Welcome to Bruce Arnold Music Blog

Bruce Arnold Music Blog

Welcome to Bruce Arnold Music Blog. Here’s where I’m going to discuss my music, books and music education and my current activities. Here is also where I hope you’ll dialogue with me. The topics can be about what I’m currently working on; new books I’ve written or read, or just notes about the things that interest me. 

I have a deep interest in many of the musical ideas of the early 20th century such as 12 tone music and serial composition. Over the years I’ve developed many ideas on how to apply the techniques used in Second Viennese School to improvisation. I’ve also have a deep interest in using the program SuperCollider in live performance to create uniques sounds using my guitar as a controller. I will also explore some of these ideas in the Bruce Arnold Music Blog.

Over the years I written many books on music education to outline some of the ideas that I’ve come up with on my own or where shown to me by the great teachers that I’ve worked with along the way. I’m also very grateful to the many fantastic musicians that I’ve had the honor to play with. They have greatly affected my ability, knowledge and approach not music.

I also maintain a couple more blogs on the muse-eek.com website that deal specifically with ear training and guitar specific ideas. If you have interest in those topics please follow the links.

Hopefully you will find the Bruce Arnold Music Blog to be educational but I also hope it stimulates your intellectual curiosity about the subjects I explore.

Bruce Arnold Music Education Genealogy Chart

You might enjoy checking out the “Music Education Genealogy Chart” located on my artist’s site. You will clearly see the historic progression of pedagogy that is the basis for Muse Eek Publishing Products. Great musicians throughout history have been studying the ideas presented by Muse-eek.com which derives its content from a a lineage that stretches back to Scarlatti!

Bruce-Arnold-Guitar-Bruce Arnold Music Blog

Applying Rhythm Ideas

Applying Rhythm Ideas

Guitarist Bruce Arnold BLOG Logo Pitch Class Set Improvisation Bruce-Arnold-Guitar-Flutterby-18 sight reading recommendation Applying Rhythm Ideas

Applying Rhythm Ideas :   I recently completed the Music Rhythm Series which is a series of 12 books with exercises covering all rhythms from eighth notes to quintuples, sextuplets and septuplets.   Here is what the series primarily focuses on:      

  • 1. Learning to play all common and uncommon rhythms.
  • 2. Learning to sight read on multiple metric levels
  • 3. Increasing the speed at which you can recognize AND PLAY these rhythms.  It includes midi files so that you can challenge yourself and check accuracy at any tempo.
  • 4. Rhythms Volumes 6-12 add in an ear training element; an exercise where you can be actively involved or just listen to it as you do anything else.
  • 5. Teaching your eye to read ahead of the music by using the “Beat Reading” concept. This is a simple but almost magical concept that will speed up your ability to read music amazingly fast.

There are actually a lot of additional exercises you can do once you get to the point that you can read through even just the first couple of books.

Applying Rhythm Ideas

Pick out a one measure rhythm if you play a melodic instrument, and add notes to this rhythm.  I did this a lot with the pitch class sets but it could be anything from a C scale to an arpeggio to a II V lick.

  • 1st: loop the rhythm and the notes every measure
  • 2nd: start to change the order of the notes but keeping the same rhythm
  • 3rd: start using this rhythm to play through an entire tune in any style
  • 4th: start using the rhythm to play through a set of chord changes you find challenging
  • 5th: try playing the rhythm with both straight eighths and swing eighths.

What Applying Rhythm Ideas Will Do for You

You don’t need to do all of the above, but even a few of these activities will do the following for you:  

  • Ingrain a new rhythm into your memory
  • Help you to see rhythm problems when you loop an unfamiliar rhythm.
  • Usually will help you realize if the scale, arpeggio etc… that you are using is sufficiently memorized.  Playing a note group that you know in an unfamiliar rhythm usually points out one’s deficiencies.

Applying Rhythm Ideas with Drum Beats

I also do this same process with a drum groove.  I use the Drum Genius app which is way cool.  Get the additional drum beat downloads.  Not only are the drum grooves great but it also allows you to change the tempo and the pitch of the drums.  But it doesn’t end there, many times it also gives you examples of real music where that groove was played.  That really helps a non-drummer to understand the different types of beats which helps you communicate with a drummer much more effectively.

I should also mention that when you play a random rhythm with a drum beat you will soon find out how well that rhythm works with a specific drum beat.  That is the beginning of you understanding drum beats and starting to improvise with appropriate rhythms when improvising.  Bottom line is your rhythms need to fit into the groove of the drum beat.  That’s quite important to be a successful member of a band.  The rhythms you use to improvise are actually more important than the notes you play.  If you don’t play within the groove no amount of notes will sound right.

Learning to Write in the Correct Metric Level

If you are a beginner at mastering rhythms then you might also consider the Rhythm Ear Training Video Course because that explains in what music you will commonly find the various metric levels covered in the  Music Rhythm Series.  This is priceless information because no one really talks about this; they just assume that (for example) you know that jazz is written with eighth notes and funk is written with sixteenth notes.  The Rhythm Ear Training Video Course talks about all types of music and gives you a list of examples that you can check, then search for, on the web via YouTube or iTunes.

The Rhythm Ear Training Video Course contains very important information because the last thing you want to do is write out a tune in the wrong metric level– the drummer will hand you your head, and the band will have a much harder time reading the chart.  This is true even if it’s just a chord chart with rhythmic notation.

Conclusion

Rhythm is easily the most under practice and misunderstood part of playing music. Musicians often want to concentrate of learn melodies or chords and don’t think about the rhythms that are connected to these pitches. When playing with a band there are two important factors that will be the most important. How the rhythms you play fit with the groove of the music and you be sensitive and listening to the other players so that not only your rhythms fit the music but also the volume at which you play is appropriate.

Bruce Arnold Music Education Genealogy Chart

You might enjoy checking out the “Music Education Genealogy Chart” located on my artist’s site. You will clearly see the historic progression of pedagogy that is the basis for Muse Eek Publishing Products. Great musicians throughout history have been studying the ideas presented by Muse-eek.com which derives its content from a a lineage that stretches back to Scarlatti!

Bruce-Arnold-Guitar-Flutterby-18 sight reading recommendation Applying Rhythm Ideas

The Music Rhythm Series

Music Rhythm Series

Guitarist Bruce Arnold BLOG Logo jazz guitar Bruce-Arnold-Guitar-Flutterby-24 Guitarist Bruce Arnold BLOG Logo music education Guitar Intensive Workshop The Music Rhythm Series

The Music Rhythm Series instills solid musicianship by improving reading skills and learning an array of rhythmic styles and situations.

They may not know it, but many students really need to work with the rhythms found in The Music Rhythm Series  Bundle And they often think that the The Music Rhythm Series  is just about sight reading.  But it is a lot more than that, including the following:

  • 1. Learning to play all common rhythms.
  • 2. Learning to sight read all common rhythms.
  • 3. Increasing the speed at which you can recognize AND PLAY these rhythms.
  • 4. Rhythms Volumes 6-12 add in an ear training element.
  • 5. Teaching your eye to read ahead of the music by using the “Beat Reading” concept which is explained later in this email.

