Monday, April 22, 2013

Dominant 11 vs. 9sus4 Chords

Dear Chris: downloaded your book today and I'm really enjoying it. The way you explain where the altered chords come from scale wise, I feel is really going to open a lot of doors for me. So thanks.

Q: I've found your explanation of sus4 chords and 11 chords quite new. I got stuck with the idea in Mark Levine's books. I've been having to read a lot of Top 40, pop and rock in a cruise band and I'm finding many 11 chords which (I'm pretty certain) are looking for a F/G voicing. I'm gleamed from this that its all context based. The wikipedia article says similar things to your book...

Tuesday, February 12, 2013


Q: I just went over your minor pentatonic lesson, and never have I seen anyone explain chord/scale theory in such a straight forward no BS manner. I am an advanced intermediate level guitarist, with big expectations. I have a day gig and a family and want to know how to get the most out of the little time I have to practice everyday. Can you give me some pointers?

A: Expectations should be big my friend. Good for you. I talk a bunch about practice routines in this lesson on my site and in THE INFINITE GUITAR. It's hard to give specific advice without listening to you play and getting a handle on who you want to become, in other words, your vision. I can tell you though, this vision is almost everything. 

Monday, February 4, 2013

Finding The Right Chord

Q: One of my biggest songwriting problems is when I have a song in my head, and I'm figuring it out on guitar, and I tend to get a few chords into it and inevitably, it seems, there is an "elusive" chord that I can hear in my head but just can't seem to work out on the fretboard. Do you ever have this problem, and what do you do/how do you find it?

A: Theory will help you immensely in these situations. As I describe in chapter 18 of THE INFINITE GUITAR, composition is a matter of finding a chord for your melody note. There are basically two ways to do this (at least for me). The first is working with diatonic harmony. When we work with diatonic harmony, we basically are working within the chords in one key (sometimes using secondary dominant or borrowed chords). If you aren't getting this, start over here >>. If you understand intervals and chords this is actually pretty easy. Let's say you are writing in the key of C. The chords in the key of C are: C - Dmin - Emin - F - G - Amin - Bdim.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Amps and Other Things

Q: I know you love Marshalls, and I am looking at building a JTM45 head from parts. There is so much to love about Marshalls BUT they are SO loud - and that's the 45, forget the 50s and 100 super leads. What head and cabs do you use, and how do you tame them for say recording? Do you use a hotplate or something? And how do you find the lack of reverb? (I notice you mostly seem to run some delay though).

A: Regarding Marshalls, I definitely like the 100 watts the best. The best thing about Marshalls is that they are easy to rent for a gig, meaning I don’t have to cart my own, I can just rent one and the production company will have it on stage for me when I get there. 

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Playing Over Dominant Chords

Q: Like your style.  I need some review of scales to play with regards to how the Dominant Seventh Chord is resolving...functioning as a V chord or just a secondary Dominant (which I would play Mixo or Lydian b7).  If it is resolving to minor I'd play harmonic minor of the letter name of the chord it's going too.

A: here is the basic overview of the dominant scales. Let's take it by how the dominant chord is functioning. When I say functioning, I mean resolving to a I or i chord as in V-I or V-i or G7 - C or G7 - C-7. Non-Functioning means resolving somewhere else or possibly not resolving, as in G7 - F#maj7 or just a static G7 jam. Keep in mind, secondary dominants are for the most part functioning.

Friday, November 2, 2012

More on Minor Blues


Q: I was just watching the video of you doing the minor blues for the Australian movie soundtrack. I have a few questions about it. I can tell it's a minor blues but what is that chord that pops up in the 3rd bar? And what else is going on in the progression. What are some of the things you are plying in the solo? Especially the pentatonic scale things that you are doing. Great song!!

A: Thanks! Glad you like the tune. Your ears do not deceive you my friend, it is pretty much a minor blues with a few twists. The song is for a movie with some underworld type characters so I wanted it to be creepy. That's where that strange chord comes in to play in the 3rd bar. I've always liked tritones (diminished 5th intervals) and that is exactly what I have going on here.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

More on Modes

Q: Great dorian lesson, thanks. But when we see a Dmin7 on a chart while jamming, and thinking whether we should play a pentatonic a mode or whatever, isn't that decision should be strictly related on the KEY of the song? Aren't we risking playing notes completely out of key when we use modes?

A: Great question. It's all about musical context. There are two kinds of harmony and for the lack of better words let's say that one is functional harmony and the other is non-fuctional, modal or maybe static harmony (for lack of better words). When we talk about functional, we are talking about chords that work together inside of a particular key. So a Dmin7 chord inside of a Cmaj7-Fmaj7-Dmin7-G7 progression is functioning as a "ii" chord. As you know the "ii" chord is the dorian chord. If you tried to play one of the other minor modal scales it would sound wrong. You don't even really want to be thinking modes in this case anyways, I mean it's just a C major progression and that's all you really to know or consider. We hear the tonal center of this progression as C major.