My latest in the seasons series. I hope you enjoy Spring even though many of you in the Midwest USA are without power and experiencing temperatures below freezing. We can always hope I guess.

Here is short piece using one of the more common octatonic (eight-tone) scales. This particular octatonic scale is often referred to as the diminished scale. It can be described as a symmetrical scale consisting of alternating whole and half-steps.

The second in a series of seasonal compositions.

A common-tone diminished seventh chord is a full-diminished seventh chord that has a note in common with its chord of resolution. For example as is common in jazz:

My yearly contribution to the Christmas guitar repertory. A new arrangement of God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen that I hope you enjoy.

Hot Cross Buns revised. A short example of reharmonization. I chose the simplest tune I could think of, with a slight variation, and incorporated some of the more common techniques of reharmonizing a melody that would be typically employed by jazz players.

A new piece that I am hoping will be accessible to most players.

What do we mean when we say "Carulli was a good composer but not as good as Sor".

A new arrangement of this simple and beautiful hymn for solo guitar. In standard notation and standard notation with tablature.

An arrangement of "Amazing Grace" that I hope you enjoy and may want to play yourself!

I decided to attempt to repeat the success of "Twinkle Twinkle Jazzy Star" with an arrangement of "Ode to Joy" which most people are familiar with as a tune used by Beethoven in his ninth symphony.

It's been a while since I have done an analysis. A few people have asked about Villa-Lobos Etude No. 1 so I thought I would give it a shot.

I put together a set of three carols for the holidays that I hope you will enjoy!

...listening to some Bill Evans and decided to arrange a couple of things for guitar.

One more Carulli study reharmonized. This one is a bit more difficult but should follow up nicely with the previous two. I used the Andante in A minor from Carulli's method book Méthode Complète Op. 27 as a template.

Here are two simple and well known Carulli studies in G major which I reharmonized in a way similar to the way I reharmonized the previous Sor studies.

I am excited to let you know that my first digital download is now available on CD Baby.

Polyrhythm is the simultaneous combination of contrasting or conflicting rhythms. As guitarists we often encounter these patterns in contemporary composition. As a jazz guitarist, these rhythmic patterns can be used most effectively in soloing and comping, setting up complex rhythmic relationships within the band.

OK, enough analysis. Now let's put theory into practice. Below is a reharmonization of the well known Study No. 2 from Op. 6 by Fernando Sor.

An analysis of Choros No. 1 by Heitor Villa-Lobos is today’s topic. Because of copyright restrictions I am unable to publish the score, but I am able to publish a reduction analysis showing the harmonic functions as well as the voice-leading.

It was suggested to me to work on an analysis of Etude No. 2 from Heitor Villa-Lobos' Twelve Etudes for Guitar by an excellent Chilean guitarist. Because this work is still under copyright I have only included the notes within the first beat of each measure as a guide.

Who would of thought that voice-leading is present in a piece like Study No. 1 from Carcassi's Twenty-Five Melodious and Progressive Studies, Op. 60? After all, isn't it just a bunch of scales and arpeggios?

Analysis of the Allemande from Lute Suite 1, BWV 996 by J.S. Bach was most rewarding. Here is another piece I have played for generations without ever considering it's complexities.

It was suggested to me to look into Sor’s Study No. 16, Op. 31 (Segovia edition No. 8) by my friend and colleague Tony Hyman in South Africa.

Today, in honor of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and the Detroit Auto Show we will look at Etude 11 from the well known Twenty-Five Melodious and Progressive Studies, Op. 60 of Matteo Carcassi.

The solo 'cello suites of J.S. Bach are so well known and often played by guitarists that I thought it would be worthwhile to do an analysis of the Prelude to 'Cello Suite No. 1, BWV 1007.

“How Insensitive” by Antonio Carlos Jobim is an excellent example of how a great composer can generate new and interesting harmonic relationships through voice-leading.

Sor’s well known Study in D major, Op. 35 No. 17 (Estudio 6 in the Segovia edition) is the subject of my continuing series on analyses of popular works for guitar.

The question of how to add movement within static harmony comes up a lot. I thought I would write a practical explanation using the first seventeen bars of the tune “All of Me” as an example.

An arrangement for solo guitar of the beautiful melody "Waltzing Matilda".

I made up a little musical example which I hope will help clarify the often confusing augmented sixth chords and their function.

Below you will find a chart on the most often found and often misunderstood altered chords that we encounter in classical composition.

