Monday, December 8, 2014

Top five Things to Do when starting Genealogy Research

Are you just getting started with genealogy research?  If so this blog post will save you a lot of time!

In getting started with genealogy research... here are the TOP FIVE THINGS YOU SHOULD DO!
  1. Get your Elders Tested
  2. Sit down with your Elders with old Photo Albums
  3. Build out your GEDCOM-based Family Tree
  4. Get your raw Ancestry data on
  5. Get your raw Ancestry data on FTDNA
And here are the top five in further detail...

1. Get your Elders Tested

It doesn't matter what DNA service/test you use to get your Elders tested, just get them tested, as soon as you can.  Also, buy the test for them as they may not want or have the money to put out, so you can cut back on the awkwardness and increase the likelihood of them agreeing to take the test, if you just buy it for em... plus you'll administer it so you will be able to access and control the results which is an added benefit.  AncestryDNA, FTDNA and 23andMe or the top DNA testing groups in IMHO. 

Elders - Genealogy

2. Sit down with your Elders with the old Photo Albums

Gather as much information you can from your family.  The best way to do this is to go up into the attic and find those old boxes of photographs and photo albums.

Old Photo Album

3. Build out your GEDCOM-based Family Tree

Build out your tree with software that let's you either import or export the tree based on the GEDCOM exchange model.   Most, if not all of the genealogy websites that support tree building, support the GEDCOM standard. Tree

4. Get your raw data on

Providing you don't have any issues with exposing the finer details of your DNA to everyone, you should get your DNA on, as soon as you can.  At first glance, you'll be confused at best as for what the site does... but if you have a sharp mind and are good at figuring things out, you may end up using this site more often than any of the others.  Consider spending the $10 bucks on getting the additional features that the site has to offer.

5. Get your data on FTDNA

FTDNA also has some wonderful comparison tools such as it's Chromosome Browser.  If you started out with FTDNA you should be good... if you started out with AncestryDNA you can transfer over with a free trial.  I actually paid around $80 to get my AncestryDNA on their with all the features.  It was worth it as I had several matches that were helpful in extending my tree.


Genealogy is best done when there is lots of supporting data. Consider passing on this post to your friends and family... If they all have trees (i.e. GEDcoms), and are on and FTDNA... you will have lots of info to work from and a strong base to begin and continue your analysis.

As always, I hope this blog post has helped!  Good luck with your research!

-- Robert

Friday, November 28, 2014

Tap water vs Bottled water - the taste test

This thanksgiving, I was part of a discussion as to whether one should buy bottled water (based on taste), or should one just settle for tap water as presumably there is no taste difference.

What better way to resolve this debate then to have our family do a water taste test!  With 12 people available from different age groups, we filled 48 cups with 4 brands of water (including tap), and we had our blind taste test.

Waters being tested for Taste

Individually, each tester sat down with four cups of water, without the knowledge of which type was in each cup.  Each tester was asked the following two questions:

  • Which cup of water is your favorite?
  • Which cup of water do you like the least? 

Here are the results:

Blind Product A
(FIJI Water)
Blind Product B
(Niagara Water)
Blind Product C
(Deer Park Water)
Blind Product D
(Tap Water)
Middle Age Favorite Least Liked
Teenager Favorite Least Liked
Middle Age Favorite
Golden Years Favorite Least Liked
Teenager Favorite Least Liked
Teenager Least Liked Favorite
Child Favorite Least Liked
Middle Age Least Liked Favorite
Young Adult Favorite Least Liked
Middle Age Least Liked Favorite
Middle Age Favorite Least Liked
Child Least Liked Favorite

The end results were that the Deer Park brand was most liked and that the local tap water was the least favorite.

So Yes!!!!  People can tell the difference in the taste of water.  So, if you have the extra money to spend... enjoy and drink up that bottled water!

-- Robert

Thursday, November 6, 2014

How to play tone-structured Chords on the Guitar

If you think about it, a guitar is really a chord machine.   So to really master the guitar, one would really need to master chords.

I haven't been a chord expert, so I decided (in this post) to examine how chords are played on the guitar, but in the contexts of chords based on the number of present tones.  For the following example we will be working with the C major scale.

Let's begin!  For starters, there are six string on the guitar, so it's safe to say there could only be six composite types  of chords that could be played, consisting of 1 - 6 unique tones.  Note: A note is a tone plus duration.
  • 1 tone - monad chord
  • 2 tones - dyad chord
  • 3 tones - triad chord
  • 4 tones - tetrad chord
  • 5 tones - pentad chord
  • 6 tones - hexad chord

By definition, chords consist of three or more tones... but I've found exceptions to this rule with monochords and dichords.

