~ seven musical styles ~

~ form and style ~

~ a spectrum of musical styles ~

~ telling the stories from the different walks of life ~

~ the art of musical styles is about rhythms and colortones ~

children's songs
tonal gravity of style
folk music
aural predictability
blues tunes
triads and colortones
terns
funk and fusion
children's songs

about rhythms and color tones

 

folk music
funk and fusion
blues tunes
funk and fusion
jazz
funk and fusion
cadential motions
funk and fusion
terns
funk and fusion
funk and fusion
funk and fusion

 

'from children's songs and folk into bluegrass, country and the blues, on through to reggae, rock, hip hop, rap and pop then off to jazz ...'

“Fats, how did this rock ’n’ roll all get started anyway?” an interviewer for a Hearst newsreel asked him in 1957. Mr. Domino answered: “Well, what they call rock ’n’ roll now is rhythm and blues. I’ve been playing it for 15 years in New Orleans.”

By JON PARELES and WILLIAM GRIMESOCT. 25, 2017

In a nutshell. The following discussion creates a 'theory snapshot' of each of our main musical styles. Each in turn is examined by its general approach to melodies, chords, rhythms, improv etc. So pick your general style and follow included links to explore the music theories of the music that makes you smile, dance and want to make your own ways.

We theorize by examining pitch by pitch the addition of new pitches to our central five note, relative major / minor pentatonic group. These we number, providing us a with numeric labeling system for identifying the letter name pitches.

pentatonic groups
by the numbers

With a few added pitch evolutions we begin to sense the merging of our musical styles one into another and along the way create this book's philosophy of a modern guitarist.

a modern guitarist

Rhythms of course have their own unique vocabulary and numerical counting systems, are here theorized by similar metrics identified by beat numbers and subdivisions, notations and vocabulary.

Melody pitches of styles. So, want more blues in your folk sounds? Maybe more of a jazzier bop in your pop? Find a deeper swing feel in your home spun bluegrass or a more rockin' feel to your country core? Then by all means read on here as we go 'pitch by pitch additive' to rote learn tried and true ways to evolve most any melody or song with just a flick of a pitch or two.

While there's lots of theory aspects to each of our styles, the following discussions centers on melody; specifically, the number of pitches we most commonly find and use to create melodies in each particular style.

melody
# of pitches

We then look at just those pitches and see what loop and group they form, we then can determine what harmony is diatonically available to back the lines. From this basis we can auralize a linear spectrum of musical styles that reflects the number of pitches generally used to create them.

loops of pitches
diatonic harmony

For example, traditional Americana folk music rarely if ever features any sort of true chromaticism or melodic motion by half step. While on the other end of our style spectrum, the jazzers often embrace a full range of half step motions from either direction, thus utilizing all of our 12 tones as upper and lower neighbors. Examine the general number of melody pitches grouped by musical style. Example 1.

Americana
chromaticsm
we only get 12 tones
 
total # of pitches
1
2
3
4
5
6
7
8
9
10
11
12
1 ...
scale degree #'s
1
b2
2
b3
3
4
#4
5
#5
6
b7
7
8

children's songs (5)

C
.
D
.
E
.
.
G
.
(A)
.
.
C

folk (6)

C
.
D
.
E
F
.
G
.
A
.
.
C

blues and rock (6)

C
.
.
Eb
.
F
.
G
.
.
Bb
.
C
pop (7)
C
.
D
.
E
F
.
G
.
A
.
B
C
jazz (12)
C
C#
D
Eb
E
F
F#
G
Ab
A
Bb
B
C

So as more pitches come into play, we've simply more stylistic options to shape our melodies and the style of music we're writing for evolves.

And for the chords? Creating the chords to back the melodies is a bit different. For if there's more than one chord in a song and there usually is, we'll just need more diatonic pitches to build them all up. Correlating style with the number of pitches in a chord is just a way easier way to initially think along these style / number of pitches perspective; fifth's (2 pitches), triads (3 pitches), add 7th's (4) then other color tones (4+) etc. Ex. 12a.

triads
 
total # of pitches
1
2
3
4
5
6
7
8
9
10
11
12
1 ...
scale degree #'s
1
b2
2
b3
3
4
#4
5
#5
6
b7
7
8

metal (2)

C
.
.
.
.
.
.
G
.
.
.
.
C

children's songs (3)

