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Thread: All Key Approach

  1. #1
    Super Moderator die Bullen's Avatar
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    All Key Approach

    A few years back when I was learning jazz guitar from DVD’s and books, one thing the method material really focused on was learning to play in all keys, not just major scales, but also chord scales. At first this seemed like a waste of time but as time has gone by I have found myself needing to play in just about every key, validating the need for this guidance.

    So a few months back we started introducing this method to my 11 year old son on trumpet. Not only play every major scale 2 octaves in every key, but learn licks and entire songs in all keys every day. The benefits of this type of instruction have been enormous- opening up the ability to be able to start transposing in all keys just by hearing the first note of the song.

    In speaking to some college music majors, they all told me that the all key method is an absolute requirement in college curriculum because it gives you a total understanding of the music.

    Does anyone here dabble in this kind of approach on guitar? If not, why not?

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    Axellent Member Dan Martian's Avatar
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    I know Joe Pass recommended this approach, and I had a teacher that also recommended it. I've done some chord scales that use note on the first fret as tonics, but that was a long time ago. Laziness is what keeps me from studying this more.

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    Axellent Member Mreilander's Avatar
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    Where can I find info on this approach? Sounds intriguing.

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    Super Moderator die Bullen's Avatar
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    I guess there are a couple things at play here. One is the mindset of learning to play scales (or music) in all keys. I think a lot of guitar players confine themselves to learning a song in one key without ever thinking about the fact that there are 11 other keys you COULD play the song in.

    The other is changing over to a barre chord style to facilitate playing those chord progressions in all keys. A style of playing open chords only makes it virtually impossible to play in keys like Eb and Db and quite a few others. I couldn't begin to tell you how to find or construct a Ebm7b5 as an open chord but I could tell you lots of places to find that same chord as a barre chord- and most are easy patterns.

    Here’s a chord scale for jazz in C as an example:

    Cmaj7
    Dm7
    Em7
    Fmaj7
    G7
    Am7
    Bm7b5
    Cmaj7

    Without switching to a barre mentality, it would be virtually impossible to learn a progression like this in every key, although you could do it relatively easily in the key of C.

    Check the Jodi Fisher book/ DVD set- the "basic" one is REALLY good and it is not for beginners.

  5. #5
    Axetastic doublewah's Avatar
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    I strongly suggest all musicians use the all key approach. Even if it's just a little bit now and then. Take your favourite song or solo, and try it in another key your are comfortable with. The song can take on an entirely different flavour. When you feel bold, try it in keys you are not so comfortable with.

    When I'm playing a solo, in my own shows or at a jam, if the melody from another song comes to me (especially a song I already know), I like to throw it in. The more time I spend playing common melodies in different keys, the more brave I will be to try something like this on stage, AND the more successful I am likely to be. Spending time practicing things I already know in different keys makes me a better musician in several ways.

    I stress this for all my students from almost day one. We may start by learning songs and/or licks in all keys, but I tell them the value of it, and we dabble in it from time to time. I especially like it if my students play another instrument, because I tell them to learn all their guitar tunes on the other instruments, their other instruments' tunes on the guitar, AND to try them in different keys.
    I bought a relic'd guitar because I liked the way it sounded. Then I refinished it because I didn't like the way it looked.

  6. #6
    Axetastic doublewah's Avatar
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    I also use the numbering system.

    I usually introduce the numbering system with a 12-bar blues (usually in E). Then we play several 12-bar blues songs in E and check out the differences between them (usually in the second bar or at the turnaround). Now we're ready to play a 12-bar blues in different keys.

    I also teach them the importance of the V chord. That is usually a dominant 7 chord. In the key of C, the dominant 7 is G7. In G, it is D7.
    In E, it is B7. Lots of songs have been written, with just these songs. (Achy Breaky Heart, for one.) Even if the 7 is not played on the recording, you can play it in the song, and it will not be offensive.

    From there we look at this song:
    Axis of Awesome - 4 Four Chord Song (with song titles) - YouTube

    This is such a great teaching tool! Especially in the past couple of years. So many pop songs, from Adele to One Direction, use these four songs chords, although the order might change. Again, all of the V chords can be V7 chords.

