Richard Daniel's Ezine -- Issue #6
Dear Ezine subscriber,

Welcome to the latest issue of the
Ezine.  In this issue  we examine the "The E major 
chord form: The Cornerstone of the guitar".

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Richard Daniels speaks about the E major chord form: The
Cornerstone of the guitar.

Discovering the guitar's master chord:
The guitar is sort of like the motor in your new car: You
know that it has a tremendous history of critical
development, and that it has gone through a progressive
mechanical evolution since it was first invented as a very
simple internal combustion engine. Plus, you know that old
cars are old, and that whatever developmental stages they
grew up through, they are gone now.  With your modern car,
you are operating a fully evolved model  built on the
efforts of earlier generations.  When you sit behind the
wheel, all that you really want to do is start the motor,
drive out of the parking lot, and motor around without any
trouble today. Used to be that I could bolt on a new
carburetor or alternator in the Pep Boys parking lot before
lunch and just be right on my way. Now, when I look under
the hood of my wife's new car I just sort of know that it is
all hooked up to a computer somehow and that I follow her to
the dealer where she bought it, if (god forbid) any of the
damn idiot lights come on, on the dashboard. That is as
close as I get to working on it. Not only that, but if you
go to try to work on it, what are the outside chances of
screwing the thing up, much worse, somehow. You get it
apart, and can't get it back together- The computer gets the
message that there is trouble and does something to stop
you. Something like that. You go to work on the motor as you
knew it, and there is no way to even see the systems.
Everything has been painted over with a sort of face over
the engine compartment. You can't really see the motor. Not
the way you can still see a six cylinder 67 Camero's
primitive Chevy motor. Things were far more evident on the
old model. Tests could be run easily on the outside of the
engine to determine why the motor would not start. You could
figure it out, upon examination. Many times just by
listening closely. Not any more.
Today's car motor has been homogenized to the point where
the original features that drove the motor - key spots  that
that comprised "the usual culprits" were easily recognizable
as either mechanical, electrical, or fuel related- are still
there but can't be quickly understood as single components
any longer. The original "single component/simple
replacement system" eventually lost out to a sweeping,
"over-ridden, universally applied, regulated system." I know
a new motor when I see one. They all look the same to a
great degree. I can no longer distinguish the critical parts
of the motor by standing in front of the hood. The "working
points" of origin have been obscured. After a while you stop
looking at the engine. You just check the oil (which is
always O.K.), know that it worked last time, and just remove
yourself from the motor's operations, other than using its
unseen power to force move the car, and hope no problems

Now, considering what the guitar has become in today's
"raging towards the edge" 24 hour a day TV world, it is my
personal observation that the underlying workings of the
guitar- the original cornerstones of the instrument's
existence that served as fixed benchmarks for standard
procedure to the inventors of the guitar- have now been
overcome by developmental events to the point where a
curious student is frozen out of the world of witnessing the
skeletal, natural, physical systems that actually drive the
use of the guitar. I am saying that even though the student
is swamped by an extraordinary amount of information on the
advanced playing of the guitar, and examples of perfected
execution in a exploded range of styles seem to hit us head
on all day long on the radio, CD player and TV… even with
all of this, I believe that today's student is still at a

The guitar student blindly suffers in his true search
studies without basic knowledge of the guitar's setup. I
know that. I have been teaching guitar for 20 years now. I
know firsthand that students want to learn styles. I know
that. Here is how it works: They witness their favorite
artist. They are taken in by the style, and all of the
feelings that go with it. These feeling are strong. Then
they pick up the guitar and want to fast forward to
emulating the said style of choice. Am I right? I know that
when they come to me that the guitar's chromatic fretboard
has blinded them to the realities of the E string based
chordophone. I am just saying… We will get to the styles.
They are digitally recorded and at our fingertips. We can
always go there.

