Thursday, May 05, 2016

How to use this Blog 2

It occurs to me that folks don't actually know what their trouble is.  Let me tell you its fingering and chords, both of which are thoroughly covered on this site. Try searching this blog. If you don't get the results you were seeking then email me directly at

Saturday, April 16, 2016

How to Use This Site

It's simple
Just enter your trouble in the "search this blog". I checked and the titles give one the most. If you don't get any results, then email me directly at

Sunday, May 10, 2015

A few distinct advantages to owning/practicing/playing an electronic keyboard (over an acoustic piano)

This short article will focus on the main three: money, time, and effort.
Basically these are the savings. I'll cover them all, briefly. You will have to supply your own reasons but I'll tell you what I know!

Electronic instruments are cheap. The one thing that some folks ask is this - is 61 keys (the size of most smaller portable keyboards) enough? Yes, it is. If it wasn't, would they even manufacture these things? I, as an instructor, let students know that most music is made within those limits. You don't need 76 or 88 keys. Few pros even use the upper and lower ends, and you ain't a pro, are you? Also, they NEVER need tuning and contain a built-in metronome so you don't need to buy something which easily gets lost.

There is a savings in time. Electronic instruments have many additional and new learning tools. This means less time spent in taking lessons, etc. Also, if you want to learn to play the following: Sax, Clarinet, flute, organ, violin, trumpet, trombone, etc. all you have to do is learn some basics about how those instruments work and the super realistic sounds of an electronic instrument (which you already know how to play!) can make them for you. You don't have to spend the time learning all those instruments.

Finally, keyboards can require less effort. I recall very well my first encounter with the piano. I had already become a professional level organist. Unfortunately, that kind of "always on at full volume" sound doesn’t work on the piano, whose single sound dies away once you make it. Doesn't matter what you do - you gotta produce more notes all the time. I did learn to do this but it wasn't easy. It took quite some time and even now I know that my hands have to keep hitting keys - if I want to continue to hear music, that is! Thus, any electronic instrument which can make other sounds can less work.

Now I know that sales people have sold everyone on "gotta have weighted keys and gotta have 88 of them." I'm here to say that this is simply false data. Who am I to make this claim? I'm Dan Starr and I've been playing all sorts of keyboarded instruments for 40+ years professionally and instructing the same for 25+ years, longer than most clerks have even been alive. I think I know.

Saturday, April 25, 2015

What is a "Chord Progression?"

It's different than a chord sequence!

To me, at least, the key element of a chord progression is the word "progress." If the chords are merely a sequence, then they don't make progress, which is to say that they don't make sense. As I state in my book at amazon about chord progressions: (I'm gonna paraphrase myself here!) "Let's say you write down every chord there is on little sheets of paper and draw them one by one out of a hat.

Some would sound like they went together and some would not. Those that sounded like they went together would be chord 'progressions' and those that did not would be merely chord 'sequences.'" 

I go on and on to tell my readers what elements I have found that make up chord progressions.The most common is covered in the previous essay. There are others. People have been messing with  music for centuries now so this is reasonable.

Sunday, March 08, 2015

Diatonic Chord Progressions

I'll start by explaining why this is worthwhile to know.

Lots of folks know chords - those vertical groups of notes with names and symbols. However, did you ever think that you could simply memorize what "holds these chords together" and makes them make sense. how much faster do you think you would be at reading music and memorizing music if you did this?

"Dia" means through in this case.

And "tonic" means all the tones of music A - G (Note: it doesn't matter a whit if you have a # or a b attached to the tone, it is still the tone.)

"Diatonic chords" are merely "scale chords" cause they use only the notes of the scales they are part of.

I would guess that "Diatonic Chords" sounds more scholarly than "scale chords" so it is the term that is used.

Now letters A - G comprise seven notes so all Diatonic Scales have seven notes. This would be the Major Scales and the three forms of the minor scale, but not the Pentatonic scales or Chromatic scales
(which have 5 and 12 notes, respectively.) Major really does mean Major in this example and minor scales are lesser than Majors.

You may already know that we use the Major Scale to make chords. (Sure, you CAN use minor scales but why?) Thus it behooves you (yes, you) to know both Major Scales and how to make chords from them.

Why do the chords made only from notes of Major Scales sound so good. (and they do sound "good" as evidenced by the Diatonic tunes "Unchained Melody" and Pacabel's famous "Canon in D.") It's simple. These tunes use only chords that are made up of Major Scale notes.

In short, both chords and melodies to these tunes are combinations of the very same 7 notes.

This produces some interesting effects, one of which is any single chords which is NOT diatonic, is the one chord that many folks will recall, as it is a change from the "diatonicity" (a word that I, personally, made up!) Much rock uses this to very good effect.

Some of these chords are Major, some are minors, and one is a diminished chord! We often consider
that the dominant seventh chord (which contains that diminished chord in it's last three notes) for that key to be superior to the diminished chord for that key.

We use something that doesn't exist in the world to note the "majorness" or minorness" (often termed in music theory as chord "quality") namely lower case Roman Numerals (as well as normal ones.) We term the Major Chords in each key the I, the IV,  and the V. The minor chords are the ii, the iii, and the vi. We also say that the vii has a little circle after it or the word "dim."  The Majors are often called the Primary chords. I usually include the dominant seventh in the key (which is called the V7 cause it is based on the V) in these chords. Depending on what theory book you read, the minors and that lone diminished chord are called the Secondary Chords.

Here are some Diatonic progressions for you to "mess with" (if I repeat a number then this means you must repeat that chord for an additional measure.)

ii V7 I I


vi IV V I

Recognize them? I sure do hope so. The thing that makes them work is the fact they use only notes of the scale.