To explain #3: There are certain tempos that you need to play at when reading music.  For instance if you were a rock or jazz player you need to be able to read, feel and perform the rhythms found in Rhythms Volume One at a half note equals 120 BPM.  This is because 120 BPM is a common up tempo for so many styles of music especially rock and jazz.

Another virtue of working with rhythms and ear training: When you have trouble hearing a note with one note ear training, sometimes students think it is helpful to listen to the note in question along with a constant drone.  (For instance singing the note in question as a long sound over a MetroDrone.)  While that does help, it is far more effective and useful to sing the note in question in various rhythms, because your mind registers each rhythm you sing as a new event.  The more your mind hears a new event the more likely it is to remember it.

I’m sure it’s the same where you live, but in all the major cities in the USA the people who are the best readers are the folks who get most of the work.  I have all my student work on the following from The Music Rhythm Series :

  • 1.  Rhythms Volume 1-3 so that they have all common rhythms together.
  • 2.  Rhythms Volumes 4-5 which are 3/4 studies, working on playing each exercise with 1 beat per measure.
  • 3.  Rhythms Volumes 6-12 for both those that have issues with hearing certain notes with one note ear training.  For example, this does a great job fixing “b6” which is a note that is typically difficult to hear and retain.

I’ve gotten lots of gigs because of my ability to read the rhythms found in The Music Rhythm Series . Guitar players are notoriously bad sight readers, as are bassists.  If you can read at a professional level you will get a lot more work over the long haul.  For instance, I do have a few of my students who are rock guitarists working through The Music Rhythm Series.  I just got one of them a gig in a touring Broadway musical paying $1500 USD a week plus expenses.

I should also mention that with the Rhythms Volume One from The Music Rhythm Series  there are also “swing” MP3s for the first 10 pages.  Students who haven’t played or listened to much blues or jazz usually have a hard time “getting” the feel.  These MP3s from the Rhythms Volume One from The Music Rhythm Series will really help a student play the first 10 pages with the right feel.  The MP3s are at 10 different tempos so even a beginner can get started with this.

I also have students work with the “beat reading” concept which is like speed reading for music.  You can find information on beat reading in the free member’s area click on the “Help Files for Rhythm.” It is contained in many books like the New York Guitar Method Ensemble Volume One. This book is an excellent place for students to start to working on their sight reading if they are an intermediate student.

Bruce Arnold Music Education Genealogy Chart

You might enjoy checking out the “Music Education Genealogy Chart” located on my artist’s site. You will clearly see the historic progression of pedagogy that is the basis for Muse Eek Publishing Products. Great musicians throughout history have been studying the ideas presented by Muse-eek.com which derives its content from a a lineage that stretches back to Scarlatti!

Bruce-Arnold-Guitar-Flutterby-17 Modern Improvisation Guitarist Bruce Arnold BLOG Logo jazz guitar Bruce-Arnold-Guitar-Flutterby-24 Guitarist Bruce Arnold BLOG Logo music education Guitar Intensive Workshop The Music Rhythm Series

Pitch Class Set Chord Voicings Don’t Be Afraid of Them

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Pitch Class Set Chord Voicings

Guitarist Bruce Arnold BLOG Logo, Pitch Class Set Chord Voicings

Pitch Class Set Chord Voicings

Pitch Class Set Chord Voicings is just a fancy name for a chord. Any chord can be a Pitch Class Set Chord because Pitch Class Set Theory is another way to organize sound, which I find very useful. It does this by using numbers which are really the distance between each note. So if we have a C minor triad that would be called an 037. “O” is the “C,” “3” is the “Eb” because it is three half steps above “C.” Finally “G” is “7” because it is seven half steps above “C.” Pitch Class Set Theory does get more complicated than this when you consider “prime form,” but for now let’s make it simple and just say that whatever the group of notes you are using which could be a scale, arpeggio, chord etc is, they all have intervals between the notes and you identify any group of notes by starting with a “0” for your first note and then count the half steps that exist between the first note and every other note.

A Great Way to Organize Sound

What I find cool about Pitch Class Sets is they include all possible combinations of notes. This is where it gets interesting because traditional harmony pretty much sticks to chords built in thirds and the seven notes scales of the Major, Melodic Minor, and Harmonic Minor scales. A few additions like the Diminished modes, Whole Tone, Pentatonics and Blues scales and possibly maybe Harmonic Major Modes can be included, but that is pretty much it. So if you are interested in exploring other sounds, Pitch Class Sets are the way to go because they offer such a variety of alternative organization. This organization makes it easier to categorize pitches, and especially to see relationships between different groups of pitches.

Some Suggested Pitch Class Set Chord Voicings

I’ve been studying Pitch Class Set Chord Voicings since 1990 and have created a system to help others learn these chords and apply them in places where traditional harmony would be used. For instance, rather than playing a C major 7th chord, I would play B, C and G. This is very much like a major 7 chord except it only has the root, 5th and 7th. If you are worried about the “3rd” not being there, don’t; you will see and hear that leaving out what most people think of as crucial pitches isn’t as big a deal as you might think. I give you a link to a video further down this page so you can hear the use of this type of chord.

A common replacement that I use for a C dominant chord is E, A and Bb. So in this case I have the 3rd and 7th and have added in the “13th.” So that particular combination wouldn’t rattle any feathers.

Two Pitch Class Set Chord Voicings Is All You Need

Believe it or not, by just using these two combinations we can play all major, minor, dominant, minor 7b5 and diminished chords. So now you are starting to see the power of pitch class set chords. Basically learn two chords and their inversions, and you can play through 99% of all music. Yeah that what I’m talking about! It’s an easy way to play chords by just incorporating a couple of Pitch Class Set Chords.

Hear and See Pitch Class Set Chords In Action

Applying Pitch Class Set Chords to Traditional Harmony Watch the video on this page. It shows you how I apply the chords I’ve mentioned to a jazz standard. You will hear that they sound very modern, yet not super dissonant or weird. You could use these chords in any situation and any style. People will notice that you are playing something different but not be upset by it. That is the beauty of pitch class set chords. When used in the right way they give you a modern yet acceptable sound to replace all your chords voicings.

Where to Start to Learn Pitch Class Set Chord Voicings

If you want to get started with using Pitch Class Set Chord Voicings I recommend starting with the Applying Pitch Class Set Chords to Traditional Harmony This course gives you voicings for 15 standards and has you write out and learn your own examples too. Most of my students have this down within six weeks with a minimum of practice so it’s a win win situation.

Check out other Bruce Arnold blog entries on brucearnold.com here

Please check out Bruce Arnold other blogs at Muse Eek Publishing Company

Bruce Arnold Music Education Genealogy Chart

You might enjoy checking out the “Music Education Genealogy Chart” located on my artist’s site. You will clearly see the historic progression of pedagogy that is the basis for Muse Eek Publishing Products. Great musicians throughout history have been studying the ideas presented by Muse-eek.com which derives its content from a a lineage that stretches back to Scarlatti!

Bruce-Arnold-Guitar-Flutterby-11 Pitch Class Set Chord Voicings

23rd Chords

23rd Chords

Guitarist Bruce Arnold BLOG Logo, 23rd Chords

23rd Chords

“23rd Chords” is a 12 tone concept that the great teacher and musician Charlie Banacos invented.  Although most people equate 12 tone with atonal music Charlie didn’t believe there was such a thing as atonal music.  With maybe the exception of some “noise” compositions by Stockhausen for example, Charlie believed, as do I, that any music can be heard in a key center.  That key center may be changing often but you can hear a key center if you your ear is sufficiently developed. (You can get that skill via Contextual Ear Training.) But what made me excited was the fresh way I started to hear music, and eventually to play and compose it.  Any artist is hell bent on discovering their own particular sound.  I think learning this concept can broaden anyone’s musical palette.  And maybe I gravitated to it because I just really like the way it sounds.

Examples of Hearing 12 Tone Music in a Key Center

When I studied with Charlie he had me sing through “Five Piano Pieces” by Arnold Schoenberg.  Charlie knew I was interested in 12 tone composition techniques and that those pieces contain Schoenberg’s first 12 tone forays.  From singing through the whole piece and grabbing single linear lines of my choosing, I definitely heard these lines in a key center (though I did modulate quite often).  I later formed an ensemble with the great saxophonist John Gunther, called Spooky Actions.  I affectionately called this group my cover band because we did covers of contemporary composers such as Webern, Messiaen and Schoenberg, among others.  We played the music as written and then improvised on each movement.  Here are some links to some of these recordings:

The Music of Webern

Funf Piano Pieces by Arnold Schoenberg

Quartet for the End of Time by Olivier Messiaen

 

What I Learned from this Music

What I learned about hearing this music and learning how to play it seriously affected me as a composer and improvisor. First, I realized from working on the Five Movements for String Quartet by Anton Webern that his music is tonal; it just took me about a year to hear it that way. I also learned from analyzing the internal structure of Webern’s music, that if I improvised with the same pitch class sets as he used to compose the music, I was able to improvise “in the style of” Webern. I then applied the same approach as Spooky Actions tackled Schoenberg’s and Messiaen’s music.

23rd Chord Construction

When I was improvising on the music of Webern, Schoenberg and Messiaen I was using a technique that is closely related to 23rd Chords. The idea behind a 23rd Chord is to take three 4 note arpeggios to represent a specific chord type. For example if you have a G7 chord, you would use:

G7 arpeggio G, B, D, F.

A Major7 arpeggio A, C#, E, G# .

C-7b5 arpeggio C, Eb, Gb, Bb.

You many notice that I’ve worked my way up from a “G” all the way to the 23rd degree; in other words:

G = 1
B = 3
D = 5
F = b7
A = 9
C# = #11
E = 13
G# = #15
B# = #17
D# = #19
F# = b21
A# = #23

The Use of 23rd Chords

So that is the reason they are called 23rd chords. So far I’ve found very few serious compositions that utilize this method, though I do hear musicians in New York City occasionally use the concept in their improvisation. I took on the challenge of composing and improvising with 23rd chords on my first CD back in the 1990’s. The CD was called “Blue Eleven” and the the title cut “Blue Eleven” is a 23rd chord composition using an 11 bar blues form in the key of G. I also improvise over the form using 23rd chords. I’ve included the first page of the chart below as well as two audio examples; one from the head and another excerpt from the guitar solo. You can find the complete chart and audio in any of the following books or CDs:

My Music: Application of 12 Tone Techniques to Jazz Composition and Improvisation

Tools for Modern Improvisation This book contains a listing of all 23rd chords for all chord types plus a 62 page étude for each chord type in every key for a total of 744 pages. There is also a PDF showing other possible ways to combine three 4 note chords into 12 tone aggregates.

Bruce Arnold Composition Compilation 2nd Edition

You will notice how each of the three seventh chords are used over the I IV and V chord of this Blues. Just for clarity I thought of the last three bars of Blue Eleven as a V chord, only returning to the I chord at the top of the form–in other words the harmony is as follows:

I, I, I, I,
IV, IV,
I, I
V, V, V

1st page of 6 pages “Blue Eleven” Chart:

Blue-Eleven-23rd-chords-composition-by-bruce-arnold-for-muse-eek-publishing

Here is the Melody from Blue Eleven with Ratzo B. Harris on Bass and Tony Moreno on Drums

Here are the two choruses from the guitar solo from Blue Eleven

23rd Chords Were a Great Influence

The 23rd chord concept, as well as the hexatonic scales that McCoy Tyner used in his soloing and composing techniques i.e. “Passion Dance” greatly influenced all the compositions on my nine solo recordings, which are listed below:

Blue Eleven
A Few Dozen
Give ’em Some
Blue Lotus
Multiplicity
Art of the Blues
Heavy Mental
Lavadura
Vanishing Point

These ideas also lead me to publish many books about Pitch Class Set Improvisation. Those books are listed below. Please check Muse-eek Publishing Company for the latest on this ever growing list:

Sonic Resource Guide
Ultimate Arpeggio
Ultimate 3 Note Chord Lexicon
Trichord Sweep Pairs
013 Hexatonic Études
Symmetrical Trichord Pairs
Tertial Octatonics
Tertial Intervallics
Time Transformation
Set Theory for Improvisation Ensemble Method 027 016
Set Theory for Improvisation Ensemble Method 027 027
Many “ChopBusters” books

Check out other Bruce Arnold blog entries on brucearnold.com here

Please check out Bruce Arnold other blogs at Muse Eek Publishing Company

Bruce Arnold Music Education Genealogy Chart

You might enjoy checking out the “Music Education Genealogy Chart” located on my artist’s site. You will clearly see the historic progression of pedagogy that is the basis for Muse Eek Publishing Products. Great musicians throughout history have been studying the ideas presented by Muse-eek.com which derives its content from a a lineage that stretches back to Scarlatti!

Bruce-Arnold-Guitar-Flutterby-9 23rd Chords

Minor Key Ear Training

Minor Key Ear Training

Guitarist Bruce Arnold BLOG Logo, Minor Key Ear Training

Fixing Minor Key Ear Training Problems

Minor Key Ear Training is a subject that comes up often and this blog post is dedicated to some of the 1st steps you can take to fix this problem.
 
It’s true that a lot of students have problems with minor keys. They either have a lot of problems hearing One Note Ear Training in a minor key or they always hear a minor chord as a relative minor.  Example: when an A minor 7 is played, they hear “C” as the root.  I find this most often with musicians who have a strong classical background, and also with students that don’t have a lot of experience listening to or playing contemporary styles such as Jazz, Blues or Rock.
 
Fixing this issue can be difficult, and the best thing is to stay in contact with me as I recommend different exercises and courses to fix this problem.  Almost always, a student needs more experience hearing and playing along with minor key progressions to improve their aural recognition skills.
 

