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August 2020 Newsletter


Welcome and summer greetings to all Ted Greene fans, friends, and students!

The focus for this month’s new lessons has been in writing up Ted’s remaining pages of Bach Chorales. We all know that Ted had a profound love for J.S. Bach, and tried to imbibe his music into his own playing and thought processes. Not many have done this as extensively or successfully on electric guitar as Ted. He got to the point where he could improvise fluently with much of the same harmonic progressions, moving lines, textures, and feelings that are part of the Bach and Baroque language. Not to say that Ted’s improvisations could compare to a Bach composition, but the musical elements were in play and the feeling was there. Having the ability to jump in and out of this world was something that charmed Ted’s listeners. He might begin playing a jazz standard or an Americana piece, float into an extended Baroque-ish interlude, then perhaps segue into a groovin’ blues…all the while changing keys as whim suggested him.

Let’s look at how some of this developed from Ted’s early years onward, as taken from three published accounts:

* * * * *

Barbara Franklin wrote in her book, My Life with the Chord Chemist:

At 22 years old [Ted] was fast becoming legendary and in demand. Despite all the positive recognition and people raving about his playing, Ted was not satisfied with the level of musicianship he had attained. He realized that there was so much more he wanted to be able to express musically, and also realized he lacked the knowledge to do so. Therefore, around this time he began to apply and experiment with the vast amount of music theory and harmony he had been accumulating and assimilating.
In his own words: (c.1968) “This is likely when I fell in love with J.S. Bach et al and when I started composing those classical pieces, and when my ear progressed to the point where I shocked and thrilled myself by figuring out Johnny Smith’s chords to “What’s New.”
[p. 5]

Ted composed many original “Baroque” pieces in this period of his life. His first piece was written in winter/spring 1968 and appropriately titled, “My 1st Classical Composition.” This was shortly followed by a Processional in B minor. In late October he began a Fantasia in E minor, which he did not complete, but resumed work on it again several years later (June of 1970). Among other pieces written around this time were an Invention in F, and in January of the next year his Pastoral No.1.

[Ted also admitted that he was still] “Nuts about & obsessed with composing and playing Bach, tuned up high.”

From the summer of 1969 through spring 1970 two more changes of residence took place, the second landed the family in a house in Encino on Havenhurst Place. It was here in this house Ted observed, “I’m in Classical music listening Heaven and (doing) some of my very best composing.” Among his collection of compositions from this period there is a Sarabande in B minor, and later that year a “Bachian” Invention, (however in 1999 when he reviewed the invention, he offered this comment, “But as usual as if thru a Russian ‘Autumn Leaves’).”
[p. 6]

Another idea Ted had been pondering for a while was how to teach Baroque harmony on a fundamental level. He began this method by organizing all bass moves in units of 2, a method he would later revise.
[p. 19]

In mid-May, on Mother’s Day, after brunch with my family, Ted took me to one of his favorite music store haunts called Musician’s Supply. Ted wrote, “Pick up new Bach lute suite music folio and Counterpoint in the Style of J.S. Bach by Thomas Benjamin, and old book Bach’s Orchestra by Charles Stanford Terry. Then sitting in car in front of her place on a beautiful day, explain my ‘magic formula’ for Baroque cycle of 4th’s: Hold the R & 3, lower the other two tones one diatonic scale step. She loves its ease.” I was so impressed that Ted had figured this out. Now as I pondered this “magic formula,” I began to slowly understand the workings of his incredibly gifted musical mind.

Despite the apartment problem, which Ted viewed as only a temporary setback, he utilized the time to work on ideas for new books he intended to write. Some nights, much to my delight, I’d find Ted excited about writing again. “Breakthrough in Baroque classification for my book: 2 voice counterpoint, 2 intervals (2 units) at a time, 2-to-1 motion (oblique motion) in one voice only at a time, 3rds & 2nds (and of course 2nds & 3rds) 8 + 8 = 16 motifs available. Bring Barb a new ‘Bach of the week’ a collection of Bach’s greatest organ preludes, fugues & fantasias (The Great...)”

And Ted began organizing the big categories of his “How Bach Generated Chords & Chord Progressions” book. All was relatively well.

When the day for our first live Lakers game finally arrived, Ted still had a bad cold, but we risked the possibility of my catching it, as we wanted to share this once-in-a-lifetime experience together. When we arrived at Staples Center that night, Ted was carrying his usual old grocery bags full of music, books, papers, and pens. This triggered the alarm as we walked in, and Ted had to empty everything out. The management at that time (post 9/11) didn’t allow anything to be brought in, but Ted argued so effectively they made an exception. We found our seats, and as we waited for the game to begin Ted took out the Bach Chorale book and began analyzing Chorale #17; he did not stop when the game began. Somehow he was able to work and enjoy the game, including catching an out-of-bounds ball!