C
.
.
.
E
.
.
G
.
.
.
.
C

folk (5)

C
.
.
.
E
.
.
G
.
A
Bb
.
C

blues and rock (7)

C
.
D
D#
E
.
.
G
.
A
Bb
.
C
pop (9)
C
.
D
D#
E
F
.
G
.
A
Bb
B
C
jazz (12)
C
C#
D
Eb
E
F
F#
G
Ab
A
Bb
B
C
Roman numerals
I
#i
ii
#ii
iii
IV
#iv
V
#v
vi
bVII
vii
VIII

In most any style ... In today's wide spectrum of Americana styles, the seven pitches of the diatonic scale are the basis of all of our chords. We'll never hear a sharp nine (#9) in a song for kids or even folk tunes. But as soon as the blues hue kicks into folk, good chance it'll arrive somewhere in the music.

blues hue
the other five pitches

So this correlation of number of pitches and musical style is simply to place each of our 12 pitches somewhere in the fabric of our weave of musical styles. To develop a sense as musicians of what generally hangs with a genre. For pro leaning cats who want to gig and keep the gig, knowing what is appropriate and when is the oftentimes the foot in the door.

blues hue

Thus aware, we become empowered, energized to find the colors we need to tell our tales in any style as well as to shade things a stylistic way when needed. Examine the seven diatonic pitches in relation to 'the other five pitches.' Example 2c.

blues hue
.
1
b2
2
b3
3
4
#4
5
#5
6
b7
7
8
diatonic chords
C
.
D
.
E
F
.
G
.
A
.
B
C
other five pitches
.
Db
.
Eb
.
.
Gb
.
Ab
.
Bb
.
.

Easy enough yes? The tricky part in all of this is simply to be flexible in our thinking, yet somewhat rigid to preserve the diatonic perspective throughout, which keeps all of the theory straight. Like thinking from the root? Yep, works like a charm :)

think from the root

Once a cat can think and spell and rote learn each of the seven diatonic chords, sliding the numbers / pitches around in a chord spelling chart keeping in mind which five pitches are 'left over' to become that chords colortones, that's really the whole diatonic deal.

spelling chords

Run and rote learn this through the 12 keys and that's the whole tamale. Understand that we can slip in the passing diminished chords that live between each diatonic step and we're theory golden. Know the leading tone / substitution properties of the diminished colors and know the last steps to be taken to reach the Americana nirvana of Parnassus.

through 12 keys
whole tamale

passing diminished chords

diminished substitutions

steps to Parnassus

Get all this theory under your fingers, plus the interval and arpeggio studies from each of the five shapes and consider yourself arrived. Find some steady gigs and by then you've probably landed. Here's a version of the chord spelling chart that starts this all off. Example 2d.

interval studies
arpeggio studies

the five shapes

arrived / landed

 
scale # degrees
1
2
3
4
5
6
7
8
C major scale
C
D
E
F
G
A
B
C
arpeggio # degrees
1
3
5
7
9
11
13
15
C major arpeggio
C
E
G
B
D
F
A
C
chord # / quality
Imaj7
ii-7
iii-7
IVmaj7
V7
vi-7
vii-7
VIII
diatonic 7th chords
CEGB
DFAC
EGBD
FACE
GBDF
ACEG
BDFA
CEGB
 

Review, a spectrum of style. Essentials bases a lot of the theory on the correlation between the number of pitches in a melody and the general musical style it creates. We've 12 total pitches for sure and half a dozen broad style categories, thus the following left to right visualization emerges. Example 3.

12 pitches
the evolving artist
musical style
kid's songs
folk blues
rock country
pop
jazz
# of pitches
1
2
3
4
5
6
7
8
9
10
11
12

All we get. In theory we get the 12 unique pitches. As our theory is based on nature and the natural ordering of the pitches, we use a core five to create the pentatonic melodies of children's songs and folk music. Add a special sixth pitch to the pentatonic minor making the blues hue. A new two pitch addition to our core major five creates the seven of the diatonic scale which some believe to go all the way back in our histories and which when equal temper tuned, enables all the chords. Add another pitch or two as chromatic passing tones helps enable well crafted pop melodies. And in jazz, well all of the 12 tones are of course in play in any tune, any time and any day :)

natural ordering
five pitches
six pitches
seven pitches
diatonic scale

early history

equal temper
chords

Your musical style. So what's your style of music? Been looking to your own natural world for inspirations? Have a folk tale to tell? Searching for the blue notes? Got some country picken' to do? Making the big roar of it all with rock and roll? Looking to write pop hits for the radio? Maybe you dig conjuring up cool jazzy grooves and instrumental takes on anything with a melody? Use these dance vibes to back up your spoken word vocal tracks? Knowing the theory is a way to morph and draw from them all, creating a full palette of the musical colors.

