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  1. #1

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    Hello. Recently I bought Harmonic Mechanisms by George Van Eps and decided that I want to start working with it. I have worked with "GVE Guitar Method" which is less daunting than HM. I didn't finish it but I got a pretty good idea of what is going on. Now, that I have access to Harmonic Mechanisms I would like to get soome advice to how I should approach the exercises in this book. In the "GVE Guitar Method" there was advice given as to how to approach the material and how to practise, however in HM there is no such section.

    So, I started doing exercises and covered the keys of C, F, and Bb in the first exercise. What should be the focus of this exercise? In other words, what should be given all attention to? The physical technique? Should I rememer the fingerings as they are? Should I name the triads in my head (like it's in the book above the notes Dm, Em etc)? Should I always read the notes or when I learn them practise without the book? Should I name the notes when I practise away from book?
    When do I know that I can move to another key or next exercises?

    I would like to hear your suggestions.
    Thank you.
    Studying Harmonic Mechanisms (by George Van Eps)-screenshot_1-png
    Studying Harmonic Mechanisms (by George Van Eps)-screenshot_2-jpg

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  3. #2

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    What a task! I recommend you the Van Eps course by Steve Herberman in order to have musical examples using this exercises. I know RosenIwinkel works with these books and one of the things I admire from him is the way he profits patterns and theoric exercises into meaningful music.

  4. #3

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    I would do all the things you suggest, plus improvise using these triads, making melodies with the top notes, be creative with them from the outset, even in a very simple way.

    GVE states somewhere that he did not expect people to start at page one, working their way through all three volumes progressively, rather just jump in here and there, see what takes your interest.

    Good luck. The three volumes are on my shelf, and a picture of George stares at me, wondering why they are gathering dust. My guilt deepens daily.

  5. #4
    Quote Originally Posted by Rob MacKillop View Post
    The three volumes are on my shelf, and a picture of George stares at me, wondering why they are gathering dust. My guilt deepens daily.
    I've seen your posts many times where you say that you ca't get started with Harmonic Mechanisms when I was lookingfor Van Eps related topics How about we start it together? I think if there are two of us - it will be easier to start and more interesting. What do you say? George stares at you in patience, but even his patience has a limit

  6. #5

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    Well, jetaman, you might be giving me the gentle shove I need to get started. Give me the weekend to think about it.

  7. #6

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    Yikes. I've owned volume 1 of HM since it was first published. The others got purchased later and I've made more false starts on working with them than I would want to admit to...despite Rob's excellent videos of the exercises from GVE's earlier, more modest tome, a copy of that too languishes on the to-be-done shelf. Should a study group be started?

  8. #7
    I would really like to be a member of such study group. I wonder if there are people here who have worked through these books (at least the first one) and could be our guides in this way. Maybe the admins, Matt or Dirk.

  9. #8

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    I spent an hour with Volume 1 this morning, only to be reminded why I've been resisting taking it on.

    1. His fingering drives me crazy. I know he has a reason for it, but there are usually other ways of doing what he is asking. Take the first two chords in the example in the original post above. The sixth-string F is played with the second finger, then two open strings. Then the second finger plays a partial barre at the second fret, and the third finger plays the sixth strings. That bears all the hallmarks of someone imposing a philosophy on a technique, when other fingers would not only be much simpler, but would also allow more legato phrasing.

    2. He expands on these fingerings later in the book, adding more notes, and this is where we are meant to see the logic of his initial fingering choices. But see for example page 66, bar 3 - madness.

    3. The obsessive examination of all possibilities of one thing, all carefully written out with his overly-complicated notational system, when he could say "When you hold these three notes down, all notes around them within the span of one finger per fret, become available".

    Well, what can I say? I love the guy, his playing, and his willingness to help us. I'm also a fan of Steve Herberman, the modern exponent of the GVE method. I just feel three big volumes is overkill, and could have been whittled down to one medium-sized volume, allowing for different fingering approaches. I'm 57 years of age, and don't feel I want to spend the next five years of my life memorising most of what these books have to offer. But if you are younger, they might be worth your while.

