Lost Within A Dream

As I lay here softly sleeping lost within a dream
Love is always everything it seems
The moon floating so prettily, it sets my spirit free
When I dream this dream of you and me

Stardust keeps on falling on the two of us entwined
Is this really you or just my mind
Am I merely dreaming or are you dreaming this dream too
Is this shining vision really you

I wake up in the morning wipe the stardust from my eyes
Can you just imagine my surprise
Lying there so lovely is this dream I’ve dreamed come true
When I look across our bed at you

Then I see that smile upon your face
Laughter, tears filled with beaming grace
Suddenly a shooting star appears
I draw you near, so near

Patterns In Sound

Music – the science or art of ordering tones or sounds in succession, in combination, and in temporal relationships to produce a composition having unity and continuity.

Noise – random or unpleasant sound.

Playing music for the trained musician is manipulating patterns in sound. The patterns manifest themselves in melodies, bass lines, rhythmic figures and harmonic structures. The ways that these components fit together are many and varied. It is interesting to note that the basic rules of music theory aren’t man made ideas, they are the result of people listening to what sound does with itself and were compiled over many years.

There are savant players, but for many of us musical freedom is achieved through an intense study of scales, bass lines, chord changes and rhythms until we start seeing the inherent patterns in music and can start to extrapolate upon them and come up with new ways to play within the system.

We can insert uncommon musical patterns into tunes as long as we do it properly. In general it is done by going out of the norm and coming back in. In most types of music there is a tone center which must be dealt with and genre considerations.

Listen to the blues lick and note the descending whole tone scale fit in where it normally should not be. It fits because it is a pattern within itself and is properly resolved back into the blues structure.

The Blues

People often wonder where the “Blues” came from and how it came about.  Here’s the story that makes the most sense to me.  It seems a curious blending of Western and African culture.

In Western music the scales within the octave are divided by whole tones and half tones, in African music the scales are divided by whole tones, half tones and quarter tones.  The end result is different levels of tension within the music.  The foundation of Western harmony is the major scale.  There is a similar scale in African music where the 3rd and 7th tones of the scale are a quarter tone flat.  The result is the 3rd and 7th intervals of the scale aren’t major or minor intervals, they are in between.  This scale is not playable on a piano or most Western instruments without the “bent” note.

Eventually some person who was brought over to America as a slave found themselves on a piano.  They knew the scale they wanted to play but it wasn’t on the instrument.  The closest they could come was playing a major chord in the left hand and playing a minor third in the melody with the right.  The missing note still was not there, it was implied.  This is the essence of the blues sound.  The African 7th was implied by playing the 1st chord of the key as a Dominant 7 and not the Major 7th chord of classical harmony.  This is also the essence of the blues sound.  The musical style would not have occurred without the crossing of the cultures.

The first use of the word blue in describing a feeling in song lyrics happened in England in about 1720.  The first time a blues was written down on staff paper happened in New Orleans in about 1910.  The person who did the transcription was a Neapolitan who had been in the country about 6 weeks.

Elvis and the Guitar

Elvis and the Guitar

Elvis Presley, American Roll & Roll icon, began playing guitar at a young age.  It is said that he was taught by Brother Frank Smith, a young black minister at the First Assembly of God Church in Tupelo, though Brother Frank notes that Elvis already had a guitar method book when he first came in contact with him.  It is also said that Brother Frank taught Elvis the A,D and E chords which were needed to play “Old Shep”, a tune that a very young Elvis learned and eventually sang at his first public performance, a Mississippi State Fair talent show.  Elvis had relatives who played and undoubtedly he was shown things about playing by them.

Elvis musicAs a player Elvis was not a guitar player’s player.  At least publically he played simple chords and that’s about it.  Elvis was a huge influence on the world of guitars by being such a great performer with a guitar in his hands.  The popularity of the instrument skyrocketed with his rise to fame.

In 1958 my parents told me that I was going to take music lessons and that I could pick any instrument aside from the drums.  I narrowed it down to the trumpet or the guitar and Elvis tipped the scale.  It was the case for so many kids of my generation. 

In 1993, in Detroit, I got a new student who happened to be an 8 year old black child.  His name was Michael Bembury and he turned out to be a guitar prodigy.  Michael played his first show after 5 lessons and continued to bring the house down thru my long association with him.  At his first lesson I asked him why he wanted to play the guitar and he told me Elvis Presley.


The Importance Of Proper Technique

The Importance Of Proper Technique

It goes without saying that practice makes perfect.  Practice will even improve natural talent and when it is coupled with consistent lessons with a knowledgeable teacher the only limit is the inherent ability of the student.

It is important when learning an instrument and how to play that the student comes in contact with the best teacher available as soon as possible.  One should not think that it is a good idea to get comfortable with the instrument and learn a few things on their own and then get an instructor.  Unless you are one of those very few people, people who are born with the ability to play as in being a savant, you end up doing more damage to your playing then you realize.  First impressions are very strong both physically and mentally, especially in matters of technique.  It can take the student six months to correct an incorrect first impression experience on an instrument.

Even savants would benefit from being shown how to properly physically approach an instrument as far as hand and body position.  What feels naturally comfortable is not always the best way.  In your everyday life you don’t hold your hands and body in a manner conducive for playing. You need to be shown and allow your hands and body to open up to the correct physical positions.  Eventually you will adopt your own particular playing style though it is really best to wait until you have mastered the “proper” way to play before you start making personal technique decisions.

