Thursday, December 15, 2011

A Song for your Seasonal pleasure

cover art: Gary O'Brien

I just wanted to take a minute to wish all of you a very Merry Christmas or Happy Holidays - whatever your preference : ) This time of year, it is good to share with those around you some good vibes. So through the magic of the interwebs here are my best 1's and 0's to you and yours.

Each year, a local studio puts out a Christmas CD called "Figgy Pudding". It is a fun-filled project with lots of different contributors - of which I am one. Here is my track from this year's CD. It is a rendition (an extremely loose one!) of Jingle Bells ... We titled it "Slay Ride". It's on my myspace page so head over and give it a listen:

The song features Rahlen Sullaphen on bass, Rob Brown on the kit for your smashing pleasure. Two wonderfully skilled players whom I have the privilege of working with. Thanks boys!

A Merry Christmas to all!

Friday, December 9, 2011

Rhythm Trainer

Some rights reserved by kamalaboulhosn

I wanted to share with you all a rhythm trainer I created for myself.

What is it?
It is a small audio file for you to use or click here to download. The file contains a drum click type track which moves you through the even breakdowns of a beat up to a 32nd note (Quarters, then eighths, triplets, 16ths, sextuplets, 32nds). There are 2 bars of each. I didn't put in odd numbers (5's or 7's) as I wanted to make this accessible for everybody.

The idea is to play back the sound file on a loop setting in your audio application. You can practice scales, arpeggios, improvs, whatever you choose, along with the click. I personally use an App called Transcribe! which allows me to slow it down or speed it up, it also has a gradual speed increase feature which is super handy.

Working on rhythm is probably the most important thing you can do for your playing. No matter your level. You can get away with almost any note if it is solidly placed in time. So working on this should be a regular part of your routine.

So have at it and enjoy!

Rhythm trainer by Jeremy_green

Monday, December 5, 2011

The Blues - get you some!!

Copyright All rights reserved by bastet in the sky with diamonds

This post was written in response to a thread on one of the forums I frequent. The topic was that the Blues are harder than some players think. I COMPLETELY agree with this. Below is my post and I thought it came out pretty succinctly. So I thought I would share with y'all:

As a youngin I grew up in the birthplace and blossoming of shred - late 70's early eighties and beyond was where my awareness of guitar was born. So I spent most of my formative years learning to shred with EVH and Randy Rhoads, Vai, Malsteen, Satch, Gilbert, Eric Johnson - and grew VERY technically proficient fast. I remember listening to the blues and thinking ... "pffft! That's way too simple, it's boring".

Before long... actually it was quite long, but in the grand scheme, not really... I uncovered the link between it (blues) and most of the hard rock I was playing... I learned that it was the father and grandfather of all these genres that I loved. Players like SRV, who could shred in their own right, drew me in to investigate more. The more I learned the more I realized that is a DEEP genre filled with subtlety and really a different brand of "shred".

Today I have a GREAT respect for it. Not because I am older and sentimental but because I now truly understand it's complexities. It makes me laugh when I hear youngins or player says "I hate the blues" meanwhile MOST of the stuff they play was born there. So I am glad to hear when players start 'getting it'. They are going through the awakening I had.

Learning the Blues was a HUGE leap forward in my rock playing abilities. More-so, learning to respect it and study it opened my eyes to a great many things. It is NOT a simple genre just cause you can play the notes. Playing it well is an art form and few bands really have it down. Sure they THINK they do - just as I thought I did.

I really believe if you want to learn to solo well, you need to spend some quality time getting the blues under your fingers. Not just the cliche licks, but the whole trip - MOSTLY the harmonic understanding (chords, substitutions, turnarounds, forms, Major(dominant) and minor, scale forms and strong resolve points). This stuff gets into your playing in the larger picture.

Above all else subtlety, dynamics and learning how to express yourself in an emotional way. THIS forms a bond with an audience - they can feel it... they may not know what it is, but they respond to it when you really dig deeper emotionally. THIS you can take back to your genre and instantly improve it.

"I don't really like the blues" huh? Dislike taxes, or government or the dentist or something. But the blues??? Hell we all owe those boys and girls a debt of gratitude. Ya gotta investigate deeper to know if this is true or not... least I did

Functional Harmony ... for everybody!

Here is a REALLY great video that demonstrates functional harmony in a way anyone can understand. This is so well done.

For those of you who don't know what this term means here is an excerpt from Wikipedia that will help you understand:

In tonal music theory, a diatonic function (also chord area) is the specific, recognized role of each of the 7 notes and their chords in relation to the diatonic key. In this context, role means the degree of tension produced by moving toward a note, chord or scale other than the tonic, and how this musical tension would be eased (resolved) towards the stability of returning to the tonic chord, note, or scale (namely, function).

See the entire page here

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Pat Metheny - 3 part video lesson

These are simply great. A 3 part video of a private lesson with Pat Metheny. This is the stuff the internet is invaluable for! Pat's comments about "time" are just so accurate. Enjoy.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

The lost Art of Prog - Steven Wilson

AttributionNoncommercialNo Derivative Works Some rights reserved by Shirin Kasraeian

Last night I went out to see a Steven Wilson at a local concert venue. He did not disappoint. I have long been a fan of his band Porcupine Tree and him in general.

Being an old 'prog-dog' myself I have, with some regularity, missed the heady days of Prog Rock. When bands like Yes, Genesis, Rush, King Crimson, Jethro Tull and others were making waves with epic 7-20 minute songs.

For those of you who don't really understand the term, 'prog' is a short form for Progressive Rock. A style of music that features many twists and turns. Volume dynamics, time signature changes - often in rapid succession, soft musical interludes, long 20 minute pieces etc. It shares as much in common with a symphony as it does a blues rock.

Back to Steven Wilson's show; The show could be described as nothing short of the word 'Art'. It was SUCH a breath of fresh air and made me remember all the things that have been severely lacking in music these days.. More than just in music in society these days - Patience.

In this A.D.D. society we live in these days, it is not often we hear a performer play something a single deep bass note on a piano - and let it hang there for over 10 seconds. Leaving the audience to bathe in the pure depth of its sound.... I mean really, how cool is the sound of something like that? Especially at concert volume! You maybe haven't thought about it for a while - I haven't - but the raw sound of an instrument is an incredible thing. The distance your mind can travel as you listen to its majesty - if allowed - is truly a gift. One in this fast paced society we seldom take advantage of.

The show, which featured incredible musicianship, was in and of itself a canvas. Full of imagery and symbolism, presented with such passion. Steven is a true master of the form - and I don't throw that term around lightly.  I often wonder what Peter Gabriel and Genesis would sound like if they came out today... I suspect it would be similar to what I heard last night.

In truth, I am not sure how many people in this world would actually 'get it', what he was trying to do. Some people seem to not give art any thought whatsoever.... They will walk right past a beautiful painting and not even bother to turn their head..... I have a hard time relating.