The Monad Chord

Monads, a.k.a, monochords are each made up of one tone.

Monad Type Notation (against C) Interval Examples
Tone N/A 1 C


The Dyad Chord

Dyads, a.k.a., dichords, are made up on the root note and any other note in the scale which are plucked or strummed simultaneously.

Dyad Type Notation (against C) Intervals Examples
? ? 1, 3 C E
? ? 1, 4 C F
Power C5 1, 5 C G
? ? 1, 6 C A

 * In standard tuning, the Third Double Stop can be played across the same fret with the 2 & 3 strings. Also in standard tuning  the Forth Double Stop can be played across the same fret with the 1&2, 3&4, 4&5 or 5&6 strings.

The Triad Chord

 Triads, also known as trichords, are made of three tones.  Here are some popular examples.

Triad Type Notation (against C) Intervals Examples
Major C, CM, Cmaj, CΔ 1, 3, 5 C E G
Minor Cm, CM3, Cmin, C- 1, ♭3, 5 C E♭ G
Diminished C°, Cdim, Cm♭5 1, ♭3, ♭5 C E♭ G♭
Augmented C+, Caug, C+5, CM+5, CM♯5 1, 3, ♯5 C E G♯
Flat fifth C♭5 1, 3, ♭5 C E G♭
Suspended second Csus2 1, 2, 5 C D G
Suspended forth Csus4 1, 4, 5 C F G


The Tetrad Chord

Tetrad, also known as tetrachords, are made up of four tones.  Here are some popular examples.

Tetrad Type Notation (against C) Intervals Examples
Diminished seventh C7, Cdim7 1, ♭3, ♭5, ♭♭7 C E G B♭♭
Half-diminished seventh
(minor seventh flat five)
Cø7, Cm75, C−7(5) 1, ♭3, ♭5, ♭7 C E G B
Minor seventh Cm7, Cmin7, C−7, C−7 1, ♭3, 5, ♭7 C E G B
Minor / major seventh Cm(M7), Cm/maj7, C−(j7), C−Δ7, C−M7 1, ♭3, 5, 7 C E G B
Major seventh CM7, Cmaj7, CΔ7, CΔ7, CΔ7, Cj7 1, 3, 5, 7 C E G B
Augmented seventh
(dominant seventh sharp five)
C+7, Caug7, C7+, C7+5, C75 1, 3, ♯5, ♭7 C E G B
Augmented major seventh C+(M7), CM7+5, CM75, C+j7, C+Δ7 1, 3, ♯5, 7 C E G B
Add ninth / add second C2, Cadd9 1, 3, 5, 9 C E G D
Add fourth / add eleventh C4, Cadd11 1, 3, 5, 11 C E G F
Add sixth, C6 1, 3, 5, 6 C E G A
Major sixth CM6, CMaj6 1, 3, 5, 6 C E G A
Minor sixth Cmin6  1, ♭3, 5, 6 C EG A
Dominant seventh C7, C7, Cdom7 1, 3, 5, ♭7 C E G B
Seventh suspended second C7sus2 1, 2, 5, ♭7 C D G B♭
Seventh suspended forth C7sus4 1, 4, 5, ♭7 C F G B♭
Seventh sharp fifth C7♯5,C7+5 1, 3, ♯5, ♭7 C E G♯ B♭
Seventh flat fifth C7♭5,C7-5 1, 3, ♭5, ♭7 C E G♭ B♭
Mixed Third ... ... ...

The Pentad Chord

Pentads, also known as pentachords, are made up of five tones.  Here are some popular examples.

