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Grappling with basic chord theory

Will Fly 12 Feb 14 - 06:44 AM
GUEST 12 Feb 14 - 07:08 AM
GUEST,Grishka 12 Feb 14 - 08:26 AM
Jack Campin 12 Feb 14 - 09:10 AM
GUEST 12 Feb 14 - 09:20 AM
johncharles 12 Feb 14 - 09:56 AM
GUEST,Mark Bluemel 12 Feb 14 - 10:30 AM
GUEST,Mark Bluemel 12 Feb 14 - 10:31 AM
cooperman 12 Feb 14 - 10:34 AM
Jack Campin 12 Feb 14 - 10:34 AM
GUEST,Grishka 12 Feb 14 - 10:43 AM
GUEST 12 Feb 14 - 10:48 AM
GUEST,leeneia 12 Feb 14 - 11:57 AM
Will Fly 12 Feb 14 - 12:03 PM
bubblyrat 13 Feb 14 - 08:45 AM
GUEST,Ed 13 Feb 14 - 11:12 AM
Allan C. 13 Feb 14 - 12:03 PM
Stringsinger 13 Feb 14 - 12:07 PM
Mysha 13 Feb 14 - 08:07 PM
cooperman 14 Feb 14 - 03:47 AM
Richard Mellish 14 Feb 14 - 09:51 AM
GUEST,Stim 14 Feb 14 - 01:29 PM
GUEST,Ed 14 Feb 14 - 01:48 PM
Mysha 14 Feb 14 - 05:41 PM
The Sandman 14 Feb 14 - 07:48 PM
GUEST,Stim 14 Feb 14 - 09:13 PM
ripov 15 Feb 14 - 10:29 AM
ripov 15 Feb 14 - 10:51 AM
Tattie Bogle 16 Feb 14 - 07:19 PM
GUEST,Stim 17 Feb 14 - 01:10 AM
Howard Jones 17 Feb 14 - 08:14 AM
Tattie Bogle 17 Feb 14 - 11:40 AM
GUEST,highlandman at work 17 Feb 14 - 11:45 AM
The Sandman 17 Feb 14 - 01:02 PM
GUEST,highlandman at work 17 Feb 14 - 01:08 PM
GUEST,highlandman at work 17 Feb 14 - 01:14 PM
Will Fly 17 Feb 14 - 01:39 PM
Will Fly 17 Feb 14 - 01:48 PM
Howard Jones 17 Feb 14 - 02:10 PM
GUEST,Grishka 17 Feb 14 - 04:47 PM
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Subject: Grappling with basic chord theory
From: Will Fly
Date: 12 Feb 14 - 06:44 AM

I regularly get enquiries from people who've seen my guitar tutorials on YouTube, and from people who've seen me play live, for information about aspects of playing guitar or musical theory applied to the guitar. Everyone learns in an individual way, so a teacher - of whatever subject - has to be able to communicate the knowledge in different ways for different people. This is easier to do face-to-face than by a video tutorial, which is inevitably fixed - which is why people email me for more info.

I'm always happy to assist when I can, and I can usually help most of the people who email me, but there's one aspect of music that seems to faze some beginner guitarists: the way in which chords are constructed. I had a correspondent only recently who wanted to know why some books show different guitar chord shapes for the same chord - he was referring, not only to root and inversions, but to the slight variations that you can apply to all chords. C major, root position, for example, can be played as:

332010 or x32013, etc.

I tried explaining, as simply as I could, that every chord is constructed from the notes of a major scale and gave examples of some basic chords in C, such as C major being formed from the 1st (C), 3rd (E) and 5th (G) notes of the scale of C - and that they can be played in any order while still being a C major chord.

And so on and so forth, at some length... to which came back the comment, "I'm not mathematical, I don't really understand all this". In the end I advised him just to go out and buy some books of chords and learn them by rote!

Perhaps I don't explain chord construction theory very well. Perhaps some people just don't get it. Perhaps it doesn't matter a jot if all you want to do is to play some basic stuff. I personally think it's a fascinating aspect of playing the guitar but - there you go! Anyone else got a better way to explain it? If you have, let me know - I'd be very interested.