To some, I am sure last night's show could have been odd... perhaps even uncomfortable at times. It required the audience to be patient and let him set the mood and deliver his visions... It also required an open mind. Open to seeing something presented in a way it seldom is anymore. To be clear: this wasn't your typical concert presentation.... and for me it was SUCH a breath of fresh air.

With a sold out building and a roaring ovation, I was thrilled to see I am not alone. Music is meant to have rests in it. Silence make sound more vivid by its contrast. Miles Davis knew this, as did Peter Gabriel, the classical masters and a select others. Well, you can add Steven Wilson's name to that list as far as I am concerned. He is a rare beast these days... and I love the guy for it.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

A Players Mind - potholes on the road to mastery

I thought that from time to time, it may be helpful to share what goes through my mind while on the road to learning guitar. We all have these feelings and no matter your level, they remain shockingly similar. By airing out some of these thoughts and epiphanies, it may help provide you all with some insights. I sure as heck would have liked to know that even advanced players have the same frustrations as I! So I will try to fairly regularly do a series of "A Players Mind..." type posts. Here is the first on mastery.

I used to think mastery was some sort of born-in thing.... I spent some time analyzing the lifestyle and habits of a couple players I personally know, who are world-class. What I discovered was a very distinct similarity. It wasn't WHAT they learned, it was HOW they learned.

Firstly, they played ALL THE TIME. Well so did I...or did I? As I thought about it, I don't remember these guys at ONE SINGLE party during high school. They were cool guys who must have known about all the cool happenings, yet they weren't there?? Hmmm.

Secondly, when they practiced, they played MUSIC all the time... lifting other players' songs by the hundreds. All ears, no TAB. While I was running scales, and doing exercises that I believed -- scratch that -- that I was TOLD would move me towards mastery, THEY were playing pretty much only music. TONS OF IT. Upon reflection, is it really a surprise that when they play, they just seem more "musical" than me?

My biggest personal obstacle these days is that I fight with periods of "mindless" playing. On recording playback, I can actually HEAR me 'thinking'. When it happens, my playing falls out of the pocket rhythmically and the musical content goes to shiz. Well, DUH!!! I spent all that time mindlessly running scales.

The best part: I TAUGHT myself to play like that!

Why am I surprised??? You always hear people saying "develop your muscle memory" and all that. That's what I thought I was doing! What a pile of dung. What I was ACTUALLY doing was teaching myself to play in a disengaged state. Brutal.

I stopped all that over a year ago and my playing and phrasing has changed a LOT - to the positive. No more mindless playing - EVER. Even if I pick up the guitar for two seconds, I set up a tempo in my head first and I set up some kind of musical phrase. It has been a hard habit to break, but it is breaking slowly.

I am on the path to rectifying that now, but there was a LOT of wasted time. It is EASY to get distracted during the process. You spend so long staring at the one tree, that you fail to see the forest. Music is that forest.

Who cares about you!? Where does that leave us?
Yeah, yeah. I am getting to it!

"Those guys" (masters) were:
  • Willing to sacrifice everything: their time, memories, relationships - EVERYTHING in the name of music
  • They were playing music all the time, minimal exercises. When they were doing exercise, they made music out of them
  • When they weren't playing, they were discussing, listening to, seeking out music. Hanging with MANY other musicians and generally 'geeking out' on it
So it all boils down to dedication and singular focus. Of course I can't play like they do. I didn't give to it what they did! 

I don't feel much better...
Well you should! I'm sure you are thinking, "Man, I'm not willing to give up everything for guitar", it should be empowering. It means it IS there for you if you want it badly enough. Personally, I would rather think this than some cop-out such as, "I guess I wasn't born with it". You can master this thing, but you gotta' give into all of it. You will get precisely what you put into it. NO MORE, NO LESS. Don't whine about not having some "God Given Talent". You're basically stating that the possibilities are impossible. The good news: I've removed this excuse we have all hidden behind.

Sounds nice but I already put everything into it and I am not a master...
Do you deem yourself at a higher level than other guitarists? This could be your folly. In my travels I have met more than a few musicians. Many of them buy into their own press. Many of them have been the best in every circle they travel in. Many of them have studied far more than me. Most of these cats have written books on playing, taught hundreds of people... maybe at a college level of loftier perches. Perhaps this is you, yet you haven't developed into the 'master' you want to be.

During this self-validating process, a massive ego has built up; an ego which is unwilling to validate another's perspectives or truly hear themselves as they play.  Anyone of a lower level is unworthy to comment or offer anything of value. Oh, and "I CERTAINLY wouldn't play with THAT player - they suck"

If this or the paragraph's title resonated with how you felt as you read this article, perhaps this is you. This is pointless because people like this CAN'T see themselves this way. It's a protection device.

Listen up Yoda, There is SOMETHING that is holding you back. So drop all the attitude, get a little humble for a second and do some soul searching. Because there is a REASON you are not where you want to be. Perhaps it is that you are "always right" - except this time! Get humble and learn to learn from everybody. Even a very beginner has something of value you could learn. Stop thinking about this 'concept' or 'this scale over this chord' or the worst being 'correct'. Mostly: STOP BEING 'RIGHT' ALL THE TIME. We are all wrong at times. Make a musical statement. One full of feeling and passion.

A musician needs to be an open portal; open to all the beauty and inspiration of the world around us. This is what connects to people - not correctness. Where you place your mind is a HUGE part of the finished product. Ya' gotta have ... wait for it ... a *Players Mind!

*very clever the way I tied in the title, huh? So proud : )

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Players that inspire me - Oz Noy

My good friend and sporadic teacher Oz Noy, has a new album slated for release November 15, 2011. It is to be called the "Twisted Blues" - that is precisely what it is! The 'blues' as seen from the land of OZ - which can truly be a funny funny place! His takes on the genre are deeply respectful and well - twisted! He is such a cool person and player. I implore you all to grab this album when it hits. It will be full of killer performances just like this one.

From the Oz-man's site:
The album was recorded in New York and Austin in November and December of 2010.
In New York, Oz worked with Anton Fig and Vinnie Colaiuta on drums, Will Lee on bass, Jerry Z. and John Medeski on organ, Ralph McDonald on percussion, and Allen Toussaint on piano. In Austin, Chris Layton played drums, Roscoe Beck played bass, Reese Wynans played organ, and Eric Johnson joined in on guitar.

How can THAT be bad!

Friday, November 4, 2011

Seeing both sides of the Root - paternal twins

To continue on with my series of related posts designed to help you understand the fretboard, I wanted to examine different approaches to any root note. The gist of it is this:

Any chord or scale can be viewed from either side of the root note. 

What I mean by "side" is moving up the neck in the direction of the guitar's body OR moving down the neck in the direction of the guitar's headstock/tuning machines. This series of interlocking shapes can really help you in your playing relatively quickly. This is one of those little "tricks" that can instantly make you sound more pro.

You've Got Rhythm
Blues and soul players have been using this technique for years to give them options in their rhythm playing. Jimi Hendrix, despite being an incredible improvisor, was probably best known for his rhythm skills. He regularly employed this way of seeing the neck in his revolutionary rhythm style.

Jimi (and others) would pivot off the centre of both chords using notes from the shapes on either side to add embellishments. Take a look at Fig 1:

Figure 1

This major chord can be approached from either side allowing you to slide or hammer into it (a la Hendrix) adding melodic content to what could otherwise be just a simple chord vamp.

See the chart at the top. I have demonstrated Major, minor & Dominant chord shapes as viewed from either side of the root note.

Going Solo
This same concept is also applied to scale forms. Viewing scales this way can similarly open up your single note or lead playing. To make this clear, at the bottom of the chart I included how a major scale can be viewed from either side of the root.

The Assignment
Spend time with all the forms presented here. Most importantly, mix and match during songs to add embellishments or even just a different timbre to a mundane, old progression. Play all the chords you normally play... only this time from the 'other side'. This can really open things up for you or, at very least, give you an enjoyable way to approach basic chord changes.

Almost forgot! I should mention that the same principal stands; no matter which string the root resides on. So spend some time playing the above forms. Then write out the major scale on neck paper and work out what forms lie to either side of each note.

Like every lesson, you will get MUCH more from it if YOU do the investigation. All I hope to do is open doors for you with these concepts. You must walk through them.

Hit me up with any questions by way of a comment below.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Understanding the fretboard

Anyone who has played guitar for any length of time comes to appreciate the power of movable shapes; the shapes your hands form when you move up and down the neck when playing power or barre chords.

Maybe you haven't formally expanded on what this truly means, or how powerful that little bit of information can be. So this post is designed to investigate this further and help you see the neck in a whole new way.

The Shapes of Things
The guitar, because of its tuning, lends itself perfectly to repeating shapes. If you take any finger pattern and move it up the neck, the notes change, but it won't change the type of chord or scale or arpeggio etc. (i.e.: Major, minor, etc).  So a CMaj chord, slid up one fret, becomes a C#Maj chord. If you move it again, it becomes a DMaj form. If you are playing an F diminished arpeggio and you move it, it is still a diminished arpeggio. It is now F# diminished... blah, blah, blah. You get it, right? Good.

Let's take a look at the chart at the top of this post. Click the image to download it as a pdf. At the top of the chart, I show the pentatonic minor scale form, neck-wide. It shows all five fingerings, ending back at the first fingering. In the second diagram, I want to focus on the first form, and is highlighted so you can see it clearly. On the bottom diagram, I use the first four notes of the scale and colour-code them. I have removed all the other notes of the scale for added clarity. Notice that no matter which root note you begin on, the shape is unchanged. You can continue on up the scale from that point and all the associated fingerings remain right where they should be.

Liar!! Liar!!
I hope you notice that the shape seems to change as you cross the B string. In truth, the shape doesn't change; it just gets adjusted for that pesky B string. If the guitar was tuned consistently across the 5th fret, then it wouldn't change at all. My previous entry was designed to help explain why that happens. Read over that if this aspect confuses you. The B string is one of the instrument's little hiccups. The sooner you understand how it affects you, the better.

So as you can see, if you know any pattern for any specific chord, scale, arpeggio etc, all you need to do is find the closest root and apply it. Try practicing this with a major scale form, then a minor, then try some altered stuff like the melodic minor; whatever your taste. Wander up and down the neck to hook into the next root pattern and riff your brains out.

Extra Credit Reading
Pick up the masterful Jon Finn's book,  "Advanced Modern Rock Guitar Improvisation".  He does a wonderful job explaining this concept in greater detail.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Fretboard Geography - understanding the B string

I want to take a minute to address one of the very basic pillars of the guitar. In future posts, we will be discussing more advanced topics where this becomes a 'given'.  So in preparation for that, you more advanced players please bear with me as we bring some of the newbies up to speed.

I am sure many of you newcomers to the instrument have a common reaction when you learn about tuning: "What the heck is with the B string?". Whenever I teach someone how to tune a guitar for the first time, they always ask "why is the B string tuned at the 4th fret instead of the fifth like the others?". I always answer pretty much the same way:

"Because it Just is"
(nice teacher huh?) I usually follow that with "You will grow to understand why as you learn more chord forms". This really is the crux of the reason (I mean aside from the uneven tone/semitone pattern the musical notes are governed). It just ISN'T mathematically even. But rest assured, knowing that the designers of the instrument were pretty smart cookies. Imagine all the chords you know, with the notes on the high E and B string back one fret - what a mess! This offset truly makes the best of a bad seeming situation. So let's just accept it as it "is" and discuss understanding how to deal with it.

The Conveyor Belt
Many different people over the years have come up with many different ways to describe the tuning anomalies affect on fingerings. My favourite is Jon Finn's "Warp Refraction Threshold". To me, it is most simply described as being akin to a conveyor belt; meaning all notes on the B string slide forward by one fret in order to correct the offset in tuning. Like on an airport conveyor belt... any note on it makes the journey forward before continuing on.

Click on the images below and you will see animated versions that demonstrate. As you can see, if the guitar were tuned straight across at the 5th fret, then the high two strings would become C & F (as opposed to B & E). I created a uniform geometric scale fingering to more clearly show how the shape is effected by the 4th fret tuning. As you cross from the G to the B string, there is a momentary shift upwards by one fret. So, to reiterate, the effect happens as you cross from the G to B string.

With this in mind, let's look at how this offset affects chord forms. In the below diagram (again, click to view),  I placed a Major barre chord form. Let's say we want to move that whole shape up to a higher string. As you cross the B string you see that we need to raise the note on that string (conveyor) up by one fret. The resulting shape should be familiar to most of you.

This anomaly effects all shapes on the guitar. Chords, scales, you name it. When you cross the B string, you have to alter your pattern to adjust. One of the strengths of the guitar is that it is very shape-friendly... meaning you can take any pattern, starting on any note, and apply a shape to it. This results in the desired chord or scale. The problem is many newbies fail to make this observation; giving them the unnecessary feeling that there are a vast number of more shapes to learn.

So take a minute and spend some time drawing out some scale forms and chords. I think if you look closely, armed with this post's info, you will discover some things that may have eluded you in the past.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Pentatonic Spice - Adding Major sounds to your boxes - Part 3 of 3

OK folks, so here we are at the end of the line with this series. In Part One, we discussed Adding minor Modal Spices to your pentatonic box. In Part Two, we did Blues Sounds. So here, in Part Three, let's talk about Adding Major Tonalities. By the way, if you haven't checked out those previous entries, I suggest you do as some of those concepts are expanded on here.

Major Pentatonic? What the...?
I remember the first time I realized a player was using a Major pentatonic for soloing instead of the usual minor approach (I believe it was Lesley West on Mountain's "Mississippi Queen" if I am not mistaken). It absolutely blew my mind that if I use my pinky as the root, instead of my index finger, then the SAME scale suddenly became Major! DAMN! All of a sudden, in that instant, I doubled my scale knowledge. Before that moment, and the subsequent digging that followed, I didn't even know there was such a thing as a Major pentatonic (this is what happens when a 12 year old self-teaches!).

