Lesson #09: Apple Bit, Chord and Scale Analysis

If done incorrectly, practicing guitar may cause injuries. It is one’s own responsibility to: See a physician, first and make sure that he/she is fit to play guitar. Always warm up and stretch before playing. Quit playing when he/she feels any muscular discomfort or pain.

If we froze the frame for a period of time in the amount of a particular note’s value, we can see and hear a combination that almost creates an extended chord. We can imagine the whole piece, song, etc. consists of one extension chord after another instead of seeing the melody and the background harmony as two separate entities. The Chord Charts below makes it clearer.

This is a piece in the key of C major. It was one of those tiny projects that I started with an idea in my head but ended up with a slightly different one.

First, I wrote down a chord progression. My original progression was a basic

IIm7 - V7 - I - VIm7 - IIm7 - V7 - I

With a few changes, I turned it into

IIm7 - V7 - I7 - VI7 - IIm7 - V7 - I

If I write a complex melody, I keep the chords simple. On the other hand, if I write a simple melody then I play around with chords and experiment with alterations. But even then, I often follow kind of a linear approach. I try and keep the chord harmony move below the main melody and keep an eye on what each one of the notes is doing rather than insisting on a certain chord and voicing just because that happens to be what I had originally written.

BAR #01

Over Dm7 chord I could’ve used D Aeolian Scale (D, E, F, G, A, Bb, C) but when a minor seven chord is in the position of
IIm7, Dorian always sounds more natural.

So, D Dorian:(D, E, F, G, A, B, C)

Then follows G7, the V7 (five dominant seven) chord in the key of C major. Just like I’ve chosen D Dorian for Dm7,
I could’ve used the expected Mixolydian for the V7 chord but this is a short example piece, so I wanted some flavor in there,
right off the bat.

I had Ab Melodic Minor Scale (Ab, Bb, Cbb/B, Db, Eb, F, G) in my mind which would turn this section into

G Altered Scale (G, Ab, Bb, Cbb/B, Db, Eb, F).

But when my ear pulled me towards the note D after the note B, it had become something else.

Because I had only used 4 notes, it is difficult to say exactly which scale I used here. In my mind I was playing
G Phrygian (G, Ab, Bb, C, D, Eb, F) a minor scale over a major dominant chord that added a bit of Flamenco flavor
but if I had had more space and time to add more notes, I would find Spanish Gypsy Scale (G, Ab, B, C, D, Eb, F)
which also contains those 4 notes that I played over G7 (D, Eb, G, Ab), more appropriate and use that instead for sure.
After all, it has the note B just like the G7 chord whereas G Phrygian has Bb.

It’s not to say the 3rds of a scale couldn’t be altered, though. It all depends on which notes follow which ones. If there are already too many extension notes in the melody that don’t belong to the chord, I tend to keep the 3rd note as one of the anchors that stay solid and maintain the unique sound of that particular chord.

G Spanish Gypsy Scale is basically C Harmonic Minor Scale starting from the 5th degree.

BAR #02

I would’ve used a plain C or maybe a C MAJ7 here and start the bar with the note G but after using the chromatic notes
G and Ab back to back at the end of the last bar,
I felt like going a bit bluesy adding the next chromatic note A.

It’s almost like slipping into D Blues Scale for a split second between the G Spanish Gypsy Scale of the last bar
and the C Ionian Scale which I seemingly use here. However, in reality, what I use is technically a

C Mixolydian Scale (C, D, E, F, G, A, Bb) without the seventh, Bb that is.

Why is that?
Because when the melody continued starting with 2 extension notes (A and F) right in the beginning of the bar,
using C7 instead of C made it more fitting and bluesy somehow. Maybe I could’ve even used a C MAJ 7 chord instead but it probably would’ve made it a notch too mellow for what I wanted there.

Using the C7 chord under A and F gave me the flavors of of C13 and C11.

You see?

It’s all about small choices like that and testing them out if you have the time to do it. While you’re improvising, it’s a different story, though. You have to act quicker and use the best idea that happens to show up at that very split second. It doesn’t always
happen to be the best choice but that’s what it is and what makes it more exciting. That’s why building chops and getting as good as we can, is very important if we’re planning to follow more of an improvisational path in the future.

On the chord A7, the blues and flamenco interaction continues, because C Major key calls for Am7 not an A7.
It shakes things up a bit.

I could’ve used a very safe A Mixolydian (A, B, C#, D, E, F#, G) over A7 chord or remained in the key of C Major by playing its 6th mode A Aeolian (A, B, C, D, E, F, G) avoiding that C note or adding it on purpose and creating a flavor of A7#9.

But I went for A Altered Scale (A, Bb, C, Db, Eb, F, G)

in other words played a Bb Melodic Minor scale (Bb, C, Db, Eb, F, G, A)

starting from its 7th degree which is the root note of the A7 chord: A.

This is a trick I use often if a dominant 7 chord is playing the role of V7 chord; if it is followed by its fourth.

