Category Archives: Music Styles



This is the last of a 4 part series on 4 basic chord progressions that will get you far in playing some of your favorite songs, and you’ll begin to recognize the I IV V, the ii V, the I Vi IV V, and this one, the Vi V IV.


The Vi VI IV – one very versatile chord progression

This chord progression use the Vi (6th) chord which is minor, down a whole step to the V (5th) chord which is major and then down another whole step to the IV chord, also major.  If you’re learning a song that does that, you have a Vi V IV!

This is really a natural minor progression.  Let’s take a look at aVi V IV in C:

IV  V   VI

C   D   E    F    G    A    B  C

A Minor to G Major to F Major.

Examples of songs using this chord progression:

Stairway to Heaven (the end, “as we wind on down the road…”)

Harden My Heart

Livin’ on a Prayer

Edge of 17

…and many more.

Minor Keys Revisited

The simplest Minor key type is the Natural Minor.  There are no differences between it (the Vi – A here) and the relative Major (the I – C in this case).  The notes and chords are the same.  But the chord progression centers on A minor which gives is a more complex “moody” sound.

Keep in mind this can easily hop to the I major (C).   Majors and Minors frequently go back and forth in a song.  It can start in A Minor but the chorus could be in C Major.

What is fun with this chord progression is that there are cool ways to improvise over it.  The Minor Pentatonic scale off the Vi (that is, A minor Pentatonic) is a natural for this and works very well.

Additionally, I use the Major scales, which in this case is C Major scales (or A Natural Minor scales, as they are the same thing).  The reason why this works so well is while the A Minor pentatonic fits well, it lacks the root note of the IV chord, in this case F.

A Minor Penatonic

A    C    D    E    G

This is the chord progression in the final rockin’ part of Stairway to Heaven where Jimmy Pages comes out blasting with a descending run down A Minor Pentatonic but he “sticks” the final note of his phrase on the note F – which happens to be when the F chord is playing.  His solo is largely based off the A minor pentatonic but was well aware that the F note could be used nicely to his advantage.

That’s the end of this series.  There is much more to explore with chord progressions and the various ways to improvise (or write melodies) for them.

Drop me a line with your questions or new topics you’d like to see explore.

Keep Shreddin’ through the holidays!



Greetings, all!

As the Labor Day weekend approaches, you might have more time for practicing.  This is the 3rd installment in the 4 basic chord progressions you should know.  Knowledge of these chord progressions will help you build your library of known songs because so many songs use these progressions so they will accelerate learning.

PT 1 focused on the I, IV, V.  P2 focused on the ii, V.  Today we focus on the I, vi, IV, V.

This chord progression was used a lot by any songwriter in the 1950’s or early 1960’s that wanted to write a ballad.  Angel Baby was just a I vi IV V repeated over and over.

In fact, it’s used so much, wikipedia (an online encyclopedia of sorts that I support) has an entry on it here.

You may notice that the I vi IV V is just like the I IV V but with the vi chord thrown in.  This one chord makes a big difference.  Playing this chord progression will get your ear used to the sound of going from the I (major) to the vi (minor).  The I and the vi have a unique relationship to that of the rest of the key.

Taking a look at the key of C:

1      2      3       4      5      6      7

C      D      E      F      G      A      B

I                           IV   V      vi

CM                   FM  GM  Am

As stated above, this chord progression is used for a lot of ballads.  While not a pure I vi IV V chord progression, the sweet, gentle intro of Free Bird (well before the wild guitar duel) starts with G, D/F#, to Eminor.  That’s a I, V, vi in G.  (The D/F# simply means a D major with the F# in the bass)

Key of G:


1      2      3       4      5      6      7

G      A     B      C      D      E     F#

I                           IV   V      vi

As a side note, whenever I have a chord progression with a minor chord in it (ii V in the last post, I vi IV V in this post) that opens up my solo or song writing melodies to the use of the Major Scale.  I would still stick close to my G major Pentatonic (5 note scale) in this pattern, but I could throw in some other notes to from the 7 note Major scale.

