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It's really just a theory Tuesday, July 24, 2012 08:07 AM
Kenny was one of most unusual guys that Johnny had ever met.  He was funny, he was smart, he was like a force of nature.  And he played guitar, which is something Johnny was looking to learn. He'd finally bought himself his irst guitar, a candy apple red Charvel after putting it on layaway at Nadine's in Hollywood.  Now had the instrument he just needed someone to show him what to do with it.

Kenny arrived at Johnny's how about 6, two hours after he was supposed to.  He brought a Black Kramer Guitar and a little practice amp.  Johnny didn't have an amp yet, but he'd found a way to plug his guitar into the stereo and even manage to get some distortion.  They played around for a bit sharing riffs and getting an idea of each others style.

"Man you play pretty manic, almost like punk rock" Kenny said to Johnny.  Johnny was slightly offended, he was actually trying ot play something with the purcussion of R&B, but he was having a hard time keeping it from sounding too noisy through the amp distortion.

"Here I've got something for you - all you'll ever need to know about Rock Guitar soloing - well almost - I have on this one page from the first book I ever bought about improvisation".

He showed Johnny this page with a set of fingering patterns and some scribbles.

"What's this?" Johnny asked?

"It's the key to taking over the world." Kenny laughed. "Let's get started."
"There are twelve notes in modern music, but only 7 of them count. Those are the only ones you really need to learn, at least to start with  Remember the "Do-Re'-Me" song from the Sound of Music?  It's that scale." Kenny began.  "Look at a piano, there are seven white keys and five black keys. For the most part, you can play just about any song entirely on the white keys - you just have to transpose it to the key of  'C'. The Do-Re-Me key.   I mean, you might have to hit a black key if you're playing blues, because they use a flat-fifth, or classical because they use some minor 7ths and stuff, but generally speaking most songs are only on the white keys.  Or really they're within the same seven note scale, people have just slide it up and down slightly from 'C' to some other key like 'G'."

Johnny was familiar with keys but not so much with 'fifths' or 'sevenths', but he didn't want to sound dumb so he didn't ask.  He looked at the page and decided to bring up a different question, "If there's only one scale of seven notes, why are there so many of them on this page?"

"Because they repeat over and over again on the fretboard, plus they also sound different depending on where you start the scale. That's what they call a 'mode'.  See my notes there on the side?  This is all understand the theory of music"
Root Note Mode Name
C                Ionian - Major
D                Dorian - Minor
E                Phrygian - Minor
F                 Lydian - Major
G                Mixolydian - Major
A                 Aolean - Minor
B                 Locrian - Diminished
The names don't matter all that much, what matters is how it sounds. If you begin the scale patter with "C" it's in the Ionian Mode and it has a certain sound.  But if you begin it from the "D" position it sounds a little different even if you play the song in basically the same way.  Different styles of music use different modes.  Country tend to use the Major modes like Ionian and Lydian, Blues tends to use a modified version of minor modes like Aolean or Dorian.  So not only can you transpose a song from one Key to another, you can transpose it from one mode to another.  Changing the mode is how you can make a blues song sound like a country song and vice verse. It all sounds fancy and complicated when you use the names but all you have to do is learn these seven patterns and you can play in any key and in any mode no matter what song it is - you can solo over it.

"Oh, so this is like a MAP of they black keys and the white keys - only for guitar?" Finally beginning to understand.  I have a bunch of blank fretboard charts I've been marking up, and I started by darkening all the "black keys" - like this.

"Yeah,that's the same thing just all strung together." Kenny said. "With my chart you can see that a persons hand can only reach so far.  Your fingers can only go about 5 or 6 frets, so once you go that far you should shift up to the next string, then go 5-6 frets and shift again, then again.  My chart shows how you can reach the most number of notes before you have to move your hand up or down the fretboard. it also shows you when you finally have to move, where you would need to go and still be playing in the same key, and the same mode."

"Ok, yeah I get it. So all I have to learn are these seven patterns and I can play pretty much anything?" Johnny asked.

"Yeah, pretty much - like I said blues and classical throw a couple extra funky notes in there - but those scales are still based on these scales. You'll just have to learn where the extra notes go, and when you'll need them - or you can do like Randy Rhodes and make up some fo your own variations on the scale - but this is the glue that holds it together."

"All right, man thanks.  But what about chords?" Johnny asked.

"I don't use that many chords, in Rock all you pretty much need is a power chords - that's  a two finger chords with a 5th interval.  Ok, let me explain intervals first.  Remember those 7 notes?  They're numbered.  1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 4th and 7th.  The 8th is just the same notes as the 1st, only one Octave higher.  The 9th is the same as the 2nd one Octave higher, the 10th is the same as the 3rd and the 11th is the same as the 4th up and Octave.  And so on, most people don't worry about anything after the 7th unless they're playing Jazz or something.  Most hard rock sticks with either the 1st & 5th or the 5th an 8th - which is the same as the 4th, just upside down. When you play the first and the fifth together, that makes a power chord and you can do that like this"

Kenny picked up his guitar and played a chord that looked like he was giving the finger, on either side of his middle digit one finger was touching one string each making a two-note chord.  You can play other chords, but you have to be careful with them because it can sound really muddy when you're playing a lot of distortion on your amp. It can turn into mud."

"Yeah, but that's where the interesting things can happen in a song. Here you've given me an idea. If all you need to do to play in any key or mode is to use the same pattern and shift it around, you can probably do the same thing with any chord. So if I were to go back to my fretboard chart - what would happen if I marked out everywhere you can reach a C Major (C - E - G) chord?"  Johnny grabbed a couple colored markers and started shading notes.

"I color coded them based on what you said about not being able to reach past just a few frets. It looks like there are three places where you can play a "C Major" chord - so if you learn those three fingering you can play ANY major chord simply by moving it to the right spot.   They look at lot like barre chords, but maybe we should leave some of the notes out when we don't need them to avoid it sounding too muddy - just use the middle four so you get all the notes." Johhny said.

"Ok, ok.. I like that. What about minor chords?"

"Well that's just moving one note from a major 3rd to a minor 3rd.  Replacing the E with an E flat. Give me a minute".  Johnny started marking another page again.

"That's rally cool man.  Can I have a copy of that" Kenny asked.

"Sure dude.." Johnny handed him the pages. "I can do it again".

"Ok, so now we have seven fingering patterns 3 patterns for each chord and we can play almost anything and make it sound cool.  Let's come back next week after you memorize this and I can tell you about chord soloing within the pentatonic five note scale - which is just the same scale without the 2nd and the 6th notes - then we'll see what we can come up with when we jam?"

"All right man..." I'll see you then.

'Cool Dude", "Uh, in the meanwhile - can you give me a lift home - I need a ride?

"Sure, man - it's cool", Johnny said.

This was gonna be great Johnny thought, eager to get working on his scales.



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