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September 2018 • Newsletter


September Greetings!

This month we’re happy to present an article about Ted written by Adam Levy just for us.

Three Things I Learned
from Ted Greene

I studied with Ted Greene intermittently in the early- to late-1980s. I may have only had eight or 10 lessons with Ted over that seven-year span. In that small handful of hours, though, I learned so much — because Ted had so much to share and really knew how to share it. To me, that was his gift. He could very quickly assess a student’s strengths and weaknesses, tap into the musical things that they were passionate about, and find clear ways to help them achieve their goals — if they were willing to work hard.

Now that Ted is no longer with us, what’s left behind are his published books, students’ lesson sheets posted on, his Solo Guitar album, and some wonderful video clips. I’m grateful that all of these exist. They continue to inspire and enlighten anyone who takes serious interest. Still, I sometimes feel that Ted’s teachings are misunderstood by those who didn’t have the opportunity to know him. For instance, lots of guitarists seem to think that Ted only appreciated music that was rich and complex. In my experience, however, he loved triads and simple melodies just as much as he loved altered-dominant sounds and Bach chorales. With that spirit in mind, I want to share three things that I learned from Ted — things that you might never know if you didn’t have the chance to spend some time with him.

Voice-Leading Can Be Wonderful, But It’s Not Compulsory

In one of my first lessons with Ted, he noticed that I didn’t seem to be giving voice-leading much consideration. He suggested that I work on it — giving me a few guidelines to follow and a worksheet or two to practice. When I came back for my next lesson, I was nearly paralyzed with fear. I’d taken his advice too literally. I thought he meant: You must perfectly voice-lead every chord movement at all times. When he saw how petrified I was, he gently talked me out of my terror. Properly voice-led chord progressions can sound exquisite, and I should continue working on voice-leading concepts, he explained, but I should cut myself some slack and keep making music. The rules of species counterpoint can be very useful, but they’re not meant to supersede musical creativity or intuition.

Good Music Is Good Music

For my first lesson with Ted, I asked him about modern jazz harmonies — specifically, some voicings I’d heard pianist Don Grolnick play. When I went back for another lesson a couple years later, I’d been practicing lots of jazz and was studying guitar at the Dick Grove School of Music. Modern harmonies we coming easily to my ears and hands. The primary gigs I was doing at that time, however, were with an old-school rhythm-and-blues band. We played hit tunes and some deep cuts from the songbooks of Motown and Stax. That music seemed like it should be easier to play than, say, John Scofield tunes, but I had very little idea how to approach it. Considering Ted’s reputation as the jazz-guitar Yoda, I felt a little silly asking him how to play four-chord songs. When I did, though, I discovered that he loved soul music too! I remember spending an entire lesson with Ted listening to Aretha Franklin records and Bill Doggett’s “Honky Tonk, Part 1.” Ted saw that that was where my heart was at that time, and also appreciated that this was the music that I was regularly getting paid to play. He wanted me to play it as best as I could. I could reharmonize “Stella by Starlight” with rootless 5-note voicings some other time, if I wanted, to but there was no need to spend all of my practice hours on music that seemed somehow more “serious.” Good music is good music, and work is work.

Loose Sketches of Tunes May Be More Useful than Air-Tight Arrangements

During the time that I studied with Ted, I was just beginning to write my own solo-guitar arrangements — though I wasn’t actually playing solo-guitar gigs yet. I sent Ted an arrangement of “Somewhere” (from West Side Story) that I’d been working hard at. (In 1989, after I moved from Los Angeles to San Francisco, Ted let me do a few lessons via mail.) When he wrote back, his feedback was very helpful, if a little surprising. Firstly, he said that it was hard to say a lot about my arrangement without hearing me play it. (I’d written it out on manuscript paper, but had not sent him a cassette.) Secondly, he said that my arrangement looked like it would be very difficult to perform. Rather than crafting things that were nearly unplayable, he said, I might be better off writing arrangements that were more open. That way, when I had actual gigs, I wouldn’t be sweating bullets — and there would be room to play more freely and extemporaneously. Once I started playing solo gigs on a regular basis, I really began to appreciate Ted’s advice.

Ted may have given very different advice to other students. I know he did, in fact, because I sometimes arrived at my lessons a little early. When I did, I got to overhear the last few minutes of the previous student’s lesson — hoping to learn just a little more. I heard Ted teach other students differently than he taught me. As I said earlier, that was his gift. He genuinely connected with each student, individually. I hope that by sharing my own experiences with Ted, I can help those who never knew him to read between the lines — and dots, and X’s — just a bit.

* * * * *

Guitarist Adam Levy is a recording and performing artist, music educator, and journalist, well-known for his work with Norah Jones, Ani DiFranco, Tracy Chapman, and many other artists. As a solo artist, he has a dozen original recordings to his credit. Adam has several instruction books and video courses, teaches at Los Angeles College of Music, and has a popular YouTube series, Guitar Tips. As a journalist Adam has written hundreds of feature articles for Guitar Player, Acoustic Guitar, and Fretboard Journal. You can visit his site here:

One of his Guitar Tips videos is titled, “Dig Ted Greene” – check it out!

* * * * *

~ Your friends on the Team


* It Had to Be You, 1989-11-22. [For this song Ted wrote one “outline format” arrangement, and another “more advanced” partial arrangement. Our notation pages combine both versions: the “partial” is used for the first 4 measures, and the “outline” is used for the rest of the piece. We’ve added chord names, lyrics, and even a couple of “fill” phrases that are in keeping with the other fills (also try your own fills instead). Many of the chords land with the melody on an up-beat (the “and of 4”), so we’ve notated many of the other fill chords to be similarly syncopated, even though Ted didn’t indicate this on his page (it just seemed to sound better this way). These are just suggestions, and of course you should also experiment with other rhythms to find what sounds best to you. In his “outline format” arrangements, Ted expects that the student will add the moving melody notes on top of the basic chord forms he provided.]
* Li’l Darlin’ (arrangement sketch), 1977-07-06. [Ted’s lead sheet with original basic chord changes, simplified changes, and “new chord melody harmonization” changes. Compare this to Ted’s full arrangement of this song. New notation provided for easy reading.]

