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Some notes are more important than others

Wednesday, February 12th, 2014

My intention is to simply scratch the surface of Music Theory in this post. Explanations are in the context of a rhythm guitar player named Jerry and a mandolin player named David jamming. My goal is to simplify this idea of scale degrees, having said this, this post is not for the very beginner. This post is for players who have put time into playing the major scale and understand each note in the scale correlates to one “scale degree.”

I argue that the 3rd and 7th scale degrees of any given scale have more harmonic importance. Lets look at some examples, sound clips will be added later for better understanding.

Jerry starts a song by strumming a C major chord.
David in turn is improvising on mandolin. He knows how to play his C major scale in order from practice. He knows all seven of those notes will sound good. They are:

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 1
C D E F G A B C

David might choose to focus on the notes, E as well as B. Because they correlate to the 3rd and 7th scale degrees of the chord.

Now Jerry switches to playing a C7 chord on guitar.

David needs to change his seven scale degrees to choose from. Each correlating to one note. The C7 chord is also know as a dominant 7 chord. This chord has a flatted 7th scale degree instead of a natural 7th. David has a full scale containing 7 scale degrees to chose from. From the regular C major only one scale degree has changed, the 7th has to be flatted. David then gets these notes below to choose from.

C D E F G A Bb C

These notes will all sound good. David chooses to focus on the E as well as the one note that changed the Bb. Bb being the flatted 7th scale degree and the only scale degree that changed from the simple C major scale.

Now Jerry starts a new song he has learned, it starts with the strumming of a Cminor chord.

David is coming up with his set of scale degrees to chose from in terms of notes he can play on the mandolin. Only one scale degree changes from the original C major scale. The 3rd scale degree needs to flattened. Also known as a flat 3rd.

C D Eb F G A B C

On mandolin David is soloing…Since a C minor chord is the sound being heard he might focus on Eb the flatted 3rd scale degree. As well as the 7th scale degree which is a B note

Jerry is now playing you a Cmaj7 chord, which usually appear in jazzier songs.

The scale degrees David uses as a template does not change. What changed is the chord Jerry is playing, he is including the 7th scale degree in the chord. Instead of a C major which is simply 1st-3rd-and 5th scale degrees, Jerry is playing the 1st-3rd-5th-and 7th scale degrees.

David on mandolin has the exact same template of scale degrees he used for C major over a C major 7 chord
C D E F G A B C

David plays the 3rd and 7th scales degrees. The E note and the B note. The B note being a defining part of Jerry’s major 7 chord sound.

In another jam session Cmin7 chord is being strummed by Jerry.

David knows a C minor 7 chord consists of a flatted 3rd scale degree, to make it minor, as well as the flatted 7th scale degree. David’s seven notes to choose from changes by only two scale degrees, the 3rd scale degree and the 7th scale degree.
C D Eb F G A Bb C
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 1

I hope this helps, if it doesn’t I am sure I can find a link to an article written by someone much better at describing this dry music theory stuff. When I say focus on the 3rd and 7th I am not excluding other notes. Many other notes sound great, these two just have a big part in chord construction. Also the 1st scale degree as well as the 5th scale degree are often played by a bass player, or by Jerry’s rhythm playing, plucking bass notes.

For my example above, I am in a way working backwards based on the chord you are playing. Any and all chords can be deconstructed, hence Chords with names like E7b9 or G7#5, these altered Dominant chords are not common in bluegrass, but are common in jazz standards. This makes for the argument that this trick is more important in jazz than bluegrass.
In chord charts it is useful to know that
b=flat
#=sharp

Comments and questions encouraged. Anyone who can expand on this, or has their own tricks involving focusing on certain scale degrees please speak up.

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Sailing to Denver in 2014

Saturday, February 8th, 2014

Come out tonight to the Tin Roof Cantina. We have lots of gigs coming up we would love for you to join us.

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Patreon, a new idea in artistic expression

Tuesday, November 26th, 2013

I am usually skeptical when officially joining any group, especially those that only exist in the world of the internet. Despite that I was turned on to a new website by my web developer, Jeff Cohan at Nsiteful

I couldn’t find a downside to joining, but check it out for yourself. To view content it is free and does not require joining. Supporting artists, as well as sharing one;s own art does require joining, but no necessary costs. It is similar to a site like kickstarter, but for the individual. More like a Donate button on a website but providing much more than that. The site also compiles content in an organized ways similar to that you tube channels. Check out the link below to see what you think?