I am going beyond the "style first" mind-set for you. Let us
learn the deal in E first. Learn the deal from the low E
string open. Lowest played note is one. Call it zero point.
Make your calls from there. See nature's major chord grow
above that one single point, and you will be starting your
study successfully. Lots of students want to go to far to
fast. I say that studying the octave on one string IS GOING
FAR FAST. Believe me, your guitar playing expands directly
in proportion to your base understanding of the octave and
major scale. This is where we get off. This is our stop. We
want to understand the guitar from a single string
instrument first. Five more strings, of course, are added as
we go along…

I consider it my job to strip away the veils that hide the
guitar. I know that the real problem with learning guitar
today is that the majority of students start their study by
learning to reiterate finished examples of high styles,
simulating bits and pieces of music from their favorite
artists, rather than knowing the engine: the musical systems
that drive all styles. Emulating styles of playing is
immediately effective, but it does have its known limits.
Limits I have gone beyond. I have every intention of, over
time, using this column to explore all sorts of specific
styles. I just feel that today I would not be doing my job
if I did not spell out some guitar basics that I know first
hand underlie all rock/blues styles.

I struggled for years to know the guitar basically. When I
was alone with myself, I spent my time wondering, and to be
honest, worrying about the silly thing. It bothered the hell
out of me. Now I feel that I know. I have arrived at a point
where I am pretty satisfied that I know how it works. I
can't really pretend to know the precise idiosyncrasies of
every modern style. But if you put me on a desert island
long enough with a guitar and a CD player, I could figure
out Yngwie, The Edge, or Beethoven's violin concerto well
enough to explain it to you. What I know, what I see clearly
for the first time in my life, is the fact that the study of
a single singing string, and the subsequent discoveries that
become evident upon examination of one string, will provide
you with an underlying foundation of musical understanding
that will allow you to transcend any and all eventual
styles. My job is to show you how the guitar actually works.
And in order to do that we have to go to the low, open
string of the instrument.

You see, the study of the guitar is, in its most basic form,
nothing more than knowing in your mind and heart that an
octave is played across and between the points of the open
string nut and the halfway mark "over" the 12th fret. The
octave was discovered to play out over one-half of one
string sometime between the Stone Age and the Greek Empire.
Today it is built into every guitar on the market. This most
basic musical/physical fact has been pre-discovered for you.
The guitar has pre-packaged an octave for you. Its is
serving it up to you and you can't see it. You take it for
granted. Don't! Touch the singing string over the 12th fret.
Feel it. Hear it. Know it goes on without you.

I draw your attention to the oversimplified graphic below.
Once you understand that the tensioned string shakes in
several simultaneous modes of vibration: Whole, halves,
thirds… etc…  Once we see the first half of any string as
the working of one octave, then we are well on our way to
seeing the origins of the E form. Once you see where this
first chord comes from, once you see each degree in the
chord and know them first hand by playing the color
possibilities of each degree, then the gateway will open to
true understanding. That is the goal. To see the low string
open, and singing in halves:



First half   Second half

Nut------ 12th --------bridge

All of this to get you thinking about exactly what drove the
first modern guitar craftsman to create the first 6 string,
low and high strings to E, about 1780 on the continent. What
was he focused on? Answer: He was focused on the E major
chord. It was his BIG ANSWER to the problem of how to best
line things up. His generation was taught that the true
future of soundboard, fretted instruments lied in the hands
of those that knew how to capture the octave, and the two
further divisions of the major triad. The lute makers knew
their business, but their instrument's tuning did not allow
and easy E chord form as we know it today.

The secret to knowing the real advancement that the six
string guitar offered to the European music world when it
was conceived and considered, is all in imagining a world
without the guitar. No instrument, anywhere in the world to
play an E chord on, imagine that. Not a single one to be
found. I want you to know: the set up for rock and roll
guitar was really put into motion on the workbench where the
guitar was born. Once the two E notes were set two octaves
apart on the outside strings, with three fingers forming the
chord on the 3rd, 4th and 5th strings- that made the deal
complete. After that event, it was only a matter of time
until the blues revolution. A four and five string guitar
directly led up to the master six string design. The violin
and piano were both highly developed by the time the first
guitar appeared. The guitar ascended into the countries and
cities of Europe by the 1780's, while the "golden age of the
guitar" was said to be in Paris and Vienna during the
1830's, so I have been told.