tell stories
blue notes
big rock roar
palette

So in the following discussions the thread is all about finding the common denominators of music theory for each of our broad styles of music. Once initiated, the cross pollinations of ideas between the best flowerings of each of our styles is maybe just a breeze away.

wind chimes
 

Children's songs. Our most theory basic songs are ones written for kids and are often simple rhymes of special words that we love. The theme for the words power the melody. Kids Americana songs have just a few pitches, often arranged as a major triad with a jaunty air. Usually stepwise pitches as it is easier to sing, there's often a sequence in the line to generate some motion to the closure of the story. Repetition often wins the day.

Time and tempo. All about telling the story of the songs, finding a tempo for the words and their rhymes. Mostly in the 'big four' or in 3, all of the Americana lines have the DNA to swing easily with great joy.

Melodies. Clear, sequential, stepwise and triads are all common. Strong beginning and ending to the line.

Arpeggios. Most often on the tonic pitch and One chord, many of our melodies made with triads.

Chords. Principally One and Five, and really any and all in competent hands. Remember simple can often be a solution and sometimes the best one too :)

Form. Two, four and eight bar phrases repeated over and over. Also, 'mini' song forms are not uncommon.

Color tones. We find the major 6th in more adventurous lines of major pentatonic, the minor 7th of the pentaonic minor in many minor melodies.

Improv. Mostly in the vocals and storytelling, instrumentally maybe 8 bars per tune per player in performance ... ? Jazz players might consider keeping their solos short until asked for more :)

A song to learn. Rote learn by ear your favorite song that you learned as a kid. Too easy? Run it through a couple of keys. Still too easy? All 12 keys. Create a chord melody of it? Find a a 2nd favorite same process? Essentials suggestion, "This Old Man."

Americana kid's music
a couple of pitches
jaunty air
repetition
rhythms
big 4
3 / waltz
sequences
stepwise
triads
easy scale shape
arpeggio melodies
One / Four / Five
common chord shapes
musical forms
minor melodies
color tones / 6
ride time
a chord melody kid's song
 

Folk songs. Americana folk songs are almost always sung as in folk music there's a story to be told. While instrumentals versions are not uncommon, vocal tunes are surely favored. Thoughtful, well performed harmonies in the voices will win the day every time. Folk songs tell a story that most folks listening can understand and identify with in spirit. Often retelling our histories, our Americana folk captures in music our historical events for the ages to remember in song. Mostly pentatonic in melody, three chords and the truth from the diatonic key center often rules the day; One, Four and Five as triads with a 7th on Five, so V7.

Time and tempo ~ 4 / 4. A 'walking tempo' is most common in 4, in 3 are the waltz's and 6/8 begins to appear to help the swing along. Folk dancers tend to do steps together, clogging and square dancing are fairly common.

Melodies. Diatonic five to seven pitches to capture the emotional quality of the words used to tell the story of the song. Simple, heartfelt, humourous and sincere, to tell any tale of the sameness of humanness we all share in common.

Arpeggios. As in children's songs, the three note major and minor triads still rule the day.

Chords. Principally One, Four and Five triads. Here we first solidly enter into the realm of the 'diatonic three and three.' One / Four / Five progressions in both major and minor with the one key center, relative major / natural minor pitches. These six chords create the basis of the harmony weave of a gillion Americana tunes.Remember that simple can be best too.

Form. Eight bar phrases double to 16 which doubles to 32, the most common of our song lengths historically, excepting the 12 bar blues of course. Usually with two themes, one major one minor, balanced to provide the 'two sides to the story' of creative retelling.

Color tones. Again Six is most common, although any open tuning can advance the coloring up of the triads right quickly. Surely a hint of the blue hue all throughout the literature all throughout history, some genres more than others.