Jake Cohan at Patreon

One thing I really like is that encourages the sharing of great content for free and reasonable prices, instead of proprietary ownership of content to the highest bidder. The consumers get to decide what content is worth not the owners.

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Jacobson and Mold’s work, great for the Atlanta Mandolin scene

Friday, November 8th, 2013

Being an Atlanta native I get especially excited to find local builders. Marty Jacobson is a phenomenal talent working out of Suwanne, GA. His use of the newest technology, and brilliant design make Jacobson mandolins sound amazing, and cost less. One of the few win, win situations I know of. Please check out his site. A link is provided at the end of this entry. (Oh yeah he’s a hell of a player too).

The second man mentioned is also a great mandolin player, as well as a great instructor. David Mold, easily found with his many great youtube videos, he uses Jacobson mandolins and gets them sounding crystal clear. That’s only part of his contribution. He has a site, not very different from my own, in terms of layout and over all mission statement. He has insightful blog entries, videos, instruction, and links for further study, all of which are of the finest quality. His hub is called, Mandoliniana

Marty’s showcase with notes for fellow builders can be found at, Marty Jacobson’s Fine Acoustic Instruments

Check these guys out no matter where your from. Marty is on back order but who knows when he might make your future mandolin, as for David’s Mandoliniana, any player can benefit from hearing his beautiful playing, as well as learning from such a great player.

Keep Delving,
Jake

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Music without genre classifications

Thursday, October 3rd, 2013

Some of acoustic musics greatest contributors are often overlooked, usually from a lack of material that is easily marketed and turned into profit. This is no coincidence, this is a symptom in the nature of our times. Music is it’s own language, in and of itself. We must move past using names like, “Country, Bluegrass, Jazz and classical,” to define what is an art form with it’s very own vocabulary.

Players like Jordan Ramsey, Dave Peters, and Tim Connell often play multiple styles within a single song. In terms of genres this music must fall into, “all of the above.” What makes music hard to define is exactly what gives it more interest and intrigue. No more pigeon holed definitions are needed.

Chris Thile just released an album, which consists only pieces composed by the great J.S. Bach. Before the release of this album Thile was not considered a classical player, nor we he be in the future. But his classical mandolin playing is up there with the best I have ever heard. Do you see the problem here? I can same the same for Mike Marshall’s/strong> playing of classical music. Another player not considered in the classical genre.

Both have devoted lots of time and effort into this particular style. Naturally, after a certain amount of time a new style, or composer is needed freshen things up. An example of this would be Marshall’s change to playing Brazilian music. Another good example is Tony Rice’s movement towards Jazzier playing, and away from what we call bluegrass. Bluegrass is unique in that it is a genre created by a single man, the master Bill Monroe. There is one and only Bill Monroe. “So it goes,” as Kurt Vonnegut would say.

Jethro Burns called many names, but never a conformist, broke all the right rules. As a musical revolutionary, he lead the way for David Grisman’s Dawg music, as well as all that was labeled Newgrass, and jazzgrass, over the years. Well before that players like Dave Apollon played music beyond definition.

Dave Apollon a Russian mandolin player wrote and performed beautiful music, later called Gypsy Jazz. Django Reinhardt’s very own musical genre creation. Not bad company, but their music must speak for itself, two words do not do it justice. Don’t listen to me, or any other critic for that matter, listen to the emotional, and powerful music they played.

Every artist named is in bold print for a reason. The reason being so one can listen to these artists and draw his or her own conclusions. No one song, or name, can suffice in revealing the broad, yet strong foundations these men have built for future generations of musicians. With inspiration from the masters of the past, one’s own unique voice can be found and expressed.

We must adapt and continue building onto an art form that has luckily been built to last. The ones most willing to adapt, and change with the times, are in my opinion the most fit to be truly original and innovative.

“What is in a name?” Just that, nothing more. Do not mistake the name for the thing it represents. Be it a person, place, or thing, let your heart do the deciding. Your analytical rational mind will always be there to fall back on. Music is beyond names, it evokes emotion not logic, inspirational not instructive, feelings not answers.

We all could be a little less critical and more accepting in thoughts and actions. This is a ticket that can unleash creative prowess beyond imagination. Tapping into the true source, as many before us have.

Paying homage to the traditions of the past holds huge importance. The assumption that the builders wanted us to carry these traditions unchanged, like relics of the past, is inevitably impossible. Build off of traditional music in ways that feel good to you, and chances are it will have the same effect on others. Trust your gut, and play from your heart.

