~ musics Americana ~

~ Amer Afro Euro ~

~ this book's story ~

'that endless collaging together of culture and musics that empowers our Americana musics ...'

Americana synchopation

'just tuning the same pitches two ways to create the melody and chords that motor the Americana blue hue extravaganza'


YetAmericana music has two elements that make it American, through every knook and cranny of our spectrum of styles. Of course they do not have to have these elements to be included, but historically its these two musical elements that help tie all of our musics together. And of course we theorists are curious as to what these two basics are.

2 and 4

the bklue hue

wiki ~ the Americas
the organic source

In a nutshell. Through all of our Americana styles of music, we love our melodies and our chords. We usually have them together in songs, and we generally want them to be 'in tune' together, especially the chords. On guitar, one of a few instruments that can handily create all the chords, we get to super fine tune the pitches to exacting standards. Tuned thus, there's just no end to ways we can combine any pitches to create harmony.

Yet some of our oldest and dearest Americana melody notes, while surely found on the same instrument, we tune up differently enough that they struggle making chords. And while we don't generally re-twist the tuning pegs to find these notes, we need them equally so.

Challenged in making chords, these notes do excell in helping our melodies carry forth the Americana message and experience. Supported by fine tuned chords, and now with a solid 100 years of history and literature to explore, weaving all these pitches into our music brings forth the uniquely Americana blue hue.

It is in examing the properties of these pitches which forms the basis of our studies here. For we each want to understand these pitches in relation to the musics we dig, the musics we want to create. So we pursue this blue hue through our spectrum of styles and create a 'journey to understanding' that unfolds uniquely for each reader.

For as we examine Americana songs, from a variety of styles and theory properties, we get to include the pitches and rhythms of musics from of all the world's people. And since we all share from the organic source of Mother Nature's pitches in common, all musics can readily blend right into the Americana mix.

wiki ~ the Americas
the organic source

In a nutshell. In working towards a better understanding of our own musics, we can knit up the theory basis of what is currently under our fingers, the musical elements and ideas that we use to create our musics. These we already know, or can quickly come to terms with. Thus we each plant our seeds to proceed. To grow our own understanding our what 'Americana' is for each of us.

Today, Americana becomes a term to describe the whole sum of an all inclusive, historical perspective of the peoples, their lives, times and doings on the combined North and South American continents. Thus 'American', a plural version of the word. Pretty vast area of geographics, cultures and its peoples. Yep, lotta miles even one way.

your own journey
wiki ~ the americas

Americana musics draw from and combined African and European experiences in a new land. We combine one set of pitches sourced and tuned up to Africa standards and one set of pitches tuned up Europe standards. While sharing many similarities, they remain cool and unique, yet blend seemless into any style, tempo, mood, gumbo or groove 'Americana.' Cool?

Americana guitar. That the guitar is completely capable of simultaneously bringing forth both tuning versions of the pitches, a coolness that no other instrument can begin to match. Not even close really, in tune chords and bluesy pitched melody. Probably why guitar is so popular. That it mostly travels fairly well helps too :)

your own journey
wiki ~ Africa
wiki ~ Europe

As guitarists, our own historical merge starts back around the 1800's with the African banjo. 'Justly' tuned and today, usually with four or five strings, banjo is historically tuned to an 'open G' chord (one of a few ways, explore). Banjo meets up with the European born classical guitar, now arriving as the 'Flemenco Fire' and 'big desert horizon balladeer', walking up from Mexico via overseas on back to Spain.

Tuned Euro 'standard', E A D G B E, and fretted to create equal temper tuned pitches on six strings, banjo players could simply tune these guitars to their original 'open G' pitches and just kept right on going with their musics. The guitar simply has a wider range of dynamic expressions. Many early Americana guitar pioneers used a slide, which combined in an open tuning, creates a super clear channel for the storytellings of their days. Always been and still on the radio today, this combination of tunings on one ax is the core of our Americana guitars.

dynamics in music
wiki ~ fretted instruments
wiki ~ open G tuning

Pure Americana tonal gravity. In all of our musics and really all art too in many ways, there's that sense of motion to a destination. That 'arc' of ideas expressed that we all get to follow along with as we each interpret a work.