Next lesson will focus on a new progression that is used largely in hard rock songs that really open up solo possibilities.


Hey Shredders,

This is part 2 of this series.  In the first part, we discussed the I IV V progression.  Today  we discuss it’s cousin – the ii V.

The ii V progression is used a lot in jazz.  Because of that, you often see it using the “7th” chord variations.  I’ll explain that.

In the key of C, we have:

1     2      3      4      5      6      7

C     D     E      F      G      A     B

So our I, IV, V  (from last lesson) would be:

C major        F major  G major

These are the three major triads in a major key.  The chord built off the one (C) is major, the chord build off the 4th note (F) is major and the chord build off the 5th note (G) is major.

The 2 chord (ii) is D.  It is minor.  In fact, the 2 (ii), 3 (iii), and 6 (vi) are all minor.  D minor, E minor, and A minor.  The 7th chord (vii) is diminished (that’s a separate lesson!).

Above I called the ii V chord a “cousin” of the I, IV, V.  To see why we need to know what notes are in the chords themselves.

Chords are build in 3rds.  That means you start on a note (1), skip a note (the 2nd) and go to the following note (3rd).

1     2      3      4      5      6      7

C     D     E      F      G      A     B

So I highlighted C (1), E (3), and then the next third up G (5).  If you play any C major chord – open string or bar, you’ll find these three, and only these three, notes in that chord.

This 1-3-5 formula applies to all notes in the key.  So the IV chord is F-A-C:

1     2      3      4      5      6      7      8 or 1

C     D     E      F      G      A     B      C

This is where some students get confused.  “But C is one (1, or I) in the key of C!  How can F be one??”

If you think of a family, your Mom or Dad could be C.  D, E, F and so one would be children.  So C is the parent to those notes.

But that also means the child notes have a relationship to the other notes.   They are siblings.  When F has a relationship to A, we count F as 1 and A as the 3rd up from F.  C then is a third up from A.

If this is confusing, think of it this way :

When we build a chord off a note – any note – that first note is ONE.

Once you get comfortable with that notion, if we get back to our ii V progression, D minor to G, let’s take a look at the notes in D minor, again looking as D as 1 since we are building a chord off it:

1     2      3      4      5      6      7

C     D     E      F      G      A     B

The notes D, F, A are the notes that make up a D minor chord.

The notes F, A, and C made up F Major.  So D minor can be substituted for F major in many places.  They both have the notes F and A in them.

Not only is the ii V used in jazz a lot, it’s also the basis for the song Evil Ways by Santana.

The 7th 

So above it is stated the 1-3-5 is the formula for a chord.  If we continued that pattern, the next note in the series would be 7.  1-3-5-7.  Are those really used?  The answer is an astounding yes!  In hard rock not so much, but all over the place in jazz, folk, ballads, etc.

So if we made D minor a D minor 7 in our ii V progression, we would have:

1     2      3      4      5      6      7      8 or 1

C     D     E      F      G      A     B      C

D-F-A-C.  What did F Major have?  F-A-C.  So now with D minor 7 we have all the notes of an F major but with a more “jazzy” feel, which is used also in latin and samba music.

ii V often progress to a I chord.  D minor 7 to F major to C Major.  I’ve had many assignments based off of this chord progression.

So we have I, IV, V for a more rock or blues feel.  ii, V for a jazz, ballad or folk feel.

Next lesson will point out yet another well used variation on these chords.


4 Chord Progressions Every Guitar Player Should Know – PT 1

Hey all –

As I teach guitar students many various songs, I try to point out what chord progression the song is built from.

What is a chord “progression”?  Just a fancy sounding term that means a series of chords that make up a song.  But some are used over and over again.  Spotting them early can help you figure out a song by ear.