So for those of you who are at this level, hopefully that same door just opened for you (make the cheque payable to Jer... : ).

Let's assume that we now all know that a Major scale and a minor scale are the same fingering, but in a different location. Let's move on to the point of this entry -- adding new sounds to that Major skeleton.

There are three Major modal shapes that can be used to create different sounds.
They are:

  • Ionian (the I chord sound)
  • Lydian (the IV chord sound)
  • Mixolydian (the V chord sound)

If these terms are confusing to you, you may want to read my post on Interval ID (click here).

Download this chart I prepared and take a peek. At the top of the chart, you will see an unaltered Major pentatonic scale. I darkened the root note so you can see which note will be used to make it Major. For example, if you want to play A-Major Pentatonic, place your pinky on the 5th fret (A) of the low E-string and play the scale. This scale is the same exact fingering as F#min. Even though its the exact same fingering, the focus of the tonality shifts to the note 'A' as opposed to F#. If you play this A-Scale over an A-chord, you will hear a distinctly brighter or happier tonality. This is the vibe of the Major scale. Incidentally, country players typically use a pentatonic scale in its Major form. So if you are at a jam night or around a campfire, this little insight can be quite handy!

Referring to the chart again, below the unaltered form, there are three above-mentioned modal forms. I have colourized the added notes, so memorize the additions and apply at will.

The pentatonic Major works best over -- you guessed it -- Major chords... but it also works great on more ambiguous chords like dominants. A dominant chord, or (7) chord, has a Major 3rd like a Major chord, but a minor 7th like a minor chord. This is why dominant chords are frequently used in blues and jazz or any improvisation-based music. Over dominants, your scale choices for improvs are truly many because of this ambiguity. But I digress.

Adding to the pentatonic framework can be a very powerful and quick way to increase your knowledge of the neck. Once you have all three parts to this series down cold, you should have a large working palette of musical colours to choose from.

How Do I Practice This?
Set up a loop or a backing track and spend time with each and every scale form. Try to understand its distinct sounds and tonal colours. I think it is VERY important to form an opinion on them and find a way to catalog these sounds in your mind. This kind of 'mental tagging' can come in very handy when you are searching for a specific sound during an improvised solo. The more time you spend with each of them, the more natural they will sound when you use them.

Next Steps
Take each one of these forms, with their added notes, and apply it to the other five shapes of the pentatonic scale. Learn this form first, then move on each side of it, practicing the neighbouring shapes as you work outwards to one day mastering the entire neck. I would work on the ones to either side of this first form (so if this is form 1, then do form 2 and 5 first). Doing it this way allows you to apply it quicker. 

With all these forms mastered, imagine the freedom this could bring to your playing. Better still, you won't be stuck in a box any longer. Take your old cliche licks and rework them with these new spices.

Good luck! Hit me up if you have questions or add comments below if you think something needs expanding.

Below are some samples of all scales covered in parts one to three. For the sake of consistency, even though it may not be the best choice for Major pentatonic application, I kept the same backing track on all takes. That's right. There is no "one size fits all" application for any of these. You must put in the time, then use your taste and judgement to determine when or when not to call for that sound. Have fun and pay me back by making some truly great music for us all!

Sixstringobsession files by Jeremy_green

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Pat Metheny - improvised chord etudes

Check out this rather astounding video of Pat Metheny demonstrating his warm-ups routine. On the fly, he improvises chord etudes... That's right, just makes em up on the fly... gulp!

Pat is a true genius and quite possibly the greatest guitarist of our time. I am sure he spent considerable hours working this up to this level. What this demonstrates to me is how important the focus on practicing being musical is. If you PRACTICE making music... AT ALL TIMES. When you play live, that is what you will come out. So even when working on mundane scales and arpeggios, with Pat's approach, you can learn the fingerings certainly... But also something far more valuable - how to use them musically.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Pentatonic - power workout

Just came across a timely pentatonic workout that ties in with the series I have been presenting. Check it out.

Friday, September 30, 2011

Interval ID

This post is for my good friend Darryl. He brought it to my attention that many beginners would have no idea what I am talking about when I say things like b3 or #5. So I created this chart (click to download) to explain the concept behind those terms.

A brief explanation
The notes of the major scale are numbered 1 through 8, then they repeat*.
(see the foot note here) 

C major
C is 1, D is 2, E is 3 ... on and on.

In between those notes there is what are called alterations or accidentals... fancy terms for sharps and flats. Between C and D there is an empty fret between. This note could be called either C# OR Db -> they are the same note. The sharp of C is the same as the flat of D. All notes have a sharp/flat between them except for E-F and B-C. So if I typed out a chromatic scale (a scale that includes ALL notes) it would be like so:

C, C#, D, D#, E, F, F#, G, G#, A, A#, B, C

Which is the same thing as:

C, Db, D, Eb, E, F, Gb, G, Ab, A, Bb, B, C

Get it?

So when I say a major chord is just 1,3,5,7 or a Minor chord is 1, b3, 5, b7 or a Dominant chord is 1,3,5,b7, you should understand what I mean. If not hit me up with a question.

*Notes above the first octave are typically named 9 (for the 2nd) 11 (for the 4th) and 13 (for the 6th). The notes 1, 3, 5 & 7 names are typically not changed. These are critical notes of the scale so general awareness of them is pretty important. So the numeric scale really goes.

1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 1, 9, 3, 11, 5 ,13, 7, 1....

So when someone says #9 they mean raise the 9th note of the scale by one fret. I realize this is confusing at first but you do get used to it.

Pentatonic Spice - Adding "Blues" sounds to your boxes - Part 2 of 3


In Part One of of this series, we covered adding "modal" sounds to the pentatonic boxes you already know. If you didn't read that post, click here so that you're up to speed prior to this next installment. 

In Part Two, let's discuss adding "Blues" spices to the pentatonic. But before we do, I first want to give a shout out to Stevel over at the Gear Page for suggesting I make this a series. Great idea. Thanks brother.

The "Blues" Scale
One of the staples of capturing a blues sound in your solos is the use and understanding of the "blues" scale (as it is commonly referred). 

From wikipedia:

The hexatonic, or six note, blues scale consists of the minor pentatonic scale plus the 4th or 5th degree[1][2][3]. A major feature of the blues scale is the use of blue notes,[4] however, since blue notes are considered alternative inflections, a blues scale may be considered to not fit the traditional definition of a scale.[5] At its most basic, a single version of this "blues scale" is commonly used over all changes (or chords) in a twelve bar blues progression.[6] Likewise, in contemporary jazz theory, its use is commonly based upon the key rather than the individual chord.[2]

In essence, the only difference between the regular pentatonic and a blues scale is one note: the b5. But what a difference it makes. Understand that this is not a note you can stand on for any length of time. More, a note you pass across to add that dissonant/consonant resolution that the blues live on. The b5 and the 3rd are at the core.

