Bach Cello Suites rendered for classical guitar



Listen to my Bach Cello Suites rendering of classical guitar as originally arranged by Bach based on MIDI files edited in Ableton Live Suite on SoundCloud

You can also buy it from CDBaby via links posted in the playlist on SoundCloud or the individual tracks. There are 36 pieces in six sets as originally written by Bach for Viola Pomposa, which is tuned in CGDAE.

If you wish to purchase the Ableton Live set I assembled for all 36 pieces in Bach Cello Suites, please contact via email at I accept donations over $50 via PayPal (using this email address to send) for the Ableton Live 9.2.2 set which I have put in an immense amount of work to create this music. Upon receipt of the donation, I will make it available via a private download link for you, along with a PDF receipt for the donation.

I am working on NST Tabs for all six suites in Guitar Pro but it is slow work. I will update this post when ready, with links to the PDF and/or Guitar Pro files available for purchase.

Some Bach pieces written for NST guitar are available on Bert Lams’ site as well.

Roland GA-112 Chassis replacement

I purchased a Roland GA-112 amp on eBay and it arrived with the chassis cracked on the right side. So I called Roland for a replacement side and they shipped me a new chassis, as its glued together into one piece! So after forgiving the cheat on eBay who sold me the cracked chassis while posting pictures of a pristine amp, I also forgave Roland for a poor design of the chassis – and not thinking of design for serviceability. WP_20160221_18_20_34_Pro

Above is the cracked right side of the chassis. If it had been designed as a replaceable part, it would be a matter of removing a few screws and taking it off, putting on the new one.


I started by taking a picture of the back of the GA-112 amp as I use two of these in my studio for left/right channels coming from my Roland VG-99 guitar synth. Basically, the outputs from there use the amps as just power amped cabinets, bypassing the front input which drives the amp circuit.


Above is the back removed from the amp chassis. Eight things have to be unwired to detach the entire board assembly completely. The plug on the left with the black and white wires, the nut holding the earthing wire, the three plugs on the upper right, starting from the two with red wires and the one immediately next to it (but not the last one on the right corner), as well as the small plug underneath the board on the upper right, which is seen between the second and third plugs, as well as one small plug with black and white wires in the middle of the lower board on the left. Also, remove the screw holding the cylindrical ceramic part around the power cable to the left.


After removing the screws for the front grill, remove the front orange cosmetic panel unscrewed using a matching allen key. Then remove the three retaining screws that hold the front amp circuit board in place.


Keep the amp upright and unscrew the eight speaker screws, reach in from the back of the amp and while holding the metal rim of the speaker firmly from the front, push the coil center gently with hand. The speaker will dislodge and drop out. Do not let it fall as it will land on the power amp at the bottom of the chassis!


Unclip the three leads from the back of the speaker. Note that blue one goes on top not the black one, when you reassemble.


Above on the right is the set of all disassembled screws and one flanged nut kept in batches – do not mix them or your reassembly time will be longer! Once the speaker, front and back panels are out, flip the amp over and unscrew the four screws to remove the power amp from the bottom of the chassis.


Make sure to untwist and retwist the black cable tie on the upper left of above photo after reattaching the plugs when rewiring the board after placing it into the new chassis.


Check out the USB port present on the mid-left! This is on the rear panel, and since its too far back from the rear panel, there is no hole in it to allow connecting to it from outside. I bet this allows USB recording at 44.1KHz/24-bit  or reprogramming of the amp COSM models. The manual does not mention it!


Make sure to keep cables clear of the boards by using the twist ties stapled on the inside of the chassis on both sides of the interior. This will prevent hum by keeping all cables close together and also prevent cables being subjected to conductive heating from the components on the board.


Power amp remounted on bottom of chassis. Four screws have to secure it from underneath. This is the high voltage components, and it is crucial to keep cables tied off using twisties onto the side of the chassis.


Reconnect the speaker using its wires as shown above: blue goes in the middle.


Reconnect the white plug and earthing wire with the nut.


Reconnect the power amp plugs back and tie off cables to chassis using stapled twisties inside.


Insert and screw front and back panels and mount the speaker, screw it back into chassis.


Secure cables using twisties to inside of chassis



Visual Fretboard: NST Scales & Chords with simple progressions

Screen Snapshots from Guitar Suite App on Windows Phone
using CGDaeg open tuning for guitar.

NST Scales Triads and Chords is the complete printable scale book.

GCT Chords is the complete printable chords and simple progressions file.

MIDI chord progressions published in the Guitar Grimoire – Usable in Guitar Pro 6

MIDI Progressions (External site) – Stunningly well organized MIDI progressions!

Downloadable Ableton Chord Progressions Rack – (External link in description of video demo)

-In key of C-

Diminished Whole Tone




Major Locrian


Auxiliary Diminished Blues


Auxiliary Augmented


Auxiliary Diminished


Nine Tone


Lydian Diminished


Lydian Minor


Super Locrian


Six Tone Symmetric (Hexatonic)


Prometheus Neopolitan






Neopolitan Minor


Neopolitan Major


Lydian Augmented


Leading Whole Tone


Eight Tone Spanish




Double Harmonic


Spanish Gypsy


Romanian Minor






Whole Diminished


Half Diminished














Pentatonic Neutral


Pentatonic Blues


Pentatonic Minor


Pentatonic Major


Melodic Minor Ascending


Melodic Minor Descending


Harmonic Minor




My approach to Bach: Six Cello Suites Ableton Project

Screenshots of arrangement and scene views in Ableton Live Studio 9.2.2 for Bach: Six Cello Suites upon completion of MIDI imports of each song, and rendering into Nylon Concerto Guitar audio outputs.

Preview and buy the album

Bach Cello Concertos 1-6 Ableton Live Studio Screenshot - Arrangement view of Structure

Bach Cello Concertos 1-6 Ableton Live Studio Screenshot

New compositions in NST: Necessity of Invention & Invention of Necessity in C Major

Necessity of invention is a new composition I have created for three guitars tuned in NST. The melody is in C Major, with a moving bass line that descends down the 5th string and then shifts to descend down the 6th string. There is syncopation at each bass note using triads followed by a bridge consisting of a fast, repeating riff that carries into the rhythm section until the outro, which ends with a slide from the fifth fret to the second fret. The triads are identical in shape but played either on strings 2,3,4 or 3,4,5.

Invention of Necessity is a new composition that I created in order to exercise a three strings based moving treble line (as opposed to the moving bass line in Necessity of Invention, hence the flipflop in the name). It starts with the first three strings and moves to the next three until the 6th string is reached and then ends with two notes on the first string. Again, this is in C Major, using three guitar parts with the second and third guitars entering at the fifth and tenth bars respectively to create unison notes that require precise concert tuning for all three acoustic guitars to sound good and impart rich harmonics to the space in which the song is played.

Recordings of these will be published soon on SoundCloud, and the links to these will appear here when this is done.

On guitar tonality, tunings, string tension and MIDI via VSTi in a DAW

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the multivariate nature of guitar playing and how the possibilities explode when it is coupled to electronics for tone, amplification and MIDI driven virtual instrument assignment. Its been gnawing at me for a few months and its time to put it down on this blog. Hopefully, it will make sense and some good will come of it for guitarists.

I heard Robert Fripp comment that he was considering going back to standard tuning on one occasion during my visit to the introductory course with the Guitar Circle of Europe in San Cugat a couple years ago. It got me thinking about why he would say that, when he dedicated a lifetime of guitar work to the New Standard Tuning (CGDaeg) and has inspired so many guitar crafties in guitar circles worldwide. I still don’t know his reason for having said so, but I have had a recent struggle with my own guitar work, given that my daily practice is always in CGDaeg, but my guitar playing with friends is always in standard tuning because they like to play covers and we use Guitar Pro and Songsterr tabs to run backing tracks to play along when we meet to play. Basically, my solo recording work is a mixed bag as a result, with MIDI guitar played in NST, sometimes switched to standard tuning then assigned to other virtual instruments in either tuning. So I’m trying to get to the source of the issues at hand and dissect to understand how to make sense of this to benefit in terms of my guitar work and share the experience. I sense a similar angst may exist among other guitarists trying altered tunings as well.   

When a guitar is in standard tuning, the only things that change its playability are:
a) String tension based on scale length and inter-string distance based on nut-width, which in turn depends on neck width.
b) Neck contour and bridge height/contour.

When a guitar uses an altered tuning, many more factors drive its playability:
c) Strings may need different gauge for lower tensions to have sufficient mass to drive sustain.
d) The neck may need a different compound fretboard (& fret) contour to accommodate the different degrees of clearance needed for different string gauges to clear the arc that each string will vibrate when played open or fretted.
e) The patterns of scales and chords change dramatically amongst tunings and become very difficult to recall from memory if too many altered tunings are in use by a guitarist, to the point of music being simplified to the easiest patterns remembered.
f) Standard tuning patterns often cover three to four frets and can be broken down into such patterns every three or four frets, but altered tunings may behave differently and span more frets for the same range of frequencies, requiring a larger number of frets to stretch the fingers across when playing scales and arpeggios.
g) Robotic tuners (Tronical’s MinETune, and Gibson Robot guitars) may not be able to tune to tunings that involve very high tensions on the first two strings. (eg: My Gibson Robot allows “User Tunings” to be stored in its memory in the tuning knob, but cannot handle storing NST as its outside its expected range of frequencies to work reliably)
h) Chords become different beasts altogether, as barring becomes something involving vastly different muscle tension and strains from standard tuning. NST involves very large fret spans and very high tension on strings 1 & 2, so barring is for bears. Splitting a chord into triads for three consecutive strings across three guitarists is a much more comfortable and convenient exercise. But it demands very good focus, listening to each other, attentivity and time keeping to avoid discordance.

Now when we add electronics for tonal duplication (loopers), tonal variation (effects pedals), amplification (solid state, analog tube or hybrid amplifiers) and MIDI guitar driven virtual instruments (VG-99, GR-55, Fishman TriplePlay, etc) as well as software based tools such as VSTi’s in Digital Audio Workstations the guitar gets a much larger sound palette. Leaving the impact of each for dissection into variables that determine sound from the guitar for later articles, one thing that jumps out is that with MIDI guitar, a standard tuned guitar can be assigned altered tunings, removing the string gauge, tension and fretboard contour related issues that would occur in an acoustic guitar when switched to altered tuning. But this introduces a few other issues on its own, such as lack of higher order harmonics due to fixed frequency ranges of MIDI outputs (44.1kHz for Roland VG-99, GR-55, Fishman TriplePlay) that drive speakers in the amps. But this is a known issue in electric guitar and offset through tonality changes via effects and amplification.

I found a site today which is intriguing. is a site which has research papers on digital signal processing techniques applied to sound emulation to the truest possible result compared to a given sound. There are some VSTs that have been published here that are stunning in their closeness to original sound from the original effects and amps used to create the guitar sound. Also, the Fishman TriplePlay wireless MIDI device comes with Kontakt software that has some really awesome VST’s that can create totally original synth sounds in a huge palette of new sound playable from the guitar or keyboard.

