Guitar Tuning By Ear

(This is edited from an answer I posted to KeyMinor, a music Q&A site. They need more users!)

A lot of recordings end up slightly higher/lower than standardized pitch (I always called this “in the cracks” but don’t google it!), and this is the quickest way I’ve found to tune a guitar to them.  This method seems simplistic but has several advantages going for it:

  • All strings are tuned to the same reference pitch, so there’s no accumulation of error as you move from string to string (and you can tune any of the top 5 in any order).
  • The higher the frequency, the easier it is to notice the beat when two identical notes differ slightly in pitch. Matching high pitches yields lower error.
  • All pitch matching is done with notes in the same octave; this also helps you notice the beat

Here it is. Continue reading  

Chord Theory: 13 is probably 7(13)

A 7th add 13 chord is often voiced r-5-7-3-13, sometimes leaving out the fifth. To pin this to a key, a G7(13)—G⁷⁽¹³⁾ if your chart can handle Unicode—is usually voiced G-D-F-B-E and is a common (in jazz and standards anyway) way to make the resolution from G7 to C more subtle and harmonically interesting. In G7 – C, the F resolving to E is hard to ignore, but in G7(13) – C, the E is already present, making the removal of the F more subtle. The dissonance between F and E (a major seventh interval) gives the G7(13) a richer sound.

The consensus on the web seems to be that this is actually a 13th chord, even though there’s no 9th or 11th present:

“In modern pop/jazz harmony … a thirteenth chord does not imply the quality of the ninth or eleventh scale degrees.” [Thirteenth on Wikipedia]

I disagree. Since the true 13th chord is an extension of the 11th chord, it should sound more like an 11th than a 7th. Elevenths almost always imply a suspended, missing, or nearly inaudible 3rd, but the 3rd in 7(13) is usually very prominent. If you really think G13 and G7(13) are the same chord, play these two voicings one after one another on guitar:

  • G13 3-x-3-2-1-0 →  G7(13) 3-x-3-0-0-0

Clearly there is movement; they are different chords. If you see a 13th chord in a pop music chart, know that it is really a 7(13).

Some easy V7(13) to I resolutions on guitar (with the 3rd kept on top)

  • A7(13) x-0-5-6-7-xD x-x-0-2-3-2
  • G7(13) 3-x-3-0-0-0C x-3-2-0-1-0
  • D7(13) x-5-4-5-0-xG 3-2-0-0-0-x
  • E7(13) 0-5-6-6-x-xA x-0-2-2-2-x

About the Eleventh (and its third)

As I mentioned, 11th chords almost never have the 3rd present*. You will almost never hear a B in a G11 chord. Some people write these as F/G, and, for voicing purposes this OK, but I dislike the notion that G11 should be thought of as an F chord. 1) it has a D in it. We could write it as F6/G or Dm7/G, but that’s taking us down the wrong path. 2) “G11” gives the reader a better impression that the chord will resolve to (and that our key is) major C.

*So it might really be a 9sus4, but writing it is as 11 seems a less egregious error than writing 7(13) as 13.

Brittle Stars @ Pop Mayhem, Thursday, May 8

6500 miles can’t stop the rock. Thursday, May 8th, a reunited Brittle Stars play Common Grounds as a part of Gainesville’s Pop Mayhem festival.

Hear songs such as, but not performed as well as, these:

Also that night: Ifwhen, the Buddy System, Giddy-Up Helicopter, and maybe one other band. Sorry to hear about Que Possum! :(

The show is $10 at the door/on tonevendor, or get the full pass to get in all the shows.

Music is killing music

I’d never claim file sharing doesn’t hurt music sales, but there’s another simple reason why individual music releases will continue to sell more poorly over time: The continuous explosion of choice. Even if listeners spent as much on music as they did years ago, the chances of us buying the same releases drops constantly as “out-of-print” becomes meaningless.

Also it’s easier than ever to know about the “essential” albums and comps, and they’re reissued feverishly. Every indiepop band should make their music accessible as possible; you’re not just competing with Belle & Sebastian, but also Village Green, Odessey & Oracle, Field Mice reissues, awesome girl group comps, et al. Good luck!