  10. #9

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    Leavitt has a reasonably comprehensive approach to open and closed triads, in all inversions, multiple string sets, and with melody lines on top. Books 2 and 3.

    Van Eps really shoots for the moon or so I recall...
    Last edited by Jazzstdnt; 06-04-2017 at 10:58 PM.

  11. #10

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    Rob,

    I have all 3 volumes and am also hesitant to spend time to memorize his fingerings, but .....
    the gist of what he is driving at is hidden in plain sight within the title, "mechanics".

    One fingering will often emerge as our favorite, most comfortable way to play a given chord.
    When then placed in a chord sequence, we must also consider what movements are needed
    coming from the previous chord(s) and the movements to get to the chord(s) upcoming.
    Especially when we are going for a legato chordal sound. George Van Eps was quite good at this.

    So, while I don't meticulously followed his fingerings, it has inspired me to examine this topic
    more closely. My goal being to expand awareness and real time application of the fingering options
    available for each voicing.

    As to using the book, I will play through a given exercise using whatever fingering occurs to me.
    Then if time permitting, I go back and look to see what he did differently, and try to puzzle out his thinking.
    Mostly, away from the book, I have developed the habit of exploring fingering options in greater detail.
    For this I am thankful.
    Last edited by bako; 06-05-2017 at 10:05 AM.

  12. #11
    I'm going to do the following:
    1. I will record videos and post my progress here for anyone who is interested. My first goal is to play the first exercise in all keys in a row.
    2. I'm going to contact two people who I know for sure have worked with Van Eps books and can share their approach or at least give some advice - Steve Herberman and Jordi Farres.
    Stay tuned
    Last edited by jetaman; 06-05-2017 at 02:09 PM.

  13. #12
    Sorry, but I will have to double post this.

    Hey guys! I got a reply from Steve Herberman. I really hope it will help some of you and me included. Here's what he said.
    Van Eps’ own advice in working with the H.M. books was to not worry about going page by page but rather skipping around to sections that were of interest. I do think that the harmonized major scales at the beginning of vol. 1 can act as a prerequisite to the sections that follow. But I think it’s important to not get caught up in these harmonized scales to the point that you never get around to digging into the super and sub concepts over other cycles (like in tunes.) The first section of his book is only cycle 2 if my memory serves correct.
    I read your thread on jazzguitar.be and see that you have worked with the slim volume from the late 1930’s. Being that you’ve already covered that material I’d recommend moving on to other sections of interest. It’s true that GVE does not tell the player how to apply this information. He preferred that it be left up to the individual. For me GVE’s approach opened up so much for me in moving voices around within chord “stations” and then voice leading lines from chord to chord through the progressions of tunes. GVE offers so many fingering choices in his books I feel that he is trying to show all possibilities so eventually the player can have the mechanisms in place to improvise counterpoint. Don’t get too caught up in the fingerings would be my advice as you’ll see he’ll offer them all up eventually. The heart of his approach is the super and sub series and if you can learn to use this on a progression than I think it will eventually all be clear and open up for you.

  14. #13

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    What a daunting task! I've gotta tell you that I've never actually met anyone who worked their way through every page in those 3 Van Eps volumes including myself and I had my own guitar shop in Annapolis, MD for 30 years teaching 5 - 6 hours a day (mainly college age students).

    Those Van Eps volumes are an incredible resource that are probably best approached by re-visiting them again and again over a period of many years.

    What I found to be a lot more fun was learning a lot of Hank Mackie's solo guitar arrangements that are in that "constant motion" style of George Van Eps where the bass line is moving, or the melody is moving, or the inner voices of the chord are moving, or any combination of all of those are in motion at the same time.