Songs Come From Chord Progressions

I’m re-reading the book Life by Keith Richards and their pianist used to call the Rolling Stones “My little 3 chord wonders”.  Even though he meant it affectionately, many songs are just 3 chords.  Let’s look at the most used 3 chord progression:


The I-IV-V (or the “one, four five” is how we say it) is a major chord (Or at least a root-fifth of the chord) played on the 1st note of a major key, the 4th note, and the 5th note of a major key.

The key of C is all natural notes (i.e. no sharps or flats):

1   2   3    4    5    6    7

C   D   E   F   G   A   B

With the 1 (I) being C, the 4 (IV) being F and the 5 (V) being G, that is a I, IV, V in C.  The order of the chords being played will depend on the song, so don’t get hung up on that.  You can write a song that goes G, to F, to C (V – IV – I in order) but we still call it a I-IV-V progression.


So the most popular keys for guitar are actually, G, E and A as they can use open string chords, which are what most students start with.

1    2    3   4   5   6   7

G   A   B   C   D  E  F#    I, IV, V is G, C, D

E   F# G# A  B  C# D#  I, IV, V in E is E, A, B

A   B  C#  D  E  F#  G3  I, IV, V in A is A, D, E

This is extremely helpful in transposing songs.  Transposing is taking a song and changing it’s key.  This sounds hard, but you, the reader, can see all you need are the notes in a key, find the first, fourth, and fifth out of it, if you know how to play those chords, you’re good to go.

Say for example you are in a band and the song is a I, IV, V in E – so E, A and B.  Your singer is really straining to hit the high notes and says something like “Hey guys, these high notes are killing me – can you bring it down a bit?”

Sure!  It’s a I, IV, V progression.  Looking at E as I (or 1), we need to bring E “down” by not starting on E any more.  The note before E is D# or Eb but guitar players don’t like those keys, so let’s do D.  D is a whole step, or 2 frets lower than E.

So we had a I, IV, V in E.  We now need a I, IV, V in D.  Looking up your Key of D we have:

1    2    3   4   5   6   7

D  E   F#   G  A  B C#

Our song would now be D, G, and A major chords, the 1, 4, and 5 of D.

The effect of this is that all the chords have gone down a whole step in pitch.  E went down to D.  The IV of E, which is A, then down to G.  And the V of E, which is B, went down a whole step to A.

This is easier to see in Bar Chords than open string chords.  If you’re playing E (root E on 5th string 7th fret) you’ll now play D (root D on 5th string 5th fret).

A on the 6th string 5th fret goes to G on the 6th string 3rd fret.

B on the 6th string 7th fret goes to A on the 6th string 5th fret.

A Note on Roman Numerals

Chord progressions are always written as Roman Numerals.  We talk about chords in terms of numbers so that the I chord can be anything in the musical system.

When you start playing with woodwind players (flute, sax) or trumpet players, be prepared to have “flat” keys thrown at you.  Many of my students join a Jazz Combo class in high school or college.   Forget the key of D, you’ll be in F, Bb or Eb (favorite keys for horns).  Just remember the secret is know where I(1) is.  Key of….Bb?  Ok!  Bb is I.  Look up (or better yet memorize) your major keys so you know the progression will be Bb, Eb, and F major.

Wrap Up

So that concludes this first installment of chord progressions you should know.  One could write an entire book on the I-IV-V since it is used heavily in folk (Happy Birthday song), rock (Johnny B Goode), country rock (Already Gone) and blues (almost all of them).

Get to know the I IV V in these keys: E, G, A, and D.  Open chords can be used in all these keys.

Next, get to know the I IV V using bar chords.  You’ll see a pattern on the neck this way (much easier than open string chords) and can see the chords in a way that changing keys makes more sense, like change from E to D above.  Ah, I move each chord down a whole step.

You might catch some grief from the pianist who has to change their whole layout on the keyboard to go from a Key with 4 sharps (E) to a key of 2 sharps (D) because “Hey man, all you have to do is move your hand up and down the neck to change keys”.  A saxophonist once said that to me.

