Dominant Chords An Augmented 4th Apart In The Root

Dominant Chords An Augmented 4th Apart In The Root

The most powerful and most used progression in music is dropping a 5th in the root.  Anyone has merely to play a Dominant chord of a key followed by the 1st chord or Tonic of that key to understand why the monks of Europe in the Dark Ages named the 5th chord of a key Dominant.  It is an inherent rule of music that the Dominant chord leads to the Tonic.  Anyone can hear the settling of the tone center when this particular chord change is played.

#13 3rd's and 7th's REVERSEFor this particular example of chord substitution I’m going to use an E7 going to an A7 resolving to a Dmaj7.  The A7 chord in this progression is going to be substituted by an Eb7 chord which is the same chord type an augmented 4th away in the root.  You can hear in the example that this is a pleasing similar sound.  I don’t know why this works but it does.  It also happens that the 3rd’s and 7th’s of the A7 and the Eb7 are the same notes reversed in position, making the different chords quite alike.  What you can realized out of this harmonic device is a chromatically descending chord progression that is different from the cycle of 5th’s with the same amount of solidity and power.  When using this device you must adjust the chords to reflect the notes of the melody that are happening when the chord substitution is being played.


Progressions In Harmony

There is so much to think about when discussing chord progressions it boggles the mind.

A good starting point in understanding chord progressions is the flow inherent in most any musical piece.  Fast or slow, happy or sad, poignant or ludicrous, rebellious or patriotic each tune is built around defining the flow of the piece reflected in style, tempo, rhythmic and harmonic structure.

There are two basic overall rhythmic flow types in music: vertical and horizontal.  A good example of vertical music would be a John Philips Sousa march where the rhythm is defined by micro stops in time enforced by emphasis.  A good example of horizontal music would be a Bill Evans ballad that magically floats thru time and space.  Most tunes are somewhere in between.

Musical compositions are based on establishing a tonal center, going away from it, coming back to it.  How you do this is dictated by the style of music and the level of the composer/arranger.  There are 3 basic types of harmonic chordal progression: diatonic scale motion (Cmaj7, Dm7, Em7, Fmaj7,etc.), cycle of fifthing (C7,F7, Bb7, Eb7, etc.) and going from relative major to relative minor (Cmaj7 – Am7).  You must remember that these progression types have been noted in a simplified manner.  The amount of sophistication, creativity and inventiveness that can be applied is endless.  The goal of jazz progressions is to proceed fluidly forward with no effort.


Approaching The Technical End Of Music

When I was a young person I was always amazed by anyone who could play anything. Since I didn’t know a lot about the technical, theoretical end of music I was easily impressed by anything that sounded good to my untrained ears. I didn’t realize that that was as far as most people took it, they just liked it or they didn’t and that was all there was to it.

I wanted to play and I wanted to be good but I didn’t know how. What happened, because I didn’t understand how or why, is that I placed myself in a position of un-understanding which hindered my musical growth for many years. I hadn’t been shown and I wasn’t a savant. I lacked a good music education and my musical growth suffered until I came in contact with competent teachers who had experience and knowledge.

It took me the longest time to start writing drum parts. How could I do that? I wasn’t a drummer. It wasn’t until I asked Bill Muha, a drummer in one of my bands, for advice and he told me that drumming really clicked for him when he finally got the basic swing beat. In 4/4 time the snare on 1 & 3, the bass drum on 2 & 4 and the ride cymbal on 1, the and of 2 and 4. I went home and wrote that rhythm into my Finale software program and played it back. Lo and behold my understanding clicked. Here was a rhythmic flow defined by a combination of 3 simple parts. Granted this isn’t the end all of drumming but it allowed me to open my mind and place my feet on solid ground to proceed forward. Thanks Bill.

The Importance Of Proper Technique

The Importance Of Proper Technique

It goes without saying that practice makes perfect.  Practice will even improve natural talent and when it is coupled with consistent lessons with a knowledgeable teacher the only limit is the inherent ability of the student.

It is important when learning an instrument and how to play that the student comes in contact with the best teacher available as soon as possible.  One should not think that it is a good idea to get comfortable with the instrument and learn a few things on their own and then get an instructor.  Unless you are one of those very few people, people who are born with the ability to play as in being a savant, you end up doing more damage to your playing then you realize.  First impressions are very strong both physically and mentally, especially in matters of technique.  It can take the student six months to correct an incorrect first impression experience on an instrument.

Even savants would benefit from being shown how to properly physically approach an instrument as far as hand and body position.  What feels naturally comfortable is not always the best way.  In your everyday life you don’t hold your hands and body in a manner conducive for playing. You need to be shown and allow your hands and body to open up to the correct physical positions.  Eventually you will adopt your own particular playing style though it is really best to wait until you have mastered the “proper” way to play before you start making personal technique decisions.

The Old Man

Remembering Robert Lowe

I would like to take a minute and remember and tell a story about Detroit jazz guitarist Robert Lowe. If I’m recalling correctly the first time I saw Robert play was at the Pretzel Bowl in Highland Park in the Lyman Woodard band in the early 70’s.

A few years later I went into the Detroit Community Music School to teach and was informed that I had a new student at 2 o’clock that afternoon. You can just imagine my surprise when at 2 o’clock Robert Lowe walked into my lesson room and told me he had come to learn how to read music.

I asked him where he needed to start and he told me at the very beginning, he couldn’t read a single note. So I got him a copy of the Joe Fava Guitar Method Vol.1 and we started on the 1st string with the notes E, F and G, whole notes, half notes and quarter notes. He had always played everything by ear.

Needless to say it became immediately apparent at the beginning of his 2nd lesson that he had spent absolutely no time practicing his reading. I made sure he understood the material and then we jammed for the remainder of the lesson. This pattern continued until his 4th lesson.

He walked into the room with a big black book of hand written charts and told me that the real reason he was in my room was that he had gotten a gig backing up Nancy Wilson and couldn’t read the material. He asked me if I would help him by reading and playing the music which he planned to memorize the sound of as I played it. So that is what we did. I never asked him how the gig went.

I was deeply affected by Robert’s passing and still remember his amazing thumb and ever present smile.

Robert Abate, Ron English, Robert Lowe – Recorded at the Guitar Summit 2004

Welcome To

Welcome To

I would like to cordially invite everyone to visit my new website: The main focus of the site is the sale of original composition and custom band arrangements. Original music for any purpose and custom ensemble arrangements for any size group or style. There are many playable audio files showing examples of these services including the entire score to my latest musical theatre piece. There are also pages devoted to performance and lessons.

Dance companies, movie makers, song writers wanting professional recordings of their songs, vocalists needing demo tunes with instrument back up, commercial producers, musical theatre playwrights, professional bands needing hot custom arrangements and artists recording CD’s with no band are just a few of the types of people who would profit and find value in my services. All genres and styles.

Please visit the website, enjoy the musical experience and recommend me to anyone you think would need or benefit from what I have to offer.

The audio file with this post is an original composition entitled “She’s Got The Fever”, from my new CD of the same name. Thank you very much, Robert.