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#1121001 - 12/16/04 07:31 PM Sudnow - first impressions (long)
Bob Muir Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 11/01/03
Posts: 2653
Loc: Lakewood, WA, USA
My Sudnow course finally arrived. The course claims to teach the ability to play from fake/real books with a simple way to voice chords and add "color notes" to fill out the harmony.

Sudnow also claims that after 10 or 15 songs, you'll be able to play straight from a fake book without having to think out the voicing ahead of time and eventually, to be able to play by ear. Play by ear defined as the ability to work out the melody and play it with proper voicings in any key.

The kit consists of a deck of 14 cards that act as a manual to be used as you follow along with the CDs. Three course CDs which are edited recordings of David's seminars, (about 3 hours of audio recorded over two days). In addition there's an optional 30-minute video and two additional optional CDs. The kit and caboodle comes to $39.95 and is what I purchased.

I watched the video first, since that was easiest. \:\) It's basically a half hour of the camera pointed directly at David's hands on the keyboard, showing various parts of the course. The video is most useful for complete beginners because they can watch how he uses his fingers during the songs.

Next up were the three course CDs from the seminar. While I think it would have been much better if it were a well edited 2 or 3-camera video course because some people are very visual, it serves the purpose. I was VERY impressed! Everything he said made sense and it was amazing how he frequently said some of the same things that Bernhard and Chang say.

Also part of the course is a set of PDF files from his website and access to a forum. Prior to listening to the course, I was concerned. Because the PDF for Misty, (the first song to be learned), is a strangest example of a piano arrangement you'll ever see. It's about 10 pages of the song arranged vertically with the lyrics going down the right hand side and a pictorial representation of the chords on the left hand side matching up with the appropriate word(s) on the right.

What concerned me was that it appeared that the goal of the course was to teach how to create these sheets and then learn the song. So every time you wanted to learn a song, you would first have to laborously compile the "dot" notation and then use it to learn the song. Fortunately, my concern was dead wrong.

The pictographs are only to get the student used to the three different chords and get the hands in the correct position on the keyboard in the most expeditious manner possible without using notes. Many of Sudnow's students are complete beginners who can't read music and the dot sheets show them specifically where to put their fingers on the keyboard. I don't see this as a problem because when you use fake books, you don't have the chords in note notation anyway.

Prior to introducing Misty, he explains how to learn all 12 major scales and how the three types of chords are made with the caveat that most students can safely ignore most of what he's saying until they've learned the first two songs and are ready to start arranging their own songs from a fake book. By that time, they can go back and listen to the tapes again to learn how to do that in more detail. In the mean time, they're to learn the scales, Misty, and Over the Rainbow exactly as he describes.

He says at one point in the CD that some people don't like "cocktail" style music, and that's fine. But they must learn their first few songs this way before branching out to ther styles. This sounded good to me. Because while it wouldn't be too horrible to play fake songs that way, it would be nice to not sound like Leisure suit Larry every time I wanted to play a song by ear. ;\)

If you elect to buy the course, I would recommend the optional CDs that cover learning Misty in more detail and explain why some of the chords are the way they are and cover Blues and "Stride". And while the video isn't all that, for the couple of bucks it comes out to when you buy the whole set, it's not too bad.

Who might want to buy this course:

1. Any beginner who never wants to play classical music but who just wants to play popular songs. and

2. Anybody who can play classically but who wants to be able to play from fake books and eventually play by ear.

Those with classical training are at a distinct advantage because we can read music (which makes reading the melody from a fake book a piece of cake), we know the keyboard, and it's easier for us to get our fingers efficiently into position for the chords. We also have been trained to use the pedal properly.

Any complete beginner hoping to use this course on their own with no instruction from a teacher is going to be in for a steep learning curve. David doesn't really go into the pedal much or how to use your hands and fingers. There are limits to what you can do with a virtually strictly audio course.

If time permits, I think this course can definitely be utilized in conjunction with classical training. In fact, because we have a teacher, it's the best scenario. While it's possible to post in David's forum, or even to call him with questions, it's much better to ask your classical teacher at your next lesson.

