I have been working on the guitar the last few weeks, trying to learn some jazz songs so I can play and sing with my brother later this summer when I visit him. It has been hard work getting the fingers to move and stretch on the fret board again, and learning the chords. Since my guitar experience has been playing mostly country songs, I knew the majors and minors and major sevenths, but that was about it. Learning all the minor sevenths with their augmenteds and diminisheds, and the sixths and ninths, not to mention an occasional 11th and 13th, has been quite a challenge.

And then figuring out, slowly and painfully because I am pretty dumb about music theory, that a lot of these chords are the same – i.e. a key’s major sixth is the same as the relative key’s minor seventh – C6 is Amin7 – and so on.

Today I was practicing Getting to Know You. First the country version, all majors and sevenths, with an occasional minor tossed in for fun. Then the jazz version with all the lovely chord flavours. Now I find I cannot play a country song straight any more. I want to add these new and interesting chords whenever I get the chance. The more nuanced sound is much juicier. Some of the chord transitions moving from one major chord to another are so lovely, they make my tummy twist. For example, the version I have of For Sentimental Reasons has a lovely chord transition moving from C to F using C7, then C9♯5, and then the F. I really like ♯5ths, so I like this transition. (Of course it occurs in other keys in other songs as well.) The photo above is of me learning how to make an E7♯5.

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.

Austen Delays, I Read and Fume

News bits. Jane Austen weekend is unavoidable delayed, perhaps til next year. For me, this is just as well, (although I regret any bad thing that happened to cause organizers to cancel). I forced myself to do my taxes when I wasn’t in the mood, just because the clock was ticking, and it was a disaster. This week I was set to force myself to sew two period gowns, because the clock was ticking, but I was worried I would sew badly. So the delay is a good thing for me. I am sure I will feel more ready to tackle this in the near future.

We had a lovely Bookclub meeting this week – our last of the season. At the last meeting, which is always in a restaurant and is always a giggle-a-thon, we chose next season’s books. To see what we are up to in next winter’s reading, see 2014 – 2015 Booklist. I am happy with the list. Some new fiction, some old fiction, one historical fiction, and two, count ’em two non-fiction (my favourites) and one of them my suggestion. So I get to host, which I am happy to do how that my reno is done, but where will I find enough comfy chairs for the 11 intrepid readers ? Well, I have a few months to figure that out.

I can now understand all the blogs that do not allow comments. I have gotten lots of comments submitted on my blog entries, but only one that actually had anything to do with the blog entry. All the rest were from robot people soliciting business or trying to get their SEO level enhanced by placing their website address on another site, however inappropriate the placement. Pathetic. And since all comments have to be monitored, it’s a nuisance and daily disappointment.

Purse Recap

I love having John home again.

My purse, miraculously black again
My purse, miraculously black again
His second order of business after he got back and heard the news was to go over the tax return. It seems I mistakenly entered a huge deduction in the wrong box, as income! So we re-submitted our taxes, and my purse is black again. Even better, John says he will do the taxes from now on.