Well, he’s right on one level.  But the guitar holds other challenges the sax guy doesn’t have.  We’ll just leave it at that.

Stay tuned for the 2nd installment of this series.  Have a safe and happy 4th of July, 2017!!

Shreddy out


Guitar Lesson: Diatonic Steroids Part I – Major/Minor Keys

Guitar Lesson
Let’s do this!!

Greetings and welcome to another online guitar lesson!

I added a new header photo to my site, the un-cropped version you can see here ->

This was actually a nod to a pod cast I listen to – Jocko Willink – and while I don’t “know” the guy, I follow his Twitter posts and podcast episodes religiously and enjoy them immensely.  I found out he plays guitar (how well, I don’t know) and he’s a big Sabbath fan so i thought I’d return the favor and devote a guitar lesson to Sabbath.

As with any online guitar lesson, it’s challenging to to convey everything in text so I’m trying a new format: mixing text with video I’ve posted on YouTube.  In a lesson like this with a whole song and solo, it only makes sense to use Video as text alone would be nearly impossible.

But me being me, I can’t just do it straightforwardly.  Yes, you have to learn something along the way.  All my guitar lessons are like that.  Which brings me to the title of this piece, which is a pun off of Anabolic Steroids.


“Anabolic Steroid” – Anabolic steroids, technically known as anabolic-androgenic steroids, are drugs that are structurally related to the cyclic steroid rings system and have similar effects to testosterone in the body.  In other words, they are a performance enhancement drug.  Don’t worry, there’s not a test.

“Diatonic” – involving only notes proper to the prevailing key without chromatic alteration.  Don’t worry, I’ll explain those terms.

“Diatonic Steroids” – Way cool things to explore with a guitar!

So the diatonic concept is about scales.  What do people think of when we mention scales?  An exercise.  Technique.  Finger dexterity exercises.  Yawn.  I/we want to learn cool licks!  I want to play like [fill in the blank] and you’re going to give me scales?  Can I get my money back on this lesson?

Well before you kick your scales book to the trash can, let’s take a look at the structure of basic music.  This won’t apply to Black Sabbath just yet.  But give me some time.  One thing builds on the other.

Here’s is a 10 minute video of me explaining Major and Minor scales:

Check this out:

So the gist of this is Sabbath likes Minor keys.  And the song we’re going to work on is in E minor.  Which is a lot like G Major but there are some differences.

Knowing the scales is a start.  But scales can be derived from scales.  (Don’t worry, it gets simpler).  Here is a discussion about the Pentatonics.

So that gives a somewhat “lay of the land” between the Major and Minor 7 note scales and the Major and Minor Pentatonic Scales.

But I still don’t see how i can play like Tony Iommi!!

Let’s apply it to a real Sabbath song.  How about War Pigs?  This is a 15 min video getting you through the song up until the 1st solo.

After this, it gets to the first solo.  Tony Iommi does some interesting things with a droning E string in the background, before he gets into some “basic” blues licks:


And finally towards the end, Tony Iommi gets more into the Natural Minor scales:


So to sum up the main points from this lesson:

G Major is a 7 note scale:

G A B C D E F#

G Major Pentatonic is a 5 note scale:


E Minor is a 7 note scale (just like G but starts and stops on E):

E F# G A B C D

E Minor Pentatonic is a 5 note scale, just like G Pentatonic, but starting and stopping on E:


War Pigs makes a lot of use of the D (bVII of E) to E (I chord in E minor).

The solo makes use of the major 3rd of E (G#) since the harmony of this part of the song was all E power chords

Much of the solo makes use of E Minor Pentatonic scales.

Towards the end they make a melody in E Minor – using more notes than the minor Pentatonic offers.

I hope you enjoyed the guitar lesson!  Drop me a note and let me know what you thought of it.

Keep Shreddin’!!