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Subject: RE: Grappling with basic chord theory
From: GUEST
Date: 12 Feb 14 - 07:08 AM

Will, as an ex-music teacher I sympathise. First of all I used some visual aids. A a music stave on which I was able to draw the notes of the chordal scale. Here I demonstrated the play-one-miss-one shape of a chord. Then a large printed keyboard which illustrated that in fact the 'sounds' themselves were not as evenly spaced as the written music seemed to indicate. Thus we could see 'small' thirds of only 4 steps, and 'big' thirds of five steps.
Once this was mastered then you're pretty much cooking with gas. The major chord is a major third (Big) with a minor third (small) balanced on typo. The minor chord is the opposite of this and the diminished chord is two minor thirds and an augmented chord is two majors. That generally did it for basic theory.


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Subject: RE: Grappling with basic chord theory
From: GUEST,Grishka
Date: 12 Feb 14 - 08:26 AM

Often we hear people complain that an explanation is too theoretical, whereas the real obstacle to understanding is that it is not precise enough. I would proceed like this:

A chord symbol is a short denotation for a collection of (typically three or four) note names, not specifying an octave for any of them. To be played as an actual chord, each of these notes must sound in one or more octaves. (Obviously, if six strings are to sound three note names, some of the latter must occur more than once.) On the guitar, the choice of these octaves (commonly called "voicing") is mainly restricted by technical considerations (- fingering). However, we do have some options. In many situations, one voicing/fingering is best suited musically (for reasons to be explained in lesson 214), whereas another one is easier. The choice of lowest note is particularly important musically (see lesson 215), therefore often specified with the chord symbol, separated by a slash.


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Subject: RE: Grappling with basic chord theory
From: Jack Campin
Date: 12 Feb 14 - 09:10 AM

C major, root position, for example, can be played as:

332010 or x32013, etc.


The lowest note of the first one is G, so that is not root position.

C major being formed from the 1st (C), 3rd (E) and 5th (G) notes of the scale of C - and that they can be played in any order while still being a C major chord

In classical harmonic theory, no they can't. Different inversions have different functions.

You get the same issue on Stradella-bass accordions - some chords are in root position and some aren't.

The choice of lowest note is particularly important musically (see lesson 215)

When you're cutting and pasting from somebody else's work it helps if you credit them. Lesson 215 of what?


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Subject: RE: Grappling with basic chord theory
From: GUEST
Date: 12 Feb 14 - 09:20 AM

Something I found helpful to explain chords is a diagram of a piano keyboard. C is a good key to start with because it has no sharps or flats. Other than the number of vibrations per second, there is no difference between a 32 VPS and a 256 VPS note except pitch. People who have some theory will understand that. People who don't, won't. I like the previous guest's method. If a beginner wants to play Kumbaya, show him/her the chords in the key they want and they're happy. To a beginner, why that works doesn't matter. Two years later it becomes a different story. Something 'obvious' to a person who's played for five years is likely going to be a mystery to a beginner.

I suppose the best teacher will be experience, but getting that experience will require patience and repeated effort to 'get it'. Unfortunately many quit before getting it. I recall figuring out how to two-finger finger pick an early Dylan song. That was after my first four or so guitar lessons which had all been about strumming guitar. I was pleased with myself, but my drive to learn that was internal and had nothing to do with music theory or JS Bach and his brothers. Initially, the KIS principle is a good one to follow. When I see people like M Ted, Will Fly, Don Firth or leeneia discuss music I know I'm not in that league, and that's ok by me. For what I do I don't have to be. But then a kid who wants to learn Kumbaya doesn't require their depth of knowledge. The kid needs the chords: C,F,G. Then he/she can Kumbaya until the cows come home.


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Subject: RE: Grappling with basic chord theory
From: johncharles
Date: 12 Feb 14 - 09:56 AM

I had music theory lessons for a couple of years when learning to play piano. I guess what I learned was that as with any other subject there is no substitute for grinding through the basics and gradual progression leading to an improved understanding. Forgotten most of it now as lack of use leads to knowledge decay. it is never going to be amenable to one off explanations.
john


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Subject: RE: Grappling with basic chord theory
From: GUEST,Mark Bluemel
Date: 12 Feb 14 - 10:30 AM

To Jack Campin

I think Grishka really meant "1st position" rather than "root position" - i.e. where the index finger is at (behind) the first fret of the guitar.

