Show 171 – More Music Theory; Zynaptiq Unveil Reviewed and more

This week we talk to Dave Chick about chord substitution and modification. James Claussen sent us in a review of Zynaptiq Unveil De-Reverberation plugin.
Our guest host this week is Dave Chick.

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Thanks to James for sending in the great review!

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29 thoughts on “Show 171 – More Music Theory; Zynaptiq Unveil Reviewed and more

  1. I really dug that music theory section. I’m a total music theory nerd and I love knowing why notes sound good together. I’d assume you’re not going to do music theory every week but I vote “ah yeah” to more of that kind of thing in the future.

    GSAA TFAGS and a bunch of other acronyms too

  2. Thanks for fielding that bass di question… no, the amp doesn’t have an effects loop or a direct out which made me look for another solution. Yes, I was talking about a compressor pedal and knowing that I can go from that compressor into any di to split is what I was looking for. I had spent too much time on the great Radial Engineering site and had gotten so befuddled and turned around I forgot what instrument I was playing, let alone what type of box I was looking for. I have a di on the way and hopefully I am finished with gear questions. Yup! No more gear needs, I’m all done. All done. Everything’s perfect… now I just need to learn to play better!


    * ride whatever you funkin’ want, this show is great regardless!

  3. GSAA

    This show is definitely getting a book mark

    I’m definitely a “by feel” kinda player. Ive studied a lot of the theory and memorized a bunch of stuff, but i just have a problem putting it together in my head. I love the concepts and i got a nerdon when i transcribe the modes into drop C, but it is never the case where i actually think about any of that when i play. (BTW phrygian pwns) When i was younger i drilled the crap outta chords/scales and had a decent reputation for my skills amongst my piers, but that all went south when i started playing in drop tuning… If you don’t use it you will lose it…

    I went all voodoo witch doctor crazy for a while trying to experiment out side of the western 12 tonal system. I checked out and tried to mimic a lot of atonal music and got some good perspective. I started playing in drop c cause i thought i would be able to hit those weird in between notes by bending into them. I never achieved the musical enlightenment i was seeking but i did learn a bunch of BS i could tell stoners about how i was sticking it to the man and his 12 tones. That and having it tuned that way stopped all those drunk asses who jump on stage in between sets and play your instruments. It takes more control to stay in tune and the response is totally different when the strings are that loose and i watched many of good players totally botch sweet child o mine… sweet sweet revenge.

    ride the chicken

  4. This is one of the best shows in a long time. Right up there with the drum mic tests and the electricity show. Loved that theory segment. Very approachable.

    Thanks guys!

  5. Fantastic segment on music theory. The only reason I got into recording was to produce songs and my song writing has suffered terribly as all my effort has gone towards learning to engineer. This reminds me of a segment by the late great Derek K. Miller where he taught me that Pink Floyd’s “Money” is in 7/4. Ditto on Sven’s comment. Would love to see a theory segment or even a podcast. Maybe it could be just “song writing” as this also fits up with Ryan’s segment on song structure.

    Ir montado en un gato.

  6. Re chords etc.
    Interesting discussion. Of course you can also use Chord inversions to get different sounds or feel and to reduce obviosuly repetitive chords

    So for example “normally” a chord (Triad) might be 1,3 5 (Root, Third, Fifth) going from lowest note to higher notes ala say a basic C major chord – C,E,G
    but 1st inversion of the C triad chord would be 3,5,1 ala E,G,C – where the lowest note is the 3rd or the E and you flip the Root of the chord (or C) up on top
    or 2nd inversion 5,1,3 ala GCE.

    These are all still the C chord just diferent inversions of it. And because of that they sound like C major just have a different “harmonic” feel or whatever you wish to call it.

    Obviously you can also stack say a 7th in there ala C7 = CEGB so 1st Investion would still be EGBC etc etc..

    All adds interest and variation to a basic 3 note triad.

  7. hey guys,

    we have the unveil plugin where I work as well. invaluable for audio post work. Also, izotope RX2 supports AU plugins, so the two tools can be combined for a pretty deep toolset.

    also, nice musc theory segment. very well done!