To me, there are three spots where I really "hear" the blues:
  • the b3rd - bend or slide it up to a major 3rd-ish then resolve down to the root
  • the b7th - roll across it to the major 7th then resolve to the root
  • the b5 - 7, 5, b5, 4, 3, 1 BAM! There it is!

There are other spots as well, but these are three moves that are ALL OVER the blues. It took me quite a while to really understand the power of such a simple-seeming genre, but having a solid grasp of the blues has improved my soloing like no other study. I HIGHLY suggest learning this to ANYONE who wants to solo. Rant over : )

Anyway, let's have a look at the chart prepared at the top of this entry. Click here to download it if you so choose.  What you will see, as in Part One, is the first position pentatonic at the top. Then below to the right, is the "Blues" version of the scale with the added b5's.

Another very commonly used scale with blues spices is the Dorian mode, also covered in Part One and shown on the left of the chart. The natural 6th and 9th are other very common blues notes. Again, they are used mostly as pass-throughs, but they can add a powerful dimension to a solo.

At the bottom, I added a combined "hybrid" version. VERY usable scale.

The key to this is trying to figure out where your original scale lives. At first, only stop on the safe notes of the original pentatonic minor form. As you gain confidence, you can stand on these other notes... maybe not the b5... like, EVER! But certainly the 6th and 9th are pretty consonant. They tend to add a suspended, dreamy-type sound to my ears. But I am sure you will have your own way of describing them.

As with all the concepts I am covering here, to take it to the next level, find these added notes in all the other shapes of the pentatonic scale. If you master them with each shape, your pool of available sound options becomes immense!

Below is an example of the Blues Scale in use. What a great sound! One of my faves.

P.S. I added an explanation of intervals for anyone confused by the terminology. Click here for that post  
Blues example by Jeremy_green

Friday, September 23, 2011

Pentatonic Spice - Adding modal sounds to your boxes - Part 1 of 3

When a student of guitar walks into a lesson, asking to learn how to solo, the pentatonic scale is most often the first scale a teacher will present. Why? Firstly, it is simple to memorize. Secondly, it sounds pretty great! Thirdly, it is one of the oldest scale patterns in the world and deeply engrained in us. Players such as Jimmy Page, Eric Clapton, Jimi Hendrix, Tony Iommi, David Gilmour, SRV and MANY MANY others use this scale as option A. So if you like their music, or any music that was influenced by them or the blues (which is almost all!), then this sucker is worth owning.

The Problem
I suspect most people reading this lesson already know all this. As a matter of a fact, I suspect most of you know this scale very WELL. So well, in fact, that you now feel trapped by it. If this is you, then maybe some of these ideas will help a brother out.

Let's Get to Work
Have a look at the diagram at the top of this post. Click the image to download a pdf of it (or click here). At the top of the diagram, I have placed the most common form of the pentatonic scale. Let's imagine for a minute that you are soloing. Typically, players use this scale as a minor scale -- meaning using its lowest note as the root. So if you are playing over an A chord (or 5th fret power chord for you metal heads) then plant this baby on the 5th fret and have at 'er.

Being a minor scale ... it can be seen as a partial scale ... the pentatonic being a skeletal version of the 7 note major scale shapes. Pent - meaning "five" - gives you some insight into this. Or, it is simply a 5 note scale, with the "handle with care" notes removed - which is why it works so well.

From Wikipedia:
"The ubiquity of pentatonic scales, specifically anhemitonic (without semitones) modes, can be attributed to the total lack of the most dissonant intervals between any pitches; there are neither any minor seconds (and therefore also no complementary major sevenths) nor any tritones. This means any pitches of such a scale may be played in any order or combination without clashing."

Because of this, you have the option of re-introducing some of these removed notes to access more "modal" type sounds. Only 2 little notes can change a LOT.

The word "modes" causes more stress, arguments and confusion than any guitar topic! Before any of you theory police dive down my throat, let me just take a minute to say making something modal is about the underlying chordal harmony. No scale can make something modal in a true sense. I am using that word because it is very commonly used - and well misunderstood. But let's not go there for now.

Some quick theory you need to know:
In any key, there are 3 minor chords.
They occur off of the 2nd, 3rd & 6th notes of the scale.

Some examples:

Key C - C, Dmin, Emin, F, G(7), Amin, Bdim
Key G - G, Amin, Bmin, C, D(7), Emin, F#dim
Key A - A, Bmin, C#min, D, E(7), F#min, G#dim

If you look at all those keys, you should notice that all the chord TYPES remain unchanged.
  • The first, fourth and fifth chords are Major.
  • The second, third and sixth chords are minor
  • The fifth, while being major, can also be dominant - This is a very critical note of the scale. Especially in Jazz.
  • The 7th is a diminished chord - some opt for min7b5

So from this quick glance, you hopefully see what I mean when I say that the 2nd, 3rd, and 6th notes' chords are minor. The "modes" or scale shape that goes with these chords are named:
  • Dorian (from the chord built off the second note of the scale)
  • Phrygian (off the 3rd note of the scale)
  • Aeolian - a.k.a. natural minor (off the 6th note)
In other words, these scale forms are directly associated with specifically minor chords.

What does all this mean?
What it means is that when you are playing a minor pentatonic solo and you want the listener to hear it sound as if it is the II (two) chord of the key, you would add some Dorian notes. If you want the chord to sound as if it is the III (three) chord, then Phrygian is your woman (or man if you are so inclined). Leaving Aeolian as the VI (six) chord sound.

So this is the "why" behind all this. To summarize, by adding 2 notes to a shape that you already know, you now have access to a whole new world of sounds. 

The bottom line in all this is to hear it. So have a go. 
On my chart you will see that I colour coded the added notes, so try out each form. Get a backing track or loop going. Pick a chord and start with your ever-comfortable minor pentatonic and solo as you usually do. Then start adding in notes from the Dorian. When you got that sound in your ears then move to the Phrygian, on and on.  With each shape, really listen and try to understand its nuances, its character.

I should say (although I don't really want to influence your tastes) that the Dorian is the most common sound... followed by Aeolian. The Phrygian has somewhat of a Spanish sound (at least that is the description I have most commonly heard). This likely comes from the addition of the b2 & b6.

Oh! At the bottom, just for laughs, I added a shape that includes all the notes combined. You truly do have access to all these notes but in doing so, you really get into ambiguous territory harmonically. So it must be used with great care. Ultimately, your sense of creativity and good taste will rule the day.

These simple additions to something you already know can have powerful and immediate changes to your sound. So dig in!

Here are some examples of how they each sound. I tried to use similar phrasing and tone so that you can hear the nuances of each scale form.

Click Here to read Part 2 of this series. Adding Blues sounds.