Pentad Type Notation (against C) Intervals Examples
Dominant ninth C9, Cdom9 1, 3, 5, ♭7, 9 C E G B♭ D
Six-nine C6/9 1, 3, 5, 6, 9 C E G A D
Jazz sus C9sus4 1, 4, 5, ♭7, 9 C F G B♭ D
Minor dominant ninth Cm9, C-9, Cmin9 1, ♭3, 5, ♭7, 9 C E♭ G B♭ D
Major ninth Cmaj9, CM9,CΔ9 1, 3, 5, 7, 9 C E G B D
Seventh sharp ninth C7♯9,C7+9 1, 3, ♯5, ♭7, ♯9 C E G♯ B♭ D♯
Seventh flat ninth C7♭9,C7-9 1, 3, 5, ♭7, 9 C E G B♭ D
Minor-major ninth Cmm9, C-m9, Cminmaj9 1, ♭3, 5, 7, 9 C E♭ G B D
Augmented major ninth C+m9, Caugmaj9 1, 3, ♯5, 7, 9 C E G♯ B D
Augmented dominant ninth C+9, C9#5, Caug9 1, 3, ♯5, ♭7, 9 C E G♯ B♭ D
Half-diminished ninth Cø9 1, ♭3, ♭5, ♭7, 9 C E♭ G♭ B♭ D
Half-diminished minor ninth Cø♭9 1, ♭3, ♭5, ♭7, 9 C E♭ G♭ B♭ D♭
Diminished ninth 9, Cdim9 1, ♭3, ♭5, ♭♭7, 9 C E♭ G♭ B♭♭ D
Diminished minor ninth ♭9, Cdim♭9 1, ♭3, ♭5, ♭♭7, ♭9 C E♭ G♭ B♭♭ D♭


The Hexad Chord

Hexads, also known as hexachords, are made up of six tones. Here are some popular examples.

Hexad Type Notation (against C) Intervals Examples
Dominant eleventh Cdom11, C11 1, 3, 5, 7, 9 ,11 C E G B D F
Minor eleventh Cm11 1, 3, 5, 7, 9 ,11 C E G B D F
Major eleventh CM11, Cmaj11 1, 3, 5, 7, 9 ,11 C E G B D F
Minor-Major eleventh CmCM11, C-M11, Cm-11 1, 3, 5, 7, 9 ,11 C E G B D F
Augmented-Major eleventh C+M11 1, 3, ♯5, 7, 9 ,11 C E G♯ B D F
Augmented eleventh C+11, C11♯5 1, 3, ♯5, 7, 9 ,11 C E G♯ B D F
Half-Diminished eleventh Cø11 1, 3, 5, 7, 9 ,11 C E G B D F
Diminished eleventh 11 1, 3, 5, ♭♭7, 9 ,11 C E G B♭♭ D F
Thirteenth suspended forth C13sus4 ... ...

'hope this was helpful.  If you find any errors or omissions, please let me know in the comments section below.

-- Robert


Saturday, November 1, 2014

Attributes of a 2012 Martin D-18 Guitar

I currently own a 2012 Martin D-18 guitar. 

What makes this guitar special is all of the features and attributes that come with it.  This blog post is an image walk-through of what the 2012 Martin D-18 guitar looks like.  I cover the following areas...

  • Manufacturer
  • Model
  • Rosette
  • Construction
  • Neck / Joint
  • Headstock and Nut
  • 2012 D-18- Fretboard
  • Bridge / Saddle / Endpins
  • Tuning Machines
  • Pickguard
  • Case

2012 D-18 Manufacturer

 C.F. Martin & Co. (Est. 1833)


2012 D-18 Model

Model: D-18

2012 D-18 - Rosette

Rosette: Style 18

2012 D-18 - Construction

Body Size: D-14 Fret
Top: Solid Sitka Spruce
Side Material: Solid Genuine Mahogany

 Back Material: Solid Genuine Mahogany

2012 D-18 - Neck / Joint

Neck Material: Select Hardwood
Neck Shape: Modified Low Oval Profile w/ Performing Artist Taper
Construction: Mahogany Blocks/Dovetail Neck Joint

2012 D-18 - Headstock and Nut

Nut Material: Bone
Headstock: Solid/Square Taper
Headplate: Solid East Indian Rosewood

2012 D-18 - Fretboard

Fingerboard Material: Solid Black Ebony
Scale Length: 25.4''
Number of Frets Clear: 14
Number of Frets Total: 20
Fingerboard Width at Nut: 1-3/4''
Fingerboard Width at 12th Fret: 2-1/8''
Fingerboard Position Inlays: Old Style 18
Fingerboard Binding: none

2012 D-18 - Bridge / Saddle / Endpins

Bridge Material: Solid Black Ebony
Bridge Style: 1930s Style Belly w/ Drop-In Saddle
Bridge String Spacing: 2-3/16''
Saddle: 16'' Radius/Compensated/Bone
Bridge & End Pins: Black

