Jimmy Wyble: Harmonic Awareness and Efficiency

A Method by Jimmy Wyble edited by David Oakes

Editors Note: Much of this material has been assimilated from a weekly series of lectures that Jimmy Wyble presented at Musicians Institute from October 2007 through March of 2009 when Jimmy formally stopped teaching his class "The Art of Two Line Improvisation". Jimmy Wyble had two guitar teachers that really inspired him to play the guitar at a very high level Laurindo Almeida and George Van Eps. Jimmy often spoke of his work with Van Eps and went through all of his chord scales. Anyone who has ever gone through the Van Eps "Harmonic Mechinisms" books knows all about the chord scales that Jimmy was referring to. George then challenged Jimmy to come up with his own chord scales and the information presented in this packet reflects Jimmy's hard work and commitment that was spawned from that Van Eps comment. I think that George Van Eps would be very pleased with Jimmy's work! Much has already been written about harmonic awareness in different lesson packets presented here on this web sight. Jimmy never failed to talk about this process in every single seminar that he has gave during the period of time that he taught at Musicians Institute. After sitting in and listening to many of Jimmy's lectures, I started to understand the complete process. The material presented here is his complete thought process and should be viewed as Jimmy Wyble's own version of "Harmonic Mechinisms".

Editor's Note: The following comments are comments that I have heard Jimmy say though the course of these seminars. I would compare these comments to the beginning section of book 1 of "Harmonic Mechanisms" titled General Comments:

  1. We will use the C major scale as our key signature. Chord scales are the source of all music. The key of C helps us to see any alterations to the chords quickly.
  2. The right and left hand concept is that of four fingers on each hand for four voices and four strings. Use a bar only when necessary (which for Jimmy was almost never)!

Break up your right hand fingerings, P - M and I - A combinations or teams. Another combination would be the P - A and I - M team.

  1. Hear every note equally like you were playing the notes on a piano. In other words, play these chords very evenly and connect the chords to the next so that you can become aware of the line and not the block chord movement.
  2. Tracking the voices through the scale is of utmost importance and is continuous throughout this process of playing chord scales.
  3. When the player has acquired a degree of efficiency with the basic forms, the process of extending the harmonic awareness begins. By simply altering various degrees of the scale the hands and the ears are introduced to new sounds and new shapes, thereby extending one's harmonic consciousness and increasing one’s efficiency. This will put a different harmonic face on any chord scale.
  4. The alterations are of the scale and not of each chord. The chord must be re-shaped if the altered degree of the scale appears as one of the voices of the chord.  These alterations make you aware of every note that you are playing. That kind of awareness is very important.
  5. As we have seen from the Van Eps method, the study of chord scales is an ongoing process and is not something that can be learned in a week or a month. It is truly a lifelong journey as well as a commitment and understanding that the study of harmony is essential to the growth and development of any musician.

The chord scales will be presented in their basic form with the various voicings:

  1. 1 5 7 3
  2. 1 7 3 5
  3. 5 1 7 3
  4. 3 1 5 7
  5. 1 3 7 9
  6. 1 7 9 11
  7. 1 7 9 13

These are not the only voicings that could be used. Make more up as you continue the process. Remember that the idea is to be creative and always try to put your hands on the fret board of the guitar differently every day.

These seven alterations will expand each basic form into seven additional harmonic areas. Here are the alterations:

  1. b3
  2. #4
  3. #5
  4. b3 and #4
  5. b3 and #5
  6. #4 and #5
  7. b3 and #4 and #5

With each of these 7 alterations of the scale, start moving voices within each chord. For example:

  1. With 7th chords move the 3rd and 5th down a half step.
  2. Move the root up a half step and the 7th down a half step.
  3. With 9th chords, move the 3rd up a half step and the 7th down a hslf step.
  4. With 11th chords, move the 7th down a half step and the 11th up a half step.

This process produces a flowing chromatic movement through the scale. The approach, four fingers controlling four lines, four voices brings about an awareness of the line. When the altered possibilities are employed, this brings about a more chromatic, pianistic way of creating sound on the guitar.