A (1st), B (2nd), C# (3rd), D (4th)

In this case the A7 is indeed followed by its 4th which is D in the form of Dm7.

If a dominant 7 chord is V7 and resolves into I chord, I use the

Altered Scale: the Melodic Minor Scale of the note that is half step higher than the root of the V7 chord,
but starting from that V7 root which happens to be the 7th degree of that particular Melodic Minor Scale.



In A7 case,
Half step higher from the root of the A would be Bb.
The 7th degree of Bb Melodic Minor Scale would be the note A (which is the root of our V7 chord).
We play that Bb Melodic Minor scale starting from A and call it A Altered Scale.

BAR #03

Nothing very special is going on here.

A simple D Dorian (D, E, F, G, A, B, C) treatment over Dm7 chord, made more obvious with the use of the note B instead of Bb.

For the G7 chord I used the G Spanish Gypsy Scale (G, Ab, B, C, D, Eb, F) again. This time it was intentional though.

I was going to play a simple G Mixolydian ( G, A, B, C, D, E, F) at first but for some reason my ear wanted to place that Eb before the whole thing resolved into C in the next bar which incidently turned it into something else.

BAR #04

Simply ending the piece with the root note of the final C chord.

It almost sounds like a Minor Scale ending with a major chord giving that Flamenco, Gypsy Jazzish feeling.

Lesson # 07: Simplifying Guitar Chords Part 02

If done incorrectly, practicing guitar may cause injuries. It is one’s own responsibility to: See a physician, first and make sure that he/she is fit to play guitar. Always warm up and stretch before playing. Quit playing when he/she feels any muscular discomfort or pain.

As I mentioned before first thing to look at before you decide how to voice a chord is whether it is a major or a minor chord.

I look at it as a fruit basket. The root note and the perfect 5th note are the basket. 3rd and the 7th note are the fruit, the flavor, so to speak.

If you’re playing in a band the basket part is usually taken care of by the bass and the keyboards. To give the flavor you don’t need to be playing 6 string voicing of a simple major seven or a minor seven chord.

Of course, the situations may vary and sometimes it is wiser to play full, rich sounding chords, especially if you’re the only comping instrument. And I am by no way endorsing an idea of learning less about theory and chords. However, for the sake of smoother movement on the fretboard, chord-soloing and saving extra left-hand fingers for extra flavors that may come after those 7th notes, this may be a very beneficial approach.

Another benefit may be for the beginners who dread those complex-looking chords that require super stretched left-hand positions and avoid them altogether thus delay their comping progress, whereas using a few triads and four note shapes would suffice, at least until they get to manage those difficult alternatives just as well as the easier ones.

In my personal opinion,

Having the skill to play almost any melody in every which way possible and yet choosing not to complicate a musical piece unnecessarily is the wisest approach.

Learn your material inside out first and then go crazy improvising knowing that you have the foundation to fall back on.

Let’s start by seventh chords and simple IIm7 – V7 – I progression which you will come across everywhere.
In the key of G

G major scale: G, A, B, C, D, E, F#

IIm7 - V7 - I  for this Key:

Am7 - D7 - G

Notes of the chords:

Am7: A, C, E, G
D7: D, F#, A, C
G: G, B, D

If you come across a chord like Am7b9, D7#9 don’t worry about those #9, b9, 11s and whatnot.

What’s important here is that you give the main flavor of those chords 3rd and the 7th notes. You can get away only playing those 2 notes although we’re going to include root notes in the next example, as well.

2 note voicings (3rds and 7ths) for the chords are as follows,

Am7: C and G
D7: F# and C
G: we play the main triad

But if want a softer resolution after D7 and we use G major 7

GM7: G, B, D, F#
GM7: B and F# (3rd and 7th)

If we add the roots as well,

Am7: A, C, G
D7: D, F#, C
G: G, B, D
GM7: G, B, F

Now let’s apply all that to C Major key and its IIm7 - V7 - I proggression:

C major scale: C, D, E, F, G, A, B

IIm7 - V7 - I  for this Key:

Dm7 - G7 - C

Notes of the chords:

Dm7: D, F, A, C
G7: G, B, D, F
C: C, E, G

2 note voicings (3rds and 7ths) for the chords are as follows,

Dm7: F and C
G7: B and F
C: we play the main triad

But if want a softer resolution after G7 and we use C major 7

CM7: C, E, G, B
CM7: E and B (3rd and 7th)

If we add the roots as well,

Dm7: D, F, C
G7: G, B, F
C: C, E, G
CM7: C, D, B

Below are more possibilities to create your own combinations. No specific key, just the degrees on certain strings:

IIm7 Chord (with 2-Note Voicings)

IIm7 Chord (with 3-Note Voicings)

V7 Chord (with 2-Note Voicings)

V7 Chord (with 3-Note Voicings)

I Chord (with 3-Note Voicings)

I Maj7 Chord (with 2-Note Voicings)

I Maj7 Chord (with 3-Note Voicings)