    Although Hank plays 7-string guitar like Van Eps did his arrangements are written out in block chord diagram form for 6-string guitar players so they are easy to work through. If you would like to see and hear an example of one of Hanks' arrangements here is the link to his page:

    Learn Hank Mackie Guitar Solos - Tab Books, Instruction DVDs + Video Lessons

    Hope this helps!
    Steven Herron

  15. #14
    Please pardon my quick and incomplete reply to Jetaman that he just posted here. Steven Herron mentioned that he's never met anyone that worked through all the pages to the GVE H.M. books. Steven and I have never met face to face but traded educational material years ago. If we had met than he couldn't have written that! GVE's own advice was to "sweet tooth it" and skip around to sections of interest. I knew that when I embarked on a 5 year study of the books but I decided to go page by page. At that time in my life I had more time and patience. If that fits your situation and you have the patience and can see the benefits and possible application while studying the book than by all means go page by page that way you won't miss anything. I do believe that you can skip around to sections of interest and explore those heavily and maybe check off the pages you work through. I transposed everything like GVE suggests and would check those off once they were completed. I took the sections that interested me the most and applied these to tunes.
    There are fingering errors in the book so if you come across something that's unplayable you'll have found them.
    GVE wanted each person studying the book to figure out how to apply the studies on their own but that doesn't mean that you wouldn't want to check out how others apply the concepts. I've done many video classes that use the GVE concepts. Here is a performance video I shot it Italy a couple of months ago that demonstrate some GVE concepts on a 7 string guitar with low A tuning. Hope you enjoy it:

  16. #15

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    Wow, Steve, I love your playing. Great to see, hear, and have your input here. I also love the sound of your guitar through that amp - the perfect package.

    Every time I hear you play, I think I really MUST work assiduously through the GVE books, and then do some or all of your online classes.

    As I said above, though, five years is a long time when you are 57 years of age. I wish I'd started them 20 years ago. But, you never know. I need to see how I can take scales of first-inversion chords and use them in a chord melody arrangement, or improvise over changes using them.

    I hope you stick around here, as there are many of us who love your playing.

  17. #16
    Ps: I didn't know that my moniker would show up and not my name so SevenStringer is me, Steve Herberman

  18. #17
    Thanks very much Rob, I'll try to stick around

  19. #18

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    Welcome to the forum Steve.

    You're one of my heroes. Great to have you here.

    Regards
    Christoph

  20. #19
    Thank you Christoph!
    Last edited by SevenStringer; 06-07-2017 at 03:39 PM.

  21. #20

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    Steve, with your reputation, I don't think you have to concern yourself with changing your forum name. Thanks for making your insights available.

    Sent from my SM-N900V using Tapatalk

  22. #21
    Steve, first I would like to join others in saying that it's an honour and a pleasure to have you here. I watched lots of your videos on Youtube, my favourites are your guitar/voice duos (amazing comping and overall performing) because my wife and I work in the same format I also checked out your masterclasses which I am planning to buy sometime in he future when I am a little more advanced.

    Second, when I was starting this thread I was planning to start a kind of study group where I (or maybe others who want to join) would post the progress on Harmonic Mechanisms. It would also be great to have a kind of curator/advisor/reviewer of the group or something like this - a person who worked with HM and applied it in real life and has experiece in it. I would like to ask you if you want to be that person, I think all the people would agree with me. You can be anything you want ( curator/advisor/reviewer ) or nothing at all - if you refuse, I think we'll understand. So what do you say?

    PS: In one of your Youtube videos you left a comment that you are recording a guitar/voice duo album in december. When will it be released?
    Last edited by jetaman; 06-07-2017 at 04:08 AM.

  23. #22

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    I'd be happy if Steve just popped his head in every now and then. I'm sure he's way too busy to do much else. But his presence has got me thinking about these books again.

    So, to get things started here's a run through the first exercise in the original post. I then use it to harmonise a couple of simple melodies.

    You will most likely need to turn up your volume for this phone video.


  24. #23
    Quote Originally Posted by Rob MacKillop View Post
    I'd be happy if Steve just popped his head in every now and then. I'm sure he's way too busy to do much else. But his presence has got me thinking about these books again.

    So, to get things started here's a run through the first exercise in the original post. I then use it to harmonise a couple of simple melodies.

    You will most likely need to turn up your volume for this phone video.

    Very cool. I've done a lot with playing melodies using triads the last year or so. In my mind, it greatly helps with the "exercise-y" issues related to learning them.