Improv. Mostly in the vocals. Some cats yodel along which is a hoot, crowd loves this it'll bring the house down pert near every time :) I seen it too many times meself but as a jazz leaning artist I just can't seem to bring myself to shed the process necessary to do it in performance ... although it is a hoot to try :) Try some improv yodeling along with your song and see if you don't bust up laughing. Solo breaks are not uncommon but now we're leaning towards the bluegrass side of the hill. If ya get the nod to play a few bars, maybe just find some of the melody. Having something cool for the last hold can be a nice added touch in closing.

A folk song to learn. Into the wayback for Essential's suggestion of "Oh Susanna." An Americana fave, just a couple of pitches easy, can swing hard, old timey, a great dance tune and recorded by so many folks stars over the decades it's just a shame not to know and share in these modern times of the super sophistication of near everything. Like this book? Prolly :) Ye haw!

A first bluegrass song to learn. Hands down choice here ... "Rolling In My Sweet Baby's Arrms." Man this tune can cook ! Gets the dancers right up and even singing along when gently encouraged.

Americana folk music
folk vocal harmonies
3 chords and the truth
One Four Five
V7
walking tempo
in 4
in 3 as a waltz
6/8
five pitches
seven pitches
diatonic three and three
One Four Five
key center
major / minor
folk chords
16 bars
32 bar song form
12 bar blues form
C 6
open tunings
hint of blue
literature
wiki ~ folk music history
genres
wiki / Jewel Alaska yodeler
solo breaks
last hold
learn a folk song
learn a bluegrass song
the dancers
 

Blues songs. The blues is a wide wide strand in the fabric of our Americana musics. For we can find its hue in just about every style imaginable. Well maybe not kid's songs. In theory initially based on combining pitches from two our main ways tunings, we rub these notes together to create its hair raising magic.

Intro's. There's really two that need to be mastered that will end up working in lots of essential spots in Americana. There's the "Muddy" and the "Elmore", each here named after the artist that they are most associated with.

Time and tempo ~ always a 2 and 4 backbeat. Folks love to dance to the blues as it is usually easy to follow right along with where the band is in the music, its 12 bar form and where it is going as it moves along in real time. Thus they can improvise / coreograph their steps right along with the improv of the music. Blues is almost always in 4, tempos vary between slow to the brighter shuffle, where the triplet feel of 3 is layered over the 4, making for the 6/8 or 12/8 feel, both time / rhythms that are also part of the basis of swing.

Melodies. Blues melodies backing the vocal line in most songs are generally just a couple of pitches. Based on the blues scale; the minor pentatonic group with an added tritone, the words and pitches are often simply repeated to create the form of the song. And while there's variations of course, most of the lasting literature is in the 12 bar form. So, three four bar phrases; often two repeated verses as the 'call' and the last as the response. This writing format has worked like a charm for a hundred years or more. Got any blues hooks needing to be developed into a full song?

Arpeggios. In the blues as in folk as in rock and country and anything with a gospel hue, three note triads really rule the day when arpeggios are in the melody. In either an ascending or descending direction, triads rule the day. Blues bass lines are for the most part created from consistently arpeggiating the chords. In the bass lines, arpeggios often include the 7th to sound out the pitches of the backing V7 chord basis of blues harmony.

Chords. Principally One, Four and Five and this is where the pure diatonic theory goes quite wonky rather quickly. First, our parent scale for the melody pitches does not have the pitches to create the chords. So we've already broken our first rule of diatonic harmony. A concern? Nope, just want to know the combinations and sources for the pitches. Second, blues chords in a major key song are V7 chord type, so they contain a tritone between their 3rd and 7th. Concern? Nope, it is what it is but the tonic chord in a blues is V7. Actually all the principle chords are. So in sorting it all out there's a lot of borrowing pitches. Problem here? Nope, but very often quite a tangle for emerging theorists to decipher from a diatonic perspective. Does any of this theory mumbo jumbo matter when writing or performing blues songs? Good question amigo. When writing, I'd say yes but then I'm a theorist. When performing? I'd say no because once under the lights ... :)

Form. The four bar phrase is king in the blues. Most songs string three of these together making 12 bars, the core Americana blues form. And while there's all sorts of variations in length of form, this 12 bar blues form has been our continental standard for eight or nine decades now, and is surely also heading towards global recognition becoming known as a musical form that quickly brings like minded cats together on to the exact same page for making music together right now. Like jamming? Yep, but with a measurable form to organize pitches, chords and time to work within, to build an interactive group magic that is recognized and shared by listeners and dancers alike. When everyone in the mix can follow along together, there's a new type of potential for creating community through our music.

