Saturday, October 10, 2009

Pedalboard Planner Blog Now Up

The Pedalboard planner blog is now up at

I'll be moving some of my gear related posts over there and adding reviews of gear there too. Hope to see you there!

Friday, September 25, 2009

Pedalboard Planner Sponsor

Pedalboard Planner now has an official sponsor. WE are proudly brought to you by Pedaltrain. Pedaltrain makes some great pedalboards, and now you can use pedalboard planner to see how your effects will fit on a Pedaltrain pedalboard.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Thirtysomething pre-med

My wife has a new blog that she just started to chronicle her journey to becoming a doctor. The only difference is that she is starting in her 30's rather than her teens. So if you want some light hearted commentary on her new journey of education as well as some great stories of what it's like going back to the same college you graduated from a decade earlier, check it out at thirtysomething pre-med.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Pedalboard Planner

In trying to figure out exactly how to set up my pedalboard and figure out what size board I could use (and still have room to grow) I wanted a program that would let me pull in the pedals I use, and move them around on the screen. So I've begun a little project called Pedalboard Planner. It uses HTML canvas (no Internet Explorer at the moment, but I'm working on that.) Check it out

Pedalboard Planner

It's still very much in beta, so send me your comments.

Friday, August 07, 2009

Riff of the Week

I came across a great resource for all you guitarists out there. It's called Riff of the Week. It is a weekly vidcast by a guy named Dave Weiner. Dave is the 'other' guitarist for Steve Vai's band. Dave takes a few minutes each week to show a cool riff, technique or tonal idea. He also has put up a section on his website with a bunch of background tracks for practicing improvisation. They range in style from Jazz to Metal, in several different keys and modal tonalities. Like I said, a great resource. So, check it out at

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Tech Tools for Musicians - Lilypond

Musical scoring is a much needed evil. From trying to put together a lead sheet to a full up score, if you want to communicate with musicians, it is the best way. But my handwriting is terrible! You do not want to see a handwritten piece of music from me. So that is where software comes in. The full version of Finale (one of the premier notation software tools) is $450. Sometimes I just want to create a few lines of music for a student for free. But I want it to look good. Also the option of having TAB isn't bad either. It's this need that led me to Lilypond.

Lilypond at it's simplest is a text based generator for quality music scores. The upside is that it is open source. The downside is how you make a score. It is fully text based. But fear not. If you are a quick study, you will be making nice looking scores in no time.

For instance, say you wanted to create a simple line of music like this:

You would create a text file that looked something like this.
\version "2.13.3"
\score {
 \relative c' { c4 d e f  e d g a  c,8 d e f e d g a  c d e f e d g a }
Now before you freak out that this is impossible, lets break it down. The first line is simply the version of lilypond you are using. The next line is the begining of a new score. Then a line of notes. The \relative c' means that the notes are relative to middle C. Then as you write in notes it goes to the nearest pitched note. If you want to force it up or down an octave you use an apostrophe or a comma and you add a number behind notes to indicate their duration. the same duration is used on subsequent notes until a new duration is given.

Once you have Lilypond installed and you give this file a name like, all you have to do is double click the file and Lilypond will generate a PDF of your music. With a few extra commands, you can have it also generate svg, png or postscript.

You can see some examples of very complex scores at the Lilypond site.

There are many types of extras you can add to the score like:

\header {
title = "Practice Etude #1"
composer = "Johnny Matthews (1976-)"
\version "2.13.3"
melody = { c4 d e f e d g a c,8 d e f e d g a c d e f e d g a }
\score {
<< \new Staff \relative c {
   \clef "treble_8"  
 \new TabStaff \relative c {  
  \set TabStaff.minimumFret = #0
\score {
  \new Staff \relative c { 
   \clef "treble_8"
  \new TabStaff \relative c {
    \set TabStaff.minimumFret = #5 

and here is the result:

As you can see I've reused the melody 4 times, 2 times in music and 2 times in TAB. I altered the second line of TAB to have a minimum fret of 5. Lilypond does the fingering for me. You can override the fingering if you really want to. The possibilities are really quite extreme. There are tons of features and settings. From articulations, chords names, chord charts, lyrics, altered note heads (for percussion notation), we have barely scratched the surface here.

Stay tuned for some more in depth tutorials on using Lilypond.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Pizza Night

Recently a co-worker of mine wrote about making pizza, and I was inspired to do the same.

