Other FAQs 


1. Cadences ~ Part 1
2. Fretboard ID
3. Implementing Arpeggios
4. Music Composition
5. Floating Bridge problems
6. A criticism of virtuoso music and a response
7. Improvising soloing - tension
8. Odd Meter-Part 1
9. Reading tab
10. Am I ready to record?


1. Cadences ~ Part 1

Question: In the minor keys example, the viio(7) - i, why is the vii chord B dim and not Bbmaj7?

Answer: In minor keys, when dealing with cadences, the natural minor key is changed to the harmonic minor at these cadence points because the cadences that naturally occur in natural minor are too weak generally to be effective. So the harmonic minor is used at cadence points most of the time to make the HARMONY stronger at cadence points - that's where the name HARMONIC minor comes from. In harmonic minor, the 7th chord in the key is viio or viio7.

Question: Do I understand correctly that cadences are just the movement between two chords basically? Is this just a way of putting names on these movements between chords? How is it useful to know the cadences, rather than just thinking in terms of keys?

Answer: Cadences are not simply movements between any two chords. Cadences are specific movements of specific chord functions. Generally, at the end of a phrase You would expect to hear the final Authentic cadence (V7-I). However, other types of cadences like Plagal, Deceptive, etc., are common alternatives to the Authentic cadence. It is extremely useful to know and understand cadences when composing music and particularly when modulating from one key to another. Cadences can be used in specific ways to change keys smoothly and that is a HUGE compositional tool for composers and songwriters. We will be exploring those issues later.

 

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2. Fretboard ID

Question: On Fretboard note identification - What is the difference between sharps and flats?

Answer: When a note has a sharp (#) next to it, it means to play that note 1 fret higher (towards Your body) than normal. When a note has a flat (b) next to it, it means to play that note 1 fret lower (away from Your body) than normal. Here is an example: Look at the Fretboard Note Identification chart, and find the 3rd fret of the E string. That note is G. If you play the 4th fret then you are playing G# (G sharp). If you play the 2nd fret then You are playing Gb (G flat).

 

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3. Implementing Arpeggios

Question: How do I implement arpeggios in my playing? Like when you play over a given chord what do you use? Can you use the relative minor arpeggio when playing over a major chord?  And do you use more than 3-4 strings?

Answer: There exists a vast number of ways in which You can implement arpeggios in Your playing. To discuss all of the possibilities at once would be overwhelming and would make this answer into a short book. As You continue Your lessons with me, we'll be going into more depth with this subject.  But for now, let's look at some basics. Let's say You have this chord progression: C, Am, Dm, G. The most common way to add arpeggios over this would be to simply play a C arpeggio over the C chord, an A minor arpeggio over the Am chord, a D minor arpeggio over the Dm chord and a G arpeggio over the G chord. You can play a relative minor arpeggio over a major chord, but the result will sound like an implied Major 6 chord. Example: C chord (notes are: C, E, G) and its relative minor arpeggio, A minor (notes are: A, C, E) Because both the C chord and A minor arpeggio are sounding together, You will hear the notes of each at the same time, C, E, G, A = C Major 6 chord (or a C Major 6 arpeggio). It is a nice sound and is useful, but it is important to be aware of the resulting harmony. When implementing arpeggios, You can use any combination of strings that You like. The number of strings used has absolutely no effect on the harmony, but obviously changing the number of strings used will make the arpeggio longer (when using more strings) or shorter (when using less strings).

Question: Arpeggios are very beautiful and impressive if done right. How do we keep them from sounding too mechanical?