Creating this sense of direction in music helps shape the way we tell our stories. While there's many ways to do this, and each of our styles has their own, in our Americana musics, the 'muddy' blues lick just might be at the top of the top, in tonal gravity with its strength to create a sense of direction and arrival.

Learn it here if need be and begin to discover some of the coolness that comes with playing with gravity. Example 1.

aural predictability
wiki ~ story arc
telling stories

So what makes 'Americana music' Americana? The discussions of Americana and its theories here are probably more of a review session than anything new. For we initially look at our music's most three basic elements; time, melody and harmony. For each of these three hold one essential aspect, totally organic to only Americana, which originated here and has shaped the evolutions of the music over the generations. These main three elements are what traveled around the world and influenced musicians in their own homes and musics, and helped them find new ways forward in their own creative process by adding in some 'Americana.'

wiki ~ America

The twelve tone diatonic Americana. In putting these four words together we create quite a mashup of ideas. For each has their own meaning within our studies of music in general. In this combination for our studies here, they reduce down to quite a simple formula for creating our pitches. That we only have the 12 letter name pitches in total, that in our diatonic realm we need seven to create this full grouping. That leaves us five pitches which become the blue notes in relation to the diatonic seven. That we can project this mashup equally from each of our 12 notes is the whole tamale really.

Tuning. In tuning up our Americana pitches of today we begin by using the basics from Mother Nature and our earthly acoustics from the overtone series. Going back a few thousand years, we can find the ancient Greek Pythagoras understanding this natural organization and mapping out a way to understand and recreate the process with a stringed instrument. We still use these pitches, tweaking their tuning by what we term 'just' intonation. These become our Americana melody notes.

To create our chords, we need to refine the tuning of these pitches through the mathematics of the equal temper tuning method, a very very precise method that 'compromises' some of the pitches just a wee bit. Though compromised, they now beautifully stack up one atop another to create chords. That we can create chords from each of the 12 pitches of the chromatic scale is the added on bonus upgrade that spices the whole tamale.

Time. In Americana musical time we have the unique character of what is commonly termed 'swing.' The idea and phrase 'to swing' simply implies to set the music in this style of time and motion. Swing is the physical feeling of 'pull' that we achieve by accenting 2 and 4. For in the 'big 4' the swing is built right in :)

Melody. Americana melodies have a sort of dual thread to them. For while their pitches and rhythms are steeped in the many unique cultures from around the world, most songs try to bring the Amer - i - can spirit of 'I can.' We thread this drive of self earnestness with the indomitable spirits of the blue notes and the blue hue they bring.

That whenever and wherever spoken, the blue notes remind us that our pursuit of 'free and equal' is ever generational, and must be taken up and carried forth by each of us when our turn comes along. Our experiences, successes and failures we pass along to the next generation, that we have created and raised, educated and empowered, to continue the Americana legacy. For whenever the blue hue appears, we can historically ground again to our very historical beginnings yet raise our flag anew today in the original Americana ideas.

Harmony. For the moden guitarist, the Americana musics together offer a vast array of possibilities. With all of the Euro equal temper harmonies associated with the piano recreate-able somewhere, somehow on our guitars, from 5th's to triads, and all through the color tones to #15 and beyond, all is available and in tune for performing with any of our other instuments. Sky's the limit here. Like rhythms and melody, no limts really.

Americana blues gives us an additional form and harmonic scheme, that propels our jazz musics far beyond a traditional 12 bar blues in 'G.' Based on the dominant V7 chord, whose inner two pitch tritone creates the first of many blues rubs, modernists have expanded this color into performance of jazz standards and beyond of course.

The first valence is created by placing a V7 chord before every written chord of a song. The next ring of color finds all chords in a song being V7 in their basic nature; root, major 3rd, pefect 5th and b7. At this level, allowing for chord substitution, the music becomes distinctly chromatic in nature. And given the brighter tempos of jazz, creates a sort of magical chromatic buzz that is not only fascinating to behold but just a bear to play and keep in front of.