If there is one food I love in most of it's forms, it's pizza. My family loves it as well. With 7 of us (including grandpa) we can go through a couple of large pizzas without too much trouble and at $10-$15 a pizza, ordering in is expensive. I enjoy cooking a good meal and so about 6 months ago I started looking up pizza on the internet. I found a dough recipe that sounded good and the same with the sauce. I have over time altered the recipe a bit and have come up with something that my family loves and is fun to make. Also, depending on the toppings, is very inexpensive.

The Dough

2 Cups Warm Water
1 Tablespoon Sugar
1 Tablespoon Salt
1 Tablespoon Olive Oil
4 1/2 to 5 Cups White Flour
(substitute 2 of the cups with whole wheat flour for a heartier dough)
1/2 Tsp dry yeast
Mix the water, sugar, salt, olive oil and 2 cups of flour till well mixed. Add 2 more cups flour about 1/2 cups at a time till it makes a sticky ball. Start kneading the dough adding a little flour at a time to keep the ball from sticking. Add the yeast and knead for about 10 minutes. Divide into 2 balls, and set them in a covered bowl for 1 to 2 hours.

The Sauce

2 Cans Tomato Sauce
1 Tablespoon Salt
3 Tablespoons Sugar
1 Tsp Olive Oil

Garlic Powder, Basil, Oregano, other Italian spices to taste.

Combine and bring to a boil for about 5 minutes. Cover and simmer on med-low for about 30-45 minutes.


Preheat your oven and baking stone to 475.

Press dough ball into circle and use a rolling pin to extend it out to size (you can throw it if you so choose). Use corn meal to dust dough and place on stone. Add 1/2 the sauce, cheese and any other toppings you like. Cook for around 10-12 minutes on the middle rack. Watch closely so that you do not burn your cheese.

By the way if you are going to do this, I would recommend buying your cheese in bulk at Sam's Club. You can get a 20 cup bag of shredded mozzarella for about $8.50. That's really cheap compared to the little 2 cup bags of cheese you get at the grocery store for $3.00 or more each. That really brings the cost down. All in all you can make a couple large pizzas for only a few dollars each.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Learning Modes - Some formulas

Once you start getting the idea of modes, one of the easiest ways to deal with them is knowing how they are spelled relative to their ionian version. We can Use the key of C as a great example.

C Ionian C D E F G A B C Major
C Dorian C D Eb F G A Bb Bb Major
C Phrygian C Db Eb F G Ab Bb Ab Major
C Lydian C D E F# G A B G Major
C Mixolydian C D E F G A Bb F Major
C Aeolian C D Eb F G Ab Bb Eb Major
C Locrian C Db Eb F Gb Ab Bb Db Major

Since C Ionian has no altered notes, we can use that as a very nice baseline

Ionian - No Changes
Dorian - b3 b7
Phrygian - b2, b3, b6, b7
Lydian - #4
Mixolydian - b7
Aeolian - b3, b6, b7
Locrian - b2, b3, b5, b6, b7

So if we simply apply this formula to a major/ionian scale, we transform it into that mode.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Learning Modes - Extending the Chords

Now that we have a list of the triads that are diatonic to the modes of our key, we can extend them to include the diatonic 7th chords of the modes. We now have an even wider canvas to paint with. You may just thing that this is just slapping 7ths on each chord type. For Diminished and Minor, it pretty much is. But for the major 7ths you have to be careful. Because 2 will be major 7th and 1 will be dominant 7th.