So now the question: whether to stick to NST for the sake of the unique larger acoustic palette coming from the larger frequency range of sound across the guitar strings and continue practicing on the longer fret spans to cover scales and arpeggios, and play original music when solo recording, or to use a standard tuned approach for MIDI guitar and use VSTs to drive tonal and tuning changes and create new music that covers acoustic virtual guitars or any VST assignable instrument within the DAW software being used to record tracks.

I think the answer lies in what one wants to do as a guitar player. If it is to play with other guitarists using cover material, then best stick with standard tuning as it has vast amounts of published material to learn and copy techniques to play repeatedly. But if the aim is to play with other guitarists and create original, new music with the largest acoustic palette in a live sound stage, then stick with NST amongst the guitarists engaged and create new music. If the aim is to do solo recording, then its a choice entirely upto the individual doing this and what they are recording. If the aim is to perform live using acoustic and electric guitars then which tuning to use is a choice based on the type of sound and tonality being created depending on the music being played.

10 Steps to build a Pro-grade EMG + Graphtech Acoustic-Electric-MIDI Stratocaster

Below is a parts list to build a pro grade Stratocaster MIDI guitar. Knock yourselves out making one!🙂 Just go to each website and search for the part numbers below. The options for some parts can be chrome or gold, I have put down black parts. There are also two more colors available for the body – Cherry Burst and Blue Burst. The neck could be maple or rosewood, and you could pick a standard neck instead of a compound radius neck too. There are other prewired pickguards for strats available besides the Vince Gill one shown here on as well.

  1. Part 5751, Tobacco Burst Body $208.59
  2. Part 5713 Rosewood Compound Radius Neck $124
  3. Part 300267000000000 EMG VG20 Vince Gill Prewired  Pickguard $ 279
  4. Part PN-0080-B0 LB63 Bridge with Piezo Pickup Saddles +  Floyd Rose Black $315
  5. Part PK-0680-00 Ghost Complete Kit for Guitar (Acoustiphonic + Hexpander) $419.95
  6. LB63 Tremolo Arm for Floyd Rose $11.95
  7. Part  101539000000000 Elixir Nanoweb Electric Guitar medium strings $10.79
  8. Part 5460-B Steinberger Gearless Tuners Black $99.98
  9. Assemble the guitar (Priceless)
  10. Tune it (Priceless)

Total cost of this guitar: $1469.26. This guitar will surpass Roland Ready Strats ($1200) in tracking as the Graphtech MIDI system tracks much faster due to the piezo saddle pickup approach as opposed to the Roland GK-3 humbucker approach. This is the same MIDI/A/E system found in Carvin SH-575, 675 guitars, which sell for around $2000 – $3000 depending on extent of customization. Its tuning stability will be very high given the Steinberger gearless tuners, and so tremolo arm use will not throw it out of tune easily.

You will need a Roland GR-55 ($ 699) or VG-99 ($1599) to play it.

Chord progressions for CGDaeg tuned guitar

I’m working on revising this posting after trying out some of the chord progressions in the key of C. The minor chord barre positions are nearly impossible to reach and keep the first two strings bared due to the higher tension on them when using CGDaeg tuning compared to EADgbe tuning, so I am experimenting with alterative positions that afford barre chord movement within the progression as well as thinking of splitting the chords across multiple players who “own” three consecutive strings of each chord and keep time to play the chords as required.

Movable chord shapes in NST

How many types of chords are there to play? It depends on what you choose to count or not count as a chord. if we look at spanning multiple octaves within the audible range of human ears then chords can become quite complex when mixing notes from different octaves at different points within a triad or a quartad. Generally, triads repeating certain notes across all six strings on the guitar within a reachable span of the left hand is how six note chords are built and played for solo-playing. This has propagated into the non-solo playing repertoire as well due to its acceptance as a norm for standard tuned guitar. However, there are six note chords in NST that are not playable by solo-playing even within a five fret span, because they require six fingers to fret. Such chords can only be played by more than one player using impeccable time-keeping in their ensemble. This article examines only solo-playable chords for NST.

I use a nifty little app on my Windows Phone 7 called Guitar Suite. The app is actually a mind blowing guitar tool for examining theory and practicing scales with a phone sitting on the thigh while a guitar is being used by the player. It lists 26 types of chords in a given key. So with 12 key notes, we get 12 x 26 = 312 chords that have up to six notes. But then there is this book by Hal Leonard, which announces 22000 chords. So the answer to how many chords there could be, still is: it depends on what you choose to count or not count as a chord.

So we will begin to examine if there are any bar shapes that can be used for six notes chords built using triads in NST just as we commonly do in standard tuning. Building quartads is challenging and will remain a future blog pursuit.

I have thought about chord shapes that do not hyper-extend the left hand while also making the most of barring with the index finger, for movable chord shapes and compiled the below list. The root notes lie on either the 6th or 5th string (if the 6th string is not being played, it is marked “x”, then the root lies on the 5th string). This means that if you take the same chord shape and move it up the fretboard while barring the open strings shown with the index finger, you can get a chord in the key of the root note you have for the 6th or 5th string on the barred fret. The trick then is to work out a chord progression that makes it easy to bar and move amongst chords while keeping tempo for the song one is composing or playing.

The chords below are clipped out from Sibelius G7’s chord generator, after inputting a custom tuning for NST as C2G2D3a3e4g4 – the numbers indicate which octave was selected. I also left out some of the available chord types listed there and have focused on chords that I have seen fly by in jazz, rock and blues compositions in my random score reading over the last five years.

This is not a complete listing, it is a listing I have chosen to start a thought process in the reader to experiment with and learn how to create shapes of chords through Sibelius G7 or even Guitar Pro 6 using NST as the tuning applied to generate the shapes. My reasoning is, in order to play, one does not need to be slowed down with chord designing, if the progression is worked out using the approach described in my previous blog. There are also some excellent resources one can use to design progressions.

Use the shapes below once you determine which chords fall into the progression of your choice then build yourself a song! How hard can that be? Winking smile

imageimageimageimageimageimageimageimageimageimageimageimageimageimageimageimageimageimageimageimageimageimageimage ( + & Aug chords are the same thing)imageimageimageimage

NST triads, progressions and chordal harmonics in non-solo acoustic guitar playing

In my previous blogs, I have often mentioned about future write-ups on triads and chord progressions. I reviewed my blog view statistics since my music space blog launched on WordPress till today. It is approaching 10000 views, the actual number being around 8800 views on March 1,2012 on WordPress, and an untold number of views on before I migrates to WordPress. Turns out that the third highest search term leading to my blog is “NST Chords”! So I think it’s time to talk details.

My prior entry on triads covers four types of triads in sets of three consecutive strings, which lend the shapes to pick driven playing as strum or arpeggio. Major, minor, augmented and diminished triads can be played across four sets of strings 1-2-3, 2-3-4, 3-4-5, 4-5-6. Each has two possible inversions from the root shape, yielding 4 triad types x 4 string sets x 3 triad inversions = 48 different ways to play triads in a given key. 12 keys implies 48 x 12 = 576 triads in an octave.

Standard tuning offers us two octaves range, while NST (CGDaeg) offers us an additional four steps lower ( C is a four semitones lower than E on 6th string in NST v/s Std) and a three steps higher ( g is a three semitones higher than e on 1st string in NST vs Std) frequency range over the same fret range of 12 frets on an equal temperament based fret placement on the guitar. Three steps equals a quarter of an octave. So on a standard tuned guitar, we get 576 x 2 = 1152 triads over a two octave range on 12 frets. But on an NST guitar, we get (576 x 2) + (576/3) lower + (576/4) higher = 576 x 2.8 = 1612 triads over the same fret range of 12 frets. So the tonal spectrum of triad harmonics expands quite dramatically on NST guitar compared to standard tuned guitar. 40% more harmonics, to be precise.

Now consider solo playing versus non-solo playing. The harmonics that will be possible for a higher number of triads on NST will result in much richer acoustic dynamics in a given space compared to standard tuning, as the “standing wave” structures in the air will be evolving and changing with a larger number of frequencies and modalities for NST. This results in a musical presence that has to be heard to be perceived. It cannot be described by words. For a solo guitarist it results in much better tonal range covered in a song. But for non-solo guitar harmonics, one has to be there playing in a group of NST guitarists to perceive this with a high degree of attention and readiness to do so. Recording this sound cannot do it justice even at 192KHz resolution, as the harmonics in the air-space during a performance by NST guitarists results in dynamics that may lie higher than this resolution but within the audible frequency range of the human ear. The human ear is analog signal driven and may be capable of higher fidelity than offered in current recording technology is my suspicion here. But I digressed a bit there.

Additionally, there is the concept of the “Quartad”which can put a really large impact on harmonics by selecting FOUR instead of three notes to form a structure that has three inversions in addition to the root shape. But we will save that consideration in NST guitars for later. It is remarkable and not well-formed in my recollection of Robert Fripp’s comment in one of his photos posted somewhere on the web.

I spent some time figuring out triad shapes in a generalized manner for the four types of triads: Major, Minor, Diminished and Augmented.

There are some really interesting observations that emerge from this analysis, which makes it worth sharing before getting into chord shapes that are movable over the fretboard.

In my previous blog about NST Chords, I had mentioned that octaves occur every 5th fret moving from 6th toward 2nd string. This yields that triad shapes recur at the same pattern. eg: 1st Inversion shown below for Major Triads in NST. I have used an assumption that triads spanning more than five frets over three consecutive strings are too much of a stretch to play without danger of injury to the left hand finger muscles. eg Major Triads 1st Inversion, strings 3,2,1: 6 fret span makes this pattern impractical.

The usefulness of this pattern driven triad approach is that any root note can be used for any of the six strings to work out a triad pattern using these generic shapes below. It follows then, that to work out triad based progressions, it is possible to build a visual traversal map and then practice it to play a certain triadic progression in one of the following directions on the fretboard:

1) Straight up the fretboard (ascending), using the same three strings for all triads in the progression,

2) Straight down the fretboard (descending) using the same three strings for all triads in the progression,

3) Moving from 6th toward 1st string while ascending, using different sets of three consecutive strings for each triad in the progression

4) Moving from 1st string toward 6th string while ascending, using different sets of three consecutive strings for each triad in the progression

5) Moving from 6th string toward 1st string while descending, using different sets of three consecutive strings for each triad in the progression,

6) Moving from 1st string toward 6th string while descending, using different sets of three consecutive strings for each triad in the progression.

NST Triads




Correction: For Diminished root triad with root note B shown on 4th string, 7th fret: should be on 9th fret. For Diminished 1st inversion with root note shown on 2nd string, 7th fret: the note on the 4th string for it should be on 12th, not on 10th fret.The two shapes on 7th fret for 2nd inversion are corrected in the tab posted above the sketch images.


New Standard Tuning (NST) Scale patterns and their impact to triad shapes: an examination of CGDAEG tuned guitar with regard to triad shapes and changes to left hand fingering pattern shiftability as well as multiplayer implications to harmony

This article examines the “rotational dynamics” to NST scale patterns and develops triad driven harmonic concepts in a similar vein as my prior posting of triad shapes for a standard tuned guitar. It examines movement in four diagonal directions across the fretboard: 6th string at nut to 1st string at highest fret ascending and descending, as well as 1st string at nut to 6th string at highest fret ascending and descending. Keep this diagonal movement in mind as you read further.