P.S. I added an explanation of intervals for anyone confused by the terminology. Click here for that post 

Sixstringobsession files by Jeremy_green

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Guthrie Govan lessons

Came across these great vids from Guitar World magazine, featuring Guthrie Govan. He covers modes, adding chromatics and other ideas into your playing. Guthrie is an incredible player. A ridiculously proficient shredder, BUT one who plays with phrasing and musicality. Big fan.. seems like a cool guy AND a good teacher too. Pretty great package.

Check them out:

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Jimmy Bruno Guitar Workshop

Very recently, I joined jazz guitar master Jimmy Bruno's "Guitar Workshop" website. I have been silently following this site for a long time and finally decided it was time to give it a shot.

First impression: Fantastic!

Guitar Workshop, is a lesson site designed to allow you to study jazz guitar with Jimmy in a one-on-one type format. All the lessons have detailed video instruction, plus the other info you need to succeed. He is an excellent teacher and conveys his thoughts clearly and in an organized manner.

A very valuable part of the site - Jimmy also gives masterclasses. Where you can submit a video of yourself performing a piece or exercise. He views your take, then makes comments and suggestions to help you improve it. You don't have to do this part if you don't want to. But it is pretty cool that you can.

After exploring the site, I must say, he/they have done a fine job organizing and presenting the material. It appears to be a vibrant community and a glimpse into a very real future for instrument school sites. This is the future of online guitar instruction. I can one day picture many of the top players having this type of school available. Opening up potential revenue streams for musicians globally. With the ability to reach unlimited amounts of students globally. Very cool.

If you have any interest is learning jazz guitar this site is pretty amazing. Even if you just need help learning theory, scales or chords. I would recommend this site. The price is very reasonable (As of Sept 2011 $60 a quarter year).

Hats off to Jimmy! I have always loved his playing. It feels like quite an opportunity to study with him. Now we ALL can!

Here is the link

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Music Theory ... and the Brady Bunch?

In a recent discussion, the question was asked (paraphrased for clarity):

"How does music theory apply to songwriting or improv" 

In an attempt to clarify this, I came up with the following, bordering-on-nonsensical response. It is not quite perfect, but close... More importantly, it made me laugh and I hope it does you. Here goes:

Think of a key as a family. 
Each chord represents a child of that family. The parents are the scale. So each child, has pieces of the parents ... therefore a similarity ... But, unique in and of themselves. No two are the same. Some, get along REALLY well with certain members of the family. Some not so much, but none of them truly hate one another. This key, is like the Brady Bunch!

A song is like an episode.

The other 12 keys are cousins to the Brady's. Some are more closely related than others. Some members of these closely related cousin families, actually look a LOT like one of the Brady's ... and get along really quite well. These cousins come on family trips, in fact, strangers think they are one of the kids. Sometimes these cousins will invite their favourite Brady kid over for a sleepover. Now the focus of the 'episode' is on THAT cousin's family and their house ... maybe just for a momentary part ... or it could be for the rest of the episode. They could even go to other houses from there ... but they are usually brought there by one of these 'friendly' cousins (pivot chord) who is welcomed.

These more distant other cousins and their families are more removed from the Brady's ... Some, to the point where they bear zero resemblance. Several of these distant relatives actually have a dislike, even a hatred, for the Bradys. These characters will not work at all with most (if not ALL) of them. So they stay to themselves and live in their closer family circles.

The moral of this fanciful tale:
Just like people, certain notes and groupings just plain work.
Others just do not.

Theory, is the writing down and the formalizing of all this. Like drawing out a family tree hierarchy chart.

No musician is truly making progressions up as they go. Even if it seems like - or SAY they are. The chords are grouped, whether we like it or not, naturally by your ears. Because they just flat out work. Over centuries, scholars have written all these relationships down. Made groupings and formalized the presentation of all this information. Now they teach it universally, to any who wish to know.

When more advanced musicians compose or improvise (to use our analogy), they know which family members get along... So armed with this knowledge, they can skip comfortably through the family tree. Recruiting the best member for the task at hand. The more time they spend getting to know the different family members, the more comfortable they are inviting them over for the BBQ or perhaps unload the cube van! Some players never bother going beyond their small tight 'family' circle. It is comfortable, feels right, they know who to call and life is good. It just works.

So your understanding of the dynamics of the musical family tree, really relies on how "social" you choose to be.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Music Theory Resources site

Hey all,

A recent discussion reminded me of a really great site. is designed to help musicians with their study of general theory. This is not guitar specific, but more music theory in a broader sense. There are some great tools, templates, flashcards, and interactive trainers (including a cool fretboard trainer!). Some really great tools for students and teachers alike offered for free.

So have a look. Here is the link

Friday, August 5, 2011

Bebop Cookbook - the musings of JKChang

I recently came across this very cool site by musician and PhD. Jen-Kuang Chang. It is an absolutely jam packed site, with loads of downloads and writings on some of the greats of Jazz. Most notably Charlie Parker and his approach.

Any fan of Jazz, or just someone who is interested in its approaches, will find this more than worthwhile. Plus he has some very cool art posted for those visual folks. Very worth the visit.

Enjoy! Here is the link.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Van Halen Asteriods .... yes I said it!

This post has ZERO to do with anything educational, or guitar related AT ALL. I just loved it and wanted to share with you all.

Get out cho Spandex and let the games begin! Click here

Monday, August 1, 2011

Friday fun - guys who make me want to play - Matt Schofield

One of my favourite guitarists these days, is England's own Matt Schofield. Matt plays an inspiring blend of traditional blues, fused with a modern feel and jazz inflections. The player he is compared to most would be Robben Ford. But calling him a copy of anything, is ridiculous. A player of deep influences, he combines sublime playing, with some good songwriting and vocal talents. The dude's got it going on!

What GREAT tone too! Fender Strat, through a simple pedal board (with a Klon overdrive, a clean boost and a delay. Dat's it). Plugged directly into a Two Rock amp (4 x 10" speaker cabinet). Simple, clean, and articulate tone that brings the most out of Matt's hands.

He has just recently released an excellent guitar instructional DVD in conjunction with Hal Leonard Publishing called "Blues Guitar Artistry". The DVD features lots of band performances and Matt explaining in some detail his approach to learning. Get it if you don't have it already.

From Wikipedia:


Schofield's guitar playing is often likened to Robben Ford in reference to his melodic and fluid style, and jazzy lines. However, Schofield was also majorly influenced by B. B. King, Freddie King, Albert King, Muddy Waters, Eric Clapton, Albert Collins, Jimi Hendrix, Billy Gibbons, Stevie Ray Vaughan and Jimmie Vaughan[3]. The influence of funk bands such as The Meters and Soulive can also be heard in his music.


