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#1961941 - 09/21/12 04:00 AM Re: How to read chords on sheet music? [Re: Tech 5]
Gary D. Offline
4000 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/30/08
Posts: 4649
Loc: South Florida
Originally Posted By: Tech 5
Originally Posted By: dire tonic
Originally Posted By: Tech 5
You guys lost me a long time ago, but I think its cool...the can of worms that has been opened from my simple little post on how to read chord charts.


- it's just everyday thread drift. Ignore it!


This I have done, for the most part.:)

smile

Believe it or not, what we are talking about is sort of connected, since READING chords means that the chords we are READING are correct. And often they are not.

When you go to play a tune, it is rare that someone will be very careful to give you the right "changes". This leads to what we call dumbed-down substitution chords in lead sheets.

In essence this all started over one chord, and that one chord, usually called a fully diminished chord but written as Xdim or Xdim7 (X meaning ANY root), is really quite easy to figure out or to play.

But because it is one of the most ambiguous chords we have in terms of where it can go (it can go almost ANYWHERE) AND because it is equally spaced by sound (on the piano exactly two keys are skipped between each note), it is our dratted notation system that causes all the problems.

Dire and I have been talking about the fact that when we hear a chord that SOUNDS like a Cdim7 (also written as Cdim), we simply know that the keys are C D#/Eb F#/Gb A, and the A can be written as Bbb.

You absolutely don't have to worry about this until you start WRITING music - or have to pass a very "anal" written theory test for some kind of grade. wink

All the spelling possibilities are just a headache for those of us who DO write music. And if we wrote this chord "wrong", people would still be able to read it, play it, etc. But good readers tend to stumble when the "spelling" is not conventional.

Its sorta like riting fonetikly and xpekting sumwun to figyer it all owt. If you are like me, you can read what I just wrote, but it slowed you down. That's what happens to advanced musicians when strange spellings are used. We glitch before we say, "Oh, so THAT is what that is." And then we rewrite it. wink
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#1961946 - 09/21/12 04:40 AM Re: How to read chords on sheet music? [Re: Gary D.]
dire tonic Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 07/17/11
Posts: 1049
Loc: uk south
Originally Posted By: Gary D.


1:24, Db something to C7#9 but almost certainly written C E G Bb Eb, to E6/B, etc.


Db9s4
LH: Db Ab Eb as arp RH: Gb Cb Db chord

to C7+9
C bass RH: E G Bb Eb

Your E6/B I have as a root position Ama9/B. (In fact this is a bad habit of mine - better written as Ama7(add2)). Lots of notes in common, but with Grusin, whose voicing is always immaculate (check out his strings on Bess you is my woman - fair brings a tear to the eye) it really would be necessary to write this out on the stave as a study piece.

As we know, chord symbols in the modern world can only be a GUIDE - spelling fanatics please note!!



Originally Posted By: Gary D.


LAZY LAZY LAZY LAZY. It is the fault of the COMPOSERS. They need to get OFF their butts and WRITE their own music correctly. Grusin is no more improvising in this piece than Chopin was when writing down his nocturnes. What he plays CAN be written down very accurately. It is elegant, beautifully constructed. He has the skills to write out his stuff. But he doesn’t care to. He leaves it to other people.

So almost always these guys leave their music in the hands of HACKS, and in defense of those hacks, they are probably paid very little. In the long run it is really stupid. It won’t decrease the amount of money they make, but they will leave no permanent record, and that makes their music unplayable for those who do not have the listening skills to reconstruct it purely through ear work.

Granted, things that are largely improv, created on the spot, are not meant to be permanently written down. In that case reproducing exactly what is played only creates very inferior copies of something original. But back in the time of Tchaikosky composers took the time to take things written for full orchestra and make their own transcriptions for piano. To the best of my knowledge there is no piano transcription of Princess Lea’s Theme. In defense of Williams, the amount of music the man has composed is frightening, but it would have been nice if he had taken that piece, which really is as much a tone poem as anything written in the 1800s, and had made a fine transcription. wink


I mentioned several reasons in an earlier post why they shun the lead-sheet/piano copy job. But it's also to do with status. Although it's a job which demands certain skills, it has to be left to the dog's-bodies of the profession!

