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September 2020 Newsletter


Late Summer Greetings to all! We hope this finds you in good health, good spirits, and eager to absorb some more musical offerings from Ted Greene’s treasure trove of guitar lessons.

Expanded Diatonic Key

During the past several months there has been some interest, questions, and speculations about Ted Greene’s use of and definition for the concept of “Expanded Diatonic Key” or “Expanded Diatonicism.” Other related or alternative terms used by Ted are “Expanded Key,” “Expanded Diatonic Tonality,” “Expanded Diatonic Roots,” “Non-diatonic Roots,” “Expansion Roots,” “Multi-key Colors” — and how they are related to his “Bass-enhanced Triads” principle. Clear answers are not easily deducted from the posted lessons on these subjects.

So, we did some more extensive hunting in Ted’s Teaching Archives and posted just about everything we could find, and then we searched his Personal Music Studies files for anything relating to this subject. There may be a few other pages still hiding inside Ted’s PMS files, but most everything is now posted, and they can be found in the “Chord Studies” and “Harmony and Theory” sections.

However, in those pages what we find are a bunch of cool chords and progressions, but no explanation of what is going on, what’s the theory behind it, or what he means by “Expanded Diatonic.” So, for answers we turned to a wonderful resource: Ted himself. Yep, private audio recorded lessons with Ted. And one of the best collections of recorded lessons comes from Mark Levy, our good friend and long-time student of Ted’s (Audio/LessonsWithMarkLevy). Many of you have probably listened to most or all of these lessons. Great, great stuff, and Mark made it easy to navigate by creating a rough index of the main subjects for each of the 46 recordings (MarkLevy’s_RecordedLessonsWithTedGreene_General Index.pdf). We found three recordings that touched on this expanded key subject wherein Ted gives a definition and practical use for how to discover and use these interesting sounds. We transcribed excerpts from these recordings, and the full transcript is now posted in our “From Students” section, under “Contributions by Mark Levy.”

Below are some highlights from that transcript that you might find interesting. In the full transcript you’ll also find links to the recordings as well as timestamps for where the excerpts begin. Listening to them is more powerful than just reading, as most of it is conversational, and Ted plays numerous examples demonstrating what he’s talking about. We hope this sheds some light on this mysterious subject that Ted seems to have defined and presented to us all. Too bad he never got around to writing a book on it, as he had plans for books on this and many other subjects.

* * * * *

From Recorded Lesson #25, 1992, October 1 (part 2)

Ted and Mark are working on reharmonizing the first phrase of “God Bless the Child”:

Ted: There are only 12 roots at any one moment. When stumped, be a scientist. That’s what I had to do, Mark. I still have to do it. Say, “Well, here I am. I can either stay there or go to 11 other letter names. “It’s all that she wrote.”
Mark: Right.
Ted: It ain’t 11 hundred, just 11. So I’ll say…[He plays…] Whoa! Flat-two dominant? Not today. Unless I alter it. Let’s try it. So I say, “Let’s alter it before we junk it.” [He plays…] Wow, that was different….
“We got a chord, where can it go?” You say, “Where does One (I) go?”
…so there’s six other prime places to move it to. “Teacher?” “Yes?” “How will I know which quality?” Answer: “You won’t until you learn to love the sounds by playing them a lot so that you can hear them in your head and choose the one you want.”

So here you are: you’re going One (I) – Two (ii). Now you sing the tune [he demonstrates]. Now I’m going to try I to iii [he demonstrates]. That sounds like a Stevie Wonder version if he had never heard Lady Day’s version. [He plays…] Maybe not Stevie, but somebody like that, El DeBarge. [He plays…]
Mark: Now, you’re just staying diatonically?
Ted: Yeah. First the diatonic ones are the pullers of the key. Luckily, we have a few things to hang on to. So, then I would try I to IV. [He plays…] I say, “Wow, that really is sweet. It’s sweet.” Only thing is: I know it’s going to make the Four-major (IV), so that’s when I’d make a IV dominant there maybe instead. [He plays…] They really are different. The dominant is really different in feeling. Now I’m going to try Five (V). [He plays…] Then I remember, “Wait now Ted. Don’t junk it yet if you’re not happy. Try the sus ones. Those are cool.” [He plays…] I say, “Wow, I do like the sus dominant thing.” Then I try the altered [V]: [He plays…] “Whoa! Maybe I’ll save it, it’s so spicey. I want to save it for the ‘push in’ to some other spot. You know, I don’t want to use my spiciest color on the very first chord that One (I) goes to.”

Do you feel that’s okay to think that way? You hear where I’m coming from, right?