Chord-Workbook-for-Guitar-Volume-One-by-Bruce-Arnold-for-Muse-Eek-Publishing-Minor Key Ear Training

 
For this I recommend the Chord Workbook for Guitar Volume One, because it comes with audio files so you can hear the chord progressions at 3 different tempos.  The book includes both chord charts and exact chord voicings for each progression.
 
 
 

Common Minor Key Ear Training Assignments

Here are some of the common assignments I give students with these minor chord problems:
 
 

1.  First some background information.  Go to page 137 and look up the chords for the C minor blues progression.

C-Minor-Blues-from-Chord-Workbook-Volume-One-by-Bruce-Arnold-Minor Key Ear Training

Notice that many of these voicings are “drop 2” i.e. Drop 2 chords (or drop 2 voicings) and that means taking a closed-position (closed position means that it is stacked up 1,3,5,7 etc.._) chord and dropping the second-highest note down an octave in order to create an open-position chord.  See if you can play these chords on a piano or guitar or arpeggiate the chords.  Have a MetroDrone going in the background when you play these chords.

 
2.  Listen to the MP3s that come with the Chord Workbook for Guitar Volume One so you can hear how these voicings sound and hear the minor key center.
 
3.  Play along with these MP3s that come with the Chord Workbook for Guitar Volume One,in the following ways:

a.  Arpeggiate the chords on your instrument but also sing these chord voicings using the notes as seen below or on page 137 of Chord Workbook for Guitar Volume One,.  In some places you many need to leave out the lowest note because of the range of your instrument or voice.

C-Minor-Blues-from-Chord-Workbook-Volume-One-by-Bruce-Arnold-Minor Key Ear Training

b. Use solfeggio to sing or play guide tones (3rd of one chord to the 7th of the next chord or vise versa.)  Other chord tones are also used.  Most of the time you are trying to get a descending line (A much deeper understanding comes from the Guide Tones course) as a way to understand the voice leading from a linear perspective.  For instance, C Major Blues page 131.  One guide tone line would be:

 
C-7 = Bb or Tay
F-7 = Ab or Lay
C-7 = G or So
C-7 = G or So
F-7 = F or Fa
F-7 = Eb or May
Ab7#11 = D or Re
G7b13= D or Re
C-7= C or Do
G7#9= B or Ti
 
 
These guide tones can be used to improvise, so use the structure above as a template and then mess around with adding a few notes here and there both as a technique on your instrument as well as for your voice.  Start with 1/2 notes and whole notes then start changing the rhythm.
 
I would take one or two progressions a week.  Some will be harder, like the Ab Minor Blues and you may spend a week just on that progression.  I’d spend about 15 minutes writing out a guide tone line and playing it, then improvising around it each day.  I’d also read through the chord voicings and arpeggiate the chords, which will probably take a minute or two.
 
4.  Also get the Direct Application CD Volume Two Dorian and listen twice a day for 5 minutes to the One Note Ear Training with the Dorian key centers.
 
6.  Get Ear Training One Note with Degrees and listen to the Minor One Note Ear Training MP3s
Twice a day for 5 minutes
 
This is a lot of stuff but you need to seriously address your Minor Key Ear Training Skills.  It can take about 6 months to totally change your way of hearing, but keep in touch and let me know your progress; that will help me help you

Check out other Bruce Arnold blog entries on brucearnold.com here

Please check out Bruce Arnold other blogs at Muse Eek Publishing Company

Bruce Arnold Music Education Genealogy Chart

You might enjoy checking out the “Music Education Genealogy Chart” located on my artist’s site. You will clearly see the historic progression of pedagogy that is the basis for Muse Eek Publishing Products. Great musicians throughout history have been studying the ideas presented by Muse-eek.com which derives its content from a a lineage that stretches back to Scarlatti!

Bruce-Arnold-Guitar-Flutterby-10 Minor Key Ear Training

Chord Reharmonization Overview

Chord Reharmonization Overview
Guitarist Bruce Arnold BLOG Logo Chord Reharmonization Overview

This is a followup to the Modern Reharmonization blog post about using the chord reharmonization charts.  Hang on to your seat this gets a bit deep 🙂   The first thing to realize is that a chord reharmonization chart like the one you see below is great for seeing other places to apply a C Major Pentatonic Scale, or to harmonize one of the notes of the scale with the listed chords.  Keep in mind that is only one of many ways to reharmonize.  

Think of the above chart as reharmonization based on chord tones and tensions.  You can learn to use this concept by working with the Chord Workbook for Guitar Volume Two or the New York Guitar Method Volume Two and Ensemble Book Combination  These two books give you examples of chord progressions that use reharmonization with chord tones and available tensions.   You don’t need to be a guitarist to use these books to study this type of chord reharmonization.   Next we have harmonic reharmonization.  This is where you use the 3 ways that a dominant chord can resolve, plus a few other concepts to reharmonize a chord progression.  Chord Workbook for Guitar Volume OneNew York Guitar Method Volume One and Ensemble Book show you 36 chord progressions and the voicings to use to make them sound great.  You will also find that the Harmonic Analysis course will teach you how to see these harmonic reharmonization situations quickly, which is important if you are going to reharmonize on the spot, which is what most great guitarists and pianists do.  Also any great improvisor is constantly reharmonizing through their melodies as they play so they know these concepts thoroughly  too.   There is one more concept that I don’t have a book for — hard to believe 🙂 — and that is single note reharmonization where you take a note like “G” and find every chord that could contain a “G.”  Below is a list of 7th chords that contain a “G” or to which a “G” could be added to their structure.  The list would obviously be larger if we looked at every chord in every key with all possible tensions added:  

C:  -7, 6, 7, 7sus4, 7#11, Major7, -Major7, -6, 7b13, Major7#11

Db:  7b5, 6, 7, 7#5, 7#11, -7b5, Major7, -Major7, 7b13, Major7#5, Major7#11, °7

D:  -7, 7sus4, -7b5, -Major7, -6, °7

Eb:  7b5, 6, 7, 7sus4, 7#5, 7#11, Major7, 7b13, Major7#5, Major7#11

E:  -7, 7b5, 7, 7sus4, 7#5, 7#11, -7b5, -Major7, -6, 7b13, °7

F:  -7, 7b5, 6, 7, 7sus4, 7#5, 7#11, -7b5, Major7, -Major7, -6, 7b13, Major7#5, Major7#11, °7

Gb:  7b5, 7, 7sus4, 7#5, 7#11, 7b13

G:  -7, 7b5, 6, 7, 7sus4, 7#5, 7#11, -7b5, Major7, -Major7, -6, 7b13, Major7#5, Major7#11, °7