Should I mention a Brittle Stars CD comp is in the works?

Marriage Rock I

Yeah, we did it. I was in charge of the music and spent most hours from weeks before up until the morning of with my head stuck inside MediaMonkey. I can’t say enough good things about the “Gold” version, but these posts will shockingly not be about the boring machinations of software.

Look For Me As You Go By – The Innocence Mission
Our first dance. I was warned it seems like an eternity when 60 people are staring at you, so I chopped 19 seconds from the end chorus. Love this song.

Keep Sending Me Black Fireworks (wedding edit) – Of Montreal
Lately this is the closest Of Montreal’s come to a straight up pop love song, and it’s perfect. I did cut some weirdness to keep guests bouncing.

Uncontrollable Boasting
Three awesome tunes that pretty much glued themselves together. “Going Back to Miami” is courtesy of the ever-awesome Bubblegum Machine.

I forgot how uninviting makeshift reception dance floors can be, and how quick people file out once the cake is cut, but no matter; these songs became our soundtrack for weeks before and after the ceremony.

A lot more to come…

NPR music + Stephin Merritt

NPR just launched their new music site, which nicely gathers music stories and media from a lot of different NPR shows. My favorite feature: Their media player is Flash-based. It’s a little quirky in Opera, at least, but so much better than the works-some-of-the-time WMP plugin that Opera used, and don’t get me started on Real.

Stephin Merritt was invited to be the first (at least I can’t find any others) participant in All Songs Considered’s “Project Song“. They gave two days use of a studio and engineer and asked him to create a song based on a photograph and phrase. They have video of the process and song, which turned out pretty good. It’s loop-based like those on The House of Tomorrow, but with less noise and reverb (please bring back the noise and reverb). The song’s subject might make a good villian for Lemony Snicket.

Rhythm guitar geniuses

Ivy frequently has stunning rhythm guitar parts–a little bit of extra texture, a little melody. Two examples: “Blame In On Yourself” from Long Distance, and Apartment Life’s “Quick, Painless, and Easy” The latter I’ve been casually wondering how to play for some time so I finally sat down and figure it out.

Ivy “Quick, Painless, and Easy” (rhythm guitar)

First, raise the B string to C so C and E can ring open together (it’s possible with standard tuning but the E+ is a pain to get your fingers in and out of). Everywhere but the chorus the A string quiet drones. The named chord is the effective harmony with the electric bass in the recording (how you might play it on piano, etc.)

Tuning = E-A-D-G-C-E (raise B to C)

  Amaj7      x-0-6-6-4-0
  Cmaj7/G    x-0-5-4-0-0
  Fmaj7      x-0-3-2-0-0
  E+         x-0-2-1-0-0
  Am7        x-0-7-5-7-0
  Cmaj7/G    x-0-5-4-0-0
  Fmaj7      x-0-3-2-0-0
  Cmaj7/G    x-0-5-4-0-0

Pre-chorus (twice)
  Amaj7      x-0-6-6-4-0
  Cmaj7/G    x-0-5-4-0-0
  D6add9/F#  x-0-4-4-2-0
  Fmaj7      x-0-3-2-0-0

  C          3-3-2-0-0-0
  D          x-0-0-2-2-2
  C          3-3-2-0-0-0
  D          x-0-0-2-2-2
  C          3-3-2-0-0-0
  D          x-0-0-2-2-2
  Fmaj7      1-3-3-2-0-0
  G6add4     3-5-5-4-0-0

Mark Wirtz

This compilation of Mark Wirtz-produced songs rocks. Especially if you like 60’s girl groups with wall-of-everything+kitchen-sink productions, dramatic breaks that are just waiting to be sampled, bubblegum pop songs with psychadelic edges. There are duds and some dumb lyrics here and there, but it’s a great variety of sounds and clever pop songwriting.

Some highlights:
Today Without You – Samantha Jones
Rumours – Kippington Lodge
I’m Waiting For The Day – Peanut (Best cover of a Beach Boys song?)