Mark: Oh yeah….
Ted: So then I start trying the extra Expanded Diatonic Roots: bII, bIII, bVI, bVII, #IV. Those are the five other non-[diatonic group]… That’s all 12 tones.
Mark: Why “expanded root diatonic”?
Ted: [I] love ‘em.
Mark: I love them. But why---how did that name come about?
Ted: I had to call it something. Didn’t want to go on TV with no ammunition. [They laugh.] It’s the truth, man.
Mark: I love them too – bIII, bVI, bII I am in love with.
Ted: Yeah. If you take diatonic as the framework of a key, and that it sounds attractive, and it’s very American, and it does work in this country, it’s part of our heritage. Whereas this is not American. [He plays harmonic minor scale lines.] We can’t say this is in the middle of our kinds of keys. But we can say…[he plays…] all that stuff, and certainly with the major chords and all that. People playing…[he plays…] Diatonic major is easily seen (George Russell notwithstanding) to be the center of everything.
Mark: Very American.
Ted: Yeah. Lydian is still---Lydian is a new visitor when she shows up. We’re glad to have her, but she ain’t the center, like George wants. Anyway, so if that’s true, then we say, “Well, what about the other fellas who love to be in the key with brother and sisters? They’re in there, they love it, they want to be accepted. We invite them in; we like them. But they’re not strict diatonic, so they’re on the periphery of diatonic. We’re expanding the framework of what we mean by “diatonic.” So for short “expanded,” I just write “EXP. DIAT” – Expanded Diatonic Root, or “non-diatonic root.” “Non” tends to have a stigma of like “not-so-great” or something. “Non” is fair: “non-diatonic group” – but part of the key. But not part of diatonic key.

So, I tried going to a flat-two (bII). [He plays…] I say, “Well, try a dominant [bII], see how you like that.” [He plays…] Try the Lydian [bII]. [He plays…]. Wow! Maybe I’ll save that one for later. That’s quite a flavor there. Now I’m going to try the flat-three (bIII). [He plays…] I may use that toward the end of the song as a surprise chord on the last out. Because it works with the melody and everything. That was A major 9 in the key of Gb or F#.
Mark: Okay.
Ted: Now I’m going to try flat-six (bVI) which is D (enharmonic). [He plays…]
Mark: That’s cool too!
Ted: Yeah, that’s a great sound. I’m not sure where to put the melody tone, but I love it.
Mark: It’s on the outer planet; on the outer planets.
Ted: Well, you’d be surprised how it’s not so out. It’s on….it’s---oh, yeah, it’s “out” compared to the center, yes. But not way far out. Okay. We’re still in the key, because this is still friends with all these fellas. [He plays…]
Mark: Great stuff.
Ted: So we have flat-seven (bVII). [He plays…] I kind of dig that. That’s like the lazy afternoon vibe of going to… Just majors down a whole step.
Mark: It’s got, “My Baby” in there.
Ted: Yeah, it’s got that vibe, doesn’t it? The melodies are very similar. You can get so many shadings in there. Then you try it as a dominant. [He plays…] That’s just a 9th. Now I’m going to try a 13th, because there’s a difference.
Mark: Now, you’re doing the flat-seven there?
Ted: Flat-seven 13 [bVII13]. Now I’m going to add the #11. [He plays…] I’m going to try it as a sus dominant….[He plays…]
Mark: I need to do---exercise this. I need to get this really tuned in. What do you think, Ted?
Ted: I think if every guitar player did this – withstand the heat of how much time it takes – they’d love harmony even more than they loved it before they do it. The frustration would be outweighed by the results of finding their own character. I had to find out that I love…. It helps me as a human being to know myself better. And I found out: “Man, do I love these atmospheric colors!” That’s just what I love.

Ted: I didn’t say I must do every voice-leading and every soprano move. I have said that at times, but I know that’s a lifetime study. But I would say, “Choose a voicing of something and feel the color vibe. Like, what does it feel like to go to a bVII dominant?” If it was already good then I might say, “Is it significantly different if I change something?” As soon as that would get different, I’d say, “What was it that made it…when did it finally get different?” …I try to be a detective there, an observer, a science guy on that.

Ted: This is just science. You just say, “Even if I didn’t know it” — Mark talking to himself — “Even if I didn’t or don’t at this moment know it, I know that it’s there. So, all I have to do is talk to it, and it’ll talk to me.” Kind of like anything.
So this is One [the I chord], and you decide that day to try your bVII dominant. And you’ve already done this, and you say, “That’s kind of groovy.” And you force yourself to sing [he demonstrates]. And you say, “I want to try it with lower, richer voicings, roughly in the same spot on the neck. So you got to E7 over here, where the b7 is in the bass, and then you say [he plays…] and you try different melodies on the E, and you go, “Wow, they’re all about the same effect, generally speaking. They all vibe like a bVII dominant.” When does it change? When you get a sus4 or 11. Now, that’s a different shading on bVII. Is it good? Of course it’s still good, unless it clashes with the melody. We have to find out.