Blues vs Country Improvisation

Hey all,

As promised, this blog will be about the different approach I take to Country playing vs Blues.  At first it might seem like they have nothing in common but they oftentimes make use of the same Chord Progression.

Let’s look at the key of E:

1     2      3      4     5      6     7

E    F#    G#    A    B    C#    D#

So a I IV V progression would be:

I            IV        V

EMaj   AMaj  BMaj

Blues Approach

The most straight forward Blues approach is to use the E Blues Scale:

1   b3   4   5  b7

E   G   A   B   D

The blues scale makes use of the flatted third against an E Major chord.  While that sounds like it might clash, the rhythm on blues often times leave the full chord out:







So the chords is E (6th string open) and B (5ths string 2nd fret) and then E and C# (5th string 4th fret).  C# is the 6th of the chord and the rhythm alternates between the two.

This gives the soloist some room to stretch out.  So the E Blues minor feel doesn’t clash with the chords.

Advanced Blues Soloing treats all the chords above as Dominant 7 chords:

E7  A7  B7

E7 is :

E  G#  B  D

So all the notes are there in the Blues scale  for the chord except the G#  – the E Blues scale has a G.  A very common lick is to coming the two – G -> G# -> resolve to E.  This can be done on any of the 3 chords above, but you have to pay attention to which chord is being played.

Playing the dominant chord shapes on the guitar for each chord as it is being played is a nice exercise to get used to where the notes are.  From there you can start to stretch out:

E7: E G# B D

A7: A C# E G

B7 B D# F# A

The B7 is most unlike the notes in the blues scale – when you start to outline them you’ll probably recognize the difference since you can’t get that sound in the blues scale.

Country Approach

So with Blues they accent the “minor” or “dominant” feel of the chords.  Instead of that, Country accents the “major” sound of these chords.  Again, most of that “boogie woogie” rhythm doesn’t include the 3rd of the chord (E and B, E and C# alternating) so the third is up for grabs.

Country really likes the sounds of major pentatonics against a major chord:

1  2    3  5   6

E: E F# G# B C#

Country really likes the G# or the major third of the chord, as well as the 6th – the C# – which is being played in that boogie woogie rhythm.

With this approach, similar to the Dominant 7 approach above, your notes will change with each chord.

1  2    3  5   6

E: E F# G# B C#

A: A B  C#  D  E

B: B C# D#  F# G#

This can get tricky if the chords are changing a lot, but your playing country is going to require that you know these 3 scales and how they overlap.  At first you’ll hop from scale to scale (nothing wrong with that) but eventually you’ll want to smooth out your transitions the way the pros do and make a melody that fits in the scales as the chords change.

Send any questions or comments my way.  You can also follow me on twitter fastfingers76

Happy Playing

The Ancient Art of Weaving

Hi all – Happy March….

Last month I blogged about my 2 auditions and reasonably good showing at “R Place” in Livermore.  With the three of us in place – Singer, Drummer, and myself – we needed to add a bassist.

A bit surprisingly, though, the singer next had in line to try out a rhythm guitarist.  I approached this with some caution.  In the past, I’ve had rhythm guitarist try out for the band, then try to undermine me to get the lead spot.  However, at the same time, I was fine with sharing some lead guitar duties – especially if he had a different style as me.  I didn’t think we needed 2 “me’s” in the band.

I should explain the title of the blog – I recently read Keith Richard’s autobiography Life and he mentions the ancient art of weaving as two guitars that listening to each other and playing around each other and complimenting each other.  Keith has always worked with another guitar player, so I decided to pay special attention to this approach.

They guy we tried out had a very good attitude.  No real ego here, just wanting to play in a working band like the rest of us.  He corrected me on a song (Honey Bee) in a respectful way.  He had a tube amp and a Fender Strat.  We sounded good together but I also realized this increased my work load a bit.  In most songs I didn’t want to play exactly what he was playing.  For example, if he’s playing an open E chord, I will probably play the bar E on the 7th fret.  Why?  Because with two guitarist we can stretch the range.  He plays low, I go high.  And we have to pay close attention to our rhythms to make sure they don’t clash.  The new guy has more of a country background and I don’t and I think that’s a plus.