I took Grishka's lesson numbers to be humourously intended - similar to "(contd p94)"...


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Subject: RE: Grappling with basic chord theory
From: GUEST,Mark Bluemel
Date: 12 Feb 14 - 10:31 AM

Page 94 explained


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Subject: RE: Grappling with basic chord theory
From: cooperman
Date: 12 Feb 14 - 10:34 AM

After playing guitar for some time, thinking music theory was beyond me, someone explained the basics to me and it all became clear to me...a light bulb moment! It wasn't as complicated as I thought and it's been very useful since.
I was talking to a beginner recently and I thought, if I explain things to him in a simple way, he can have the 'light bulb moment' a lot sooner than I did. Unfortunately it only seemed to confuse him. He's more concerned with how sore his fingers are! I think you need to be a fair way down the line before you worry about this stuff.


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Subject: RE: Grappling with basic chord theory
From: Jack Campin
Date: 12 Feb 14 - 10:34 AM

With the guitar this stuff often doesn't matter. The sound of a guitar is so indefinite that in the absence of a bass instrument, nobody but another guitarist can really hear what chord the instrument is trying to produce. The rhythm matters a lot, the chording usually doesn't.


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Subject: RE: Grappling with basic chord theory
From: GUEST,Grishka
Date: 12 Feb 14 - 10:43 AM

Jack,
The choice of lowest note is particularly important musically (see lesson 215)
When you're cutting and pasting from somebody else's work it helps if you credit them. Lesson 215 of what?
You have not quite caught up with my strange sense of humour. It is lesson 215 of a tutorial I could write if someone paid me for it. In plain English: "There are good reasons for this which can be explained clearly, but only after some more thorough studies." I think Will understands; he wants to talk to beginners.

There are various ways to skin a cat, but in the end they all involve work.


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Subject: RE: Grappling with basic chord theory
From: GUEST
Date: 12 Feb 14 - 10:48 AM

I've had some luck with getting students thinking about chords in terms of what they sound like in context. Music is, after all, a collection of sounds in order, not the mathematics of chord theory. A car is for driving, not for getting worked on by a mechanic.

Start with singing or playing a C major scale -- do re mi, etc. Everyone knows what that sounds like. Then play chords using those notes. Most people can hear how "right" a C-E-G combination sounds when compared to C-F-G or C-G-A. Most people's ears enjoy hearing the major chord, are familiar with the sound of it, and can pick one out when heard next to a collection of non-major chords. It's sort of, "here's the notes you have to work with, and here's what they sound like when played at they same time as each other." Save the dominant and sub-dominate major chords that are in the same scale for later, and save the counting of half-steps to construct chords for later.

To demonstrate inversions, use the C chord in a well-known song or chord progression, usually one that's not in C, perhaps a simple I-IV-V progression in G. Play the same progression several times, with the C chord in different inversions. Hearing the different inversions in the same context allows the student gain an understanding that the same chord can be stacked up in different ways and sound different, while still being the same chord and sounding the same, i.e. fulfilling the same role within its context.

From there, you can go in a variety of directions: demonstrating the usefulness of inversions by constructing an ascending or descending bass line. Use inversions to fill in chords behind a melody while always keeping the melody note on top. Counting half-steps for those who get it or want it bad enough. Writing down a major scale and then getting them to list all the triads that are available with those notes, as an easy way to know which chords are available to use in an accompaniment.

I try to keep the conversation about practical, useful, music-based ideas rather than teaching, or even mentioning, theory. Of course, with a little luck, they've just learned some theory. Sneak up on 'em.


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Subject: RE: Grappling with basic chord theory
From: GUEST,leeneia
Date: 12 Feb 14 - 11:57 AM

Get hold of a keyboard, even a toy will do, if all the notes work.

Show the learner a scale, then show how most chords are produced by hitting every-other note in the scale.

Then show a few inversions.

Then show how to play scales on the guitar. There are two ways: by going up a string and skipping certain frets or by finding the scales in blocks, using different strings. The fingering is different from a keyboard, but the idea is the same - chords are basically every other note in the scale you wish to play.