Ted: Yeah, I’ve done many, many hours of this work. And I’m glad; I still do it, Mark. I still try sometimes, but most of it’s behind me on the basic level now, thank God. Because I kept saying, “Ted, you can get it because there’s only 12 roots, and there’s only so many shadings. Just do all the moves that you can possibly stand to do at various times.”

From Recorded Lesson #38, 1993, July 19

Ted: I don’t think modes. I think “tonal types;” “tonality types.” Because modes mean limiting in two ways. (I just want to remind you why I’m not doing these.)
1): It implies that there’s a parent scale that originally generates them. I don’t even want my thought complicated with that sound. When we were hearing C Lydian, you weren’t even hearing the G major at all. Neither one of us heard it. That’s the first reason.
Number 2): There are so many other things besides those 7 so-called modes. I mean, blues is its own tonality. Expanded Diatonicism, about 4 levels, working backwards…
Mark: What’s that?
Ted: Well, you know what it is already: that expanded sense of key that has the flat-three [bIII], the flat-seven [bVII], and the flat-six [bVI] for instance.
Mark: Oh yeah. Okay.
Ted: [They’re] what they called “borrowed chords” in the old days. But I’m not thinking minor, so I don’t call it “borrowed.” I don’t feel like I’m taking it from minor. It’s just part of the key; the larger view; the modern 12-tone tonal key; the “pop” key. Twelve-tone pop. It’s not 12-tone serial music – not even close. Like this kind of sound here. [He plays…]
Mark: That’s tonal.
Ted: It’s contemporary Americana.
Mark: Well, I call it tonal. Is that…? It’s not atonal.
Ted: That’s right. It’s 12 tone “tonal” music.

[The expanded key]: It’s a youth…. It’s the major key in its youthful manifestation. It’s really a young sound. But I mean it in a good way. It’s very, very…God, is it youthful. I don’t know how…I got to find more/better terms for this concept.
Mark: “Virgin”?
Ted: It’s a new sound, an awakening on the planet for the past 30, 40 years. It wasn’t here before in this way. Yeah, “virgin” — I’m afraid of only the connotations, speaking to people’s parents: “What’s he studying?” “Well, we went over “virgin major” today. Tomorrow we’re going to do “blaspheme minor.” [They laugh.] Man! It’s real different than the old diatonic which we adore. You and I both love that.

Ted: I mean, because this is a whole “tonal type.” I just have it in my notes as EXP. DIAT. – Expanded Diatonic sense of key, instead of this smaller diatonic, the average. When I just write DIAT. I’m just thinking the regular, beautiful “seven [?] world” with visits….
[He probably means chords harmonized with 7ths.]. The next level around that (we may have discussed this before) it’s just the first level of add-ons, which are generally fifth approach chords.

From Recorded Lesson #42, 1993, November 18

Mark: Well, those seem to have really cool…. I find that…some of the coolest sounds, period, are all those non-diatonic roots in the key. Is that how it is?
Ted: Yeah. Expansion. Yeah. Expanded diatonic key is great, man.
Mark: How do I learn more about that?
Ted: Do it every day.
Mark: Okay. [They laugh]
Ted: I’m serious.
Mark: Hey, that’s a great answer.
Ted: I just sit…. Every time I touch the guitar for any protracted length, I find I do those sounds, keep them alive. [He plays…] All that was cycle-4-ing: I – IV – bVII – bIII – bVI – bII – I. Except instead of bII, I went to V. [He plays…..] That was….just doing a 4th thing now. The 5ths are great. Mark comes home and says, “It’s been a 5th kind of day.” So he goes [Ted plays bass notes: C, G, D, A] We’ll try some of that. [Ted plays key of A: Amaj7 – Dmaj7, then adds C6 – Gmaj7 – Dmaj7 – A/9]….
Mark: I like that a lot.
Ted: It’s so cheerful. Isn’t it? So optimistic.
Mark: I like it.
Ted: Expansion roots are great, man. Puts the hair on my chest.

* * * * *

After reviewing the full transcripts Mark wrote about the “Expanded diatonic key”:
“Amazing! He created this theory, American in origin. I remember him also saying the dominant 7th is really a new key (Major, Minor and Dominant 7th) that it was created in 20th century America.”

About the excerpt from July 19, 1993 recording, Mark wrote:
“I see this as really defining his thinking. The Forums had a thread on this topic and another student said he thought Ted implied borrowed from the parallel minor. But that is not true. It’s 12 tone ‘Tonal’ music.”