Yes, I'm certain this is an improv with perhaps a couple of runs through for timing. It's classic Grusin, and for him, like falling off a log.


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#1961953 - 09/21/12 05:48 AM Re: How to read chords on sheet music? [Re: Gary D.]
keystring Online   content
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I think it's time to demystify things. This thread started with a question by a relative beginner just getting her feet wet. We established that a good way to get an idea about theory is by exploring at the piano, using ears and eyes. Whatever is written on paper is a reflection of that. When things get complicated, I like to go back to simple things. While I agree that there isn't a rule for everything, there ARE solid things that we all hold on to and they are NOT complicated (or scary).

So here's an attempt to demystify this complicated thing they're talking about. I'd like to build on what I introduced before, where we started at the piano and took the three white keys CEG which make a major chord, and moved the middle note one half step lower by playing Eb instead of E. Now we had a minor chord. We also know that in writing, that black key could be called D# or Eb. In other words, the piano gives us the sound and a location for that sound. Spelling can get weird, but piano and sound are constants.

Piano-wise, the picture below is what they are talking about. If you follow the half steps, you'll see that each dot is three half steps away from the next dot. If you take any four of these in a row, you will get a fully diminished chord, and it has unique properties because all the notes are the same distance apart.

If you start at D, then at the 5th dot, you're right back at D again, and the same is true for any other starting note. Yet the distance of 3 half steps between the notes never change. Because this is totally symmetrical, you could say that you always have "the same chord" no matter where you start.

COMPOSERS end up having a problem in deciding how to write the music. PERFORMERS reading the music don't have to worry about it, since they just have to play the notes. Supposing that your chosen chord starts on B. Then the notes are B,D,F,Ab. They skip letters the way chords in root position always do. What if the composer wants the chord to go **BDF? What do we call the black note? If we're skipping letters so that the notes stack neatly, the G#BDF seems better. If we start with F, then do we write FAbCD FAbCbD? What about this CD CbD, and the idea of skipped letters? In many cases the composer will still stack the notes, and it will be FAbCEbb (For Ebb, go down a half step for each flat, and you'll land on D which is the "same note").

Here is the important thing. Composers who have to follow grammar rules must worry about complicated things. But we can go back to what is simple. The diagram below is simple. When you get to complicated music, if you can work out what is happening by remembering the simple basics, then you're less likely to get lost.


Picture thanks to a bookmark, hole punch holes, and scotch tape. grin


Edited by keystring (09/21/12 03:59 PM)
Edit Reason: spelling mistake (see strikethrough)

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#1961960 - 09/21/12 06:32 AM Re: How to read chords on sheet music? [Re: dire tonic]
Gary D. Offline
4000 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/30/08
Posts: 4649
Loc: South Florida
Originally Posted By: dire tonic
Originally Posted By: Gary D.


1:24, Db something to C7#9 but almost certainly written C E G Bb Eb, to E6/B, etc.


Db9s4
LH: Db Ab Eb as arp RH: Gb Cb Db chord

I have this fully notated, no chord symbols. I’m going by what I heard, and what I wrote out. Where you have Gb Cb Db I have Gb Ab Db. I don’t hear a 7 there. I just listened again. It would be interesting to find out what other people hear there. wink
Quote:

Your E6/B I have as a root position Ama9/B. (In fact this is a bad habit of mine - better written as Ama7(add2)). Lots of notes in common, but with Grusin, whose voicing is always immaculate (check out his strings on Bess you is my woman - fair brings a tear to the eye) it really would be necessary to write this out on the stave as a study piece.

The reason I said “Db something” was to stress the fact that the voicing is everything. But with or without 7 your Db9sus4 gets the job done. However, because I do not hear the 7 there, that is why I said add 9. I think I’m right about that chord.

But for the other, there IS an A in there, so the chord is A B C# E G#. You’re dead on, I’m wrong. That’s Amaj7(add2)/B. I like that choice because it shows voicing. And I’ve already added that A in there. Thanks!