Schofield has four studio albums and two live albums. The first of the live discs, The Trio, Live was recorded at the Bishops Blues club at The Half Moon, Bishops Stortford in 2004 and, funded and released by Richard Pavitt on his Nugene record label, gave the band their first breakthrough. The first studio album, Siftin' Thru Ashes was released in 2005. This album showcases not only Schofield as a virtuoso contemporary blues player, but also as a very competent songwriter, writing or co-writing eight out of eleven of the tracks on this album. calls Schofield's approach "an enjoyable demonstration of what can happen when blues-rock and blues-jazz are united". The second live album, Live At The Jazz Cafe! was recorded at the London Jazz Cafe in April 2005, and was made available as a web only release. Schofield is one of only two living British artists to be given a four star (excellent) rating in the Penguin Book of Blues Recordings. The release of The Trio, Live prompted Schofield to be featured in a Guitarist magazine article listing the nine notable up and coming blues guitarists, Schofield being the only non-American. Of the album they said 'britblues meets jazz via N'Orleans - all played with the kind of sizzling guitar that just does not often surface in Fairford, Gloucestershire'. In 2007 Guitar & Bass Magazine picked Schofield as one of the "Top 10 British Blues Guitarists of All Time".

EDIT: Matt just released his fifth studio effort "Anything but Time"

Check out Matt Schofield if you are unaware of him. If you are a fan of the blues in any way, you will likely not be disappointed. Matt joins the ranks of other young great blues players like Joe Bonamassa and John Mayer etc. World class, young, and playing their behinds off. Love seeing this generation bring it!

Just like the title says "Guys who make me want to play!"

P.S. To digress slightly, what inspired this post, I recently saw Matt perform at the coolest venue I have ever attended. A small club in Gravenhurst, Ontario, Canada called Peter's Players. Seriously, if you are anywhere near this venue GO SEE A SHOW THERE! Peter essentially hosts shows out of his house (which includes a slippers only rule!) and you will NEVER see a more intimate performance. Here is some info about Peter, he deserves our support!

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Hal Galper - Damn these videos are great

I first came across these videos over a year ago... but a recent discussion over at my good friend Mark Wein's place reminded me of how valuable they truly are. Stuff this good MUST be shared!

Most all instrumentalists are always looking for those little 'tricks' or insights, that make certain players better improvisors than others. I believe Hal does a wonderful job giving us some insight into that process. The longer I play an instrument, the more I realize that playing well, is much more about how you approach it mentally than any physical aspect. Most players I know exercise our hands regularly ... yet much less time on our minds and ears? Doesn't that seem crazy? It does to me.

Hal Galper has many of these videos on YouTube, so after watching these, do yourself a favour and go through some of the others. These are game changers.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Picking Technique - The day it ALL changed

For over 20 years, I listened to the conventional wisdom among the guitar 'shred' community. Play with a stiff, thick pick for speed. At first, I used a full size one. Then I switched (thanks to an Eric Johnson VHS tape) to the under-sized Dunlop Jazz III's, which I swore by for many, many, did I say many years? For the record, I was always considered by my peers to posess an above average picking technique. Not exactly Shawn Lane or anything, but certainly capable.

Then, for completely inexplicable reasons, it ALL changed. I went back to a full size pick and I turned it sideways, so that the pointy tip, points towards the bridge. Allowing me to play with the shoulder of the pick. The draw for me was I liked the scratchy tone. It seemed to give the notes more heft, more Sco! It also emulated that "cello sound" I heard Paul Gilbert speak of. Simultaneously, I also changed the weight to a medium gauge (pictured above for anyone curious). The interesting part is all this was done for tonal reasons. I thought it may actually slow me down, but I didn't care, if it sounds better - that's all I care.

Strange thing happened, my picking technique got MUCH better. I am WAY faster today. Breaking through MANY barriers I used to have when I followed conventional thinking. PLUS, it sounds a lot cooler tonally IMO.

It got me to thinking about Gilbert's "cello tone" comment. The 'scratch' comes from a sharp angle attack, so that a smaller part of the pick gets into the string wind. So he MUST be using a fairly steep picking angle.... I guess my technique was too 'flat' before, thereby slowing me down without my notice.

The point with all this is: Your technique is tied to how you hold, what weight and what angle your pick is to the string. There may be some subtle glitch holding you back. Try EVERYTHING because you NEVER know. I would have NEVER tried what I am doing presently ... I still don't really know why I did it... but it worked!

You are never too old or experienced to find something new. I strongly recommend switching things up once in a while as there truly is no 'way'. What works for someone, no matter how fast they are, may NOT work for your body and playing style.

Monday, July 4, 2011

From noodling to music - learning how to create a good solo.

Some rights reserved by pfly

A quote that changed the way I practice guitar soloing came from Joe Pass. It was from a long time ago, so this is complete paraphrasing. Forgive me Joe! The gist was:

"Every single thing you play, you should be able to play a second time EXACTLY the way it was the first. If you can't, then it is just random finger movements that happened to work out. If you can't repeat it, it didn't come from your heart and it is not music."

This is VERY true IMO. Try practicing like that. What happens is, it FORCES you to really listen to what you are doing, because you have to play it again. Also, repetition instantly sounds like music. Listen to most great soloists and they use repetition a TON. Even if the notes aren't the same, the rhythm is. Or if the rhythm isn't, then the notes are. Repetition is one of the core building blocks you need to construct meaningful solos.

Some other approaches
  • Record EVERYTHING and listen back with a critical ear. This is the only chance you have to hear you the way others do. Make this part of your regular routine. Slowly weed out the crap-isms we all have. You know, those annoying little phrases you ALWAYS play, that you CAN'T STAND! Weed them out.
  • Try ONLY playing an idea as it comes into your head. If you don't hear anything, don't play for a minute. Wait until you hear something and THEN play. Remember this is practice and nobody is watching so take your time. At first, there will be big holes of silence. Before long as you improve there will be more and more actual music happening. The best part is it is ALL organically based - NOT pattern based.
  • Sing AS you play a line on your guitar (a la George Benson). Make the connection between your ears, your voice and the guitar. This INSTANTLY affects your phrasing.
  • Simplify for a bit. Grab a small idea and really milk it. Save the shred for flourishes that tie your ideas together. Fast stuff really doesn't say much.. it really mostly creates intensity. Would you want to hear someone speaking or singing in an intense state all the time? Likely not, plus the melodic stuff makes the flourishes SEEM faster. Not ripping on shred at all or insinuating shred is bad, just saying in general - mix it up. The best shredders do this.
  • Learn other players solos - NOTE FOR NOTE using your ears - not TAB. Don't cheat or fudge, get in there are get every note. Then get the chord changes behind. Then analyze what is going on (if you dont know some basic theory, it is very helpful. Utilize sites like this to read, ask questions and generally help you understand some basics). Do this all the time and before long you will see patterns or approaches that just work. I can't understate this. You want to become a good soloist? Become a student of solos. Many genres - even ones you don't like. Learn your favs... then learn your favs favs. Jazz, Country, Blues, Rock solo and analyze. Spend a year doing this and you will be a different player on the other side no doubt about it. 
  • Focus on hitting chord tones as you solo. Look at the progression you are soloing over and practice nailing some of the tones as they pass by. I did a detailed post on this topic. Click here to read it. When I say "analyze" this is largely what I am referring to. What notes are being used and why do they work... likely a chord tone.
Changing how you solo isn't a miraculous process. It boils down to spending the time it takes to learn the art of spontaneous composition. When I say it that way it sounds pretty serious doesn't it? Well it is exactly that. Think more like a composer and less like a blues box guitar player and you are on your way.