Color tones. As the blues is mainly a V7 based genre, the most common color tones are the ones built off V7. That melody pitches, the blue notes, are often not part of the basic chords, advanced players will often find these tones in the chords in their supporting role behind the singer. The melody minor 3rd becoming the V7#9 probably being the most common. The diatonic 'nine' color of the V9 chord makes the core harmony for all sorts of funk styles. Eleven is common in songs in a minor key. Thirteen is the color tone for all sorts of blues grooves; jump, swing, rockabilly etc., whether the 12 bar blues form is the overall structure of the song or not as the case may be. Blues hue mixed into other styles? Exactly. Americana core? Yep.

Improv. In small group performance, I've ever yet to see cats reading on the gig. So in that sense, the whole tamale is being created live thus improvised; everyone making up their parts together as they hear it as they go along together. In addition, there's a lot of soloing as each player can get an opportunity to 'testify' about the story being told. While usually a two chorus minimum, stronger players need more space to work up their magic. In regular jazz performances of the 12 bar blues, in medium to brighter tempos, taking a half a dozen choruses is not at all uncommon.

Dynamics. The loud and soft dynamics of the music is probably most apparent in a blues performance than in any of our other musical styles. Getting the whole band underneath evenly in volume so as to hear the whisper of the soloist as well as backing their shouting release is the range of dynamics that can happen in every song. Very very difficult for a band to do consistently well. That said, the repeating cycle of the 12 bar form gives ample opportunity and an easy target for everyone to bring the volume down at the 'top' of the form. We just have to remember to do it or gently remind one another. The profound effect that volume dynamics have on the art being created, and the audience as well, makes it well worth the effort to strengthen the dynamic ability of an improvisatory collective of players; for a little bit of discipline can take us a long long way.

A song to learn. The author's own "The Truth Is."

Americana blues music
blues hue
2 ways of tuning
blues rub
blues intro's
shuffle
triplets
6 / 8
12 / 8
swing
blues scale
12 bar form
a four bar phrase
call and response
blues hooks
descending minor triad
V7 bass lines
blues harmony
parent scale
diatonic harmony
V7
a 2 pitch tritone
tonic chord
principle chords
under the lights
borrow pitches
form in music
the four bar phrase
12 bar blues
community
color tones
V7
blue notes
backing a soloist / singer
minor 3rd
#9
9 / funk
11
13
the blues hue
Americana core
improv
reading on the gig
testify
a chorus
underneath the soloist
'top' of the form
"The Truth Is"
 

Rock songs. Coming out of the blues of the 1950's, early rockers followed the 12 bar blues form. Since then there's no limit to the creative direction rock music has taken. Telling stories is still the core. The juice of young love from each new successive generation often being the elixir for energizing the next top 10 hit. The evolution of the gear for guitar players through succeeding decades plays huge in the evolutions of the various styles and genres within the rock music world we inherit today. While mostly looking for longer sustain oh held notes, the various signal overdrives often call for readjusting the combinations of pitches, especially in the chords, to keep things from sounding like mush of our own parts as well as in the mix our our sound with the band.

Time and tempo / rock hits on beat one. Folks love to dance to rock music so tempos are danceable to slower for slow dancing :) The big 4 again is king. And while the 2 and 4 backbeat fills the dance floor, rock likes to hit on the downbeat, 1, the first beat of the measure. In essence, rock is rock because it hits on one; drums, bass, guitar, vocals ect., nearly always followed by the snare hit on 2.

Melodies. While there's a lot of rock instrumentals, most rock melodies are sung. Melodies are usually blues based or if more major scale, then leaning towards a more pop direction. Critics often distinguish between a 'singer' and a vocalist.' A singer finding moreart in the presentation of the pitches of the song's melody and a vocalist more focused on fronting the band show, telling their stories with oftentimes with more bravado and showmanship than pitch expertise.

Chords. Principally mixing the diatonic major and minor One, Four and Five chords, i.e., the three and three. The blues influence often adds the b7. Thanks to the evolution of the gear, today's rockers are often just working the root and fifth of the chords, modern power chords I guess. Early 50's rock and rockabilly used more triad based ideas, with the major 6th chord adding in the jump feel of rockabilly and its swing. 60's power chords were barre chords with a fair amount of doubling in the two core voicings. 70's begin the digital gear evolutions and its balance of a return to analog hand wired rigs. So from the 5th's of metal to the beginnings of the V7 blues and V9 of funk and into jazz harmonies, all of our chords can find a home somewhere in the rock stylings.