There isn't anything in this course that conflicts with learning classical. It's a completely different style of playing piano and should be treated and learned as such.

One of the things that prevented me from getting into fake books was the prospect of having to memorize all those different chords. Sudnow takes a completely different slant. By starting simple and adding color, you don't need to know complex chords, they complete themselves. I'm looking forward to getting Misty and Rainbow under my fingers, then to other songs and eventually to complete improvisational playing. We'll see how it works out. \:\)

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#1121002 - 12/16/04 09:44 PM Re: Sudnow - first impressions (long)
Vintagefingers Offline
Full Member

Registered: 10/22/04
Posts: 331
Loc: SE
Thanks much Bob. Please keep us abreast of your impressions of this method. Playing by ear is one of my long term goals, sometime later next year \:D

Will

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#1121003 - 12/17/04 06:23 AM Re: Sudnow - first impressions (long)
markb Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 10/29/04
Posts: 2593
Loc: Maryland
Hi Bob,

Great review! Very informative. Here's a question, though: What do you/Sudnow mean by learning "the three chords?" Does this refer to three specific chords (e.g. C, F, or G) or types of chords (e.g., maj, min, dim)?

BTW, I'm going to soon update the thread on the method I'm trying.
_________________________
markb--The Count of Casio

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#1121004 - 12/17/04 06:51 AM Re: Sudnow - first impressions (long)
Bob Muir Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 11/01/03
Posts: 2653
Loc: Lakewood, WA, USA
He basically categorizes the chords used in playing standards into three types. Major, Dominant, and Minor Seventh.

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#1121005 - 12/17/04 07:16 AM Re: Sudnow - first impressions (long)
chprout Offline
Full Member

Registered: 12/01/04
Posts: 33
Loc: Northern Virginia
I'm very interested in hearing more. Please keep posting on it.

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#1121006 - 12/17/04 07:54 AM Re: Sudnow - first impressions (long)
DarenT Offline
Full Member

Registered: 10/18/04
Posts: 96
Loc: Vancouver, BC
Bob,

I am close to completing Alfred's Adult Lesson Book One, Level One. Not that I can play all the tunes very well, I am simply passing through the book and scouting to see what it is I have to learn. At the same time non-musicians think I am playing them recognizably well. When I have completed all the tunes and lessons I will go back and then assiduously learn to play correctly the ones I like. At that time I will not practice any mistakes.

My question is, having read your evaluation of the Sudnow method, and also some of the earlier evaluations which weren't as detailed as yours, would I benefit by using the Sudnow method as my next course or should I progress from Alfred One to Alfred Two. I have no complaint with Alfred but it does seem a little one dimensional compared to your description of Sudnow. I will do both but it is just a question of which one I will do first. After I complete those two I will be looking at http://www.tcwresources.com/theory-gymnastics.php, Accelerando One and Two.

All comments are welcome.
_________________________
Progressing, slowly, but progressing.

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#1121007 - 12/17/04 08:58 AM Re: Sudnow - first impressions (long)
Bob Muir Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 11/01/03
Posts: 2653
Loc: Lakewood, WA, USA
It depends on how much time you have to spend on practice and if you want to be able to play classically. If you do, and you only have an hour or so per day to practice, then I would highly recommend sticking with that until you're to the intermediate level. Once you can play intermediate classical pieces, then you can focus on Sudnow or some other pop standards course and progress much faster.

If you have a couple of hours per day, then there's nothing wrong with digging into Sudnow for the second hour of practice time. There is so much to learning to play classically that it's tough to cram it into an hour much less adding a completely different style of playing on top of it.

I'm currently focussing on the classical training and working on Sudnow *after* that practice is complete. Although I'm going to make sure I get my major scale practice in every day.

Of course if classical piano isn't what you want, then jump into Sudnow with both feet! \:\)

"I'm very interested in hearing more. Please keep posting on it."

I don't know, if I said much more, I think I'd be starting to give away his methods. He kinda might object to that. ;\) Please let me know if you have any specific questions.

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#1121008 - 12/17/04 09:16 AM Re: Sudnow - first impressions (long)
Bob Muir Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 11/01/03
Posts: 2653
Loc: Lakewood, WA, USA
Comparing Scott "The Piano Guy" Houston's "Play Piano in a Flash" with Sudnow:

I've read through Houston's book and now I've listened to Sudnow's course. The difference between the two methods is astonishing. I do have to caveat that I have not purchased Houston's $90 video course.

To use an analogy, the difference between the two is that Houston shows you the swimming pool, demonstrates how to swim using the dog paddle and then you jump into the deep end of the pool. Sudnow shows you the swimming pool, walks you into the shallow end and fits you with floatation devices while you work through the motions to learn how to swim.

Houston says bascially to play block chords the way they're written in the fake books. One of his "tips" says that you can vary the chords, for example, arpeggiate them, break them in half, etc., but that's about it. I don't know if his video course goes into more detail or not but he still focuses on memorizing the chords and even pushes a "chord finder" device to figure how to play the complex chords.

Sudnow simplifies the chords and shows how to make them sound better than simple block chords. Then he teaches how to "color" the chords which is basically creating complex chords. So instead of memorizing complex chords, you create a complex chord and while you may not know the name of the chord you created, it sounds nice.

Again, it's possible that Houston's videos go into more detail and go farther than his book. If someone has purchased them, please post.

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#1121009 - 12/17/04 09:20 AM Re: Sudnow - first impressions (long)
DarenT Offline
Full Member

Registered: 10/18/04
Posts: 96
Loc: Vancouver, BC
My immediate goal is to learn how to play just regular songs. Once I can do that then I will start to learn how to play the accompaniment that the electronic keyboard I have offers. After that I may look at some of the lighter classics. So for now it looks like Sudnow can do me the most good.

A question. What is major scale practice. I don't know of any fingering practices, to get to know the notes, chords, scales or whatever or just to loosen up and strengthen my fingers.
_________________________
Progressing, slowly, but progressing.

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#1121010 - 12/17/04 09:34 AM Re: Sudnow - first impressions (long)
Bob Muir Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 11/01/03
Posts: 2653
Loc: Lakewood, WA, USA
First of all, forget about "stregthening" your fingers. Your fingers are plenty strong to play the piano. The challenge is getting the fingers on the correct keys at the correct time, not in getting them to push the keys down. ;\)

Major scale practice is just that. Learning the major scales. Not just the notes and not just mindlessly playing scales up and down all day, but to learn what makes up each of the 12 major scales. For example, knowing what the 6th of the Eb-major scale is.

Some people practice playing scales a lot. They even find playing them relaxing and run through a batch before each practice. Ask them what the fourth is in the A-major scale; if they can respond instantly, then they probably know their scales. Personally, I find a few deep breaths and a favorite tune works just as well for relaxing. ;\)

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#1121011 - 12/17/04 10:16 AM Re: Sudnow - first impressions (long)
DarenT Offline
Full Member

Registered: 10/18/04
Posts: 96
Loc: Vancouver, BC
O.K. Bob, please bear with me. When playing piano from sheet music, what is the advantage of having memorized what the 6th of the Eb-major scale is or whatever. I enjoy playing the scales and listening to the different sounds but doesn't one just follow the written music when actually playing?

I assume or I am guessing that this might be helpful to a composer but to an amateur home pianist?
_________________________
Progressing, slowly, but progressing.

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#1121012 - 12/17/04 10:49 AM Re: Sudnow - first impressions (long)
Bob Muir Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 11/01/03
Posts: 2653
Loc: Lakewood, WA, USA
You're absolutely correct, you don't need to know that if you're going to be memorizing or sight-reading fully scored sheet music. But playing from a fake book and playing by ear is a whole 'nother story. Even sight-reading from a score is made much easier if you know chord progressions.