The Old Man

Remembering Robert Lowe

I would like to take a minute and remember and tell a story about Detroit jazz guitarist Robert Lowe. If I’m recalling correctly the first time I saw Robert play was at the Pretzel Bowl in Highland Park in the Lyman Woodard band in the early 70’s.

A few years later I went into the Detroit Community Music School to teach and was informed that I had a new student at 2 o’clock that afternoon. You can just imagine my surprise when at 2 o’clock Robert Lowe walked into my lesson room and told me he had come to learn how to read music.

I asked him where he needed to start and he told me at the very beginning, he couldn’t read a single note. So I got him a copy of the Joe Fava Guitar Method Vol.1 and we started on the 1st string with the notes E, F and G, whole notes, half notes and quarter notes. He had always played everything by ear.

Needless to say it became immediately apparent at the beginning of his 2nd lesson that he had spent absolutely no time practicing his reading. I made sure he understood the material and then we jammed for the remainder of the lesson. This pattern continued until his 4th lesson.

He walked into the room with a big black book of hand written charts and told me that the real reason he was in my room was that he had gotten a gig backing up Nancy Wilson and couldn’t read the material. He asked me if I would help him by reading and playing the music which he planned to memorize the sound of as I played it. So that is what we did. I never asked him how the gig went.

I was deeply affected by Robert’s passing and still remember his amazing thumb and ever present smile.

Robert Abate, Ron English, Robert Lowe – Recorded at the Guitar Summit 2004

What Is The Difference Between Major & Minor?

What Is The Difference Between Major & Minor?

In music, what is the difference between major and minor?

C Major & Minor Music Scale

This is an extremely loaded question with mountains of information waiting to tumble down upon us. To make it easier to handle let’s narrow it down to what is the “effect” of major and minor in music, and more importantly, what is the effect on the listener.

The foundation of Western Music is the major scale and the harmonic possibilities (chords) within it. This series of notes comes to us directly from the Greek modes. If we take the note series C,D,E,F,G,A,B,C there is a half-step between E&F and B&C, all other notes are a whole step apart. The Greek modes go from A-A, B-B, etc. all the way to G-G with the half step intervals shifting position because E&F and B&C are a half step apart and all the other notes are a whole step apart regardless of where they are used or what scale they are being used in. There are 7 Greek modes: the Ionian mode is from C-C and is commonly referred to today as the Major scale and the Aeolian mode is from A-A and is commonly referred to today as the Minor scale. These 2 scales, major and minor, share the same notes, the only difference between them is where they start and stop. Another way to put it would be to say how they resolve or come to rest within the listener’s ears.

The major scale is used to denote: good, air, light, positivity. The minor scale is used to denote: evil, darkness, mystery, sadness.

When we play or compose music properly, what we are really doing is giving voice to feelings and emotions that reside within us. These feelings and emotions that are communicated are not in result of some man made system of audio processing, they are the result of the effect that these particular patterns in sound have and always have had on human beings. The study of music theory in the West has always been based on what the sound is telling us. We listen and then make up rules on music theory and harmony.

If you’re writing a happy song chances are your first chord would be C, and if you had just lost a loved one Cm.

Composer vs Arranger

What is the difference between being a musical composer and being a musical arranger?  While a composer creates the original melody and harmony the arranger takes the composition and filters it thru the melody, harmony, bass lines and rhythm of the style of music and pairs it with the intended ensemble.  In a lot of cases the distinction between the two is very fuzzy.  When Beethoven wrote the 5th Symphony he composed it while arranging it for the orchestra at the same time and at least in Beethoven’s case made it almost pointless to do anything with the work other than to leave it as it is.  The 5th Symphony would not work for Peter, Paul and Mary or Maroon 5.

For me it brings up the question of the symbiotic relationship between a songwriter (composer) and an arranger in modern day popular music.  If you look at the credits on Michael Jackson’s Thriller album it lists a variety of composer’s, arranger’s (8), instrumentalists, etc.  The arrangers are listed as sectional and Quincy Jones is listed as the producer which in this case means one generally in charge of the entire production.  I would put forth that Mr. Jones was actually the arranger of the entire album.  He took a wonderful group of musicians, oversaw their efforts and channeled them thru his vast amount of musical experience, knowledge and God given talent.  Thriller would not have been the album it was without the incredible talent and composition of Michael Jackson (and others) and the amazing arrangement and production skills of Quincy Jones.

Welcome To RobertAbateMusic.com

Welcome To RobertAbateMusic.com

I would like to cordially invite everyone to visit my new website: robertabatemusic.com. The main focus of the site is the sale of original composition and custom band arrangements. Original music for any purpose and custom ensemble arrangements for any size group or style. There are many playable audio files showing examples of these services including the entire score to my latest musical theatre piece. There are also pages devoted to performance and lessons.

Dance companies, movie makers, song writers wanting professional recordings of their songs, vocalists needing demo tunes with instrument back up, commercial producers, musical theatre playwrights, professional bands needing hot custom arrangements and artists recording CD’s with no band are just a few of the types of people who would profit and find value in my services. All genres and styles.

Please visit the website, enjoy the musical experience and recommend me to anyone you think would need or benefit from what I have to offer.

The audio file with this post is an original composition entitled “She’s Got The Fever”, from my new CD of the same name. Thank you very much, Robert.