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jun 23 – Live long and Prosper

. . . translated from the Yiddish by Leonard Nimoy.

Sing songs that last. Sing the old songs.

This morning I woke up and decided to try and become a blogger. Actually that is what I do every other week. I create a theme for the Pickers Circle to try and guide our efforts to make some music. So this week the focus is on songs that we hope will last. And I will try and add a few paragraphs to this blog every day instead of every week.

Why Blog? Because that requires the discipline of recorded thought. A long life and prosperity are the result of thought and effort. Putting thought into written form is the traditional way to prove you can think or to discover what you really think. As we get older physical and mental tasks become more difficult and it seems to me that attention to both is important to a longer life. It also seems to me that a blog is better than a rant and may save a lot of tedious introduction to simple songs.

People occasionally remark that, “live long and prosper”, is easy to say yet hard to accomplish. Some say you have to be lucky or talented. The yoga guru B.K.S. Iyengar wrote in Light on Yoga, that all that is required to become enlightened is a folded blanket and some persistence. Yoga asanas are prayers for flexibility, strength and balance. For the persistent these prayers are answered. Much the same can be said of playing a guitar. All you really need is an instrument and some persistence. Everything else is sacrifice and sweat.

So as I turn 75 this month I will attempt to record some thoughts each day that I hope will help me to become a little better at everything I do for as long as I can manage to stay focused. You are not dead until you quit moving.

9 Jun – Talk about Tab

Lets’s play from Tab. What is your favorite Tab? How do you read Tab?

Two circle ago I was listening to John and Alan talk about slowing down the difficult parts in order to make the music possible. I was struck by the realization that the reason I have so much trouble with some of my efforts is that I play too fast. Since then I’ve reconnected with the TAB and my metronome.

Here are two different transcriptions of the Bouree from the Lute Suite in E-minor.

This music is intermediate level classical guitar. It has no really difficult stretches and not many bar positions. What is does seem to require is four working fingers on your left hand and a basic idea of how fingers relate to strings on the right hand. i, m, a play the high strings. T the thumb plays the three bottom, thicker, strings.

The key to playing this appears to be using a consistent fingering with the left hand. It is interesting to compare bars 8,12 and 14 which are marked in red. There are several ways to get the same notes on the guitar. I was given only the standard notation by my first teacher. I think the idea was that I should learn a bar or two at each lesson. That is not unreasonable but it would become expensive and I would have been forced to create my own tablature just to adequately record what I was being taught.

Most people should be able to learn a bar a day. This might take several hours but I’ve always thought it worthwhile.

Here are the TABs for The Entertainer and Spanish Romance contributed by Thomas Matheson.

Spanish Romance is about 29 min into the video above.

May 26 – Bob Dylan

Well here I am late again for those of you hoping for an early theme at the Wednesday circle.   Were here to make music and so far that has worked out pretty well.  Anyway it is Bob Dylan’s birthday this week so for those who have not made up their mind that gives you at least 500 songs to choose from.  Hope to see you Wednesday.
Here are the highlights of the session:
https://youtu.be/IBfDNDbJSws

As you know I have been recording most of what I hear in Zoom sessions and I frequently attempt to play along – muted, uninvited, so  pretty much harmless, nobody has to know what I’m playing.   Now with Sonobus we can record the output of a Zoom session AND my playing along apparently in sync.   This means that my setup of Zoom and Sonobus is sufficient to support vocal harmony and small groups playing instruments.  I’ll keep everyone up to day on my progress and I hope to manage a decent comp that I can playback for the circle. 

Stream Online

Streaming Online Real-Time Jam Sessions Into Zoom Video Conferencing

By John Lyon

Deep Cove, North Vancouver, BC

Last Updated 30 April 2021

Before You Start

The concept of ‘signal chain’ is key to understanding and setting up these software interfaces. Conceptually, it’s similar to ruuning wires from your stage microphone, to your mixer, setting the levels, tone controls, and signal processing (reverb, compression, etc.), and running wires to your amp or your powered speakers. On your computer you need to run the signal from your microphone, to your USB audio interface, into your computer, and then into your online jamming software, then into a connecting ‘virtual’ device called Blackhole, then into Zoom, and from Zoom back out to your headphones. Keep this in mind as you study the processes described below.