In order to play from a fake book or by ear, you basically do compose on the fly. Fortunately, the chord symbols in a fake book help a lot. But you still have to move parts of the chord around and add color tones to make it interesting.

At first it's very, very difficult to do this. That's why Sudnow basically does it for you in the first two or three tunes. By the time you learn to play those according to his arrangements, then you have enough knowledge to start arranging your own pieces from the fake book. According to him, after 15 songs, then you'll be arranging on the fly without having to do it by hand ahead of time.

While there are arrangements that I want to memorize because they sound so nice, I don't want to have to painstakingly learn every simple song that I want to play. If I sit down at the piano and I want to play the theme for Gilligan's Island, I don't want to have to find the sheet music and then learn the score before playing it. ;\)

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#1121013 - 12/17/04 04:29 PM Re: Sudnow - first impressions (long)
chprout Offline
Full Member

Registered: 12/01/04
Posts: 33
Loc: Northern Virginia
It certainly is not a big $$ investment to give it a try. Sounds very worth taking a look at. If it's not a good fit, it's not a lot of $$ lost.

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#1121014 - 12/17/04 08:07 PM Re: Sudnow - first impressions (long)
SusieQ Offline
Full Member

Registered: 12/06/04
Posts: 301
Loc: Bellevue, Washington
It sounds like an interesting study - i hope you keep us informed. I have only been playing a year, and when I get further along might be interested in learning this way - Right now my standard lessons are progressing very well and I don't want to derail that.

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#1121015 - 12/18/04 05:17 AM Re: Sudnow - first impressions (long)
chprout Offline
Full Member

Registered: 12/01/04
Posts: 33
Loc: Northern Virginia
I think there's room for both, personally, as some others are doing. Take the traditional lessons, but branching out and exploring other areas of music styles and teaching would be excellent.

I hope to be able to site read both staffs fairly well, or to be able to casually sit in with a jazz band and flip open a fake book and play well when there's no bass clef staff written. I want to know how to make a EbMaj7#11, etc. ( I don't even know if I wrote a possible chord there, but you get the idea.)

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#1121016 - 12/18/04 04:29 PM Re: Sudnow - first impressions (long)
teachum Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/19/04
Posts: 2913
Loc: idaho
Great review, Bob. Sounds like he has some things in common with Pianoforlife.com Mark Almond. I have that course and plan to get back to it as it emphasizes chords while not ignoring theory as well. You might want to keep your eyes peeled for one of his seminar as he is in the Western Washington area. I would love to go to one, but no comes over here. \:\(
_________________________
You will be 10 years older, ten years from now, no matter what you do - so go for it!

Estonia #6141 in Satin Mahogany

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#1121017 - 12/18/04 07:21 PM Re: Sudnow - first impressions (long)
markb Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 10/29/04
Posts: 2593
Loc: Maryland
 Quote:
Originally posted by chprout:
I want to know how to make a EbMaj7#11, etc. ( I don't even know if I wrote a possible chord there, but you get the idea.) [/b]
I tried it. Didn't sound that good to me!
_________________________
markb--The Count of Casio

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#1121018 - 12/18/04 07:33 PM Re: Sudnow - first impressions (long)
chprout Offline
Full Member

Registered: 12/01/04
Posts: 33
Loc: Northern Virginia
Yeah, I told you! I don't know chords yet, but you know what I meant, didn't you??? LOL

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#1121019 - 12/18/04 08:11 PM Re: Sudnow - first impressions (long)
markb Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 10/29/04
Posts: 2593
Loc: Maryland
I knew what you meant, but I just wanted to see if I could figure out an EbMaj7#11. \:\)
_________________________
markb--The Count of Casio

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#1121020 - 12/18/04 08:53 PM Re: Sudnow - first impressions (long)
Bob Muir Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 11/01/03
Posts: 2653
Loc: Lakewood, WA, USA
That's funny (humorous and ironic) because there's an EbMaj7#11 chord in Misty. It's the 5th chord of the song. \:\) Although he also throws in a flat 9th. The chord is made up of Eb (the tonic), Db (the 7th diminished), E (flated 9th), G (the 3rd), A (the sharped 11th), and finally C, (the melody note).

