Sunday, September 24, 2006

Cool Links #3

An online metronome!

Ear Training website

Saturday, September 23, 2006

On The Learning Process Part 3

8 Things that have worked for me - in regards to practicing:

1. Long practice sessions (4-8 hours) divided to short 15-30 minute sessions with 5-10 minute breaks in between
2. Using a metronome (the best tool to improve your time-feel) - works best when used with your ears!
3. Practicing very slow -but playing it correctly (in time) , with a good sound and good left hand and right hand fingering technique.
4. Dividing longer passages into shorter phrases to learn it faster.
5. Transcribing music that you enjoy to learn new things (or dissect what your favorite players are doing!)
6. Performing (as in the actual playing of music) to discover what you actually need to practice.
7. Recording performances (and rehearsals) to hear what you need to work on.
8. Practicing in all 12 keys. It really works and helps a lot!!

Melodic Minor Part 4: The augmented triad

Looking at the diatonic triads built on C Melodic Minor, we will find one augmented triad in the scale:

I min = Cmin
IImin = Dmin
bIIIaug = Ebaug
IV maj = F
V maj = G
VI dim = Adim
VII dim = Bdim

which is Eb+

The chord tones of the Eb augmented triad are:

Eb, G and B

Also, all the inversions of this triad will also be root position augmented triads from the lowest note, hence:

Eb aug = G aug = B aug

Symetrical relationships such as this are very useful for guitar players as they provide a great visual resourse for us in understanding and improvising over the scale. After all, 3 notes out of the 7 notes from the scale is a lot!


Ways to practice

1. Figure out two-octave fingerings for the aug triad, practice with metronome to develop fluency.
2. Figure out whole range of guitar fingering (3 octave plus) for all augmented triads. (Since all augmented triads have three possible roots, there are really only four augmented triads!)
3. Play different chords from the melodic minor scale and figure out the note relationship of the augmented triad to the chord you chose.


Till later, play on!

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Ear Training Exercises #1

Recently, I've been reminded about how important ear training is for musicians. It sounds like a silly statement - being an obvious one but I think from time to time everyone especially myself needs reminding.

First, I'll introduce the solfege system I learned and then I'll explain the exercises.

The Movable Do System

I was taught using the movable do system which means any note can be the "do" as opposed to the fixed "do" system (commonly associated with a lot of perfect pitch friends I know) where C is always DO.

The solfege for the major scale is:

Do Re Mi Fa So La Ti Do

In C Major that means:


For the whole chromatix scale ascending it's:

Do Di Re Ri Mi Fa Fi So Si La Li Ti Do

and the descending form is:

Do Ti Te La Le So Se Fa Mi Me Ra Do

in C that means:

ascending: C C# D D# E F F# G G# A A# B C
descending: C B Bb A Ab G Gb F E Eb D Db C


Fundamental Exercises

Exercise a:

Play a C Major Triad on the guitar (or piano - if you have access to one) and slowly sing long tones (one note for four beats at around 120bpm or slower)

Start with C note and listen to how it feels over the C Major chord. This is the root and is the most stable note in the chord scale. When singing the note, make sure you sing it unwaveringly - meaning that you DO NOT use any vibrato or any form of pitch fluctuations as much as possible. The aim is to sing it in tune for as long as you can hold your breath.

Next do the same thing but with a F Major Triad. Like the previous exercise - sing the DO which in this case is the F note.

Continue doing this exercise but change to the next Major Triad, cycle in fifths down, hence -

C, F, Bb , Eb, Ab, Db, Gb, B, E, A, D, G and back to C.

Some people may find this very basic but to be able to sing the root of any chord is essential for many reasons including transcribing and further ear training exercises. For those who find this very easy to do. one should focus on making sure you're singing absolutely in pitch. The focus is intonation.

For those who find this difficult, be assured that you're not alone! A lot of musicians who have been playing for many years (and have amazing dexterity on the instrument) sometimes forget to practice this important aspect of music. Sometimes, a musician may be able to hear something and duplicate it on his or her instrument but not be able to sing it. The important thing is to realise that by being able to do this. you solidify the connection of the sound to your mind's ear so that even without an instrument - you will be able to tell what a person is playing or singing.

Also, some may find difficulty locating the pitch within their singing range. This is normal in the beginning. The more you sing these ear training exercises, you will develop an intuitive sense of where to sing it comfortably.

If you have problem playing the major chords in different keys (to accompany your ear training singing) - well, that's something to practice too! =p


I would suggest taking a break (for about 5-10 minutes) after this first exercise before attempting the next one.


Exercise b:

Now, do the same thing (singing the root (DO) of the chord) starting on C Major and moving chromatically up until you reach C Major again (an octave higher).

Take your time and repeat each chord two to four times before moving on to the next one.


Exercise c:

Next is an exercise to train to hear the most important cadence in tonal music.

First, play the C Major Triad. Sing the DO.
Then, play a G Major Triad and sing the root of the G Major Triad as SO (the fifth of C in this case).
Next, play the C Major Triad again and sing the DO. Let the sound of the last chord linger for a while. This is the feeling of the harmony being at rest after a cadence.

This is a I - V - I progression featuring the V-I cadence.

There are two main ways way to sing the SO - relative to the root, which is to sing it a perfect fith above the root, or a perfect fourth below. For the purposes of this exercise, do both.

If it's hard to locate the SO when playing the chord, play just the roots of the chords and LISTEN to them. It's important to listen first and then replicate the sound. Sometimes, in some keys, it may be out of your singing range. When this happens, play the chord (and sing it) in an octave comfortable for you.

Again, do this exercise in all keys. Do these exercises for a while and let me know if they help you out! I know even though they appear to be very simple, the exercises can be taken on different levels. For more advanced musicians, the challenge is to be able to do it very fast and very confidently. As with the guitar, it's important to do it very slowly at first to develop accuracy before speed comes. If not, it's just going to be out of pitch.

Good luck!

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Cool Links #2

To add to the previous post about right hand technique here are two related links:

A PDF file about right hand guitar technique from the Fender Players website (I know it's an unlikely combination but the PDF excerpt is from a book by Christopher Parkening - a prolific classical guitarist)

Christopher Parkening Right Hand Lesson PDF

Another great link is this - (copyright free!) from the Danish Royal Library:

Mauro Giuliani's 120 exercises for the right hand PDF


Technical Exercises #2: Right Hand

This post will explore right hand fingerstyle (classical) exercises.

Right hand fingering is notated as follows: (The first word is the spanish word)

P :Pulgar = Thumb
i : Indice = Index Finger
m: Medio = Middle Finger
a: Anular = Ring Finger

By assigning the finger to a set of strings (for the purpose of this exercise), we can practice right hand permutations much like the more common exercise for the left hand explained in the previous post.

Why list all the permutations down one might ask. Well, for this - I would quote Mick Goodrick who pointed out that by knowing all the possibilities, one would have the chance to pick something that they're not good at and work at it. If not, one would (by not knowing it) practice the same thing - over and over again. In that regard, this listing is as much for me and for anyone who might find this perspective (and the material) useful to them.

Have fun and enjoy the journey.

Here are all the 24 posible permutations:

P i m a
P i a m
P m i a
P m a i
P a i m
P a m i

i P m a
i P a m
i m P a
i m a P
i a P m
i a m P

m P i a
m P a i
m i P a
m i a P
m a P i
m a i P

a P i m
a P m i
a i P m
a i m P
a m P i
a m i P