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Subject: RE: Grappling with basic chord theory
From: Will Fly
Date: 12 Feb 14 - 12:03 PM

Some interesting stuff here. The main problem with the requests that I get is that mostly they arrive by email. Trying to explain even simple things over email can actually be quite difficult. Face-to-face is really the only way. Anyway, I do like to help if I can!


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Subject: RE: Grappling with basic chord theory
From: bubblyrat
Date: 13 Feb 14 - 08:45 AM

Despite sharing the same Great-Grandmother,Will Fly and I play very differently ! He obviously knows his music theory,and I don't ! I have tried and tried , but to Noah Vale ! I have some sort of musical dyslexia that maliciously and mischieviously prevents me from reading music or understanding music theory , and have learned to play "by ear" all my life ; I play guitar now exclusively in double-dropped D , and have "discovered" a great many chords the names of which I can only guess at ! However ,this disadvantage bothers me not a jot , and I will happily play for you from an extensive repertoire that includes pieces from Playford,The Hardy Manuscript ,Fred Paris,Wim Poesen,Roger Tallroth,Carolan , et al .If it was OK for Hoagy Carmichael, then it's OK for me ! ( and you , probably ).


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Subject: RE: Grappling with basic chord theory
From: GUEST,Ed
Date: 13 Feb 14 - 11:12 AM

I'm sorry, bubblyrat but I think that you're spouting utter nonsense.

You can obviously read and write, so the suggestion that you have 'musical dyslexia' that prevents you from understanding basic music theory is complete bollocks.

You mention that you play guitar in 'double-dropped D' Sorry to burst your balloon, but that's music theory!

You may have great ears, and have no need of chord diagrams. Great. Most people, when beginning do.

Paul McCartney tell the story of when first starting, wanting to learn a 12 bar and having learned the E and A chords, getting a bus to find someone who could show him B7.

But you're clearly far more talented than him...


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Subject: RE: Grappling with basic chord theory
From: Allan C.
Date: 13 Feb 14 - 12:03 PM

There are some pertinent remarks made in this thread.


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Subject: RE: Grappling with basic chord theory
From: Stringsinger
Date: 13 Feb 14 - 12:07 PM

The only practical solution to learning music theory is to have it to the music that you are playing, otherwise, it's an abstraction or a math construct which may or may not be translated into musical auditory use.

There are many music theorists who know the mechanics but find it difficult to integrate it into their playing. As a music teacher for over Sixty-five years, students have come to me with a knowledge of key signatures, cycle of sevenths (fourths and fifths), basic chord construction and I've had to show them how to use what they know.

I teach a Tuesday evening jazz guitar class and we grapple with chord construction,
transposition, linear and vertical approaches to improvisation and memorizing of tunes and chord progressions.

As stated above, the ears are often more important than the theory which comes afterward.

Music theory is not rocket science but the student must be shown how to use it.

My goal is sometime to be able to crack the code of the Schillinger system of musical math but I need someone to show me how to do it, this, after over my seventy years as a working musician. Moral: You can never know enough.


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Subject: RE: Grappling with basic chord theory
From: Mysha
Date: 13 Feb 14 - 08:07 PM

Hi,

"Well, chords are just tones that sound well together. The tones that sound best together are the octaves. On your guitar, play a tone on the lowest sounding string, without pressing it down on the frets: That's an E. Now count 12 frets from the top down towards the body, and press your finger behind it (closer to the top), and play the string again. (Try both a few times.) They sound so well together that they're like the same tone.

In fact, they sound so similar that they can be a bit boring. So, start with E again, but then for the other tone count 7 frets and play that one. Sounds nice too, even a bit more exiting. If you've ever heard of a "quint" ... this is it.

Now, there would be one additional tone that would be nice to play, but most of our instruments can't play it. Bother. The problem is, starting from E again, you'd have to count three and a half fret. That doesn't work, so we play it either by counting 4 frets, or by counting 3 frets. Dangerous names coming up: If we count 4, which is too much, we call it a "major third"; if we count 3, which is not really enough, we call it "minor third". ("Major" because it's the bigger one, and "minor" because at 3 frets it's still under-age.)