Ab:  6, Major7, -Major7, Major7#5, Major7#11, °7

A:  -7, 7b5, 7, 7sus4, 7#5, 7#11, -7b5, -6, 7b13

Bb:  -7, 7b5, 6, 7, 7sus4, 7#11, Major7, -Major7, -6, Major7#5, Major7#11, °7

B:  7b5, 7, 7sus4, 7#5, 7#11, -7b5, 7b13, Major7#5, °7   There are of of course other non-traditional chord structures that could contain a “G.” “The Sonic Resource Guide” is a good source for finding these chords.   Then we have pitch class set reharmonization which is simply changing the notes you use to form a non-traditional chord and then using the concepts presented above.  “Sonic Resource Guide” and the Ultimate Three Note Lexicon books are great for seeing and using this concept.  The Essential Scales book looks at an important subset of these chords based on 22 scales.   So you can see that the world of chord reharmonization is BIG.  Add to this the two crucial considerations of voicing chords and voice leading when working with any of the concepts presented above; that is why the following books are so important:   Chord Workbook for Guitar Volume One Chord Workbook for Guitar Volume Two New York Guitar Method Series   These books show you how to voice these structures and how to use them in chord progressions to bring out their beauty.  I should also mention that you can apply any of these chord concepts to pitch class sets and much of that info and examples are found in the  Ultimate Three Note Chord Lexicon books.   Just for clarity: you could also have chords formed from counterpoint, constant structure, modal interchange, approach chords and intervallic structures.  There are passing references to this in some of my books but a yet I have not put out a complete method. (But stay tuned!)  

Check out other Bruce Arnold blog entries on brucearnold.com here

Please check out Bruce Arnold other blogs at Muse Eek Publishing Company

Bruce Arnold Music Education Genealogy Chart

You might enjoy checking out the “Music Education Genealogy Chart” located on my artist’s site. You will clearly see the historic progression of pedagogy that is the basis for Muse Eek Publishing Products. Great musicians throughout history have been studying the ideas presented by Muse-eek.com which derives its content from a a lineage that stretches back to Scarlatti!

Bruce-Arnold-Guitar-Flutterby-13 Chord Reharmonization

Modern Reharmonization

Modern Reharmonization

Guitarist Bruce Arnold BLOG Logo, Modern Rehamonization

Tools for Modern Reharmonization

Modern Reharmonization can be a somewhat complicated subject and it can be approached from many angles. In this blog post I want to show how some of the charts found in my books can be used to reharmonize a song, but also how this information can be used to get more use out of the things your already know or learn in the future.

List of Bruce Arnold Books Containing Reharmonization Charts

The books below contain the reharmonization charts discussed in this blog post:

“Sonic Resource Guide” has a complete listing of every possible scale and its application to every chord type.

“Essential Scales” shows you how to apply 22 of the most used scales to different chords in 12 keys.

“Scale Analysis” shows you which scales work within a complex chord progression, the likelihood that they will show up and how to hear each scale so that you can develop your ear training skills.

“Ultimate Arpeggio” takes a look at every three note chord combination. (There are only 12 possible three note chords) It then shows you the application of every three note chord through charts and also real musical examples via études.

“Ultimate Three Note Chord Lexicon” takes an in depth look at each of the twelve three note combinations with études. It also includes a list of all possible chords and which of those chords can be easily played on the guitar.

“52 Sweep Patterns for Guitar” gives you a list of chords in every key that these sweeps can be played over.

“Trichord Sweep Pairs” shows you which chords in every key will sound good with each three note combination.

“Tertial Octatonics” shows you how you can combine two “7th chords’ into an octatonic scale and every chord that these combinations work over.

Modern Reharmonization Chart

Below is an example from the “Essential Scales” book showing how you can apply a Major Pentatonic in all keys:

Essential-Scales-Modern Reharmonization-Pentatonic-Scale-Usage-All-Keys-by Bruce Arnold for Muse Eek Publishing Company

Please note that a “mel” written after a chord means there is an avoid note, so the scale can only be used melodically. If there is a “harm” after the chord name this means that the complete scale could be used as harmony and as melody. It that doesn’t make sense to you or you just plain don’t understand it, you need to brush up on your music theory and how chords and scales relate to each other. To gain insight and ability in this area I would recommend the following books:

How the Chart Works

1. On the left side you see which degree each note of a C Major Pentatonic would be in every key:

Essential-Scales-Modern Reharmonization-Pentatonic-Scale-Usage-All-Keys-by Bruce Arnold for Muse Eek Publishing Company

2. On the right side of the chart you can see which chord(s) work with the notes of the C Major Pentatonic. Remember the notes on the left are transposed so you can see their relationship in each key. So you can see for instance that a C Major Pentatonic works over a “Gb7” chord:

Essential-Scales-Modern Reharmonization-Pentatonic-Scale-Usage-All-Keys-by Bruce Arnold for Muse Eek Publishing Company

Let’s look deeper into why you can play a C Major Pentatonic over a “Gb7” chord. Playing a C Pentatonic scale over a “Gb7” chord works because each of the notes of the C Major Pentatonic scale are either chord tones or available tensions. The reason this works is because all of the notes of C Major Pentatonic are either chord tones or available tensions on a Gb7 chord. For instance: “C” = flat 5 in “Gb” is an available tension on a “7” chord, “D” = flat 6 in “Gb” is an available tension on a “7” chord, “E” = flat 7 in “Gb” is a chord tone on a “7” chord, “G” = flat 2 in “Gb” is an available tension on a “7” chord, and finally A = flat 3 in Gb is also an available tension on a “7” chord. So all of the notes of C Major Pentatonic are either chord tones or available tensions.

Some More Ways to Use the Chart

You could also take just one note of the C Major Pentatonic Scale and see which chords you could use over that note. For instance if we took the note “G” from the C Major Pentatonic you can see outlined below:

Essential-Scales-Modern Reharmonization-Pentatonic-Scale-Usage-All-Keys-by Bruce Arnold for Muse Eek Publishing Company

You can see what “G” would be in every key. You could then look to the right and pick a chord to use. For instance if we decided that we wanted to use the “G” note with some kind of “A” chord we go down to the A row and see that “G” is the “b7” in “A,” and then go to the right and choose a chord. In this case I chose “A7sus4.”

Essential-Scales-Modern Reharmonization-Pentatonic-Scale-Usage-All-Keys-by Bruce Arnold for Muse Eek Publishing Company

Extremely Useful Charts for Modern Reharmonization

So you can see that these Modern Rehamonization charts are very useful, and provide a quick way to apply scales to other chords or to find chords that work with a specific note. There are other ways to great modern reharmonizations which I discuss in Chord Reharmonization Overview post.

Check out other Bruce Arnold blog entries on brucearnold.com here

Please check out Bruce Arnold other blogs at Muse Eek Publishing Company

Bruce Arnold Music Education Genealogy Chart

You might enjoy checking out the “Music Education Genealogy Chart” located on my artist’s site. You will clearly see the historic progression of pedagogy that is the basis for Muse Eek Publishing Products. Great musicians throughout history have been studying the ideas presented by Muse-eek.com which derives its content from a a lineage that stretches back to Scarlatti!