  8. Thanks again for having me on the show Jon and Ryan. It’s always a blast chatting with you guys and recording this episode was no exception. (I’m through season 1 of Archer and am now looking forward to wasting more time on season 2 … thanks for the productivity suck guys. Thanks a lot! 😉 )

    @Ginger – never really delved into “micro-tonal” theory too much, but like you, I eat this stuff up … perhaps when I have some spare time {ahem}. I loved learning about 20th century theory concepts ala atonal models (12-tone, series, rows, etc.). On paper, it was facinating, but in practice … well, it’s definitely an acquired taste.

    @Krakadon – yeah, odd time signatures and all that are fantastic “what’s going on” things to throw curve balls at your listener. And what is it that you’re doing to a cat???

    @Steve – oh, definitely! Inversions and voicings are a whole area that can definitely expand and colour things differently. It really gets interesting when the whole band gets into the picture and you put the “fun” notes in the bass (i.e. not just the root, 3rd or 5th) – try putting the ninth or 13th down there and the chord changes so nicely..

    @rene – That is a fantastic combo. I’ve chatted with James and sent him some files to put Unveil through the gauntlet. Should be interesting. Perhaps he’ll post the results up here later.

    Cheers guys!


  9. TFAGS

    It always amazes me how much music theory I’ve forgot over the years. I used to know my scales, chords and progressions pretty well, but after a break from playing for a few years, it slowly left my brain. Was good to recall some of it.

    Just to let you know, I recorded the first episode of The Mkai Audio Podcast this week and was talking about useful resources on the net and The Home Recording Show made the list!

    If you wanna check it out, it’s available at the blog and should be on iTunes when apple pull their fingers out.

    Ride the funky chicken whilst screaming a drunken rendition of Mustang Sally!!!

    James – Mkai Audio

  10. Howdy !
    LSIUMTT – Last show is under my top ten. First time that music theory was great fun. As the show was over i hit the repeat button and listenend again. You can read many books on theory but when it comes to the core you need real persons to figure out the real essentials. The audio examples were very helpful – Team Dave/Ryan, 10 points –

    My favorite tool regarding chords, scales and progressions is a program called tonespace:
    It´s a VST, AU or standalone tool that helps to visualize and to hear different chord structures. BTW it´s free !

    Oh, please bring Dave back to the show. I would like to hear more of that stuff !

    ride the chicken !

  11. Great show as usual. Music Theory is a must its part of basic musicianship as is ear training. Chord scales, Inversion, modes, harmony, voice leading and the ability to hear them is a must if you want to create something beyond typical or understand and expound on something that inspires you. We learn by taking things apart and reverse engineering them. Music is NO DIFFERENT. But, most people don’t understand whats going on when they take a song apart. So learn theory, train your ears, transcribe and analyze, then create.
    if you don’t understand how and why a I, vi, ii, V, I works then put the guitar magazine down, quit rearranging your pedal board, cancel the NOS Tube order you just placed, take 1 week and learn it.

    WERD…. Who choked my chicken I can no longer ride it. poor thing

  12. Hi guys

    Yeah, really nice show. I actually find music theory extremely interesting (I’m autistic that way). But your show was very accessible, and not dry at all, regardless of the “music theory” term. Good job!
    I need to get back into studying stuff like this. More shows on this would be welcome – maybe in the context of writing a “home recording show song”…?

    Ride the chickenator….

  13. Oh… And Ryan, you really don’t have to tell everybody how you’re checking out Dave’s “handle”….

  14. Guys,

    Probably the best show from a songwriting perspective. Topics I would love to see:
    – Inversions

    – “glueing” parts together using substitution. (I guess we all had parts that won’t fit together.) This also would be more in a song context rather a progression context.

    – Stacking chords

    Some tips I like to use:
    – Moving bass notes in a chord while keeping the rest constant. Bass plays a progression of multiple notes.

    – Memorizing unusual chords I usually go for popular songs that feature that chord in a prominent position. Think Beatles – A hard days night (which actually *is* a couple of chords stacked.)

    – For flavouring chords I map out the vocal melody of a song and put in either octaves, thirds, fourths or fifths. Adds depth to both.

    – Learn the CAGED system!

    – Memorize fretboard. *that* is a show in itself. Don’t remember if you did that already.

