Music and Songwriting/Charles Dennis

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Charlie's notes:

Words of high praise. This is a very immensely huge thing that I learned from Jon. The alternating bass, and the slap on 2 and 4. (and the pluck and chuck playing notes while alternating bass, and doing the slaps on 2 and 4.) Really the integration of the first 2 is absolutely the door to an entire fantastic world of making songs sound pleasing and good. I love doing it, thinking of Bossa Nova style. The integration of the 3rd thing (playing notes ala Stop this Train), makes for sheer amazing wonderful stuff, beyond beyond bliss.

- thank you so much from my soul.

You have taught me how to open the door to making very pleasing music.

Your teaching helped me change from a bored and boring player, to a person who finds immense phenomenal awesome fantastic-ness in playing. This is a huge thing.

Sooooooooooooooooo many songs, that before, I could not make sound pleasing……………….at all. they just sounded bad. now I can make them sound good. sometimes really good. 1 example (AND THERE ARE THOUSANDS, THERE IS NO LIMIT) ismy kind of town (chicago is).

-check the pretty, tasteful playing and string slaps. Seasons of Love

-this ties in with Infinite Grid. play A7sus4 (add6) Play it and walk down from 2nd fret E string. Very pretty and useful. A similar thing can be done with D or Dma9.

-Save it for later cool tuning and riff DADAAD double entendre -3rd string 7th fret -4th string 2nd fret 3rd string 4th fret -5th fret mostly play 4 fattest strings -last time, I play 5th string 2nd fret and then, instead of first chord.

super excellent tutorial:

this is from a lesson I gave to my piano student a few months ago: I want to do this. I love it!!!! its a 2 5 1 exercise, bossa nova rhythm. and when you get to the 1 (major), you change it to minor and start a new 251. it is incredibly pretty awesome to the very moon and the sun and the heavens!!!

next…..Listen to Aimee Nolte starting at 6:18…….. When she starts to play at 6:56, listen to how good she sounds. And she’s playing relatively simple stuff.

-play and learn what you love -If you cannot find a good song sheet at ultimate guitar… might think about getting……... Riffstation is now free. It might seem like its just for guitar. But it should work quite well for piano too. It will probably not work perfect for guitar or piano. But it could work really good at least sometimes. Also maybe check out the Riff Builder thingy.

-Hum notes you are playing and intending to play

left hand pinky finger may be playing lowest note. Bass note. This is a very important note. And your pinky is probably your weakest finger. But you need to focus on it. It is a very important tool. You need to work to make it a very extra very good tool. It is one of your most important tools. You need to go slow and work on being very extra very accurate and precise with it. Thats because you need to play that lowest bass note very well. How hard you play that key, will determine that note’s timbre, that is to say, its tone. You need to play it so that it sounds good. You need to play it cleanly. It is not just any other note. It is a very extra important note. It is very important to that note in a pleasing manner. You need to pay attention to how loud you play it, AND understand how the timbre of that note changes, dependent upon how soft or hard you play it.

-Exercise to show Ed regarding Mapping Hum and play the notes after humming them. See how well I do. Notice that octaves can be easy to find and can serve as markers. Perhaps also 5ths. And notice how many notes are near to each other. And many notes are just short sequences where the notes are close to each other. Going up and down. And back and forth. All different orders of notes. Limited only by imagination. And you come up with short little phrases or motifs, that you may play starting on 1 note and then play the same pattern starting on a nearby note. And then play this in different octaves/registers, and string them together……..

-this is fun: Haven’t met you yet Version 4

      D           G          Em

I Said Love Love Love Love Love Love Love .....

       Bm        A       D

I Just Haven't Met You Yet D G Em Love Love Love .....

       Bm          A        D

I Just Haven't Met You Yet

Some of what I tell you is based on my experience. And is stuff that I need to be better at too. I recognize areas where I could improve. Ok here goes: Aim for pleasing. Appealing. Gentle. Easy going.

You are building a toolbox. Learn what tools are available Dynamics...playing in a range from very soft to very strong. This applies to both chords, individual notes and multiple notes. (Your keyboard must have touch sensitivity for this to happen.) Timbre changes based on dynamics. Overtones, metallic, and woody key sounds.

The piano can be played percussively and rhythmically.

