From Diminished to Augmented

guitar and dog
Keagan likes the guitar, but not the camera flash

I have started playing guitar again, on a little steel string acoustic guitar my son bought in Vietnam while he was traveling, and left with me after his last visit home. Small enough to cart around with him on a motorbike. It’s a great size for me and I am enjoying playing it, especially now that I am getting some callouses on my fingers and playing doesn’t hurt so much.

I am an old lady rather than a teenager, so I tend to different music. And of course, now that I am more patient, and more pattern oriented, I notice better how the hand positions just move around the fret board, so that F#dim7 is also Gdim7 and Aflatdim7 , but each on a different fret. I really should have noticed this better when I was younger, but I was more into singing music rather than playing, and every new chord I had to learn felt like torture. Now I notice the pattern and think – Oh, it’s my old friend Bflatmajor, but on a different fret!

Lately I am working on a lot of old jazz standards. And these old songs are whack when it comes to chords and chord progressions. I had to learn to play 16 new chords to play Autumn Leaves and that seems to be pretty normal. My big bugaboo is Eflat. It just seems to twist my hand up funny to play it and I can’t move quickly in or out of it yet. I have a lot of switching between Eflat and Aflat in lots of songs, and it’s very slow. The whole song just stops for a few seconds while I get my fingers rearranged. But I’ll get there.

I love the chord names – F#dim7, or C#min7flat5, or GAug, and so forth. This week I am getting a big kick out of the sound of augmented chords. My friend Sharon, over coffee, commented that getting back to playing music was shifting me from a diminished chord to an augmented one – she meant that I was getting more upbeat and cheerful after the gloomy winter we had both survived.

I think there is truth in that for anyone making music, whatever chords they are learning to play. Making music, however badly, lifts you out of gloom. There is the glorious sublime feeling when the chords work, and the tons of giggling when you produce the exact wrong chord (often the exact right chord on the wrong fret), and both of these chase gloom away.

That being said, I am getting off this computer and back to the guitar to play High Hopes – no augmenteds in the arrangement I have, but several dim7s, including F#dim7.