Answer: This is an excellent question, and for our next lesson I'll include a huge lesson on arpeggio variations, but for now I'll say that variety is the main thing to pay attention to. Other elements that can be used are things like:

  • mixing the size of the arpeggios (as briefly described above.)
  • Changing the rhythm of the arpeggios from section to section or from arpeggio to arpeggio.
  • changing the size of the harmony. Example: consider the chord progression again: C, Am, Dm, G
    Over the C chord You can play a C major 7th arpeggio
    Over the Am chord You can play an A minor add 9 arpeggio
    Over the Dm chord You can play a simple D minor triad arpeggio
    Over the G chord You can play a G9 arpeggio.
  • changing the range of the arpeggios
  • A combination of any number of these (and other) elements can be used to add variety in the usage of arpeggios, but the biggest thing of all You can do to add variety is to not use arpeggios over every chord in a given progression. Try playing arpeggios over only the 1st and 4th chords in the progression, while playing other melodic or scale like passages for the 2nd and 3rd chords.

     

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    4. Music Composition

    Question: What is the best way to compose classical style pieces? Melody first and then chords to create the harmony or chords first then the melody?

    Answer: Both! There is no one way of doing things. I urge You to do both. In addition to these two ideas that You mention, there are dozens of others as well, which I plan to make a part of a future lesson for You on composition, but for now, refer back to the first lesson I gave You on composition (Part 1) where I talk about the seven elements of music and think about how You can start with each element as a way to begin writing music, for example You may start with a rhythmic idea first and then put a melody and chords to that. We will dive more into this topic in a future lesson.

     

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    5. Floating Bridge problems

    Question: Whenever I put strings on my guitar (Fender Standard Strat) the bridge comes up about half an inch or so, it didn't happen at first but ever since I changed the strings on my guitar for the first time it's been like that. I was wondering if you could tell me what's wrong and how I could fix it.

    Answer: The solution is simple really. What has happened is You have put on bigger strings than the ones that were on the guitar originally. To fix the problem, You have two choices:

  • Use lighter strings
    - or -
  • Follow these steps:
    1. Take off the back plate (the plastic plate on the back of Your guitar)
    2. Notice that there are springs connected to a metal plate that is screwed in to Your guitar.
    3. That plate is usually connected by 2 screws, take a screw driver and tighten both screws 1 full turn.
    4. Look at the bridge, is the bridge straight now? If yes, then You are done, put the back plate back on Your guitar. If no, then repeat steps 3 and 4 until the problem is fixed.
  • Note: make sure to re-tune your guitar to standard pitch after turning each screw and then again when You are done.  Use an electronic tuner for this.

     

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    6. A criticism of virtuoso music and a response

    Question: Tom, yesterday I received some CD that I ordered from Guitar9. All the players are great, but I really got turned off with the whole thing. What has happen to the music? Don't you think that there are times when the guitar should just support the rest of the band and music? Do you know what I mean?

    Answer: The issue is complex because there are several different elements and layers to this. Without knowing which specific players You are referring to, let me just make some counter-arguments on the virtuoso style. I don't agree with all of items I listed below, but I do think that many of these are valid points of view. The point here is not to agree or disagree with You, nor is it to tell You that Your position is wrong. I just want You to think more about these counter-arguments and see if Your thoughts have changed or not after thinking about them.

