Archive | August 2011

#Guitar Lesson: Shell Voicing Extensions

LA Music Academy's Tariqh Akoni

In a previous lesson, we looked at Guide Tones and Shell Voicings. The next, step is to see how we can extend these voicings. Remember, we have our basic “building blocks” of Triads, and 7th chords. Now we’re going to continue to “extend” our voicings by adding 9th, 11th, and 13th chord tones. The trick is to simply take these Shell Voicings and reach forward (above the voicing) to explore which tensions are available (the words Tensions and Extensions are typically used synonymously as we “Extend” our voicings but the notes cause more “Tension” needing resolution).. As an example, take our Cdom7 Shell Voicing (1, 3, b7), reaching ABOVE the voicing, we could grab another Root, b9, 9, #9/b3 or 3.

Example 1

Here is a list of the most common Major, Minor, and Dominant Family chords:

Major, Minor and Dominant Family chords

As we look at our Shell Voicings and how we can extend them, you’ll notice that we’ve discarded the one’s that are too difficult to finger. The following is a compendium of all Shell Voicing Extensions. You’ll see a lot of old familiar friends within these voicings. Remember, these are not “grips” to be memorized. Try to think of them as their Shell Voicings with extensions, and learn them slowly to add to your repertoire. As a side note, we’ve distinguished our dominant family chords as either Non-Functioning Dominants (those that don’t resolve down a fifth) and Functioning Dominants (those that DO resolve down a fifth). Non-Functioning Dominants can contain the #11 (Lydianb7) while Functioning Dominants have true alterations (b5, #5/b13, b9, #9).

Major Family

6th String Root

5th String Root

4th String Root

  Minor Family

6th String Root

 5th String Root 4th string Root

Dominant Family – Non-Functioning

6th String Root

5th String Root


4th String Root


Dominant Family – Functioning

6th String Root 5th String Root

4th String RootOkay… this is a LOT of chords. Now remember, DON’T BE INTIMIDATED. The goal is twofold: a) to see the application of these extended voicings and how they’re generated b) to perhaps find some voicings that are intriguing. To practice, take these through the circle of fifths or fourths and try to put them to use in an arrangement or while comping. In addition, try to “see” which CAGED position surrounds each voicing and all the available notes nearby. This is a great deal of work, but with diligence you’ll soon impress your friends and frighten your enemies.

Good Luck!!!

-Tariqh Akoni

Tariqh Akoni is Los Angeles Music Academy College of Music Guitar Department Chairman. He is a performing/session guitarist and currently on tour with Josh Groban.

Want to learn more about the LA Music Academy guitar department? Check out Tariqh’s video introduction below:

Darth Vader of Star Wars Plays Piano

Vader prepares his next piece...

A YouTube channel, “Vaderplaysforyou” — is gaining traction within the viral web. Seemingly pleasant in these videos (unlike his role in the Star Wars films), Darth rips through some classic tunes and even the Imperial March from the Star Wars soundtrack. Check out his rendition of the worldwide hit and bossa nova, The Girl from Ipanema:

Drum! Magazine Offers Audio/Video Rudiment Lessons

Need to polish up on rudiments? Well, drummers, Drum! Magazine has released a series of free online audio/video demos of 40 essential rudiments. Check them out here:

Thanks Drum! Magazine!

-LAMA Staff

#Guitar Lesson: Guide Tones and Shell Voicings

LA Music Academy's Tariqh Akoni

Hi all you guitar fans out there in guitar land. Here is a lesson based on a powerful concept used by many improvisers and accompanists in jazz.  Let’s take a “Theory Time-Out” and refresh our memory. The Triad (consisting of a Root, 3rd and 5th) is considered the “building block” for western harmony. Jazz and Blues music typically adds (at the very least) the 7th to form 7th chords. Although this is the case, many Jazz improvisers, composers and accompanists when looking at Jazz harmony feel that the 1st and 5th are somewhat redundant (because they typically appear in the bassline and are “assumed” to be part of the chord). As a result, a chord can rely on the 3rd and 7th alone to provide the essential harmonic information. For example, if we were to take a ii V I progression in the key of C, we could outline the harmony by simply playing the 3rd and 7th of each chord:

Example 1

These notes provide what we call a Guide Tone Line. Guide Tone Lines are the essence of the harmony and are very powerful in writing background lines for accompaniment, establishing the harmony and even as the primary target notes during an improvisation. By nature, Guide Tones have smooth voice leading as the move almost chromatically. In addition, little movement is required by the left hang. Experiment with Guide Tone Lines by comping through your favorite Jazz Standards only using Guide Tones. This is a technique that has been used to great effect by guitarists like Jim Hall, John Scofield, John Abercrombie, Pat Metheney and many others.

