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.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Guitar Chords for everyone!

Many folks today are being exposed to Guitar Chords.

Thus this post.

Guitarists have this problem due to way a guitar is tuned. The problem is that they consider a "power chord" to actually be a chord when the rest of the music world thinks that it takes three notes to be a chord. Guitarists would say two notes only. HOWEVER, they have invented a notation that shows "power chords" G5 or A5 means the note given in the chord plus the fifth of the Major Scale, so G5 translates to the notes G + D while A5 is A + E. Hey, you would have to know the Major Scales to figure that out, right?

In addition to knowing the major scales, I would suggest that keyboardists insert the third whenever the guitarist plays a power chord. Now it just possible that this will sound lousy, and if that is the case then don't do it. I have had good luck with this approach, in fact I try my hardest to add those missing notes the guitarists don't play whenever I can. It's a general thing that good keyboard players do.

Another thing that guitarists really like is "suspended chords." There are two kinds 1. Suspended fourths (the most common kind - so much so that if you see a chord notated like this: Dsus it is a suspended fourth), and , 2. Suspended seconds (less common, in fact to notate one on have to specify it, like this D2) Both of these types are triads: 1. has the formula 1+4+5 and two has the formula 1+2+5. Now these can sound great on guitar but lousy on a keyboard, especially that Sus 2  chord.
What to do? You can invert the chord, if you know how to do that, so that those notes don't sound so bad. Or you can chose to play them with two hands.

Either way the secret is not play the notes so close together.

Have other challenges? Leave a comment on what they are and  I will help you.

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Guitarists need to read this

It explains how to get really good and eclipse most other guitarists.

AKA: why "playing by ear" is a bad thing.

Lately, I have had a rash of folks telling me I ought to teach playing by ear. I simply laugh, cause I've seen the results of this. They are:

1. Never even being able to name what you are playing, which makes it really, really hard to tell anyone else, such as a bandmate or a person in a session.

2. Being stuck only playing what is already been written.

3. Being a bit late, except when you already know the answer through playing that song before.

Only one source of info for music? Well, that source will get really, really good. I've worked with guitarists who have better ears than my own. However, I do have a pretty good ear. Plus I've got two other ways of obtaining what to do. They are:

1. Simply knowing chords and their progressions. If you do this you are never late, cause you read ahead and are ready to play at the correct moment in time.

2. My understanding. I can write and improv in most styles. It's cause I know "what goes with what" (chord progressions) so well that I have issued three CDs of my own compositions.

Not trying to brag and for many folks this will not have the appeal of playing the latest tune. However, if you do want to "get good" you will heed my words.

Ask me for help for nothing. I will answer all who comment below (you can do so anonymously) or email me directly at

Sunday, January 11, 2015

What are the BIG problems?

Here's a list!

Fingering: More people have trouble with this than they think. After all, what plays any sort of keyboard other than fingers? If this is your trouble, then use the search engine to the right and insert the term "fingering".

Timing: Another huge problem. If you have timing problems (and what I mean by "timing problems" is that your notes don't have the correct duration,) then email me directly or leave a comment at this site because there are different fixes for this and some are subtle. I will respond with help.

Motivation: I seem to get this often with newer students. Yes, I can serve to motivate you BUT only for awhile. To continue, even after lessons are stopped, you will need some self motivation. I mean who else is around to do it?

That's why exercise coaches tell their people that the best exercise is the one you will do!

Monday, December 29, 2014

Your Keyboard is NOT Merely "A Poor-man's Piano"

Despite the insistence of others.

Who are those "others?"

IT sounds like conspiracy theory with that word!

Well, those others are anyone who insists that this is all it is.

It might be the clerk who sold you the thing or your instructor.

Or even a friend.

Why would they make such a claim?

Well, the piano is 300 years old and up till recently it was the highest tech item out there.

Not anymore, however.

Keyboards have arrived!

Since memory went down in price after 2000 the keyboard has "come into it's own."

Push the cello tab (I use cello a LOT) and play in the lower end.

Most keyboards will sound really, really good.

That's cause the memory of a "real" (read acoustic) cello is what is being played each time you push a key.

It's called "a sample" and you couldn't get one for cheap until memory came down in price.

Now you can.

And that's not all you can do with your keyboard. Please view these videos on for more: