Author Archives: Rajiv Mistry
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 firstname.lastname@example.org. 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.
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 Progressions (External site) – Stunningly well organized MIDI progressions!
-In key of C-
Diminished Whole Tone
Auxiliary Diminished Blues
Six Tone Symmetric (Hexatonic)
Leading Whole Tone
Eight Tone Spanish
Melodic Minor Ascending
Melodic Minor Descending
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.
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.
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. http://www.simulanalog.org/ 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.
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.
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?
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 Live.com 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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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!
Scale & chord patterns for Robert Fripp’s C-Pentatonic or New Standard Tuning and its impact on California Guitar Trio’s guitar playing
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 Truefire.com 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.
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
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.
- 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.
- Take a DAW/Sequencer application like Ableton Live and import a given progression into it as a MIDI track. Now the fun begins.
- Apply any polyphonic instrument using a VSTi inserted into this MIDI track and arm the track so you can hear it play the progression.
- 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.
- 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.
- Transpose the patterns to the key you wish to publish the song in using the MIDI transpose function in Ableton Live.
- 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!
- 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.
- Add drum tracks using MIDI patterns and drum VSTi inserts
- 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.
- 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)
- 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.
- 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.
- Take the Wav file output and write it to a R/W CD
- 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.
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.
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.
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
|Scale Name||Intervals||Number of modes|
|Locrian natural 7||STTST(T+S)S||7|
|8 Tone Spanish||STSSSTTT||8|
|Bebop Locrian nat. 2||TSTSTTSS||7|
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 & Truefire.com just released a new course on Oct 14th on this topic: http://truefire.com/inversionexcursion/inversionexcursion.html
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.
|A||4 semitones||C||3 semitones||D|
|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||Fingers|
|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!
|Root||1st inv||2nd inv||Root||1st inv||2nd inv||Root||1st inv||2nd inv||Root||1st inv||2nd inv||Root||1st inv||2nd inv||Root||1st inv||2nd inv||Root||1st inv||2nd inv||Root||1st inv||2nd inv|
|D||<-||Option using higher octave|
|Root||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.