We still needed a bassist.  Luckily for us, the idea of playing out at “R Place” to put the word out that we needed a bassist bought us an audition.  We auditioned him last week and his playing was just right on.  Nice tone, not too loud, rock solid bass lines and he had the signature bass parts down cold in the 10 songs he brought.

As I’ve done with everybody on the band, I brought up commitment and goals.  Two gigs a month on average, one rehearsal a week unless there is a gig that week.  Everybody agreed.

The Turbo Fuegos was complete.

We then talked about next steps.  Three out of the five members of the band, including me, needed to learn the song list.  I had come in with 10 songs, so did the rhythm guitarist and the bassist.  We now needed to learn the Fuegos’ set list, starting with set one.  There was a lot of talk about throwing out older songs, replacing them with new ones, but for now we will keep the first set as is, and everybody come next week prepared to play through 13 songs.

We are booked at Ollies on May 24th, and we might be playing a rodeo event on April 27th.  Nothing motivates as much as having a live gig to go on.

More next blog…


The Audition – Part I

[Note: as of 2-11-13 I have one opening Wednesday nights at 8:30pm in the Pleasanton, Dublin, San Ramon, Livermore area.  I know that’s late but some people are night owls.  If you’re looking for a different day/time contact me anyway and I’ll see what I can work in for you ]

My last post talked about a new audition I had coming up.  Well I did it – here’s my report.

I nearly blew it.

I showed up at the warehouse where they rehearse (while not warm and cozy, it has no noise restraints at night).  The singer and drummer welcomed me and helped carry my gear in.  I brought what I would normally bring to a gig:

  • Amp head and cabinet
  • Effects foot pedal
  • guitar
  • Crate including power strip, extension cord, extra strings/picks, iPad for charts, and various connecting cords.

As I got set up, I explained that I havn’t really used my new amp head/cabinet other than to jam with since I quit my last band before I had a chance to gig with it.

All talk aside, we began to work through the tunes.  Now in our communications via email I said I could play 21 of their songs.  I did have background with all 21 songs, but not all songs were fresh in my memory.  I had brought my Stratocaster as that is the closest “country” sounding guitar I have, yet most of the 21 were classic rock songs (Bad Company, Rolling Stones, Chuck Berry, etc).  As we started playing through them, I struggled off the bat.  My hands felt cold, they wouldn’t move like I wanted them to.

As we got to about the 4th or 5th song, I started to loosen up and relax, hands warmed up, and I began to play better.  I found on the rock songs I missed my Ibanez (the S5470 – catchy name eh?).  The Ibanez is my go-to guitar which I had left at home because this was a “country” band.  Wrong move.

Plus, I didn’t even practice these songs on the Strat at home.  I had practiced on my Dean 7 string since that is what I had set up in my practice area.  So I practiced on a guitar I wasn’t going to bring, and I wasn’t going to bring my main guitar.  Not too smart!

After we got done playing, we sat down and talked.  The lead singer opened with “We think you’re a better player than you showed us here tonight.  It took like 5 songs for you to hit your stride, and you’re playing on new gear.”

That sounded hopeful to me, but not quite a definite “Yes”.  They made it clear to me they are not a “Classic country” band and they enjoy all music from Garth Brooks to Juda Priest.

We had similar goals – be gigging actively, be different than the competition, sound good and work hard.

They wanted me to come back the next week with a smaller set of songs ready.  I agreed to that, trying to remember if I’d ever been asked to audition twice.  If I had, I didn’t remember.

To recap my mistakes:

  • I practiced on the guitar I would not do the audition with
  • I chose too many songs to work on
  • I auditioned with a guitar that I was not as comfortable on

In my next blog entry, I’ll tell you how the second audition went.