Straight eighths and swung eighths

Use the whole keyboard. All areas of the keyboard have their use and or place. Low bass notes sound awesome played as single notes. Too many lower bass notes played together sounds muddy not pleasing. Be aware of how as you move higher on the keyboard the muddiness decreases. Variety can be a good thing. This is why I say use the whole keyboard. You will spend a lot of time in the middle of the keyboard. But experiment with playing higher notes too. And lower notes as well. I speak from personal experience of needing to take my own advice here. Big time. Hugely so. Block chords and arpeggios.

With chords, and your left hand, sometimes 1 or 2 notes is good. A typical chord has 3 notes. First third fifth. But sometimes only playing 1 or 2 notes of the notes is better. Also the order of the notes can be super important. Inversions are just changing the order of the notes. Root position is root on the bottom……. But you can play the third or the fifth on the bottom.

Pleasing pretty melodic note sequences or musical phrases. String together in different octaves registers.

These tools make the piano a very amazing instrument. You can do soooooooooo much with it. Experiment. Be creative. Voicing super important thing. Take 1 simple 7th chord. 4 ways to change order of notes All other chords same story.

A relaxed delivery performance is a goal to keep in mind. This is a key concept. Relaxed delivery performance is appealing and pleasing.

I learned Heart and Soul in every key.

Mapping mapping mapping

Play Have You Met Miss Jones. Also Never Saw a Miracle, Looking thru the eyes of Love, Just Once, Don’t let me be lonely tonight

2 5 1 progression. 3 of them. Rogers and Hart from 30’s. I love many show tunes. Have You Met Miss Jones inspired Coltrane.

Aimee nolte

My love of pretty melody.

Amazed at how some things that I love so much, are really very simple things.

Walk that Bass youtube channel

Are you right or left handed? Its common to feel like your left hand is not as skilled as your right. What if you played bass walks and bass lines. With your right hand? Just to give you an idea of what you could be aiming for being able to do with your left hand? What if we had 2 right hands? Or what if our left hands were as skilled as our right hands?

Get in touch with your inner musician. The Zone…..

Diminished chords. There are only 3. Just change order of notes.

Consonance vs dissonance.

Play 2 notes next to each other. Play the first note a split second before the second note. Now do a 3 note skooch a few notes lower. Eg: cd gagf

Learn how to play F major scale. This is good because its a slightly different fingering. 4 notes, and then thumb under on the way up. And then on the way down…..

the following contains a lot of my opinion about things. you may agree. or not. its cool. its the way I see things at this time (or at least at the time I wrote it).

-some of the following will apply all the time. some of it will only apply some of the time. -when performing,be mindful that there can be a difference between being excited and being exciting. an easy delivery and vibe can be very pleasing. music is emotion expressed through sounds and silences. there is a time and place for being very dramatic and excited, for sure. but soft gentle easy does it can work a lot of the time.

-dan fogelberg changing horses. show Jon cool lick.

-Uke songs: A summer in ohio anna kendrick Turn to white she and him Tell him colbie caillat

-I won't be found. tallest man on earth so awesome altered tuning dadead capo on 7 chords are pretty easy. not many chords. and some are only 1 and 2 finger chords once you get the hang of the picking pattern, its super amazing to play. it is tough to learn to play. but slow it down and learn it little by little. break it down into small pieces. and soon enough you will get it. and you will sound amazing. there is a phenomenal youtube lesson for it. its in 3 parts. but first here is a live version by the tallest man.

-One of the most important concepts I’ve learned from you Jon: Slow down to learn something that’s challenging for you. Most people think that they have to learn stuff fast. When it’s the opposite that’s true. If they just keep playing it wrong over and over going fast, they’ll never get it. They’ll never learn how to play it right. You have to slow down enough to learn to play it right. It is paradoxical. But it is the way it works. It is simply profoundly KEY to learning how to play things well, that are challenging for you.

-Here’s a thought: Especially when you are a beginner, but this may apply to non-beginners too:

students should look at the fretboard. look super closely at where your fretting hand fingers are touching the fret board. Put your face right up to it.

Most people do not look closely. They are looking from a distance, and at a bad angle. They cannot see a good view. They see other musicians, playing, without looking at the fretboard at all. And they think thats how they should play too.