Bruce-Arnold-Guitar-Flutterby-16 Modern Reharmonization

Tools for Modern Improvisation

Modern Improvisation

Guitarist Bruce Arnold BLOG Logo, Tools for Modern Improvisation

Tools for Modern Improvisation

Modern Improvisation is a concept that I’ve investigated quite a bit over the last 25 years. I first started learning about this when I attended the Berklee College of Music, but I was most influenced by my private teachers, including but not limited to Mick Goodrick, Jerry Bergonzi and Charlie Banacos. Many of the topics I cover in my books are derived from what Charlie Banacos taught. If you would like to see the music genealogy of Charlie Banacos and some of his students check out Bruce Arnold”s Music Education Genealogy Chart.

Working Past Banacos Studies

Charlie certainly pointed me in the right direction and you can definitely see his influence on how I put courses together. But many of the books I mention here are not specifically what Charlie taught me, but rather, further explorations of what he had me work on throughout my 5 years of studying with him. I learned many things from all these aforementioned teachers, but in this post I’ll limit our discussion to theories of contemporary improvisation that I’ve formulated. The list is always growing, so you should check back periodically to muse-eek.com for updates.

Pitch Class Set Improvisation

The material herein either teaches a technique, explains a theory, gives exercises to master an improvisational concept, or directs you to reference books. Many of these books cover the theory of what I call “Pitch Class Set Improvisation,” a concept of applying pitch class set theory to jazz improvisation. Charlie Banacos never taught pitch class set theory though I did study his 23rd chord concept which is a way to organize three 7th chords in a 12 tone aggregate. You can hear an example of writing and soloing with 23rd chords by listening to the composition “Blue Eleven” from my recording of the same name. You can find a complete list of these 23rd chords in the book Tools for Modern Improvisation. Charlie also had me singing through Arnold Schoenberg’s “Funf Piano Pieces.” which I ultimately ended up recording with the group “Spooky Actions.” You can see a list of that group’s recordings here.

Pitch Class Set Theory and Improvisation

As I have said, most of the courses listed here are certainly influenced by Charlie Banacos’ techings. But to my knowledge Charlie never dealt with pitch class sets. I never heard him mention the concept. My personal opinion is that pitch class set theory is a great way to organize sound and many structures that are used in pitch class set theory provide an array of improvisational ideas and options. Therefore I call these concepts “Pitch Class Set Improvisation.” If you are new to pitch class set improvisation I suggest getting the Sonic Resource Guide. I also give examples of how “Pitch Class Set Improvisation” has been used in the classical recording I’ve done in Improvising on Classical Masterpieces.

Real Use is the Best Practice

One thing I want to stress is that the theories in these books are not just abstractions to me. I’ve used them extensively in my recordings, as compositional and improvisational tools. They are very flexible and can also be used across multiple idioms. Follow these links to a CD that uses “Pitch Class Set Improvisation” in a Jazz, Rock, Metal, Country, Free Improvisation, World Music and Classical setting. I believe that in order to really understand an improvisational concept you need to write and improvise within it. Many of these books were written as a method that I developed to widen my own skills with “Pitch Class Set Improvisation.” Therefore you may also find them useful if you find the sounds created by these concepts intriguing, and want to work with them..

Books of Modern Improvisation

I’ve written many books on “Pitch Class Set Improvisation.” Here are a few example pages from these books and some explanation on how you might use this material.

Sonic Resource Guide

1. Sonic Resource Guide. This book contains the combination of pitch class theory and jazz improvisation that is the basis of “Pitch Class Set Improvisation” theory. Sonic Resource Guide. really explains the exact method by which both can be combined. It is a must own if you want to fully understand the principles I’m using to make my “Pitch Class Set Improvisation.” The book also has a lot of information on the application of pitch class sets. In general it shows what chords would work (in all keys) over all 220 possible scales. It also contains many other lists. Here are a couple that I use a lot:

  • All possible Hexatonic scales that can be derived from six and seven note scales
  • A list to input any scale and find its prime form
  • Lists of 12 tone aggregates that can be formed from the 12 three note pitch class sets.
  • All Hexatonic scales broken down into two trichords.
  • A list of Unique 3 and 4 note subsets for each scale
  • A list of unique Dyad Triples for many scales
Sonic-Resource-Guide-example-page-pitch-class-set-123678-tools-for-modern-improvisation

Below is an example page from the “Sonic Resource Guide.”

Tons of Useful Information

The excerpt above from the Sonic Resource Guide gives you:

  • The scale in note names, its prime form and the degrees
  • A list of every chord that will work over this scale in every key.
  • The scale that would be formed by the 6 notes you are not using. i.e. the Symmetric Difference.
  • A list of all 3 note subsets in prime form.
  • A list of all 4 note subsets in prime form.
  • A list of all the ways to make this scale into 3 two note groups. A great improvisation method.
  • A list of the ways in which you can make hexatonic groupings via two three note groups. This is another great improvisation method.

You can see that just one page of the Sonic Resource Guide can give you great detail on every scale and show you not only how to use it over chords, but additional information that you can use in various improvisational settings.
By the way, Charlie would have called hexatonic scales broken into two trichords “Non-Tertial Double Mambos.” The idea of going back and forth between two three note groups is “Double Mambos.” I discuss this in the Tools for Modern Improvisation or My Music books. My Music covers more of my older music while Tools for Modern Improvisation includes newer concepts and composition.

Ultimate Arpeggio

2. A related book about trichords is Ultimate Arpeggio.  It’s a look at all possible three note groupings of which there are 12 based on pitch class theory (see Sonic Resource Guide). It also covers the method of using any of the 3 note groups as melodies to outline chords. You are then given études to develop the idea of superimposing these 3 note groups over common chord progressions. All Études have MP3s at three different tempos to help you learn. Below is a couple of excerpts from this book. First we have the 012 pitch class set. This page includes the chords this scale can be played over. It also includes the 18 possible ways you can play this 3 note arpeggio.

012-pitch-class-set-Ultimate-Arpeggio-by-Bruce-Arnold-Pitch-Class-Set-Improvisation-Tools-for-Modern-Improvisation.

Ultimate Arpeggio includes Études for all 12 three note combinations. These Études take the pitch class set and apply it to common chord progressions in all keys. MP3s are included so that you can hear the examples, but also gradually increase the tempo as you practice the exercise.

012-pitch-class-set-Etude-Ultimate-Arpeggio-by-Bruce-Arnold-Pitch-Class-Set-Improvisation-Tools-for-Modern-Improvisation.

ChopBuster

3. Most of the ChopsBuster books cover different applications of 3 and 4 note groups to various situations. Most are very long exercises covering some possible application of a particular concept in all permutations or keys or both. There are over 18 ChopBuster books that deal with some aspect of “Pitch Class Set improvisation.” Below is an example from ChopBuster: Two Trichord Ascending and Descending Scales. This course shows you some awesome ways to play the 0,1,2,6,7,8 pitch class set. This is the same pitch class set we showed earlier from the “Sonic Resource Guide.” Notice that you get these melodic lines in all keys and the chords that this line works over are also included. If you want to hear this 0,1,2,6,7,8 pitch class set in a real musical setting check out the video at the top of the page for the Trichord Sweeps Pairs Course.