His voicings are so subtle, it’s very easy to drop a note. There are bass notes in there I did not even hear with speakers, but they are clearly there with headphones.

About the improv subject: I don’t see it as clear-cut. There are things that are “written in stone”, and there are things that are totally off the cuff. But I hear really tight structure, and there is almost an exact repeat but with scales and “ornaments”. Obviously he could play it 100 times and never play it quite the same way twice (I LOVE the way this guy plays and composes), but I believe in this it would be close. Regardless, the final recorded version is a GEM, and for those of us who can’t match his versatility, that version notated, exactly as it is, would be a God-send!

But it would have been much less fun for me. We would not be having this discussion. laugh
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#1961969 - 09/21/12 07:51 AM Re: How to read chords on sheet music? [Re: Gary D.]
dire tonic Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 07/17/11
Posts: 1049
Loc: uk south
Originally Posted By: Gary D.
Originally Posted By: dire tonic
Originally Posted By: Gary D.


1:24, Db something to C7#9 but almost certainly written C E G Bb Eb, to E6/B, etc.


Db9s4
LH: Db Ab Eb as arp RH: Gb Cb Db chord

I have this fully notated, no chord symbols. I’m going by what I heard, and what I wrote out. Where you have Gb Cb Db I have Gb Ab Db. I don’t hear a 7 there. I just listened again. It would be interesting to find out what other people hear there. wink
Quote:

Your E6/B I have as a root position Ama9/B. (In fact this is a bad habit of mine - better written as Ama7(add2)). Lots of notes in common, but with Grusin, whose voicing is always immaculate (check out his strings on Bess you is my woman - fair brings a tear to the eye) it really would be necessary to write this out on the stave as a study piece.

The reason I said “Db something” was to stress the fact that the voicing is everything. But with or without 7 your Db9sus4 gets the job done. However, because I do not hear the 7 there, that is why I said add 9. I think I’m right about that chord.


I tried your Ab and that sounds good too. However, until Dave spills the beans I'm sticking to my guns and my Cb.

It might have to be pistols at dawn?


Quote:

But for the other, there IS an A in there, so the chord is A B C# E G#. You’re dead on, I’m wrong. That’s Amaj7(add2)/B. I like that choice because it shows voicing. And I’ve already added that A in there. Thanks!

His voicings are so subtle, it’s very easy to drop a note. There are bass notes in there I did not even hear with speakers, but they are clearly there with headphones.

About the improv subject: I don’t see it as clear-cut. There are things that are “written in stone”, and there are things that are totally off the cuff. But I hear really tight structure, and there is almost an exact repeat but with scales and “ornaments”. Obviously he could play it 100 times and never play it quite the same way twice (I LOVE the way this guy plays and composes), but I believe in this it would be close.


- Yes, I agree with you about the structure, and the broad melodic idea, I'm sure he had that written or maybe just settled in his head. But I think red light syndrome, even for the best session guys, demands that for something like this, there's some open-endedness.

Me too, I've always been a huge fan, especially after a drummer friend insisted we have a go at rag bag on a jazz gig, I gave it my best, but..... He's got some amazing chops.

Quote:

Regardless, the final recorded version is a GEM, and for those of us who can’t match his versatility, that version notated, exactly as it is, would be a God-send!


I might have a crack at it at some point in the (distant?) future. Did you say there's already an unfaithful transcription of this in existence?

