The Contrary Musician — Shortcuts for Mastering Piano & Guitar




‘Got Them Uglies’ and ‘Where Were You?’ — 2 Minute Ditties on Dave’s Soundcloud

For the piano…

“Scales don’t make music. Chords make music.”

From a review of this book: I struggled at the piano forever until I discovered this wonderful book! While it clearly will not be for everyone wanting to learn piano, it was perfect for me. As a youth, I hated piano lessons because of the mechanical approach to learning songs that I didn’t even like. I felt like I was a human playback machine. Know what I mean? [And the scales? Ugh!]

Whereas, it seemed my guitar-playing friends were having all the fun. When they wanted to learn a new song, they would just start asking what the chords were. Then, they would just practice playing the chord progression at home. Later, when they got really comfortable with that, they would start getting really creative, adding interesting little frills and things and MAKING A LOT OF COOL MUSIC knowing, really, just a little bit of actual information about the song and having musical ideas of their own.

So, how come piano lessons were always so different? You don’t have to be jealous of your guitar-playing friends anymore. This is the book my friend’s guitar teacher would have written, if he played piano. You learn a song by playing its chords. Once you’re comfortable just playing the chords, you add melody. It can be easy and it can be difficult, it depends on the song, how quickly the chords change, how complicated the melody is, and how much “extra” of your own you want to add. It’s a very flexible approach to playing. I highly recommend it. Best of all, unlike boring piano lessons, nobody is going to make you practice music you don’t like. You can use this method on any sheet music which has a) a key signature b) a meter c) chords spelled and d) a one note melody line. Fake books are best, because all extraneous stuff is removed, but you could use this method with any sheet music meeting those minimum requirements. And, you will play these songs using only four reversible chords, an amazing but real time saver, key to the success of this “fake” method!


For the guitar…


As above in the piano book, this guitar book downplays the common approach of scales, and in the case of guitar, tab learning, and emphasizes chords and playing by ear… and teaches you how to learn it.


But the problem with guitar?

The standard tuning of EADGBE is illogical, and because of it you have to learn several different fingerings for simple chords depending where they are on the fretboard. Yes, you can learn Barre chords which simplifies it somewhat, but using your index finger to bar the fretboard is painful and difficult.


The Contrary Musician has found an answer… Major Thirds tuning…


The fingering for a Major Chord triad is shown above. If the root, C in this case, is on the C note wherever you find it on the fretboard, it’s the C Major chord. Move that shape one semitone up using the same shape, and it is a C# chord… etc. Extended chords, like a C7sus4 work the same way.

FretboardGuitar Toolkit App

To keep as close to the tuning that guitars are tuned to so strings don’t break, I’ve tuned by major thirds (E Ab C E Ab C). At first, I marked the fretboard into sections every four frets with tiny stickers to make memorising and playing the fretboard easier… but now have removed them as unneeded. Your four fingers are placed one per fret in each four fret section over the six strings across the fretboard. Two complete octaves of twelve notes (4×3) is available per section… and any scale is also available in each octave.

“Quit the herd and unleash your guitar and your creativity…”

m1Jakub Marian: Major Third Tuning

rpRalph Patt: Major Third Tuning


Ralph Patt: Basic Chord Changes to Jazz Standards
Cool On-Line Chord Practice for Piano, or Guitar… Any Tuning, Any Genre


Ralph Patt: Backing Tracks for Vanilla Book


m3Ole Kirkeby: M3 Guitar

Also: [Works for 6-string guitars also.]

Wish to find the chords to popular songs? Check out Chordify.

Wish to bypass having to laboriously transcribe songs to learn chords, melodies, licks, etc… learn by downloading songs and manipulating speed and key: Riffstation (for Mac or IOS)


The best music theory for songwriting website and book available…

Website and Book here…



One Comment

Yeah. Nobody determines whether or not a piece of music is any good by looking at an oscilloscope. It doesn’t have to be so complicated.