Later, upon my analyzing some music (perhaps one of the chorales) and finding myself confused as to naming some of the chords, Ted explained the “Root unplayed” Bachian 7b9’s (Ted said Bach used thousands of them). For instance, here is Ted’s example of one group: E7b9: G# B D F, G7b9: Ab B D F, Bb7b9: Ab B(Cb) D F, Db7b9: Ab Cb D F (or the enharmonic of this one). When I continued my study, I was amazed at how often “root unplayed” occurred. Ted had a way of opening one’s eyes to grasp a clearer understanding of a concept. And by using just one example, he opened up a world for one to discover. Ted found it equally thrilling and rewarding when I grasped a concept, and in turn got so excited by all the possibilities.

On March 13th Ted played his seventh brunch at Spazio’s. The one Sunday a month at Spazio’s had become somewhat of a salon, a meeting place for friends. It was a comfortable environment to which Ted had now grown more accustomed. Ted’s playing continued to be dazzling, but he grew braver and braver, and this time he culminated with a 20-minute Bachian improvisation that was totally brilliant and stunned everyone….

Ted also recollected much of that Sunday, “…Sort of a personal milestone, drenched in reverb – long final improvisation ala J.S. Bach – 1st time unleashed upon the public. Went very well, as well as the 10’s of 1000’s of times I’ve done this in solitude.”

…Our celebration of J.S. Bach’s 320th birthday on March 21st. The entire evening was devoted to Bach listening. Although we availed ourselves of this pleasure frequently, we felt particularly inspired to pay special tribute that night.

* * * * *

And now for some observations by Terrence McManus from his thesis, Ted Greene – Sound, Time, and Unlimited Possibility:

Studying Bach’s music may have been one of the things that convinced Greene to make knowing countless voicings a priority. In his 1993 clinic at the Musicians Institute, when speaking about Bach he stated “…He’s got so many voicings and so many ways of implying the chords by playing two notes or three notes that you have tons of variety that lasted a lifetime for him.”
…Green often stresses the importance of the IV - V - I progression in the music of Bach, and how Bach would use that specific progression. Green explains that as he improvises contrapuntally, he often shifts his focus between the top voice and the low voice. He also states that at times he is thinking harmonically and at other times he is just “grabbing” what he can.
[p. 8]

In the first video of the Baroque Improv lesson series, as [Ted] improvises, he describes his thinking and what he is doing or trying to do. The videos make absolute sense when comparing Greene’s ideas about the style to the way he actually improvises. A close study of what Greene says will not only yield the ability to play in a similar fashion to Greene, but to study and understand some of the key mechanisms that give Bach his sound and allow Greene to tap into it.
Greene gives a general blueprint for Bach’s harmonic process, stating at 5:04: “Many times his themes involve his stating something with the tonic, and then going off either into a V or a IV, and whichever one he didn’t do, he’ll come and get that pretty soon. Sometimes with a stopover on the I, in between.”

* * * * *

And finally, from Omar Haddad, in his article, Ted Greene: The Legacy Lives On:

Greene also explains his conception of Bach’s music: “Implied chords. That’s what Bach did. Bach teaches us that his music is about chord tones that are stitched together with either scale tones or chromatics, and the genius is that there are motifs binding it all together, themes…but if somebody wrote in a similar style but didn’t use actual themes, they could still get the effect of the harmonic environment of a Bach, if they knew his harmonic vocabulary.” (2:41)
Based on all these accounts, it is possible to establish that Greene’s interest in and knowledge of Baroque music aided him in the development of his solo arranging style capable of polyphony. Additionally, the incidental connection between jazz and Baroque music through similar chord progressions (cycle of fourths) and moving bass lines (the Baroque basso continuo and jazz walking bass line) made the music of Bach a practical model whereby Greene could develop mature arranging and performing techniques.
[p. 3]

* * * * *

In Ted’s regular Teaching Archives we still have a few pages yet to post that are related to Bach and Baroque music, but most of the collection is already available in the Arrangements / Classical section or in the Baroque section.

We’ll investigate the Ted compositions that Barbara mentioned and see if we can post them:

  • “My 1st Classical Composition” (1968)
  • Processional in B minor (Already posted, now credited to Ted)
  • Fantasia in E minor
  • Invention in F
  • Pastoral No.1. (Already posted, now credited to Ted)
  • Sarabande in B minor
  • “Bachian” Invention
  • Thanksgiving Chorale (Already posted, now credited to Ted)

And I believe that the uncredited “Chorales” posted this month are actually Ted’s own compositions, written around the same time he was immersed in studying Bach’s Chorales.

Once we begin working on posting pages from Ted’s Private Music Studies, our Baroque fans will be happy to discover a small treasure of ideas and tips for improvising in the that style. Ted collected 43 pages of notes for the “Bachian Harmony and Counterpoint” book that he intended to write, plus a couple hundred pages for general Baroque playing. Most of these pages are just rough sketches of ideas to be flushed out by Ted at a later date, so it will take time for us to decipher and present them in clear way. Stay tuned….

Hoping that you’ll find something interesting and rewarding to work on from the new lessons. Enjoy!