Oh, one more thing here about harmony ...

"Harmoniously is just a better way to live."

Improv Americana. That we might get to improvise so much of our day to day lives is just the way it rolls. For while we've routines for our tasks, things often change, necessitating us to change, to improvise a solution to complete the task at hand. For many, these changes are what make life fun and interesting, an opportunity for learning thus an opportunity to evolve our understanding of the process we are creating.

We can capture this in words by phrases such as 'the art of ... ' or ... 'an artistic approach to ...', 'ah ... the artist at work ... Thinking along these lines in any task brings our creative into play.

In our Americana styles of music, we've much the same challenges. In its performance as a solo artist or in a group setting, we're very often not reading the music. We rote memorize our musics, then collaborate together. We're melding together our individual thinking with those within our group, who also have (hopefully :) rote learned their music.

So the resulting music is in a sense improvised anew each time. And as such gives each of us a chance to 'bring it', to emotionally express ourselves and share this energy with our listeners. In this we reach out to our listeners, who are included in our expressions 'in time' by the beat of our story. As cool as it gets? For those who dig this mixing, absolutely :)

History of improv Americana. There's five basic historical 'spokes' of improv in our Americana musics. The following is about jazz music, but applies to all of our styles to a certain or lessor degree.

Early on, say in the 1880's, the two handed, multi pitch ragtime piano music was divided up into parts. In newly forming Dixieland bands of this era and beyond, the basso lines went to the tubas, and the melody went to everyone else. Songs of the day were written so that if these two lines combined, the chords filled right in. Players simply learned the melody and bass line, and improvised their parts. The form of the song and chord progression being the 'glues' to hold it all together. Plus the 'big 4' of Americana time of course :)

wiki ~ ragtime piano
wiki ~ dixieland bands

Then in the 1920's, from this 'everyone plays the melody' past, Louis Armstrong emerges first and foremost as the melody player, through his voice, scat singing and trumpet. From this historical point forward in performance, stating the melody of a song, and its mostly 'theme and variations' improvisations, becomes the 'feature' of an individual within the band. A 'star is born' and a new one has been born every day since.

wiki ~Louis Armstrong

All of the instruments in the mix now take on a supportive role. The harmony becomes more vertically integrated, and the dawn of the 'arranger' of music begins. Once in place, the Dixieland bands of seven or so cats get bigger and bigger to become the orchestras of 15 to 20 pieces of the 1930's. These are the dance bands of the swing era. Along with the stars of the show, composers and arrangers have the big payday here in owning the copyrights to the music. Near everyone else is in the musician's union.

wiki ~ Dixieland
wiki ~ Swing music

And by the later 1940's, improvisation becomes a true 'soloist's art.' Paying audiences are enthralled in smaller group formats, now usually numbering four or five. The star soloists taking on the status of stars as in other disciplines; acting, athletics, the fine arts etc.

The fourth development in our improv comes about in the late 1950's. John Coltrane is the pioneer here. While chord progressions are still the basis of soloing ' through the changes', Mr. Coltrane now applies a 'parent' pentatonic styled group for each chord. We can hear this application clearly in "Giant Steps."

From this point forward, the pentatonic scales take on a whole new position in jazz improvisation. Entire texts are devoted to their study, both in analysis and projection of opportunity for their uses in creating art. From this point forward, artists have a new opportunity to take it 'out there' with the 'safety net' of the pentatonic group's melding ability unencumbered by the dissonance of the tritone interval.

This pentatonic evolution cushions the move towards the chromaticism that we enjoy today in many modern jazz improvisations. For when we combine all of the four approaches above, and include all of the harmonic evolutions, we end up with a complex weave of potentials, that when handled in accelerated tempos, creates a chromaticised version of our Americana architectures. While still blues based, all 12 tones are simultaneously and continually in play, in each of the traditional voices, bass, chords and melody. Termed within this work as the 'chromatic buzz', it's a fluid marvel of aural color to behold.