Quote:

But it would have been much less fun for me. We would not be having this discussion. laugh


ditto smile

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#1962083 - 09/21/12 01:29 PM Re: How to read chords on sheet music? [Re: Gary D.]
Tech 5 Offline
Full Member

Registered: 07/27/12
Posts: 194
Loc: South Carolina

Its sorta like riting fonetikly and xpekting sumwun to figyer it all owt. If you are like me, you can read what I just wrote, but it slowed you down. That's what happens to advanced musicians when strange spellings are used. We glitch before we say, "Oh, so THAT is what that is." And then we rewrite it. wink [/quote]


I could actually read that phonically written sentence....that's funny. Anyway, thanks for the explanation. I don't really mind that my initial post branched out into the unknown world of weird music theory....unknown to me anyway. I actually think its fun to watch the posts develop into a variety of conversations even if they don't answer my initial question.
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#1962114 - 09/21/12 02:32 PM Re: How to read chords on sheet music? [Re: keystring]
Gary D. Offline
4000 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/30/08
Posts: 4649
Loc: South Florida
Originally Posted By: keystring
I think it's time to demystify things. This thread started with a question by a relative beginner just getting her feet wet. We established that a good way to get an idea about theory is by exploring at the piano, using ears and eyes. Whatever is written on paper is a reflection of that. When things get complicated, I like to go back to simple things. While I agree that there isn't a rule for everything, there ARE solid things that we all hold on to and they are NOT complicated (or scary).

Agreed.
Quote:

So here's an attempt to demystify this complicated thing they're talking about. I'd like to build on what I introduced before, where we started at the piano and took the three white keys CEG which make a major chord, and moved the middle note one half step lower by playing Eb instead of E. Now we had a minor chord. We also know that in writing, that black key could be called D# or Eb. In other words, the piano gives us the sound and a location for that sound. Spelling can get weird, but piano and sound are constants.

Also true.
Quote:

Piano-wise, the picture below is what they are talking about. If you follow the half steps, you'll see that each dot is three half steps away from the next dot. If you take any four of these in a row, you will get a fully diminished chord, and it has unique properties because all the notes are the same distance apart.

If you start at D, then at the 5th dot, you're right back at D again, and the same is true for any other starting note. Yet the distance of 3 half steps between the notes never change. Because this is totally symmetrical, you could say that you always have "the same chord" no matter where you start.

I agree with what you are saying, every word. In general I don’t like picture of keys to show chords, mostly because most chords truly have inversions that SOUND like inversions. Keeping it simple, if you show a picture of a G7 chord as G B D F, it doesn’t explain why B D F G is still called a G7 chord but sound different. This is not true of fully diminished chords. So I think your method, making a picture of the sequence is very good for a dim chord, and it would also work very well for augmented chords, for instance, because they also “repeat”.
Quote:

COMPOSERS end up having a problem in deciding how to write the music. PERFORMERS reading the music don't have to worry about it, since they just have to play the notes.

Somewhere I think I wrote the same thing. It’s important to think about. It is a non-issue for ear-players, and for those who learn to read well, in my opinion reading fluently needs to come first. When a student of mine runs into a dim chord, I point out the same thing you just mentioned. I show that there are two keys skipped between each finger. I teach the chord, by rote, in a slightly different way.
Quote:

Supposing that your chosen chord starts on B. Then the notes are B,D,F,Ab. They skip letters the way chords in root position always do. What if the composer wants the chord to go **BDF? What do we call the black note? If we're skipping letters so that the notes stack neatly, the G#BDF seems better.

If you are stacking every other letter, you have no choice but to write it that way. But is this still keeping it simple?
Quote:

If we start with F, then do we write FAbCD? What about this CD, and the idea of skipped letters? In many cases the composer will still stack the notes, and it will be FAbCEbb (For Ebb, go down a half step for each flat, and you'll land on D which is the "same note").

Here you lost me. I THINK you are after this: F Ab *Cb* Ebb, showing how to stack by every other letter so that you will have a four note “snowman” with four spaces of four lines. This sticks with your picture. But did you want to go so far into grammar in this post?
Quote:

Here is the important thing. Composers who have to follow grammar rules must worry about complicated things. But we can go back to what is simple. The diagram below is simple. When you get to complicated music, if you can work out what is happening by remembering the simple basics, then you're less likely to get lost.

I would stick with the diagram for theoretical understanding of the pattern. It shows clearly the spacing of the keys we press. I’m not going to add anything here. It would muddy the waters. I do have another practical POV to add.
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#1962119 - 09/21/12 02:43 PM Re: How to read chords on sheet music? [Re: Tech 5]
Gary D. Offline
4000 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/30/08
Posts: 4649
Loc: South Florida
My slant on teaching people how to play dim chords, rote, by feel, visual pattern and sound only.

