Tag Archives: Styles


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.


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

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….