Making and sounding an E chord- the triad built on the low
string open- was the original design goal of the first
craftsman. The guitar is a bass chordophone with a built-in
deal that makes is easy to make that major E form. We take
it for granted, but it was centuries in the making, and
played a huge roll in allowing the American blues experience
to happen in the first place. Realize the halfway mark along
the string's length: it is usually marked with a double dot.
Know it is built into every guitar you have ever owned, and
every guitar built before you were born.  Know the half-way
mark on the string as the point exactly "above" the 12th
fret, because knowing this mark, realizing how it works, is
a primary guitar lesson, BEYOND STYLE. This is the
harnessing of the discovery of the octave. We are
considering an invention that puts the octave to work. The
position of the octave will never change. Witness the
primary octave of the guitar string:

Primary Octave- 

nut                   12th Fret                        bridge
over first half of string

Please welcome to the family, the guitar's REAL first fret,
the half way mark along the string's length: the 12th fret
mark of the first octave. Now if you have a string, and you
check out how it shakes in half, and you discover the octave
(open string 100 hz,  octave/half-string 200 hz), well the
next thing you will want to check out is the "next level" of
musical degrees provided by divisions of three and four and
five. After you are familiar with the consequences of the
string's vibration in two separate modes, you evolve your
study onward to seeing the string in three separate modes of

The critical divisional points along the string's length
provided by the triple mode of vibration produces the
"fifth" degree of the major scale, the dominant. Beyond the
open string, beyond the octave at the half way point, is the
first natural division of the primary octave. First we
defined half the string as the primary octave. Now we are
establishing frequency points- DIVISION POINTS- between the
octave points that define half the open string's length.

third of 
string's	       12th fret 
length         	       l                                
            7th fret

By the way, just like the "double cycle" harmonic node is
"over" the 12th fret, likewise the nodal point of the
"fifth" degree of the major scale is "over" the seventh
fret. Take the string's length, mark along the primary
octave side of the string between the nut and the 12th fret
the division points provided by studying the higher order of
string vibration (3 cycle, 4 cycle, 5 cycle). What is the
result of that study? Basically the news is that if the
fundamental of the singing string is 100, then the overtone
series is 200, 300, 400, 500. Once you get to five hundred, 
all of the components of the major chord can be discovered
(1st or tonic @ 100, 5th or dominant @ 200, 3rd or mediant @

So what do we got? We got one string singing. We got the
octave at the 12 fret. We got the fifth of the major scale
at the 7th fret. And we got the 3rd of the major scale at
the 4th fret. Ends up to look like this over the primary
octave half of the string:

Major scale degree:
1st           3rd        5st                  1'              
nut        4th fret    7th fret           12th fret          

If we can just "see through" the developed system that
represents the chromatic "every fret" complex that is
incorporated into the guitar from its birth, if we can just
"not be blinded" by everything we have learned for a second
and see the guitar without the prejudice forced upon the
first time viewer of full blown systems installed across the
instrument's face, only then do we see the natural guitar.
Cose your eyes and imagine a string in half, a sting in
thirds etc. If we can just remove ourselves from the
vocabulary and nomenclature of the developed major scale
systems (the science of diatonics) that define all
terminology that pertains to the guitar for just long enough
to witness the simple, basic elemental division points that
underlie all eventual systems, then we will be on our way to
real guitar understanding.

The great homogenization of the guitar took place before you
laid eyes on it. The running fact we are dealing with, is
that every singing string plays a "harmonic overtone" major
chord in a perfect chorus over the open fundamental note.
Overtones can not be divorced from the movement of the
singing tensioned string. They are there. Study them.
Understand music from the most basic point from which you
can learn it. See the distilled truth of the string, then
see how cultures used these universally discovered points to
create music that pertained the "modern times" of all
peoples as they pass through history.

