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Summer 2022 Newsletter


Warm greetings to all Ted Greene fans, friends, and students. In this newsletter we wanted to feature some of the experiences from a long-time friend and colleague of Ted’s, Leon White.

* * * * *

Looking back over all the various topics that this site has discussed in newsletters and in the Forums, it seems that Ted’s guitar electronics have not been really discussed in detail. I thought we might revisit that subject and take a deeper dive into it.

One of the key things we overlook is “Why?” What prompted Ted to get into modifying and experimenting so much? A year ago in June I wrote about the importance of emotions to Ted. We have some pages on the site where he listed, organized, and classified various emotions.
[See: Moods and Feelings – Ted Greene Misc. Notes.pdf in the “Other” section of the Teachings area.]

Ted had a Gibson 355 and was familiar with its “Varitone” circuit. That was a one of a set of circuits appearing in guitars like the Al Caiola model, and even on a Gibson bass. The circuit added capacitors to the path of the pickup signal (like a tone control) to get different sounds. Probably inspired by that he began his own experimenting into tone modification on the guitar. (Remember, at that time there were only two pedals in the world – a Maestro fuzz tone and a Dallas Arbiter fuzz tone.) Those two, along with reverb and tape delay, were basically the only “toys” a player could add to their sound.

Ted experimented with capacitors, resistors, and components called “chokes.” The capacitors could affect higher frequencies while the chokes could affect lower frequencies. The Varitone used various combinations of those type of components to get the various sounds found in the Gibson 345 and 355.

But why? Was Ted just looking for different sounds? It was definitely more than that. It was tied to the emotions which music could create. As another example, Ted used ultra-light strings on the 355 and tuned it UP a major 3rd for a while. Why? He told me he wanted to get “that harpsichord sound.”

The sound of the guitar inspired Ted at the moment he was playing it. His 1955 Telecaster Esquire, “Banana Crème” (aka “Bananas”) had tone circuits added to the black guard bridge pickup and the two DiMarzio dual sound humbuckers. In addition, he connected various sets of coils in series or parallel to get various sounds, with the caps and chokes in the circuit.

Ted’s 355 (the one in the cover photo of Chord Chemistry) had many two-way and three-way switches all over the front. Bananas was the distilled version of all that experimenting, having the five-way switch and three small two-position switches on the pick guard. Those were the sounds he finally settled on for his regular solo guitar gigs.

But it wasn’t for novelty’s sake, or to play in a particular musical style. It was to express or inspire him to create the emotions he was feeling at the moment. The best example we can look at is perhaps the 1993 G.I.T. seminar video that is on YouTube.

In this clip particularly focus on his transition from lecture to playing “Eleanor Rigby.” Try to concentrate on Ted – not the music, but him sitting there and trying to find what he was going to play. He starts with an improvisation that is not yet a song, and he plays with it until he finds the “feeling” he wants for himself. Then he moves into that very up-tempo version of “Eleanor Rigby.” And we see him make adjustments to the tone on the guitar. Those individual sounds meant something to him in that moment, and he changes and plays a bit and then changes again to find the tone he wanted to feel.

His one album, Solo Guitar, is also a tour de force in changing tones in the middle of performances, and may be more easily heard and recognized if you listen carefully for it.

I can’t answer which emotion or musical feel was inside him when he changed to a new tone. (I suspect that the baroque passages were given a bit more treble or even a “Strat-like” coil combination so they would be heard more clearly – but that is a guess on my part.) And I’m not sure it even matters. The point, I think, is that the various pickup sounds meant something to him and that he used them to deliver the beautiful emotions he gave us when he played. And more importantly, they affected him. If he was not “inspired” on a gig he would often search through the sounds while he was “noodling” or during an interlude between songs to find something that inspired him.

I realize the pedal industry thinks that more pedals are a solution, but for Ted’s music I think we might all awaken to the very basic tones of our guitar and amp, and what they do to us. To achieve the same deep connection that Ted gets with us when he plays, I think we could all benefit from experimenting and understanding which sounds move us, why they do so, and how we can harness the sounds not as “effects” but as part of the emotion we want to share.

