Organizing Musical Information

Many guitar players I know have trouble remembering all the various things they learn. They learn certain things but cannot relate them to everything else. They have a bunch of information (chords, scales, licks, songs, etc.) just floating around and end up chasing their tails learning new things while forgetting other things. So, I am writing this column to help broaden the spectrum of knowledge for the student of the guitar. I am assuming that you have basic knowledge of formulas and some theory, but even without that you can use this as a guide to what you should learn and memorize.

Think of music, or guitar, as a tree and all the aspects/elements of music are branches on that tree. By organizing the individual chords and scales properly we can quickly identify the information in our mind like a file cabinet. For the most part, all music can be identified by chords and scales, also known as harmony and melody, or riffs and solos.

Outside of the obvious practices, like technique, rhythm, reading, writing, learning songs, and creating songs, we must also learn and memorize scales and chords. Here is a systematic approach to which chords and scales we should learn and memorize in order of importance. Fingerings and formulas for these chords are easily found, but I will get into formulas and chord theory more at a later date. Of course, depending on the genre of music you play, the order of importance may change.

After memorizing power chords and the basic eight open chords (A, Am, C, D, Dm, E, Em, and G - notice I went from A to G or first to last), we must memorize all the chords with only three different notes in them and the inversions of those chords. There are only four types of chords with three different notes in them. They are: Major, Minor, Diminished, and Augmented chords.

After memorizing the fingerings and inversions of those three note chords, move on to four note chords. The first four basic chords we should learn with four different notes in them are diatonic seventh chords also referred to as polychords: Major 7th, minor 7th, Dominant 7th, and 1é2 diminished chords.

Then we should memorize suspended and add chords. The difference between suspended and add chords is that suspended chords have no 3rd, while add chords are just adding in another note to the chord without taking out the 3rd. Examples: Sus9, add9, sus4, add4 and 6 chords.

After memorizing the 7th chords and suspended/add chords we can then add Minor/Major7, Major7#5, and Diminished 7 (these chords work in a harmonic minor key).

Then learn the family of dominant seventh chords: 9, 11, and 13th chords.

Followed by the family of major seventh chords: Major9, Major11, and Major 13.

The learn the family of minor seventh chords: Minor9, minor11, and minor13.

Finally, learn the altered 7th chords: dom7b5, dom7#5, dom7b9, dom7#9 (the Jimi chord), dom7b13, and dom7#11.

This, of course, is not a complete list, but is a good start. Obviously, learning about chord theory is of supreme importance after a little time memorizing chords, but I will save those ideas for another column. Organize these chord types from first to last. Do not learn any new chords until you have memorized the last bunch to assure that you will not forget what you previously learned. Otherwise, you will still be chasing your tail.

Here is a list of the scales that you should learn and memorize:

* Major and minor pentatonic scales
* Major and minor blues scales
* Major and minor scales and modes (Ionian, Dorian, Phrygian, Lydian, Mixolydian,
Aeolian, and Locrian)
* Harmonic minor scale and modes
* Melodic minor scale and modes
* Hybrid blues scales
* Diminished scales (half/whole and whole/half)
* Augmented/whole tone scales
* Chromatic scale
* Hungarian and Gypsy minor scales and modes
* Other pentatonic, hexatonic, exotic, altered, symmetrical, and synthetic scales

Make sure you dwell on the feeling that each of these chords and scales evoke in you when you hear them so you will recognize them later when you hear them. Perhaps meditate on their color, or various memories and feelings that you get when hearing them. Or, for those of you incapable of creative thought, at least relate them to a song or guitarist that uses them.

Think again of the tree - from life, to music, then to guitar, then branching into chords and scales of all the different types listed here. Of course, this tree branch approach can work with any other musical elements, such as rhythm, tempo, dynamics, technique, timbre, form, etc. You must be sure you memorize the first thing before going to the second, then be sure you have the first and second things memorized before moving on to the third. Otherwise you will be juggling too much info and not get anywhere.

Don't feel overloaded because of the fact that there is so much to learn. Remember every long journey begins with one step.

In future columns I will teach an easy method of learning how to figure out which scales to play over various chords (meaning how to solo over riffs), as well as relating standard rules of magic and occult knowledge to help us with our music and lives - things like the relationship between Gods, planets, colors, sounds, astrological signs and earth elements.

Hope this information will help you on your journey to the realm of uncreated light.

Wish you all eternal peace and happiness until our paths cross again. Farewell, your fraternal brother of music, light, love and life.

Kevin M. Buck is a world renowned virtuoso. His first solo album Initiation is a collection of inspired rock guitar music.

He teaches and performs professionally, and has been praised by Jason Becker, Steve Vai, Uli Jon Roth, Leslie West, Roger Daltrey and many more.

Kevin M. Buck