Archive Monthly Archives: May 2010

How to Sell Digital Downloads

As musicians, we tend to use 3rd party sites to handle everything for us, host our website, host our music, sell our music, capture emails, host our videos, manage our fans/community and so on. While this is a very easy way to get going, it is fraught with potential problems, which boil down to a lack of control. We can see this with the latest announcement by Ning.com, where they were no longer providing free communities. Other sites that offer music hosting and fan funding have gone under as well.

I have used 3rd party shopping carts such as 1shoppingcart in the past and they’ve been great to get you up and running really quickly. They handle all the technical details without you having to install anything and many sites like 1shoppingcart handle digital downloads.

Others prefer to use websites that allow you to sell downloads but you have to send them to their site, or possible add a widget to your site. They usually take a cut of each transaction. This is also an option but keep it mind many of these sites go out of business and you end up losing all your transactions (and often email addresses of those who bought). Some sites are even file specific – like music sites allowing you to sell mp3s (but not zip files, videos, PDFs, etc).

One of the concerns with digital downloads is that somebody can pass the URL around to others. So many people try to provide a unique and temporary URL to the buyer to avoid this problem. While this is a good idea, there’s nothing stopping from people from sharing the actual digital file!

Over time and with the continuing advancements in open source software, I’ve opted to set up my own shopping cart. You can also avoid many ongoing monthly fees this way. This is pretty easy thanks to WordPressand the e-shop plugin for wordpress. Free plugins are now installable right from the WordPress admin panel so you don’t even have to download anything! If you like the plugin you should consider donating to the creator.

After I set up the shopping cart settings (paypal email address, ‘from’ email, etc) I was looking around to find out where I set up my products. It turns out that is done on a new WordPress page. So upload your file (that will be purchased) first, so that it is available on your new WordPress page (there’s a Product Entry section under the blank page area). A dropdown will be available showing all your downloadable files. If you want to give customers a few files at once, I suggest putting them in a zip file.

Here’s a tutorial on setting it up. I offer consulting services so feel free to contact me if you need help!

I offer consulting services so feel free to contact me if you need help!

Send Me Your Guitar Lesson Requests

YouTube recently added a Moderator feature which allows you to send me your guitar lesson requests, ideas, suggestions, struggles and so on. Then other people can vote and comment on them, or submit their own requests. This helps me to manage the lesson requests and determine the most popular requests.

So watch the video and send me your requests today!

Understanding J.S. Bach’s Chord Progressions

I would guess that the vast majority of classical musicians have no idea what they are playing and how each composition works. Some might recognize the key, and see scalar or arpeggiated passages. But it is difficult enough for anyone just to learn many of these pieces! In other words, performers need to focus on developing the technical facility by learning the various etudes, scales, arpeggios and related techniques. Baroque improvisation, which was once prevalent has pretty much disappeared in current times, although a rare few are continuing the artform.

So it was a pleasant surprise to find this harmonic analysis of Bach’s Minuet in G. Even though it’s a fairly simple tune, you can learn a lot by understanding the chord progression and which melody notes were used over each chord. Note the chord names added to this score. Look at the bass notes and the melody notes and how they outline each chord.

Note that the bass notes (in bass clef) are usually chord tones, but not always the root. Other chord tones are used for smooth bass line movement and voice leading concepts. Also note the I IV and I V movement which are very common.

In the second half of the piece (page 2), note how a key change from G to D is achieved (note key changes to the V chord is very common!). This uses the concept of pivot chords. When we play G which is the I chord in key of G we can consider it also to be the IV of D major. Then we play a D major (I of D major), Em (ii chord) then A (V). While the first 3 chords G, D and Em can be from the key of G, it is this ambiguity that allows us to change keys. The real surprise comes with the A major chord which should be Am in key of G (we raise the C to C#). We can see how the 8th measure on page 2 ends on D making the key of D fairly obvious.

We will use this knowledge in future posts and via my Baroque Improvisation Course.

Bach Two-Part Invention IV – Harmonic Analysis

When I was younger I was really intimidated by JS Bach and his compositions (I probably still am to some extent). All those sharps and flats, and challenging pieces to play, never mind the overall elitist feeling of classical music and it’s admirers. And the rules and etiquette about playing classical guitar with proper positioning, fingernails and rest and free strokes.

After recently becoming aware of the potential for classical music improvisation, my interest in baroque music has resurfaced. Ted Greene improvised baroque-style music and not only that usually on a Fender telecaster!

Okay back to the analysis. I usually look at the key signature to see what key we’re possibly in – its either the major or the relative minor. Here’s the piece (I suggest you buy this if you’re interested – for guitar something like 15 Two-Part Inventions for Solo Guitar:

Bach Invention 04 a4

First thing we notice is there is one flat, so this would indicate F major or D minor. The melody starts with a D and in the second measure we see a C# so this tells me it’s likely D minor. C# is the raised 7th indicating a harmonic minor scale and also an A chord which is the V chord of D minor (V chord is often major in a minor key, corresponding to raised 7th degree of minor scale). With only two notes it is sometimes difficult to determine the chord, but we can also use the logic of chord movements such as i V and cycle of fourths.

