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Im thinking there is an interesting role of the guitar in the development of chord based harmony.....Im just working through an idea here......Any suggestions for reading material would be appreciated. I am sorry if Im not asking this particularly clearly. 

As a classical and jazz/pop/ blues/ whatever guitarist in my early music educational journey, I had a clear idea  (so I thought) about the role of chords in melodic music..... the idea of a melody fitting over a chord progression... this is not a particularly complicated concept, and its absolutely foundational to understanding a huge amount of western music.

When I was a student in music school, my thinking was "corrected" for classical music...

Harmony was what happened when multiple melodies coincide...counterpoint...

this was how s"serious music" was written. a chord progression with melodies that fit over them was just the pop musicians aproach....

so what I'm looking for is some reading material about the early history of the chord progression approach to harmony, in contrast to the counterpoint approach. 

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Thanks for the help.
I cant read the linked article on my phone but i will shortly.
There was a video about improvisation for classical musicians i saw on YouTube a short while ago, where the presenter spoke about what he called "jazz thinking. I think that jazz thinking is a descendant of alfabeto thinking. When i have an opportunity i will provide a link.


this is the "Jazz thinking" lecture I referred to.

Very interesting thread, thank you!

To me alfabeto is about chord shapes...  which makes it defferent from modernchord signs used in jazz for example - I am really much into jazz guitar too (this has more in common with figuered bass I guess)...

'Jazz thinking' in broad sense is vast topic since jazz in a great deal is still language living enough... the more I am in it the more different approaches I discover...  if you're not arfter imitating some specific jazz style exactly (like early swing, or be-bop).. you actually can apply any theory or concept to discover possibilities for new relations and basis for improvization.

Actually voice-leading is one of the major issue in jazz playing and education.. it can be based on classical approach or modern modality... but anyways I am sure that the advanced jazz player thinking is seeing chord as momentary shot of voice movement...

Maybe early swing era players were close to that 'alfabeto style' you describee... maybe. Or maybe mixing both...  even if you take big band guitar players - surely they have patterns they use.. but even these patterns are usually based on voice-leading.

And about alfabeto too...  

I really believe that as with many other aspects of music notation (especially early music) - they often really knew how to interprete the sign...

If we go for simple songs - there it is often probably the same thing as modern amateur guitar comping...  you know they just see Am and strum a chord shape they know (they do not read it as a-minor triad that can be played in various ways)...  here chord signs are interepreted like alfabeto (but this is definitely not the way jazz players do it)

In a music more sophisticated... sometimes it is also like this, more about percussive harmonic sound, harmonic rythm and colour...

but very often from the contex it has obvious voice-leading just note written down in notes or figures.. in Roncalli's music it happens all the time.

Alfabeto seems to be a very simple form of notating a very specific set of chord voicings, but I think that Sanz transposition chart, and others that I have seen showing how to move one alfabeto fingering along the neck till it substitutes for another show that in the hands of a good player it was more than that. It was certainly possible, and probably not uncommon, for players to use a short simple alfabeto progression and easily find many alternate voicings, just the way a jazz player does today. And for that matter, I think every guitarist who plays at all from a lead sheet thinks in the same way today. For example, as any competent musician knows there are many ways to play a "C" chord, but if you say to a guitarist today "play the 'C form' of an E chord" they know exactly what you mean. I saw Joe Pass giving a lecture on this (in video form, I was not there). The alfabeto charts are very similar to modern chord charts in the same way. A beginning player that only has the basics down plays it very literally, just using the common, easy forms. But someone with more experience can look at the same chord progression and see many possibilities.

I mostly agree with you...

I would suppose that originally alfabeto was close to moder CAGED system which uses basic open position chord shapes as fererence for everything (including scales and arpeggio patterns). But this is system is more effective for rock/pop/blues guitarists. Many start with it.

But then alfabeto got more developed

And modern chord system still has an abstarct harmony as referece... when we see G7b9 we should see it as dominant chord with flat9, not as chord shape on the fretboard.  (Though surely guitarists may associate this with some shapes too...  but the more advanced they are the less dependent they are on shapes.)

I am not really sure what you mean about alfabeto...  do you want to say that alfabeto sign could be treated as just a harmonic sigh...  like 'I' could be interepreted as A major triad in any shape?

I am asking because to my understanding that would be very similar to modern chord fingures.

I am sure it was possible in simple rasgueado comping for songs, or dances... like they put just the most basic shapes letters and the performer treats it just as harmonic reference and applies any other voicings he knows.

But if we look to Roncalli's or Corbetta's pieces... alfabeto signs there are often connected with certain voicing. .. 

I agree also that guitar is much more about fingering than - for example - piano. Being a beginner we all have to learn chord shapes... and basic level is when we operate them as shapes.

To certain degree this mentatlity may stay forever... if somebody tells me (without any context)...  Play A and D chords: most probably I will immidiately strum A and D shapes in open position.. with no reference to voice-leading...  just like a harmonic sound of function.

But as you compared it with jazz..  I am still convinced it depends much on personal skills and knowledge of the fretboard. I personally noticed that the more I got into it the more my view of teh fretboard changed...  In a while I stopped seeing shapes as shapes...  but began to see as certain notes combinations, i.e.

Besides, considering very exepanded jazz harmonic approach.. almost any chord shape can fit almost any chord.. it depends much on the player and context.

Again surely there are basic shapes...  and also players who stick mostly to them (like partly Joe Pass you mentioned, or early swing players). But there are also plenty of those who see it differently. And it's not about complexity but general musicality, hearing. The mastery is just feel as comfortable with as with piano

By the way check som Peter Bernstein's masterclasses on youtube...  he looks like he is playing shapes, but when he explains - you can see that all these shapes are voicings for him, he chooses them because of it.

Excuse if I interpreted something wrong in your post


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