Form. The 12 bar blues is not uncommon especially early on and also in rock adaptations of true 12 bar blues tunes. The four bar phrase still reigns supreme, getting linked like boxcars to tell the tales. Intros play a big part in rock. Signature riffs to kick off a tune are still among the most sort after pitches in the biz.

Color tones. With its blues basis, rock colortones mostly lean the way of the blues. But anytime there's some pop in the rock, all of the diatonic colortones are in play. Any sort of theatrical rock will surely stretch all of the boundaries of all of our elements.

Improv. Rockers, like blues players, generally are not reading the music they are performing, thus they are improvising their parts often based the rote learning of their part in the music. Through repetition their parts become second nature for performance. The rock soloist often holds the top spot among the fans, when both lead singer and soloist are the same cat, the potential for superstar status begins to align.

Dynamics. Since "Stairway To Heaven" was released, rock composers love to mix and balance quiet sections with a full on musical blast. Time and again we hear top 10 songs with acoustically sounding intros or verse sections within a song followed by the full roar of the chorus. Not too sure if the opposite is true. A blast of a verse with acoustic chorus. Regardless, rock is music that is generally played loud. Over the decades of its performance it'll take a toll on one's physical hearing abilities. Be mindful of your ears around loud and powerful sound reinforcement equipment. Although some might quip ... 'if its too loud you're too old ...' if we can't hear it then we can't hear it ... at any age. Be careful, we only get two ears and they are hard to fix.

A song to learn. "When You Coming Back."

Americana rock music
hits on 1
the big 4
the backbeat
the big 4
pitch expertise
the diatonic three and three
root and 5th
power chords
barre chords
blues chords
jazz chords
intros
signature riffs
diatonic color tones
theatrical rock
rote learning
verse
chorus
 

Bluegrass and country songs. The basis of these musics is probably just 'three chords and the truth.' Stories are written and told as in the folk manner but country has its own sort of twang to it. Bluegrass brighter tempos, more breaks and improv generally. The themes for the songs run the wide range of events that fill the lives of the folks that live in the country, as opposed to the cities, probably why we end up and call it country music. Bluegrass named from the color of some of the grass that grow in Kentuky.

Time and tempo. Folks love to dance to these musics, so there's a few key tempos, bass patterns and beats to learn. The big 4 rules still rules the day, strong 'chunkin' on 2 and 4 is common in bluegrass and there's a waltz's in 3 are surely a dancer's delight.

Melodies. Melodies are mostly diatonic major with a hint of the blues on certain pitches and words. In Appalachian sourced melodies we commonly find Mixolydian mode hints into more traditional bluegrass melodies such as "Old Joe Clark." Telling the story is the key and however best that is, the vocalist will usually decide and shape the lines accordingly. Vocal harmonies have been essential in these genres and take lots and lots of work to get right. The hard work pays off in beautiful art and well worth the effort for those that want to gig steady. Bluegrass has way more instrumentals (no vocals), where the melody is played by an instrument in the group. Rule of thumb here is to simply not be afraid of the melody. Just rote learn it and then gig it over and over, become one with the melody :)

Chords. The full mix of the diatonic One, Four and Five major and minor triads are all in play. Surely a 7th on the Five chord making V7 / dominant 7th, and more of this sound when the blues hue enters these genres.

Form. The four bar phrase is still king, multiples of four into really any of the abbreviated or full 32 bar song forms are most most common. Although there's the 12 bar blues form which usually comes along with some rock influence in country. Country songs tell stories, stories easily unfold in the timeless manner of the gospel basic of call and response, which most often balances all into four bar phrases. Master the four barphrase and a lot will fall into place :)

Color tones. Six is probably the most common and forms an original country guitar / bass guitar lick. In the vocals, there's the fluidness of the gospel, bluesy chromatics of pitch that adorn principle pitches with accomplished singers. Potentially termed melismatic, finding a balance between pure tone and a gospel blues filigree is the challenge all country singers might need to negotiate at some point along the way. Yodeling was an earlier style that country folks just love but not all too common these days.

