Supposin’ You’re Transposin’?

Not long ago, music was less about riffs and more about chords from a particular key circling around. Of course every kind of music evolves, and our musical forefathers probably never dreamed of guitarists with Viking names and scalloped fretboards whipping around the harmonic minor scale at light speed.

The Fractured Sound of the Whole Tone Scale

Scales are strange beasts. History shows us that the practicing of scales consists of playing the same notes in the same order while a ruler-armed teacher barks “Faster! FASTER!” at us all the while assuring ourselves that the study of scales builds character, and one day it will all be worth it

Playing What You DON’T Know

Advancing as a guitar player is never seen as a slow and steady climb. It is more like a series of steps with pretty long spaces in between. While it might seem like you don’t get better for weeks or months at a time, one breakthrough can lead to months of inspiration.

This Sounds Odd: Understanding 9th Chords

Contrary to where modern guitar has gone, it started life as a rhythm instrument, bashing out chords on a large archtop (or larchtop*) in the back of the band. Yes, it is hard to believe that at one time, the idea of sweep picking lydian-dominant arps at 200 bpm was unheard of, and the idea of having a great chord vocabulary (and being able to improvise with those chords) was essential to be considered a great guitarist that could work steadily and support all of those spotlight-stealing brass players. These days, being an amazing rhythm player is downplayed in favor of other aspects of guitar playing, but understanding some small things about chords will only let our solos stand out more, and give us more interesting things to play over. If you haven’t read it yet, I would also suggest reading my article about 7th chords, as this article will build on those concepts.

Mode Mania: Hearing the Unique Sounds of Each Mode

Misunderstanding the modes of the major scale is common among guitarists. We practice them in all keys, up and down the fretboard, in sequences, with different rhythmic groupings. The secrets to these mysterious inversions of the major scale lie in the chords they are played over. This article will explain some ways we can hear the unique sound of each mode, and develop interesting chord progressions that allow us to hear them in their native habitat.

Chords of the Harmonic Minor Scale

In the last music theory blog article, I introduced you to the odd and sometimes dissonant chords derived from the melodic minor scale. This time we’ll look at the prettier-but-slightly-aloof older sisters of the melodic minor chords: Chords of the Harmonic Minor scale. This article will explain how to derive the chords from this dramatic scale,…

Blues and the Harmonic Minor Scale

The blues has been slowly disappearing as an element of modern rock and metal for over two decades. This doesn’t mean we can’t learn from ‘old guys’ and the simplicity of playing fewer notes with feeling and the right tone. Now the harmonic minor scale has been associated with guitarists like Ritchie Blackmore and Yngwie Malmsteen, who no doubt possess some great bluesy phrasing, but are pretty different from the blues guitarists that influenced them.

Breaking Down the Barriers: The Locrian Mode

Now we come to the end of my series on modes of the major scale, and this is a tough one. The Locrian mode is the least used, and probably the most misunderstood out of all of the modes of the major scale. This one isn’t tough to play, though. It is just a C…

Breaking Down the Barriers: The Aeolian Mode

Welcome to the next installment of my series on the modes of the major scale. This is probably the most popular mode, and the one most associated with music we have learned on guitar. The reason being is that the Aeolian mode goes by another, more common name: the minor scale.

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