Now, if you play the E together with the quint and the major third, you play a chord. And if you play the E together with the quint and the minor third, you play a chord as well. (Just don't play the major and minor third at the same time.) But, playing a chord wouldn't work if you'd have to play it all on the same string. Fortunately, you have more strings, but! They are all tuned differently: Every time you go to a string that sounds higher, you have to count 5 frets back to get the same tone. So, to find the quint, you'd count 7 frets, like before, but then go to the next string and you count 5 frets back. Of course, it may sometimes be easier to do this in your mind, and think "2 frets" immediately, but no matter what, you can always count it out. Try this out for all four of them: Octave, Quint, Major Third, and Minor Third.

Right. Time for a five-minute break, and get something to drink while you're at it. Seriously, after the break you'll need all your energy to make a leap - sort of.

--------

OK - Leap of faith time: Because an octave sounds so much like the tone you begin with, for every tone you want in your chord, you can also take one that is an octave higher, counted 12 frets towards the body of the guitar. (And you can even count yet another octave if necessary.) And then, of course, you can go to a higher-sounding string and count 5 frets back again. And so over all strings, except that the designers of the guitar thought it funny to have an exception: If you go from the 4th string, counting from the lowest-sounding, and go to the next higher-sounding, you count back only 4 frets. (Then on the 5th, to get to the higher one it's 5 again.) Now count out all four of the tones on higher strings: Count back 5 frets (or 4 when you're at the exception) to get to a higher-sounding string, and when there aren't enough frets for that, count up 12 frets to reach the same tone in a higher octave.
(If you're ever on the first fret and all you have to do is count back just one more, then don't press down the string at all. That's just like how you play the first tone, the E, without pressing down its string, only strumming it.)

Now you've found the same tones all over the place. To play a chord, you play as many strings as you like, but: on every string you play you have to play one of three tones: The tone you began with (called the "prime"), the quint, and either the major third or the minor third. And, all three have to be present: The prime, the quint and one of the thirds! (And remember, you can go up an octave = 12 frets, whenever you need it.)

All of those would be the same chord. Except ... since thirds don't play nicely in the same sandbox, either you have the major third in it - then it's called a major chord and with that tone being a bit higher the chord gives us a higher mood - or you have the minor third in it - then it's a minor chord, a lower tone, and a lower mood. Of course, if you use different strings, there are small differences in how the chord will sound, even if you would play the major chord each time: Imagine playing the prime on each of four strings, and the other two tones on one string each; that's going to sound different from having found four strings where you can play the quint and use the last two strings for the other two. But they are all the same chords; they match with the same chords and tones on other instruments and in your singing. Pick whichever you feel you can or would play. (To start with, you usually try for combinations where you have only a few strings to push down, and where you don't have to spread your fingers too much.)

OK, time to play around: So far you started with E, so the chords were called E major and E minor. Now try to start with F (begin by counting 1 fret on the lowest-sounding string, and from there again count 12 frets for the octave, 7 for the quint and 3 and a half for the third(s). And then on to G ...

If you know how a scale works, then you'll know that you'll always have to count two more frets for every higher tone you want to start with, except that it's only 1 for F (as you've already seen), and also only 1 for C. With that, for every major and minor chord you see printed, you should be able to count out whether the indicated tones really all are prime, quint, and third. And if you have a blister on your little finger, you can figure out which string you can skip because the tone would be double anyway."


Well, something like that. Pacing could probably be done better, and it might help to establish first that guitar strings go down when they go up, which causes the numbers to go the wrong way. Further hands-on stuff could explain the stuff I ignored here but, of course, this is all on a strict No Need To Know basis: By just keeping to the version the first book shows (or the last), they can play the chord without knowing how it works. It's only when you play the guitar on the MTv that you apparently run into problems.

Bye,
                                                                Mysha


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Subject: RE: Grappling with basic chord theory
From: cooperman
Date: 14 Feb 14 - 03:47 AM

Money for nuthin an yer chords for free!


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Subject: RE: Grappling with basic chord theory
From: Richard Mellish
Date: 14 Feb 14 - 09:51 AM

Mysha said
"Now, there would be one additional tone that would be nice to play, but most of our instruments can't play it. Bother. The problem is, starting from E again, you'd have to count three and a half fret. That doesn't work, so we play it either by counting 4 frets, or by counting 3 frets."

