Monthly Archives: October 2009

Planet Waves vs George L

I have been using a home-made pedal board for a long time.  When I first started, I was using short (3″-6″) right-angled cables by different manufacturers.  They did okay but they were always too thick to allow the pedals to sit closer to each other.

I switched to George L’s a few years ago.  For a time, they worked great.  The cables are thin.  They conduct well.  And the plugs are very small especially the right angled ones.  But after a while, the cable started failing (on stage sometimes!).  I think there’s a flaw in the design of the angled ones.   The way they work is the you push the cable in then bend it 90 degrees.   Then a screw is used to keep the cable in.  The screw would push against the cable.  In some of the ones that failed, the screw had rubbed away some of the rubber.

I recently switched some of the George L’s with Planet Waves Solderless ones.  They seem to be working well but time will tell if they’ll have problems too.  But at least the plugs are designed a bit smarter.  The cable is pushed in but not bent.  The 90 degree angle is built into the plug (I guess there could be a cable that’s bending there but at least it’s not exposed or rubbed against with a piece of metal… I hope).  Once the cable is pushed into the plug, a set screw is used from the side to hold the cable in place.  This should be less ware and tare on the the cable.

The draw back, though, is that the planet waves cables and plugs are a bit bigger so now I’m not able to fit as many pedals on the board again.  But they’re still a bit better than other cables.

Guitar Lesson – Music Theory Part 8 – Scales and Modes

In one of the previous post, we looked at how you can use the major scale to create other scales by starting on a different note.  These other scales are also known as modes.  In that post, we started the pattern from the 6-note and created the minor scale:
          6  7  1  2  3  4  5  6  7  8
C major:        C  D  E  F  G  A  B  C
A minor:  A  B  C  D  E  F  G  A             
Now let’s take a look at what happens if we tried starting the pattern from the other notes.  Each scale or mode also has (Greek) name.  Remember, the root of each of the scales below is the 1st note.
C Ionian (major) :   C  D  E  F  G  A  B  C
D Dorian         :      D  E  F  G  A  B  C  D 
E Phrygian       :         E  F  G  A  B  C  D  E
F Lydian         :            F  G  A  B  C  D  E  F
G Mixolydian     :               G  A  B  C  D  E  F  G
A Aeolian (minor):                  A  B  C  D  E  F  G  A 
B Locrian        :                     B  C  D  E  F  A  B 
This gives us the basic idea of how to figure out the patterns of the other scales.  Let’s look at the different patterns side by side: (W= whole step, H = half step)

Ionian (major) :      W  W  H  W  W  W  H

Dorian         :      W  H  W  W  W  H  W
Phrygian       :      H  W  W  W  H  W
Lydian         :      W  W  W  H  H
Mixolydian     :      W  W  H  W
Aeolian (minor):      W  H  W
Locrian        :     

Now if we apply these patterns to the same root we can see the differences between the modes (which is really the important thing to remember):

                     1  2  3  4  5  6  7  8
C Ionian (major) :   C  D  E  F  G  A  B  C

C Dorian         :   C  D  Eb F  G  A  Bb C
C Phrygian       :   Db Eb F  G  Ab Bb C
C Lydian         :   C  D  F# G  A  C
C Mixolydian     :   C  D  F  G  A  Bb C
C Aeolian (minor):   C  D  Eb F  G  Ab Bb C
C Locrian        :   Db Eb Gb Ab Bb C

In some upcoming posts, we’ll start looking at what scale patterns might look like on the fretboard of the guitar. 

Guitar Lesson – Music Theory Part 7 – "out of key" chords

In Part 5, we looked at building triads from the major scale.  This resulted in: (just looking at 2, 3, 4, 5 and 6)

   ii   iii   IV   V   vi

Now, let’s turn them up-side-down and see what their major/minor counterparts might sound like.

