Tag Archives: Carlos Alomar

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”


Olympics in London

27 Jul

Wow! … So I’m chilling’ out at Jocelyn Brown’s house in London, when the Olympics come on. As the teams representing each nation file out, everyone awaits the advent of the host country,Great Britain. The United States team got a fine reception and then, after a few more teams…finally the moment everyone has been waiting for…the entrance of the team from Great Britain…when suddenly what do I hear?…me. Yes, me. My signature guitar line on David Bowie’s “We Can Be Heroes”. My wife turns to me with that warm look of satisfaction, from long years of support and guidance. And my daughter smiles the proud look of any offspring in the light of her fathers accomplishments. Jocelyn looks at me and asks ” is that your guitar I’m listening to”? All I can do is smile and say ” Yep”.



here’s a video clip of the moment


Touring with the Big Boys

10 Jul

            I’ve often been asked what’s it like going on tour with Superstars like David Bowie or Iggy Pop.

Sometimes I’m even asked to go overseas and tour in Japan, Australia, Europe or China. Touring has been a part of my life for as long as I can remember.

It started back in 1970 when I was hired to play guitar for Sesame Street on tour.

Sesame Street premiered on November 10, 1969. As their first season was a phenomenal hit, they commissioned a children’s tour to promote the series and off I went. Before then I had not traveled at all.          

I was just 19, recently married and with my wife’s blessing and guitar in hand, I was ready to go out and conquer the world . 

Touring by definition can also come to mean many things. A tour of Military duty for instance. It would seem from the above description that the only thing missing was the army physical and boot camp. But sometimes the lines do get blurred. Some tours can be national and others international, as you leap-frog from hotel to hotel. Some can last a month others a year. Some, even longer as Superstars try to capitalize on their popularity as they go from album to tour and tour to album, all in a mindless blur of one-nighters.

     Some of the Locales are breath-taking though. Foreign spots like Hawaii, Singapore, Switzerland, Thailand, and others offer the musician an ability to understand people and customs in their own setting. Thus the understanding of interpersonal relationships becomes much more developed than let’s say tO the non-traveler. Even the vegetation and wildlife makes you feel like you’re on another planet. It is sometimes overwhelming how vibrant life can be, when it is found naturally. But that is not to say that beauty and culture cannot be found nationally. The sunsets in Tucson were overwhelmingly beautiful and if you should ever ride horseback in Wyoming, well… you would never leave. From the Grand Canyon to the Louisiana Bayou beauty can be found at home as well as abroad.

    But Touring also has its drawbacks. I’ve seen musicians mesmerized by the allure and glamour of the stage. Go buck-wild and crazy. Losing their self-respect, their honor, their families and themselves. Pumped up with accolades and adoring fans, drug pushers and groupies. Some leave behind their jeans and don the regalia of leather and eye shadow, that marks the beginning of the end. Others, I am happy to report, make life long friends and allow themselves the privilege of sharing the journey with others. It is a strong man who can keep his senses in a room filled with so many fragrances.

    But the friends/fans that you make in your travels are truly what makes it all worth while. Every time you return you expect to see them, as they wait on bated breath for your approach as well. And as the years pass, you see less and less of them. Some move on as the fragrance of a sweeter music draws them like bees to a flower. Some pass on to a better place and some overcome by time and obligation never leave their abodes. And when that time comes you know it’s time to go home.

    Musicians have a term that’s call “Road Shock” Just like the military have ” Shell Shock” . It’s that feeling that you get at the dining room table… it’s about 7pm…you’re finally home…you’re waiting for your food and yet you feel this adrenalin rushing through your system (your body and mind are still on stage, waiting for the applause). After dinner you feel uneasy and anxious (Where’s the after-party)…you can’t seem to go to sleep..(next club,anyone?).

Yeah, sometimes the lines get blurred….I guess that’s why they call it…a tour.

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