My project for this summer was to do a harmonic and formal analysis of Vals No. 3 Op. 8 of Agustin Barrios Mangoré.

Quartal harmony or harmonic structures based on the interval of a fourth will give us more material in our never ending quest for new and fresh sounding harmony within the tonal system.

Fernando Sor’s Estudio 22, Op. 35 (Study No. 5 in the Segovia collection) is probably one of the most loved and widely performed of all the Sor studies, and he wrote a lot of them.

The Allegro, BWV 998 by J.S. Bach, was next on my list of things to do. I wanted to work on this before taking on the Fugue. Below is my analysis of this work. I hope you find it useful.

The Prelude from J.S. Bach's Prelude, Fugue and Allegro, BWV 998 has always interested me. Actually everything Bach has ever written has always interested me.

An arrangement of Silent Night by Franz Gruber (1787-1863). I intended to come up with something fairly easy  but the more I play it the trickier it seems to get.

A short but detailed look at the diatonic seventh chords that are derived from the three forms of the minor scale. These being the following:

The Gavotte en Rondeau by J.S. Bach (1685-1750) is undeniably a little masterpiece, and as guitarists we are lucky enough to have a version (possibly arranged for lute) that we can call our own.

I was listening to a recording of Bill Evans (1929-1980) accompanying Tony Bennett (b. 1926) and thought how wonderful it would be if I could back up a vocalist like he does, but of course using the guitar.

Federico Moreno Torroba’s (1891-1982) Sonatina in A major is certainly a staple in the repertory for classical guitar. Although a twentieth century composition, the harmonic language is more characteristic of late nineteenth century and as a consequence lends itself nicely to traditional harmonic analysis.

The bridge from the tune “Girl from Ipanema” by Antonio Carlos Jobim (1927-1994) has long been a source of discussion concerning the workings of the harmony. I have often wondered myself about how it works and decided to take a crack at an explanation.

In an effort to look into some less demanding music that still displays interesting harmony, I will now turn my attention to two of the best known little pieces written for the guitar; namely Lágrima and Adelita by Francisco Tárrega (1852-1909).

As promised, a follow-up on the recent article concerning 7th chord inversions. This time the inversions and root position voicings are put into the context of ii-V-I progressions in both major and minor keys implementing the closest possible voice-leading according to the following procedure:

Study 22 from Fernando Sor's Op. 29 set of studies for guitar (study 18 in the Segovia collection) is unusual in that it is in the key of E-flat major.

This was a project that was long overdue for me; a chart showing the five basic seventh chords in root position and in three inversions.

Matteo Carcassi’s Study 22 from his Op. 60 set of studies for guitar is another good example of a single line of music with strong harmonic implications. Also of interest here is how Carcassi uses melodic motives for development and unification.

Las Abejas (The Bees) by Agustín Barrios Mangoré (1885-1944) is another well known and widely performed work in the repertory of the classical guitar. Once again my intention is to gain insight into this work through analysis. In many ways this composition is similar to the Bach minuets for solo ‘cello discussed earlier in that we have a single line, for the most part, that has strong harmonic and contrapuntal implications.

I decided to take a look at the Minuets from the first ‘Cello Suite, BWV 1007 by J.S. Bach. Since most guitarists play transcriptions of this suite I thought it might be interesting to examine the harmonic implications of a single line of music.

I was first introduced to the ideas of Heinrich Schenker (1868-1935) as a graduate music student. His technique of musical analysis completely changed my way of looking at music. Although his ideas and graphic analyses can be rather complex and difficult to comprehend without a great deal of preliminary study, one important concept stands out. This concept is his idea of reduction analysis ...

I didn’t know what I was getting myself into when I started work on Fernando Sor’s study seventeen from Op. 29, Estudio twenty in the Segovia collection. This piece is loaded with interesting harmonic and contrapuntal content.

Capricho Arabe by Francisco Tárrega (1852-1909) is another very well known piece in the repertory for solo guitar. I have done a harmonic analysis which is included below and will mention some of the important details of the harmony and form.

Here is an interesting little chord study. We are all accustomed to thinking about the diatonic seventh chords played in an ascending numerical order of I, ii, iii, IV, V, vi, vii. How about playing an ascending numerical order but with a descending note order?

I harmonized this melody as an exercise and as a way of keeping up my “chops” so to speak. The idea was to harmonize “Home on the Range” in a chorale style with an independent bass line that would hold up well on its own and then fill in the inner voices.