    – Train your relative pitch (same thing as above: memorize intervals by prominent melodies or things from your childhood. I memorize perfect fourths by a grandfather clock melody I grew up next to.)

    One thing that I missed was the major, minor perfect issue. In germany we have a mnemnomic for that: “Quinten, Quarten rein, alles andere gross und klein” (looking forward to Ryan reading that out.) which roughly translates to “fourths and fifths are perfect, everything else is major and minor”.

    Another episode of the inside homerecording show? Nice.

    I would have donated to this if I weren’t on recurring donating. And so… should… you!


  15. things i forgot.

    regarding the fretbaord. Learn the fretboard both from an intervalic as well as pitch perspective.

    When stacking chords -> reduce them.

    When playing with an “active bass player”. Leave room. reduce chords to the basics, i.e. not bar chords. Leave room for your low frequency buddy.

    Ride the chi… oh… no… don’t this time.

  16. and he writes in AGAIN (sorry about that). I do a lot of overdub work to spice up tracks of clients and friends. If you have a solid command of chord as well as “spices” you can produce nice catchy picking lines. My approach usually is vocal melody centered.

    A trick I found to very effective. I usually loop the part and do melodies over quadruples of bars. I pronounce either thirds or sevenths depending on the song in a way that I either leave space or produce harmonies when I play one of them in the other tracks. The trick is to keep counting an leaving pauses to fill.

    If you really want to impress you play something like three parts in one(!) take and then simply (and kindly) ask the mixer/producer: “Can you cut that up in bars of four and layer them LRC?” I regularly drop jaws with this. 😉

  17. In reference to every show in the last twelve months or so, Ryan, when you do the transition from the comments section to the main segments, how did you create that repeating guitar sound? I’m mixing a hip hop album, and the rapper wants me to make his voice scratch, stop and repeat a few times like a DJ is scratching turntables. What do you use for stuff like this?

  18. Gents

    Been digging through, consuming as many episodes as i can. The show has become a huge resource in my quest to get better at recording and mixing.

    Definitely dig the delving into theory on your show. I cannot stress the importance of understanding the language and playing / collaborating w/ musicians who can speak the language. I’ve been in bands that say “6th Fret, A string” and that’s the extent of their music theory knowledge. Working with bands like that is tedious and results in bland musical compositions. I finally sucked it up and got myself immersed in Jazz theory @ temple University in Philly in the very early 2000’s. I got my ass kicked and turned out NOT to be good at Jazz or even into it, but the theory i picked up in the first two or so years in their program broadened my understanding of how music works to such a level my teenage self would have thought my ‘adult’ self was a lame theory nerd. I’ve got a good buddy who has been the musical mainstay of my writing recording, and performing endeavors for probably 16 years. he’s a sponge and soaked up everything i knew and then some. Writing in this kind of atmosphere is so rewarding and productive – it’s awesome.

    As for breaking beyond 12 bar blues, i’m addicted to M7#11 chords, m9 chords, 159 power chords, etc. Anytime i get get away with an open string or two is great also.

    To add more to all the great stuff you guys had to say, i like to utilize the above mentioned chord types, arguably too much, as well as altered dominant chords, etc. Straight up dominant 7ths sound corny to my ear (tho they have their place) but altered 9ths and 13ths can be very effective. From a writing perspective, i tend to think of songs in 3 buckets:

    a) riff songs – a lot of examples in rage against the machine, mastodon, everytime i die, etc
    b) regular songs – a lot of great examples from STP, the beatles, basically normal intro|verse|chorus|bridge permutations of song structure.
    c) 2 chord specials – no specific band comes to mind, but I’ve found that particularly verses and bridges can get away with only using two, really cool chords as long as the melody is interesting.

    Another topic that’s important: when to be ‘in’ and when to be ‘out’. You can definitely create interesting sonic bits by knowing the rules and especially knowing how & when to break them, and what happens when you bend the rules.

    Another thing that guitarists (that’s my main axe) suck at, is alternate chord voicings. This is a pain in the ass and a commitment to learn (I’m still expanding my vocab), but will make you sound like a musician, and not a chord chart. Voicings can be employed to make a chord create more or less tension than it’s supposed to have inherently. Music = tension & release.

