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Beginning Ska

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What is ska? Edit

Ska is a type of music combining elements of calypso and jazz and blues. A ska band generally consists of Vocals, Guitar, Bass, Trumpet, Trombone, Saxophones, and sometimes a Piano.

Ska GuitarEdit

In most cases, ska guitarists play rhythm nearly exclusively. The most noticeable thing about these rhythms, and what sets them apart from rhythms in other styles of music is that the accent is on the offbeat creating a different tone that is not seen in other genres. Because of this, in order to play ska, it is paramount to be able to play as well on the upstroke as on the down. One very interesting method for playing ska guitar is to play in double-time (twice as fast as the rest of the band).

Accent On the OffbeatEdit

If you aren't very good at playing upstrokes at this point, I would try this exercise to get better: Start with a down stroke for the first scratch then just continue with a down-up-down-up pattern.

   d u d u d u d u 
E--x-5-5-x-x-5-x-5----
B--x-5-5-x-x-5-x-5----
G--x-6-6-x-x-6-x-6----  Repeat as many times as you want
D--x-7-7-x-x-7-x-7----  Work on this until you can play it fairly fast,
A--x-7-7-x-x-7-x-7----  then begin mixing in different chords.
E--x-5-7-x-x-5-x-5----

Basic Chord ShapesEdit

One excellent thing about ska, is that to play it, you don't need to know a ton of chords. You do need to know the basic major and minor, root 6 and 5 chords, also known as barre chords. The note in that shape with the asterisk next to it is the root. Wherever you are on the fretboard, the note of the root is the name of the chord.

       Root 6 Major         Root 6 Minor         Root 5 Major         Root 5 Minor
       - - - - - -          - - - - - -          - - - - - -          - - - - - -
      *x x x x x x (Barre) *x x x x x x          -*x x x x x          -*x x x x x
       - - - x - -          - - - - - -          - - - - - -          - - - - x -
       - x x - - -          - x x - - -          - - x x x -          - - x x - -
       - - - - - -          - - - - - -          - - - - - -          - - - - - - 
       - - - - - -          - - - - - -          - - - - - -          - - - - - -

Here are the same chords tabbed out. I spaced them out so you can get the fingerings.

   A Major (A)        A Minor (Am)
E---------------5-------------5-------------
B-------------5-------------5---------------
G-----------6-------------5-----------------
D---------7-------------7-------------------
A-------7-------------7---------------------
E-----5-------------5-----------------------
      i r p m i i   i r p i i i
   D Major (D)        D Minor (Dm)
E-------------x------------5----------------
B-----------7------------6------------------
G---------7------------7--------------------
D-------7------------7----------------------
A-----5------------5------------------------
E-------------------------------------------
      i r r r i    i r r m i

Ska Chord VoicingsEdit

Also, you can just play the 3 highest notes of a chord in your ska progressions. Like:

       Root 6 Major         Root 6 Minor         Root 5 Major         Root 5 Minor
       - - - - - -          - - - - - -          - - - - - -          - - - - - -
       - - - - x x          - - - x x x          - - - - - x          - - - - - x
       - - - x - -          - - - - - -          - - - - - -          - - - - x -
       - - - - - -          - - - - - -          - - - x x -          - - - x - -
       - - - - - -          - - - - - -          - - - - - -          - - - - - -

You can also move the open D shape up and down the fretboard.

       Open D
       - - - - - -
       - - - x - x
       - - - -*x -
       - - - - - -
       - - - - - -

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