ChopBusters-Two-Trichord-Ascending-and-Descending-Scales-improve-chops-all-instruments-Pitch-Class-Set-Improvisation-Tools-for-modern-improvisation

Ultimate Three Note Chord Lexicon

4. Ultimate Three Note Chord Lexicon looks at each of the 12 three note groups and gives you all the chords derived from these three note groups as well as études and more information. It provides guitar voicings for chords, too. It’s an extensive project and as of this writing I’ve only finished 012, 013 and 014.

Here are a couple of examples for the 012 book. All 012 voicings are included for all instrumentalists, but chord voicings that work on the guitar are also provided. Here is an excerpt from the 012 chord voicings for guitar:

excerpt-012-ultimate-3-note-chord-lexicon-pitch-class-set-improvisation-tools-for-modern-improvisation-by-bruce-arnold-72dpi

Voice leading through common chord progressions is covered in all keys. Here is an example:

012-ultimate-3-note-chord-lexicon-etude-voice-leading-pitch-class-set-improvisation-tools-for-modern-improvisation-by-bruce-arnold-72dpi

Midifiles and MP3s at multiple tempos are includes as are further Études in different styles. These are some really hip sounding Études, and are highly recommended; I think you’ll get a kick out of them.

013 Hexatonic Études

5. 013 Hexatonic Études is études using 013 pitch class set over dominant chords. From working with these études you can really hear the application of 013 over dominant chords. From there you should extrapolate that this idea would work on any of the 12 three note groups. These études are great for sight singing, ear training, sight reading and generally gets the sound of 013 into your playing. Midifiles and MP3s at multiple tempos are included. Again highly recommended. Here is an example:

013-hexatonic-etudes-etude-voice-leading-pitch-class-set-improvisation-tools-for-modern-improvisation-by-bruce-arnold-72dpi

You can hear more examples on the 013 Hexatonic Études page.

Symmetrical Trichord Pairs and Trichord Sweep Pairs

6. Two books Symmetrical Trichord Pairs and Trichord Sweep Pairs look at the combination of two three note groups for all 12 possible 3 note combinations. IMHO these are super hip melodies that can be played over various chords. The “Pairs” are organized by chord type i.e. Major, Minor, Dominant etc… Below is an example from the Symmetrical Trichord Pairs course. It shows how to combine two 013 trichords to fit over a major 7 chord.

013-Trichord-Pairs-for-Symmetrical-Trichord-Pairs-course-Pitch-Class-Set-Improvisation-Tools-for-Modern-Improvisation-by-Bruce-Arnold

The Trichord Sweep Pairs Course looks at using the same idea of symmetrical trichord pairs but in an arpeggio. This course gives you 2440 pages of sweep patterns, including guitar diagrams for many of the sweeps. The page below shows you another section of the course that just gives notes for sweeps but also includes fingerings for easy to play sweeps.

013-Trichord-Sweep-Pairs-from-Trichord-Sweep-Pairs-Course-Pitch-Class-Set-Improvisation-Tools-for-modern-improvsation-by-Bruce-Arnold72DPI

You can hear and see video demonstrations of both the Symmetrical Trichord Pairs and Trichord Sweep Pairs on the Trichord Sweep Pairs webpage.

Time Transformation

Time Transformation is a combination of 027 027 études with superimpositions of various meters over other meters. It’s a must own in my opinion because it covers pitch class set improvisation AND time superimposition within one course. This book gives you études in 3/4, 4/4, 5/4, 6/4 and 7/4 where 027 027 is used in and outside the key center. You can also superimpose these études over the MP3 grooves that come with the course. Below is an example from the 3/4 Étude in E minor. Notice how the 027’s switch in and out of the key center. This creates a very interesting modern improvisational sound.

027-027-etude-in-34-time-from-Time-Transformation-Course-Pitch-Class-Set-Improvisation-Tools-for-Modern-Improvisation-by-Bruce-Arnold72DPI

By the way Set Theory for Improvisation 027 027 contains a subset of Time Transformation so only buy that book if you just want to dabble in 027 027 concept with some études but no time superimposition. Set Theory for Improvisation 027 016 is a great book because it gives you some études taking 027 016 in and out of the key center. Great melodic lines!

Tertial Octatonics

8. Charlie sometimes talked about using two 7th chords to form an Octatonic scale. Tertial Octatonics looks at all possible combinations of two 7th chords to form an Octatonic scale. The Course contains lists of which Tetrads (4 note group) can be combined with another Tetrad to form an Octatonic Scale. This is a very hip sound and is highly recommended: Here is an example of the two tetrad combinations from the Tertial OctatonicsCourse:

Tertial-Octatonic-Tetrad-Combinations-Pitch-Class-Set-Improvisation-Tools-for-Modern-improvisation-by-Bruce-Arnold72DPI

There are étude/permutation exercises to help you apply and hear the sound of each Two Tetrad combination. Again these are great melodic lines to create a modern sound in your improvisation and composition.

Tertial-Octatonic-Tetrad-Exercise-Pitch-Class-Set-Improvisation-Tools-for-Modern-improvisation-by-Bruce-Arnold72DPI

Related to this concept is Tertial Intervallics which looks at combining “Charlie’s 13 chord types.” This course gets more into the pure use of intervals as a method of improvisation. Charlie often would use previous courses of study to combine into a new sound. Tertial Intervallics is one way to apply previously learned 7th chords into modern melodic lines. Charlie would sometimes refer to these concepts where you take garden variety scales, chords, approach note figures and apply them in a different way as “Mushrooms.” Because playing these lines “Mushrooms your Playing.” In other words by applying things you know already in a different way your musical ability “grows like a mushroom” i.e. expands. Below is an example from the Tertial Intervallics Course:

Tertial-Intervallics-Course-Example-Pitch-Class-Set-Improvisation-Tools-for-Modern-Improvisation-by-Bruce-Arnold72DPI

Midifiles and MP3 recordings of these Étude/Exercises are included with the Tertial Intervallics Course.

Final Note

One final note: there are other courses such as Harmonic Analysis, Scale Analysis, Tools for Music Mastery One and Essential Scales that give you the background of the way Charlie saw harmony, scales, and scales with approach notes. Tools for Music Mastery Two contains the application of Charlie’s Rhythm Exercises to études. It’s also a great book for ear training.

This gives you an overview of the courses, and some information to show you how each book fits into the realm of modern improvisation. As always, I look forward to your questions.

Check out other Bruce Arnold blog entries on brucearnold.com here

Please check out Bruce Arnold other blogs at Muse Eek Publishing Company

I also recommend checking out my duo with Judi Silvano called Sonic Twist®. There is a lot of great examples of me using pitch class sets.