I Ionian,Lydian,Mixolydian
Imaj7 Ionian,Lydian
I7 Mixolydian
i Dorian,Phrygian,Aeolian
imin7 Dorian,Phrygian,Aeolian
i° Locrian
i°7 Locrian
II Lydian
II7 Lydian
ii Ionian,Dorian,Mixolydian
iimin7 Ionian,Dorian,Mixolydian
ii° Aeolian ii°7 Aeolian
bII Phrygian,Locrian
bIImaj7 Phrygian,Locrian
iii Ionian,Lydian
iiimin7 Ionian,Lydian
iii° Mixolydian
iii°7 Mixolydian
bIII Dorian,Aeolian,Phrygian
bIIImaj7 Dorian,Aeolian
bIII7 Phrygian
biii Locrian
biiimin7 Locrian
IV Ionian,Dorian,Mixolydian
IVmaj7 Ionian,Mixolydian
IV7 Dorian
iv Phrygian,Aeolian,Locrian
ivmin7 Phrygian,Aeolian,Locrian
#iv° Lydian
#iv°7 Lydian
V Ionian,Lydian
Vmaj7 Lydian
V7 Ionian
v Dorian,Mixolydian,Aeolian
vmin7 Dorian,Mixolydian,Aeolian
v° Phrygian
v°7 Phrygian
bV Locrian
bVmaj7 Locrian
vi Ionian,Lydian,Mixolydian
vi min7 Ionian,Lydian,Mixolydian
vi° Dorian
vi°7 Dorian
bVI Phrygian,Aeolian,Locrian
bVImaj7 Phrygian,Aeolian
bVI7 Locrian
vii° Ionian
vii°7 Ionian
vii Lydian
vii min7 Lydian
bVII Dorian,Mixolydian,Aeolian
bVII maj7 Dorian,Mixolydian
bVII7 Aeolian
bvii Phrygian,Locrian
bvii min7 Phrygian,Locrian

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Learning Modes - Another Step

In my last post, we looked at a very simple chord progression with a couple of chords. Most likely you will be playing music that is much more complicated. So what happens when a Cm shows up in your song in G major? There is a note in that chord that is not in your key! Well there are a couple things you can do here.
  • Do not play an E during this chord
  • Switch to C Minor
  • Find some other mode that works
Well option 1 is simple enough, but we want to spice things up a little. Option 2 and 3 actually go together. If we look closely at C minor, we find that it is 3 flats. Bb,Eb,Ab. Now by looking at the key signature, we see that the relative Major to C minor is Eb Major. If we look at the relative Majors to modes of G, we have G-F-Eb-D-C-Bb-Ab. So Eb Major == 3rd mode of G, which is G Phrygian. To see what other modes of G we could play over this Cm chord, we simply need to see which of the modes of G contain a Cm chord. Well since Cm is C-Eb-G we can see that Eb Major, Bb Major and Ab Major have Eb's in them (as well as C's and G's). So our options for playing over a Cm in G are
  • G Phrygian (Eb Major)
  • G Aeolian/minor (Bb Major)
  • G Locrian (Ab Major)
Get ready for a little bit of information overload. If we take the notes of the modes of G

G Ionian     G A  B  C  D  E  F#  G Major
G Dorian G A Bb C D E F F Major
G Phrygian G Ab Bb C D Eb F Eb Major
G Lydian G A B C# D E F# D Major
G Mixolydian G A B C D E F C Major
G Aeolian G A Bb C D Eb F Bb Major
G Locrian G Ab Bb C Db Eb F Ab Major

and then figure out what all the triads are
Ionian         G  Am Bm  C   D  Em F#°
Dorian Gm Am Bb C Dm E° F
Phrygian Gm Ab Bb Cm D° Eb Fm
Lydian G A Bm C#° D Em F#m
Mixolydian G Am B° C Dm Em F
Aeolian Gm A° Bb Cm Dm Eb F
Locrian G° Ab Bbm Cm Db Eb Fm

we can make a list of the modes that contain each chord

G Ionian,Lydian,Mixolydian
Gm Dorian,Phrygian,Aeolian
G° Locrian
A Lydian
Am Ionian,Dorian,Mixolydian
Ab Phrygian,Locrian
A° Aeolian
Bm Ionian,Lydian
B° Mixolydian
Bb Dorian,Aeolian,Phrygian
Bbm Locrian
C Ionian,Dorian,Mixolydian
Cm Phrygian,Aeolian,Locrian
C#° Lydian
D Ionian,Lydian
Dm Dorian,Mixolydian,Aeolian
D° Phrygian
Db Locrian
Em Ionian,Lydian,Mixolydian
E° Dorian
Eb Phrygian,Aeolian,Locrian
F#° Ionian
F#m Lydian
F Dorian,Mixolydian,Aeolian
Fm Phrygian,Locrian