I understand that this is a way of getting towards describing major and minor thirds, and perhaps also a hint about blue notes. HOWEVER there is a reason why most instruments allow major and minor thirds but many can't play something in between at all or can do so only by bending the note. A perfect (i.e. not equal-tempered) major third has a frequency ratio of 5:4 and a perfect minor third has a ratio of 6:5, both of which sound OK. Somewhere in between sounds rough.

Richard


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Subject: RE: Grappling with basic chord theory
From: GUEST,Stim
Date: 14 Feb 14 - 01:29 PM

I keep waiting for some of our more "Fundie" 'catters to pop in and say, "It's only theory. It's never been proven."


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Subject: RE: Grappling with basic chord theory
From: GUEST,Ed
Date: 14 Feb 14 - 01:48 PM

What's a "Fundie" 'catter, please?


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Subject: RE: Grappling with basic chord theory
From: Mysha
Date: 14 Feb 14 - 05:41 PM

Hi,

Richard: Feel free to put a "Let's say" in, to indicate it's a simplification.

For understanding the basic idea of chords it's not really necessary to know that thirds don't actually exist but are really two ratios, the one being a fourth higher and the other a fifth. (That is, as just intervals expressed in frequencies relative to the base tone.) Working with the concept that a third exists, I get: Take a prime, the quint and the/a third to make a chord.

And it's not really a lie: The well-tempered thirds really are off, and the just (major) third really does lie in between, just rather closer to the major third.


But, I guess you're right in a way: This simplification would have to be unlearned later. OK, for a more truthful version, read:

"
Now, for our chords we would need one additional tone that's nice to play, but unfortunately, we don't have another tone like that on our instruments. Bother. There are two nice candidates, but the problem is, starting from E again, they both lie somewhere between the third and fourth frets. As we can't play that, we play them either by counting 4 frets, for the higher tone, or by counting 3 frets, for the lower tone. Dangerous names coming up: Those two notes at something like three and a half frets we call "thirds". The higher one we call the "major third", and we pretend to play that one if we count 4 frets, though that's really too much. The lower one we call the "minor third" and we pretend to play that one if we count 3 frets, though that's not really enough. ("Major" because it's the bigger one, and "minor" because at 3 frets it's still under-age.) Admittedly we're pretending a bit, but most of the time it's close enough to work.
"

The corresponding slight modifications to the other paragraphs are left as an exercise to the reader.


Thanks for keeping me honest.
(But what if the question was about a 31-tone guitar?)

Bye
                                                               Mysha


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Subject: RE: Grappling with basic chord theory
From: The Sandman
Date: 14 Feb 14 - 07:48 PM

WILL, I might suggest explaining by tonic solfa if the person is older, I am not sure if do ray me etc is still taught, BUT ITS A GOOD WAY OF EXPLAINING IN MY EXPERIENCE.


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Subject: RE: Grappling with basic chord theory
From: GUEST,Stim
Date: 14 Feb 14 - 09:13 PM

You know who the "Fundies" are, Ed. They're always fussing about the 1954 definition, or cursing even tempered scales, or mumbling about Ewan McColl, or blaming the plight of the world on the late Dave Bulmer. They invoke "The Tradition" and...oh, wait, no, I was just taking a sarcastic swipe at a couple of other never ending non-musical threads;-)


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Subject: RE: Grappling with basic chord theory
From: ripov
Date: 15 Feb 14 - 10:29 AM

"in the olden days" - as my kids used to say, not appreciating that life existed even before I was young - on the viol the problem (discussed above by Mysha and Richard) of notes being different in different keys was conveniently dealt with by tying additional frets in the right place. http://www.modoantiquo.com/temperatur/temperatur_desc_en.html.


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Subject: RE: Grappling with basic chord theory
From: ripov
Date: 15 Feb 14 - 10:51 AM

But in equal temperament this problem doesn't exist. It just sounds as though it does. In any case electronic tuners, which appear to have replaced careful listening these days, don't have the facility for tuning these additional frets conveniently.

I suppose it's not really part of "chord theory", but as a melody instrument player, I like chords underneath that fit the tune! Usually these contain notes that are found in the tune (probably on accented beats), plus others (say 7ths) that suggest where the tune may be going.