In my prior blog I had posted a pdf containing NST scale patterns created using Guitar Pro software. A review of the entire set of patterns for the scales found in this pdf reveals that there is a generic shift in pattern occurring by one string every five frets when viewing in ascending order. In other words, for a guitar tuned in open tuning of CGDAEG, such that the 6th string is in C below the E on a standard tuned guitar, and the 1st string is in G above the E on a standard tuned guitar we can see that the open C on the 6th string repeats an octave higher on the 5th fret of the 5th string. This applies to all the strings. It also applies to all the scales shown in my pdf for NST scales.

nst c major pattern

A simple comparison to standard tuned scale patterns versus NST scale patterns will reveal a marked difference in terms of playability. Instead of four fret positional moves used in classical guitar in standard tuning using the “one finger per fret” left-hand rule, we have to develop a different logic to play NST guitar. So how to arrive at a chord shape logic on NST? This is a big question on my mind and I will attempt to think my way through reason and arrive at possible answers. In the  process, there may be relevant digressions that prove to be interesting although long-winded (sorry, some things just aren’t simple).

Two cases are apparent in the playability logic here.

A) When playing from the 6th string to the 1st string

The logic involves being able to determine patterns spanning five frets, the location of the root note of the scale being played and then using the same pattern but shifting up one string every five frets to play an ascending scale that also moves diagonally higher on the fretboard. In other words, one must adapt pattern fingerings as a “rotating” pattern every five frets to play ascending scales that go higher up the fretboard from string 6 to 2 and every 8th higher fret when moving from string 2 to 1. An easy way to remember this is that octaves occur every five frets to ascend from 6th to 2nd and every 8th higher fret for 2nd to 1st string.

If the span of five frets to reach an octave becomes uncomfortable when playing ascending unison double stops, there is a workaround here: octaves occur every 3rd higher fret between strings 6-4, 5-3 as well. Fingerstyle  right-hand playing allows this to be easily accomplished by pinching thumb and index finger, and it can be done as hybrid picking using pick and second finger as well. Pure pick style right hand technique disallows this workaround except playing arpeggiations of unisons.

Another interesting observation is regarding descending NST scale patterns. In this case there is a slight variation on the second string. When moving from the 6th string to the 5th string down the fretboard, the note repeats on the 7th lower fret from the given note until the 2nd string is reached. Then the note repeats from the 2nd to 1st string on the 3rd lower fret. So octaves occur every 7th fret when descending from the high side of the 6th string to the low side of the 2nd string, and every 3rd fret between the 2nd and 1st string.

B) When playing from the 1st string to the 6th string

What about the logic to play from the high side of the 1st string to the low side of the 6th string as well as from low side of 1st string to high side of 6th string?

When playing ascending from 1st string to 6th string, octaves occur every 3rd higher fret between 1st and 2nd string then every 7th higher fret between every string thereafter (for strings 2-3,3-4, 4-5,5-6).

When playing descending from 1st string to 6th string, octaves occur every 8th fret lower from 1st to 2nd string then every 4th lower fret between every string thereafter (for strings 2-3,3-4,4-5,5-6).

Also, octaves occur every 3rd lower fret between 1st and 3rd strings when playing descending. This is a cool workaround to the 8 fret span to reach octaves between the 1st and 2nd strings while descending in the notes being played. Again, fingerstyle or hybrid right hand playing allows this using pinching whereas pure picking disallows this except in arpeggiation of unisons instead of double stops or when having more than one player play octaves simultaneously.

Triads and chordal construction in multiplayer NST performance:

The last italicized words drive a huge impetus to NST multiplayer dynamics since
NST offers six semitones worth of greater frequency range across the six strings on a guitar compared to standard tuning that results in a larger harmonic range and therefore greatly enhanced tonality on the guitar. It also makes it extremely crucial to have players have extremely high attention and practiced capability to the metronome in terms of time keeping skills, because mistimed picking can result in very unpleasant harmonics being amplified too as a result of the enhanced frequency range in NST (the larger the frequency range, the more the standing waves for both consonance and dissonance possible as various modes of vibration from basic physics). Once these skills are practiced and developed, the same attention can be afforded to not only unison and octave playing amongst players but any other interval as well.

In my opinion, this is the domain of Robert Fripp’s genius in figuring out an actual, workable training regimen for guitarists to work together and deliver impeccably timed, harmoniously rich performance in an acoustic guitar ensemble setting. “True surround sound” emerges in such Guitar Circle performances using only acoustic guitars which cannot be mimicked using amplification and artificial surround sound mixing because the harmonics get clipped out compared to actual acoustic harmonics. I have actually heard this during a recent Guitar Circle introductory course in Spain and have not heard anything similar in terms of harmonic richness, technical virtuosity and fluid artistry through the treatment of guitar playing as a craft, meant to be exercised through arduous discipline and practice in preparation for the time when music is received as a gift through the ensemble.

This is where things start to explode in terms of possibility for the Guitar Circle approach to harmonics when using NST guitars. If two players can keep time to a practiced meter, why not three or more?

So let’s examine what happens if two players play string 6,5,4 and 3,2,1 then the four diagonal movements can be easily done to cover two triads each to build a six note chord in four different ways:

1 Both players play on low end of the fretboard on their guitars

2 Both play on the high end of the fretboard

3 & 4 One plays on high end and another on low end of fretboard (strings 123 & 456 or vice versa)

Now imagine this set of possibilities becoming available to three players, such that each owns two strings per guitar. The possibilities increase.

1 Player 1 plays low end, player 2 plays high end, player 3 plays low end

2 Player 1 plays high end, player 2 plays low end, player 3 plays high end

3 P1-L, P2-H, P3-H

4 P1-L, P2-L, P3-H

5 P1-L, P2-L, P3-L

6 P1-H, P2-H, P3-L

7 P1-H, P2-H, P3-H

8 P1-H, P2-L, P3-L

On top of this, string ownership can rotate amongst players, either during a set from song to song or during a song from section to section. California Guitar Trio often does this using different effects assigned to each guitar for tonal variation as well. It gives a very large textural capacity to the music during a performance.

P1-6,5, P2-4,3, P3-2,1

P1-4,3. P2-6,5, P3-2,1

and so on.

Also, a trio of players can have overlapping string ownership but different triad responsibilities:

P1-6,5,4, P2- 5,4,3, P1-3,2,1 and again low or high end of fretboard selectivity for which triad is played by which player on which end of the fretboard.

So the triads played on the same time signature can build massive chords with unison or octaves yielding strength to chords that are not possible in six note chord strumming. This is because when a trio plays three triads, you get NINE note chords. Add the expanded range due to NST and the harmonics start to get very very different in the hearing spectrum, and can get astounding spatial in their placement of standing waves in relation to the audience.

In light of the discussion so far, it is quite clear that if more than three players assume similar roles, the explosion of potential combinations occurs which adds to the harmonic richness of the resulting sound being produced by the guitars in the ensemble. This is best heard than described. It is not heard in electronically driven audio systems, period.

The Seattle ensemble Tuning the Air takes advantage of this by surrounding the audience with players, putting the audience at the center of the sound stage and playing on the outer side toward within the circle.

Step by step NST chord and scale creation in Guitar Pro6:

I figured instead of writing 5000 pages of useless guitar chord shapes and such, its better to just do a 15 minute video showing how to build, score, tab and check audio using steel string acoustic guitar tuned in NST using Guitar Pro6. The only drawback I noted in this version is that polyrthyms are not possible since it only allows a single time signature to be used across all tracks in a given song. But still, its worth its weight in gold as it allows MIDI exports, which would allow importing into a DAW such as Ableton Live where time signatures can be different per track while allowing instrument assignment and effects assignment changes. Take a look! Send good thoughts to my playing guitar if you like what you see.


Step by step instruction on how to create NST chords and scales to compose in guitar Pro 6

Roland 13-Pin connectors and MIDI over wireless not possible?

I have been wondering over the last three years why there is no 13-pin MIDI wireless capability to enable MIDI guitars to connect wirelessly to devices like the VG-99, GR-20, GR-55, GI-20 by Roland. I dug into this thanks to web searches all morning today as it’s a day off from work due to the flu.

One thing led to another and to another and before long, I discovered this detail posted here, regarding 13-pin connectors and their relationship to the guitar:


Please find below the pinout protocol for DIN-13 connectors.
Pin 1 = String 1
Pin 2 = String 2
Pin 3 = String 3
Pin 4 = String 4
Pin 5 = String 5
Pin 6 = String 6
Pin 7 = mono guitar signal
Pin 8 = synth volume
Pin 9 = no connection
Pin 10 = switch 1
Pin 11 = switch 2ut
Pin 12 = +7VDC power
Pin 13 = -7VDC power
Sleeve = Ground
4 3 2 1
8 7 6 5
12 11 10 9
The shell (sleeve) connection is Ground.
Here are a couple of Roland part numbers for DIN-13 jacks like those
found in the GR-50, VG-8, US-20 and GK-2. You can contact an authorized
Roland repair shop and get the replacement parts from them. These people
tend to respond better when spoken to softly and whispering valid part
numbers in their ears.
mfr p/n TCS5093-10-4152 – Roland P/N 00564556 – VG-8 & US-20
mfr p/n TCS5044-10-211 – Roland P/N 13429663 – GR-50
Best regards,


There are many 5-pin wireless MIDI devices out now, the stage standard being the MIDIJet Pro. But when we consider the 13-pin layout, Pins 12 & 13 carry the POWER which cannot go wireless. So we have a few design steps to get past before being able to build a wireless MIDI guitar:

a) Get a local power provision in the guitar itself, using the 9-V battery that powers active pickups and such.

b) Do a voltage step-down from 9V to 7V  in order to connect the +/- leads for pins 12, 13 directly to such a transformer output, then design a circuit that can convert the signals on pins 7,8,10 and 11 to wireless digital data and put it onboard the guitar.

c) Design software to capture the data stream for pins 7,8,10,11 on a computer that interprets the MIDI volume up/down continuous variation as well as the discretized MIDI change control (CC) commands.

d) Use the continuous MIDI data flowing from strings 1-6 over pins 1-6 using a one for one MIDI to wireless bluetooth 2.1 adapter (such as the one found here).

e) Ensure that all data from pins 1-11 are handled without different amounts of time-lag once received by the computer to pass into DAW software like Ableton Live .

I would really like a custom wireless MIDI guitar design that has a software/hardware match with realtime playing capabilities.

Because the guitar has the most heart…

Last July, I was in Spain at the introductory class for The Guitar Circle of Europe where about 40 people from more than 10 countries participated with Robert Fripp, Dr Hernan Nunez, Dr Mike Grenfell leading the course.

I truly came back a new person, with a new start to guitar as the tuning applied to the guitar there forced me to start learning guitar as a beginner. Robert Fripp discovered the tuning, now called NST (New Standard Tuning) which is CGDAEG, close to cello tuning in fifths.

There were many discussions over meals and during the classes taught there with incredible insights and techniques shared by the advanced guitarists attending to the beginners. In one of the discussions, there was a question about our thoughts regarding the guitar. I mentioned that I like the guitar because it has the most heart.

Among the friends I made from the group in attendance there is Alain Pinero, who lives in Malaga, Spain. He plays touch guitar. He sent me an email today, mentioning that my statement somehow remained with him. He wrote, “Interestingly enough I still hear that sentence that you told resonating in me, ‘…..with the most heart’. I think the touch guitar, where one places both hands on the fretboard and thus, no hand is dedicated to fulfill the role of ‘engine’ or ‘heart’ (as is the right hand fingerpicking technique, or the pick technique) is an instrument with a bit less heart. Certainly it seems to be less expressive, or expressive in a different way, than a conventional guitar. “

This got me to reflect on my statement in a totally new direction. My intent in the statement was in deference to agreement with Segovia’s earlier view, when he called the guitar “a mini orchestra” because one can create any sound with a guitar using the right technique unlike other instruments which have a restrictive window of tone, range and rhythm. My view is based on the incredible breadth of possibilities available to the guitarist in sound generation to convey the emotionality of music through expression. I had never thought of “the heart” meaning “the engine”. But Alain’s view is true just as well.

The engine requires an engineer with tools, and with respect to the guitar the role of the right hand is that of an amplitude and rhythm generation tool while playing guitar, while the role of the left hand is that of a frequency variation tool. The engineer is the musician playing to a set score or creating new music through improvisation on the spot using both tools based on a practiced routine of actions.

So what creates “the most heart”?  And must the right hand-left hand relation to this tool-based view remain constant or can they be flexed, altered, changed, repurposed?

If the right hand can be used to perform its playing function either fingerstyle or with a pick, we have two alternate variations already in amplitude and rhythm generation. Tonality variation also occurs here through the change in attack/decay characteristics changing between fingerstyle versus picking techniques. But the musician is delivered a very high degree of complexity when the right hand moves away from the region where it is normally applied on a guitar: between the end of the fretboard and the bridge. Three areas jump out when this occurs: above the nut, behind the bridge, as well as on the fretboard.

Assuming a right handed guitar is being played, when the right hand works above the nut, while the left hand is fretting, not much occurs except very high pitched interference with the harmonics being conveyed via the neck into the guitar’s body. There is little amplitude impact compared to the left hand driving the main string amplitudes resonating over the guitar.

When the right hand works behind the bridge, assuming there are strings going over the bridge that emerge from a tailpiece, it has a slightly larger impact to the harmonics being driven from the left hand fretting compared to the impact from above the nut.

The largest impact to sound by far comes from the right hand moving to the fretboard along with the left hand fretting already. Tap techniques, touch techniques start coming to the forefront here, and the “division of labor” between tools for amplitude, rhythm and frequency now comes into play with dramatic consequences to the sound and harmonics emerging from the guitar. Both the left and right hands have to share three aspects simultaneously, while the musician must decide actively which strings “belong to” which hand in a dynamic manner. To understand this better, lets examine classical guitar right hand technique for a bit.

Classical guitar technique uses left hand “ownership” of frets using the one finger-one fret rule – covering four frets at a time and moving up or down the fretboard using this rule. The lowest fret gets index finger, the next one gets the middle finger, the second from highest fret gets the third or ring finger and the highest fret gets the fourth or pinky finger. All six strings are played by a given finger for a given fret.

This is where standard tuning was put to enormous advantage by barring techniques, such as Segovia using the index finger to bar all six strings and playing three frets above with the remaining three fingers. Julian Bream on the other hand seldom barred and relied on extensive triadic usage through his right hand to generate triadic chords without a pick. I will save the barring technique comparison between standard tuning (EADGBE) and NST (CGDAEG) for a later blog dedicated to the topic as it is not a well-formed topic in my mind yet.

Classical guitar technique also uses right hand “ownership” of strings: thumb owns strings 6,5,4 and index owns string 3, middle owns string 2, third finger own string 1 and pinky hides curled up or flails about madly looking to show off its flamboyance and freedom depending on the guitarists style and aesthetic preference or lack of training.  At times, the whole apparatus moves up or down the strings so that the pinch technique becomes available to execute across simultaneous or two string pairings between 6-3, 6-2, 6-1, 5-3, 5-2, 5-1, 4-3, 4-2, 4-1 or 6-5, 6-4, 5-4 type finger pinches between the thumb and the respective finger owning a given string nearest to the thumb. This type of technique also remains available in hybrid picking, where the pick held between the thumb and index finger along with one or more of the remaining three fingers execute simultaneous string strikes or “plucks”. Triadic pinching expands the number of combinations in a similar line of logic but uses thumb and pairs of index, middle or third fingers. I have done a comparison between finger and pick style “plucking” in my earlier blog already and proven that fingerstyle yields a far larger number of possibilities for the right hand here.

However, amplitude and tonality have a much higher expressibility using picks on acoustic guitars given the larger strike force possible with a pick through selecting various pick designs and materials, coupled with how one holds the pick. To quote Robert Fripp, “How we hold the pick is how we live our lives”. I think he means this in regard to the attention we pay to pick dynamics using intent here. Picking technique evolution along the above lines of thinking yields a truly astounding practice routine that is honed to perfection by the Guitar Craft approach in my view. I have to learn so much more from Robert Fripp in this regard to make my own guitar playing better! Truly challenging work ahead for me!

Now lets take a look at tap technique or touch guitar in light of all this. Once the right hand moves to the fretboard, it’s a whole new set of variations that emerge in one’s playing spectrum. Up to ten fingers can touch any of the six strings simultaneously or sequentially at any fret. This yields an explosive number of permutations or possibilities for frequency generation and variation. Different strike intensity yields amplitude variation and repeated patterns in strikes yields rhythm. So with 10 possible fingers touching 6 strings over 12 frets, we get a total strike range of 720 hits using a one finger per fret per string rule to strike. If one uses a two octave (24 frets) based design for a touch guitar, we get 1440 possible strikes.

Some truly interesting challenges emerge for the musician at this point. The first one to mind is the range of chords increases so that one can mix notes spanning two octaves into the various possible chords. This is a capability only the touch guitar can offer for a given chord to be played in such a way that notes from different octavial ranges of frequencies can now be played simultaneously in the same instant. While the standard or NST guitar can offer such chords using right hand picking outside the fretboard, touch guitar offers a larger frequency range to be delivered in the same chord because the left hand could be playing strings say at bottom five frets while the right hand can be playing strings at the top five frets. So in my view the touch guitar offers a larger capability in chordal variation.

When touch guitar is played using two fingers striking the same string successively, frequency variation can also drive some very unique melodic consequences spanning a much larger range of frequencies, allowing richer melodic delivery as well as very intricate contrapuntal melodies to be played using pattern driven practice routines that are engineered mechanistically through repetition to drive finger memory retention. The closest thing in non-touch guitar playing approaches is walking bass lines, where the left hand thumb walks up and/or down the bass strings while the remaining left hand fingers execute melodies or chords. Again, the number of possibilities in touch guitar becomes much larger than using just one or two fingers of the left hand doing such walking. An example of this is in Isaac Albeniz’s Asturias Leyenda, where there are walking lines on string 3,2,1 that relate to walking bass lines on strings 6,5,4. Imagine mixing octaves at a higher or lower register than the notation indicates using a touch guitar here. The timbre and tone would be vastly different in such an interpretation compared to the standard manner of playing it using a classical technique on a standard tuned guitar.

Now in terms of the impact to the decisions made by the musician during playing, the mental load rises dramatically for the touch guitar compared to the right hand staying outside the fretboard on standard tuned or NST guitars.  This is because on a normal right hand playing zone between the end of the fretboard and the bridge, the decision to place a given right hand finger or pick is largely regarding string placement only, with only general changes for acoustic guitars to drive smoother (less trebly) near the fretboard and brighter (more trebly) tonality near the bridge. The musician is not having to decide on which frequency to generate using the right hand here.

As soon as the musician moves the right hand to above the fretboard, the decision for right finger placement must include intent to not only generate amplitude and string placement but also frequency generation while tracking the location of the right hand fingers compared to the left hand fingers to get the desired chordal range on a given strike. This is an additional burden as it does not exist in standard right hand playing outside the fretboard.  So the decision making load on the musician’s brain is increased dramatically when improvising. So either improvisation must remain slow to follow intent, or be driven by sheer practice to repeat patterns mixed in random orders to drive speed of delivery. Trey Gunn does this with such grace in his playing it appears effortless.

It all comes down to practice routines and mindful readiness to receive music at the right moment then. While touch guitar has a larger set of possibilities compared to normal right hand technique, it also comes at the price of taxing the musician more in terms of what to play where on the fretboard with which finger from either hand.

So in my view, touch guitar delivers more and takes more to play too. But the results could yield some unique sounds that are inimitable by a soloist playing regular right hand playing.

But the final thought for my friend Alain is this: Its not about less or more heart, rather just to have heart! If the musician HAS heart, then fear and lack of courage will fail in diminishing the heart in the guitar. If the musician DOES NOT HAVE heart, then fear and lack of courage will succeed in diminishing the heart in the guitar. So conquering fear and having courage should yield HAVING heart which can lead to playing guitar with the most heart.

100 Years for Grandma – 32 bit, 192KHz recording

A few months ago I had published a new song titled “100 years for grandma“, using my Carvin SH-575 set to an acoustic J-200 and a heavy Les Paul humbucker driven distorted mix. I’ve done a very high fidelity export of the original recording using 32-bit  192KHz WAV file output, which is Read the rest of this entry

Economist article “Fingersmith” on the revival of classical guitar

This article reflects a summary of my own learning about the guitar. As a teenager, I studied and taught myself guitar oriented music theory. My current blog contains a few of these learnings. eg, the first blog entry listed at…

While there is tremendous musical repertoire from both acoustic and electric guitars, I view this along the many levers of change that can influence one’s music playing, composing, recording and listening capacity when it comes to guitar. Segovia spoke of the guitar as a mini-orchestra in itself in his biographic video. Julian Bream and John Williams played worldwide repertiore on the guitar fluently. Their adeptness of playing came about because of a refined sense of touch on the strings with both hands, dexterity developed without the aid of instrumentation, relying rather on the gruelling and disciplined calisthenics that lead to finger strength, finger memory and reflexes that are apparently faster than thought. Combine a great sense of interpretation and you have an extraordinary and exponential increase in the auditory appeal coming from a nylon, composite or cat gut string based classical guitar.

The current period is also being hailed as the golden age of guitar making, with a tremendous uptick in lutherie from professionals who have tired of electronic instrument driven careers moving to apply their own handicraft skills to guitar making. John Williams plays guitars made by Smallman in Australia. These guitars have a dual-deck soundboard, with one level made of wood and another of carbon fibre composite, unlike the classical guitar made traditionally in the style handed down by European and south American luthiers, which uses a single wood soundboard. Smallman demonstrates the flexure and its resulting impact to soundboard responsiveness in a DVD about John Williams.

So while the electric guitar has moved to cover instrumental expansiveness and add tonality as well as electronic multi-instrumental capability through MIDI, the classical guitar has shifted to a deeper and richer timbral, aural expansion using a combination of incredible advances in lutherie as well as one-off design engineering that allows very good response to a given guitarists playing capability, preference in terms of feel for the neck, tone, sustain, aesthetics etc.

The fact is, when fingerstyle technique as taught in the style of Segovia or Bream is mastered through assiduous effort, it can be applied to electric guitar as well.(eg Eddie Van Halen) But the personal, intimate tone and mellifluous nature of the classical guitar is something that literally captures the players heart through its direct vibration against the chest of the player, and the larger auditory projection available due to improved guitar construction techniques captures the ear and emotions of the listener.

When recording companies focus on the classical guitar, it remains to be seen how the intimacy of a live classical performance can be accurately rendered on video and audio to the greatest extent. Classical guitar overtones are not easily captured due to electronic signal loss during recording sessions done strictly using auditory microphones. So the signal loss translates to a deadening of the actual performance, which may have contributed to the attrition of interest in the classical guitar just as well since the advent of the electric guitar. Amplification of classical guitar remains a major performance challenge today just as it was when Segovia played in the early part of the last century. He sometimes cancelled performances due to the impact of changing temperature, humidity conditions during performances that caused his playing satisfaction to ebb at times. It still remains to be seen how the classical guitar can be made less susceptible to such changes. One possible advance here could be an all carbon fibre composite classical guitar that matches the auditory character of the best traditional classical guitars. This may be the next step in the evolution of the classical guitar in my opinion.

I for one and really encouraged by reading this article about the comeback of the classical guitar. What a gem of an article!

My new studio schematic

Download PDF of schematic here.

I have been slogging silently over the past few weeks to figure out the setup of my home studio that will establish it for anything I need to do using MIDI and guitar coupled to my audio computer applications. I am fortunate to have won auctions on eBay for a Roland VG-99 and FC300 MIDI pedalboard during September. I have been playing with the VG-99 over the last week and have had some truly astounding insights into the design and applicability of this “virtual guitar system”.

Below is my first attempt at designing a new schematic for integrating the VG-99 into my current studio after removing the BOSS GT-8 guitar multi-effect processor from the equation. I will tweak it a bit once the FC300 arrives and I have a chance to play with it.

The requirements for the development of this schematic were deep yet straightforward:

  1. Enable Ableton Live, EZDrummer and EMulator X3 into live playing situations via computer integration into the setup.
  2. Connect VG-99 with GR-20 to be able to play either or both from a single MIDI enabled guitar.
  3. Simplify recording from guitar, VG-99, GR-20, keyboard triggered MIDI synths in Ableton or Emulator X3 as well as EZDrummer Pro.
  4. Enable single location driven amp channel switching and two amp based live sound.
  5. Enable backing track play from computer audio or from external feeds such as MP3 player, Tascam Guitar practice devices.

With this in mind, I set about designing this schematic from scratch this evening, and six hours later, I have it! Click on the image below to see a larger view or download the PDF from the link on top.

Rajiv's studio schematic

Scale & chord patterns for Robert Fripp’s C-Pentatonic or New Standard Tuning and its impact on California Guitar Trio’s guitar playing

Download the Scale Patterns for NST from my public folder here.

California Guitar Trio has a totally unique sound which is clear, lower and higher than normal guitar sound. I kept wondering what could be the cause for this after hearing them in concert last year. I went to another concert by them last month and this time, did some research on their guitar training and past history. Turns out the three of them (Paul Richards from Utah, Bert Lams from Belgium, Hideyo Moriya from Japan) were trained by Robert Fripp in his Guitar Craft method of guitar playing over three years in England after which they’ve been playing together using the techniques and tuning learned there for the last two decades. So I researched Robert Fripp’s history and found that he is quite a genius of a guitarist. The story goes that a new tuning “flew by him” while he was in a sauna. This tuning is lower by a third and higher by a third octave, compared to the standard guitar tuning (EADGBE). He basically took the C-Pentatonic scale and tuned his guitar to that: CGDAEG. He named this tuning New Standard Tuning or NST, and later on decided it should be called NST or C-Pentatonic for posterity. The NST approach yields a much more even scale pattern and chord shape across the fretboard, as there is no adjustment of fingering necessary as in the standard tuning, where the B string wreaks havoc in terms of shape stability for triads traversing from the bass registers to the treble register across the fretboard. (See my prior article on triads based on standard tuning in this blog). I want to examine this in great depth using NST based triad patterns in a later article yet.

This is where things got really interesting and innovative for Robert Fripp’s playing and teaching Guitar Craft, a school which he formed to start teaching this to guitarists by making them all come in at the same level – take away the standard tuning and you reduce a maestro to a child figuring out how to play all over again, essentially reinventing their playing technique, freeing them of bound ways of playing. In February this year, Robert Fripp closed Guitar Craft and hopefully there will be more such teaching to follow from his accomplished students, some of whom have formed The League of Crafty Guitarists, which has multiple albums to its credit using NST. Incidentally, Paul Richards of CGT told me that their entire concert and album recordings are played in NST only.

Based on this tuning, Robert Fripp founded a new way of guitar playing called Guitar Craft, which allows multiple guitarists to play together using his superbly ergonomic picking techniques and a method of playing notes keeping polyrhythmic counts to a song by having each guitarist count to a different rhythm and play accordingly. (Try this with a fellow guitarist: you play  a 5 beat bar strumming every 1st and 4th beat, while the other guitarist plays a 7 beat bar while playing every 1st, 5th and 7th beat – the emerging rhythm converges and diverges over multiple bars, forming a polyrhythm that a single guitarist cannot possibly mimic). The method of playing to polyrhythmic cadences using single notes or chords is an astounding sound field to be within, so he formed a means of having very complex note patterns played like this and then rotate the playing amongst the players so that each guitar’s sonority gave a circulation of the polyrhythm across the playing.

Lately, there has been a commissioning of an all wood version of the Ovation Celebrity guitar that Robert Fripp used to have his students use at Guitar Craft. This guitar is the GCPro and custom built to order. Another interesting tidbit: Remember the Windows Vista sounds? Robert Fripp recorded these at Microsoft Studios! The video is a priceless piece of soundscaping by Robert Fripp, recording at first take.

The rest of this article is based on some questions that came up in a guitar workshop by California Guitar Trio in Rockford, IL, when a bunch of guitarists showed up with their acoustic guitars to learn from the trio. I asked them about NST based books on scale patterns and chord patterns and was told there are none commercially published or available on the topic.

Since the tuning increases tension on the first string to raise it by a third interval, and decreases tension on the 6th string to lower it by a third, Paul Richards and Bert Lams of CGT told me the string gages to use for this tuning: 11,13,21,30,45,60 (59 or 62 is ok too). I tried doing this tuning on a set of D’Addario 9’s (ultra light coated acoustics) and broke two 1st strings before giving up. So I think the gages above are a must have before attempting NST on one’s guitar.

The internet research I did indicated a series published by Robert Fripp at the Guitar Craft school but it was for school circulation only I guess. There is a fascinating book on Robert Fripp online though, worth a read for the bravehearts who can read online books at a sitting. In it, in Chapter 11, there is reference to Guitar Craft Monograph series, which is available by mail through Guitar Craft Services, which may be defunct now that Fripp has closed it on its 25th anniversary.

Given a challenge to find a way to get scale patterns for NST fretboards, I found a cool use of Guitar Pro 5, a package in wide use for playing powertab and tab files with a good sound engine. It has the ability to show scales in a given key on a fretboard diagram, and after digging into the options I found a way to use altered tunings and added the NST tuning to the really long list of altered tunings available in it. It also has a whole bunch of scales named in it, more than the number found in the Guitar Grimoire scales book. So I have taken some screenshots of scales in C to illustrate NST scale patterns and started creating a single file with all the different available scales and chords. I have posted this as a PDF file as a “raw” NST fretboard reference in the link at the top of this article.

One really noteworthy fact about NST is that every fifth fret, the scale pattern will repeat while shifting by one string (See example of the fretboard in NST shown below to verify this fact). So any scale can be played without pattern alteration with root note on 6th string in 1st position (frets 1-4), 5th string in 2nd position (frets 5-8) and 4th string in 3rd position (frets 9-12). In essence, we get timbral coverage and range increment every fifth fret by shifting one string up while using the same pattern. This means that if three guitarists are playing with guitars specifically designed for bass, mid and high notes, they can play patterns with root notes on each of the bass strings using the same pattern and yet be playing in a span range of three octaves. This when done with perfect timing can yield incredible harmonics to the performance. I think this is what makes California Guitar Trio sound so amazingly good – their sonic fidelity spans three octaves across guitars that have been specifically selected for delivering rich tonality. Hideyo Moriya plays a bassy guitar with a larger bout on the bass side of the soundboard, Paul Richards plays a koa top guitar (excellent mid range harmonics and tone) and Bert Lams plays a cedar or spruce top guitar, (known for singing highs) all from Breedlove.


How to pick an inversion and build chords in a progression using voicings that “walk” a melody when played

In my previous blog about Triads and inversions, I have shown 42 different triad shapes that are the result of 3 inversions to a given triad depending on which string you wish to place the root note of a triad. I mentioned earlier that I discovered this as hand written notes in my book from the 80’s in my previous post. For the time between then and today (about 25 years) it has remained a mystery to me how to relate these patterns to chord voicings for a given progression. I found vague answers to this issue in my studies till today. Things like “voicings depend on your preference to play a given progression” or “on your tonal preference”. Many musicians have told me this, I’ve read books which show voicings drawn out completely (Guitar Grimoire series “Chords and Voicings” or “The Guitar Chord Wheel Book”).

But these do not yield a clear set of steps on how to go about doing this if:

a) you’re trying to get a score notation down to playability on the guitar for an existing song or
b) If you’re trying to compose a new song for the guitar that has optimal playability and gives your preferred tonality. 

Segovia berated composers who “wrote for guitar” but did not play it themselves – he could tell due to the above issue, and praised composers such as Sor and Tarrega because he could tell they played it on guitar before writing down the score and stating it was a composition for the guitar.

I finally understood how to do voicings today, thanks to the introduction to a new course on by Howard Morgen called “Fingerboard Breakthrough”.  In the first few minutes of this video, he says it is critical to find the “line” in a progression and develop chord voicings that walk a line along a single string that underscores the melody that aligns to the vocals or main theme of the song.

This is a tough one to understand without an example so I recommend you view the linked video above before reading this article further.

Essentially, given a song progression, we can pick any single string and select the root notes of each chord in it. If the root notes do not “walk” up or down the fretboard, then select another string until you find one that does so. Typically, for guitar, the 6th and 5th strings will contain the bass root notes that “walk the line” of the song. As a sidebar, this is why bass and guitar sound terrific together – the bass plays the “line” an octave lower and works in unison with the progression to strengthen the harmonics of the melody that forms the song. 

Once the string containing the “walking line” is found, so that the root notes of the progression are in a manageable “walk” we can now use the charts in my previous posting to select an inversion of a triad such that the root note falls on the string selected to do so. This quickly yields a triadic progression that has a powerful melody that “walks” along the string selected when playing it.

Now to develop a progression with more than three notes per chord, we can use the book “The Chord Wheel”. This will allow selection of chords that strengthen the progression to accepted norms for substituted chords. Next you can can use the book “Chords and Voicings” or “The Guitar Chord Wheel Book” to find the voicings for the chords you want to use in your progression.

This approach is a very useful and practical guideline for understanding:

a) How to create a new guitar composition using progressions from the book “Progressions and Improvisation”
b) How to understand the voicing of chord progressions given an existing composition that has only score notation but no notes on which fret to play a chord on, as well as no information on which string the “line” walks on.

One additional note here is regarding the use of “slash chords’ in a given progression. If there are complex chords that need a given root note but you can’t find them try a simple trick: start with a walking line on the bass strings, either 6th or 5th string on a standard tuned guitar. “The Guitar Chord Wheel Book” contains a section on slash chords that is an invaluable time saver.

If none of the six strings on a standard tuned guitar (EADGBE tuning) contain a walking line that goes up or down the fretboard, this indicates that the song you’re trying to reverse engineer used an altered tuning. To find which altered tuning was applied for the song you’re trying to figure out, use “The Complete Book of Alternate Tunings”. This is a whole other topic of discussion, but essentially you would start with test one tuning after another and use the above approach for all six strings to find a string on which the walking line exists such that you can easily go up and down the fretboard for the chord voicing shown in the song’s score notation.

New song: “Tips of the Heart” added to my iLike page!

I recorded a new song for my sister on 24th November night. It’s about the souls of siblings being bound through the tips of their hearts, which is a conjecture inspired by Larry Carlton’s "Hearts" practice track and tab in his 335 Blues course from, as well as from Dave Matthews’ "Sister" on his Live at Radio City album. Played using my Epiphone LP which has a GK-3 MIDI pickup, I sent a GT-8 patch based audio track as well as all six string MIDI signals as separate tracks into Ableton Live. Then I assigned strings 6 and 5 to Rock Organ sounds from Emu Emulator X3 based VSTi inserted into these MIDI tracks as well as Nylon string guitar major chord inserts from Live’s set of guitar instruments for strings 4, 3, 2 and 1. I also had the GR-20 mixed into the audio signal assigning a saxophone synth on top of the guitar analog signal.
I saved the mixdown which was recorded using a 120BPM metronome to Wav format, then imported it into Sony Soundforge 9e to convert to 320kbps MP3. This is yet to be edited and crafted using the separate tracks from Live into Soundforge for a surround mixdown, but the first cut is good to listen to before I release the second edited and enhanced remix sometime in the future.

Dabble Debut on sale!

My new album with 9 songs from a years worth of late night jams and recording in the home studio is now available at CDBaby,  Amazon, iTunes, Groove Music and several other e-music sites.

Buy Dabble Debut!

Listen to Dabble Debut!

15 simple steps to create a song: Using MIDI Progressions in a DAW / Sequencer for song composition and creation along with recording miked or wired instruments as analog audio

Reference: Click below link to buy & download MIDI file

The Guitar Grimoire (GT15)Progression & Improvisation
MIDI file

Adam Kadmon wrote the series on guitar focused applied music theory in his famous Grimoire series (all of which are available at Amazon and listed in my book list on this site). But the hidden jewel is the zipped MIDI file download (linked above) available for free as supporting material for the book titled “Progressions and Improvisation” on the publisher’s site. This book contains 120 different progressions as well as scale patterns that would go with these. It is a massive work of genius.

Why is this zip file a hidden jewel? Because it saves you from the labor of figuring out progressions in various keys. Here is how I envision using this to the advantage of faster song creation.

  1. Unzip the file into it’s own folder. It creates a raw list of all progressions as well as a chapter by chapter list of folders within which the various progressions covered in the book are presented as MIDI files with a simple, consistent quarter note rhythm.
  2. Take a DAW/Sequencer application like Ableton Live and import a given progression into it as a MIDI track. Now the fun begins.
  3. Apply any polyphonic instrument using a VSTi inserted into this MIDI track and arm the track so you can hear it play the progression.
  4. Create a song pattern for the choruses in it using something like the ABBA or AABA progressions (where A is one progression and B is another both applied as choruses) method as described in this book.
  5. Use the MIDI pattern editor for the track to edit the rhythm based on your desired rhythms for the “A” &”B” choruses using “Draw” mode.
  6. Transpose the patterns to the key you wish to publish the song in using the MIDI transpose function in Ableton Live.
  7. Tie the song pattern together copying the “A” & “B” patterns using “draw” mode to create the ABBA pattern. Your rhythm section for this instrument is complete!
  8. Copy this track to another track and edit the song pattern using another instrument as a VSTi insert to create a polyphonic or monophonic accompaniment using chord substitution or scales in the keys complimenting the progressions in the first MIDI track.
  9. Add drum tracks using MIDI patterns and drum VSTi inserts
  10. Add audio tracks to record your playing while using the MIDI tracks as backing that you monitor while you play guitar hooked up directly into the hardware recording device tied to Ableton Live. Alternatively, pull in audio tracks from RC-50 loop station audio out ports after linking GR-20 guitar synth out and guitar multiprocessor audio out ports to the RC-50 loop station “audio In” ports as shown in my previous blog describing my studio wiring setup.
  11. After getting all audio and MIDI tracks brought into the Ableton Live project, edit the mix for balance and placement in the stereo field through panning and cross fading editing (post-processing the audio mix)
  12. Save the project to disk. Then render the song to disk after mix is sound tested using reference monitors for field and presence integrity to your satisfaction. Make sure the Wav file rendered is in the same project folder as the rest of the files created.
  13. Save the project as an archive to a dedicated CD/DVD so all original track files are saved for remix/re-edit/republication activity later-on.
  14. Take the Wav file output and write it to a R/W CD
  15. Eject and reinsert the CD to use a ripping program to create a high resolution (MP3 – 320 kbps or WMA lossless) version of your song for electronic sales distribution via TuneCore or such digital publication services.

Steinberger Synapse Transcale Review 2

Steinberger Synapse Transcale back Playability review…

The transcale has a piezo pickup and a bridge that pivots left-right/front-back/up-down via the three screws on top and locks via a single screw on the side. This allows extremely acurate intonation and action setting using a tri-axis rotation to get it just right.

The double ball transcale strings I got were not well made so I switched to single ball D’Addario flat wound chrome 10’s. The high E and B strings slip from the head screws, so I took an old ball from another string and wound it on the high E and it works like a charm! The B string still slips but I torqued it’s screw in a bit more and it’s held for two weeks.

Now about the sound: this guitar is made for any tone you wish to extract from it! The flatwound chromes give it a silky smooth feel, and I adjusted the action simply by pivoting the bridge in about ten minutes to perfection. I cannot believe how bar chords become a dream to play. The tone on this guitar is extremely clean and wide in frequency spectrum due to the mix of piezo and EMG active humbucking coupled with the baritone timbres that the neck does a superb job of not damping. The guitar has extremely good sustain and I get clean jazz tones that rival Lee Ritenour’s Gibson L5 CES.

The neck is similar to the Gibson 50’s profile found on it’s first edition Robot LP, which I have as well. So it’s a bit beefier toward the joint but if the action is adjusted right, it’s very comfortable to play.

Bending is not a good thing on this guitar because it does not have the lateral stabilization afforded by a nut, as the strings are held down by a capo that can be rolled from baritone scale length to mandolin-esque length. It maintains timbre but if you bend strings, they will slip under the capo and if feels like the guitar gets wonky when you get a string slip under the capo toward another string. So all in all, excellent tone, timbre, hard rock to jazz tonality, but no bending.

This guitar will make an Al Di Meola out of players who are willing to adapt their playing to the constraints of the guitar but will drive players with a set way of playing totally crazy.

I think it has a lesson to teach us – flexibility in a different set of directions than the ones we are used to, on other guitars. But at a price – we have to be willing to adapt to get the reward and benefit of it’s awesome tonal width and timbral range.

I cannot put it down when I start to play it through my Roland Cube 60 or Epi Blues Custom 30 (but not bends…).

I hope there will be a future version that has a built in MIDI capability using the Graphtech MIDI hex pickup system. In the meantime, I am thinking of putting a Roland GK-3 on it near the bridge using the tape mounting method, and send it’s sound via the GR-20 guitar synth to experiment further.

Steinberger Synapse Transcale review 1

Steinberger Transcale RED


Overall: 10


Quality: 9


Features: 10


Value: 10

First the -0.5 point deduction on quality due to poor Steinberger strings: I bought a red one last week, came with crappy light baritone Steinberger strings, B & high E strings were twisted so I replaced the whole set with Steinberger Std. Baritone double balls. The 5th string didn’t fit the groove on the head. Too thick to fit so I switched to D’Addario flat wound chrome 11’s with single ball ends, using the screws in the head to secure them. (It takes double balls or regular strings).

Then I intonated the bridge by adjusting the three screws on it after loosening the side screw. The action came out perfect, but the high E & B strings kept slipping as I tuned it. So I ended up making my own double ball on the high E by using the ball from an old discarded string and twisting the string around it at the right length.

The action is so perfect I hardly touch it for perfect bar chords across the length of the neck now!

I put it through an Epiphone Blues Custom 30 amp and tried the various piezo/EMG active pickup settings and switched to neck, both and bridge pickups while changing the treble and bass tone knobs. The sound quality and variation in tone and timbre when rolling the capo from zero to second fret is simply astounding. This guitar a beguilingly innocent looking – but can turn into Hellboy in a second. I can take it from superb jazz tones that remind me of Lee Ritenour’s Gibson L5 ($12000 guitar) on Stolen Moments all the way to AC/DC tone snarling fire on every note in two seconds flat going straight to the amp without any pedals in-between.

I then ran it through my Roland GT-8/RC-50 looper into my headphones. Using the GT-8, I applied about 100 different patches using various amp/speaker pairs to it. The tonal range and width on this guitar is very large coming from the EMG active pickups and the awesome one-piece piezo bridge. Ned Steinberger responded to an email by me that it’s one piece to ensure superb piezo tonality, although he could have done a six piece hex bridge and pickup system (I was looking for MIDI from a hex piezo PUP on this guitar so wrote to him to ask).

Despite the initial string mess I got into due to poor Steinberger string quality, the guitar is utterly astounding – the neck is phenolic – try finding that in anything under $5000 – Parker Nite Fly is probably the closest to this neck, but the graphite U channel by the truss rod that give so this guitar it’s extreme stability is patented so cannot be found anywhere else.

Buy this guitar! You won’t find anything better to play any style you want to! I have a Gibson original robot, an Epiphone Black Beauty, a Yamaha nylon string and three acoustics plus an Ibanez Mikro. The Synapse Transcale Custom is all I keep playing since I received it. Whatta guitar man! Simply astounding sound and balance, playability and tone. There is a slight gouge in the back of the guitar so when it’s snug against your body, it tilts so you can see the entire fretboard clearly without having to lean forward. So you feel totally comfortable, and at 6.5lbs, this thing can be used all night and all day without getting your vertebrae crushed.

The rolling capo is good but you have to watch it when playing open string chords, as the side protrudes and interferes a bit with your index finger but it’s easily avoided once you become aware of it. The capo shines in that I can move it around at will during a song and it yields low, thundering rumbles on baritone scale at zero fret, while going to mandolinesque tones in the next moment by moving it past the 5th fret.

Gibson Robots, Steinberger Transcales and future design possibilities shows a review of Ned Steinberger’s baritone capable Transcale guitar. Also, there is an interview of Ned at that explains his design approach to the guitar.
I own a first edition Gibson Robot which has robotic tuners that allow piezo frequency detection driven servomotors to turn the tuning heads and accurately tune the guitar to within 2 cents of concert pitch.
These two guitars really got me thinking about the design approach to get to the holy grail of guitars: rolling capo, dual active humbuckers, a piezo pickup with replacable bridge to get the acoustic tone desired as well as a MIDI pickup such as that found in the Roland GK-3/GR-20 combination or the Graphtech MIDI pickup found in the Carvin SH 575 (
Ned has designed his Transcale using a headless approach by placing tuners at the bottom of the body instead of bottom of the neck. Also, he has a non-wound string approach to tuning it, which allows the string not to be stretched as in wound tuning heads. The thought occurred to me that if the robotic tuning approach used in the Gibson Robot is applied to non-wound tuning approaches such as in the Transcale, then you could literaly have a guitar that can cover much more instruments through MIDI, allow autotuning to altered tunings at the flick of a switch and allows changing to 11 other keys by moving the rolling capo while being able to mix in a piezo/humbucking/coil tapped sound to the guitar pickups’ output. All within a guitar that would weigh under 7 lbs and can be thrown into an airplane overhead luggage compartment with extreme ease.
So my hopeful prediction for Ned’s next design after the ZT-3 ( that design is a mechanical arm that doubles to serve as a tremolo or to jump up and down tunings by 2 steps with a toggle mechanism) is this:
Ned will hookup with the German designers of the Gibson Robot’s servomechanism driven tuning system (–the-inside-story.aspx) and design a robotic tuning approach to get his non-winding tuning system working to provide autotuning for altered tunings on his Transcale as well as provide optimum neck adjustments via truss rod realignments that keep string action at its optimal regardless of where the capo on the transcale moves during playing.
In my opinion this would make a true Holy Grail guitar in terms of covering possibilities mechanically, elctronically(MIDI-wise) as well as timbre-wise.

New song “Being outside the Box” added

I added an acoustic recording using my Dreadnought to my songs posted at

New song, A Ray in the Fog added

I recorded and uploaded A Ray in the Fog on Friday, June 5th night. It applies synth pads, played on the Epiphone – GK-3/GR-20 as well as a clean guitar with some echo and chorus via the GT-8 to a straight rock beat. The key is B and the scale is Pentatonic Major.

Karnatik Raga listing

Karnatic Raga files in Public folder on my LiveSpace – I found these on a Karnatic music page. I think Indian scales evolved to a much larger extent than western scales as equal temperament, and polyphony were foreign concepts to the evolution of Indian music.
Listen to this Karnatik Sax maestro!

My FaceBook Artists page & my songs

Self installation notes: MIDI upgrade using Roland GK-3 on Epiphone Black Beauty & acoustic-electric upgrade using LR Baggs M1A pickup on Silvertone PD-2 dreadnought

I installed a Roland GK-3 MIDI pickup on my Epiphone Black Beauty last year in October in a matter of two hours. The below notes are as much to help me remember for the next time I do this sort of thing as to help anyone who wants to save megabucks getting a guitar tech to do this for them. Here is how I did it:

0) Very important step: intonate your guitar by adjusting the bridge screws using the same guage strings as you will be putting on the guitar after installing the GK-3 as once it’s installed, intonation screws are not accessible due to the GK-3 hex pickups location.

1) Unstring the guitar completely while keeping it flat with top up (to prevent bridge stop bar from falling out when unstringed, do not pick up guitar once it is unstringed)

2) Install the GK-3 pickup under the bridge using the LP mount template the GK-3 comes with – it matches the bridge shape amazingly well and does not dampen the bridge noticably. As such, the Epiphone Black Beauty has enormous sustain due to all mahogany non-chambered construction (it’s a heavy guitar for a reason). So installing the GK-3 does not impact it’s sustain even for blues lead playing.

3) Restring the guitar starting with the 6th string and tune up to std. tuning. (EADgbe)

4) Adjust the GK-3 hex pickup gap from each string using the steel gage that comes with the GK-3 kit, and using the side mount screws for the GK-3 onto the mounting plate attached to the bridge. Make sure the distance is accurate for EACH string or pickup sensitivity will not be uniform for uniform string-picking intensity!

4) Attach the 13-pin plug from the GR-20 cord to the GK3 anf attache the 1/4″ short cable to the GK-3 and guitar out jacks.

5) Calibrate the sensitivity on the GR-20 for each string by adjusting the GK-3 flexion screw (verrrry tiny screw in the middle of the hex-pickup row on top) using the verrrry tiny screw drive that comes with the GK-3 kit.

The final installation looks like this:


See how the intonation screws on the bridge are blocked? Make sure you intonate the guitar BEFORE installing the GK-3 hex pickup using the same gauge strings as you will use after installing GK-3 to be as close to the perfect intonation as possible!


This thing rips blues notes and plays any MIDI instrument simultaneously now via the GR-20. (See my wiring diagram blog entry on this site to hookup the RC-50, GR-20, GT-8 and play!


I also installed an active magnetic humbucker pickup by LR Baggs, model M1A on my Silvertone PD-2 Dreadnought on 2/26/2009. Below are some pointers and interesting observations in doing so:

1) Drill a 1/2″ hole on the strap mount at the bottom of the guitar after removing the strap mount. Take the1/4″ connector and make sure it fits loosely into the hole you just drilled. If it is tight, use sand paper to finish the inside of the hole to smooth it out after running the 1/2″ drill at a slight angle and rotating it so there is a dual funnel shape ,making the hole slightly larger than 1/2″.This will allow pulling the connector from the INSIDE of the guitar easily and mounting it later.

2) Blow out any debris from inside the guitar using a hair dryer on cold setting.

3) Take an old E string and send it in through the hole using the non-balled end from the outside and grab it from the 6th string side of the soundhole.

4) Remove the end nut and washer from the thin part of the 1/4″ connector that comes with the M1A pickup.

4) Insert the string tip into the two end pin holes of the 1/4″ jack connector that comes with the M1A pickup. Twist it into a loop. Pull it out after wrapping the ball end of the string on your gloved hand. (If you don’t use a glove, you won’t like how it cuts into your wrist when you pull the connector through the end block of the bottom of the guitar).

5) When the connector is pulled through, it will have the narrow portion of the tip visible, and the washers on the other side will prevent it from coming through. This is the tricky part as you have to put on the outer washer and nut but there is a loop of the string you used to pull it through in the way!

6) Take a small screw driver and put the nut and washer in that order on it then insert the screwdriver tip into into the one of the holes in the connector and push it down into the side of the end block to retain the connector in its position. BUT DO NOT insert the screw driver from the side, insert it from the top and center, and hold it while you untwist the string loop and remove the string.

7) Put down the outer washer onto the tip of the connector as well as the nut and screw it onto the connector tip. Remove the screw driver and use a spanner to tighten the outer nut and also screw on the strapjack button that comes with the M1A pickup. Tighten this as well, using a spanner.

8) Grab the 1/8″ connector cable from within the soundhole of the guitar for the pickup to connect to it and insert it into the side of the pickup while holding the pickup carefully.

9) Loosen the side mounting screws on the pickup to open up a gap between the top and the bottom of the pickup. Insert the pickup sideways gingerly past the 6th string and bring up one of the top edges over the soundhole, then twist the pickup to bring up the opposite side on top of the soundhole. Tighten both side screws and you pickup is mounted! Make sure the pole pieces of each string are aligned so each string passes exactly in the middle of each pole piece of the pickup.

LRBaggs on Silvertone PD-2

10) Hookup a 1/4″ cable to the strapjack you just finished working on into the LR Baggs Para acoustic DI or directly into an amp. The M1A is an active pickup and is humbucker style, so it does not need a preamp unless you need to equalize and cancel further hum by using the notch filters on the Para Acoustic DI. You can hookup directly to an amp as see if the sound is to your satisfaction or play with it now!

New song: “Tragedy Over Gaza Again” in Music folder

I just uploaded my new song called "Tragedy Over Gaza Again" to the Music folder on the left. I played it and recorded it overnight during the Gaza war one week before it was ended. It is a cry for peace and hope. War is never an answer so should never become a question for civilization. Need I say more?
It is recorded using synth sounds coupled with guitar – bass played on the Epiphone Black Beauty via the GR-20 guitar synth as well as Alesis latin drum loops recorded as individual tracks in Ableton Live 6.10 and mixed after balancing. A separate rhythm track was played without synth as well. I took between 9pm till 4:30am during second week of January to record it. When I woke up and listened to it, I was not too happy with it. But last night I listened to it again, minus the fatigue from the overnight recording session and realized it’s worth sharing anyways as I like it now! It’s long, and occasionally a wailing riff kicks in reflecting the pain and suffering of those inflicted upon by war who are not fighting but happen to be in the way of the fighters.
Have a listen and see if you can tell.

Guitar Grimoire Scales in my TS(T+S)(T+T) interval shorthand

Reference Link: Scales: Ear Training

I worked out a shorthand for scalology late last night as I got fed up of turning pages in the Guitar Grimoire books when practicing – why don’t they publish them spiral bound or better yet, have a software that shows every fingering using altered or standard open tuning? 

I’m trying to get faster in figuring out interval based fingering of scales using the below chart. Have a fretboard diagram handy when figuring out scale fingerings. The beauty of this approach is you can be using any altered tuning – as long as you have a fretboard diagram of the altered tuning you prefer to use, you can rapidly derive the scale fingering for any mode you want to play in any key.

Interval legend: T=Tone, S=Semitone, (T+S)=tone plus semitone, (T+T)=two tone


1st mode is shown in below table
2nd mode: Rotate first interval to last
3rd mode: Rotate first two intervals to last two
4th mode: Rotate first three intervals to last three

Standard Tuning Fretboard Diagram:

Std Fretboard

Scales Table:

Scale Name


Number of modes




Melodic Minor



Harmonic Minor



Harmonic Major



Hungarian Minor



Hungarian Major



Neapolitan Minor



Neapolitan Major



Enigmatic Minor






Composite II



Ionian b5



Locrian natural 7















Whole Tone









Dominant Sus






8 Tone Spanish



Bebop Locrian nat. 2



Bebop Dominant



Bebop Dorian



Bebop Major




Blues-Major & Minor Scales

Blues scales no. 1

Knock yourself out playing the blues with this photo I took when I passed by it in a conference room!

Triad Patterns in C major, A minor, C augmented & B diminished for any three strings next to each other on the 6 string guitar

Reference link: Chords – Triad construction

In my last blog entry regarding triads I had compared the ability to play triads using picks versus fingers versus both picks and fingers and shown how finger style "plucking" is far superior in the sheer number of triads that can be played since strums and arpeggios can be played with fingers on non-successive strings. I had also said that there is further work necessary to examine triads in depth toward playing triadic progressions. The PDF file containing the net result of triad shapes on any three consecutive strings for a standard tuned guitar (EADGBE) is posted here.

In looking at the triads section in The Guitar Handbook by Ralph Denyer, it shows patterns of triads for major, minor, augmented and diminished types. Back in 1987, when I was studying this I had realized that the patterns shown in this book are partial: only strings 123, 456 were covered. So I worked out the patterns for strings 234, 345 as well for the same triad types as rough sketches. I recently found these sketches and put some further thought into this. The result is the below set of diagrams that clarify triad patterns. I will be putting together further notes on how to establish patterns of triadic progressions in a separate blog entry in the future.

Serendipitous event of the week! I write this blog on Oct 11th & just released a new course on Oct 14th on this topic:

C Major triads on strings 123-456 C Major triads on strings 234 345

A Minor triads on strings 123 456A Minor triads on strings 234 345

C Augmented triads on strings 123 456C Augmented triads on strings 234 345

B Diminished triads on strings 123 456B Diminished triads on strings 234 345

My Recording Studio Wiring Setup

Rajiv's Recording Studio Wiring Setup

I use this setup very effectively for live performance as well as studio recording by leaving behind the EMu 1616M, the Philips surround sound system when going out for live performance. To download this in OneNote, PDF or Single HTML File (MHT) format, look in the Public folder on the left. These files can be viewed at 100% resolution to see all details of input output connections. Also, if you are wondering why Philips for my studio monitoring system – I happened to have this lying around and put it to good use instead of buying studio monitors although I have my eye on Behringer or EMu monitors eventually. This setup cost roughly $4500 for mastering grade recording capability, using some of the world’s best recorded sound banks from EMu. Similar setups cost in excess of $40000 using ProTools and DigiDesign equipment from what I hear!

I have seriously good sound creation capability that can be recorded digitally at 24 bits from 44.1KHz upto 192 KHz using the same mastering grade DA converters used by DigiDesign in professional studios at a tenth of the cost. Now I have established a way to keep practicing using the numerous books I am struggling to form a practice curriculum from. My journey has begun and its awesome seeing the results emerge!

Two new songs in Music folder: Still Something & Quick Turn 2

I have been messing with MIDI drum kits and multitrack recording via the E-Mu 1616M Xboard and Ableton Live 6!
The result is Quick Turn 2, a song that is not really a song. It’s the Gibson Robot in Open E tuning with one finger barre chords being mercilessly whacked on rhythm track and the Buhu Drum Kit in Proteus X2 being twisted beyond all recognition. It languished in my recordings folder for three months before I could summon up theguts to post it here. It really proves the power of MIDI and the altered tuning capability of the Gibson Robot very well.
The second song is from tonight – Still Something is using the Gibson Robot in standard tuning with the GT-8 multieffect processor doing a deep reverb delay on clean sound as well as a deep chorus setting. The drum taps come from the RC-50 loop station setting 33, which is the Roland drum machine proving that you can avoid being a drummer and still get a reasonable song!

Mixolydian Shuffle (my new song)

I was messing with the Mixolydian scale pattern on various keys and tripped on a groove shuffle that I heard on Larry Carlton’s album "Live in Tokyo" with Robben Ford. Basically, instead of playing the Mixolydian scale in key of A (starting at 5th fret on 6th E string on the guitar), I used double stops and a hammering for many notes for all but the root note and the result is this shuffle that will become your ear-worm the minute you hear it. I added a basic 120 BPM drum kit from my Boss RC-50 loop station and then locked into the rhythm first with the double stop shuffle tracing the same notes as the Mixolydian scale in A as one track, then another track improvising a rhythmic progression that goes about following the shuffle using chords that sound similar to the scale. I varied the  open A chord by substituting a two note fingering (allowing the G string to ring open) while playing the five strings that would normally sound like the A chord. There is some interesting sliding on the first three strings half-way through the song using a D major shape then sliding to the fifth, sixth, fourth and seventh as well as occasional ninth frets to get the "weepy" guitar effect that makes it real bluesy. I played the E using strings 6,5,4,3 making it sound low (that’s the growl you hear occasionally) as well.
Originally, I started out recording with the new acoustic Brownsville PG20 but there was too much fret noise coming in over the piezo pickups and the low noise platinum cable from Mogami I was using, so I switched to the Epiphone Black Beauty and a Mogami Gold cable instead and things came out quite nice.
You can hear it by clicking on the Music folder on the left side of this page.

Triads for 6-string guitars, their inversions, differences between pick versus fingerstyle playing and applying scale based triadic progressions toward larger sets of tonality

The thoughts below are based on some missing content in books I have been searching to understand the bridge between scales and chords. The concept of triads is not new. However, I think it’s not been explored to sufficient clarity in terms of musicality and lyricism in playing, to the detriment of young guitar players who can benefit from the relative ease of playing a triad coupled with the high complexity that triads can deliver when practiced as progressions that follow scales and modes but use triadic runs instead of single note runs. Triads are not just what is popularly called "Power Chords". That’s just a way of naming a three note strum to make it sound easy. I think triads can serve as a groundbreaking new way to discover and create new music on the two octave span of the guitar fretboard. I find playing barre chords excruciating, jarring and tiring to the left hand and so have started to think of inventing triadic runs to replace full barre chords with three note substitutions. I also want to make sure that it yields a better playability, without compromising tonality or timbral characteristics that make the guitar an orchestra by itself (as Andres Segovia & Julian Bream put it).

Below are my notes on how this can be achieved if one puts in the diligence and practice required to get really good at it. These thoughts are just taking shape as part of my guitar practice and I welcome feedback on this topic via email if you have further theoretical foundations that I can understand. I cannot read music so it’s pointless trying to send me scores that show concepts in musical notation as I am an engineer-turned-musician trying to make things simple enough in writing but complex enough to yield powerful practical concepts to enhance real music playability.

For the sake of reference, below is a fretboard diagram for a 24 fret (2 octave span) guitar in standard tuning:

0                    5                           12                 17                      24

















































































































































There are four types of triads using the root, third and fifth intervals depending on the order of major, minor thirds applied and whether the fifth interval is sharpened or flattened.







































Minor 3rd








4 semitones



3 semitones









M = 4 semitones



m = 3








Below is a chart showing these using a semitone basis (s = semitone).

Triad Type:

Interval distance from root note:

3rd interval type:

5th interval type:

















When considering playing triads with a six string guitar there are four mainstream ways to fret & pluck strings, ignoring the occasional use of the bow to vibrate the guitar strings instead of plucking:

Fret with:

Pluck with:





There are 12 frets per octave, with 3 strings required to be plucked to play a triad.When using a pick, only consecutive strings can be plucked, but when using fingers any three of the 6 strings can be plucked when playing a triad. Also, pick and fingers can be combined to play any 3 strings as well as shown in the below table.

String combination number:

Which 3 strings are plucked

Plucked with:



to play a triad:





















Pick(thumb,index) & Fingers (middle,ring)


























Each of the 4 triads mentioned earlier can have 3 versions (totaling 12 triad types): The root, 1st inversion and 2nd inversion. In the root shape, the triad is played with the root note sounding before the 3rd and 5th interval notes, while in the 1st inversion, the 3rd , 5th and root notes sound in that order. The 2nd inversion is when the 5th, root and 3rd intervals are sounded in that order. This is an important point, since when using a pick, inversions can only be played by changing triad positions that reflect the order on consecutive strings but when playing with fingers or combining pick and fingers, non-consecutive strings such as string combination numbers 5 through 10 above, can be played either as strum or arpeggio style. As we will see later in this article, pick usage reduces while the other two types of playing increases the number of triads available over a two octave fretboard quite dramatically.

To examine this further, let’s calculate how many triads can possibly be played for a single octave over 12 frets, then extend this to 24 frets for a two octave spanning fretboard found on 6 string electric guitars.

a) When plucking using pick and fretting with fingers:

  • 12 keys X 12 triad types X 4 string combinations = 576 triads/octave.
  • 12 frets cover an octave, so for 24 frets over 2 octaves, this yields total 1152 triads per fretboard.

b) When plucking and fretting using fingers only or pick and fingers:

  • 12 keys X 12 triad types X 10 string combinations = 1440 triads/octave.
  • For 2 octaves, this yields 2880 triads per fretboard.

c) When fretting using a slide:

Only those triads that have the root, third and fifth intervallic notes falling on the same fret as the slide can be played. This is a special case that dramatically lowers the number of total triads playable for pick based or finger style plucking using standard tuning. This is a topic to be examined in future writing. Alternate tunings may yield some insights into how a larger number of triads can be obtained despite this limitation. Also, the emergence of a radical new guitar design in the Gibson Robot Guitar and the consequent ability to alter tunings rapidly combined with various tunings needs to be examined with care and detail. Examples of altered tunings can be found in Robert Johnson’s and others’ work.

Scale based triadic progressions and the impact to tonality is greatly enhanced when playing finger style plucking compared to pick based plucking. Even more so when selecting triads that span more than an octave as substitute triads in a scale based progression.

Let’s examine this further using an example. The diatonic major scale has its intervals as follows:

TTSTTTS (T=2s, s = semitone)

For key of C Major this looks like:











































When playing triadic progressions in key of C, we have three choices for each of the eight notes played whether to play the root, 1st inversion or 2nd inversion of each triad with a root note the same as the note for the scale of C Major. This means that a given progression that is played only one way using single notes can now be played in a total of 3 X (number of notes in the scale) = 3 X 8 in the case of the diatonic major scale. This allows us to increase the tonality 24 times in different "triadic interval" based progressions over 12 frets for the diatonic major scale. Now if we choose to substitute a given triad with the same triad an octave higher we have a 25th way to play the progression. Moreover, when we invert the triad an octave higher from the original we have two more ways of playing the progression thus yielding a total of 27 ways to play the triadic progression with just one triad substitution and varying it between an inversion or root. Also, we can play this ascending or descending, similar to scale runs!
























































1st inv

2nd inv


1st inv

2nd inv


1st inv

2nd inv


1st inv

2nd inv


1st inv

2nd inv


1st inv

2nd inv


1st inv

2nd inv


1st inv

2nd inv










Option using higher octave

























1st inv

2nd inv






















Now if we consider more notes as substitution candidates, using higher octave versions of the same triad, it is easy to see that we can have 1, 2, 3 upto 8 substitutions either played during the ascending triadic progression or descending progression. So the total possible ways of playing a triadic progression for diatonic major scales = 3 inversions X 2 directions ascending or descending X (total number of notes played as triads on frets higher than 12th).

This allows playing differently while ascending or descending compared to previous runs, giving much higher tonality and yielding higher musicality to the progression. Repetition can be easily avoided, giving freshness and maintaining audience auditory attention too. (Rapt attention comes from this sort of musicality, not repititious monotony in music. Case in point – my song in the music folder here, titled "A little bit more". Listen carefully and you will hear what I mean!😉

Selecting the closest triad inversions to the previous played one during a song to keep fretted fingerings spanning minimum number of frets allows these runs to be optimized for speed as well as note duration to be shortened using arpeggiated plucking of triads in the middle of a triadic run.

Ever wondered how to mix scales and chords so they sound right? Finger a triad and arpeggiate it and keep going on the progression by changing to strumming from arpeggiating. Yet another way to vary a progression while keeping the fingerings for both hands the same but changing how the notes are played: stacked together or set apart temporally. If you mix separately recorded tracks through arpeggiation in ascending and descending runs of triadic progression, you can get amazing contrapunctal sounds as evidenced in "Whirled Peas".

Combining triad arpeggios with strummed triads yields further variation to the mixing of lead and rhythm structures to the song while minimizing fretboard finger movement using triadic progressions. In essence, you can sound like a shredder without having to look like one.

Further work to be done on this will involve examining each scale explained in the book "Guitar Grimoire – Scales & Modes" with regard to applying triadic progressions that have minimal finger movement during fretting using inversion locations close to previous triad in a run, as well as selecting three string combinations that work best for pick based versus finger style plucking.


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 320 other followers