The Major Scale

This is where it all starts.  Well, maybe rhythm is where it all starts, but if you consider the basic elements of music to be rhythm, melody and harmony, the major scale is the best formula for understanding 2 of those elements.  See the major scale is a formula.  At it’s most technical level it is an organization of sound derived from the harmonic series, or at least the harmonic series has given it context.  But let’s, for a moment, take the major scale for granted.  Assume that it is beyond reproach and that questioning it’s value lands you in a dungeon where you are left to waste away until you confess to your crime and are…

Oh, hello there.  What were we talking about?

Ah yes, the MAJOR SCALE. So, this thing that we will for a moment, take for granted, is essentially the foundation of our entire musical awareness.  It might not make much sense now, but chords and scales should be synonymous and pretty much every song we love is made up of chords and scales (plus rhythm).  Let’s move on.

There are seven notes, in the major scale and they are derived from this simple formula:

Whole, Whole, Whole, Half, Whole, Whole, Half

These indicate whether the distance from one note to the next is a whole step i.e. C to D (whereas C to Db or C# is a half step) or a half step i.e. E to F or B to C. This is worth remembering now, though eventually you won’t even have to think about it when you play. But conceptually, it is fundamental information.

Now, knowing there are 12 total notes and remembering that the distance between B and C as well as E and F is a half step, we can easily figure out any major scale (and more!)

Let’s use G as our root.

Now we can lay it out several ways, but let’s take just note names without regards to sharps (#) or flats (b) and determine that using our formula.  This way we get a general idea of what notes we will be working with before altering them based on whether their intervalic relationship meets up with our major scale formula.

So here they are, unadjusted:

G A B C D E F G

These could very well be the correct notes. But having written this all out in an attempt to educate would lead me, if I were the student, to believe there is something that needs to be changed…

Anyway, remember our formula and the rules about which notes are already half steps and apply the test.

G to A = Whole

Why? Because it starts on G and skips G#/Ab and lands on A. So from the root (or starting note) it travels two half steps or simply put a whole step.

A to B = Whole

Check!

B to C= Half

Here is the first instance of a note name changing without a sharp or flat and also being made from a single half step. But fortunately it checks out with our formula.

C to D = Whole

Check.

D to E = Whole

Check.

E to F = Whole 

Nope, it’s a Half. So what does it mean for us? Well, E to F is a half step and according to our formula, at this point (the 6th to 7th degree) should be a whole step. So the easiest way to fix this is by adding an extra half step on to the which will now be come F#.

So E to F# = Whole

Check.

Now the final note, the 7th degree will return to the root a half step away.  So in this case it is already done for us.

F# to G = Half

Finally, we have our G major scale

G, A, B, C, D, E, F#, G

Now we can continue to apply this formula to all notes and the intervalic relationships will remain the same.  The pitch and note names will be different but it will still sound like the major scale.

But wait, there is more!

Once you know how to derive the major scale you now know how to create every chord, every natural minor scale and mode of the major scale.  All you have to do is take that formula and start in a different place.  But I can’t/won’t teach you everything from this post (a man’s gotta eat) and I can also imagine this might not be the subject to describe in a post.

But, if you are interested in learning more about scales and chords and how we use these things every day to create music, I can certainly give you the tools you need in private, personalized lessons.  Whether it’s guitar, mandolin, pedal steel, or any other instrument the theory of western music still applies and that’s why it all sounds so good when we play together!

Thanks for listening,

Alex Mack
Superintendent of this website

Workin’ Man Blues

“It’s a big job gettin’ by with nine kids and a wife…”
Wait, WHAT?!?!

Sorry, that has absolutely nothing to do with my life but I will consider that I’ve been working on things in the last day or two so I can get this site going a little stronger.  If you check around the different menus you will see a new Pedals section where I am working on adding pictures and short audio demos of each of my (better) pedals.  Check it out, they look cool and sound even better.