1) Learn major chords in all keys, root position, eg, C = C E G.
2) Get those major chords so that they are totally in the hands, instant.
3) Add a note - make the major chord into a major 6 chord, eg C6 = C E G A
4) Remember that the 6 is always a whole step above the 5th or top note of the major chord.
5) Nail these six chords in all keys.
6) Lower the middle two notes (piano keys) exactly ½ step.
7) Do NOT worry about spelling. Do this until you can do it in all 12 keys immediately without even thinking about it.

When you have done that, this becomes obvious that when you lower the middle notes in these chords:

C6
Eb6 or D#6
Gb6 or F#6
A6

The result is that you have four chords that all sound the same and use the same keys.

Students will understand this viscerally when they discover it for themselves. For instance, a student who plays Cdim7 then Ebdim7 will suddenly say, “That sounds the same.”

And then you are in.

It is at THAT point that it is OK to mention that these chords have variable spellings, and that only one of them will produce “stacked thirds”.
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#1962130 - 09/21/12 02:58 PM Re: How to read chords on sheet music? [Re: Tech 5]
Brent H Offline
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Registered: 11/06/11
Posts: 843
Gary,

I don't know if you've heard of a guitar player named Gene Bertoncini but I have a DVD where he's talking about how he developed his approach to jazz guitar. He specifically uses the example of a C-diminished scale and shows how he learned to see the fretboard "pianistically" (his term) so that, once he gets a C-diminished context in mind he only "sees" the frets on each string that are in that scale. And that gives him all the other scales and chords that overlap C-diminished, I guess in the same way your describing it, which means he can go in and out of other chords (scales?) in the same context.

All that is beyond my (current) ken but I can see that it's the natural goal for someone who wants to play and improve well, especially in a jazz context. One thing I know, it's heck of a lot easier to "see" that on a piano keyboard than on a guitar. So at least I have a prayer of a chance, now that I've made the switch.
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#1962154 - 09/21/12 03:35 PM Re: How to read chords on sheet music? [Re: Brent H]
Gary D. Offline
4000 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/30/08
Posts: 4649
Loc: South Florida
Originally Posted By: Brent H
Gary,

I don't know if you've heard of a guitar player named Gene Bertoncini but I have a DVD where he's talking about how he developed his approach to jazz guitar. He specifically uses the example of a C-diminished scale and shows how he learned to see the fretboard "pianistically" (his term) so that, once he gets a C-diminished context in mind he only "sees" the frets on each string that are in that scale. And that gives him all the other scales and chords that overlap C-diminished, I guess in the same way your describing it, which means he can go in and out of other chords (scales?) in the same context.

All that is beyond my (current) ken but I can see that it's the natural goal for someone who wants to play and improve well, especially in a jazz context. One thing I know, it's heck of a lot easier to "see" that on a piano keyboard than on a guitar. So at least I have a prayer of a chance, now that I've made the switch.

http://www.freeguitarvideos.com/LJ3/c-diminished-scale.html
That's the scale. It is also called octatonic. It is formed from two dim7 chords (by sound), like this:

C Db-----D# E-------F# G----A Bb---C Db, etc.

One suggested spelling:

C C# Eb E F# G A Bb C

You can see C E G there and C Eb G, so a major and minor chord. You can get other major and minor chords out of that, but you would have to change spellings:

Eb G Bb, fine, but Eb F# Bb would have to be respelled.

Note that you have both a Cdim7, C Eb F# A, and a Cm7b5, C Eb F# Bb. The last chord you would want to spell C Eb Gb Bb, so the point is not the spelling of the scale but the sounds, and where you can slip to.

I see this as just enlarging on the idea that a dim chord will slide to just about anything. smile
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#1962183 - 09/21/12 04:53 PM Re: How to read chords on sheet music? [Re: Gary D.]
keystring Online   content
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 12/11/07
Posts: 11190
Loc: Canada
Gary, thank you for your response to my post. Rather than going point by point, I'd like to sketch out some general ideas.