  25. #24

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    If I could play half the way Steve plays,..., I think I would never eat, I would just play and play.

  26. #25
    Hey guys, I got a reply from Jordi Farres, a guitarist from Barcelona who not only have worked with Harmonic Mechanisms, but also did the famous transcriptions of GVE tunes.

    Hi Bohdan,those books are not easy for sure, but in my humble opinion, they are the best books I know for guitar technique, specially if you want to play alone. You can be busy with them your entire life, as they content tons of valuable information. I think Master Ted Greene thought that...
    One of the reasons I made the transcription book about Master George Van Eps was to try to understand and relate the "real" music with the techniques described in the books. What I understand now, after several years of thinking about all of these subjects, is that with that method you learn to think and visualize in complex and very usable ways, but it's a slow process and you have to put a lot of your own, because they are "only" exercices and techcniques. We have to decide where to put/use them, the contexts and how to use them.
    I think I could say that you cannot expect a immediate/direct application of the examples in your music. You need a profound process of assimilating and hearing to be able to imagine what to do with all the material.
    Hope to help you a bit, but it's a difficult thing, specially by mail.

    Let me send you this video with an arrangement of my own with some "V. E. Techniques":


    Thanks for your interest and see you soon,
    Best regards,


    Jordi



  27. #26
    Thanks very much for your kind words. I'm not sure when the guitar/voice CD will be released. We are talking about going back into the studio and recording more so we'd have more material to draw from for a future CD.
    I will try to stop by here as often as I can but probably shouldn't commit given that I have a lot of projects going right now. I'll say it is tempting though! Working on a new educational video at the moment that hopefully will be out in the next few weeks, have to get back to work on it :-)
    Thanks everyone for the warm welcome and good luck with the GVE books and I'll try to check in and see if I can help if there are any questions. Also for the Facebook people out there I have two pages; one personal page and a new musician page if you care to follow that. Lately I've been posting a lot of rare historical jazz guitar photos.

  28. #27

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    Jordi is a superb guitarist, for sure.

  29. #28
    Quote Originally Posted by Rob MacKillop View Post
    I'd be happy if Steve just popped his head in every now and then. I'm sure he's way too busy to do much else. But his presence has got me thinking about these books again.

    So, to get things started here's a run through the first exercise in the original post. I then use it to harmonise a couple of simple melodies.

    You will most likely need to turn up your volume for this phone video.
    Hey Rob, I really like how you approach the exercise. Would you do this in all keys? What other follow-up exercises would you do with these scales?

  30. #29

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    I've now memorised the F and Bb triad scales, and do a similar thing, just trying to work out simple melodies, which helps memorise the triads and see how they interact. One of my guitar students turned up, and I had him vamp a I/vi/ii/V cadence in C, while I tried a chord solo. I actually found it worked best if I didn't try to fit too neatly into the changes, but just sort of floated around, using my ear as a guide. It worked quite well. But so far it doesn't sound at all like GVE or Steve Herberman, so I want my money back!

    How are you getting on?
    Last edited by Rob MacKillop; 06-07-2017 at 04:16 PM.

  31. #30

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    Is this the beginning of an Harmonic Mechanisms Study Group?

  32. #31

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    I'm still just toying with the idea, as it is a monumental study. If it is the start of a HM Study Group, you might want to start a thread that says that, although I'm happy to keep it here, especially as Steve Herberman has found us.

    Will you join in, sjl?

  33. #32

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  34. #33

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  35. #34

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    Leavitt's Modern Method is full of triad preparatory exercises. This book is a real gem.

  36. #35

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    Jetaman, how are you getting on? Not given up already, I hope? I'm still playing the triad major scales in the first three keys. Unfortunately I'm going to be away from my guitar for three days from later this morning.

  37. #36
    Quote Originally Posted by Rob MacKillop View Post
    Jetaman, how are you getting on? Not given up already, I hope? I'm still playing the triad major scales in the first three keys. Unfortunately I'm going to be away from my guitar for three days from later this morning.
    Hey Rob,
    Thanks for asking. I'm working on the first exercise in 12 keys. 5 more to go. Also, I'm planning to make a video that demonstrates the exercise in 12 keys + some melodies like you did. Also, I'm wasting some time to learn some video editing because I want to indicate what key I am playing and place a picture of exercise fomr the book in the video. May I ask you what video editing software you use?