   II   III   iv   v   VI 

Let’s try using the key of G.  So the “normal” chords would have been:

   Am   Bm    C    D   Em

So instead of these, let’s try: 
   A    B     Cm   Dm  E

Here’s a progression that tries to use all of them.  First, we’ll use all the “normal” chords.  Then we’ll play another sequence that will use some of the “abnormal” ones.  Here, some 7th chords will be used.  But the major and minor 3rds will still be “flipped”. 

|G    |D    |Em   |Bm   |
|C    |Am7  |D    |D7   | 
|G    |B7   |Em   |A7   | 
|C    |Cm   |G    |E7   |

|C    |Cm   |G    

Unfortunate, this example doesn’t use the 5-minor.  But we’ll get to that in the next example… 

Another set of chords that are “out of key” are the diminished-6 and diminished-7 chords (aka “6-flat” and “7-flat”).  This is not the same as 6 dim or 7 dim.  But rather, take the 6-note and 7-note of the scale and make them flat.   For instance:

E major scale:    E  F#  G#  A  B  C#  D#  E

So instead of C# and D#, use C and D.  Particularly, use their major chords.  Try this progression: 

|E    |E    |Bm   |Bm   |   (here’s that 5-minor)
|E    |E    |Bm   |Bm   |
|E    |E    |C    |D    | 
|E    |E    |C    |D    |
I hope these examples gave you some idea on how to “break out” of the scale and find other interesting sounding chords.

As you play with these chords more, you’ll start to hear their distinctive sound and you’ll be able to identify them more quickly when you hear them in songs.  You may notice that certain genres tend to use a certain chord a lot.  For instance, the 4-minor (as a “turnaround”) in 50s and 60s pop/rock, the 6-flat in (early) grunch, or the 2-major in (what I call “old school”) country.

Guitar Lesson – Music Theory Part 6.7.2 – diminished

This is part 6.7.2 which is a continuation on the discussion on “7”. The reason why this is in a separate post is because, quite frankly, I forgot.  And this is also a continuation on triads where we talked about how the diminished chord is what you’d get if you built the triad starting with the 7-note on the scale.

In this case, we’re looking at the 2 diminished chords: Half-Diminished and Diminished. 

Half-Diminished = 1 b3 b5 b7 
Diminshed       = 1 b3 b5 bb7 (the 7 is flat twice thus making it a 6) 

This might be confusing at first.  But once you “do the math”, you’ll see quickly that there isn’t much to remember.  Also, (in my experience) these chords are not very common (and for that reason, I’m not too familiar with them  :-).  But I love using them because they add such wonderful, (usually) unexpected texture.  Hopefully the progressions below will give you a flavor.

In my search for other material on these chords on the web, it seems like “diminished” is often also referred to as “diminished 7” (“dim7”).  But I was not able to find a slick way of pointing to the half-diminished chord except for “min7 b5”.

For the purpose of this post, I’ll be using “dim7” and “min7 b5”.

First, let’s look at the shapes.  Here are 2 ways of holding each.  For each of these, make a note of where the root note is (hint: either the A or D-string).

As mentioned above, the diminished 7th chord starts at the root and has a minor 3rd, a flat 5th, and a flat-flat 7th.  Interestingly, this puts each note in a perfect repeatable pattern.   For instance: 
Eb (major) = Eb(1) G (3)  Bb(5) 

Eb dim7    = Eb(1) Gb(b3) A (b5) C (bb7) 

What if we started with Gb?

Gb (major) = Gb(1) Bb(3)  Db(5) 
Gb dim7    = Gb(1) A (b3) C (b5) Eb(bb7) 

Notice that Gb dim7 has the same notes as Eb dim7!  How about for A? 

A (major)  = A (1) C#(3)  E (5) 
A dim7     = A (1) C (b3) Eb(b5) Gb(bb7)

You can image that you’ll get the same notes again if you start the pattern using C.

Since there are only 12 notes (C C# D D# E F G G# A A# B) and this chord uses 4, there can only be 3 different diminished 7th chords!

Now, let’s try using these in progressions along with other chords that we’ve already looked at in past posts.

Diminished 7th Example 1 
|C     |D     |Bm      |Em     |  (repeat) 

|C     |D     |Eb dim7 |Em     |  (repeat) 
This  progression is in the key of G which would have a Bm as the 3-chord.  (see previous post)
For hearing the full effect of the dim7 chord, try playing the 1st line (maybe repeat a few times) then try the 2nd line (and repeat a few times).  You’ll notice that the Eb dim7 replaces the Bm.  And you might hear how the Eb dim7 provides more “energy” and “tension” to be “resolved” by the Em chord.
Diminished 7th Example 2
|Dm7     |G7     |Cmaj7      |Db dim7  |  (repeat) 

This example in the key of C is a more jazzy example (or funky a la Sunday Morning by Maroon 5??).  Again, the dim7 chord provides a tension to be resolved by the following chord (Dm7 in this case).  And you can hear a moving bass line from: C > Db > D. 
Half-Diminished Example
|Bm b5   |E7     |Am       |Fmaj7     |  (repeat) 

This example might be a bit more classical or Spanish (in fact, try strumming Flamingo style… perhaps more on this later).  This would be considered to be in the key of C.  The Bm b5 chord is the “natural” chord create from the 7-note in the scale.  While the E7 is “out of scale” (E is the 3rd note so it would have been Em using the notes from the C major scale).  The Bm b5 chord “wants to go to” the E7 which “wants to go to” Am.
Hopefully you now have an idea of how diminished chords can be used to create tension and unrest and that you found these examples useful! 