Also, sticking with my earlier stated plans of adding more content, there are three short “Classical” pieces played on my nylon acoustic uploaded in the Recordings section.  Heavy classical players will laugh and scoff at me I’m sure, but it’s a sound that I am developing and I really enjoy the reading aspect of classical music.  I feel that very little is left up to choice compared to jazz or any other pop genres (I can hear classical players and jazz players now scoffing at me) so it’s a nice challenge and it sounds legitimate to me.  For now I’ll cool it with the classical stuff (plus my nails are getting long enough and people are starting to stare, so I need to get this over with) and start working on adding a few more steel string acoustic demos and eventually move on to electric tracks here in the near future.  The gears are turning!

Oh and tomorrow afternoon I believe there should be my first online lesson posted.  I’m covering a very basic musical topic in depth and I’d like to think of it as a little teaser and promotion for the lessons that I offer.  Definitely more to come in that area too.  So keep checking in and I promise to keep you updated on whats going on in my world and try to give you some things to actually check on the next few weeks.

Just a little outside noise,

Alex Mack
Featured D.J. of this website

Been a Long Time…

Hello there,

I feel kind of pitiful posting these things and every time apologizing for not posting anything lately. Anyway, who cares?

This is my update.  Let’s see, where did I last leave off…Ah yes.  We were just ramping up rehearsals for The Lone Sum’s eventual performance at Strongman Beerfest on April 19th.  While I am proud of our getting everything together in time and confident in our ability to present a nice musical product, I was completely disappointed in the event itself.  Certainly I am not one to comment or criticize the promotional aspects of anything, I am a horrible promoter myself.  So it’s unfair of me to complain about the attendance, by vendors and guests not my business in any way shape or form.  BUT, the implementation of the festival was, objectively, horrible. I won’t go into too many details but when you’ve finally managed to get yourself excited to climb up on a completely uncovered stage in the middle of the afternoon in Arizona and the power generator goes out at least (I can’t remember with the sun stroke…) three times during your set, it’s something of a letdown. We played well considering, but it certainly is not one of the gigs I will cherish for the rest of my life.

Fortunately since we had some momentum going we were booked by the bands leader at the Record Room in Scottsdale and that was a much more pleasant experience! We had friends and family there to play for and it was on a nice cool night.  The quality of the performance was good and more importantly I want to play again with them.  So all in all something positive.

Not much else has happened on the performance side lately, but I was able to begin teaching lessons at SNAP so I’m looking forward to developing my instruction skills and also help some people learn to better love and understand music.  Again if you are interested in lessons, check out my lessons page here.

 

Well, I’ll keep this post shorter than usual(?).  I’ve got some new gear that I will be showing off soon and I’m working on developing some teaser lessons to share as well.  So keep checking in and I will keep you updated with anything worth…dating.

 

-Alex
Lord Commander of this Blog

Tuning Up

It’s been a few weeks since my last post and it sure seems like it flew by fast.  Recently, I’ve been playing with VYT and their production of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs with music by Michael Valenti . A few things about it; I can only dream of someday being as naturally talented as the [child] actors are at this stage in my life and also the production is very nice (I always think a small theater is the best test of companies skills and VYT doesn’t disappoint ).  That being said, what a horrible, horrible, horrible bunch of music.  You’ve probably never heard this version before and I am certainly aware of the possibility of my (and probably everybody’s) bias towards the Disney version which this is not.  Anyway, I don’t have a problem with most of the lyrics and some of the melodies are quite nice, it’s a short show and there are only so many themes and ideas that can be introduced.  The problem is, harmonically and sonically it is so abhorrently…generic.

You want harmonic cliches?

It’s got ‘em.

How about a overused chromatic “incidental music?”

It’s got you covered.

Surely there couldn’t be a horrible misuse of instrumentation though?

Well, when the harp is a more necessary instrument than the bass (oh wait, it can be a cello if you want) AND you have a full part for an electric guitar, you’ve got problems.

