Archive | August, 2012

The Power Line – the secret behind the “Bar Chord”

7 Aug

When I started playing guitar I learned about something called “The Bar Chord”. This Capo like technique of laying your pointer finger on a fret of choice and then forming any of the 6 basic formations anywhere on the fretboard, revolutionized my life. Little did I know that there was more than meets the eye in this simple but essential part of my musical training. It would take me 40 years to discover the secret.

I call this discovery “The Power Line”, and with good reason.

-Fingering chart for the Bar Chord-

Those of you that already know how to play guitar will understand what I’m about to say, those that are beginners, I take great pleasure in being the first one to show you how to play a bar chord…. here we go.

Above you will see the G/E BAR CHORD. The fingering chart allows you to first play the G chord and then by simply releasing that chord and then placing your first finger across the 3rd Fret (the first finger bar) you can now form the E formation. The fingerings for this are illustrated above…good, let’s continue.

With this E formation bar chord you can now play a major chord in any key found on the 6th string. that’s it….but that finger which lays across the fingerboard hides a plethora of information.

This is called the bar or the Capo  (a guitar gadget that lets you place a temporary bar of some kind on the guitar neck to allow you to play on a different part of the neck).

let’s take a look at the power line which is found on that bar or capo.

We’ll start with a simple 1st finger major scale, that’s the do,re,mi,fa,so,la,ti,do scale- notice how you said do twice. The second do is called the octave, it’s the beginning of the scale all over again.

Here we start with the 1st finger on the ROOT(1).  By following the sequenced black numbers(let’s ignore the reds for now) up to 7,we can get to the octave -8(which is the same note as 1 but in the next octave) continue following the same numbers,till you get to the 1 string and land on the Octave(8) root again. This is a major scale that scans two octaves.

Now that we can see all the notes of the scale, let’s see what’s under that bar that is so interesting, that I’d have to name it a “power line”.

This illustration shows that the power line has the Dominant b7  located on the 4th string and on the same fret as the root. Mighty powerful information, why? Because you ‘ve always got to know where the Dominant b7 is, if you want to construct a 9th,11th or 13th chord.
Right next to it you’ll find the Minor b3rd. A chord is either a major or a minor, knowing where this note is located is crucial to facilitating many minor chords. And here’s a big plus for anyone who wants to play complex jazz chords the 5th is located on the 2nd string (remember seeing those #5’s and b5’s). I’ve visually included the 9,11 and 13 (the reds) so that you can see how close to the Power line they are.

Well, we all know that a major chord must have a 1,3 and 5 in it. The fact that we can clearly see where the 1,3 and 5  are,  now gives us an easy method to construct chords. This is the beauty of the power line.

Let’s try playing a simple B7 chord, the formula for this chord is R1(B),3,5,b7 (see the chart below). As you can see from the efficiency of the power line, you get exactly what you need. No Doubles or octaves! This means if you want to make this a Bm7, just substituting the b3 is all you need to do.

Try playing a Gm7b5-The formula for this chord is 1,b3,b5,b7.(don’t forget to mute the 5th string with the meat of your fingers. see how easy it is to alter the 5th.. Try a B6(1,3,5,6….yes, the 6th is under the b7), how about a Bm6. wow…this is so cool and easy.

Well so much for now. Maybe next time I’ll let you in on another secret my students learned. The Power Square.  uuuuweeeee!!!

Excerpts from my guitar instruction book

Conversations on the guitar- “Breaking The Musical Code”


The Value Of Your Worth or “Have you nothing better to do with your life?

4 Aug

Is this all there is?

There comes a time in every man or woman’s life when they can, should or must evaluate the value of their lives. The worth of our understanding, the years of knowledge and the satisfaction of accomplishment allows us To come to a point when the need to redirect ourselves towards our greater need becomes necessary.

It is a shallow existence that does not allow the legacy of all of these desires to cease to exist when we leave this mortal coil. Many of us find ourselves at a point in our lives when we can choose to retire to a life of leisure, content with the knowledge that we have worked hard and have a claim to personal time to enjoy those luxuries that a life of commitment has brought. Rest, golf, precious family moments are these not things that we deserve? Is it too much to want such valued expressions of self-worth. Surely, these small and important human desires of reward for a life well lived should and can be accommodated …..but, is that all there is.

The need to give back, the God-like nature to help others, the need to impart knowledge to those in darkness and many other factors compel us to, at one time or other look towards the charitable giving of our time, monies or knowledge to others.

My father was a Pentecostal minister, my mother a missionary and my sister a bishop. These choices should have been an indicator to me of this greater purpose. These examples of dedication to service and self-sacrifice led me to believe their worth. And yet, the first chance I had, I grabbed my guitar and walked out the door to seek my fortune like many other prodigal sons.

As I reflect back on my life, I chose to become a musician. To that end I have traveled the world many times over. I have performed in small after-hour joints and to crowds of 200 thousand. I have been in the presence of musical royalty and have left my names in the ledger of history. To the honor of my parents- my name, reputation and marriage have been left untainted after all these years. For all of these things I am grateful. And yet, is that all there is?

My wife Robin has always kicked me out of the house. I don’t mean this in a bad way. What I mean is that whenever I finish a tour, or am home for a long length of time she challenges me with…”have you nothing better to do with your life”. She once recommended that I go to Puerto Rico, to check out the music scene while visiting my relatives. With the advent of MTV Latino I thought that was a good idea. While there I helped establish the National Rock Movement Of Puerto Rico. Another time she suggested I join the National Academy Of Recording Arts and Sciences better known as -“The Grammys” Organization. I not only joined it, I became their first Latino Governor, National Vice-Chairman of the board of Trustees and finally President of the New York chapter. In 2006 I was asked to give master classes on guitar at a local university, Stevens Institute of Technology. Soon after that I was asked to teach full-time for their College Of Arts And Letters. With the blessings of my wife and daughter I embarked into a new field of expression, in a new pursuit of the passion that drives me further and further…education.

I am presently still doing recordings, I await another gold CD for my work with Alicia Keys on “The Elements of Freedom” as well as looking forward to the release of her New upcoming CD…..but I find my greater worth, in education. I teach advanced guitar technique at Stevens, I am the Director of their music performance dept., as well as continuing my research as the Director of the Sound Synthesis Research Center.

I think I have found the value of my worth, it is in the service of others. It seems my parents were right. There seems to be some greater value to what you can give back than to what you can take.

So to all my friends and fans, enjoy yourselves, love one another and remember to ask yourselves ” yes,…. But is that all there is”?

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