    What are these chords? In the number system, they are:
    I V VI IV
    or
    I V7 VI IV

    In E (as in this video), they are:
    E B C#m A
    or
    E B7 C#m A

    In G, they are:
    G D7 Em C

    I don't need to state that the V is V7, just as I don't need to state that the VI is minor. If someone knows the harmonized major scale, they know they can play any of the notes in the chords they choose. Cmaj7 means that I can play any combination of the notes C E G and B, as my musical taste and the current musical needs dictate. If it's a punk rock song, I will probably only be playing C and G and maybe another C.
    Last edited by doublewah; 02-25-2014 at 11:22 PM.
    I bought a relic'd guitar because I liked the way it sounded. Then I refinished it because I didn't like the way it looked.

  7. #7
    Axetastic doublewah's Avatar
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    By the way, another name commonly used for a "m7b5" chord is "half diminished". The symbol for a half diminished chord is a circle with a strike through it, sometimes followed by a 7. Theory purists do not like to use the half diminished in a harmonized major scale, only in the harmonized minor scale, but you will see the symbol in a lot of fakebooks. I like to use it because I can write it a lot faster than "m7b5".


    Here are three "m7b5" chords using at least one open string (the root)…

    Em7b5
    0100xx

    Am7b5
    x0101x
    (For this one, think of an A7 chord, and move your hands one fret.)

    A7
    x0202x

    Dm7b5
    xx0111

    The Dm7b5 is related to an Fm -

    Fm
    xx4111

    so you can alternate between the Fm and the Dm7b5 just be lifting and replacing your third finger.


    But my two favourite chord shapes for "m7b5" are:

    Bm7b5
    x2323X
    R

    Where the second fret of the A string is the B, or root of this chord. Move it up and down the neck and wherever your index finger is will be the root note.

    Bm7b5
    xx7888
    R

    I use my baby finger to barre the three highest strings.
    The index finger is still holding down the root, although now it is half-way up the neck. Again, like any barre chord, moving it up and down the neck gives you any "m7b5" chord you need.
    I bought a relic'd guitar because I liked the way it sounded. Then I refinished it because I didn't like the way it looked.

  8. #8
    Axetastic doublewah's Avatar
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    And here is a song with a "m7b5" chord you have probably all heard:

    Go to 3:00 and listen to Page and Jones arpegiate Bm7b5 in three octaves.

    This is not how most song-writers use the chord, but I like sharing this example, just to point out that the chord is not only in latin jazz and Russian folk songs.
    I bought a relic'd guitar because I liked the way it sounded. Then I refinished it because I didn't like the way it looked.

  9. #9
    Axe-honerated zontar's Avatar
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    I learned this kind of stuff when I took lessons, but now I just play, and don't give much though to the key, it's more listening.
    But I can think in the different keys if I need to.
    But there are keys I like to avoid--like Eb & Bb
    I've been a pilgrim on this earth, since the day of my birth, I'm a long way from my home.

  10. #10
    Super Moderator die Bullen's Avatar
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    Thanks for all the added detail, DW! I think guys know the progressions but relatively few understand why. Once I started to understand this myself I improved greatly as a player.

    I think many guitar players don't think about key and simply play. That's all well and good when you are the one determining the chord progression and you have memorized your solo, but as soon as you try to step on with someone else in a jam session (like those dreaded Bb or Eb horns) and they are calling the shots, the whole game changes. Now you need to be able to play in that key and it very well might not be a sharp one.

    One frustration I have personally with jam sessions is a player THINKS he knows what key he is in because that chord might be the lowest voiced but when I try playing there, I realize he is playing in an entirely different key. My personal belief is that we as musicians need to facilitate that when we play with others, we make it as easy for them as possible so they are not simply flailing and winging it- and sounding bad.

    I resisted music theory for a long time thinking it was too academic. But my resistance fell away when I began to realize that not knowing at least some rudiments was really hurting me as a player- and my son. And this is a "slippery slope", the more theory you understand, the deeper you delve into it.

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