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A Musical Meditation for you and your guitar

December 13, 2012

A Musical Meditation for you and your guitar

I’ve got an idea.  Get out your guitar! (this is a hands on article that will make little or no sense if you don’t have your guitar in hand)  We’re going to play a little game to help develop your understanding of the framework of songs.  So what is the framework of a song?  It’s the “chord progression.”  The chords to a song make up the chord progression.

If you will, please play 4 beats of G, 4 beats of C, 4 beats of D, and then 4 beats of G again.  I’m sure that was a familiar sound for you.  It felt and sounded a little bit like many of the songs that you’ve played before.

Now lets introduce an E-minor into the above chord progression by inserting it between G and C.  Ok, that sounds and feels sort of familiar.  Lets think of G as home plate, E-minor as first base, C as second base, D as third base, and back to G again for home plate.

Next, lets put 4 beats of G between every chord.  In other words, our chord progression will now be: G, Em, G, C, G, D, G.  Ok, that was fun (and sounded fairly musical).  What a weird way to run the bases, going back to home plate after every base.  That umpire will surely throw us out of the game.

Now lets substitute A, in place of the E-minor and play: G, A, C, D, G.  What did that sound like?  What did that feel like?  What did that look like?

Now: G, A, G, C, G, D, G.  Again, experience these sensations.  *We’re not doing this exercise to improve our chord changing.  We’re doing it to build on the most common chord progressions that are found in the music that our songs are structured from.

Now lets add A-minor to this process by inserting it in after the C-chord from the first progression: G, C, Am, D, G.  Ok now: G, C, G, Am, G, D, G.  Gosh, who knows, we might get an idea for writing a song somewhere along the way in this little game.

Next let’s not substitute A-minor for C, but instead let’s use A-minor in place of E-minor.  G, Am, C, D, G.  Now: G, Am, G, C, G, D, G.  *Think of each of these little “progressions” as a mini-song.

Now lets throw in a B7 as a substitute for the Em.  G, B7, C, D, G.  *Fingers getting a little sore yet?  Stop if they are.  You can continue tomorrow.  Now: G, B7, G, C, G, D, G.  *Can you hum a little melody along as you play thru these chords?  See where the chords lead your voice…(as long as no one is listening).  Who knows, you might stumble onto your own melody.

Now, instead of B7, lets use E, and instead of C, and throw in an A too.  G, E, A, D, G.  Ok, how about: G, E, G, A, G, D, G.  *I think this one was a little less like a normal song than some of the others, but hey, its art, or maybe science?

Now lets make it really lonesome and use F instead of E-minor.  G, F, C, D, G.  *Now Ralph Stanley will be proud of us.  How about: G, F, G, C, G, D, G.  Or how about substituting G7 for E-minor: G, G7, C, D, G.  Or: G, G7, C, G, G7, C, D, G.

All of these sounds are “musical devices.”  All of these sounds effect our emotions.  All of these progressions were from only one key, the key of G.  We can simply experience them by playing them, or we can academically learn the blackboard formula that they represent.  In this exercise, we only wanted to play some combinations, and let the experience do the talking.  You might get an idea for a song as a result of playing this game.  You might get an idea for a melody or an instrumental.  You might get sore fingers or some chord changing practice, or find a totally different combination of chords that sound interesting.  You might find some coincidental similarities to songs you’ve learned before.  But what I really hope is that each of these little chord progressions causes you a different sensation.  I hope each has a different effect on your mood and the way you feel.  I hope you will gain a little more musical awareness through this less conventional experience.  In other words, I didn’t want you to necessarily learn anything at all, but rather to notice an effect.  Do these soft.  Do them loud.  Do them fast.  Do them slow.  Let them in.  Let them take you wherever they may.  Don’t take over.  Let them take over.  Let them lead.  Let them relax you.  After the experience, do you feel less stress?  You might.  You might not.

Did you let some of the chords ring for a few extra seconds?  Were any birds singing in the backyard?  Did you associate your strumming with the singing birds?  Did the birds seem to respond to you?  Is it ok to use your guitar in this slightly unorthodox way?

I have a question for you?  When you played each “progression” did you find yourself changing the way you accented your strumming?  Is an experience as valuable as a lesson?  Did you find yourself deviating from the number of beats-per-chord, than I suggested?  You might want to do this once a week.  You might want to choose different chords.  You might want to hum along.  let the chords lead your humming.

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