The Chord and Scale Finder was initially developed to assist players trying to learn how to play lap steel guitar but has since evolved into a general purpose tool designed to help players of all stringed instruments become proficient with chords and scales in any tuning in the shortest time possible through the use of Dictionary Items and Snapshots created to help master specific concepts. This guide will hopefully show you how to quickly gain facility with the app.
The first page to be displayed when the app opens will be the Tunings page. The app comes preloaded with several tunings, some common and some not so common. Future releases should give users the option of choosing a “Basic Install” with only a few of the most popular tunings such as guitar or ukulele or an “Advanced Install” which includes the ever expanding universe of available tunings (hey, you never know when you might want to start playing around with an oud or a sitar) but for now all tunings will be loaded on initial startup. Users are more than welcome to add their own tunings and delete ones of no interest. The initial install can always be repeated from the “About/User Guide” page. If you want to enter your own tunings a few simple rules apply. The tuning can have no more than 10 strings or 24 frets. 20 frets is usually sufficient for most cases. A tuning requires a name, at least 2 notes (which correspond to strings) and at least 2 frets. The notes are selected from the note list at the bottom of the page and can be either sharp or flat but never mixed. Tunings and scales are combined with root notes to create Dictionary Items and any time you try to delete a tuning the app will first check to see if any Dictionary Items use that tuning and prompt you should that be the case.
The Scales Page follows the same general conventions as the Tunings Page. The app comes preloaded with several of the most common scales and users are free to delete scales of no use to them. For most users the Major and Minor scales along with the Major and Minor pentatonic scales are sufficient. If users want to enter their own scales they are free to do so as long as the combination of Whole and Half steps ultimately adds up to 12 steps. A Whole step is equal to 2 frets and a Half step represents a fret. If you want to delete a scale currently used by a Dictionary Item you will be prompted and asked if you want to lose that Dictionary Item.
This page is where users create tools of specific interest to them in their musical journey. A Dictionary Item contains 3 required fields; a Root Note, a Tuning and a Scale and an optional 4th field that can represent a song, the name of a student or a concept of interest. The app comes preloaded with several Dictionary Items in order to give users a sense of how they can be used. The Root Note can be either sharp or flat but the note list defaults to flat notes. The Tunings and Scales can be selected by tapping the appropriate buttons on the right side of the screen and once an entry is complete it can be added to the database.
The fretboard is the heart of the app and is where the magic happens! Used properly this page should greatly speed up your learning curve and hopefully this rather detailed section will stimulate your musical journey. We will now begin the guided tour.
When you select the fretboard page all of your Dictionary Items will be displayed in a scrollable box in the lower left side of the page along with a list of notes to the right of the items. In this case the Dictionary Item we selected was “G/Major/Guitar/Starter Kit”. The Root Note is G, the scale is the Major Scale and the Tuning is Guitar Tuning and there is an additional tag of “Starter Kit”. Once an item is selected a list of notes will appear to the right of the item starting with the Root Note. The notes in the scale will be further marked with their respective scale tones (capital Roman numerals for notes corresponding to major chords and small Roman numerals for notes corresponding to minor chords in accordance with standard musical theory). By tapping notes in the list you can show a desired subset of notes on the fretboard.
If you keep scrolling through the Note List you will find more options at the bottom. These include the all-important 5 note Blues Scale, the 5 note pentatonic scale and a list of all the modes. Since this app can be loaded onto all manner of devices, including some with rather small screens, abbreviations are used to preserve space.
If the note you selected is diatonic (in the key of the root note) and the scale is heptatonic (7 notes) then a list of possible extensions will appear to the right of the Note List. Possible extensions of the selected note will be 3 note triads, 4 note chords, power chords for all you hard rockers, suspended chords, diminished chords and augmented chords. If you select a triad or chord it will be for the last note in the note list that was tapped.
Following the augmented chords are Shell Voicings and the rest of the extensions all the way to the sharp 13teenth (#13). The Shell Voicings, consisting of the 1st, 3rd and 7th tones of the chord, are especially useful for comping and are worth investigation regardless of the instrument.
This particular innovation came about while trying to figure out how to get certain chords to line up properly on the lap steel guitar. By tapping the arrow you can select a desired string and then raise or lower it with the Raise/Lower buttons. Playing about with tunings in real time is a great way to find useful new tunings but the tunings can only be added on the Tunings Page. Tapping the Omit button will omit the string entirely. This idea came about from an article in Guitar Player showing players how to practice chords, scales, modes, etc. on subsets of strings. Tapping the Remove button will remove the last note selected by tapping the note list.
Arguably the most useful feature of the app is the ability to create snapshots. After you have selected some combination of notes, a chord, a mode or a scale you can save them as a snapshot. All snapshots associated with a Dictionary Item will appear in the Snapshot List. The Add/Resave button will save the snapshots, the Delete button will remove them and the Clear button will replace whatever is on the screen with the Dictionary Item. The First Fret and Last Fret buttons can be used to shrink or re-expand the fretboard. The Use Tones button will display either scale tones or chord tones depending on whether you’re working with a scale or a chord. The Screenshot button will take a screenshot of just the fretboard and place it in your device’s Photos Folder. Screenshots are an especially useful way to drill down on snapshots. The remaining buttons will take you to the page they are named after.