As Jack Campin mentions earlier, the choice of lowest note is important. Ideally these should form a musical sequence. Otherwise known I believe as a bass riff. It's good if other notes should form their own tunes as well. More so if the accompanying instrument is melodic (although the concept of two note "chords" may not be appropriate to this thread -) here the 2nd tune is prominent and needs to be carefully constructed.


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Subject: RE: Grappling with basic chord theory
From: Tattie Bogle
Date: 16 Feb 14 - 07:19 PM

I learned to play piano from an early age, so with that went learning to read music and some music theory. Very glad I did that when young as it's so much harder to learn anything new when older! I would equate it with learning a foreign language: not easy but if you stick at it, you get there in the end.
But I probably learned more about chords when I went on to guitar, and later still, other instruments. While it is very nice to talk about root, 1st and 2nd inversions, it can overcomplicate the issue for some people: oh yes, I've seen the eyes glaze over in workshops as these have been explained. What makes it simpler is just learning what notes are in any given simple major or minor chord and then use them in any permutation (not forgetting your bass riffs if you want them!) And then you can move on to making very simple changes from one chord to another: in piano and guitar terms this may mean moving only one finger/changing one note, even if you are perhaps - don't think about it/analyse it - changing from root chord to one or other inversion. Best tip I was ever given!(Not talking about complex 9th and sus chords here, they can wait for later!)


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Subject: RE: Grappling with basic chord theory
From: GUEST,Stim
Date: 17 Feb 14 - 01:10 AM

Ripov said, "I suppose it's not really part of "chord theory", but as a melody instrument player, I like chords underneath that fit the tune!"

This brings up an important point, which is that chord accompaniments don't always do the same thing--

--some are simply notes that harmonize with the melody
--some provide a rhythmic accompaniment using chords that include the melody notes
--some provide a counterpoint line (often, but not always, in the bass)
--some provide an independent rhythmic pattern that the melody or lead rides on

Each of these sounds different, of course, and often, but not always(again) individual musical genres tend to favor a particular one above the others.


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Subject: RE: Grappling with basic chord theory
From: Howard Jones
Date: 17 Feb 14 - 08:14 AM

I think one of the problems for novice guitarists is that tutor books usually seem to rely on chord windows. This encourages thinking of chords as fingering patterns rather than as notes - this is certainly what happened with me, and this is a habit I've carried over to other instruments. I now have a better intellectual understanding of how chords are built up, but it is just that, and doesn't translate into my actual playing.

These days I usually play guitar in an open tuning. I couldn't name any of the chord patterns I play.


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Subject: RE: Grappling with basic chord theory
From: Tattie Bogle
Date: 17 Feb 14 - 11:40 AM

Agree with that Howard: I only play in standard tuning, and learned guitar by chord shapes rather that actual notes: never learned guitar scales, so other than knowing the names of the open strings I couldn't have told you which actual notes I was playing. It was probably my piano theory and a bit of ear stuff that allowed me to put compatible chords with particular songs or tunes.
As a side issue to this, at a Trad music class I attend we were given a melody and then 2 of us took it away to put chords to (independently of each other): for the same tune, we came up with completely different sets of chords, both of which were agreed by others in the class to be perfectly acceptable interpretations: mine were fairly simple major I,IV,V with the occasional relative minor: the piano accordionist came up with a lot more minors, 7ths, "double sharping" etc - by his own admission "fussy chords". Then came the vote: 50/50 from the rest of the class! So we now play the piece twice, my simple chords first time, the more complex ones second time: nice arrangement, everyone happy!


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Subject: RE: Grappling with basic chord theory
From: GUEST,highlandman at work
Date: 17 Feb 14 - 11:45 AM

Will-
A lot of the good suggestions here revolve around using a piano keyboard or a staff as a teaching aid, but still subtly miss the underlying problem: the fretboard of a guitar is a dreadfully impractical tool for visualiz(s)ing the intervals of a scale.
With my kids and my students I have done all the theory work (and I start VERY simply as I'm sure you know how to do) on the piano. It just isn't worth the fight, especially with a visual learner, to make sense of it on the fretboard. Once the basics are understood, it's not so hard to transfer it to the guitar.
-Glenn


