Sunday, May 3, 2009

Joe Diorio and John McLaughlin

Cruising the net one day...
I came across an article by Joe Diorio entitled "Keep Yourself Inspired."
From the great jazz guitarist himself comes advice on how to stay musically and creatively inspired every day of the week. (here is a brief version)
Monday: Gesture improvising, all day. Shut off the thinking process and let your fingers and your feeling or intuition take over.
Tuesday: Melodic playing. Simple intervals. Think melodically.
Wednesday: New chords. Experiment.
Thursday: New melodies and new chords. This day we take some of the melodies created on Tuesday and add some of the new-found chords from Wednesday and put them together.
Friday: Listen to music all day long, new and old CD's.
Saturday: Research. This is the day to investigate further and go deeper into the subjects that interested you the most.
Sunday: Repose, silence, and meditation. Be still this day and listen for the inner voice to guide you.

For now, I might add a day on rhythm. John McLaughlin has opened my eyes to indian rhythms. Here's a link to his stuff. - free PDFs on the left. - free PDFs here too.

see my blog on The Inspiration Box

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

#4. The Diminished Scale and its Harmony

I've been thoroughly enjoying the 8-tone, dominant diminished scale lately. It's also called the "half-whole" (HW) diminished scale. Here's how it's built:

root-H-W-H-W-H-W-H-W or
1 b2 b3 3 #4 5 6 b7

What's cool is that it's a symmetrical scale and all kinds of weird parallel harmonies can be found in it:
  1. Diminished Seventh chords can be found on every chord tone.
  2. Dominant Seventh chords (with tensions: b9, #9, #11, 13) can be found on the root, b3, b5, and 6th scale degrees.
  3. Minor Seventh (or Half Diminished) chords can be found on the root, b3, b5, and 6th scale degrees.
I find this mind-boggling, that both major and minor chords are found on the main chord tones of the scale!

This is a mode of limited transposition (thanks Messaien) so there are only 3 unique diminished scales!

There are some crazy harmony tricks you can use to add a diminished sound to your compositions/improvisations. Here's my favorite: A very wacky set of triads can work over a C7 chord if you use the dominant diminished scale. Each triad will resolve to a chord tone in F major.
  • C major triad
  • Eb major triad (#9, 5, b7)
  • Gb major triad (tritone substitution! #11, b7, b9)
  • A major triad (13, b9, 3)
...bizarre, but awesome.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

REVIEW: Songs of the North & There and Back, by The Devin Arne Quintet

I'm excited to be reviewing the debut album of my good friend and fellow composer/guitarist: DEVIN ARNE

Songs of the North and There and Back
is a journey through landscapes, emotional depth, atmosphere, and soulful groove. Devin Arne's debut album features an ensemble of fantastic musicians from the McGill University in Montreal, Canada where the album was recorded. Listen for elements of the styles of some of the jazz greats including Pat Metheny, Bill Frisell, Kurt Rosenwinkel, Herbie Hancock, Wayne Shorter, Grant Green, Ben Monder, Jim Hall, as well as pop giants Radiohead, Zero 7, and Sigur Ros in Devin's work. One can find a dazzling variety of guitar textures and sounds accompanied by the expressive power of the trumpet and saxophone duet and stylistic brilliance of the drummer. Arne carefully balances his three-sectioned album with finely-crafted ballads and head-bopping jams. There is a feeling of continuity and unity as you listen to the album, along with myriads of harmonic and tonal variety. The album opens with "There and Back," which is one of my favorites - in a true jam style. Over a grooving ostinato that permeates the track is a unique call-and-response melody which can also be found in "Early Spring." The melodies, solos, and eventual final tutti jam all have the undertones of this awesome groove. Another favorite is "Sympathetic Vibrations" which tells of other worlds with its advanced harmonies and rich, singing melodies. One can not help but nodding their head along the bouncing 6/8 groove. "Broken Heat" opens immediately outlining the augmented scale and telling of deep, chilling sorrows. Free-flowing improvisation may catch you off-guard, but the track eventually swells to an all-encompassing depth that makes this track another favorite. The album closes with the sensitive "Ingmar," combining pensive melody reminiscent of Antonio Carlos Jobim's "How Insensitive" with some more modern harmonies. For sheer simplicity and beauty, this arrangement is another one of my favorites.

This album is available from the iTunes store and on Devin's Website:
See more from Devin:

Sunday, March 22, 2009

#3 CAGED guitar system

Over the past couple of days, I've been working on the CAGED guitar system. It's an intense process of visualizing scales based on the 5, common guitar chord shapes: C major, A major, G major, E major, and D major. is a good resource. But anyways, I'm trying to get into the nitty gritty of logical scale fingerings on the recent discovery was that most good scale fingerings for major are not the "3 note per string" thing, but the "3 note per string" with the exception of one string having 2 notes. There are 2 good 3 note per string fingerings...but I'm not sure how they fit in yet. The goal is to have an improvisation approach that is firmly based in a chord may not be CAGED, because symmetrical scales don't really follow CAGED logic...but that's the goal.

Friday, March 13, 2009

#2 Two tetrachords? I think not.

Why do we think of 7 note scales as 2 tetrachords? There are only 7 notes, so why would we think of the scale as piling 2 tetrachords (4+4=8) and include the top octave?
Let's see what happens if we think of it as 123,4567 - in other words, a trichord, then a tetrachord. Let's use the 7 modes of major (in intervallic order of "widest" to "most compressed"):

Lydian - major 1 2 3. 4567 belong to a phygian tetrachord
Major - major 1 2 3. 4567 belong to a lydian tetrachord
Mixolydian - major 1 2 3. 4567 belong to a major tetrachord
Dorian - minor 1 2 3. 4567 belong to a major tetrachord
Minor - minor 1 2 3. 4567 belong to a minor tetrachord
Phrygian - phrygian 1 2 3. 4567 belong to a minor tetrachord
Locrian - phrygian 1 2 3. 4567 belong to a phrygian tetrachord

What's interesting to note is "modes within modes," such as the lydian tetrachord in major, and the fact that Lydian and Locrian both have phrygian tetrachords, though they start on different notes.

This particular way of thinking seems to undermine the fact that major, dorian, and phrygian have dual tetrachord symmetry, which is pretty cool.

I think what this all comes down to is "tetrachordal" thinking...if you have 4 scalar notes in a row, it's some sort of tetrachord. I guess you can hack a scale into whatever bits you like, to expose particular mode pieces within a scale.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Blog #1 = progressions in major to minor

it's finally here...
A place where people who like music theory can mention their deepest, darkest, nerdiest theory revelations.
I have much to share. Let's start with an idea I had.

Take progressions in the major key...let's do "Can't Buy Me Love" by the Beatles (this may become a recurring example.)
Chorus: iii | vi | iii | vi | iii | vi | ii | V
Verse: 12 bar blues in C, with dominant 7 chords

Let's transform it into minor keeping the relative chord placements:
Chorus: bIII | bVI | bIII | bVI | bIII | bVI |ii half dim| V |
Verse: 12 bar blues in C minor, with minor 7 chords

Wow, that really doesn't work! bIII will sound like a tonic chord in a major key! I think minor keys need more emphasis on that tonic minor chord, known as i.

Comments rock.