Although this is a somewhat brief (and a bit truncated) description of Guide Tone Lines, it serves our purpose for this lesson. Beyond simply using Guide Tones for accompaniment, we can actually develop a full voicing system. Simply add the Root to our fundamental 3rd and 7th and we create a fuller sound. These “Shell Voicings” don’t have Inversions in the common sense because the Root is simply there to fill out the sound and therefore will stay in the bass. As a result, we’ll look at voicings of Root 3rd and 7th as well as Root 7th and 3rd with the Root in the bass on the 4th, 5th and 6th strings.  These Shell Voicings are a GREAT way to expand your Jazz Guitar vocabulary and once you understand the basic concept, and easy to expand upon.

***Major Family***

6th String

Example 2

5th String

Example 3

4th String

Example 4

***Minor Family***

6th String

Example 5

5th String

Example 6

4th String

Example 7

***Dominant Family***

6th String

Example 8

5th String

Example 9

4th String

Example 10

Guide Tone Lines and Shell Voicings are very useful when playing with keyboardists or in Big Band context as they are unobtrusive. The great Jazz rhythm guitarist Freddie Green (from Count Basie’s Band) based his entire style on Shell Voicings and Shell Voicing derivatives.. Later, we’ll investigate how to develop these to include extensions and altered sounds, and we’ll see that a great number of our favorite and most common voicings are derived from these Shell Voicing basics.

Tariqh Akoni

Tariqh Akoni is Los Angeles Music Academy College of Music Guitar Department Chairman. He is a performing/session guitarist and currently on tour with Josh Groban.

Want to learn more about the LA Music Academy guitar department? Check out Tariqh’s video introduction below.

5 Tips: Digital Recording for Students

Unless you have been holed up in a basement lacking electricity, you probably realize the future of music is digital recording. For some of the younger students at LA Music Academy, you probably don’t remember the dark ages when bands would have to slave away at day jobs for months or years to pay for analog tape — not to mention a day or two at a nice studio to track and mix their project. Here are some tips we’ve put together for students about to delve into digital recording:


Apple computers running Pro Tools have emerged as the premier hardware for digital music recording. You are in luck if you are a LAMA student because Apple loves to sell to students. All you have to do is visit HERE and see what deals they have going. As of right now there are some great deals on MacBook Pros and even a $100 coupon at the App store with your purchase.


You have your hardware, now you have to choose your software. If you are looking to make the highest quality recordings, then Pro Tools is your only option. The cheaper option is to use GarageBand which comes with every Apple computer. While not as “pro” as “pro tools,” it is a great beginner program. In fact, artists like Ben Folds and Nine Inch Nails have even released raw GarageBand files for fans to remix their songs. Either way, you will probably need some sort of Preamp to connect microphones and instruments into your computer, this gear will run you anywhere from $200 to $1000.


The truth of the matter is that you probably aren’t going to record the LA Philharmonic on your laptop in your dorm room or basement. You have to be very realistic about the kind of recording you are going to do or otherwise your budget will skyrocket. Think about the kind of music you will be recording and isolate the different pieces of gear. For instance, a folk singer with an acoustic guitar, you need a good vocal mic, and a good instrument mic, or to save money, track the guitar first and record later using the same mic. Just remember — there are no rules in the creation of music. Prince hooked guitar pedals up to drum machines to get his classic sound, Guided By Voices used radio shack mics to create their mid 90s low-fi sound, experiment! It is often cheaper.


Especially with the current state of the economy, there are tons of great gear out there people are re-selling! Deals are to be had. Check Craigslist, eBay, Garage Sales, and Guitar Center used. You must be diligent because good deals disappear quickly. For more comprehensive info make sure to view our post, 10 Tips: Buying Used Musical Instruments.


With so many people recording on their computers, large professional studios are in financial crisis and creating ways to game the system to your advantage. A popular trend is to “track” your basic tracks yourself and then bring them to a professional mixer in a nice room with great speakers to do the final mix. Although, some would say you are better off spending your money TRACKING in a great room, especially for drums, which are often hard to get to sound right. Mastering Engineers are also having to compete with home engineers and often offer very conservative prices.

Hint: find an engineer who offers mastering per track and pick your best song to get mastered.

