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A Musical Meditation Volume 2: How let your guitar seduce you

December 13, 2012

Last issue we got a little playful.  We made up some easy generic chord progressions and we just let ourselves experience the way the guitar felt in our hands, and the way it sounded to our ears.  It was nice because it wasn’t tedious.  It was kind of therapy, kind of subliminal ear training, and a bit of a chord changing workout all at the same time.  The simplicity of those exercises warmed us up, allowed us to slow down from the speed race that is so common in modern flatpicking guitar, and it allowed us to discover nuances, phenomenons, and sensations that occur when an exercise is very basic.

It might surprise you to know that Tony Rice has spent more hours getting the feel of the instrument than he has learning millions of fast hot licks.  In other words, this concept “aint” just for beginners.  Tony is not just interested in lots of notes.  He’s also interested in quality.

My swim coach actually spends more time “lying around” in the water than he does swimming laps.  People think he’s crazy.  “That weirdo has been out there treading water with his eyes closed for the past 3 hours!”  Why?  Because he’s actually “making friends” with the water.  He’s learning its characteristics, its reactions to his movements and his reactions to its movements.  Well, you might find it interesting to know that “weirdo” holds the world record for the best swim times for all 4 competitive swim strokes in his age division. (never mind his age).  He even had a streak in the 90’s where he beat his own record 7 consecutive years!  He’s the only guy I know who chooses not to “fight” the water.   In fact, he might just be the “Tony Rice” of swimming.  I think we can all agree that Tony doesn’t “fight” the guitar.  Lets just surrender and admit that to a small degree (every now and then), we are fighting our guitars.

So maybe this little activity merits one more article.  Ok, last time we used the key of G.  So this time lets try it in C.  Strum 4 beats of C, 4 beats of F, 4 Beats of G, then 4 beats of C.  Now that was therapeutic.  How about doing it again, but this time with your eyes closed.  This might eliminate some distractions, which will allow you to listen just a little bit closer.  Did you make any discoveries?  What were they?  If you’d like, write them down in a diary.  *By the way, you don’t have to make each chord exactly 4 beats long.  You can stay on each chord as long as you like to create variation.  I’m just here to get you started and to plant seeds.  The whole concept here is for you to deviate in any direction you’d like to go in.  So start with me, use my ideas as a guide, but change it all up to suite your preferences as you go along.

Ok, lets do it again, but this time, lets hum a little melody as we strum the chords.  Doesn’t have to be fancy, just close your eyes and see where it takes you.  If you can hum something that sounds like its compatible with those chords, this means that you are really getting familiar with the sound of those chord changes.  (At least enough to be able to anticipate a compatible melody).  Believe me, this is developing your ear and increasing your awareness of many things.  If you find that your humming gets pulled to “Wabash Cannonball,” “I Saw The Light” or some other familiar tune, see if you can pull it away to a different melody (without sounding out of tune with the key).

Now lets put a C in between each chord to come up with: C, F, C, G, C.  Don’t hesitate to take it around twice or as many times as you’d like.  Ok, are you good at whistling?  Works just as good as humming.

Next lets try sneaking the relative minor into the mix: C, Am, F, C, G, C.  That’s pretty close to the progression of “Billy in the Lowground.”  It’s also the chord progression for many of the 50’s pop tunes like “Dream” by the Everly Brothers.  Don’t be surprised if you find yourself humming a familiar tune but you didn’t realize that was the chords to that tune.  Now lets try: C, C7, F, C, F, G, G7, C.  A ragtime chord progression in C could be: C,  A, D, G, C.

Next lets substitute D for the A-minor.  So we’ll play: C, D, F, G, C.   Then we’ll throw in an extra C and we’ll have: C, D, F, C, G, C.

Now lets go backwards around the bases. (very common in chord progressions).  C, G, F, C.  Ok, how about: C, G, C, F, C, G, C.

How about the key of D.  Strum: D, G, A, D.  Then try: D, G, D, A, D.  How about backwards: D, A, G, D.  Then try: D, D7, G, D, A, A7, D.  A ragtime progression in D could be: D, B7, E, A, D.

Ok, you get the picture and I hope you’ll take it beyond the confines of this little schedule that I’ve written.  I further hope that you’ll make discoveries beyond the ones that I’ve alluded to.  Allow it to be a little meditative, a little focused, and even a little hypnotic.  As a result, you’ll be a little more relaxed with your instrument, your ear will be a little more acute, and people will think you were born with a guitar in your hands.        As a companion to the above experience, I recommend our video called: “Understanding the Formula of Music Makes it So Easy.”



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