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#1121021 - 12/19/04 05:19 AM Re: Sudnow - first impressions (long)
markb Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 10/29/04
Posts: 2593
Loc: Maryland
Well there you go, chprout! Looks like Sudnow is the method for you!
_________________________
markb--The Count of Casio

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#1121022 - 01/06/05 10:35 PM Re: Sudnow - first impressions (long)
footom Offline
Full Member

Registered: 11/20/04
Posts: 55
Loc: new york city
To Bob (and any other Sudnowites out there) ...

I've decided to commit to the Sudnow philosophy because it looks like the most bang for buck: sure, lots of formulas and rules to absorb, but logarithmic increase in acquisition as work progresses and ultimately a very rewarding grasp of the skill required for sight reading from fake books with a professional sound.

My impression is that a very key concept is one Dave Sudnow accents in his talk for a brief moment...look at the keyboard, because eventually each of the twelve scales will become a "picture" (whose elements you will be instantaneously modifying according to his formula, once you get sight reading down).

Thus, before I jump in to his frighteningly didactic method, whose rules I fully intend to obey, I'm sitting at the piano each night for 60-90 minutes and just playing the twelve scales. Don't laugh, I just want to bring myself, a beginner, up to a level of familiarity with this basis so I don't have to worry about learning scales as well as his formula all at once.

Does this sound like a plan?

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#1121023 - 01/07/05 07:15 AM Re: Sudnow - first impressions (long)
Bob Muir Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 11/01/03
Posts: 2653
Loc: Lakewood, WA, USA
"frighteningly didactic"? hmmm, alrighty then. ;\)

I hope you're not spending 60-90 minutes at the piano all at one time! Much, much better to break up the sessions into 20-minutes each. Focus on very specific tasks. Perhaps 2-5 minutes on each scale with complete focus including focussing on the intervals. Once 20 minutes is up, take a 5 minute break and start on the next task(s).

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#1121024 - 01/07/05 12:56 PM Re: Sudnow - first impressions (long)
Lightnin Offline
Full Member

Registered: 07/17/04
Posts: 210
Thanks for the Sudnow review Bob. It sounds very interesting, and prompted me to order it just now. It sounds just right, and $40 isnt very much, so I'm really looking forward to it.

The timing was just right for me, as I just quit my piano lessons today and was pondering my next move when I saw your post. Its been over a year, and I felt a need for a different direction, as yet unknown.

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#1121025 - 01/07/05 04:10 PM Re: Sudnow - first impressions (long)
footom Offline
Full Member

Registered: 11/20/04
Posts: 55
Loc: new york city
Thanks for the tip on the breaks, Bob. I know I should break it up but right now these scales are showing me patterns and playing them is almost philip glass-like...I can deal for an hour. Right now I'm like a kid in a candy store.

I've noticed some picture patterns to the scales that makes learning them pictorially, like Dave Sudnow suggests, a bit easier.

C is easy;
Db has a repeat pattern (the first 4 notes are the same picture as the second four);
D is also a 4 and 4 picture;
Eb is also a 4 and 4 picture;
E is also a 4 and 4 picture;
F is easy, just have to remember the Bb;
Gb uses all the black notes plus B and F;
G is easy...just have to remember the F#;
Ab the first 3 notes look like the second 3;
A is also a 3 and 3;
Bb is also a 3 and 3 and it looks like two "w's";
and B is again a 3 and 3.

For the Sudnow takers, study the card of the major scale, you'll see these shapes I'm describing.

For any guitar players out there learning the Sudnow method or anything else requiring rather instant recognition of thirds, fifths, sevenths, etc., during instant chord changes, if you've learned barre chords, and have played blues patterns in different keys with barre chords and the moving C7th shape, you can get a quick brain-reference to first, fourths and fifths if you think of your blues patterns: E-A-B; C-F-G; F-Bb-C; Eb-Ab-Bb; etc, to give you a quick reference point to the middle of any scale; then you just have to remember the second, which is easy, the third, which minors so there's maybe a reference you can quick-hit, the sixth (you know the fifth), and the seventh, a half step below the root.