    This is getting long, i think, so even though i want to write a million more ideas I’m going to wrap w/ one last theory / writing trick: for ‘weird’ chords, sometimes it’s just best to play the upper extensions, or even one or two of the ‘weird’ (ie not root 3rd 5th) notes. Let the bass player play the fundamentals, and leave room in the sonic space for the vox and perhaps other instruments.

    Thanks for an insightful and entertaining podcast,

  19. GSAA — I’m glad to see some more stuff on songwriting and music theory. One of my favorite episodes was the interview with Kim LaJoie for exactly that reason. We all love gear and recording technique, but I think most of us are musicians as well, so it’s great that you’re broadening the horizons a bit.

  20. Hey guys,

    GSAA! How about song reviews? Take a song you like, tear it apart, analyze it, say why it works, mix with some music theory.


  21. Hey guys,

    I’ve been a loyal listener since almost the beginning and will continue!
    I agree, a little theory goes a long way for an engineer and goes even further for a musician, so I’m glad you’re tackling this turain again.
    Great conversation as usual, but my theory-police alter-ego flinched a few times when hearing this episode some weeks back, so finally writing you…

    I jotted down a few notes, hoping to clear up any confusing terminology mentioned. (I also hope this doesn’t fuel fire between the jazz & classical camps).

    -Nashville uses the numerical system, but it’s not roman – that’s classical theory.

    -’11-chord’ wouldn’t normally occur in jazz & rock books without a minor sign attached. When there’s a 4 that’s not minor, it’s called a “sus”, or an “add 4”, when there’s already a 3rd.

    -Dave said, ‘the C13 almost sounds like a A-7th chord’. It can’t – the 13 in a C13 is an extension of the C dominant chord, which contains a Maj 3rd, not a minor 3rd.

    -Ryan’s passing Hendrix comment (sorry Ryan) – there’s no such thing as a ‘# 7th’. Maybe meant a Maj 7th?

    Listening segment:
    -Ryan’s ‘C11′ is normally called a a C9sus, or abbreviated Bb/C.
    Same with his ’13th’ – it’s a C13sus(add 9), since there’s no 3rd (it still sounds like a sus).

    -Harmony vocals are not typically voiced in 4ths & 5ths, unless there’s more than 1 additional singers. 3rds & 6ths (away from the melody, and diatonic within the given chord) are most common. Of course this depends on style. Bluegrass, shape-note, Bulgarian & some rock styles do rely on 4ths & 5ths…

    May The Theory-Chicken ride again!

    For a quick kick-in-the-ass in theory, I recommend the link below. Guitar-god Joe Pass explains to us feeble minded humanoid specimens what the hell he’s actually playing!

  22. Terrific show, yet again. The theory discussion was awesome; I loved actually hearing the examples. I’m making sure this one doesn’t auto-delete off the iPod.

    I’m really glad I found this podcast, I foresee spending hours going through the archives…

  23. Hey, kids!

    I home brewed all of my music theory knowledge (not to toot my own chicken, but I’ve learned/figured out a cubic shit-ton [it’s a volumetric measurement, not a measurement of mass] on my own). It was super interesting to hear the name of all the things I had been doing for a while.

    I may be confusing who said this, but I believe Marty Friedman (formerly of Megadeth) liked to operate on something he called “12-note theory.” The theory suggests something along the lines of: Any note(s) can be played over any chord. You just have to convince the notes around it allow it to sound right.

    Regarding the topic of chord extensions/additions: I always thought of it a bit like implying a second chord over the chord you’re extending: CMaj7 (C, E, G, B) looks a whole lot like an Emin (E, G, B) with an added C and something like C9 (C, E, G, Bb, D) looks a whole lot like Gmin (G, Bb, D) plus some other shit added on top.

    …sort of like mixing two colors…

    That’s all I’ve got for now. Thanks for doin’ the show, yo. I’ve learned a lot.

    Ride a Bike,


  24. *Round 2…the first version of this comment magically disappeared after hitting “submit comment” on my iPhone. I think I’m technologically remedial.

    Hey, kids!