The originators of the guitar knew all of this stuff. They
knew these key, precise fret positions held the secret to
their goal: a musical machine that easily produced chords.
They knew that the primary octave was over half of one
string. Any ranked string laid beside the first fundamental
low string would carry with it "its own" primary octave
running along "its own" string length which laid fixed
parallel, yet independent. The guys that measured the wood,
before the saw cuts were made, knew that the points
one/third of the string length, and one/fifth of the string
length, divided the primary octave and provided the major
chord over one half of one string. On the guitar, that
translates to the E string played open, fourth fret G# for
the "third," and a seventh fret B note for a "fifth" above
the open E string note. Don't forget about the upper octave
12th fret mark that plays an octave E. Play that upper note
first and then the fifth and third "below" the double dot.
Next thing you know we will be doing descending figured
violin inventions. 17161514, 76757473, 65646362 etc.

In the instrument maker's effort to translate these known
points, first discovered to divided one half of one string,
across the working parameters of a six string chromatically
fretted program, well, lets just say that all of these
considerations led to the discovery of the fixed fretboard
we take for granted today. Like the new car's motor, the
face of the guitar has been transformed past a musical
instrument: I suppose that the guitar is a symbol more than
anything. We missed out on the reasoning part of the deal.
What we inherited is the finished piece. We should be
thankful, but not blinded by the overgrowth of styles that
the guitar's figured make up allows to occur.

Elvis was swinging the thing around like a toy, holding it
for effect, the first time most of your fathers saw the
guitar in action. It was already a token of hope and
rebellion, its real nature hidden by circumstance. The
effort to make the guitar playable in any key, with usable
universal chord forms all around, eventually led to the
standardization of the guitar's outward mask of
progressively reduced fret distance. This chromatic uniform
series of frets disguises which natural points were first
discovered to be critical. All the frets in an unbroken row
makes you think that all notes are of the same importance
for gaining an understanding of the playing of the
instrument: they are not. The uniform installation of the
guitar's frets serves as a distracting masquerade for the
student that wants to get to the bottom of the forces that
defined the guitars original boundaries.

Major scale degree:
1st           3rd        5st                  1'              
nut        4th fret    7th fret           12th fret          

The deal is to take these three degrees (1, 3, 5) of the
major triad higher onto other adjacent fixed strings. Check
out the diagram below and you will see that the entire E
major chord form, as we know it, is really nothing more than
a "left hand friendly" box where you can easily grab the
guitar's most basic chord.

 E major chord form, open position, major degrees shown

nut                  1st Fret

Here it is, the famous E chord: Home of a million songs, the
center of a million rhythms. The 5th degree played on 5
(string)/2 (fret) is the same exact frequency note played on
6/7. The tonic/octave on 4/2 is the same identical note as
that played on 6/12. So the notes first discovered to fix
and play the natural points of the major chord over the open
low string were carefully calculated to reappear or
"re-sound" on higher fixed strings a fingertip's distance
beside the low sting. The line up that these "upper ranks"
of strings present is the primary chord form of the
instrument: E Major Open. The major chord degree progression
of the fingered chord from low to high string reads 1, 5,
1', 3', 5', 1".

Now we start to look a bit deeper into this final, fixed
line up of degrees. Notice that there is an octave between
6/0 and 4/2 that plays across three strings. Then notice
that the next octave plays from 4/2 across to 1/0 using four
different strings. Within the E chord, the guitar's first
octave goes 1, 5, 1. The second octave is spelled out 1, 3,
5, 1.

The power chord in the bass range employs a tonic note with
an upper fifth (6/0, 5/2). This is all perfect to the nature
of a bass figure. The fifth above a bass note WORKS. That is
the natural sound that the ear wants to hear. That is why it
is fixed into the guitar's design. Now on the treble strings
the opposite is in evidence. The top string is the tonic,
but for the classic Chuck Berry "Johnny Be Goode lead lick,
it is the fifth played under the tonic that gives the sweet
"working" effect for upper range lead guitar- Bass/one thing
(1,5), treble/ another thing (5,1). The guitar designers
knew this stuff. The thrill they got from originally
installing these key features is now as old as that Camero
motor. However, whether it can be easily recognized or not,
please do know that this highly reasoned deal is built into
the guitar for you. Ready made and primed for playing. Other
facts follow:

E Major Chord Form- Open Position
|----------------------0-------------| 2nd Octave
|----------2-------------------------| 1st Octave
|---0--------------------------------| fundamental E

When the overtone series was first discovered, the degrees
of the major triad were naturally found to progress 1, 1',
5', 1", 3". Please note that the guitar's E major chord form
gives us three tonics (1), two dominants (5ths) and one
mediant (3rd). Half of the notes sung by the six strings of
the E form are E notes. That is harmony for real. This chord
form, and the subsequent "root note fret" nut position that
holds octaves of E notes on its outer strings, eventually
evolved into the "great" center for modern lead guitar
playing (jazz, blues, rock). Now we will stick our noses
into the tent of arpeggio and chord inversion just to see
how this master chord easily adapts to basic musical
building and invention.

Arpeggiated E Form: up and down


E Major Chord Inversion

      primary 1,3,5      1st inversion 3,5,1     2nd
inversion 5,1,3

The arpeggio (broken chord) technique just about "rolls off"
this most basic of chord forms in the open position. Please
note that an "upper" 3rd is added on the end point of the
arpeggio formula with the playing of the G# note on 1/ 4.
From this major position the minor form is never far away
with its flatted third on 3/0 and 1/3. That is part of the
secret of knowing the universal E major form: the minor form
is easily accessed with the lifting of an index finger.

The basic inversions of the E form are there to see in the
lower tab example: the primary chord (1, 3, 5), the first
inversion (3, 5, 1) and the second inversion (5, 1, 3).
Simple straightforward and user friendly. It fits the hand,
it adapts to the playing of the major scale easily, it
allows other easily fingered chord forms, the whole thing
taken together is the fuse that eventually allowed the rock
guitar explosion. It just took a few centuries, that is all
I want you to see and understand.

The discovery and the cementing of this basic chord into the
guitar's permanently fixed pattern directly led to basic
musical application: other chord forms (A, C, G, D) across
the face of the guitar's 12 fret repeating pattern, melodic
invention, harmonic invention, rhythmic invention. The point
I am driving home today is that first the usable pattern was
figured out and nailed down. Then the instrument was made.
Then came the "musical writing" invention revolution, the
envisioning and the capturing of the music itself, that
allowed stylistic flowers to grow in all their shapes and
colors, through time and place. Blueprints and instrument
first, flowery music second. The guitar and piano were
refined before you came along in musical history. You have
the privilege of inheriting the user friendly piece after
centuries of slow development. Think about this for a
second: the guitar has been electrified, colorized,
multi-tracked and midi-ized and every other damn thing as it
has paraded through the lives of everybody from Paganini to
Beethoven, Robert Johnson to Eddie Van Halen, but has the
ultimate fretboard layout changed one bit since 1780??  The
breakthrough blueprint??? Not one damn bit. Don't you think
it would have been improved if it could have been? Truth be
told, nobody has come up with a better bass chordophone
since the invention of the guitar.

They tried. They couldn't do it. Nobody can top the E chord.
Now and then you hear somebody talking about secret tunings
that so and so used- everybody from the B-52s to Hendrix- in
order to get some sort of advantage. Let me tell you, really
understanding how the guitar is standard tuned is the real
secret. We don't need empty legends or conspiracy theories.
We need to fully examine and realize what we already have,
use and own.

Don't confuse endless style invention and application with
the guitar itself. Styles come and go and change from time
to time. The guitar is fixed. I hope that I have shed some
light on this fact, and in doing so, brought you to the
point of seeing the guitar as a highly developed,
compromised, determined instrument that has allowed endless
expression, in the hands of endless artists, over its 220
years of existence. Go forward. Discover a new style for
yourself. Sit in a dark room and strum an open E chord and
see what occurs to you. The guitar is waiting... and it is
very patient.

Richard Daniels


Click here for Part II