2012 D-18 - Tuning Machines

Tuning Machines: Nickel Open-Geared w/ Butterbean Knobs

2012 D-18 - Pickguard

Pickguard: Delmar Tortoise Color

2012 D-18 - Case

Case: 445 Hardshell


2012 D-18 - Miscellaneous

Finish Back & Sides: Polished Gloss
Finish Top: Polished Gloss w/ Aging Toner
Finish Neck: Satin
Top Bracing Pattern: Standard ''X'' Scalloped, Forward Shifted
Top Braces: Solid Sitka Spruce 5/16''
Back Purfling: Style 18
Endpiece Inlay: none
Binding: Tortoise Color
Top Inlay Style: Multiple Black/White Boltaron
Endpiece: Delmar Tortoise Color
Heelcap: Tortoise Color

I hope you enjoyed looking at photos of an authentic D-18 Martin guitar. :)

And just one more time... a full look at the front:

 -- Robert

Also... recommended Strings: Martin Studio Performance Lifespan Phosphor Bronze Medium Gauge (MSP7200)

Determining Eye Color from your Spit

Imagine predicting eye color from spit... would be simply magical wouldn't it?  But guess what, it is possible!!!! ... just takes a while.

How's it done?

Simply, one can have their eye color predicted from their own spit in a few easy steps...

  • Have your spit collected from a company that performs DNA testing such as AncestryDNA.
  • Upload your raw DNA to a website that does the prediction, such as
  • Run the utility and see your results. 

My eye color, vs. GEDMatch prediction

That was the short version... let's look at all three steps in detail...

Step 1 - Collect your spit

AncestryDNA lets you collect your spit and ship it out in a very easy process...

Step 2 - Get your raw DNA and upload it to

Raw AncestryDNA can be easily obtained and uploaded to GEDMatch, as I explain here in Downloading your Raw AncestryDNA Data

Step 3 - Run the "Predict Eye Color" test on GEDMatch

When on the GEDMatch website, you will see a "Predict Eye Color" tool in the Analyze your Data Section.  Click through, enter your GEDMatch ID, and execute the test.  The utility will run your DNA against various rules and will come up with your predicted eye color.  Below are my own results.  My eyes are brown and appears to be a good match.  Job well done GEDMatch!

GEDMatch Eye Color Prediction Example
 Pretty cool, huh?  'wonder what's next, predicting attached or detached earlobes?  Only time will tell.


Alternative Approach

An alternative to getting your eye color predicted from your spit is to simply find a mirror and look into it. The color of your eyes should be apparent.  :) 

-- Robert

Sunday, October 19, 2014

All about Guitar Modes

Having trouble with guitar modes?  I tried to roll up here some information to help master the basics of the modes of the major chord... quickly.  I do this by answering the following questions:
  • What are Modes?
  • What is the History of the Mode Names?
  • How do I Remember the Mode Names?
  • What is the Quality / Style / Feel of each Mode?
  • What are the Mechanics of the Modes?
  • How Learning Modes helps to Play the Guitar

What are modes?

Modes, as defined in the book "Scales &Modes in the Beginning created especially for Guitarists" by Ron MiddleBrook (CenterStream Publications 1982) is as follows:

"A mode if formed simply be taking a scale, such as the 'C' Major scale, and instead of starting on the note C, you start from any other note in the scale an play up to the SAME note an octave higher."

For example, the key of C has seven modes; IONIAN (I, root), DORIAN (II), PHRYGIAN (III), LYDIAN (IV), MIXOLYDIAN (V), AEOLIAN (VI) and LOCRIAN (VII).  Each mode starts at a different degree, but uses the same notes of the major scale:

I   - C D E F G A B C   
II  - . D E F G A B C D 
III - . . E F G A B C D E
IV  - . . . F G A B C D E F
V   - . . . . G A B C D E F G 
VI  - . . . . . A B C D E F G A 
VII - . . . . . . B C D E F G A B

The following image shows how these modes are played on the guitar.... click on the image to enlarge it.

Guitar Modes of the Major Scale
* Note that the Lydian and Phrygian modes have similar patterns so are easy to remember together, as are Locrian and Ionian.

What is the History of the Mode Names?

The name of the modes came from the association of the feel of the musical modes to that which best characterized the different tribes of ancient times.    The exact history is spotty at best, and I believe most attempts for the layman to figure out a direct relationship here is impossible. 

Ancient people, tribes and kingdoms

How do I Remember the Mode Names?