Peace out


Metal and Bebop

Hey all –

I took lessons from Jim beween 1972 to 1978, then he made me a teacher. Then I took lessons from the late Warren Nunes from 1980 to 1981, about a year and a half. Both teachers (more so Jim) were responsible for shaping my approach to playing.
One staple of their playing principles were to forget about modes. What are modes?
Let’s start with the key of C:
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 or 1
So in a “modal” approach, C to C is the “Ionian mode”. D to D in the key of C is the “Dorian Mode”. E to E is “Phrygian mode”. F to F is the “Lydian Mode”. G to G is the “Mixolydian mode”, A to A is the Natural minor scale but also called the “Aeolian mode”and the B to B is the “Locrian mode”.
My teacher’s preferred approach was to use chord shapes within the context of whatever scale we were in (Major, Pentatonic of blues) and this is still what I primarily use.
As my sons have introduced me to more and more Metal – Speed metal, death metal, thrash metal, Garage Sale Metal (ok I made that last one up) – I got interested more in the guitarists than the bands themselves. Some of these players are nothing short of amazing.
Metal is a niche market. It’s not like pop and blues where guys like Clapton can tell Fender “you’ll make the guitar like this” and they do it. These guys have difficulty being a commercial success. Don’t think Metallica – who have a couple of hits – those hits generate royalties and a nice income. Think “Dying Fetus” – what, you never heard of them? See?
As a result of limited financial success, I assume, a lot of these killer guitarists teach. Hey it’s a good way to make money and solidifies your understanding of musical theory and concepts (it worked for me). So these guys have instructional youtube vids out there, usually promoting their pay for DVD.
Besides the fact that they all tune down a half or a whole step, and many play 7 string or 8 string guitars, their playing seems be centered on 4 approaches:
1) scales/modes
2) arpeggios
3) legato (hammer ons and pull offs) through the scales
4) fast alternate picking through the scales
Before I get into #1 above, let me say this : metal guys aren’t the first guys to play blinding fast music. Look at Bebop (“be-what? Who is he, some rapper dude?”). Let me explain.
Before there was the internet, and radio stations all across the country, music traveled with bands. This meant that if an area developed a style of playing, it took bands traveling across the country to get the word out. The new music would be heard by local musicians in their town and they’d pick up on it. In this fashion, styles of popular music would normally take about 10 years to change – we’re talking the 1920’s, 1930’s, and 1940’s. And if you study these styles, each style seems to be an answer of sorts to be different than what is currently popular.
In the 1940’s it was the big band era – everybody wanted to dance – why not? The world was in WWII and they needed some form of escapism. Then we were out of WWII and the world needed a way to celebrate.
But out of that, these jazz musicians wanted to not play for happy dancing couples but to play for their art, their music, to test the boundaries of harmonic structures and playing technique. So after WWII and into the 1950’s, Bebop was formed.
Bebop is a franticly paced, complex jazz style. Charlie Parker (sax) and Dizzy Gillespie (trumpet) are probably the two main pillars of this genre, but they guy I like more is John Coltrane.
John played tenor sax (my fav sax) and was technically very, very proficient. He wrote an historically complex song called “Giant Steps” that changes keys all over the place.
In 1958, Downbeat magazine used the term “sheets of sound” to describe Coltrane’s playing. This same description could be used to describe what some of these modern day shredders do.
OK, metal is not bebop – harmonically metal is still very basic, but their long runs tend to center around various modes in a singular key. (in quick key changes, like giant steps, I’d still much prefer a chordal approach). These long, fast runs create a “sheet of sound” that maps out the tonality of the mode in blinding speed. In this sense, I can see the use of modes to improvise with, going a bit against the advice of my teachers (but that was in the 1970’s pretty much).
So I now am working on modal exercises that are meant to be played at fast speeds. It’s not difficult for me to see them because modes are usually built on major or minor scales. It’s more of an adjustment of my approach, not a departure from it.
Shred on….