I say, LOOK. look closely. And you need to have light. You must have enough light. you must have good light. and the light must shine on the fretboard, right where you are fretting, right where you are looking. You must see very clearly with your eyes, where your fingers are. Put your face, and thus your eyes, right close near to the fretboard, so you can see super clearly, your fretting hand fingers on the fretboard. Watch your fingers as you fret the strings, and as you move your fingers around to other positions.

watch closely as you fret each chord. watch closely as you change chords, as in a chord progression. look closely. observe. get a clear visual view, and mental understanding of what you are doing, look closely and see where your fingers are on the fretboard, when you are fretting really good and cleanly. See clearly what you are doing right!!

do the same exact thing when you are playing notes and licks and scales. if you look at, and clearly see, your fretting hand, it will help you to get better sooner. if you look with your eyes, then you will SEE, and you will not have to be just guessing about where your fingers are.

-Another thought:

    All students, YOU have 2 students.

One is your left hand. The other one, is your right hand. You are teaching and directing them. Mark Knopfler (virtuoso level guitarist), said that when you start out, your hands are not gonna want to do what you tell them to do. learning to play guitar will not happen overnight. but, learn a little bit each day, or every couple days, and you will get there. (and to extend this a bit, each of your 2 students has 5 students, ie a thumb and 4 fingers.)

-Alternating bass is awesome and powerful, and reachable (you can do it, if you try). You do not have to learn it for every chord, to start. A C D E F G major chords and the minors and 7ths, bm, f#m, and the diminished chords.

after you've been doing those chords for awhile, you can learn how many shapes move, and expand your chord toolbox. C7 is movable up the fretboard. first play C7, and do the alternating bass on the 5 and 6 strings (C and G notes). now slide up a fret, you can do the same thing playing C#7. you're alternating bass chords are now C# and G#. and now go up another fret.......

-Pluck and chuck, boom chick, bossa nova, flick strum are amazing awesome. incorporating a slap, chuck, chick, what have you, are all awesome good. pluck down with thumb, and then up with 2 fingers (or 3 fingers) Easy gentle steady pleasing rhythm. Guitar is MADE for playing in some keys more than others (I accompany myself singing on acoustic guitar, so that's the context for this thought). Its MADE for playing in A C D E F and G. and you can capo up (maybe up to 5 frets), and tune down a couple semitones.

-useful idea: On guitar, use your thumbnail like a pick. (right hand for right hand players.) highly useful. drag your thumbnail backwards across the strings. try doing it at different speeds. including slowly.

-Next, check out these ways to walk down chords/notes on guitar: Look at the song This Train don’t Stop There Anymore by Elton John. This is what I’m talking about. F /E /Dm Gm7 /F Fm7 /E Bbm /Ab Ab /G Fm /Eb


 Play a little. Just gently kinda tap around a bit. Helps with getting a feel for being rhythmic on guitar and piano.

-Piano The song Just Once by James Ingram has a lot of good stuff for piano. basic simple pretty, moving, chord progression stuff. -Heart and soul (learn in every key)

Irving Berlin awesome songwriter, did not read or write music. He wrote all of his songs in the same key (F#). he used transposing pianos, to play in other keys.

-Guitar songs Heart and soul You’re gonna make me lonesome when you go. open D tuning. Also play harmonica on this song. Open G tuning. Water song Harvest for the world riff am7 to D A on 3 and 4 strings, 6 and 7 frets, to 234 strings 7 fret to 234 strings 9 fret A to A/F# to Bm (5 string 2 fret 23 strings 2 fret), to Esus Bossa nova chord progressions (2 of them) Bohemian like you riff Ventura highway Melissa Tighten up archie bell and the drells Easy come, easy go

Piano Dm7 crawl in, em7 crawl in, fmaj7 crawl in

Singing Its all about pleasing tone. Its all about the resonance. James Taylor (about his voice), said when he’s singing, he’s soothing himself. Fit the song to your vocal range (highly important to get key AND register, so you can get your power into the song, where its needed.) find the sweetest spot you can for YOUR voice for EACH song!!!

Sing through a microphone with headphones on. You will hear excellent things. Details, pleasing tones, resonances, vocal fry Your voice is a little like a saxophone. It can make pleasing kinda reedy buzzy sounds, in a pleasing tasteful way.

Find pleasing full tone. oscillate around it.