Please note that this document focuses on the Mac computer, not Windows or Linux. While I know that everything described here can be done on these other platforms, I have only minimal experience with them.

Update 30 April 2021: I started learning by first installing and using the JackTrip online jamming software developed at the Stanford Centre For Computer Music and Acoustics (CCRMA). Since I have recently also been testing Jamulus and Sonobus streaming into Zoom, please note that the procedure I describe for streaming JackTrip into Zoom on the Mac is somewhat different than the procedure required for streaming Jamulus aned Sonobus. The difference to note is that JackTrip to Zoom requires that you create an ‘Aggregate Audio device’ using the ‘Audio MIDI Setup’ app which comes with your Mac, while Jamulus and Sonobus streaming into Zoom require that you create a ‘Stacked Audio Device’, and they do not require that you run the QJackCtl command on the Mac. This has been a ‘gotcha’ for me at times since I often switch between all three online jamming apps, and when I forget to switch between the ‘Aggregate’ device (JackTrip) and the ‘Stacked’ device (Jamulus and Sonobus), streaming into Zoom doesn’t work. If you only use one online jamming package, you can make the proper device your ‘default’ audio device, and indicate the ‘default’ device when setting up your online jamming software and Zoom. Because I switch between these apps, I have to explicitly set the audio devices every time.

This document describes the steps required to integrate Zoom and online jamming software JackTrip (with additions covering Jamulus and Sonobus), so that the low-latency audio stream from a JackTrip session, either peer-to-peer between two users, or Hub-client, with more than two users could be heard in real-time by all viewers of a Zoom session. This document is for Mac users, as I haven’t done the JackTrip/Zoom integration on Windows. It assumes you have already watched Jan Stoltenberg’s YouTube tutorial videos explaing how to install, set up and run qjackctl and JackTrip (see below for links), or better than the text version of JackTrip, you are using Aaaron Wyatt’s GUI version of JackTrip, QJackTrip (see below for links).

1. Follow either Jan Stoltenberg’s excellent YouTube tutorial series on setting up JackTrip on your Mac, or Synthia Cynthia Paine’s fine series of YouTube videos on setting up JackTrip on Windows 10.

Mac: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Bn2xUupww3E&list=PLOwImupx7XmMcUlDusRKLX6qGAKym28To

and Windows:

The last two YouTube videos in Jan Stoltenberg’s presentation cover:

  1.  The integration of JackTrip online jamming software with a Digital Audio Workstation (DAW), in this case Ableton Live, but, using the same instructions, I was able to stream JackTrip audio signals into Logic Pro X on my Mac
  2. The integration of a JackTrip low-latency audio stream into a session of the Zoom video conferencing software.

This document is a step-by-step summary of the process of setting up both the JACK Audio Connection Kit (JACK), Qjackctl, Jacktrip, Qjacktrip, and the Zoom app on the my Mac Mini, and streaming the Jamulus and Sonobus online jamming software into Zoom.

Step 1:

You will need to install the Blackhole Virtual Audio device on your Mac. It works on even the newest version of Mac OS, Big Sur. See Jan Stoltenberg’s last two JackTrip tutorials for instructions.

Episode 4.1:

Episode 4.2:

The Blackhole download site is here: https://existential.audio/blackhole/

[News Flash: From the Blackhole web site, March, 2021: If you are using a multi-output device, due to issues with macOS a 2ch audio driver must be enabled and listed as the top device in the Multi-Output. This was a problem for me as I was experimenting with the 4-channel Behringer U-Phorria UMC404HD USB audio interface and I could not determine why it simply wasn’t working with Blackhole)

Figure 1. QJackCtl ‘Setup’ Window. Usually the Sample Rate and Frame/Period are the only two settings you need to change. In the ‘Advanced’ window you can also change the number of channels (Channel 1/O) to add the extra channels needed by the Blackhole virtual audio device.

Figure 2. The QJackCtl ‘Setup’, ‘Advanced’ window. Here you add the extra audio channels needed by the Blackhole virual audio device.