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Subject: RE: Grappling with basic chord theory
From: The Sandman
Date: 17 Feb 14 - 01:02 PM

yes,when i learned guitar, a diagram was drawn out of all the notes on the finger board, so that i could see where they occurred in different places on the fingerboard, chords were then explained as first third and fifth of the major scale, the difference between major and minor chords was explained by showing the flattened third and it being played[so i could hear the different sound], the guitar is a very good instrument to show the difference[for example] between a major and a minor.
i took all this understanding with me to the concertina, and incidentally was appalled by the lack of good tutors for song accompaniment, which prompted me to bring out my own tutor for song accompaniment.
i disagree with highland man , imo the guitar is as good an instrument for visualising the intervals of a scale as the piano. learning guitar by chord patterns is[imo] not the best way to learn, it does not explain the importance of different inversions, or what differnt inversions are, very often only one chord is shown for example of for d major, it is a terrible way to teach, it is IMPORTANT for people to understand what they are doing.


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Subject: RE: Grappling with basic chord theory
From: GUEST,highlandman at work
Date: 17 Feb 14 - 01:08 PM

I absolutely agree with GSS that understanding inversions are important. They may be even more important to understand on a guitar where the sound can be strikingly different between voicings. But my point was that the guitar fretboard, being non-linear (or multi-linear?), makes it harder to illustrate the fundamentals of intervals and scales to the rank beginner. Peace.
Oh, and I would say that for teaching the sound of a particular interval and especially for illustrating the portability, or relativity, or whatever you want to call it, of chords and intervals, a guitar is excellent.
-G


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Subject: RE: Grappling with basic chord theory
From: GUEST,highlandman at work
Date: 17 Feb 14 - 01:14 PM

understanding *is* ... grrr


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Subject: RE: Grappling with basic chord theory
From: Will Fly
Date: 17 Feb 14 - 01:39 PM

The problem for me was trying by email to show that, instead of me trying to demonstrate every possible variation on a chord - which is what the (foreign) correspondent wanted - it might be of more value for him to (a) understand what notes make up any chord (b) know where those notes are on the fretboard. DIY chords.

Alas, (a) was a non-starter. It might have been easier for us face-to-face, but an obvious impossibility for this person to understand what I was attempting to say...

As I said earlier, in the end I just gave up and said, "Buy a book of chords and learn them".


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Subject: RE: Grappling with basic chord theory
From: Will Fly
Date: 17 Feb 14 - 01:48 PM

This is the actual video that the correspondent was referring to:

How to build guitar chords

You can see, from the comments that the video either (a) hit the spot or (b) failed miserably! Which only goes to show that different people learn in different ways...


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Subject: RE: Grappling with basic chord theory
From: Howard Jones
Date: 17 Feb 14 - 02:10 PM

That video works for me. The book I learned from taught chord shapes but didn't relate it to the scale (or perhaps I skipped that because it was boring :) ) I think the problem is that a lot of books teach that way, because it allows you to get started on accompanying a song very quickly. The difficulty arises late, when you have to memorise lots of chord shapes without understanding how they're built up.

Anyway, I never learned the scales and still think of chords as finger patterns. I think I've become a fairly competent player in one particular style, but I'm aware of a lot of weaknesses elsewhere in my playing. Maybe that's a project for when I retire.


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Subject: RE: Grappling with basic chord theory
From: GUEST,Grishka
Date: 17 Feb 14 - 04:47 PM

The problem is: what existing knowledge do we presuppose. A lesson is a single didactic step in a whole curriculum. For example, in the sample from my post of 12 Feb 14 - 08:26 AM I assume the reader to know the notion of octaves. It is meant to explain a single point: the logical difference between chord symbols and fingering patterns. I understood the OP to be about that problem.

A standalone YouTube video can only make as much sense as it makes to assume viewers to fulfill all presuppositions but lack this special information. Not an easy task; many famous lecturers failed in similar ones, declared "made simple". In all cases, the prerequisites should be mentioned clearly, otherwise viewers may declare the whole thing incomprehensible.

A consistent tutorial with a complete didactic concept is desirable, whether by video or audio, backed by a book or not. Audio is important: all notes and chords must sound while being explained. A gigantic task to do it properly; I am not sure whether I would be very successful either. Well, since I'm not famous, nobody asks me to ...


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