It is very important to have a good grasp of fundamental seventh and ninth chord voicings in order to read through a chart with ease. Most of us are familiar with the basic forms with roots on the fifth and sixth strings. When playing with a bass player it is best to try to stay out of his range and play your chord voicings using the upper four strings for the most part.

Harmonizing “Good King Wenceslas” and “O Tannenbaum” was my goal for this holiday season. The idea was to enrich the harmony with four and five note voicings with a traditional jazz approach.

I harmonized “Du,du liegst mir im Herzen”, inspired by Clare Fischer’s arrangement for voices, as a way of applying my newly discovered polychord voicings and some quartal harmonic sounds. I am sure the tune is familiar to most everyone.

Polychords are a great way of introducing fresh sounding harmony into familiar progressions. We have previously discussed “dominant” polychords in the article Polychords-Harmonic Resources of the Diminished Scale posted on September 30, 2011. I was working with an advanced student the other day and he got me thinking about the possible polychords that could be used to substitute for other standard chords in a key.

The Preludio from Barrios’ La catedral is a beautiful example of idiomatic writing for the guitar that demonstrates good voice-leading and contrapuntal technique. It is quite easy to trace the four voices as they move through the composition in a mostly step-wise progression.

The Allegro solemne movement of Barrios’ famous La catedral is one of the best known and most widely played pieces in the repertory. I have always enjoyed playing it. In order to understand this piece a bit better I decided to do a harmonic analysis. As is always the case I discovered harmonic relationships that I did not notice in the read through.

We all know that the diminished scale can be used to solo over diminished seventh chords and their associated dominant seven flat nine chords, but what about other harmonic resources contained within this scale?

When working through some of Barry Harris’ ideas on chord/scale relationships it occurred to me that the eight-tone or octatonic scales found in his method can be generated by taking the chord tones of the chord you wish to imply and fill with the notes of the diminished seventh chord that is built one half-step below.

Continuing with our idea of generating chords from the diminished seventh chord foundation we will now explore the ii-V-i progression in minor keys. I will use the parallel minor key of C minor for the examples in order to make the distinction clear between the major and minor modes.

Chord voicings on guitar are seemingly infinite in number. In an attempt to come up with some new ones, at least for myself, I decided to begin with a diminished seventh chord voicing commonly used by guitarists on the inside four strings (B-F-Ab-D) in first position. This will be my rootless 7b9 chord, in this case G7b9.

...There is an important principle at work here that is known as the “Golden Section” or the “Golden Ratio”. Basically this principle involves structural ratios that are roughly 2:3 in their relationship. It is a pattern found throughout the natural world as well as in architecture and art.

Carcassi’s study seven from Op.60 is another very well known piece from this set of studies. I like to use this piece as a way of introducing notes in first position as it contains nearly all of them plus a few higher ones on the E string. I would like to present an analysis of this piece to continue reinforcing concepts in harmony and counterpoint that we studied earlier.

Study three from Twenty-Five Melodious and Progressive Studies Op. 60 by Matteo Carcassi (1792-1853) has always been my personal favorite from this famous set of studies for guitar.

In our continuing series on jazz improvisation I would like to discuss the application of certain scales, in addition to the usual major and minor, which will add spice to your solos by incorporating non-diatonic sounds usually associated with the dominant (V) harmony.

As we move closer to the present, harmony becomes more and more complex. The ear is now able to hear more and more complex tonal relationships and what were earlier dissonances have now become acceptable consonances in many cases. To illustrate this newer harmonic thinking I thought it would be appropriate to move into the late Romantic period (late nineteenth century) and discuss the harmony of Agustín Barrios Mangoré (1885-1944) as displayed in his well known composition Julia Florida.

There has always been discussion concerning harmonic implications in contrapuntal writing. Voice leading in and of itself can be enough to generate interesting music, but without a clear harmonic plan the music will lack direction. Since J.S. Bach is the acknowledged master of counterpoint and harmony I will use what I thought would be a fairly simple piece to demonstrate the coexistence of these two musical principles: the Bourrée from Lute Suite 1 BWV 996.

I thought this might be a good time to apply some of the harmonic concepts we have learned through the analysis of Fernando Sor’s etudes and our discussions of jazz harmony by harmonizing a very simple melody, “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star”.

I was working through some chord changes recently and was wondering if I could maintain a common-tone in the upper voice while moving through multiple changes of harmony.

