you the password!


New Articles, Lessons, Reviews and Stuff

The Hang – “Anthem”
Mini-Review by Lucky

This video, shot mostly on an iPhone, features Jon Sosin of The Hang recording the solo for “Anthem,” a song from the band’s upcoming album “Playola.”

When Kisses Become Scars – “Caught Up”
Mini-Review by Lucky

If you like Jimmy Eat World and Foo Fighters and want to hear the unsigned indie version, then this U.K. band is for you.

Songs Are Overrated – Riffs Rule!
by Jim Bowley

Guitar Noise welcomes Jim Bowley to our pages! Here he discusses the positives of learning the guitar riffs of songs and how doing so can make you a better guitarist in the long run.

Marilyn Miller – “Nighthawk”
Mini-Review by Lily

A passionate debut CD that both rocks and sighs, Nighthawk takes you through a wild musical journey through the heart of Hudson, New York.

Everything You Always Wanted To Know About Scales – Part 6
by Tom Serb

This month, we’re continuing a terrific series from long time Guitar Noise contributor Tom Serb concerning just about every scale you could ever think of. Part 6 deals with modes.

Will The Wind Ever Remember – A Tribute To Steinar Gregertsen
by David Hodge

Steinar passed away Monday, February 27, 2012. We at Guitar Noise offer our condolences and thank him for sharing his music with us and with the world.

Great Advice From Great Teachers

Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About Scales – Part 9

Even More Exotic Scales!

At the end of the Part 8, you may have noticed I wrote “in our twelve-tone system.” Western music currently divides an octave into twelve equal parts, and the tuning we use is called 12TET, for 12 tone equal temperament. Prior to the 18th century, we used twelve tones, but they weren’t equally divided. Scales in the earlier Western systems (which was used by Bach, Mozart, and others) had twelve tones, but they weren’t equally divided – you can find some recordings of -period’ instruments using the earlier tunings, and you can probably hear a difference in the scales. But the scales used have the same names I’ve outlined in this series, because they use the same twelve tones.

The reason Western tuning changed was because of a mathematical oddity in scales – a “perfect” octave has one note vibrating exactly twice as fast as the other. In a “perfect” fifth, one note vibrates exactly one-and-a-half times faster than the other. Twelve perfect fifths make seven perfect octaves, but if you take a starting frequency and multiply it by itself 12 times, you don’t get the same result as doubling it seven times. The first person to figure this out was Pythagoras (yep, the triangle guy) and the difference is called the “Pythagorean comma”. What it means in practical terms is that we can’t have all our notes perfectly in tune – if we try to get some sounds really, truly, perfectly in tune with others, we force OTHER tones to be out of tune! Our Western solution was to make every note equally spaced, which makes every note except the octave just a bit out of tune.

Other cultures have taken different approaches to the problem of the Pythagorean comma, and their solutions have divided the octave into some other division than 12. That means you won’t be able to just fret these scales – you’ll have to selectively bend notes to hit pitches that are between our twelve tones. I’ll outline two of these systems for you to experiment with.

In the Arabian peninsula music theorists took a mathematical approach, and the theory (which dates back about 1200 years) divides the octave into 17 parts. But it’s not quite as simple as dividing by 17! Most of the music of the middle east and North Africa is vocal, or accompanied by instruments like the oud, which is fretless – so they’re not constrained by “fixed intonation”. As a result, there are regional differences that have developed in their scales. What I’m calling “Arabian” is a broad description; it covers music from the Arabian peninsula all the way up to the Black Sea, as well as much of north Africa and the Southwestern parts of the former Soviet Union.

Modern Arabian music uses at least 24 different pitches to the octave, and the placement of those pitches can be a little different in Iraq than they are in Algeria! If you’re really interested in this sort of music, listen to it closely and use what you hear!

But here’s the basic structure: Arabian scales are called “maqams”, and each maqam is made up of two or more “jins”, which are fragments of 3 to 5 notes. The jins may follow one another, or they may overlap (i.e., the last two notes of one jin may also be the first two notes of the next jin), or they may be separated by one or two other tones, usually equivalent to our half steps and whole steps. This means there are a HUGE number of possible maqams, so I’m going to focus just on the jins. I’ll start them all from C; you’ll need to transpose them up to create whole maqams from these. The Hijaz, Bayati, and Sikah are the ones most commonly heard.

We’ll start with the ones that can be played without bends:

C-Db-Eb-F is the Kurd jin. It’s the same as the beginning of our Phrygian scale.

C-D-Eb-F is the Nahawand jin. It’s the same as the beginning of our minor scales.

C-Db-Eb-Fb is the Zamzama jin.

