How Does It Work?

The main purpose of the app is not only to provide a practice tool but also to demonstrate, using computer science, both visually and audibly, how major and minor modes and chords sequences are created. I wish I had something like this when I was at music college. For that reason I set about creating the app which I continue to use on a regular basis .

The top left icon gives access to a selection of scales and modes. The seven major modes are at the top of this drop down menu and the seven modes of the melodic minor scale from the second. The seven modes are selected from the numbering of the inner wheel. The notation of these are selected from the bottom left notation icon and the chords deriving from the 1st 3rd 5th and 7th of these modes from the piano or guitar icon bottom right

The top right icon gives access to a selection of chords which can be displayed on either keyboard or guitar (bottom right icons).

Settings top right as well as tempo and volume selection, has a transpose selection for Bb and Eb and concert pitched instruments . When playing arpeggios from the “play sequence” the chord on off  in settings will add if required a 3rd and 7th when the root is played

Follow shift key centre gives access to a selection of pre programmed chords patterns and scrolling down to Key Shifts enables these to be played either static or in a variety harmonic movements from round the cycle of fifths to descending tritons. This latter function can also be applied to play chords, scales and modes from the top left and top right icons.

Beginner level from Pop, Blues to Jazz.

By hearing and seeing, start by learning notes on the keyboard, guitar or sheet music by selecting “single note” from top left scales icon.

Make sure if you are playing a Bb instrument like tenor sax or trumpet or Eb such as alto sax you will need select the correct transpose key in settings.

Select and try playing the major scale in all keys starting with C then moving in a clockwise or anti clockwise direction around the cycle of fifths wheel which adds a flat or sharp each time.  When you get to F# and Db these will be the most difficult. It is then better to spend time practicing these two difficult keys over and over again until they become easy by repetition. You will then find the other major scales fall more naturally under your fingers.

Set the tempo from “settings” top right, then from “follow key shift” select various major chord progressions starting with “4 chord pop song”( see axis of awesome video with this web site second right at foot of “Home” page )  Even if you do not play an instrument play the “Four chord Axis of Awesome ” youtube video, and play along to this with the app selecting Major (Modes) under scales, E on outer wheel as they are in the key of E, then 1, 5,6 ,4 to each chord change.

Try selecting  “12 bar blues” then press “Play sequence”. It will then play the selected sequence and at the same time show how the chords can be played on either piano or guitar choosing any key from the outer wheel.


Intermediate Level

There are many options but here are few ideas to be going on with

Select “dominant 7″ chord with the sequencer on descending in semi tones which has also been used by some composers of well known melodies such as “Lover”. A frequently occurring sequence in jazz standards is the “B” or middle section of “rhythm changes” . You can practice playing over this by selecting “dominant 7” chord with the  sequencer on clockwise every two bars. You could also practice playing “Sweet Georgia Brown” or “There will be some changes Made” over this in all keys.

When you hear a major scale you could be fooled into thinking it is made up of equal intervals . Not so, it’s a mixture of semitones and tones and while the pattern is always the same the pattern is not symmetrical -tone tone semitone tone tone tone semitone . As a consequence of this if we play a four note chord starting on different degrees of the major scale the quality of the chord changes . It will be the same type of chord for every key as  in scale of C for example C(1) and F(4) gives a major seventh , D(2) E(3) A(6) a minor seventh, G(5) a dominant flat 7 and B(7) a minor seventh flat five chord otherwise known as a half diminished . When you first turn the app on try pressing 1 to 7 on inner wheel and you will see and hear this for yourself on the keyboard . Then play 2 5 1 and you hear the most commonly occurring musical cadence  or re occurring musical pattern .  Now add 6 and play 6 2 5 1  (V1  11  V  1) for” Mack the Knife “or “fly  me to the moon” and you will soon realise that this loop pattern of chords round the “cycle of fifths” occurs all the time , whether starting on 6, 2 or 1.  Why cycle of fifths ? Because G is the fifth note in scale of C, D in scale of G etc etc.  Set the sequencer to major 11-V-1-1 and practice playing along to this in various keys.

Set sequencer to play V1-V1-11-11-V-V-1-1 in the key of C and try playing  “Mack the Knife” in the notation below

Now set the app playing the sequence VI-VI-II-II-V-V-1-1 and maybe get two friends to play with you with one playing the tune,  one arpeggios and one the mode scales all of which work together . Then take turns for one to take a solo using a combination of these to make up your own improvisation . You will discover that any note selected in the  scale of C will work. Having mastered the above  you can go on to practice the same thing in other keys progressing round cycle and you will  find improvising is quite achievable.
 Advanced players As with intermediate, practice improvising over 11-V-1 but select “descending whole tone”. This occurs in the “B” section of Cherokee which many find one of the most difficult sequences to improvise over and a great one to master with this app. Or, set the sequencer to play an altered scale round cycle of fifths in all keys by selecting jazz minor modes and pressing 7 on the inner wheel. (The altered scale is the 7th mode of the jazz melodic minor scale.) Alternatively, select sequencer to play a dominant 7th (b9)  and practice playing the diminished half whole scale over the top. This works over the A section of Duke Ellington’s “Caravan” .
Set the app playing 11 V 1 1 descending then ascending in major thirds to simulate something close to the harmonic  movement of  “Giant Steps” or the bridge of “Have you met Miss Jones”.