Marius “Butch” Nordal probably needs no introduction from me, but if you haven’t heard of him I strongly advise you to check him out. He’s got a lot of stuff on YouTube – his nom de toob is radiokid2, but the main website is here: http://mariusnordal.com.
He’s my kind of musician and writer – tells it like it is, informs rather than bamboozles. (He doesn’t seem to waffle and swear as much as I do, but then I’ve never met the man in person…) He cuts to the chase. He won’t have you fannying around with abstract theory for months or try to keep “guild secrets”, he’ll get you sounding the way you want to within hours. His interviews are good too. Must be a relief for musicians to deal with a journalist who knows what they’re talking about, rather than asking them how they manage to play so many notes or attempting to create some “angle” via Sociology for Dummies…
LOUIE LOUIE, OH BABY, A DOMINANT CHORD…
Ay, ay, ay, ay, ay…
Marius presents a lot of very useful concepts in accessible ways, and I hope he won’t mind me giving a very brief rundown of one of them here. There’s nothing new under the sun and there are lots of different ways of thinking about music – the more ways you have of looking at the world, the deeper your understanding. I’m sure he wouldn’t claim to have invented this, but the way he presents it is crystal clear. That’s as admirable a result in teaching as in music. As well it should be – at the end of the day, they’re both just ways of communicating.
To instantly get into the interesting stuff on dominant chords, just play the I, IV and V triads of the minor key a semitone up from the root. So, for instance, over a G7 chord start mucking around with the following triads: Abm Db Eb
That’s the rock classic Louie Louie (the song the Feds couldn’t understand, let alone ban). And as Marius points out, it’s a chord progression as old as the hills and it naturally produces strong lines. I’d add to his commentary that this method has the pleasant side effect of making the “difficult” keys “easy”. Frozen in the headlights and don’t know what to play on F#7+9? Okay, calm down, you can surely manage Gm, C and D triads, right? Now combine them. Hey presto, you’re into the chord sound.
This is a fast, in-a-nutshell way of tackling:
juicy chord tensions
the altered chord-scale as a mode of melodic minor
complexity by combining two types of simplicity
the weirder you get, the more structure you use
All notions that I’ve banged on about here for ages, but Marius manages to nail them all in one easy to grasp package. Kudos to the man. His book, Wisdom of the Hand, looks very interesting too. (Among many other things, he’s a fellow pentatonics devotee, and we have to stick together…)