Please read the full transcripts and listen to the recordings. Let us know what you think in the Forums How do you think of and use Ted’s “expanded diatonic key” chords and progressions?

~ Your friends on the Team


* Fun, Fun, Fun (opening riff), 1999-08-23. [This is essentially Ted’s transcription of the guitar riff at the beginning of this song. This was written up during a private lesson at the request of the student. Turn up your twang for this baby! Approximate notation combined with Ted’s grids.]

* Untitled Baroque Counterpoint Etude, Circa 1968. [This piece is one that Ted composed himself. It appears that he started off thinking about a melody, but then it morphed into an etude that followed the cycle of 5ths (4ths). Ted probably wrote this around the time that he was diving deep into his Bach studies, and trying to understand the language and rules of Baroque playing. New notation provided for easy reading.]

* Blues Bass – Walking, 1996. [In these lesson sheets Ted is giving us visual references for bass notes as they relate to dominant 7th chords, to be used for constructing/playing walking bass lines. He is show us “groups of two” on the bottom two stings, linear scale lines on the bottom strings, and 3-note 7th chord forms. The idea is to visually connect all of these. We added notation to clarify some of this, and we continued with his “7 pockets of 6 notes” by added pockets #4, 5, 6, and 7.]
* Gospel Blues Progressions in 3, 1989-07-26. [Ted wrote out 3 examples of Gospel blues in 3/4 time using Roman numerals. We provided the letter names of the chords in the key of A as an example. No doubt Ted would advise the students to play these examples in many keys, and write them out if necessary.]
* Western Swing Blues, 1996-04-22. [Ted loved the sound of close voice chords like the ones given in this blues. Most or all of these would be V-1 chords in Ted’s V-System. We notated these according to the rhythmic counting he wrote on the original page (but eliminated them from the compilation page so they would appear less “cluttered”). He left the last two bars open for you to add your own turnaround. One turnaround example, taken from Ted’s lesson, “Jazz Turnarounds one-six-two-five” is given in the notation and grids. This may be a bit too “jazzy” for this Western Swing piece, but it sounds pretty good and gives you an idea as a starting place.]

* Expanded Diatonic Ideas (1986-1994). [This is a compilation of 7 tidbits from Ted’s Private Music Studies files. We notated them and added chord names. See the newsletter message above for a tie-in with this page.]
* I – IV (One – Four), 1989-06-06. [This page has 16 examples of the “One” chord progressing to the “Four” chord, colored mainly with major 7ths, major 9ths, and add 9ths. On this page Ted wrote, “The tow most important chords in the history of Western music are distinctly European in origin (One and Five). But Four is America’s chord….” We provide an additional copy with the chord names included, and typed text for Ted’s handwritten comments.]

Under the “Triads” header:

* Harmonization Studies, 1986-09-30 and 1986-10-01. [This is a simple lesson. It deals with playing major triads (to be considered as the I chord) interspersed with either the IV chord or the V chord or the iii chord. It might be that Ted wrote this up mainly as an ear-training lesson, since the main goal seems to be to hear the differences. The chord forms themselves are simple, and I believe that Ted wanted the student to be fluent in shifting around with these different triad inversions and mixed with other diatonic sounds. Ted’s original pages are a bit messy and hard to read, but it didn’t make sense to re-draw all the diagrams or to add music notation. As an aid to reading the handwritten text, we’ve added a typed text page at the end of the PDF.]
* Triads in I-IV and V-I Sequences within a Key, 1988-04-24. [Here we have some more triad sequences of I to IV or V to I. Although the title says “within a key” these exercises are not strictly diatonic. Ted was certainly thinking “expanded diatonic key,” as touched upon in this month’s newsletter. An additional page is included with the added “dots” for the chord forms. However, part of Ted’s assignment is “Write in the Roman Numeral somewhere on (or above or below) each diagram.” We did not do this. For the first example it would be: I – IV – bVII – bIII – bVI – bII – V – (I), which is what Ted was explaining in the recorded lesson with Mark Levy.]

* This Can’t Be Love, 2003-05-19. [This is a different lesson from Ted. He wrote out the grid diagrams, gave the letter name and quality of the chord, and provided only the top (soprano) note of the chord. The student was to fill in the other voices, and the chords fall on the middle 4 strings (mostly). The page Ted had on file contained the answers by a student who correctly added all the chord tones. We have added the lead sheet with original changes, melody, and lyrics, combined with a staff of Ted’s accompaniment chords.]

* Ted Greene on Expanded Diatonic Key (transcript). [This is a PDF of the full transcript of three excerpts from Mark Levy’s recorded lessons with Ted. (See the Newsletter above for a more info.). Find this under the header: “Contributions by Mark Levy.”]

Ted on YouTube

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The Official Ted Greene Forums

* 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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