I hope this isn't confusing. I've just cornered a couple ways to jump-start my knowledge of scales, which I must confess I've never learned after all these years of guitar, and I thought it might help.

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#1121026 - 01/07/05 09:53 PM Re: Sudnow - first impressions (long)
footom Offline
Full Member

Registered: 11/20/04
Posts: 55
Loc: new york city
Another tip...you can cut and paste the dot diagrams strip-wise on a wide page to save page-turning time.

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#1121027 - 01/09/05 08:27 AM Re: Sudnow - first impressions (long)
footom Offline
Full Member

Registered: 11/20/04
Posts: 55
Loc: new york city
Bob...please delete this post, I fixed the problem in my previous message. Thanks.

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#1121028 - 01/16/05 08:11 PM Re: Sudnow - first impressions (long)
Lightnin Offline
Full Member

Registered: 07/17/04
Posts: 210
I received my copy of Sudnows CDs yesterday. Confirmation said airmail, but it was media mail, so it was slow. It's really too new to comment, but I've watched the video so far, and listened to the first three CDs once, but not yet the two supplemental CD. Other than his dots, and one fingered scales, I thought the third audio CD was really the only new content so far, the ideas of spitting and embellishing the chords seems good stuff (and hard to play too \:\) ) I sure wish I had that manual he keeps mentioning. I do have the downloaded material and the cards, but organization is a real problem. Maybe it makes more sense later. And one would have thought the notion of quarter notes and eighth notes might be a factor of piano too \:\)

I thought it was interesting that Sudnow made a casual reference about every 5th being a scale note (meaning in C, G is the 5th and then in G, D is the 5th, etc. Every sequential 5th is a note within the root scale).

So I tried this for Misty's scale of Eb:

Eb Fm Gm Ab Bb Cm D0
I ii iii IV V vi vii

In Eb, Bb is the 5th
In Bb, F is the 5th
In F, C is the 5th
In C, G is the 5th
in G, D is the 5th
in D, A is the 5th

Oops! why didnt that come out Ab? A is not in this scale. Why the mismatch? Until that point, it gave the scale notes of Eb as expected, just a different order (I havent figured out the reorder thing, maybe it is not significant).

I knew vii is always diminished, meaning that for this D at vii, both its 3rd and 5th are flatted. That is true if vii, but I wasnt expecting it for this every 5th sequence. But I suppose D in this Eb scale must be considered diminished because it is vii, then it does give Ab as the diminished 5th, then followed by Eb at the octave again. That has to be it, but it takes this additional data to work out, more than just every sequential 5th.

Further, in reverse, the astounding thing is that it seems a real good bet that this must be WHY vii is always diminished. It doesnt complete the scale otherwise.

Anyway, I thought that was neat, and it helps my understanding, at least my acceptance. I had not realized that "every 5th" relationship as another way to build the scale. Who ever figured this stuff out 600 years ago must have been pretty sharp. For quite a few months, I thought they were diabolical \:\)

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#1121029 - 01/16/05 10:40 PM Re: Sudnow - first impressions (long)
Bob Muir Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 11/01/03
Posts: 2653
Loc: Lakewood, WA, USA
"I sure wish I had that manual he keeps mentioning."

The "manual" is the card deck. ;\)

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#1121030 - 01/17/05 10:24 AM Re: Sudnow - first impressions (long)
Lightnin Offline
Full Member

Registered: 07/17/04
Posts: 210
So after a month, what is your impression of the Sudnow method Bob? Does it show signs of promise for you?

I havent started yet, and I'm still trying to decide my procedure. I know he says no deviations allowed at first, but I keep looking at the music in conventional format and thinking surely I can adapt his chord phrasing ideas into that format.

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