Run the Qjackctl software. In the ‘Setup’ window, set the ‘Sample Rae’ to 48000, and the ‘Frames/Period’ to an agreed size. I am using 128, which may need to be higher if you have a slower internet bandwidth/speed. In the ‘Advanced’ section of the QJackCtl ‘Setup’ Window, set the number of channels to match either the 2 or the 16 extra input and output channels provided by the Blackhole software (depending on which version of Blackhole you downloaded and installed. I have installed both the 2 channel and the 16 channel Blackhole virtual audio devices). In my case, my USB audio interface (an Apogee Duet) provides 2 inputs and 4 outpus (stereo speakers and headphones) so I have 4 input channes (2 + 2 Blackhole channels) and 6 output channels (4 + 2 Blackhole channels).

The original JackTrip app on the Mac, Windows, and Linux is a command-line app, harkening back to the days of MS-DOS (no graphics). To run the text version, you need to open a Terminal. On your Mac, you find the Terminal app in the Utilities sub-folder in the Applications folder. If this is strange and off-putting, I suggest you download and install Aaron Wyatt’s new GUI version of JackTrip, ‘QJackTrip’ (you can find QjackTrip here: https://www.psi-borg.org/other-dev.html).

Here is what I did to test JackTrip and Zoom working together. Use QjackTrip to log onto the test server at The Stanford Center for Computer Research in Music and Acoustics (CCRMA). (JackTrip was developed at Stanford CCRMA and there is lots of useful information on their web site about JackTrip). The IP address for 128 Frames/Period is 171.64.197.199. It’s a Hub Server so you need to be a Hub Client. The command line test would be: ‘jacktrip -C 171.64.197.199’ if you have more than one microphone, set the number of channels to match, e.g. ‘-n2’ for two channels. Make sure you are listening with headphones or earbuds. If you’ve done everything right, you should hear the sound of clapping, looped and repeated endlessly. If this is not making sense, go watch the whole tutorial series on JackTrip on the Mac by Jan Stoltenberg. It’s remarkably clear and straightforward. Quite short too.

If you have installed Blackhole, and set up a new Aggregate Device in the ‘Audio Midi Setup’ window on the Mac. Zoom will use a couple of the extra channels provided by Blackhole, and each extra JackTrip user will connect to these same two extra Blackhole channels used by Zoom. Windows users can watch the Windows JackTrip tutorials made by Synthia/Cynthia Payne found here: https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PL1PiOF-Vo5KA-xxBue6BjdrEQAXOzDlNM

Now you have to make sure that Zoom is connected to JACK in the Qjackctl ‘Connect’ window. By default Zoom will use the 2 playback channels above the 4 output channels taken up by my USB audio interface (your USB audio interface may only have 2 output channels—or it may have more). So highlight the receive channel on the left hand side of the ‘Connect’ window, the one coming from the Stanford server, and coonect it to playback channels 5 and 6 (in my case), while at the same time connecting to playback channnels 1 and 2 (on the USB interface). Connect channels 3 and 4 in my case (the headphone playback channels). See Figure 3 below.

Figure 4. The QJackCtl ‘Connections’ window, with the audio coming from my JackTrip server hooked into playback channels 5 and 6, the 2 Blackhole audio channels. Channels 5 and 6 will connect JackTrip to the input channels in in Zoom.

In Zoom

In Zoom, set up a new meeting or join a meeting. Choose to ‘Join With Computer Audio’. In the Zoom ‘Settings’, ‘Audio’, for ‘Speaker’, choose your USB audo interface. For ‘Microphone’, choose ‘Blackhole 2 channel’. Under ‘Music and Professional Audio’, tick the box for ‘Show in-meeting option to ‘Enable Original Sound’ from microphone’ so as to avoid using the sound tweaking and compression built into Zoom. Finally, go to the upper left-hand corner of the Zoom window and click the button ‘Turn On Original Sound’. If you have a stereo JackTrip signal coming in, you can use the Qjackctl ‘Connect’ window to route your left-hand ‘Receive’ signal to both your USB audio interface channel 1, and your Zoom audio interface channel 5 (that’s channel 5 for me. For you, it may be channel 3. It will be the first channel number above the channels in your USB audio interface. Do the same for your right-hand stereo signal ‘Receive’ channel 2, your ‘playback’ channel 2 and ‘playback’ channel 6 (or channel 4; see above). If your audio interface is stereo (for example, I have 2 microphones, one for guitar and one for voice) in your Zoom Preferences, go to Audio and down near the bottom, click on the ‘Stereo Audio’ tick box.