Guitar Lesson – Music Theory Part 6.7 – soft, jazzy, and bluesy

All 7 and we’ll watch them fall…

In a previous post, we talked about major and minor scales and how they share some notes while other notes are different.  7 is one of the ones that are different.  So when adding 7 onto a triad, you can either add the major 7 (“maj7”) or the minor 7 (just “7”).

You can add the 7 onto a major or minor chord.  So using the root note of A, we can have the following chords:
A7       – A C# E G
Amaj7    – A C# E G#
Am7      – A C  E G

I have not personally heard of the major 7 added to the minor chord (Am maj7??).

The changes between these chords are small but their uses and sound are very different.  Below, I’ll try to give a few examples of how you might them being used…

7 Chord
The 7 chord tends to feel unresolved.  This is a very common chord in blues.  For instance, in this common blues progression, you can substitute all the chords with the corresponding 7 chord:

|A    |D    |A    |A   |
|D    |D    |A    |A   |
|E    |D    |A    |E   |

So using 7’s, this would be:

|A7   |D7   |A7   |A7   |
|D7   |D7   |A7   |A7   |
|E7   |D7   |A7   |E7   |

Or using the number system:

|I7   |IV7  |I7   |I7   |
|IV7  |IV7  |I7   |I7   |
|V7   |IV7  |I7   |V7   |

Often the 7 chord is used to “propel” the music toward its relative 4th.  For instance, A7 (I) will want to be followed by D (IV).  Here’s an example:

|A    |A7   |D    |Dm   |   

But you can also look at the relationship backwards which is D (I) and A7 (V7).  Here’s an example:

|D    |A    |A7   |D    |

These are fairly common in folk, hymns, and rock.  Here’s a some-what folk-y example: 

|D    |A    |A7   |D D7 |
|G    |A    |D    |D7   | 
|G    |E7   |A    |A7   |  (back to top)

In this example, the A7 (V7) on the 1st line is used to lead us back to the D (I).  The D7 (I7) on the 1st line leads us to the G (IV) on the 2nd line.  The D7 is used again on the 2nd line to lead us to the G.  Then E7 (II7) is used to lead to the A (V) and the last A7 (V7) is used to lead us back to D (I).

Major 7 Chord
The major 7 chord tends to be softer sounding.  Often, this chord is used as a substitute for the IV chord in a progression.  For instance:

|C     |F    |  (repeat)
|C     |Fmaj7|  (repeat)

When we look at the notes that make up these chord it becomes more apparent why this “works”:

C      – C E G

Fmaj7  – F A C E

<— T = thumb

Another very popular variation on this is to use the maj7 chord for both:

|Cmaj7  |Fmaj7  |  (repeat)
Cmaj7  – C E G B
Fmaj7  – F A C E

In essence, we’ve give the F (IV) some characteristic of the C (I) by using the E (the 3-note) in both chords.  You can take this a step further by adding the 6-chord (vi).  In this case, this would be Am:

|C   |Fmaj7 |Am   |Fmaj7 |   (repeat)

Cmaj7  – C E G B
Fmaj7  – F A C E
Am     – A C E

Another way to look at this is that the E note (the 3-note) is used as a pedal note.

Minor 7 Chord
This is probably my favorite (definitely top 3). I love using this chord. Here, the 7 is the minor 7 relative to the root note. And it helps to soften the chord.

Am7     – A C E G

Recall that the minor 7 is a whole step from the root note. When this is used with the 2-chord (ii7), then the “7” is the same as the root note of the 1-chord (I). For example:

|Am7   |G     | (repeat)

Am7     – A C E G
G       – G B D

So what if we substituted the 6-chord with its 7 (vi7)?

G (I)      – G B D
Em7 (vi7)  – E G B D

<— standard shape

Now, let’s add this to another example we looked at before: (

|G    |Cadd9 |Em7  |Cadd9 | (repeat)

But instead of using the standard shape shown above.  Try this one instead: