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Harmonic Minor explained :: excerpt from correspondence

 
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What is more responsible for a "style" of music: the Chords or the Solo
the Chords
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the Solo
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PostPosted: Sat Mar 31, 2007 4:56 am    Post subject: Harmonic Minor explained :: excerpt from correspondence Reply with quote

The following post is an excerpt from some coorespondence I had with "Bob". I'm posting it here as it might provide some useful information for other readers ::

Bob,
Thanks for writing! Sorry it's taken me this long to reply. It's been crazy busy for me. One of the factors that has made it so is your discovery of the missing chapter! And to my horror, I couldn't find it anywhere on my computer. I had a little accidental file delete happen some weeks ago and then found a virus on my machine. It really threw me for a loop.
So, I was up till 1:00 the other night trying to do justice to the missing chapter. I think I did well, but I'll have to review it when I'm not so tired.
I'm impressed with what you are doing with the method and what you seem to already grasp probably before you ever laid hands on it. It sounds like you have some great experience with music already.
I wanted to share with you, a little for now, about how the method has helped me deal with such things as Melodic Minor.

I hope you find this interesting and useful...I don't know what you already know, so forgive me if it's all elementary to you...
I actually work with Harmonic Minor first in my explanational journey towards more radical scales like Melodic Minor and Hungarian Minor. Anyway, for Harmonic, I refer to it as "sharp OSis" because that's the only note that needs to move from the original pattern to create the new scale. It's a great one because it opens the door for diminished scale and adds so much tension to the original scale. I usually use the Harmonic Minor sound as a momentary departure from the original scale to create extra tension at choice moments, such as the moments before the progression is going to return to the home chord. That one note, #OSis, effects every family member in a different way:
It gives Mama the ability to be an augmented chord
It gives YBro the ability to be a fully diminished chord
It gives OBro the ability to be a major chord
It gives YSis the ability to be a minor chord and/or a fully diminished chord
It gives OSis the ability to be a fully diminished chord (as her root gets moved up one fret)
It gives Papa a major 7th
It gives ABoy the ability to be a fully diminished chord

As for how it effects the head set - bridge set - triple block sequence:
The bridge sets are unchanged
The first row triple block is effected by having its first note raised one fret such that you end up with what appears to be a head set (but of course, you should instead just remember it to be an altered 1st row triple block)
The 3rd row triple block is effected by having the middle note raised one fret, such that you end up with what I call a "super bridge set" (but, again, see to it that you remember it as an altered 3rd row triple block)
::::: By doing so you insure that at any moment, even as you might be moving across the fretboard you should be able to revert back to the original scale. So, of course, you should be able to utilize all the logic of travelling across the fretboard without getting lost if you do this, whether the scale changes or not. And that is what I think really makes this method incredible! It's what seperates it from all the rest of the "pattern based" methods.

I seriously can't wait to get through with explaining the fundamentals of this method so I can elevate my students to the really good stuff, like what we're talking about now!!!

Every time I play these kinds of alterations for my students, they always respond that they have heard it somewhere, somehow in a song or two. At last, I have the ability to generalize and document these classic moves such that so many of them can be catagorized as simply "#OSis".

So, moving on to the Melodic Minor scale. I consider it the #YSis - #OSis scale. And the same logic applies. Your experience mastering the Harmonic will, of course, come in handy here. If I weren't in such need of sleep I'd explain the many features as I did for Harmonic Minor...I'm tempted, as I think you might be interested. But, hey, how about I give you an chance to ponder on it. See if you can figure out what it does to each family member and how it effects navigation through the sets. And if you're not up to it, that's fine. I don't want you to have anything but fun with it. Ok?

By the way, there's great info right here in this message. I'd like to paste it into the forum, if you don't object (and I can't see why you really would...but I'll ask anyway). Just give me a nod or explain why not and I'll respect it either way.

Thanks, and keep in touch!
Fred


Last edited by admin on Sat Aug 09, 2008 6:20 pm; edited 1 time in total
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PostPosted: Wed Jul 31, 2013 6:27 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

This is also an excerpt from some correspondence I recently had:

I'm not sure if you'd like to start talking about the family of chords thing, but if you'd like to, it might actually get my gears turning and cause me to finally lay it all down on video. If you've got a firm grasp on music theory in any form, you know that there is this set, this family of chords for any given key. You can make chord progressions by cycling through them in some methodical, measured way. Anyway, there is this building of tension, or at least a well built progression will create and take advantage of tension so that it is usually greatest just before returning to the home chord. Now, where my fascination comes in is how to used harmonic minor to give that moment even more tension. Let's say you are using a simple progression like:

| G | C | D | D |

I would want to add a harmonic minor alteration to the last measure:

| G | C | D | D#dim |

I call that change "sharp older sister" or "#Os" for short. Now, it might be wise to avoid playing it every rotation. For example, you might want to play the progression without the alteration 3 full cycles and save the alteration for the 4th time...that way it really sets up a special moment and it would probably be very appropriate sounding to use it to lead into the chorus. Or, depending on your tastes and purposes, you might opt to just use it every time. I just finished writing a song where I found it best to use such an alteration every other time. By doing so, it made the altered moments more special and they happened only twice before the chorus hit, rather than 4 times/every single time. Okay, now, before you allow yourself to go any further, you really need to try singing over the change and notice how well it allows for more emotional phrasing. It almost begs for it.

I always bring this point up with my students. I ask you to recall how many times you've heard a singer, who may have some real talent, carrying on vocally, like, you can tell someone like Celine Dion is their favorite...that sort of thing. But, for some reason when they get to those moments where they are really wailing, really belting out an emotional phrase...sometimes it seems like it just isn't working. Have you ever witnessed such a scene? Well, I have...and for years, I just thought it was something mystical that wasn't there or something like that...I didn't realize until now that it's actually the fault of the chords. You see, when the band knows how to make the kind of alterations I'm hoping you will discover (if you haven't already through your tradtional learnings) they lay the foundation for the singer or the instrumental soloist to really tear it up. It's like, the right chords, the right amount of tension gives license to the melody to do that. Really bluesy phrasing sounds like gold over them. There is a family of chords and every chord has a special ability to bring out that sound, that tension. I teach my students to memorize the family of chords, get them down to a T, where they are with respect to one another, learn the gender of each, learn their positions, learn what makes them special with respect to the pattern and then I teach them their "super hero" powers. OSis can turn into a fully diminished chord if you sharpen her root. YSis can turn into a minor chord (I used that one a lot). You can even use it to turn a 2 chord progression into something much more unique sounding. Take this for example:

| G | C |

Played just like that over and over will sound pretty much like something you've heard many times. Now, don't get me wrong, you can do a lot with just that. But, if you spice it up with:

| G | C Cm |

This is also something you've heard before, but not as often from novices. Of course, many beginners have stumbled across this one just by ear, but not as likely. Oh, and that brings me to another great point...this "technology" has allowed me to create such progression and alter them at will. What I mean is, during an improvisational jam, I find myself using such moves to great effect. And whoever is soloing when I pull a move like that, is always delighted and inspired. You see, these moves created opportunity for the soloist to actually use scales like the diminished or harmonic minor scales intentionally, but NOT NECESSARILY. In other words, if they catch that I'm making the move, they can opt to use these more exotic scales, but if they don't catch it, there's nothing wrong with continuing on with the good old major scale. It sounds just fine and even a bit better than if I didn't make the alteration to the chords. Those are the kinds of chord alterations I think a person should specialize in before they ever entertain the idea of doing something more demanding...something where if the soloist doesn't catch it, there's a train wreck.

Man, I've carried on much longer than I thought I would. I really should be having this conversation in the public forum just in case there are other readers who might benefit. It also keeps my site from appearing so lifeless. I mean, at one time there were a number of people posting in the forum and it was moving forward, but lately it has been pretty dry. I had some idiotic spam attacks for a while there that were actually bad enough I had to shut things down to get it under control. After that, my posters began to dwindle. I might copy and paste part of this message over there for other eyes to see. It's really the one BIG idea that comes from this method that is so useful and powerful that it actually eats at my conscience to get some serious materials about that cover the concept.

Here's another piece of the puzzle that fits this conversation. If you're like me, you've seen those posters they sell that show all these crazy chords...you see augmented chords and diminished chords and the first time I saw such a poster, I thought, "I really sould have that poster...I should know and study all these chords!" Alas, I did not buy said poster and in retrospect, I'm just as well off not having bought it. After all, I wouldn't know what the heck to do with an augmented chord. Not until now! These alterations I'm talking about...if you turn Mama (goofy names, I admit...but I have STRONG reasons why I can no longer even consider trying to escape them)...if you turn Mama into an augmented chord, you have that same kind of alteration, a harmonic minor alteration. For example:

| G | Gaug |

Now, since you have some traditional theory under your belt, I offer you this perspective. Augmenting Mama and/or turning YSis into a minor chord both involve the SAME NOTE. Right? Gaug uses D# and so does Cmin. You can really see it if you play it like this:

| G | Gaug | C | Cmin |

Now try singing over it. And, I guarantee, your ear will suggest that it's a sound you've heard before...but not as often from a novice. It's like something you've heard the Beatles use, or some other clever writer (who may or may not have used anything other than their sensitive ear to come up with it).

Hotel California uses such a chord alteration in the very 2nd chord of the progression, as well as again, just before the return to the home chord. I believe that is what makes that song and especially the solo in it one of the greatest of all time.

Okay, I must break away from all this for now, but I would love for you to know how each of the 7 family members can turn into super hero character (my fun way of calling their change of character from everyday major scale, to exotic and powerful altered form). Let me know if this is making sense and I'll make more contributions. Actually, you may be able to calculate the alterations on your own. The easiest way to think about it would be to just stay in the key of Gmajor and see what happens to each chord in the family if each of them is forced to take on a D#. Of course, I may not have pointed out that the alterations are usually more easy on the ear if you spend half the measure on the normal chord and the later half on the altered form. That is usually a good way to ease the ear into accepting the change, rather than just diving abruptly into it.

Let me know if you'd like to hear more...
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