Giant Steps

February 24, 2008

Rhythm Exercises (Tabla)

Filed under: Rhythm — B Ray @ 4:58 pm

Here are some exercises that a friend had gotten from a tabla player in New York he is receiving lessons from. Instead of going over complicated polyrythms – he went over what was a seemingly simple exercise.

Example 1 (which I entitled “Tabla Rhythm Accent Exercise 1”) is an exercise in accenting notes. The note choices used are insignificant, just 4 notes that repeat in cycles (below are the first 4 notes of the C Major scale).

It may help to exaggerate the accent so that it is obvious to the ears which notes are accenting, while playing the other notes softer than normal.

The notes to be accented are denoted in the staff music by the ^ sign. Strict alternate picking is recommended.

I’ve found that my dynamics have greatly improved – due to the fact I am more in tune to dynamics of each note (varying pick attack) with respect to its beat. I also have a better feel for the rhythmic spacing betweeen the downbeats. Also I feel I focus more intently on each note that I play.

The first pattern involves accenting on each of the actual beats (repeated 4 beats).

Measure 2 – accenting the 2nd note of each 4 note grouping (repeated 4 beats),

Measure 3 – accenting the 3rd note of each grouping (repeated 4 beats)

Measure 4 accenting the 4th beat of each grouping.

Measures 5 – 8: only 3 beats are repeated.

Measures 9 – 12: only 2 beats are repeated.

Measure 13-16: Beat 1 Grouping – 1st note is accented; Beat 2 Grouping – 2nd note is accented; Beat 3 Grouping – 3rd note is accented; Beat 4 Grouping – 4th note is accented…Following the accent note of beat 4 (the 16th note of the measure) the first note of the next measure is accented.

It’s a mind exercise as well – as you’re playing you have to be able to remember and feel which measure you are playing so you know how many times to repeat the lick with the given accent.

Exercise 1:

Note Accents


Exercise 2 uses the same pattern as Exercise 1 – the difference is the notes are omitted instead of accented. It’s a great method to turn tired licks into fresh interesting sounded licks – also creates a spacing and interesting rhythmic variations.



A Little Background

Filed under: Random — B Ray @ 4:17 pm

The purpose of this blog is primarily as a means of organizing my thoughts, epiphanies, and ideas relating to music theory and secondarily as a way to share these thoughts and ideas to others. As a student of music and someone with a mathematical background, I often scribble down notes and thoughts as a means of finding patterns and connections between these thoughts and ideas. This blog just happens to be a very intuitive way to keep records of all these ideas and share them with others.

Music to me is intangible, elusive, universal, bonding, expression, soul uniting, creative, the ultimate language and so on.

I’ve been playing guitar for 12 years, the last 2 or 3 years I’ve become more serious. I’m currently taking instruction from an excellent teacher who has shown me the way to lay down a proper foundation to really learning music. Guitarists, myself included, more times than not are guilty of not learning music – just learning how to play chords and the proper fretboard patterns over given chords. The last 2 years I’ve been working on breaking out of that mold and to play real music.

To me it’s all about seeing things from different angles and perspectives – from microscopic and telescopic vantage points; connecting harmony to melody, melody to harmony; chords to modes to scales, scales to modes to chords; connecting shared notes or connecting what is seemingly unconnected. Once I began seeing things from various angles, there were more ways to connect notes to form melodies and to connect them with underlying harmonies.

I’ve also taken interest in mandolin, lap steel guitar, and have been considering buying a keyboard. I play slide guitar and have been told by a very well traveled and accomplished player that he thinks I’ll become “The slide guitarist” from my area – so it’s something I work on. I try to keep an open mind about music and learn from as many avenues and people I can.

“There is an art of listening. To be able really to listen, one should abandon or put aside all prejudices, preformulations and daily activities… But unfortunately most of us listen through a screen of resistance. We are screened with prejudices, whether religious or spiritual, psychological or scientific; or with our daily worries, desires and fears. And with these for a screen, we listen. Therefore, we listen really to our own noise, to our own sound, not to what is being said. It is extremely difficult to put aside our training, our prejudices, our inclination, our resistance, and, reaching beyond the verbal expression, to listen so that we understand instantaneously.” J. Krishnamurti, The First and Last Freedom.