C-D-Eb-F#-G is the Nawa Athar jin, and

C-Db-Eb-F#-G is the Athar Kurd (it’s the Nawa Athar with the second note flatted)

Now we start bending. Here you’ll have to use your ears, because the differences can be small.

C-D-E* (the E is played just slightly flat, so you bend from D# about 90% of the way to E) is the Ajam.

C-D-E** (with the E just a little more flat than in the Ajam – maybe 80% of the way to E) is the Jiharkah.

C-D-Eb*-F is the Busalik

C-Db*-E***-F (with E bent sharp by about 10%) is the Hijaz.

Several jins make use of notes about halfway between our pitches. I’ll indicate those with the notes on either side, as in Db/D – you bend halfway from Db to D to get the right sound:

C-Db/D-Eb/E is the Sikah jin. If you want, you can bend the C to be C/C#, and just follow it with D and E.

C-D/Eb-Eb/E is the Mustaar. You can also go from C/C# to Eb and then E.

C-Db/D-Eb-F is the Bayati.

C-D-Eb/E-F is the Rast.

C-Db/D-Eb-Fb is the Saba.

The music of India consists of an entirely different system, called raga. When I studied Indian music in a college class, we were taught that there were 72 ragas – I’ve since learned that wasn’t exactly true (it’s more like 300!) The music of Southern India follows a system of “Carnatic” ragas; Northern India uses “Hindustani” ragas. They have different origins, so while there is overlap, it’s either coincidental or the result of unrecorded past influences from the other system. What I was being taught was a Southern system (as it turns out, it’s not even the only Southern system!), which does have 72, but there are modifications used that push that to 100 or so.

Ragas have cultural and religious implications; some are to be performed at certain times of the day, or during certain seasons of the year. I admit I’ve never really gotten a good grasp on that aspect of ragas. But I do understand at least a bit about how they work musically – ragas, like our Western diatonic scales, each consist of seven notes in an octave.

Every raga contains two fixed notes, Sa (our “do”, or C) and Pa (our “sol”, or G). Because of this, raga melodies can have cadences that are virtually identical to those in Western music. But the other five notes in a raga can take either two forms (like our D or Db) or three forms – like Db, D, or D#. Some of their pitches are identical in sound, like our F# and Gb.

Ancient ragas divided an octave into 22 divisions called shruti. In most parts of India this has given way to a twelve tone system – that’s the one I’ll present here. But drawing on the shruti heritage, the 12 tones that make up ragas aren’t equally spaced. So we’ll need to start with a slightly different scale. The one I’m presenting I can’t pretend is standard� but that’s because there ISN’T a standard! The actual divisions of the octave can vary from place to place, and even from one performance to another.

But to make this at least a bit accessible, I’m going to simplify the tones. I’ve worked this section from recordings of ragas, and where the pitch is within 5 cents or so of what we use, I’ll just make them equivalent (a cent in music is 1/100th of a half step). You’ll need to adjust a couple of tones in the ragas:

C# will be about 10% flatter than our C#; bend up the C below most of the way to C#
A will be about 15% flatter than our A; bend up from the G# below

Got that? Ok, on with the scales. I’m showing all of them with sharp tones to keep things simple, and to avoid having to go into how shruti are named.