Music theory Learn a lot about the key of C. realize that the interval patterns are all movable. To all other keys. Its just simple math, counting to move to other keys. neat thing to know: play a simple 7th chord. now sharp the root. its now a diminished chord. Learn the difference between being excited……...and being exciting. The second one is the one you want. You’re in the zone. You’re putting out a pleasing attitude/vibe. An appealing one. And you are very possibly relaxed. Relaxed can be appealing. Over excited can be not appealing.

Also, music consists of sounds and silence, notes and rest, tension and resolution, harmony and dissonance. Often, less is more. Lots of unpleasing noise is, well, lots of unpleasing noise. quiet, soft, slow, easy gentle, is often a good approach, a good recipe for making pleasing sounds. Also music is emotional. Happy, sad. Euphoric, triumphant, exalted, heavenly heights euphoric, yearning, despairing, depths of sadness.

Guitar and Piano (compare and contrast) Piano: highly simple layout and design. Linear. Logical. Can be played well in many keys. The keys are easy to see. They’re right there in front of your eyes. You don’t have to strain to see them. And the keys are easy to play. You just push them down. Maybe hold down the sustain pedal. also, the piano is a phenomenal instrument for learning music theory on. it is extremely excellent for that. Guitar: highly complex. not simple layout and design. Not linear. Not logical. Can be played well in just some keys. A C D E F and G. (but then you can capo and tune down.) Seeing your fretting hand on the guitar fretboard takes an intentional deliberate effort. And it can be extremely helpful, for you to do exactly that. When you are learning, it can be quite challenging to get your fretting hand fingers to do what you want them to do. Its the same thing for your other hand, especially if you are fingerpicking.

The guitar can be used as a rhythmic thing. Its natural to think of it in terms of being melodic for lead solos, and as a kind of orchestra with multiple melodic lines with fingerpicking. But it is also able to be used as a rhythmic thing. It can be strummed rhythmically, which is kind of a combination of melodic and rhythmic.

But I am now talking about the  “boom chick, pluck and chick, flick strum”……..and alternating bass thing.

One chick three chick, one chick three chick and so on….. And also, rhythmically tapping on it the body and the strings against the fretboard, in a purely strictly percussive way. if you are accompanying yourself singing, the fact that you can create and maintain a pleasing steady rhythm on the guitar, is very very good. creating and maintaining an easy steady beat, is an ingredient for a recipe that is a pleasing and enjoyable listening experience. for player and audience.

- listen to yourself. really really listen to yourself. Slowing down can help you to listen yourself. I find that if I do not listen to myself, I can end up making a lot of noise. not pleasing sounds. unpleasing sounds. work towards developing an easy pleasing feel and vibe. you want to be in the zone, and playing tastefully. its all about the love. note: it cannot be said too often: often, less is more. less is better. it can be way better to play not much, than to play alot........... but it sounds bad. also, often just a bass note is enough. or a couple. this can be good to know anytime, but perhaps especially if its a chord that is difficult to play.

note: someone in the crowd: Play the B7 like this:

B7sus4 will be 5 2nd fret, 4 1st fret, 3 2nd fret, 2 and 1 open, now resolve to B7, by putting your pinky on 2nd string 4th fret (also damping the 1st string).

more thoughts:

    this is a super important point that I must make:
     when it comes to making pleasing music:

there is a vibe aspect. when you are in the zone, magic can happen.

I like all you wrote. thank you Jon.

I'm gonna get to work.

and here goes:

caveat, disclaimer: some of the following is very much personal opinion. not everyone will agree with everything I say, nor see things the way I do. regarding music, I will say right away, that I really love pretty melodic music.

now then: I would like to tell people about some stuff I've learned on my musical journey, lo my nearly 6 decades of traveling around the Sun. and loving music the whole time. from the earliest memories I have, hearing my Mom humming and singing, and my Dad singing and playing his harmonica, and listening to a transistor radio.