    I’ve home-brewed a cubic shit-ton (what most of you don’t know, “shit-ton” is actually a volumetric measurement, not a measurement of mass) of music theory on my own through compiling knowledge gleaned from various sources. It was nice to finally get a name for some of the things I’ve been doing. “‘Rule of Thirds?’ I don’t know what that is but you can just replace that chord with a chord that has a lot of similar notes.

    In unrelated, “throw theory out the window” news, I seem to remember (but can’t be held liable if someone else said this) Marty Friedman (formerly of Megadeth) talking about something he called “12-note Theory” (different than “12-tone Technique” which implies no key signature). He stated that the theory would suggest any note could work over any chord as long as the notes around it helped it work. The easiest example: over the metal-favorite 5th chord (which does very little to suggest tonality other than the root note), you could suggest the chord be major, minor, dominant, etc. with the use of a couple notes. So, depending on how you get into and out of those notes (be they diatonic or not), you can bend “theory” to make any note work.

    Regarding chord extensions: I always just thought of it as implying one chord over another. Cmaj7 (C, E, G, B) looks a whole lot like Emin (E, G, B) without the C from the original chord. Similarly, C9 (C, E, G, Bb, D) looks a whole lot like a Gmin (G, Bb, D) plus some other silly bits. It’s just like a painter mixing two colors, you’re mixing a couple chords together to get some other feel. It’s helpful to think about those complex chords that way when you’re looking at playing fewer notes when comping or providing some embellishments over someone else’s chords.

    That’s all I’ve got – looking back it seems to be a whole lot of parenthetical phrases and not a whole lot of content (like my musical career).

    Ride a Bike,


  25. Shit!

    I AM technologically remedial. Please ignore, remove, and strike that third repeated comment from the record.

    Great show, though.

    Over and out.

  26. Thanks for the clear explanations and audio. This show, along with this page:

    really helped boost my understanding of chord substitutions. (You have to sit through a 30 minute beer commercial of your choice, but it is really worth it).

    While the ‘rule of thirds’ you discussed is a handy trick, the ‘’ site explains it even more simply:

    I IV V are the basic chords of any song

    II can be used instead of IV
    VI can be used instead of I
    III can be used instead of either I or V

    In each of the above, the substitution chord has two notes in common with the original chord (I, IV or V), which explains why they work well together.

    I am still puzzled about keys in minor though. Maybe you could address that another time.

  27. Ryan and Jon,

    Guys, I sincerely apologize, but I’ve fallen off the HRS wagon. I forget which episode it was that you read johnnyharp’s response to this episode, but that was the only show I’ve listened to since the summer began.

    You can probably guess by the lack of IHR show’s that it’s been a freakin’ busy time the past few months. School is about to start for the kids and Camp Dad is about to finish. It looks like I may be able to finally get back into a rhythm.

    Anyway, to address a couple of points johnnyharp had.

    “’11-chord’ wouldn’t normally occur in jazz & rock books without a minor sign attached. When there’s a 4 that’s not minor, it’s called a “sus”, or an “add 4″, when there’s already a 3rd.”

    I think we were unfortunately not being incredibly precise with our references. The 11th chord we were talking about was the major 11th, which you’re right, doesn’t usually appear in practice as the 11th doesn’t play nice with melodies that are based on the diatonic chord tones of the scale.

    “-Dave said, ‘the C13 almost sounds like a A-7th chord’. It can’t – the 13 in a C13 is an extension of the C dominant chord, which contains a Maj 3rd, not a minor 3rd.”

    I think I just referred to it as the 13th chord – I’m sorry, but I was referring to the Cmaj13 chord in one of it’s abbreviated forms: C-E-G-A-B. The point is that a lot of these chords when played out of context of a chord progression or chord scale can be mistaken for and/or heard as something entirely different.

    “-Ryan’s ‘C11′ is normally called a a C9sus, or abbreviated Bb/C.
    Same with his ’13th’ – it’s a C13sus(add 9), since there’s no 3rd (it still sounds like a sus).”

    All of what you state would sound consonant with each other, but I’d disagree that a C11 is the same as a C9sus or Bb/C. A C11 would necessitate that you play AT LEAST the C-E-Bb and F. Both the C9sus and the Bb/C instruct the player to NOT play the E of the chord.


    A week away from getting back into the saddle again. Can’t wait to catch up and be compliant with my HRS certificate status!

    Cheers, D

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