Food For thought

Ev­ery month, Justin Sander­coe of justin­gui­ lends GT his in­sight as one of the world’s most suc­cess­ful gui­tar teach­ers. This month: Us­ing pi­ano to ex­pand gui­tar hori­zons - Part 2.

Guitar Techniques - - INTRO - Get more info and links to re­lated lessons on all Justin’s GT ar­ti­cles at www.justin­gui­­mag

some things that seem com­plex on gui­tar are pretty sim­ple when laid out in Front oF you on pi­ano

I’m hop­ing you en­joyed last month’s foray into pi­ano land and that you man­aged to find a lit­tle time to ex­plore the chords, chord pro­gres­sions and songs that we touched on. Of course it was just a sneaky lit­tle look but I hope it might have sparked an in­ter­est in fur­ther study.

This time I’d like to fol­low on and ex­plain some ways that you can use rudi­men­tary pi­ano skills com­bined with ba­sic the­ory con­cepts to ex­pand your gui­tar hori­zons. I had to take pi­ano as a sec­ond study at clas­si­cal con­ser­va­toire, but had no idea how help­ful it would be; it re­ally so­lid­i­fied my un­der­stand­ing of chord and scale re­la­tion­ships and was mas­sively use­ful when try­ing to get my head around modes.

Let’s start this month with play­ing the C Ma­jor scale: sim­ply start by play­ing C (im­me­di­ately left of the group of two black notes) and then play up one note at a time un­til you reach the next C. It should sound like the sol-fah scale: doh, ray, mi, fah, sol, lah, ti, doh. If not, you ei­ther started on the wrong note or your pi­ano needs tun­ing. You can keep go­ing and play­ing fur­ther oc­taves when we start im­pro­vis­ing, but there’s no limit – just stick on those white notes.

The ‘proper’ right-hand fin­ger­ing would be 1-2-3-1-2-3-4-5 with thumb be­ing 1, first 2 and so on (ob­vi­ously dif­fer­ent for gui­tar), but most peo­ple find it eas­ier just to use one fin­ger­ing and when you im­pro­vise it re­ally doesn’t mat­ter which fin­gers you use (does it on gui­tar?) and we don’t want to al­ways play the notes in or­der any­way; so feel free to jump around as much as you like (mu­si­cally speak­ing). Here’s a pi­ano-style key­board with all the keys no­tated with their spe­cific notes. So much sim­pler than gui­tar!

The next step is to re­alise that all six chords C, Dm, Em, F, G, Am (leav­ing out the pesky di­min­ished VII ) use only the white notes and so does the C Ma­jor scale. That is why they fit so well to­gether. So now you see that you can use the same C Ma­jor scale over a pro­gres­sion like C-F-G-Am-Dm-Em - it’s all one mas­sive happy fam­ily jam.

Last les­son we played tri­ads with our right hand and bass notes with the left. To­day we’ll play tri­ads with the left hand and scales with the right. So the triad chords will be played with lit­tle fin­ger on the root now and mid­dle and thumb play­ing the other two notes. Try play­ing the C chord and then ex­per­i­ment with the C Ma­jor scale – just mess around and see what you can do. Then move up to the D Mi­nor chord (each note up a white note step) and carry on with your C Ma­jor ex­per­i­men­ta­tion.

Now move it up again, to play Em with the left hand and the same white notes with the right. No­tice it sounds dif­fer­ent once you’d stayed on that one chord a while and the notes that sound good to stop on, are now dif­fer­ent? If not, lis­ten out for it. The notes that cre­ate the chord are the nice ones to stop on, while the oth­ers cre­ate ten­sion. This is how modes work - play­ing the C Ma­jor scale over the E Mi­nor chord you are play­ing E Phyr­gian mode. Sounds fancy but it wasn’t dif­fi­cult was it? Move that chord up again and keep on ex­per­i­ment­ing; you’re now play­ing F Ly­dian! Im­press your friends by mov­ing the chord up to G but still us­ing the white notes to ex­plore the sound of G Mixoly­dian.

Some things that seem com­plex on gui­tar are pretty sim­ple when laid out in front of you on pi­ano. The next step is to change chords reg­u­larly (try the I-V-VI-IV pro­gres­sion) and aim to keep four chords per bar with your left hand while mak­ing up a solo us­ing the white notes with the right. I do this reg­u­larly in work­shops and many gui­tarists are amazed they can make up a pi­ano solo so eas­ily when they strug­gle on gui­tar. Try it out and it might help you un­lock some ideas

More pi­anis­tic in­ter­ac­tions from Justin

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