About the diagram: I agree that it works for diminished and augmented chords. In fact, I created it out of necessity: we can't sit down at a piano to demonstrate and have people try things. If they are to try them, how do you describe it? Naming the notes of a generic fully diminished chord is impossible; you're stuck right back in spelling-land. The same is true for the augmented that you mentioned.

My hopes for the diagram were not so much as an explanation, as for exploration. I believe that theory starts with exploring at the keyboard and of sound. My first posts in this thread were to that end. If it serves for understanding in and of itself, that is also good. smile

I agree with your idea of becoming fully familiar with simple chords first, and in a real way. The thing is that this thread didn't go that way. But since this fascinating chord is out there, maybe some principals can be drawn from it, including the idea of exploring. If somebody takes that diagram as a model in order to not get lost, sees patterns such as the three semitones (half steps), and plays with it at the piano, I think that some straightforward things will emerge. Then later on when the advanced things come up, there is this idea of simple basic things that can be explored at the keyboard.

The general thought behind all of this is that there were these seemingly complicated ideas floating around. But underneath it was this straightforward chord. The experienced musicians were drawing on that straightforward part. If the SIMPLE part could be brought out, then maybe something could be gained. That is why I used the word "demystification". The spellings and grammar behind them are not simple. But the general structure of a fully diminished chord as it is experienced on the piano is simple.

I think that this is probably a good way of seeing music in general. It stops it from being intimidating, which at times it really can be.


Edited by keystring (09/21/12 10:27 PM)

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#1962235 - 09/21/12 06:15 PM Re: How to read chords on sheet music? [Re: Tech 5]
keystring Online   content
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 12/11/07
Posts: 11190
Loc: Canada
A philosophical thought in general about learning music and theory as an adult. Young children are generally in a concrete world. Even when thinking of such abstract things such as relative size, infinity, it tends to be with real things, and hands on. They get into abstract and complex things gradually. We tend to introduce things to them that way.

Adults can think abstractly and theorize. We are also aware of things that are beyond our present grasp. So what do you do with that? Do you put on artificial blinders? I've seen method books that introduce music in G major but carefully avoid F# since it hasn't been taught yet, but if anyone already has an ear he'd be confused to be hearing G as the tonic when the music is "in C". Or at the other end, complicated theory explained in words when there is little experience with musical things.

I found when I was starting out that I was aware that there were complexities in music. You can't stuff the genie back into the bottle and pretend it isn't there. It can engender a kind of anxiety where you have the overall impression of complicated rocket-science like things that you'll never get. I found it helpful to know that the complicated things are based on simple, concrete things. Every advanced musician participating in this thread is probably feeling some familiar and simple things in his hands, and going out from there. If we can grasp that the complex is built on the simple, then it alleviates this anxiety. It also means that the simple "Dick, Jane and Sally" studies we are doing are actually deep and meaningful. As adults riding tricycles, I think it's a boost.

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#1962252 - 09/21/12 07:19 PM Re: How to read chords on sheet music? [Re: Brent H]
keystring Online   content
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 12/11/07
Posts: 11190
Loc: Canada
Originally Posted By: Brent H

I don't know if you've heard of a guitar player named Gene Bertoncini but I have a DVD where he's talking about how he developed his approach to jazz guitar. He specifically uses the example of a C-diminished scale and shows how he learned to see the fretboard "pianistically" (his term) so that, once he gets a C-diminished context in mind he only "sees" the frets on each string that are in that scale. And that gives him all the other scales and chords that overlap C-diminished, I guess in the same way your describing it, which means he can go in and out of other chords (scales?) in the same context.

That is interesting, because I knew a jazz brass player who took up the violin and was looking for the opposite. Classical violin instruction tends to go "melodically" (along the string, scale-like). I knew almost nothing about chords and the vertical "harmonic" structure so I didn't follow too closely. However, he found a jazz violinist who had invented a system that borrowed from the chord orientation of guitars. This then got applied back and forth to scales, modulations, modes and I don't know what - things that a jazz musicians wants to have up his sleeve. At the time my knowledge of theory was close to zero.