* “Three Things I Learned from Ted Greene” by Adam Levy. [This is the same article that is featured in this month’s Newsletter. We’re giving it a permanent home in this section of the site. Thank you, Adam!]

* Phrases with Inversions and Embellishing Tones – Chorale Style, 1975-03-15. [On this page Ted wrote a two-part melody — soprano and bass. He also indicated inversions with figured bass below some of the bass notes. The assignment is to fill in the chord names, analysis it with Roman numerals, and then add the inner voicings (alto and tenor). We’ve provided a notated version of Ted’s original page with Roman numerals analysis, plus another page to include “suggested” chord names and the inner voices in the chorale style.]

* Diatonic Major Key Voicings (More), 1986-10-06. [Grid chord diagrams. An additional “answers” page includes chord name in blue.]
* Mixing in Upper Voicings with the Basic Ones, 1988-01-01. [Various ii-V voicings. Notation + grids page provided.]
* Using Altered Dominant Chords from the 5th String Root, 1985-08-28. [Various ii-V progressions with altered dominants. Translation page provided with chord names added.]

Under the “Harmonization of a Given Melody” header:
* Warm Harmonization of Melodies with b7, 1980-10-01. [Different treatments of a melody using the b7 of the scale (F scale with an Eb note). Notation page included.]

* Bye Bye Blackbird, (key of E, V-1 & V-2, middle strings), 1985-06-30. [Another version of Ted’s comping lesson for this song. You’ll want to compare the voicings on this with the other versions we’ve already posted. Notation combined with Ted’s grids. We also included Ted’s lead sheet page.]
* Skylark (key of Eb), 1992-03-16. [Ted subtitled this, “Accompaniment to voice.” Not sure why he specified “voice” – he’s never done this before on other comping pages. Anyway, we’ve included the notation, plus lead sheet, lyrics, and filled in the “assignment” of adding the chord qualities to the root letters. Almost all of the chords are pretty easy to play, so this might be a good one for someone looking for an easy start with Ted’s comping pages. Try singing along with the chords for the best results.]

* Cumulative Chords – Dominant 7ths, Group 1, 1984-03-06.
[This page has a collection of dominant chords, including extensions, but no alterations. Ted used yellow and pink dots above some of these diagrams, but didn’t explain what the colors mean. The bottom half of the page shows “companion minor” chords that go along with the corresponding dominants in the top half of the page. An additional “answers” page is provided which includes the chord qualities. (There isn’t much room on the page, so I had to put the chord name inside the yellow & pink dots.)]
* Cumulative Chords – Grouped by Color and Visuals, 1983-03-28. [This is for 5th string root forms, of 3- or 4-note chords (mostly unaltered). Ted’s comments about this page (and for the whole cumulative series): “Main purpose: to get an understanding of how chords are built. Secondary purpose: to also learn at least a few chords along the way.” A second “answers” page is provided which gives the chord qualities of each grid diagram.]

* V-2, Organized by or Derived from Shape or Form, Top 4 Strings, 1987-01-02.
[Comments from James Hober: “This page is Ted exploring every possible V-2 shape, (excluding the 8 dissonant x 4 inversions = 32 shapes not covered). The numbers (in pink on Ted’s original) are simply Ted counting the shapes, arriving at a total of 133. “Reverse” and the white dots with curved lines connecting them mean that the notes on the second and third strings can be swapped. (He doesn’t count such a swap as an additional shape.) Some of these chords may hurt your hand or ears!” Newly drawn grids and translation provided for easy reading.]

Ted on YouTube

Ted on Facebook

Ted on Twitter

The Official Ted Greene Forums

* Of course, most of the videos are posted right here in our Video Section

+ + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + +

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - My Life with The Chord Chemist - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

My Life with The Chord Chemist
A Memoir of Ted Greene, Apotheosis of Solo Guitar
By Barbara Franklin

BUY NOW - Available at

Publication Date: Nov 24 2009
Page Count: 276
Trim Size: 8" x 10"

A retrospective of Ted Greene, virtuoso solo guitarist, beloved music teacher, world-renowned author and innovator of unique music concepts for guitar. This book also includes an overview of Ted Greene's early life and musical development, plus an insightful narrative of the 13 years prior to his death

Six agonizing months after losing my beloved Ted, I slowly emerged from a state of profound disbelief, almost coma-like. At that time I didn’t know what to do with the remnants of my life; then a path began to unfold before me. This website was started and became a saving grace.

During the ensuing years, I organized and categorized Ted’s material and personal studies. Upon completion of that massive undertaking, once again, I didn’t know what to do, so I began writing.

I wrote pages, and then threw them away, until once again a path began to unfold. What I wrote is mostly a personal memoir. I suppose it was what I had to write first.

From the preface:

“The decision to reveal parts of our personal life was something I deliberated over for a long time. Because our lives became so inextricably bound, I included what I felt necessary, but not without a considerable amount of apprehension. This book illustrates the many parallels between Ted the musician and Ted the person. I felt it was important to convey how Ted was driven compulsively not just to pursue music, but so many other things he loved.”

With this in mind, here is our story. It IS very personal and I still have apprehensions about publishing it. My hope is that it brings you closer to Ted, as you begin to get to know and understand this unique and extraordinary man and musician.


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