February 21, 2008

2/21 Music Lesson

Filed under: Music Theory, Music Video — B Ray @ 11:55 pm

Today’s lesson – no instruments, just conceptual ideas and building a sort of footprint for the near future.

2 main ideas.

The first is to really get down Tritone Substitution. We’ve worked on this concept before, but now it’s something to really focus on. I’ll be working on paralleling two keys of the tritone – basically combining two keys a tritone (3 whole steps) apart to form one “tritone key.”

For example take the dom V chord of the C scale – G7…the dominant chord up a tritone is the Db7. The chords share the same guide tones (b3 & b7 notes) but inverted (G7 – B, F Db7 – F, Cb). To create the “parallel keys” we can take the parent mode (I) of each of the dominant/mixolydian (V) modes and present them chromatically up the neck (alternating parent modes/keys)…I’ll upload an image later which will be easier to see:

F Lydian -> Gb Ionian -> G Mixolydian -> Ab Dorian -> A Aeolian -> Bb Phrygian -> B Locrian -> B Lydian -> C Ionian -> Db Mixolydian -> D Dorian -> Eb Aeolian -> E Phrygian -> F Locrian -> F Lydian

We also discussed noted guitar players using tritone…Jimmy Herring and Allan Holdsworth. Jimmy coming from more of a blues (huge Allman Brothers fan growing up and eventual member of the band) and country (huge Steve Morse/Dixie Dregs fan) style of fusion – and one of my top 2 or 3 favorite players…so his style appeals to me a lot. Allan comes more from the jazz side of fusion.

I’ll begin working on unconventional patterns like Holdsworth’s legato and 4 notes per string approach – the idea being that I break free from the conventional patterns.

Second main idea is to work on the whole harmony/melody-guide tone voice leading thing…pick different guide tone based melodies and view present harmonies…look for common tone voice leading as well as the guide tones.

I was told I need to work on the above stuff for an hour a day here on out if I wanna get what I want out of it…this being the first time he’s told me to practice x amount a day – so I’ll get on it. For the next month we’ll also be focusing on technical aspect of playing – with some b-bender (w/o the b-bender) type licks and some Hellecaster licks; learning Holdsworth’s solo to “Devil Takes the Hindmost” (off his Metal Fatigue CD) and back to learning Coltrane’s “Giant Steps” saxophone solo.

Just realized I’m going to miss the Bill Kirchen guitar clinic and concert in 4/19 since I’ll be in Baltimore for a bachelor party. The last guitar clinic with Bill was a treat – he did incredible versions of Sleepwalk and did his classic “Hot Rod Lincoln.” Derek did go into some detail of what Bill said playing with Danny Gatton was like. Bill said after playing with Danny – there was never anyone else quite like him.

Here’s Danny Gatton playing Sleepwalk:

February 19, 2008

2/19 Music Lesson

Filed under: Uncategorized — B Ray @ 11:55 pm

Music Lesson w/Derek

Lesson went real well tonight – better on my part than the previous one. My “assignment” was to create a melody – then determining “what all the things each of the notes can be.” Essentially take it note by note and figure out what chords could be played over each note. Pretty much take each note and look at it from some sort of a guide tone perspective (i.e. either b3, 3, 7, b7 note) and do this for every note. I hadn’t really come up with anything I was pleased with, but in the time before my lesson – I managed to pick up out a nice chordal melody with a cheap nylon string guitar in the next room using inversions, embellishments, chromatic movement, arpeggios all as tools for voice leading.

The lesson consisted of me playing over a ii-V-I progression in C (Dm, G7, C) but with various embellishments. I had a pretty good handle on it and came up with some nice themes on the spot, superimposed some chords, and even got outside using tritone substitutions over the dominant chords. Hell I was even a bit proud of how it went – and even got some props from him in the middle of some of the phrases. Then I jammed over a I-vi-ii-V (in C as well) with the instruction of using chord-soloing…this is something I gotta work on and isn’t something that comes easy.


Blog at