So measure one looks like Dm chord (i), then A chord (V), measure 3 looks like Dm with a D and F on beat 1, beat two is F and A, beat 3 is A and D (3 notes of Dm chord). Measure 4 is back to A7 since we note the C#, G, and A/C# on beat 2. Measure 5 is Dm again with D/F on beat one, A/F on beat 2, D/A on beat 3. Measure 6 is back to A7 with E/C# beat 1, and G/A beat 2. Measure 7 is Dm with D/F on beat 1. Then we go through the cycle of fourths (Gm, C, F, Bb, Edim, Am, Dm) for measures 8 to 15 since we have on the first beat – G/Bb, C/E, F/A, Bb/D, E/G, A/C, D/F). Note the Am instead of A major. Since we are moving into the relative major key (F) we want to weaken the sound of Dm to make the transition more smooth.

From the Dm we discussed in measure 15 we ascend to the iidim chord Edim then down another fourth to Am (v chord) then down a few quick fourths in measure 17 – Dm, Gm, C and then to F major in measure 18 which is a switch from the relative minor key of Dm to F major. Notice the pace slows a bit in measure 17 to accentuate the C chord, which is the V of F major.

Then we alternate between F and C from measures 18-22 until measure 23 where we have a D7 chord. Then D7 in measure 24 (F# and C beat 1), then to Gm (G/Bb) then C7 (E/Bb) then F (see the cycle of fourths?) in measure 26. Note the B natural added to the F chord – this is cancelling the Bb which in essence moves us to the key of C or Am. Since we have a G# in measure 27 it’s likely Am. So in measure 26 the F which would be the I chord in key of F is shifted to a VI chord in key of Am.

That should keep you busy for a while! I’ll let you complete the analysis if you are so inclined.

Other things to note – the use of themes. The intro melody is repeated in the bass in measure 3 and back again in the upper part in measure 5. And this idea is repeated in different areas throughout the piece on different scale tones. And often when one voice is using sixteenth notes the other voice is eighth notes, so the focus can shift between the two voices. Sometimes they both move together in sixteenths which is more challenging on the guitar.

The reason for this analysis is to help us improvise our own Baroque pieces on the fly (use the chord progressions and other ideas), as well as those of you who want to compose your own masterpieces!

If you like this lesson, check out my Baroque Improvisation Course.

Chord Substitution Generator for Making Chord Melodies

When creating a jazz guitar chord melody arrangement we want to pick a chord that has the melody note as the highest note. But rather than use the stock chord changes from a lead sheet, we can often add more chords or substitute existing chords for new chords. This free online Chord Substitution Generator will give you lots of chord choices to try. Just click on a melody note and you will see a list of chord choices that have that note as the melody note (highest note in chord).

Of course there are many rules of thumb that will guide your chord additions such as making some chords dominant, adding the ii chord to a dominant chord (ii-V7), following the cycle of fourths, moving in minor thirds, tritone substitutions. You can also use your ear by trying out the chords at that website and seeing what sounds good.

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How to Expand on a Simple Idea on Guitar

I’ve been working on the Baroque Improvisation Course and thought I would share a very powerful idea with you. That is, how to take a simple concept and expand it for your own purposes and creativity. You can use this for any style not just classical.

In my recent post on Little Prelude in C minor we can look at the first 4 notes:

Little Prelude in A Minor (Orig. Cm)

We have A minor for two beats. The bass moves from a low A up an octave to another A. The upper melody goes from the root A, up to B, then C (the minor 3rd) then down to E (the fifth). We could choose to take this E and go up to the higher E instead of going down. We can also decide to take this through the cycle of fourths which in A minor would be Am, Dm, G, C and so on (F, Bdim, Em…). Here’s the sheet music/tab:
Baroque Idea.

Notice the concept: bass goes from lower root to upper root (low A to higher A, low D to higher D, etc). and melody goes root, 2nd, 3rd, fifth. Sometimes I go up to fifth, sometimes down to lower fifth to keep a smooth melody line. You can do this for any style. Take a small idea and expand it, twist it, invert intervals, use over different chords, different keys and so on. Take a few notes from a melody or solo you like, use it over various chord progressions, make a sequence out of it, play it backwards. The possibilities are endless.

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Little Prelude in C minor by J.S. Bach for Guitar

This is J.S. Bach’s Little Prelude in C minor transposed to A minor by Ted Greene and arranged on the guitar by Will Kriski (me). It is BWV 934 in case you’re looking for it.

Little Prelude in A Minor (Orig. Cm)

If you’d like to learn more about improvising in the baroque/classical style please check out Baroque Improvisation for Guitar.

How to Give Away Free Stuff

A lot of people like to give away free content, but only if you sign up for an email list. Once you sign up they will email you on occasion with new offerings. Many people are uncomfortable with signing up for many reasons, due to spam, email is dying with at least the younger generation, private information, signup effort, etc. While you can give away stuff without asking for anything at all, every once in a while it might be a good idea to ask for something in return.

Two new interesting ways to give away free stuff (even if you still use email) is to ask for a Tweet or ask people to connect on Facebook. As I’m a proponent of ‘Do it yourself’ (rather than relying on 3rd party sites) I was happy to find some free code written by the good folks at Cash Music. The two tools are Tweet for Track and FBConnect to Track. I did a Tweet for Track tutorial here.

You can see my Tweet for Track example and FBConnect to Track example here. You can give away a PDF, audio, video, or whatever file you want, it doesn’t have to be music related.

With these ‘more loosely coupled’ ways of connecting with fans, you still keep in touch but it’s a more subtle approach. Real fans will keep coming back to see what you have to say.