~ Leon

* * * * *

The new lesson items for this newsletter focuses primarily on Ted’s work sheets for his 5-note chord voicing system that he was developing. We will continue to post more of these in the upcoming newsletters, as it seems that this was an important aspect of Ted’s investigations and attempts into defining some of the unlimited possibilities of the guitar. You’ll have to forgive the fact that we couldn’t present nice, redrawn grids with clear explanations, and deciphered handwritten comments. That would be a massive project that might never get done, so we present it as Ted left it. We believe that anyone serious enough to work through these pages will “get it” after a little exposure (and with the help of some of the accompanying efforts at explanations that we’ve provided).

We want to extend a special thanks to the following contributors to this newsletter:

  • Mark Fitchett for his 1992 audio recording of one of his many lessons with Ted.
  • Mike De Luca and James Hober for their proofreading the many scores and transcribed texts.
  • François Leduc for his brilliant transcription of Ted playing a “South Pacific and Oklahoma Medley” from the Joey Backenstoe’s wedding recording.

Thank you all so much – our site is always a richer place because of your regular contributions.

~ Your Friends on the Team


In the “Lessons with Mark Fitchett” section:

* 1992-01-16, Ted Greene Lesson with Mark Fitchett.[mp3 files, 320 kbps, length: 26:24. During this lesson Ted discusses and demonstrates some blue colors using “fixed double-lines. IV7-I7. “She’ll Be Comin’ Round the Mountain When She Comes” in various keys.]

* Bach-Type Pedal Points, 1974-10-19 and 1982-05-07. [This page contains 13 examples or exercises of triads (major, minor, and diminished functioning as dominant 7b9 chords) over open string bass pedal notes, or over soprano pedal notes. We added music notation and created (or redrew) new grids for easy reading. From Ted’s PMS files.]

* Counterpoint Exercises – Miscellaneous 01. [A collection of the many counterpoint exercise in Ted’s PMS files. It is very likely that he intended to use examples like this for the book he hoped to write about Baroque improvisation. We re-notated all his examples, but did not provide grid diagram suggestion because the fingering possibilities are too numerous. And because Ted instructed: “Do in all positions and fingerings; all scales.” Stay tuned…more to come.]

* Counterpoint Exercises – Miscellaneous 02. [Same as above, more exercises from Ted’s PMS.]

* Counterpoint Types and Models, 1980-06-09. [Ted describes and provides 17examples for various different types of counterpoint activity: 2-to-1 soprano; 2-to-1 bass; 2-to-1 soprano with nonharmonic tones; chain suspensions, semi-chain suspensions; mixed activity amongst voices; with imitation, with some rapid 1-to-1; 3-to-q in bass. New notation for easy reading and study.]

Under the header “5-Note Chord Voicings”

* 5-Note Altered and Overtone Dominants, b7 on Top, Choice (from Half-Whole Dim. Scale).
[For this series, Ted used the Diminished Half-Whole scale for building the chords. This 4-page series all have the b7th as the top note of each chord. Grid diagrams are for either D7 type chords or G7 types (fret numbers not provided). Ted marked this series as “Choice” – which means he extracted the best or most useful chords from a previous worksheet in which he wrote out all the possible chord voicings.]

* 5-Note Altered and Overtone Dominants, Root on Top, Choice (from Half-Whole Dim. Scale). [For this series, Ted used the Diminished Half-Whole scale for building the chords. This 4-page series all have the Roots as the top note of each chord. Grid diagrams are for D7 type chords (fret numbers included). Ted marked this series as “Choice” – which means he extracted the best or most useful chords from a previous worksheet in which he wrote out all the possible chord voicings.]

* 5-Note Chords in the Diminished Scale – Names List, 1986-04-11. [Using a C diminished scale (whole-half scale), Ted provides the chord names for each of the 5-note 14 chord types. In addition, he gives all of the homonym names for each. We typed out the text to make it easy to read and study, plus we show which notes of the scale are being excluded to form each type. This was a reference list for Ted’s further explorations into the 5-note voicings; it’s not a guitar lesson.]