P.S. Read the below comment section of this post. John King raised some valid discussions on this topic.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Keeping your Strat stock tremolo in tune

Just came across this great video by luthier Galeazzo Frudua that addresses an issue many Fender Strat guitar players deal with: using your whammy bar and staying in tune.

He goes over the proper way to string the guitar and it works like a charm! Least it did for me. Watch the video, grab your guitar and give it a try.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

The Gateway to Jazz

For all you rock guitar players out there who have always wanted to get into Jazz, but just frankly didn't get it, there are certain bands who can help you make the transition.

For me, there have been several bands in the Jazz Fusion category that helped me go from distant admirer, to a real jazz fan. "Fusion" as it is most commonly referred, is essentially the fusing of rock rhythms, with the complexities of jazz. It was guitar based bands such as Jeff Beck, Mahavishnu Orchestra, Dixie Dregs (and later Steve Morse's solo albums), Tribal Tech, John Scofield, Mike Stern, & Return to Forever among others that had a significant impact on me. But one particular band I would like to feature here is Uzeb.

From Wikipedia:
UZEB was a Canadian jazz fusion band from Montreal, Quebec, who were active from 1976 to 1992. The members were Alain Caron (bass guitar), Michel Cusson (guitar), and Paul Brochu (drums). UZEB had a blend of skilled playing and modern synthesized timbres, along with an emphasis on original compositions. The band won a number of Canadian awards during the 1980s. By 1989, international sales of UZEB's first eight recordings had exceeded 200,000 units, which the Encyclopedia of Music in Canada calls "an unprecedented figure for a Canadian jazz group."

I have always felt that Michel Cusson is one of the most under appreciated players of all time. Not only does he have immense chops, but his chording knowledge and use of synth technology, make him nothing short of astounding. Dig into this clip then tell me I am wrong!

For those of you who are not familiar, I strongly recommend the albums 'Noisy Nights' and 'Club' as excellent points of entry. While you listen to Uzeb, remember that it is only 3 guys doing EVERYTHING! All synths on those albums are triggered by one of the 3 members and all reproduced dead-on live. Yeah, yeah, I know, some of the sounds (and fashion!) scream of the 80's but listen to the groove! These guys are immense!!

Whatever your tastes, the point of this article is that if jazz hasn't struck you yet, perhaps it is not because you don't like it.... Perhaps it is just that you haven't found the road IN yet!

Check out some of the other bands I mentioned and those related. The jazz and fusion genres are just so huge and there is just so much talent that you can learn from. It is well worth the effort, if effort is what is required - as it was for me!

Thanks boys! Now get me my hollow body guitar damn it! There are min7b5 chords to be had!


Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Danny Gatton's First Instructional Video online!!

This was brought to my attention by my good friend and guitar wizard Stomias over at the Lesson Loft. (Thanks brother!) For those not familiar, Danny Gatton was just one of those monstrous players. ranked Gatton as the 27th best guitarist of all time. Plagued by depression, on October 4, 1994, Gatton locked himself in his garage and shot himself. A HUGE loss for the guitar and music community at large.

From Wikipedia: Gatton's playing combined musical styles such as jazz, blues and rockabilly in an innovative fashion, and he was known by some as "the Telemaster" (a portmanteau of "Telecaster", Gatton's guitar of choice, and "Master"). He was also called "the world's greatest unknown guitarist". His most common nickname was "The Humbler", owing to his ability to "humble" or out-play anyone willing to go up against him in "head-cutting" jam sessions. It was Amos Garrett, guitar player for Maria Muldaur, who nicknamed Gatton "The Humbler". After a successful gig, Garrett would pull out a tape of Gatton and tell his band, "You think we played well tonight. Let's take a minute to listen to the Humble-lizer." A photo published in the October 2007 issue of Guitar Player magazine shows Gatton playing in front of a neon sign that says "Victims Wanted".

In 1987, a video produced by Pro Video Corp, titled: Gatton's Tips & Tricks for Guitar was released on VHS. It can now, thanks to the internet, be watched in its entirety at this link.

So head on over. But be prepared to spend a serious amount of time. Once you start into it, you likely won't be stopping!

Friday, May 27, 2011

My new fav Distortion pedal

"For many, many years you've basically had 2 choices for your Overdrive;/Distortion pedals... You could either get "Soft-clipped" Bluesy, slightly compressed, (Toob Screemer, FD2, etc etc etc etc etc etc) type Overdrive pedals... or you could get "Hard-Clipped" (OCD, Distortion+, Boss DS-1, etc etc etc etc etc etc) type Distortion pedals.
What if there was a pedal that offered both?"

This above quote comes directly from the mouth of Micheal Fuller President of Fulltone. To it I will respond with two words:

Mission Accomplished! 

Damn this is a seriously nice sounding guitar pedal! 
I am quite quickly believing Mr Fuller to be a man of rather extreme talents. A few years back, I purchased the Fulltone DejaVibe2 (univibe style pedal). I was, and remain, blown away by its authenticity to the original. So when I came across the PlimSoul at the store counter I was quite optimistic. After only a few days I am beginning to feel I will have a similar affection for this little beauty. I suspect it, like the DejaVibe2 will be a permanent resident on my pedal board.

I spent a good deal of time in the local music store, trying out numerous pedals - one after another. I must have tried 15-20 distortion/overdrive/fuzz pedals of all makes and models. In the end the Fulltone PlimSoul was the one I decided to take home for a demo with my guitar and live rig, before making the commitment to buy. It only got better!

Tuesday night - rehearsal with a 80's style metal project. The distortion provided was thick and clear. Through a Marshall 4x12 it sounded very authentic. Very cool! Thursday night - rehearsal with jazz/rock fusion instrumental project ... playing through a Dr Z Maz 38 (twin style combo). Again the beautiful distortion, had a warm bluesy density to it BUT it also maintained complete clarity. Wanted a tube screamer tone - it was there. Wanted a wide open Eric Johnson style lead sound - it was there too! Even full out, wide open, super saturation, I could hear every note in extended chord forms. SOLD!

In this corner of the world Fulltone is 2 for 2.... and I am becoming a big fan and believer. Thanks Mike! You made my guitar playing more inspired and enjoyable this week. Without folks like you, musicians would not be able to fulfill their tonal wishes. Great sounds breed inspiration, inspiration breeds great music. I am sure your pedals will play a big part in a lot of great music and its performance. I salute you.

Check out Fulltone, here is their PlimSoul website link.

I should say I have ZERO affiliation with Fulltone. This is the best kind of promotion: FREE!