The good news about being a LAMA student is that if you want to learn more about recording we have our very own “Music Producer” program; more info can be found here. Even if you are not in the program you can learn a lot just from talking with private instructors and teachers and asking them questions. Excellent resources exist on-line as well. Make sure to check out and Just popping in there once a day to see what audiophiles are talking about, will be a great free education.

What other tips do you have for students interested in digital recording?

-LAMA Staff

Drum Solo Week: Take 2

After Tony's solo, Letterman says "Thanks for coming in, we'll let you know about the audition."

It’s another round of David Letterman’s Drum Solo Week! We have a whole new respect for the man, who is dedicating a second week of his show to “giving the drummer some.”

Ever since the first Drum Solo week in June featuring everyone from Sheila E to Neil Peart, drum aficionados have been clamoring for more — and we got our wish! Returning to Letterman this week are a slew of great drummers — here’s the schedule:

Last night we saw the 26-year-old drumming prodigy Tony Royster Jr., who began playing at the age of 3, performed on the GRAMMY® Awards at the age of 15 and has worked with artists such as the LATE SHOW’s Paul Shaffer and Jay-Z…

Tonight is progressive drummer Gavin Harrison, who has worked with artists Iggy Pop, Lisa Stansfield and King Crimson.

Wednesday, Aug. 24, Stewart Copeland, best known as drummer for the legendary GRAMMY® Award-winning rock band, the Police, and also an acclaimed composer and solo artist in his own right, takes to the Ed Sullivan Theater stage.

Our “coda” of the week, Thursday, Aug. 25 is a performance by renowned drummer Dennis Chambers, who has worked with artists John Scofield, Maceo Parker, Santana and Parliament/Funkadelic.

For more information, visit this link –

-LAMA Staff

5 Tips: Get Music On The Cheap…Legally!

The way media make it out to be, seems like no one listens to music anymore. As self-proclaimed music fanatics, we here at LAMA are playing or listening to music all day long. The media also lead you to believe that if anybody is listening to music, they are doing so illegally (mostly by downloading from torrent sites). We like to support our alumni and faculty by getting our music the legal way. Believe it or not – this can all be done super cheap now. In this post, we offer 5 tips so your house is never silent. In the words of Henry Rollins, “Silence sucks!”:

Almost every town has one, no matter how small. You can find some amazing deals on used CDs. The media have it right, not many people are buying music anymore, so get in while the getting is good. Trade your old MC Hammer and Ace of Base CDs to buy the newest Muse or Kanye.

Tip – Most used record stores, like Amoeba Music near LAMA, offer a greater value if you trade in used CDs as opposed to getting cash in return.

Think of all the record companies out there, and all the record stores, now imagine all the consumers who are sick of their CDs or ripped them already…Guess where most of that product ends up? Ebay! Often times, the brand new shrink wrapped CDs are just as economical as the used. Be weary of used CDs on Ebay, there is little thing with accountability when it comes to scratches.

Who uses physical products anymore to listen to music? It’s all about the cloud man. From Spotify to Napster to Turntable.FM to Pandora- there are TONS of free music-streaming services. Don’t forget YouTube! Now with Vevo, it is completely legal to stream as much music as you want. It’s pretty crazy, we remember having to take the bus to buy David Bowie records for $19.99 at Tower Records! Now you can stream his ENTIRE catalog in one click.

What if I told you that you could wake up every morning and get CDs of the newest and most underground acts delivered to your doorstep, for free, each day? If you have a music blog, this could be a reality! Unsigned musicians are desperate for publicity of any kind (stay tuned for our Music Publicity 101 blog coming soon). If you start a Tumblr, WordPress, or Blogspot and include an address, say that you accept music review submissions- watch how fast you can start getting CDs in the mail. All it will cost you is some time listening to music and posting short reviews. Sounds like a good trade-off to us.

Just because everyone in the world is listening to music on his or her fancy smartphones, doesn’t mean you can’t go old school to save a bit of money. Often times some of the best deals are on older technology like vinyl records and cassettes. You can find a cheap turntable on Craigslist and many cars still come equipped with tape players. A few months ago I got an old Sonic Youth cassette tape that I have been driving around with and it sounds really great and was only a dollar. Stop at that garage sale or visit relatives and see if they have their old record collections from the 70’s. They might be able to donate to your recorded music fund.

I left something off the list; the cheapest way to get free music is to start a band and make your own music! But until that time, you might want to use our tips listed above to get you listening in no time. Did we leave something off the list? Make sure to let us know what your favorite way to get music on the cheap is.

-LAMA Staff

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