playing songs using the numbering system

Discussion in 'Suggestion Box' started by snarf, Jun 29, 2019.

  1. snarf

    snarf audiences like their blues singers to be miserable

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    I was really interested to hear in the chord stockpile session that @Griff thinks in numbers and not chord names when he's playing. He's not the first pro that I've heard say this. I've tried several times in the past to read and write charts using the numbering system, but always end up back with chord letters because I realize I'm not thinking in numbers. I end up seeing the number, equating the root, and then pulling the chord name from that. "I need a IV chord, and I'm in D, so that would be a G" rather than just thinking IV and playing a G. That requires mental gymnastics and just isn't efficient. I think my biggest problem is that I get frustrated and fall back on chord letters too quickly.

    How about a mini-course that focuses on reading and writing charts using the number system? Kind of like a language course in school. In the first chapter use some chord names along with the numbers just to get used to seeing them, and then the rest of the course use only numbers. A chapter for reading numbers with 2 or 3 songs of reading numbers, and then a chapter on writing charts with 2 or 3 songs where we need to write the numbers.

    I know that this is something I could probably do easily enough on my own, but I have trouble staying focused on it. I'm imagining if it was something in course form, it'd be a little more easy to stick with it.
     
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  2. Griff

    Griff Chief Cook And Bottle Washer
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    I don't think that what you're doing is all that different from what I do... I still have to turn the number into a chord name as a last step before playing it...

    Do you suppose that the hiccup is in your ability to calculate what the chord is, given the number?

    I'm just trying to pin down how to help you in the best way, so I ask these weird questions.
     
  3. snarf

    snarf audiences like their blues singers to be miserable

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    Honestly, I think it's just doing it enough to get used to thinking that way. That's kind of why I mention something that can help me keep my focus on it. In my head, I believe that I know the how's. I just haven't practiced the mechanics enough for them to be comfortable. Like a free throw, I just need to practice them over and over and over until I can do them blindfolded if someone puts my toe on the line.

    My thought process when trying to play this way goes like this. I'm happily playing the I which just happens to be a G. Then I'll see a ii on the page and hear that the progression flows into the ii, but think "ii is minor" so quickly switch to Em. As soon as I hit it, I realize that I shouldn't be playing the relative minor (that would be the vi), so then switch to Am which is actually what I should be playing. Then I'll be playing along and see something like I V7 vi I6, and start focusing on the 7s and 6 and start missing chords because I'm thinking "the 7 should be diminished, and that's not where this is going, why the heck are we playing the 7?!? Oh wait...that's not the 7, that's a 7th." And, by the time I figure out where I am, I've missed playing at least a couple bars. Then I get frustrated after doing this a couple of times in a row, and chunk the whole idea and go back to letters (or just playing by ear). If it gets too far outside what would be considered common guitar keys (E, A, D, G, C) I start to fall apart real fast. Make B the I, tell me to play the V, and I'm going to have to stop and think about it, but, if I'm just playing and don't have anything written down to say play the V, I know pretty easily that I need to go to F#.

    Oddly enough, if I'm playing and someone is calling out chords this way, I don't usually have that much of a problem with it. We're playing in G and holler iii and I go to Bm. My confusion comes when I'm trying to read it off a page. Or, has been more of my experience, trying to translate a lead sheet in a hurry that's written in F with a key change at some point. I can re-write it with chord names and have it done in a couple of minutes. I try to do it with numbers so I don't have to do it twice (that chord change thing), and it'll take me way too long. And then I'll fall apart when trying to play from the sheet if I try to follow it. I feel like I can transpose on the fly from F in my head quicker than I can play from a sheet that says I, IV, and V.

    So maybe it is still an inability to calculate the chord number. If it's something where I am just playing and not thinking about it, I usually do ok. It's when that thinking thing gets started. When I'm reading, I feel like, I should know that the vi to the key of C is Am, but I have to stop and think "vi is the relative minor, and that's Am, so that's what I should play."

    Does that make sense? Also, sorry for the tome.
     
  4. PapaBear

    PapaBear Guit Fiddlier

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    For me the number system always worked best with barre chords, open position can make you think especially odd keys, Barre chords once you got the I, the IV and V relation down it's just knowing where the minors are in relation to them
     
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