In my private lessons, I’ve been talking a lot about spotting chords in the tunes my students are learning. I’ve written in previous blogs about how I believe that knowing the shapes of the chords in tunes can help your ear training. Tunes are full of arpeggiated chords and chords form shapes on the fingerboard. Being able to recognize a chord-type melodic fragment and associating it with a finger pattern can help you nail down tunes quicker. You will know what type of frame the melody produces on the finger board. We inherently learn a lot of these shapes just by learning many tunes over time. However, practicing arpeggios is a good suppliment to nailing down these shapes.
This reel, Spey is Spate by the great Scottish composer James Scott Skinner, is a great example of tune containing arpreggios. Not all tunes contain as many blatent arpeggios as this, but most contain a significant amount of chord shapes whether as a direct arpeggio or hidden with some passing tones. It’s in the key of D major. The main chord shapes a tune in this key will spell out are
D major: D F# A
E minor: E G B
G major: G B D
A or A7: A C# E (G)
Before looking at the tune for chords, acquaint yourself in the key of D major by playing through the arpeggios I outlined above. Listen to the mp3 of the tune. Do you hear these chords in the tune?
Let’s work through the first four bars of the tune:
In the first bar we have a straight ahead D major arpeggio. In the third bar, we find the notes of the Em arpeggio. And in the fourth bar, the notes of the A7 arpeggio. After practicing these arpeggios and getting used to the sounds and shapes of them, see if you can find them in the rest of the tune.
Please let me know how you get along!