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