Remember that on the upper left corner of your Zoom window, you want to see ‘Original Sound Off’. That means that your original sound has been turned on. I know, it’s confusing.

If in doubt of any of this, go listen to Jan Stoltenberg’s tutorial on integrating Zoom and JackTrip. And if you haven’t yet, watch his whole series of short YouTube videos. They are essential to solidify your understanding of how to make all this work. And I can’t help but think they are brillient examples of clear teaching.

Figure 5. Here is a Zoom meeting showing the Audio Settings. Notice that my ‘microphone’ is the 2-channel Blackhole virtual audio device. Output is my USB audio interface, an Apogee Duet.

Jamulus and Zoom

Jamulus can be streamed itno Zoom too, but doesn’t require the QJackCtl app or the Aggregate device you need with JackTrip.

Open the Mac ‘Audio MIDI Setup’ app. Create a ‘Multi-layer Device’ NOT an Aggregate Device – don’t ask me why at this point) that includes both your audfio interface (e.g. USB mic or headset, Forcusrite Scarlett or in my case Apogee Duet) AND your Blachole 2-channel input and 2-channel output (or 16-channel input and output) Virtual Device, as described in Jan Stoltenberg’s tutorials on JackTrip and Recording DAWs and JackTrip and Zoom (see https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qp_8sM7uG00 ). Stoltenberg tells you to use an Aggregate Devive, which is correct for JackTrip. However, Jamulus seems to require a stacked Multi-layer Device.

Figure 6. The ‘Audio Devices’ window from my Mac ‘Audio MIDI Setup’ app, showing the stacked Multi-Output Device I created, ‘USB Duet + Blackhole 2ch’ highlighted. Right-click on this device to make it the default audio device. If you are using JackTrip (as I am), you must create an ‘Aggregate Audio Device’. I called mine ‘Agg. Duet + Blackhole 2ch’ and as you see from the icons it is my default audio device.

In Jamulus, open the ‘Settings’ window by pressing the ‘Settings’ button. You can use the default system input and output devices if you have your stacked Multi-layer device set as your default device. Or you can set ‘input device’ to your USB audio interface (e.g. Focusrite) and set ‘output device’ to your Blackhole 16-channel or 2-channel device. Lately I’ve been using the 2-channel Blackhole device for simplicity).

In Jamulus, make sure no one you want to record is muted. See the image below.

Figure 7. The Jamulus app with the ‘Settings’ window opened. Note that my ‘Device’ is set as follows” ‘in’ Duet USB, my audio device, and ‘out’ Blackhole 2ch. This will connect Jamuls to the Zoom app.

Sonobus and Zoom

The Sonobus-to-Zoom setup is pretty much the same as the Jamulus setup described above.

On the Mac, open the‘Audio MIDI Setup’ app. Create a ‘Multi-layer Device’ NOT an Aggregate Device – don’t ask me why at this point) that includes both your audfio interface (e.g. Forcusrite Scarlett or in my case Apogee Duet) AND your Blachole 2-channel input and 2-channel output (or 16-channel input and output) Virtual Device, as described in Jan Stoltenberg’s tutorials on JackTrip and Recording DAWs and JackTrip and Zoom (see https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qp_8sM7uG00 ). Stoltenberg tells you to use an Aggregate Devive, which is correct for JackTrip. However, Sonobus and Jamulus require a stacked Multi-layer Device.

In Sonobus, on the Mac, go the Sonobus menu item at the top of the screen (next to the apple icon). On Windows and Linux, click on the ‘File’ menu item) Click on the ‘Show Options’ menu item (the first one) to open the AUDIO OPTIONS RECORDING window. You can use the default system input and output devices if you have your stacked Multi-layer device set as your default device. Or you can set ‘input device’ to your USB audio interface (e.g. Focusrite or your USB microphone or USB headset) and set ‘output device’ to your Blackhole 2-channel or 16-channel device. Lately I’ve been using the ‘USB Duet + 2-channel Blackhole’ device for simplicity). Make sure no one you want to record is muted in Sonobus. See the image below.

Figure 8. Sonobus with the Audio Setup screen open showing the input as my USB audio device (yours will likely be different) and the output as the Blackhole 2-channel virtual audio device. This is what will carry the audio from Sonobus to Zoom.

