Feed Your Ears: Avant Folk

There was a time in the sixties when being into folk music was cool. Then there was a long, long time when it wasn't. Now, it seems, folk is back with the guitar front and centre. This post focusses on American artists; the British scene is seeing a similar resurgence but in a rather different way.

Numbering Systems for Pitch Classes

This post -- the second in our series on pitch class set theory -- looks at three different ways to number pitch classes. These numbering systems are alarmingly similar, so they can get confusing, but an understanding of them is essential for what follows, so hold onto your hat.

Harmonic Minor Modes: The Super Locrian bb7

In this final instalment of our series on the modes of the Harmonic Minor scale, we consider the scale known as the Super Locrian bb7. This is a very distinctive and dissonant scale, and is difficult to use in standard jazz and rock contexts; it makes us work hard if we're going to get something usable out of it.

Some Slonimsky Patterns and Variations

I've been doing a lot of theoretical work recently on Slonimsky's famous Thesaurus of Scales and Melodic Patterns. I'll have more to say about the book's contents in some upcoming posts, but here are some phrases derived from this material that I was playing around with today.

What is a Pitch Class Set?

This is the first in a series of posts introducing pitch class set theory at a very basic level. In this post I'll say a few things about what the theory's for and why it's useful, and give some of the most basic definitions.

Feed Your Ears: Sonny Sharrock

This installment of Feed Your Ears is dedicated to the late free jazz guitarist Sonny Sharrock. As usual, you might not like what you hear right away, but open your ears and see if you can learn something, or be inspired, or both.

Feed Your Ears: Remember the '80s?

If you spend some time looking at guitar videos on YouTube you can easily start to feel as if you've fallen into a wrinkle in time where it's still 1988. All those sweep-picked arpeggios! All that tapping! All those alternate-picked scales! Yes, it seems that among guitarists shred is still very much in style even if leather trousers no longer are.

Harmonic Minor Modes: The Locrian Natural 6

In previous posts we've looked at three of the less well-known modes of the harmonic Minor scale. We'll now move on to more dissonant material than we've seem previously with the Locrian Natural 6. It's a rarely-heard sound, although unlike the other scales in this group it's actually more consonant than its relative in the major scale group.

Practicing Improvisational Fluency

If, like me, a lot of your real-life playing involves improvisation then it can be tricky to know how or what to practice. Of course we can learn licks and patterns, but if we're not careful all our solos will start to sound like a collage of the same stuff played in a different order, and that's not really improvising. This lesson describes a simple practicing strategy to help you build fluency when playing off-the-cuff.

The Harmonic Minor as a Pair of Augmented and Diminished Arpeggios

In the Encyclopoedia I advocate experimenting with the arpeggios that common scales contain as a way of both understanding the scale better and making your playing more interesting. Here we look at the two symmetrical arpeggios that are embedded in the common Harmonic Minor scale.