Again, I think VYT does a great job, the kids are supremely talented and it’s a great story, funny too.  I just know that as a musician, things don’t have to be challenging to be interesting, they just have to be appropriate and fit the needs of the story. The music here seems so forced and hastily written, which is evidenced by whole numbers in my book being written in completely incorrect keys, missing rests to go with a general heap of copyist slop on every page.

Perhaps the orchestra’s part is wonderful, we all just couldn’t read what was written.  Oh well…still had fun.

Also, this weekend is the Strongman Beerfest and I’ve been working really hard with The Lone Sum guys to get a show together for the festival.  Today we had a great rehearsal and I’m really looking forward to playing! It’s a really awesome feeling once you are past the rehearsing stage of any project and you can just start performing.  In the deepest darkest parts of preparation I always seem to forget that feeling of joy I get when I’m playing something that’s good and I’m comfortable with.  Anyway, I will definitely have a recap of that show coming up in the near future.  Oh, and it looks like we’ll also be playing April 26th at the Record Room on Scottsdale Rd. in Old Town.  But let me confirm that in the next couple of days.

Well take care everybody keep checking in and I hope to get some more “stuff” added to the site in the near future!

 

-Alex Mack
Theatre Critic (of this site)

Have I Been Busy!(?)

Hi Internet,

How does one read that title? It is true that I’ve had more days out of my house actually doing something than I usually do.  Whether or not it’s productive busyness well, it’s too soon to tell.  I’m still getting ready for Strongman Beerfest with The Lone Sum and I’ve got some more musical theater gigs coming up but all in all I should have plenty of time to continue working on my brand, speaking of which check out my Commercial Scores section under my media section, I had a lot of fun doing them and I hope I can get things going in the right direction with some real commercial scoring at some point down the road.

Anyway, not much work here, no steady gigs, no lessons at the moment and quite frankly, I don’t get it.  This is not me griping about people not hiring me or noticing me or whatever.  It’s about people being flakey when you are honest to them.  I must not have the gene that allows me to lie about my abilities AND feel comfortable screwing up a gig.  For example, If you asked me to play your wedding, believe me when I say that I understand the importance of that day for you.  Bad omens aside, I’m sure that if I was butchering Pacobel’s Canon it wouldn’t entirely ruin your big day but I think it’s important to note that it would absolutely ruin mine.  I care about what I do, I abhor failure, but also in many ways I fail everyday.  So if you ask me to play something that I honestly can’t play in time for the gig, I won’t lie.  If I could refer you to somebody else, I would.  If you came to me and said, “Alex, really love your work.  I’ll give you $1000 to play my birthday party this weekend.  Oh yeah, I’d really love it if you played the entire works of Andres Segovia.”  Uh oh. I’d be forced to make a counter offer: I don’t have that in my repertoire and it would be impossible to figure it out by this weekend but I do have a lot of blah blah blah and I can also play 45 minutes of blah blah blah.  If it doesn’t work, it’d never work. Right?  Don’t take my honesty as anything but honesty.  If instead of Andres Segovia, you asked for Neil Sedaka I think we could definitely figure something out. I don’t doubt the abilities that I have.  This is all in the interest of full disclosure, the more there is of me on this website the more you know what I can do.  Even I forget what I can do from time to time, so this is good practice for me.  I think the bottom line is that I can only do what I can and I’m working to do what I can’t.  If you know anybody that is doing anything more than that, please forward their info to me, I have some questions.

 

Hey, as I sit here in my room surrounded by walls I figured instead of a picture I’d upload an audio recording of Hello Walls written by Willie Nelson and popularized by Faron Young.  Though, it’ll be known as that song I did from now on…I bet even Willie would tell me I could have it.  Oh well.  Enjoy

Let’s all stick together,

-Alex Mack
The Sheriff of this Blog

Get On With It!