Improv. Lead solo's in bluegrass and country for guitar, steel guitars, fiddles, mandolins, banjos and more, usually run eight bars or so and are pretty snappy affairs getting in some real joy and oftentimes laughter into the music, longer solos when playing live to stretch out tunes. Studio recordings, and this is historically speaking too, often finds each soloist getting four bars, as they split up the larger form to give everyone a say and still come in under three minutes for the recording for radio play. This creates some wonderful 'trading of ideas' between the players.

Dynamics. The loud and soft voice dynamics of an animated storyteller can add great depth to the telling of the tale and draw in the listeners that much closer.

A song to learn. In addition to the titles suggested in the above discussion, two of which are included as lead sheets in the songs section, here's two additional suggestions; the absolutely rollicking Americana classic "Roll In My Sweey Baby's Arms" and the Old West story of Marty Robbibs titled "El Paso." Both of which are simply great tunes, now classics covered by many stars and mostly known by everyone in the room.

Americans country music
three chords and the truth
bass patterns
instrumentals
fear not the melody
the diatonic triads
V7
32 bar song forms
cliche country lick
wiki ~ "Roll In My Sweet Baby's Arms
wiki ~ "El Paso"
covered
 

Pop songs. Americana pop is an urban phenomena of mostly vocal music and was at one time totally centered on American jazz. When radio first came on big in the 30's, the age jazz was king and most well crafted pop song had everything; a spoken word intro, recitative setting up the story to be told backed by hints of the song's main melody, an instrumental introduction to the statement of the main melody, a second melody commonly know as the bridge, a recapitulation of the main melody and some sort of coda that brought the song to a close. Do we still get these elements in well crafted pop songs today? Absolutely.

Through the decades after, pop took on new meanings as our culture evolved. By the 50's, the cross-pollinations between communities began the advent of rock and roll. Originally based on the blues form, early rock became the new pop and jazz moved on. From that point forward through the 60's to today, pop music, or America's popular music, has also been tonic centered but just a lot more diatonic, relying on core pitches that are worked into very singable hooks. Easy to remember, easy to hum along with. Ever get a tune 'stuck in your head?' Probably a pop song. While mostly about love and all its wonders, pop songs continue in the American tradition of musics; at the end of the day to simply wash off the dust of everyday life.

Time and tempo. Pop music is very often the music the office folks listen to on the radio at work during the week and want to go out and dance to on the weekends at their clubs. Mostly in 4, tempos range from ballads to salsa's that race the dancers around. No limit and all is in play. Folks love to get fancied up and go out to dance on Saturday night. There's a big payday all around in the whole process for show biz folks. It's what we do. Not sure how music theory fits into all of this but it can't hurt to know. Fresh remakes of remakes of originals with a modern touch ( yours ) can still go top ten.

Melodies. Pop melodies are mostly diatonic in a major key. Minor key pop tunes often tell sad stories and then borrow a bit of the major to bring some light and to steer clear of a too darkly modal effect. The melodic mixing of the yin / yang ~ major / minor ~ minor / major has been with us forever.

Chords. Pop chords are mostly triads, diatonic and mix of the three principle chords; One, Four and Five.

Form. The various 32 bar song forms are most popular. Today's hip hop and beyond is usually a series of four, four bar phrases, repeated.

Color tones. Diatonic mostly with limited chromaticism. And unless the story line is blues hued, there's not a lot of the blue notes which if present are cliche ideas.

Improv. Usually four to eight bars of a worked out idea and this would be the riff of the song or quoting the hook.

Dynamics. Nothing over done really, just an even mix for dancing and telling love stories. Author's note; not sure why there's not more spots where 'a wisper' of the voice is used.

A pop song to learn. Here's a Latin dance number titled "Waltz In To My Arms."

Americans pop music
pop music
the radio
well crafted
recitative
intro
melody
the bridge
recapitulation
coda
form in music
wash the dust
in 4
wiki ~ top 10
major / minor
the diatonic 3 and 3
form in music
cliche ideas
the riff
quoting
mix / mastering
 

Jazz songs. The theory in Americana jazz covers the full spectrum of all available resources, instruments, combinations etc., that anything from anywhere is all on the jazz palette of musical colors. We can historically trace the evolution of the gradual lessening of the sense of a tonal center through the decades; from the more tonic centered blues of the 20's to the free 12 tone works 50 years later. In between is the full slicing and exhausting of the diatonic pie as well as a full exploration of basic chord substitution principles that have lead us to the V7 based chromatic buzz of today.