* 5-Note Chord Voicings – A Brief Explanation. [Comments and observations from this editor about Ted’s 5-note system, based on some of his worksheets. This may answer questions as you work thru Ted’s grid pages (which have not been clarified with redrawn diagrams). Good luck!]

* 5-Note Dominant 7b9#5 Chord Voicings. [For this page, Ted wrote out choice voicings for P-1 thru P-35, with Root on top; P-1 thru P-39 with b9 on top, and P-2 thru 44 with 3rd on top (skipping several of the P numbers). (P refers to “Pentatonic” or five-note chord voicing). ]

* 5-Note Dominant 7#9#5 Chord Voicings. [For this series, Ted mapped out P-1 thru P-24, and P-29 thru P-35 chord types. (P refers to “Pentatonic” or five-note chord voicing). For this 3-page series, he wrote the chord tone for the soprano voice above the highest string (1st or 2nd string).]

* 5-Note Normal Major Types, Reorganized by Soprano (pages 1-8). [In this series of 26 pages, Ted defines the 6 “normal” major chord types using 5 notes of the scale. It shows 5-note major chord types, organized by the melody note (soprano), and additionally grouped by the bass note. The diagrams all illustrate moveable chord forms (except for a few that utilize open strings or open string harmonics), so no letter name of the chords is given, just the chord quality. The large numbers in the left margin indicate the chord tone of the bass note.

On the first page of this collection Ted wrote: “This is my 5th or 6th recheck of the Systematic Inversion results. I’ve included a few doubled note types as reminders that for my final lists I should include them too. And the 6-note chords of course too. Also, I’ve included some with harmonic open strings (or stopped if wished) for the same reason…. All these remarks are to myself in case life’s emergencies keep me from this work for a protracted time period. But to anyone else too, who finds any or all of this of value.”
Transcription of handwritten text is provided for each page.]]

* 5-Note Normal Major Types, Reorganized by Soprano (pages 9-16). [See above.]

* 5-Note Normal Major Types, Reorganized by Soprano (pages 17-26). [See above.]

* 5-Note Voicings – A Review. [This is Ted’s review of his 5-Note “P-System” (of 44 different “pentatonic” voicings), done in 2002 and 2003. He wrote: “A review look and independent list to crosscheck with my original from 15 years ago or so.” New notation provided for easy reading and study.]

* 5-Note Voicings of the 8-Note Whole-half Diminished Scale (part 1). [Using the diminished scale, Ted wrote out all of the D dominant 5-note chords, following his P-System, including all 5 inversions, 6-noters, and 5-note doublings. We notated the first 2 rows, paired with Ted’s original grids. We also provided a transcription for any handwritten comments or notation that might not be clear. Remember that these pages are worksheets for Ted’s reference – they were not intended to be lessons for students.]

* 5-Note Voicings of the 8-Note Whole-half Diminished Scale (part 2). [See above.]

* 5-Note Voicings of the 8-Note Whole-half Diminished Scale (part 3). [See above.]

* Jazz Lines – Miscellaneous. [From Ted’s PMS files, this is a collection of 36 exercises for single-note soloing. Notated for easy reading.]

* South Pacific and Oklahoma Medley – Transcribed by François Leduc. [Another wonderful transcription from the prolific Mr. Leduc, using standard notation, Tab, and chord grid diagrams. This comes from the Ted Greene playing at Joey Backenstoe’s wedding on March 4, 1989.

François wrote: “I started this one last year but I couldn't make sense of the middle section and write it down. I still can't... lol! Sometime Ted Greene is doing some noodling like that in between songs and God knows what he's thinking. I decided to write it like I hear it and not worry too much. I really love the 1st section; the composition is beautiful. Just for this arrangement alone it was worth the time. The 2nd arrangement is great too although I don't like the composition as much...but it's cool to play so... Have fun!”

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

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- - - - - - - - - - - - - - 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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