Etude twelve by Fernando Sor is the final study in this set. It corresponds to Estudio fourteen in the Segovia collection. With this study we have a harmonic plan similar to Etude eleven in which Sor contrasts the major with the parallel minor. In this case A major and A minor are the two key areas.

Etude eleven by Fernando Sor corresponds to Estudio seventeen in the Segovia collection. This is one of the more Romantic, stylistically, of the studies to date.

Etude ten by Fernando Sor is a study in two parts. The first part is a study in octaves and the second is a chorale-like harmonization of the famous tune “God Save the Queen” or known to most in the USA as “My Country, ‘Tis of Thee”. The first part poses an interesting problem in harmonic analysis; how do we come up with a harmonic analysis when there are no chords to analyze?

Etude nine by Fernando Sor corresponds to Estudio thirteen in the Segovia collection of Sor studies. This study is a study in sixths in D minor and has some similarities to Etude six (the study in thirds) in that Sor uses chromatic neighbor notes and chromatic passing tones to alleviate diatonic blandness.

Sor’s Etude eight corresponds to Estudio one in the Segovia collection. This is a fascinating little study in three voices in the homophonic style of a Bach chorale. We are introduced to several new concepts in this piece which include development of a motive through sequential repetition and inversion, imitative counterpoint as well as invertible counterpoint in which parts are composed in such a way that the upper voice can become a lower voice or vice versa.

Etude seven in this set is rather unremarkable. I suppose this is why Segovia as well as many others have not included it in any recent editions, at least to my knowledge. It is the first to use a “drop D” tuning which lends itself to the use of a D pedal point which Sor uses effectively.

Etude six by Fernando Sor corresponds to Estudio twelve in Segovia’s collection. Harmonically there isn’t anything in this piece that we haven’t already discussed. It is clearly a study in thirds in A major with mainly diatonic harmony other than the occasional use of secondary dominants and some interesting borrowed chords.

Etude five by Fernando Sor is the most ambitious harmonically so far. This study is reminiscent of the first prelude from the Well-Tempered Clavier by J.S. Bach. Sor makes extensive use of the full diminished secondary leading-tone seventh chord as a way of drawing out or delaying expected cadences.

Fernando Sor’s Etude four is quite simple harmonically. Its most interesting feature is the extensive use of what is called a “pedal point”. This is where a single tone is sustained, usually in the bass but could appear in any voice, through changes of harmony.

Etude three by Fernando Sor corresponds to Estudio eleven in Segovia’s collection of Sor studies. This is the first piece up until now to use two keys; E major and E minor.

To continue with the theme of harmony in practice we will now examine Etude 2 by Fernando Sor (1778-1839) from Douze Etudes op.6 (Meissonier Edition). This etude corresponds to Estudio three in the Segovia collection of Sor studies.

I thought I would start a section on analyses of well known classical guitar works. It is always good to begin simply and who better to begin with than Fernando Sor (1778-1839).

Target-tone improvisation is a method of soloing in which chord tones that make up the harmony that is sounding within the measure or part of the measure are targeted or emphasized, usually by their rhythmic placement on strong beats.

What do we need to know in order to improvise over a set of chord changes? What is the difference between jazz soloing and rock/pop soloing? What about blues? How do I handle that? These are the questions that are most often asked by music students when first starting to improvise.

Now that the seventh chords are understood we can talk about the ninth, eleventh and thirteenth chords as well as the altered dominants. As a jazz musician it is expected that you would use these chords to embellish or enhance the basic seventh chords shown in most jazz lead sheets.

There are five harmonic structures that occur within the tertian system of harmony that must be understood completely. These are the five basic seventh chords that are used most frequently in tonal music.

We have discussed secondary dominants and tritone substitutions as effective ways of enhancing basic chord progressions. Another common method of accomplishing this is through the use of modal mixture or the technique of mixing harmonies found in two or more modes.

What are the cosmic forces that govern music? The most important are the forces of tension (or instability) and release (or stability).

I was talking with a student the other day and we got into the subject of diminished seventh chords and how they are used in jazz. It got me thinking about how many different ways this chord can be resolved based on how it is used by composers of jazz as well as classical music.

Understanding the secondary dominant is essential to understanding how most jazz tunes work harmonically.

It is common knowledge that most jazz tunes tend to use harmonic progressions that are based on root movements of descending fifths.

Harmonizing passing tones with diminished seventh chords will make your next jazz arrangement sound like a jazz arrangement.

Many people have asked "John, what is a tritone substitution and how will it improve my life as a jazz musician?"

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