So today we inherit these formats, mix and match the variables depending on who is in the mix, the venue and the potential revenues from doing all the work. The 'evolution' through is determined by what our ear will 'accept' as a chordal color functioning 'correctly' in a progression and style. And as our ear evolves, and our acceptance of the new and cool as we venture beyond our diatonic realm, our music evolves through our core Americana styles of music.

Americana 'modern.' That the idea of 'modern' in the title of this work, Essentials Of Modern Guitar, is simply each of us as artists finding new musical elements that make our next song or performance a bit different from that last one. We've moved 'ahead' in our own program, in some way, shape or form and it will someday be reflected in our music. Once the 'modernization' has been initiated in our thinking, we're usually good to go forever as explorer's of Americana musics :)

Applied to a 'guitarist', or any instrument of course, by understanding the basic theories of our musical system of pitches we can sense a fluid spectrum of our musical styles, in this text illuminated by the numerically evolving attributes of music's most essential of components; time, melody and harmony.

In doing so, we become theory self sustaining and fully empowered to 'modernize' our own art in any stylistic direction they may choose. Like a blues artist who wants more jazz, a folk artist less of the triads and more colortones, a jazz artist an ancient folk melody, a rocker another 4 /12 cab whatever :) All modernize our art and lives through change.

Americana universe relighters. So thanks to the wizardry of the what was then modern analogue tube sort of global radio and now forward to satellite digital total global today, where the 'new coolness' travels global in say six minutes ... give or take, there was an era when the whole process to get new ideas countrywide took a bit more time :) Regardless, when their 'new' arrived via the airwaves, its waves could sweep a country by storm, oftentimes evolving our musical language overnight, as everyone in the mix dug the new licks. These artists are such sentient beings, sequenced here by through the decades, they re-lit our Americana musical universe with their own personality of music. Please add 'and forward' to each date, except for those we lost too early, yet whose art we still cherish to this very day.

wiki ~ Louis Armstrong 1920's

wiki ~ Benny Goodman later 1930's

wiki ~ Charlie Christian later 1930's

wiki ~ Charlie Parker 1940's

wiki ~ Louis Jordon 1950's

wiki ~ Elvis Presley 1950's

wiki ~ Hank Garland 1950's

wiki ~ John Coltrane 1950's

wiki ~ Chuck Berry later 1950's

wiki ~ Jimi Hendrix later 1960's

wiki ~ The Beatles 1960's

wiki ~ Stevie Wonder 1960's

wiki ~ Jerry Garcia 1970's

wiki ~ Michael Jackson later 1970's

wiki ~ Madonna 1980's

wiki ~ Eddie Van Halen 1980's

wiki ~ Pat Metheny 1980's

Well that's a start anyway. Did we miss anyone ? Sorry to say yes we did, we easily missed about another million stars or so give or take. Just add them on to your list and keep on going ! Read their bio's, study their music, for it's all good and there's a lifetime of coolness to discover for those who got the juice. And how about you? Re-lighting your own universe with your songs and telling stories needed to be told? Hope so :)

1930's public school education. So based on a fairly recent discovery of this work, the melodies for mastering here are the same one's our musical heros learned in their regular public school music education. These songs all come from this one music book, which was a basic text during the 20th century era.

Review / preservation of cultures and musics. That the scope of Essentials Of Modern Guitar and Tonal Resources For The Creative Musician are designed to include enough information so that in 1000 years, cats might come along and want to recreate the original blues of Americana, then jazz it up and then make some rock and roll, write silly pop songs for lovers and even get their 'politics a passions ya ya's out.'

We do the math too. So we include in this opus, how the pitches get tuned and measured up with one another, which ones can make chords, how selected pitches get rubbed together to make the blues, how to make the rhythms of the blues swing and get toes 'a tappin', bring the smiles and get the dancers up on the floor. From the science of the pitches to evolving a new pitch portal pathways for our journeys, EMG / TRC knits an understanding of the Americana music story so as to be retold again and again, and again and again ... and :)

"It always seems impossible until it's done."
wiki ~ Nelson Mandela