    1. What You are hearing IS the music and the fact that can't hear its value means that You have missed the point of the music. Just because one may not be able to hear the beauty of this music doesn't mean that it does not exist.
    2. It is wrong to apply Your concept of what You think music should be, based on Your stylistic ideals and apply to this (or other styles of) music. Just because this music does not fit the standard criteria doesn't mean the music isn't good (or great) on its own merit.
    3. You haven't heard enough music yet (and specifically not enough of this music) to make a valid determination as to its worth.
    4. This is a much more complex style (compared to mainstream guitar music), and therefore it is not wise to judge this music that You do not yet fully understand. Study it extensively, and then if You still don't like it, then fine, but until then, be humble and learn.
    5. One can not understand virtuoso music if one is not a virtuoso. The feeling one gets in playing fast is a powerful one, why do You think some people want to drive race cars fast? It's because of a feeling they experience.  Virtuoso guitarists also experience a similar feeling but of a completely different kind. It is fun, don't you like to have fun?
    6. As a student of guitar, there is a gold mine of value in listening, understand, analyzing, etc. this music, and by saying that You don't like it, or giving up on, You are passing up a golden opportunity to grow as a player and musician.
    7. If You were a virtuoso, You would probably play in a virtuosic manner also. If You owned a Corvette, would You drive it at 15 miles per hour or at 50, 70 or 100 miles per hour to enjoy, feel and experience the power and the speed and the grace of the motion?
    8. You ask, "Don't you think that there are times when the guitar should just support the rest of the band and music?" I reply: 99.99% of guitar music that exists is the exact type You are asking about! Of the hundreds of thousands of CDs recorded with guitars in them, how many are on Guitar9? I think Guitar9 has about 1,800 Cds on its site, and of those, only some are as You describe, so what's wrong with having a few really extreme virtuosic CDs? There is an abyss of non virtuoso guitar Cds that You can buy anywhere, right? Believe me, virtuoso guitar music is not about to take over the radio airwaves, MTV or fill up arena venues anytime soon and probably never will (at least not in my lifetime).
    9. The same argument that You make, could also apply to slow music only in reverse. Does anyone complain that Eric Clapton plays slow 100% of the time? No. Why not? How is that different from Your view of some virtuosos?
    10. Expression through virtuosity is something You may not understand now, although You may in the future, but trust me, there is infinitely more emotion dripping in the music of Yngwie than there is in your typical radio guitar music.
    11. If the notes were played slower, You might hear the melodic elements in this music better and thus hear its value more easily. The fact that You can't hear it does not mean that the fault is with the music, but rather it is with Your inability to hear it. Others can hear it because they have heard a lot of music in this style, or have more training, or are more aurally perceptive. Focus on developing Your ears.

    Again, I merely wish to point out that the above arguments are always being made against Your position. Maybe there is some truth and merit in some of them, or in all of them, or none of them..... Think about it, perhaps there is no right or wrong answer to these issues...........or perhaps there is...........Tell me what You think about this 1 year from now, 3 years from now, 10 years from now.

    In general, I would not agree with Your position, but I can say that I have heard some mindless, pointless virtuoso music also. Fortunately this is not true for the greatest virtuosos like: Yngwie Malmsteen, George Bellas, Jason Becker, Marty Freidman, Symphony X (Michael Romeo), Vitalij Kuprij. Listen to these players. Try these CDs:

    Yngwie Malmsteen - Rising Force
    Yngwie Malmsteen - Trilogy
    Yngwie Malmsteen - Concerto suite for electric guitar and orchestra
    Yngwie Malmsteen - Alchemy
    George Bellas - Turn of the Millennium
    George Bellas - Mind Over Matter
    George Bellas - Venomous Fingers
    Jason Becker - Perpetual Burn
    Marty Freidman (Megadeth) - Rust in Piece
    Symphony X - anything by them
    Vitalij Kuprij - Extreme Measures

    Student's response to the answer above: I never intended to say that I did not like Virtuoso music or thought that all of it was bad. But some of those example used in the argument were childish, such as driving fast as an example for playing fast.  Well I ask you to think that out. I believe the issue is on taste and I agree that some music can be mindless and I think everyone has the right to play whatever they want to play. I grew up listening to John Mclaughlin, Al DiMeola as well as Frank Marino,  and Van Halen, as well as all those you mention in e-mail. This is not to argue, but just to respond to some of those comments in e-mail. I do want to learn, grow as a musician, guitarist and I do think you are a great teacher and I appreciate you very much and I hope the feeling is like wise.

    My response to his response: About virtuoso music, I did not assume that You were saying that You didn't like all of it or that it was bad, I'm sure that You were speaking mostly of the recent CDs that You bought. Yes, You are right that some of the examples I gave are a bit silly, but as I said, I don't agree with all of them I just wanted to point out what some of the common arguments are. For me, my music is not about mindless virtuosity or taste. I am not interested in writing music according to taste, speed or anything else that others may judge it on. I only seek my own self expression, sometimes the music is fast and sometimes not. Anyway, it is good to exchange ideas and talk about these things. I am glad that You have raised the issue because Your points are valid, I just wanted to show You the view of some of these players. The feeling of appreciation is mutual and I look forward to hearing Your music on the CD You are sending me!