Bruce Arnold Music Education Genealogy Chart

You might enjoy checking out the “Music Education Genealogy Chart” located on my artist’s site. You will clearly see the historic progression of pedagogy that is the basis for Muse Eek Publishing Products. Great musicians throughout history have been studying the ideas presented by Muse-eek.com which derives its content from a a lineage that stretches back to Scarlatti!

Bruce-Arnold-Guitar-Flutterby-17 Modern Improvisation

Sight Reading Recommendation

Sight Reading Recommendation

Guitarist Bruce Arnold BLOG Logo, sight reading recommendation

Sight Reading Recommendation

I get many musicians who contact me about how to approach sight reading music. For many musicians it’s more like “fright reading” that sight reading. I’ve taught at a lot at Universities such as Princeton University and Berklee College of Music. In most cases I’ve found that students ability to read is not up to a professional and many times they have certain issues and weaknesses that I will discuss below.  I hope these Sight Reading Recommendations help you master the art of sight reading music.

Reading Different Manuscripts

The first sight reading recommendation is to read different manuscripts. You need to train your eye to be comfortable with many styles of penmanship and music fonts, as you never know what will be thrown at you unexpectedly (see #10). Along with the many books I’ve written for Muse Eek Publishing Company I also place a lot of public domain classical music in Muse-eek.com’s “Member’s Area” which is free to join. By combining targeted sight reading music books that I’ve created and the many engravings of classical music a student gets exposed to many style of presenting music within a manuscript.

Feel Time Not Count Time

The second sight reading recommendation is to Learn to FEEL time and not count time. I usually get into this with students that have read for a while. That said, this is a crucial step in taking yourself to next level of rhythmic understanding. Understanding the ideas presented here will greatly benefit your ability to sight read music, have a great feel when you play and strengthen your foundation. One benefit of understand the idea of “long line rhythm” is an ability to superimpose rhythms and feels when improvising. I discuss this a lot in the Big Metronome. Also the use of the MetroDrone is not only super helpful with these issues, but working with it also helps with your ear training at the same time as you are sight reading.

The next 5 points are dealt with in New York Guitar Method Ensemble Book One which goes into more depth on the subject and has midi files and MP3s for some exercises which will really help you develop these concepts.

Beat Reading

The third sight reading recommendation is to understand your eye movement when reading music and how that directly affected by its ability to move ahead of the music. You can learn to take in information much faster than most people, and read more accurately at the same time, if you can master the technique of what I call “beat reading,” where you read only what is on certain beats of the measure. This will make a huge difference in your speed and ability. This is “beat reading” and it is your secret weapon to improve your sight reading in an incredibly short period of time.

Different Feels

The fourth sight reading recommendation is understanding different “feels” in music.  When of the main “feel” considerations is understanding Straight 8ths vs. Swing 8th. As many of you know there are two major ways to feel eighth or even sixteenth notes: where you play them straight (like in rock music) or with a swing feel (found in blues and jazz). In the latter, you are playing eighth notes something close to beat one and the 3rd note of a triplet. There is much more to this idea of feel, especially when we talk about a swing feel, but I’m just touching on key points.

Learning Rhythmic Levels

The fifth sight reading recommendation is learning the different ways of counting through a piece of music. Depending on the style, tempo and other considerations you may want to count the music with quarters, halves, whole notes etc…  There is no one source to learn what is appropriate it what situation but I will say that working through the Time Studies Books will help you realize all the metric levels that are involved when become a great sight reader.  Knowing how to count based on the metric level or odd time signature situation can be crucial to your success.  I would start with the Rhythm Primer which gives you a lot of suggestions on how to count through a piece of music.

Understanding Rhythm Notation

The sixth sight reading recommendation is understanding rhythm notation. There are two key factors with this. One, for rhythm section players is understanding how to read rhythmic notation along with chords. Second is being able to read on multiple rhythm levels. There are four common rhythmic levels in music. Think of it like this: you could have your basic beat be a whole, half, quarter or eighth note. Fast jazz is written at the whole or half note level, jazz is written at the quarter note level ( but felt at the half note level), Really slow music in any style is written at the eighth note level. The New York Guitar Method Volume One along with the whole Rhythm Series of Books is all about rhythmic levels so it’s an excellent source for mastering each one. This Rhythm Series has now been expanded to twelve volumes covering common rhythms as well as quintuplets, sextuplets and septuplets as well as combinations of these odd groupings.

Mix it Up

The seventh sight reading recommendation is the realization that when you work on reading it’s best to use a bunch of different types of sight reading materials rather than just one book by one composer. Commonly when students decide to learn to read they grab one of Bach’s masterpieces. While it’s great music you should be using more that one book. Bach’s music isn’t going to help you read that chart in a funk band; it’s just not rhythmic in the same way. So mix it up, get written music in as many different kinds of styles as you can to prepare yourself for the real world of sight reading.

Be Consistent in Your Practice

The eighth sight reading recommendation is that you need to be consistent in your practice. I did one hour a day of sight reading for 5 years which put me at a super pro level but if you can do 15 minutes a day within a few months you are reading better than most musicians and in a year or two you will be approaching an “OK” pro level.

Sight Reading Improves Your Musicianship.

The ninth sight reading recommendation is an observation that I noticed about myself and my students.  That is that sight reading music improves your musicianship. When you have to address learning rhythm and how to play melodies you get into a host of issues that will help raise your playing, composing and ensemble balance skills. It will help you understand how music is felt and written. It will help you see and solve the problems you might have with speeding up or slowing down as you play. You will be able to understand how to organize music and styles into different notation conventions. It will allow you to get inside a composer’s music to understand their inner workings from a very fundamental place because you are playing, rather than only reading, the music. I could go on, but again these are just a few key points among many.

Sight Reading Pays

The tenth sight reading recommendation is a simple consideration.  You can make money sight reading music. I have many examples like this but this is short and sweet. I got a call 8pm at night when I was living in Boston. The guitarist that was supposed to play with the Boston Symphony Orchestra at Symphony Hall in Boston the next day just had an attack of appendicitis. I walked into symphony hall and started sight reading on the spot from a book that I’d never seen before. Maybe I missed two or three notes throughout the evening but no one seemed to notice. But I made enough money from that one gig to live in Boston for six months. Reading pays, my friend.

These 10 sight reading recommendations are some of the important subjects I talk to students about from the onset of their lessons.  I’m constantly added sight reading titles to the Muse Eek Publishing Company list so please check there for updates.  If you decide to get away from “fright reading” and move towards sight reading get in touch, and I’ll make some recommendations.

Check out other Bruce Arnold blog entries on brucearnold.com here

Please check out Bruce Arnold other blogs at Muse Eek Publishing Company

Bruce Arnold Music Education Genealogy Chart

You might enjoy checking out the “Music Education Genealogy Chart” located on my artist’s site. You will clearly see the historic progression of pedagogy that is the basis for Muse Eek Publishing Products. Great musicians throughout history have been studying the ideas presented by Muse-eek.com which derives its content from a a lineage that stretches back to Scarlatti!

Bruce-Arnold-Guitar-Flutterby-18 sight reading recommendation