Then we can generalize them into a more portable method using chord numbers
I     Ionian,Lydian,Mixolydian
i Dorian,Phrygian,Aeolian
i° Locrian
II Lydian
ii Ionian,Dorian,Mixolydian
ii° Aeolian
bII Phrygian,Locrian
iii Ionian,Lydian
iii° Mixolydian
bIII Dorian,Aeolian,Phrygian
biii Locrian
IV Ionian,Dorian,Mixolydian
iv Phrygian,Aeolian,Locrian
#iv° Lydian
V Ionian,Lydian
v Dorian,Mixolydian,Aeolian
v° Phrygian
bV Locrian
vi Ionian,Lydian,Mixolydian
vi° Dorian
bVI Phrygian,Aeolian,Locrian
vii° Ionian
vii Lydian
bVII Dorian,Mixolydian,Aeolian
bvii Phrygian,Locrian

Now if we use this chart we can easily get our list of available modes for many chords that may be in our tune. If we run across an Ab major chord in our key of G tune (which would be a bII), we see that G phrygian (Eb Major) or G Locrian (Ab Major) might work well. Which would make sense since playing Ab major over an Ab Major chord would make sense.

Does this mumbo jumbo make sense? Have I made a chordal miscalculation? Sound off in the comments.

Friday, January 09, 2009

Learning Modes - Putting Something Together

Now that we can find a major scale that is equivalent to a mode we need to be able to know how to choose which modes to play. Here is one method that can yield some good results. For starters lets look at a very simple chord progression in the key of G:

|: G | C | G | D7 :|

We need to determine what modes work with which chords. To do this of course, we need to be able to spell our chords. First take G Major which is made up of G-B-D. Lets find which modes retain these 3 notes.

G Ionian (G,A,B,C,D,E,F#,G) - This works
G Dorian (G,A,Bb,C,D,E,F,G) - Nope it has a Bb
G Phrygian (G,Ab,Bb,C,D,Eb,F,G) - Nope Bb and Eb
G Lydian (G,A,B,C#,D,E,F#,G) - Yes
G Mixolydian (G,A,B,C,D,E,F,G) - Yes
G Aeolian (G,A,Bb,C,D,Eb,F,G) - No
G Locrian (G,Ab,Bb,C,Db,Eb,F,G) - No

So from this we see that G Ionian (major),G Lydian and G Mixolydian will work for a G Major chord.

Next we look at C Major which is made of C-E-G

G Ionian (G,A,B,C,D,E,F#,G) - Yes
G Dorian (G,A,Bb,C,D,E,F,G) - Yes
G Phrygian (G,Ab,Bb,C,D,Eb,F,G) - No
G Lydian (G,A,B,C#,D,E,F#,G) - No
G Mixolydian (G,A,B,C,D,E,F,G) - Yes
G Aeolian (G,A,Bb,C,D,Eb,F,G) - No
G Locrian (G,Ab,Bb,C,Db,Eb,F,G) - No

C major works with G Major, G Dorian and G Mixolydian

and Finally D7 which is D-F#-A-C

G Ionian (G,A,B,C,D,E,F#,G) - Yes
G Dorian (G,A,Bb,C,D,E,F,G) - No
G Phrygian (G,Ab,Bb,C,D,Eb,F,G) - No
G Lydian (G,A,B,C#,D,E,F#,G) - No
G Mixolydian (G,A,B,C,D,E,F,G) - No
G Aeolian (G,A,Bb,C,D,Eb,F,G) - No
G Locrian (G,Ab,Bb,C,Db,Eb,F,G) - No

So we will stick with G Major for the D7

When we map this out

|:GCGD7 :|
G Major
G Lydian (D Major)
G Mixolydian (C Major)
G Major
G Dorian (F Major)
G Mixolydian (C Major)
G Major
G Lydian (D Major)
G Mixolydian (C Major)
G Major

So we have several options here we can play major all the way or use any combination we choose. When we use G Lydian we have a #4 note added and when we play G Mixolydian we have a b7 note.

We could of course look at the scales under the C chord in terms of C if you really wanted to, You would find that G Dorian = C Mixolydian,G Major = C Lydian and we already saw that G Mixolydian = C Major, but these are all enharmonic and so dealing with them all as modes of G can make it easier for some.

So here is an mp3 (inside the zip file) of these 3 chords that you can put on repeat on your computer and try jamming over these chords using these modes. I threw this together at 1:30am, so it probably won't sound very good. Anyway check it out and good luck!

Monday, January 05, 2009

Learning Modes - Finding the Relative Major

In my last article on modes we discussed how you can find a given mode by playing a major scale at a given interval from the original note.