  38. #37

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    My video above is an unedited phone video, but I usually use Vegas Studio Lite, which cost me 30 pounds a few years ago. These days you can probably get something for free which does as much. You might, though, have legal issues if you include a page from a Mel Bay publication every time you do an exercise.

    Good for you for planning to do every single exercise in all twelve keys! I'm not that holy...That the triad scales are written in all twelve keys, albeit with differences, is enough of a workout for me.

  39. #38

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    After finishing Harmonic Mechanisms, Modern Guitar Method and Greene's single note soloing, you get a pass for guitarists paradise, where all the guitars are L5s and they don't need to be tuned.

  40. #39
    Okay, after finishing first exercise in all keys I realized how difficult it is. So, here's the thing: after I read through an exercise I play it for a few times and try to memorize. It is more or less possible. But when I played through all keys I forgot how to play the first keys - I mean, I can go back and read the fingerings and string sets again to help myself remember, and I can play the scales without the book but then there is a problem with string sets, I can't remember where to transfer to another string set, and again I have to look back at the book. Also, I feel how my technique has improved. So, how should this be approached? Just sight reading or memorizing them to be able to produce them at any time (what's the point in this)? Or just looking at the fret and naming the notes in triad is fine?

  41. #40

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    I think the first reason for people having these books taking dust is the average guitarist is a poor reader (like myself), that's why I am practicing with the Modern Method; it is doing a lot for my sight reading.

  42. #41

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    The second reason these resources are not used may be that the guitarist doesn't realize how this information will improve their playing. If you don't see a book as containing useful information that you want to be part of your playing, most will never get through it. This is why it can be important to have a teacher or study group (even one with just you and one other person) that can help them to understand and remember the goals of learning the material. Not everyone needs a teacher or study group, but having a support system can help.

    Sent from my SM-N900V using Tapatalk

  43. #42

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    Jetaman, I have just arrived back after being away from my guitar for three days. I understand how you could forget when the string sets change, and I'm wondering how much that matters. If you understand that he uses different sets changes with different keys, surely all that matters is that you can figure out ways of doing it yourself. The principle being more important than the detail? I also forget, realise I've been practising it with maybe one change of sets different from the score. But realising I can do it more than one way is interesting enough.

    Steve Herberman recommends above that we should move through this material, as the real interesting stuff begins with the sub and supra added notes.

  44. #43

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    Quote Originally Posted by jetaman View Post
    Okay, after finishing first exercise in all keys I realized how difficult it is. So, here's the thing: after I read through an exercise I play it for a few times and try to memorize. It is more or less possible. But when I played through all keys I forgot how to play the first keys - I mean, I can go back and read the fingerings and string sets again to help myself remember, and I can play the scales without the book but then there is a problem with string sets, I can't remember where to transfer to another string set, and again I have to look back at the book. Also, I feel how my technique has improved. So, how should this be approached? Just sight reading or memorizing them to be able to produce them at any time (what's the point in this)? Or just looking at the fret and naming the notes in triad is fine?

    Here is what the master himself has written:
    page 3
    "Physically, exercises have many purposes. Some are designed to train the hand to walk smoothly on the fingers. Some are designed to be awkward and difficult, to teach the hand to be ready for the nearly impossible. Others are designed to fill the degrees in between. All are necessary- it is important to keep this in mind."

    page 14
    "An Instrumentalist must strive to be able to play in all keys, full range, with as near perfect chromatic control as possible. Working with the many varied mechanisms in all of these subtleties will help build the necessary finger control and dexterity to achieve this goal"


    I think you should work through his fingerings, but it is unnecessary to be able to reproduce them 100% at any time.