I have things to say about guitar, piano and singing.

now for describing my priorities.

kindness is everything. when I leave this world, I want there to be more kindness. like breeds like. more kindness will breed more kindness. hopefully, that reaches a critical mass, and the humans of planet Earth, will have a much better place to live.

so thats the highest most important thing.

music could be a tool, a vehicle. a highly valuable and highly effective communication tool.

also, music is a creative expression. we are all naturally creative. our music creativity is limited only by our imaginations. or said perhaps more accurately, the only limits there are to our musical creativity, are the ones we choose to have.

getting into specifics, now: how awesome would it be to do the following???!!!!!:

- show people how easy it is to make really cool music on the piano playing dm7 g7 em7 am7 with your left hand, and then improvising melody with your right hand - tell people about how much pleasing pretty music is simple stuff. you make up little short melodic phrases. maybe just a 2 or 3 or 4 or 5 notes, and then perhaps string them together going up and down the keyboard or guitar. - less is more (which means sometimes less is BETTER) - so sometimes all you need is one note. like say a bass note. - learn to do alternating bass. - learn to play a bass note on the 1 and 3 (its ok if its not alternating too......sometimes you stay on the same note, for example.) - learn to chick or chuck on the 2 and 4. - bam, you're now your own rhythm section, and you are making pleasing music. - voicings are sometimes important. sometimes it does not matter. but sometimes it SUPER matters. - the bass note establishes what the chord is. - don't screw up the highest note in the chord you are playing (as it is the note that people hear loudest and clearest) - learn basic simple music theory about the key of C. the basic theory about the patterns and intervals are all moveable, to the other keys. - new guitar players need to learn 3 chord songs. people put 3 chord songs down. but thats bullschtein. there are excellent 3 chord songs. just as there are horrid 30 chord songs. - on piano, have your right hand teach your left hand how to do bass walks and such. - on guitar and piano, understand that each of us has 2 students. our left hand and our right hand. (BTW, comparing and contrasting the specialization of function of the left hand and right hands on guitar and piano, is immensely interesting topic. think about it for a few minutes) - singing is easy, and natural. everyone can sing. you don't need a huge range. you do need to work a little and explore a little bit about tone. and you need to find the middle of your range. thats not hard to do. its easy. that middle part of your range is where you will be able to get the most pleasing tone and most power into your voice. - learn about vocal fry. it is beautiful amazing and awesome and excellent. reedy, buzzy, saxophone-ish kind of thing. there's more to it than that. but thats at least a start to trying to describe it. singing is super fun. people get hornswoggled into believing that they can't sing. and it is a false belief. everyone can sing. and the more you do it, the better you get at it. - with regards to playing instruments, oftentimes, I think Miles Davis was right when he said something like.....its not the notes you play, its the ones you don't play. -guitar and piano are so cool because you can play more than 1 note at once. - I think stride piano is the piano version of alternating bass on guitar.

1 more thought: people give up on these instruments because they are not having enough fun playing them. perhaps guitar in particular can be very challenging, because it's really tough to get your hands to do some of the things they need to do.

if there was a way to help people have more fun, and find some easy confidence building things to play, maybe more people would play (and not give up).

another thought:

  the idea of a recipes or templates for songs is a very good one.

learn some simple basic chord progressions, and you open the door to playing many many songs, which follow that recipe/template/progression.

regarding kindness:

 what if all the people in the world joined together and said, hey we're all in this together.

and treated each other with kindness as standard operating procedure. what if everyone lived the highest version of themselves that they can. every day.

what if we designated 1 day, on which people would all treat each other with kindness for the whole entire day. on that day, they/we would forget whatever reasons they have for being unkind. they/we would just let that all go. forgive and forget. and then the next week, we did the same thing, but this time for 2 whole entire days. and then the next week, for 3 days, and so on. in 7 weeks, we would have a better place to live (and love) for everyone.

Notes[edit | edit source]

Bang for your Buck - Accelerated Learning, Make it Fun and Interesting, Make it Worth the TIme and Energy

If you're gonna screw up a note, keep in mind that the highest note is the best one to focus on

Use the right hand to learn to play bass runs in the left hand

Vocal fry can be pretty and beautiful

You can sing if you want to

Work on the left hand and make your bass hand less limited

Learn the recipe for songs

Jon's Thoughts[edit | edit source]

I'm really into project-based learning. I think learning through making things that will reach people is the best way. I challenge you to brainstorm ideas for projects that will help you refine and master your ideas but also make a difference to people.

The Pluck and Chuck Guitar Series is an example for me. I haven't finished it yet, but the idea was to learn the technique by organizing a sequence of songs, and then developing improvisations on each. Another example for me was the Swift Equation where I learned Cliffs of Dover in one day. It took the idea of how to chunk and use slow practice to an extreme and I did something fun with it that I can explain to others. I'd like to see if you can come up with a project that you think others would find cool that also pushes your abilities. See if you can keep adding ideas to the notes here but also tie them together with a project.