Bonus Section

Logic Pro into Zoom

In Logic Pro the trick is to set your USB audio interface as the ‘input’ on your tracks, and the Blackhole 2-channel device as your output. In Zoom the Blackhole 2-channel device becomes your ‘microphone’ and your USB device becomes your ‘speaker’. The main reason for doing this is to be able to use all of the signal processing power of Logic Pro, plus even use pre-recorded tracks, e.g. drum or bass tracks or Band-in-a-box tracks.

Band-In-A-Box to Zoom?

I haven’t tried it yet, but why not?

Transcribe! Audio Player to Zoom

Transcribe! By Seventh String Software is a musician’s music player optimized for learning and transcribing music. It allows you to change speed of the music without changing pitch, or change the pitch of the music. It allows for selecting and looping any section of the music. Many music books have been written with the author using ‘Transcribe!’ to make perfect musical texts of recorded songs.

I tested this and it works, but ‘Transcribe!’ seems to like to work at a 44,100 sample rate, whereas JackTrip default is 48,000. When I reset JackTrip to a sample rate of 44,100, I could output music from ‘transcribe!’ to Zoom using the Blackhole 2-channel virtual audio device.

Playing Together Apr 28

John Lyon has kindly offered to show us a live demonstration of how to run an online session with multiple performers in different locations. After that discussion we can continue with the blues.

Thomas has passed me a link to a very polished presentation that shows what can be done with sufficient time, effort and dedication.

.https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nNj7LyHqwFE

Most of this is serial composition. Only a few portions have more than one person singing so the amount of synchronization is manageable.

The 12 Bar Blues

A A A A       1  2  3  4      1 1 1 1       
D D A A       5  6  7  8      4 4 1 1       
E D A E       9 10 11 12      5 4 1 5      


Each symbol in the chart above is a whole bar of music. You
may count it One two three four, Two two three four … Twelve two three four.

The first block is the chord to play, the second block is the
bar number and the third block is the Nashville Number of the chord. You may use block three to play in some other key.


The fourth block is a mnemonic that may help you remember
block three.


You can play along by just looking at the first block

Double tracks and overdubs

People who have an interest in performing guitar music should know about the phenomenon called double tracking. This is simply the re-recording of a passage on another track of the composite production. The original and the second cut become the left and right channel of a stereo recording.

Our recent effort at the blues gave us a great set of highlights that we can all either double track or overdub. The blues is a perfect medium for improvisation using the recording of another artist. Your challenge is to listen to the recording from last circle and when it is your turn either:

1. Lay down a track for others to work on.

2 Double track the passage. That is try to reproduce it perfectly. This may only be possible for your own work.

3. Improvise a lead line or additional accompaniment over the track you are hearing.

We are recording the entire session so this will give me the material I need to produce the appearance of pickers playing with pickers. Hope you have fun.

Blues Again

Here is a video lesson on the basics of the blues.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0iZGQDNA7qI   This is a three minute video of the 8 bar blues. 

 
We started with 12 bar blues last time we had a blues theme and my understanding was and is very basic.If you know what a 1 4 5 progression in major chords means you can play any 12 bar blues as follows:1 1 1 1      for the first 4 bars   4  4   1  1  for the second 4 bars  and either  5  4  1  5   for a turnaround or 5  4 1  1   to finish the song.   The “rule of 41” means   1111   4411   5  41 5  and helps to remember the pattern.


Since then I’ve learned that most blues are played with a dominant 7th chord which just means a major 7th with a flat 7th.Stoo pointed out at out last session that jazz chords like  the 9th, 11th, and 13th  are all built on top of the dominant 7th.


We can take the basic 12 bar pattern and just play all 7th chords or we can play any mixture of major triads and dominant 7th chords.   I like the basic pattern because if you vary the right hand technique you can amuse yourself for hours just running the numbers, strumming and playing arpeggios.  We can even Jazz it up by introducing 9th chords.   The variations are endless and I’m learning something every day.


So what can we learn from the video?  First, 8 Bar is another common form.   This is useful as a basis for practicing chords and right hand technique.  It can also be used for song writing and for improvised performances.  Second it is a very good example of what I’m looking for as video footage for instruction.  Third it introduces some interesting chords both the 7th and 9th.   The shapes are basic I’m sure most of us know them.