First take a look at this slightly confusing table.

ModeTonalitySteps Down1/2 Steps DownInterval Down1/2 Steps UpInterval Up
Ionian (Major)Major
DorianMinorW2Major 2nd10Minor 7th
PhrygianMinorWW4Major 3rd8Minor 6th
LydianMajorWWH5Perfect 4th7Perfect 5th
MixolydianMajor / DomWWHW7Perfect 5th5Perfect 4th
Aeolian (Minor)MinorWWHWW9Major 6th3Minor 3rd
LocrianDiminishedWWHWWW11Major 7th1Minor 2nd

If you look at this chart you will get a quick reference to where you will find the scale you are needing.

Lets take a example:

Say we are playing a G major chord, we have 3 mode options that might sound good with it. Ionian, Lydian and Mixolydian since they are the 3 "major" tonality modes (that is the 3rd is a major 3rd in the mode). So how do we get to G Ionian, G Lydian and G Mixolydian? I always have an easier time going up an interval rather than down so in the chart above, I have converted the intervals down from the WWHWWWH pattern we talked about in the previous article to ascending intervals.
  • G Ionian = G Major, since Ionian = Major
  • G Lydian is the major scale starting a perfect 5th above the scale in question. So a perfect 5th above G is D. So G Lydian = D Major
  • G Mixolydian is the major scale starting a Perfect 4th above the note in question which is C, so G Mixolydian = C Major.
How about minor? If we are playing an F minor chord and want F dorian, F Phrygian or F Aeolian, then we find
  • A minor 7th above F is Eb. Eb Major is F dorian
  • A minor 6th above F is Db.Db Major is F Phrygian
  • A minor 3rd above F is Ab. Ab Major is F Aeolian
Now something you may have noticed is that if we are playing F minor, why don't we play an F minor scale? We actaully do!. When we play Ab major as F aeolian, we are playing F minor. Since Aeolian is the same as natural minor.

So now we can grab a mode from a given chord.

Saturday, January 03, 2009

Learning Modes - The Relative Major Way

Ok so I did not invent this, but I did come up with it out of my own studies (as my college theory prof told me...the hard way). But I like many others learned early on 3 things about modes
  1. The seven modes were just "starting" on the 7 notes of the scale. So If you were playing a C major scale and went from D to D it was D dorian, E to E was E Phrygian, etc.
  2. Modes could sound really cool.
  3. Modes were hard to apply in real life.
So I have had an idea to make a play-along CD/MP3 set for my guitar students where they would get simple to progressively more intricate chord progressions to try to improvise over and give them advice on trying different modes with them. The problem was trying to find a quick way to determine what mode went with what scale.  I did not want C major, D Dorian, E Phrygian, etc. I wanted C Major, C Dorian, C Phrygian, etc. So what was a quick way to find this. Well, I started by writing them out.

C PhrygianCDbEbFGAbBb
C MixolydianCDEFGABb
C AeolianCDEbFGAbBb
C LocrianCDbEbFGbAbBb

Then of course since modes were just scales starting on different notes of a certain key then each of these should be enharmonic to a major scale. So I wrote those out

C Major (Ionian)C Major
C DorianBb Major
C PhrygianAb Major
C LydianG Major
C MixolydianF Major
C AeolianEb Major
C LocrianDb Major

Well that was all helpful and all but I wanted a pattern to follow. How could this list of keys be related? Well Somehow I noticed a pattern

Bb is a whole step below C, Ab is a whole step below Bb and G is a halfstep below Ab. Whole, Whole Half. Well if you are familiar with how a major scale is built, it Goes

Whole, Whole, Half, Whole, Whole, Whole, Half 

in the forward direction (C,D,E,F,G,A,B,C)

When you look at the relative major keys that make up the modes of a given key. They use the same pattern going backwards.


So if you are in C and want to play C Lydian, since lydian is the 4th mode. You can go down Whole (to dorian), Whole (to Phrygian) , Half (to Lydian) which is the Key of G Major. So if you play G Major over a C major that is C Lydian. Which works since Lydian is the same as a raised 4th. F is the 4th note of the C scale and in the key of G it is sharped.

Now should you ignore how to spell your modes without this method? Certainly not! but this can give you a "cheat sheet" way of getting into a given mode.

Next time we will talk about applying this to the guitar.