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Learn Guitar: Cat Stevens, 3 tips To Play Acoustic Guitar
Cat Stevens songs are a favorite among guitar players of all
ages. It's hard to imagine a party or campfire sing along without
a couple of Cat Steven's song being played on acoustic guitar.
With songs like Father and Son, Moonshadow, Morning Has Broken,
Peace Train ... in your repertoire you simply cannot go wrong.
Cat Stevens are popular for number of very important reasons: 1.
the melodies are easy for the public to remember / 2. the guitar
chords are not very has to play and most importantly. / 3. Cat
Stevens songs sound good with a solo acoustic guitar.
In recent times, studio effects have become a part of the overall
finished product. The end result is that while a particular music
production may sound interesting and be visually stimulating
while watching the video clip it is extremely difficult to re-
create that piece of music without and enormous amount of
lighting, amplification, audio effects etc.
The original role of the recording studio was to capture the
event, since 1957 however in many cases the studio has tried to
"create the event", by adding studio effect such as reverb, echo,
distortion in an effort to make the piece of music more
The problem with this approach of trying to "create the musical
audio event" is similar to watching a movie that has been created
primarily to "showcase" or "showoff" the latest visual effect
... the problem is often a weak story line.
Cat Stevens songs do not require anything more that an acoustic
guitar, that is because Cat's songs are structurally strong and
stand up without any electronic props or tricks. That's the acid
test of a good song ... does it stand up on it's own merits?
Only a small number of artists like, The Eagles, Creedence, Cat
Stevens etc, have the craftsmanship to write sound material that
sounds great with one guitar.
Here's three tips to help you play Cat Stevens songs:
Tip 1. Learn to recognize musical intervals
Musical intervals measure the distance from on note to the next,
just as a builder must have a system of measurement to measure
the length, width and height of their building materials a
musician must be able to recognize the "sound" of an interval.
Listen to the introduction of "Peace Train" for a good example of
the interval of a sixth. On the first hearing it may appear that
only one single note is being played, subsequent listening
sessions will reveal that a harmony note is being played also.
When you listen to "Peace Train" the first notes you will hear
are: C - D - E - E - D - C , these notes are played on the second
string of the guitar, a second note is played beneath each of
these melody notes.
The harmony notes; E - F - G - G - F - E are played on the forth
string. It's a good idea to play the introduction with you right
hand fingers (for right handed players).
If we measure the distance from the low harmony note (E) played
on the fourth string to the melody note (C) played on the second
string we will discover the distance is six E=1,F=2,G=3,A=4,B=5,
C=6, hence the naming of the musical interval.
Tip 2. Understand how relative minor chords function
Each major chord has an related minor chord that represents the
opposite musical effect, for example if we say that the major
chord represents = bright then it's relative minor chord would
major chord = happy / minor chord = sad // major chord = male /
minor chord = female.
Musical examples: C major = A minor / G major = E minor / D major
= B minor / A major = F# minor / E major = C# minor etc
Cat Stevens often substitutes the relative minor chord in place
of the major to develop his musical story. Listen to "Father and
Son" notice how he changes the second chord in each verse.
Verse 1: G to D/F# verse 2: G to Bm (relative minor to D major)
verse 3: G to D major.
Tip 3. Learn to read music standard music notation
Although many artists do not read music if you wish to play a
variety of music being able to read standard music will help to
research and understand where many of the popular artists get
some of the material from.
For example, Cat Stevens popular hit "Morning Has Broken" was
originally a traditional Gaelic melody by Mary MacDonald written
in 1880.When it was translated into English by Lachlan Macbean
in the 1888 book "Songs and Hymns of the Gael", the translator
gave the melody the name "Bunessan".
Cat Stevens understands that a song is a 3 minute story and Cat
knows how to tell that story.
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