Consider using an acrostic to help memorize the mode names. An acrostic is a poem in which the first letter, syllable or word of each line spells out a word or a message.  For example, the G-Clef sequence of music EGBDF can be remember with an acrostic: (E)very (G)ood (B)oy (D)oes (F)ine... or as my childhood music teach taught us (E)lectric (G)reen (B)ananas (D)on't (F)ly.  Similarly, we can use Acrostics to remember the modes.  Here are some mode-related acrostics I have found on the internet:

Ionian Dorian Phrygian Lydian Mixolydian Aeolian Locrian
1 I Do Play Lovely Music At Lighthouses
2 I Don't Play Loud Music After Lunch
3 If Dora Plays Like Me All's Lost
4 I Don't Play Like My Aunt Lucy
5 I Don't Play Like Mr. Alex Lifeson
6 I Don't Play Like Mike And Larry
7 I Don't Play Like Malmsteen And Laiho
8 Ike Did Presidential Life Majestically And Loyally
9 I Don't Particularly Like Modes A Lot
10 I Doubt Phyllis Likes Mustard And Lettuce

What is the Quality / Style / Feel of each Mode?

Each mode has a different feel.  The modes are listed here in the bright-to-dark order (thanks to JonPR for demonstration this in the acoustics guitar forum).   

Mode Type Quality Style
Lydian (IV) Major Airy, Dreamy, Floating, Anticipation, Happy * Jazz, Fusion, Rock, Country
Ionian (I) Major Bright, Happy, Upbeat Rock, Country, Jazz, Fusion
Mixolydian (V) Major Bluesy, Angelical, of Youth, uniting pleasure and sadness Blues, Country, Rockabilly, and Rock, Celtic
Dorian (II) Mountain Minor Minor Jazzy feel, Jazzy, Sophisticated, Soulful, Serious Jazz, Fusion, Blues, and Rock
Aeolian (VI) Natural/Classic Minor Sad, Sorrowful, somber, unhappy Pop, Blues, Rock, Heavy Metal, Country, Fusion, Folk
Phrygian (III) Minor Spanish Flavor, Flamenco-esque, Mystic, Vehement, Inciting anger Flamenco, Fusion, Speed Metal
Locrian (VII) Half-Diminished Dark, Sinister, Tension, Wanting to Resolve Jazz, Fusion

* Some of the quality and style descriptions provided here have been discovered by reading GUITAR LESSON WORLD - MODES by Patrick MacFalane.

Here is a look at JonPR's table with a few enhancements... e.g., I added the relative key column to the left, bolded the notes when they are changed and added the frequency of the notes to help visually what is being heard.  This table shows how the next mode is reached by lowering one note for each mode down.

B E LYDIAN E . F# . G# . A# B . C# . D# E major w/ #4
E E IONIAN E . F# . G# A . B . C# . D# E major
A E MIXOLYDIAN E . F# . G# A . B . C# D . E major w/ b7
D E DORIAN E . F# G . A . B . C# D . E minor w/ maj6
G E AEOLIAN E . F# G . A . B C . D . E minor
C E PHRYGIAN E F . G . A . B C . D . E minor w/ b2
F E LOCRIAN E F . G . A Bb . C . D . E minor w/ b5 & b2
Freq. in Hz 82.4 87.3 92.5 98 103.8 110 116.5 123.4 130.8 138.5 146.8 155.5 164.8

What are the Mechanics of the Modes?

The mechanics are slightly different for each mode.

Mode Degree Note Interval Formula
Ionian I Do 1-1-½-1-1-1-½ Root -2-3-4-5-6-7-Octave
Dorian II Re 1-½-1-1-1-½-1 Root-2-♭3-4-5-6-♭7-Octave
Phrygian III Mi ½-1-1-1-½-1-1 Root-♭2-♭3-4-5-♭6-♭7-Octave
Lydian IV Fa 1-1-1-½-1-1-½ Root-2-3-#4-5-6-7-Octave
Mixolydian V Sol 1-1-½-1-1-½-1 Root-2-3-4-5-6-♭7-Octave
Aeolian VI La 1-½-1-1-½-1-1 Root-2-♭3-4-5-♭6-♭7-Octave
Locrian VII Ti ½-1-1-½-1-1-1 Root-♭2-♭3-4-♭5-♭6-♭7-Octave

UPDATE: How Learning Modes Helps to Play the Guitar

Steve asks, "...Would you care to expand on how learning modes has actually helped you (play guitar)?", relative to a post I put up at the acoustic guitar forum:

I have tried to answer this question of how learning modes have helped me play guitar in this video.

I hope this helps you learn modes as the info has helped me. Check out the Acoustic Guitar Forum for more discussions on modes!

-- Robert

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

ImageCompare of the Absecon Lighthouse

Here is an ImageCompare (PrimeFaces) feature of the Absecon Lighthouse

And this is how it's done:

<iframe height="720" src="" width="560"></iframe>


       width="550" height="700"/>   

-- Robert