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Nightwalk

Tuesday, April 23rd, 2013

Here is our video of us playing, “Nightwalk,” written and performed by Sailing To Denver at the Goat Farm. Check out the rest of our youtube playlist for more songs.

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Notes from Sailing To Denver

Saturday, March 9th, 2013

Sailing To Denver is well on their way to polishing off a full length album, the first from our newly formed recording studio. Necessity is the mother of invention! Our Americana roots influences, and string band instrumentation make this realistic. As well as tons of fun.

If you click on the new Donate button you will be helping the cause for music performance, instruction, and most importantly listening pleasure. I will send you a copy of Sailing To Denver’s debut self titled album for doing so. Some tracks can be found Here.

Sailing To Denver has a weeks off from gigs after busy weeks playing our new material. All is well! While reclaiming our first recording space, filming our first music videos, and playing songs whenever possible, the swoop of creativity fell in as it often does after times more arid.

We are springing our way through our second full length studio album in accordance with the namesake of our coming season. The album will be done before the proverbial flowers bloom.

visit our site for listening and upcoming dates sailingtodenver.com

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Skype lessons, giving away one for free!

Wednesday, January 23rd, 2013

I recently got an HD webcam for recording videos and giving skype lessons. Since I am new to using the web for real time lessons I am giving my first away for free. First come first serve. Click on the contact link in the tool bar and if you are the first we can set up a time for your free lesson.

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New additions, sharing music, and donating to the cause.

Friday, January 18th, 2013

You may notice a new icon on my, “Notes From Jake,” archives. I have a donation option, if you find my instructional material useful beyond a reasonable doubt please feel free to donate the amount of your choosing to the site through paypal. If you have your own site sharing music and promoting music education on the web, you can donate to my cause by providing a link on your page to mine. You will notice I have done that for sites I have found useful on my journey.

For all you facebooker’s out there, follow my page Jake Cohan on facebook. This page focuses more on my expansive musical influences, and less on my own music. A growing list of songs and videos that move me.

Stay tuned in for a fiddle tune, performed on mandolin, with tab provided as my next instructional post.

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Sailing to Denver! Our first CD is released, with a celebration show tonight!

Friday, December 21st, 2012

This eight song demonstration of our original sound is just a taste of what is to come. Stay posted for some free listening! We went into Vision Studio with a list of 20 songs and completed eight of our favorites. Being a sextet we tried to showcase each individual’s strengths while staying within the context of the band. That has always been a driving force in all STD’s musical ventures. Below is a video with Sailing to Denver covering a love song by The Talking Heads.

David Byrne is a large influence on our band, but in terms of our original music Brent Sandel is the songwriter and foremost arranger.

Brent had not only five band-mates in mind, but also the idea of the masses, and live audiences all of which influenced his decision making. With this attitude in mind Brent, and all of Sailing to Denver set the foundation for what is becoming the Sailing to Denver Sound. This encompasses a sound that continuously evolves for us.

Moving the focus from a huge cover catalog, (from AC/DC to Bach, literally) to an equally expansive assortment of nameless original ideas, we bring pieces to a table to make a whole. A whole idea, a whole song, a whole album. Doing what man does best, trying to give names to things that once were nameless. Remembering a name is just that, nothing more, and the sum is always greater than the parts.

Brent Sandel, Guitar, Piano, Vocals
Shannon Case, Vocals, Percussion
Jake Cohan, Mandolin, Vocals
Patrick Haynes, Stand up Bass, Pedal Steel, Fiddle, Vocals
Jenna Shea Mobley, Fiddle, Vocals
Mason Lutz, Percussion, Cajon, Vocals
Caled Elemam, guitar, utility band member and contributor

I would like to say thanks to all of the above mentioned musicians, as well as all the friends, family, artists, peoples and places that has made this creative work possible. At the Star Bar tonight at 9:30 at the with the help of great friends, and great bands in and of themselves, The Dust Up and Sans Abri we Sailing to Denver will play a set in celebration for the ages. CD’s will be available for purchase at the show. I can only hope your listening conveys the beautiful felling of actualization I felt, and saw throughout the faces of all parties involved, in this recording.

In times to come, be they blissful or tragic, it is insightful to remember, “it is what you make of it.” This album was made for each and everyone in an effort to help us all tap into whatever, “it,” is by means of artistic expression.

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