~ Your friends on the Team


Under the “Classical Pieces” header:

* Bach – Chorales No.1, 2, 3 (Ted Greene Analysis), 1995-09-09. [This is the first page in the book, 371 Harmonized Chorales that Barbara Franklin shared with us. It shows Ted’s handwritten detailed analysis of the first 3 of Bach’s Chorales. Transcription pages with clear notation is provided for those who wish to investigate this study. Ted’s notation often includes the chord with a forward slash followed by a number. This number indicates the chord tone that is either in the bass or as a moving inner line. Sometimes he uses a backslash to show the soprano tone. And he has indicated V numbers in some instances to define the exact voicing according to his Voicing Groups System (the V-System).]
* Bach – Chorales No. 5, 6, 1968. [Ted wrote on this page, “My 1st playing of Bach Chorales, in the summer of ’68.” Ted transcribed from the original Bach score, first the bottom two parts (transposed to treble clef for guitar), then the top two parts. He wrote out Chorale No. 6, then No. 5. We have written them in order (first No. 5, then 6) and combined both the top and bottom parts together on two treble clefs. I believe that this was Ted’s process of making an arrangement for guitar. The next step would have been to work the top and bottom parts together, which may include moving some of the notes up an octave in order to make them playable on guitar. Also, Ted would have analyzed the chord names for each vertical structure. If you’re interested in following through with this process, it is up to you to finish the arrangement. Good luck!]
* Chorales (and Ideas), 1971-02-02. [We believe that this page has one of Ted’s original compositions in the style of Bach’s Chorales, along with several “ideas” that he jotted down. We notated these ideas as well as possible, assuming certain rhythmic figures, since sometimes he wrote only the note heads. Grid diagrams added for easy of reading, and chord names added when Ted didn’t include them.]
* Chorales (and More Ideas), 1972-03-24. [As above, this page has a collection of Ted’s Chorale-like ideas, along with a full piece that we believe is one of his original compositions. Notation and chord grids added for easy reading.]

* Bach Key Changes and Progressions, 1974-01-20. [This lesson sheet was requested a few years ago by Robert S. Sorry it took so long to write up, but as you can see it was a big and tedious project, and I had my doubts about the value of making a priority of posting this one, but we’re happy to be able to present it now. My guess is that this is not what Robert expected. Ted took the time to detail these pieces in Roman numerals, so he must have seen the value in this kind of analysis – especially as a learning tool for composing. There are some gems in there, such as Ted was of describing Bach’s modulation: “One method was to introduce melodically first the tones which destroy the old key feeling and create the new.”]

* Chord Sounds for Group or Solo Playing (top 4 strings), 1977-02-02 and 1977-03-19 [This is a 2-page collection of chord diagrams showing various I (major type) chords, followed by V7-I sounds…all in the key of D. The second half of page 2 also includes chords of the middle 4 strings. Here Ted is showing us a treasure of good voice-leading for the most common progression of all: V-I. These pages seem like something out of Ted’s Modern Chord Progressions book (but they’re not!).]
* Combining Diatonic and Extra-Diatonic Colors, 1986-08-06. [Four examples in the keys of F, Ab, G, and Eb. The title also includes: “Heading in a sub-dominant direction….And Modulation into bIII.” All of the chords are open triads, and Ted left it up to the student to provide the chord name. We’ve added an extra “answers page” if you need it. If you teach guitar, this might be a good lesson to give to your intermediate students.]
* Extra-Diatonic Progressions with Beautiful Majors, 1986-08-09. [This page is simply three different add9 chords that are moved in parallel up and down the neck. Possibly related to Ted’s exercises for “expanded diatonicism.” An extra copy is provided with the “dots filled in,” as the student would have been expected to complete.]
* Some Resolutions of Modern Dominants to Tonics, 1973-10-02. [This is another collection of V7-I progressions that Ted compiled back in 1973. He alternates Key of D and key of G. Undoubtedly Ted felt that these chord moves were useful tools to have under your belt, and good examples of voice-leading. This page also includes some bII7 – I progressions (which are related to the V7-I by the flat-five substitute rule). The original page is pretty difficult to read, so we made new grid drawings that are easier to follow.]
* Using Diatonic Chord Scales and Expanded Diatonic Colors as Well, 2001-03-14. [Here Ted gives us four examples in the keys of A, C, E, and Eb that blend diatonic 7th chord scales fragments and non-diatonic chords with extensions. Standard music notation and chord names combined with Ted’s original grid diagrams.]

* I Have the Feeling I’ve Been Here Before, 1992-08-31. [Here’s another wonderful comping study for a jazz standard. As usual, Ted gave only the letter name of the chord and assigned his students to write in the chord quality, as well as the chord tones (root, 3rd, 9th, etc.) below the grids. We’ve combined the lead sheet with the “normal” changes, lyrics, and notation for Ted’s comping chords, all aligned with Ted’s diagrams.]

* Dominant 7th Sounds, 1974-09-09. [The class is “Dominant 7th Chords 101.” The teacher is Professor Greene. If this is new material for you, please play close attention, for you’ll use much of this information for the rest of your musical life. Newly drawn grids and text for easy reading and reference.]

* Come Rain or Come Shine, Transcribed by Francois Leduc. [Another brilliant transcription from the ever-prolific Francois Leduc. This one comes from Ted’s “Private Concert at Alex Silverman’s Home” recording. Complete with standard notation, Tab, and chord grids. Thanks, Francois!!]

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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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