Kanakangi = C-C#-D-F-G-G#-A-C
Ratnangi = C-C#-D-F-G-G#-A#-C
Ganamurti = C-C#-D-F-G-G#-B-C
Vanaspati = C-D#-D-F-G-A-A#-C
Manavati = C-D#-D-F-G-A-B-C
Tanarupi = C-D#-D-F-G-A#-B-C
Senavati = C-C#-D#-F-G-G#-A-C
Hanumatodi = C-C#-D#-F-G-G#-A#-C
Dhenuka = C-C#-D#-F-G-G#-B-C
Natakapriya = C-C#-D#-F-G-A-A#-C
Kokilapriya = C-C#-D#-F-G-A-B-C
Rupavati = C-C#-D#-F-G-A#-B-C
Gayakapriya = C-C#-E-F-G-G#-A-C
Vakulabharanam = C-C#-E-F-G-G#-A#-C
Mayamalavagowla = C-C#-E-F-G-G#-B-C
Chakravakam = C-C#-E-F-G-A-A#-C
Suryakantam = C-C#-E-F-G-A-B-C
Hatakambari = C-C#-E-F-G-A#-B-C
Jhankaradhwani = C-D-D#-F-G-G#-A-C
Natabhairavi = C-D-D#-F-G-G#-A#-C
Keeravani = C-D-D#-F-G-G#-B-C
Kharaharapriya = C-D-D#-F-G-A-A#-C
Gourimanohari = C-D-D#-F-G-A-B-C
Varunapriya = C-D-D#-F-G-A#-B-C
Mararanjani = C-D-E-F-G-G#-A-C
Charukesi = C-D-E-F-G-G#-A#-C
Sarasangi = C-D-E-F-G-G#-B-C
Harikambhoji = C-D-E-F-G-A-A#-C
Dheerasankarabharanam = C-D-E-F-G-A-B-C (not quite our major scale, because A is a bit flat)
Naganandini = C-D-E-F-G-A#-B-C
Yagapriya = C-D#-E-F-G-G#-A-C
Ragavardhini = C-D#-E-F-G-G#-A#-C
Gangeyabhushani = C-D#-E-F-G-G#-B-C
Vagadheeswari = C-D#-E-F-G-A-A#-C
Shulini = C-D#-E-F-G-A-B-C
Chalanata = C-D#-E-F-G-A#-B-C
Salagam = C-C#-D-F#-G-G#-A-C
Jalamavam = C-C#-D-F#-G-G#-A#-C
Jhalavarali = C-C#-D-F#-G-G#-B-C
Navaneetam = C-C#-D-F#-G-A-A#-C
Pavani = C-C#-D-F#-G-A-B-C
Raghupriya = C-C#-D-F#-G-A#-B-C
Gavambhodi = C-C#-D#-F#-G-G#-A-C
Bhavapriya = C-C#-D#-F#-G-G#-A#-C
Shubhapantuvarali = C-C#-D#-F#-G-G#-B-C
Shadvidamargini = C-C#-D#-F#-G-A-A#-C
Suvamangi = C-C#-D#-F#-G-A-B-C
Divyamani = C-C#-D#-F#-G-A#-B-C
Dhavalambari = C-C#-E-F#-G-G#-A-C
Namanarayani = C-C#-E-F#-G-G#-A#-C
Kamavardani = C-C#-E-F#-G-G#-B-C
Ramapriya = C-C#-E-F#-G-A-A#-C
Gamanashrama = C-C#-E-F#-G-A-B-C
Vishwambari = C-C#-E-F#-G-A#-B-C
Shamalangi = C-D-D#-F#-G-G#-A-C
Shanmukhapriya = C-D-D#-F#-G-G#-A#-C
Simhendramadhyamam = C-D-D#-F#-G-G#-B-C
Hemavati = C-D-D#-F#-G-A-A#-C
Dharmavati = C-D-D#-F#-G-A-B-C
Neetimati = C-D-D#-F#-G-A#-B-C
Kantamani = C-D-E-F#-G-G#-A-C
Rishabhapriya = C-D-E-F#-G-G#-A#-C
Latangi = C-D-E-F#-G-G#-B-C
Vachaspati = C-D-E-F#-G-A-A#-C
Mechakalyani = C-D-E-F#-G-A-B-C
Chitambari = C-D-E-F#-G-A#-B-C
Suchantra = C-D#-E-F#-G-G#-A-C
Jyoti swarupini = C-D#-E-F#-G-G#-A#-C
Dhatuvardani = C-D#-E-F#-G-G#-B-C
Nasikabhushani = C-D#-E-F#-G-A-A#-C
Kosalam = C-D#-E-F#-G-A-B-C
Rasikapriya = C-D#-E-F#-G-A#-B-C

Many, many more scales are possible. I’ve only touched on the ones that are commonly used in Western music with the 12TET scale, and those that are culturally widespread. But theorists and composers are continually experimenting – tuning systems now exist that divide an octave into 15, 17, 19, 22, 24, 31, 34, 41, 53, and 72 equal divisions, and unequal tuning systems are also possible – from the historical ones like the Werkmeister tunings used by Bach to tomorrow’s innovations.

I hope this series has given your fingers some food for thought!

Random Thoughts

Little did I realize that the “Random Thoughts” of our last newsletter would be back in my head so quickly, This past Monday, February 27, I learned of the passing of Steinar Gregertsen, who’s been a member of the Guitar Noise community since the summer of 2005. Ask anyone who’s corresponded with Steinar or interacted with him on the Guitar Noise Forums (or on the Steel Guitar Forum pages, where he was also a frequent contributor) and you’ll hear about his generosity and giving spirit. He was all about sharing music and advice and giving help to whomever might ask.

If you’ve not done so, take a moment and read our blog post about him, Watch and listen to the videos or go directly to YouTube and do a search on him. Or visit his webpage. Whenever you hear his music, even if you didn’t know him, you keep a vital part of his life in your heart. He’d be thrilled that you did.

Until our next newsletter, play well and play often. And listen to any music that comes your way.

And, as always,