Originally Posted By: Gary
That's the scale. It is also called octatonic.

We learned in theory to form it by alternating whole and half steps. The spelling gets iffy because it no longer fits into the system but you get roughly.
C(W)D(H)D# = Eb(W)F = E# (W)Gb=A#(H)A(W)B(H)C.
or
C(H)Db(W)Eb = D# (H)E.....
If you take every second note you will get two diminished chords. I.e. for the first one C,Eb,Gb,B and D,F,Ab,B
But the cool thing is that you don't have to think note names.

I'm thinking that an important thing might be that scales or scale-type passages and chords relate back and forth.


Edited by keystring (09/21/12 09:13 PM)

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#1962359 - 09/22/12 12:42 AM Re: How to read chords on sheet music? [Re: keystring]
LoPresti Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 12/07/10
Posts: 1304
Loc: New York
Originally Posted By: keystring
I'm thinking that an important thing might be that scales or scale-type passages and chords relate back and forth.

You might just be onto something here!

* A scale defines a key (or maybe visa-versa.)
* The distances between scale notes define intervals.
* Superimposing scale intervals defines chords.

Do the jazz guys know about this?

(Try not to get mad - I'm just having fun.) I would also review a couple of those spellings above.
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#1962382 - 09/22/12 03:33 AM Re: How to read chords on sheet music? [Re: keystring]
Gary D. Offline
4000 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/30/08
Posts: 4649
Loc: South Florida
Originally Posted By: keystring
Gary, thank you for your response to my post. Rather than going point by point, I'd like to sketch out some general ideas.

I don’t want to go point by point either. As a teacher my main problem is not that there are not easy ways to cover this subject – there are – but that there are so many angles to use to approach it. In lessons I can quickly sense the learning style of any student, and this is greatly influence by age, but there are other really important factors:

1) Some people are TERRIBLE at key counting. If, for instance, I tell a student to take an octave, split it in half, then split those two halves again, people who are very good at patterns will take the octave C-C, immediately figure out that C F#/Gb C splits it, then figure out that C D#/Eb F#/Gb A C completes the pattern. Bam, they have it.

2) The people who instantly get this logic have no problem recognizing the same pattern when it appears in notation, no matter what the spelling. So for them the only challenge is to explain the rules of notation, why spelling X, Y or Z is appropriate, in what context, etc.

3) Other people just don’t see the keys that are skipped by the fingers. For them key-counting works horribly.

4) Often the non-key-counters turn out to be excellent at memorizing black and white patterns. For instance, some of my students just know that a Gb/F# chord is all black, they know the spacing of the black keys. I can teach them all 12 major chords (not counting enharmonic names) very quickly by patterns of color – D, E and A have black notes in the middle. That sort of thing.

5) Some of the key counter-counters and the pattern-learners depend very little on the ear, but others are very much guided by it. The ones who hear when a major chord, for example, does not sound “right” are the quickest to self-correct and move on to more complicated and sophisticated chords.

6) The students who hear chord qualities very accurately are more likely to also instantly recognize the same chords in inversions, open voicings, and so on.

7) There are people who learn chords in some other way that I don’t understand. Those people get the chords but do not get them from my instructions. I assume they process the whole thing in an unusual way.

I want to set this out first. Note that I am not really giving answers, just observations. But one more subject:

1) Some people seem to master scales, not the physical playing of them, but the theory behind them by moving from chords to scales.

2) Other people seem to understand chords best by reasoning through them through scales.

3) Finally, there are people who seem to work in both directions. For me those people are easiest to teach. AND:

4) I do believe that a balanced approach is best, so that both scales and chords are covered in a way that allows me to move back and forth from one to another.