  45. #44
    Hey guys,
    I finally got around to recording a video of the first exercice. I didn't have time to record alll 12 keys (but I certainly played thorugh all of them), so I recorded only 2 keys C and F and a little experiment in A Key. Let me know what you think! Next step - Harmonic minor scales

  46. #45

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    Well, yes, you have the fingering. I hate playing that two-string barre with the 2nd finger, while 4 is playing the sixth string two frets higher. I have a high action on my D'Aquisto, and that just doesn't feel good at all, so I use fingers 1 and 3.

    I think you have the right approach - learn everything as written, then play around with it. I've still only memorised C, F, Bb and Eb. Just too busy to take anything else on at the moment. So, kudos to you for learning all 12.

  47. #46

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    Hello all,

    I wanted to throw my two cents in here to this discussion as someone who has been fooling around with Harmonic Mechanisms for over a year, on and off. It actually completely threw me in a different direction, to the point that I stopped working with seventh chords entirely and dedicated myself completely to practicing triads -- especially OPEN triads (not the "open" triads that Van Eps has in the book with the lowest voice dropped an octave, but the normal variety in which you hollow out the triad by dropping or raising the middle voice an octave). Through learning some of the pieces in Jordi Farres's transcriptions, I saw what a "pure" sound the triads offered. Coming back to seventh chords now, I was excited to realize that the stock drop-2 shapes are just open triads with the seventh stuffed in there somewhere, unless the seventh is in the soprano or the bass, in which case the triad is closed.

    Anyway, the first pages of the "Mighty triads" with row after row of triad chord scales first in major and then in harmonic and melodic minor are essentially the base material, the launching pad. I don't think that you will see any amazing transformations in your playing just from that, the same way going up and down single-note scales won't turn you into a good soloist. It's just to show you what's there, and Van Eps was a really meticulous guy (listen to the three hour interview Ted Greene did with him for Guitar Player and you will see that he was a real tinkerer; he apparently held patents for a diverse number of inventions that included a steam engine model train -- a real engineer-type) so I think for this reason he writes every last key out. The fingering system is the crux of it all, as others have mentioned. As a way to improve technique, I really enjoy going through the chord scales; at the beginning, some of the fingerings were awkward but I enjoyed the challenge.

    The big thing -- IMO -- is to start viewing the three voices as INDEPENDENT, not as block chords. Once you have got all the inversions down, Van Eps starts with some cool exercises. For example, you link all the inversions of a given major or minor chord by playing the relevant scale (minor always with both harmonic and melodic) in the top, middle, or bottom voice. You can see this starting on page 58. I have taken this idea and applied it to open triads as well, and in general it is just a great way to practice going through triad inversions while being musical about it.

    I think that the 3 to 6 up stuff and all the other permutations are also ways of working on technique and forces you to think simultaneously about 2 voices. Again, a very cool practice idea for expanding fretboard knowledge. I don't really do those exercises with the exact fingerings anymore; I like to jump around as much as possible to other string sets and see if I can keep it fluid and not screw up (I still screw up a LOT, haha).

    With Steve Herberman's talk of the super and sub sets I actually practiced today out of that section to see what that is all about. As of today I will add that to my routine. I see it as another way of breaking out of the "chord grips" mentality.

    Anyway, I am no expert on any of this and I am far from having gone through all the material, but I do speak as an enthusiast of the book. Does wonders for your technique and expands your general harmonic awareness (ah yes, forgot to mention that since he tells you to think simultaneously of the chords function as well as its name, you get much faster at recalling the sixth of Db or whatever... a lot of the work is mental and not just physical). Before starting with H.M. I had never really studied the sounds of harmonic and melodic minor, so it really helped me get a grip on that.

  48. #47

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    It's always good to hear from people who have progressed some way through the books, and it's good to see you learned enough from the discipline involved to work with different chords.

    Again I'm stuck on the first page of triads. I find it helps to say the mantra: major, minor, minor, major, major, minor, diminished...as I go.

  49. #48

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    Day 2 on exercise 1 first key...

    Fingers hurt but my sight reading is improving.

  50. #49

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  51. #50
    Hey guys look what I found. Apparently they teach GVE method at Berklee.
    Building Guitar Technique through Triads | Berklee College of Music