To Whom It May Concern:

It’s about time for me to stop whining about how difficult it is getting this website (and my career) started.  Nobody should really care about the “trials” I must go through.  I understand that you want content, you want action, and you want results…

Guess what?

So do I.

So it’s obviously better for me to set some goals here, begin laying out my plans for this site and what I am going to offer.  Up to this point I’m working on showing you what I’ve already done, what gear I have, where I’ve worked, etc.  But I haven’t given you an idea of what I want to do.  The funny part is, I don’t really know either.  However, I’ve got ideas, and ideas can become plans!

First lets start with whats going on right now in my life:

Saturday, March 22nd I will be playing at the Herberger Theater with the Valley Youth Theatre (funny how they are different theat**s).  It’s their (I believe) second Alumni Benefit concert.  I played the first in 2009 before I went off to college so it should be a good reference for my improvement as a player in that time. Haven’t picked up the music yet, but it should be a blast.  Some actual reading, in a really nice venue, with some good musicians and probably some even better singer/actors.  So check it out at http://www.vyt.com

Saturday, April 19th The Lone Sum will be playing at Strongman Beerfest from 11 am-5pm.  Who is The Lone Sum you say?  It is a band from this awesome indie label my good friend runs and he’s asked me to help out with some electric guitar.  Great tunes, high energy, lo-fi ROCK. (PERIOD)  Check them out here.  Also just check out the label http://deafmrecords.bandcamp.com/ there is so much cool stuff and it’s all legit. Nothing contrived about it and thats probably what I appreciate most in my music.  You’ll probably be hearing more about this band and other deafm things on this site in the future…

Okay, back to my longterm plans for this site.

  1. I promise to add a songwriting section, where I will showcase my (better) demos and look for feedback from my viewers and also look for opportunities for collaboration amongst other songwriters.  Should be fun!
  2. I need to get more decent recordings of my live gigs.  So I will make a point of documenting my work.
  3. I would like a section of the different solo performances I offer.  Whether that will be set lists of country songs I know, wedding music reels, solo acoustic for background music etc.  I need to improve my solo repertoire so that I can confidently cover any events that are asked of me.
  4. Add some general lesson videos onto this site and, I suppose youtube in an effort to showcase my teaching abilities AND also explore some of the concepts that are most interesting to me.
  5. recordings of me playing ALL of my instruments (preferably live)
  6. maybe get some decent head shots or live shots.  But the idea of head shots just doesn’t seem like my kinda thing.  We shall see…

Obviously these things will not come overnight.  Some require money on my part, others require opportunities but all require time and effort.  So keep checking in, keep pestering, keep suggesting (believe it or not, I don’t have it all figured out) and pretty soon this site will be swinging!

I was in the Azores.  Just to prove I worked on a cruise ship!

I was in the Azores. Just to prove I worked on ships!

Goodnight!

Alex Mack
Secretary of Transportation (for this website)

Slow But Steady…Progress!

I’m still in the first 24 hours of this website, blog, whatever you want to call it.  I think i’ve probably changed my theme about 50 times trying to find which free theme works best for me.  My only conclusion? I have zero taste in determining web layouts.  This probably means I’d be a bad decorator which means I probably don’t dress well, which probably means nothing.  Anyway it’s hard figuring these things out as you go, some might say it is unprofessional and in many ways I agree.  But the purpose of this site is to get to know me and what better way to get to know me than to watch me figure out how to present myself to you!  Besides nobody really knows about this page yet anyway, though I did suddenly receive something like 45 views today, which means those people will never come back.   But, to my point, it’s not easy for me to figure out what should go where on this site and what it should look like, what color should my theme be what voice should I use in my post, should I speak in the third or first person? I’ve got no clue right now.  I’m just trying it out and I’m sure I will change it at some point. Still, if you are reading this then you are here and maybe you will check back in from time to time.

I’m going to start thinking of writing some actually interesting posts in the near future. So stay tuned and feel free to look around.

Goodnight!

-Alex Mack
Secretary of Defense (of this blog)