Now, having said that, I have some general ideas about what methods work the quickest in getting people to the place we all want them, mastering scales, mastering chords, and mastering the complicated rules of how best to notate them.
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#1962387 - 09/22/12 03:54 AM Re: How to read chords on sheet music? [Re: Tech 5]
keystring Online   content
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 12/11/07
Posts: 11190
Loc: Canada
Gary, in what you are describing, I am seeing first of all that you interact with your students according to their makeup and so what they can relate to. You've described more than one angle to get at the same thing. Then there is the obvious fact that you do interact, with a back and forth exchange. Also, you are at the piano, demonstrating, having them play and try things. It's physical and hands on, with the "intellectual" theory being part of that.

A forum like this has none of that. It's a disparate group with varying backgrounds and personalities so the best we can do is a generic type of thing. There is no interaction from one moment to the next so that ideas are formed gradually in a back and forth. Whatever is written gets set in stone, and if it's the wrong word or understood wrongly, it's stuck there. But above all, it's words - intellectual ideas understood with the mind instead of being experienced. One can try to counter this by suggesting trying things at the piano. Will it work?

Seeing the different ways that various students can absorb the knowledge does give some insight.

Quote:
Now, having said that, I have some general ideas about what methods work the quickest in getting people to the place we all want them, mastering scales, mastering chords, and mastering the complicated rules of how best to notate them.

Pray tell!

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#1962389 - 09/22/12 04:06 AM Re: How to read chords on sheet music? [Re: Tech 5]
Gary D. Offline
4000 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/30/08
Posts: 4649
Loc: South Florida
Scales vs chords:

1) It should not be necessary for a student to master all 12 scales in order to master chords that are derived from those scales.

2) It is theoretically possible to intuitively figure out any scale from several chords that obviously belong to it, in this manner:

a) Any major chord defines 1 3 5
b) Any major six chord defines 1 3 5 6
c) Any sus4 chord defines 1 4 5
d) Any sus2 chord defines 1 2 5
e) Any sus4(add2) or double sus chord defines 1 2 4 5
f) Any maj7 chord defines 1 3 5 7

The above chords, learned in all keys, will blanket cover every degree within those scales.

It is not necessary nor is it optimum to do the above without learning all the scales, but the chords can be learned ahead of at least SOME of the keys. In this way newer scales taught may be intuitively understood more quickly while they are being learned.

Regardless, it is not necessary to read music at all to learn all these chords or to master all 12 scales.

HOWEVER: Because music moves both horizontally and vertically, the goal should always be to master BOTH chords AND scales to the highest degree possible. The only thing that should be in serious dispute is timing, order, how best to achieve that goal.

***But how much of this should be learned through reading, how much through ear alone, ad how much through rote? The elephant in the room is the assumption that reading – and thus all the complexities of notation – are necessary to pick up these foundations INITIALLY.***

This assumption leads to about 99% of the lack of communication between teachers who are teaching skills in different ways.

1) If reading is assumed to be necessary in order to teach scales and chords, notation will be an IMMEDIATE concern and must be addressed from the beginning.

2) If scales and chords are taught by rote first, they can be mastered quite well without notation being mentioned at all – again INITIALLY.

3) For obvious reasons, even when scales and chords are taught be rote, if reading is being pushed as a very high priority from the start, students will run into the rudiments they are learning in music, and at that point some basic rules of notation will be obvious, while others will not be at all.

4) Many rules of notation will be picked up passively through a great deal of reading, before formal study of notation begins,

5) Rules of notation become critical only when WRITING music. Therefore, how notation works in chords and scales becomes important the moment a student begins to write music. But when should that happen? Ideally I would say as early as possible, the sooner the better.

6) In the process of writing music, things that do and do not work usually become apparent for reasons that soon become common sense.

My conclusion: when we begin to discuss sticky points, such as how to notate dim7 chords, augmented chords, whole tone scales, octatonic scales, chromatic scales, there is always a disconnect until we write these things. It is at THAT point that a good teacher can straighten us out in a heartbeat, giving us clues or guidelines that enable us to write music as clearly as possible. Those guidelines involve rules, the reasons BEHIND the rules, and common sense examples of when one set of rules no longer work and another set of rules – or guidelines – are necessary.
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