Time and tempo. Surely the big 4 march is the basis, for from it springs the easy swing that energizes the jaunty Americana we so dig and can find somewhere in all of our stylesd and genres. Nowadays everything is in play from all cultures, and especially the Latin sounds from Brazil and beyond. Initially in the later bop of the 1940's then the softer bossa nova craze in the late 50's into the 60's, today's Latin influence creates a modern coolness and smoothness that is pure dance. Explore.

Melodies. As all 12 pitches are play and the endless shading of the blue note pitches in between, absolutely no limit to our melodic resource. As guitar plyers we can fret a note, bend a note or find the right pitch with a slide. Sequences are very common, as are wide interval leaps and especially the octave, found in so many great jazz melodies.

Chords. Anything from anywhere is the theory mantra. While it takes a while to get there, knowing the theory of this potentiality creates the evolving harmonic vista.

Form. All of our most common forms; the 2 bar vamp, the 4 and 8 bar phrase, 12 bar blues, 16 bar forms that double to 32 song forms are in the jazz literature. Players routinely negotiate an arrangement by saying; vamping in, play the form, solo over the form and vamp on out. Or call something as a 12 bar blues. Collectively from all the styles these forms sum up what commonly find and play in jazz songs. With these under our fingers we've the raw materials to expand and arrange musical forms to tell the unique story of a song. A strong sense of form, and where one is within a set form as the music moves along is the goal. For if your music evolves along the 'free' stylistic vein of jazz's historical pathway, it'll be the form of the piece that helps to bind the elements in performance. 'Marking' the time, as in the beginning of each new four bar phrase, is a sure way to sure things up in this tonal environment.

Color tones. All colortones are available on chords.

Improv. The heart of jazz is the 'collective conscious' improv of the collaborating players. Whether playing by rote or reading, for jazz players there's usually the improv basis underneath it all. For even rote players will oftentimes read along written music, turning chord symbols into their arpeggios and sound these pitches out as the chords pass by, creating single line melody style improvisations, sifting for ideas to further develop. While more reading the music groups usually leave sections for each player to solo in the emotional environment created by the song.

From club date to concert hall, dixie to modern, jazz players will shed with collaborative improv in mind, show up and negotiate, and often bring to the music aspects of what their day has brought them. Mix a few of these voices together with a sense of swing and somewhere in the negotiation of the music is the cherished artform we call jazz that we newly invent each time we count it off.

Dynamics. Again the idea that an interesting conversation is often created with a well modulated voice of tone and volume. Knowing the words to the instrumental versions of standards is a way into the story of the song, becoming a way into the message and intent of the composer that we recreate.

A song to learn. Hands down learn "When The Saints Go Marching In." Find its swing. Advanced cats might run the line through all 12 keys to up the challenge. Then the blues, its notes and form. Once the basics are mastered in a couple of keys, start in on the chord substitutions. Strive to 'hear the changes in the line.'

Americans jazz music
a palatte of colors
tonal center
a palatte of colors
diatonic pie
V7 chromatic buzz
octave melodies
big 4
bossa nova

explore

bending pitches

slide

sequences

octave interval in melodies

form in music

free jazz

marking time

tonal environment

color tones
emotional environment
swing
count it off
dynamics
standards
count it off
"Saints"
... through 12 keys
blues
12 bar form
blues subsitutions
hear the changes ...

Review. In a top to bottom review of this page, we end up with an accumulated sense of each of our main musical components and how we in theory shape them in creating a style of music. There's a gradually increasing numerical aspect to all of this too. Pitch by pitch to scales, a doubling of length of measures in a phrase, add extra color tones notes to triads, these all contribute to the evolution of the theory / musical style dynamic. That we want a splash of one style to jazz up another into something new and exciting, is among the most wonderful things we might get to do as improvising artists. As theorists here, we look to explore the way of the splash :)

theory / style dynamic
'jazz up'

"I'm very good at knowing what I don't know."

wiki ~ Derek Jeter

Footnotes:

(1)Mauleon-Santana, Rebeca. 101Montunos, p. iv. USA Sher Music Co.,Ca. 1999

(1) Isacoff, Stuart. Temperament ... The Idea That Solved Music's Greatest Riddle, p. 40-42. USA Alfred A. Knopf, New York. 2001

(2)Aebersold, Jamey and Slone, Ken. The Charlie Parker Omnibook. New York: Atlantic Music Corp., 1978.