The progression is just 1 5 4 4 for the first line followed by 1 5 1 5 for the second line with 1 5 1 1 to finish. The video uses A7 for 1, and D9,E9 for 4 and 5 but you can use plain ole major triads A D and E and it will still sound OK.


When we started this adventure I was trying to produce both workshop and performance videos.   I ran out of time.   These days the video focus is on performance.  That way we can all track improvements.   If anyone would like to offer a workshop please let me know off line and we can create the workshop video apart from the regular circle then we can share the workshop with the circle and have a brief Q&A.  This is pretty much the format we had with Stoo’s excellent workshop on non-standard tunings.

Jazz it up

Mar 10 7pm – 9 pm

The main reason for having a Theme for a circle is to give us something to talk about in our introductions to the music we play.  We don’t need to exactly follow a pattern.   We can have folks at a songwriters circle talk about why they don’t write songs.   The idea is simply to indicate a path in the direction of more and better music.
I was at a Foothills Acoustic Music event the other day that had a fine set of workshops delivered by very experienced musicians.  Barry Truter was there and talked about rhythms.  4/4, 3/4, 7/4,  5/4.   Another presentation was about adding color to your chords.   We learned about add 9s and suspended 4ths.   
What we heard was just what you hear every time you listen to a good folk or country performance.   Those hammers and pulls all have technical names.   The names are only handy if you need to change the key and when you want to talk about what you are playing.  Otherwise feel free to  play any note/fret that you can reach  that sounds good.  That is how most of us learned to play.   We were told to just use a basic grip then see what works.  This is very good advice and I really enjoyed the presentation.

Some thoughts on Theme and Genre

Thomas is blue. Charles is green.

Hello Charles.        I have been rethinking your suggestions for a theme for the next meeting. I was ok with classical and Jazz. But what about people who haven’t been into classical, and have nothing to present? Would they feel excluded, and possibly even choose to skip the evening? It takes me back to the evening which was supposed to be bluegrass, and although I don’t play bluegrass, I coped by suggesting that two main themes of bluegrass are “coal mining” and “moonshine liquor”.

I’m hoping that folks who might not care to participate in a particular genre or theme will still come to listen and perhaps hear something they can use for future circles.

        The thought came to me that bluegrass, like classical and jazz, is a genre, not a theme. But then the thought also came to me that “theme” for guitar pickers means something different than for folksingers. So maybe specifying the genre is appropriate in this context, but there is still room for caution.

         Of course, there is always the debate as to whether to have a theme at all. The only difference between a song circle and an open stage is that your 3 songs are spread out over the evening instead of all at once. We wouldn’t suggest to people performing at an open stage that there is a particular theme for the evening. On the other hand, one advantage of having a theme in a picker’s circle is that it opens up the evening to more than just the songs that are being performed. We get into exploration of the given genre which can lead to some useful insights. I wonder if this should be put to the whole gang for discussion.

Thomas

This discussion goes to the issue of what are we doing here. My reason for hosting a Pickers circle was to improve my playing and to provide a forum for others to do the same. That was in response to a suggestion that we do something for beginners. I’m amazed at the quality of players who have showed up to help out. We must be doing something right.

Garth has suggested a number of other possibilities:

More blues, Celtic , roots, funny , hurt in’, prine,Dylan,Emmy Lou Harris,Beatles  ,sad ,old,happy so we have lots of things to do.

The You tube channel and the website give us the opportunity to build a resource for interested players. I’ve found that most of the learning is done creating the lesson plan. Explaining things to others makes us careful and leaving our work on the web is an incentive to continuous improvement.

My current thought is that we should move to Jazz and Classical guitar for a couple of sessions then circle back to blues and roots. If we are responsive to suggestions we can stay relevant to our audience. If we can improve on past workshops we may create a lasting resource for new performers.

Please email me or add comments to this post.

Writing a song

Feb 24 – 4pm – 6pm

A place to Start

  • The words should scan and rhyme
  • A common pattern is often useful – eg 12 bar blues
  • Cheerful songs – you can write in C – the white keys
  • Sad songs – write in Am – Still the white keys just start on A
  • The chord scale is C – Dm – Em – F – G – Am -Bdim.

What else can you add?