     

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    7. Improvising soloing - tension

    Question: What is the difference in playing chromatic notes or passages that have tension (tension notes are ones not in the key) and playing out of key?

    Answer: The main difference is the sound, does it sound like You meant to do what You did or does it sound like You just got a little lost or didn't really know what You were doing? If one wants to play more chromatically, I would recommend to NOT play non diatonic notes on the down beats or during the 1st beat of a new chord in the progression. When I hear non diatonic notes played at the same moment when a new chord is played, it sounds to me like the player just didn't know where he or she was in the progression. If there are lots of non diatonic notes in a solo, BUT the the player plays diatonic chord tones (notes that are actually in the chord) at the moment of each new chord, then I am much more certain that the chromaticism is being used for an effect of tension and color and not being used because the player is lost.

     

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    8. Odd Meter Part 1

    Question:
    I am still not very clear with the odd meter section in the last lesson. For example what does it mean when you say, "5/4 is heard and felt as 3+2 or 2+3." I am still having trouble understanding how you breakdown odd meters and how you count them out. If you could please provide me with some further explanation so I can understand this completely that would be great Tom.

    Answer: 5/4 means that in each measure there will be a total of 5 quarter notes (or the equivalent of 5 quarter notes per measure). Typically there are certain beats which are more accented than other beats. For example in a measure of 4/4, the accented beats are usually 1 and 3. In a 5/4 measure it is usually 1 and 3, or 1 and 4. In a 5/4 measure, the strong beats are 1 and 3 (2+3)  It may be easier to think of 1 2 3 4 5 as: 1 2 1 2 3, this way the accents are thought of as only happening on the 1s. It's mentally easier when You think of 5/4 as 1 2 1 2 3 versus 1 2 3 4 5.

     

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    9. Reading tab

    Reading tab is VERY easy. I understand that it may seem like a foreign language if You have not learned how to read it, so let me teach You below:

    Tab contains 6 (horizontal) lines. Each line represents one string on Your guitar. The top line represents the 1st string (the thinnest string). The bottom line on the tab represents the 6th string (the thickest string). The numbers written on those lines represent frets. So if You see this:

    --3------------------------
    
         ---------------------------
    
         ---------------------------
    
         ---------------------------
    
         ---------------------------
    
         ---------------------------

    This means to play the 3rd fret of the 1st string (the thinnest string).

    ---------------------------
    
         ---------------------------
    
         ---------------------------
    
         ---------------------------
    
         ---------------------------
    
         --1------------------------

    This means to play the 1st fret of the 6th string (the thickest string).

    ---------------------------
    
         ---------------------------
    
         ---5-----------------------
    
         ---------------------------
    
         ---------------------------
    
         ---------------------------

    This means to play the 5th fret of the 3rd string.

    You also need to learn the two symbols that represent playing a downstroke vs an upstroke.  Here they are: 
     

    A downstroke looks like this An upstroke looks like this
    Downstroke Notation For Guitar Upstroke Notation For Guitar

     

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    10. Am I ready to record?

    Question: I feel sometimes that I should wait before recording my first CD, but I don't want fear (fear of not being good enough in my own mind) to hold me back. Did you feel any fear like this?

    Answer: I don't worry too much about my playing ability when deciding to begin a CD (although I do practice for several hours a day a month or so before I begin recording solos to make sure I am in shape to play them.). I tend to be more concerned about the actual music itself.  I often ask if I have written the best music that I can. I have a friend who is an excellent player and has started recording his debut CD 3 times, and in the middle of the recording he quit because he feels that he can write better music and play better so he wants to start over. He is a perfectionist, but in my opinion, it would better to release the CD and then work on writing new music for the next CD. Everyone is different and at different skill levels as players and as songwriters/composers.  Bottom line: You have to be happy with it and proud that You did your best for the level that You are on. After the CD is done, then You work harder to improve Your playing and composing skills. Ideally everyone's newer CDs should get better as time goes on.

     

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