Friday, September 28, 2012

Steve Vai - On Success

Being a beautiful sunny Friday and all, I thought it would be a good time to post one of my favourite all-time videos. I first discovered this gem a while back and stumbled across it this morning.

The advice contained within, is spot on and VERY inspirational to me. Whether you dig Steve's music or not, nobody can deny the talent he possesses. Unique and one of the few originals in the genre of shred guitar.

It must be remembered, that over the years many players have borrowed large elements from his very recognizable style... In fact his approach almost became a caricature of "the shredder" during the "anti-talent"* grunge-heavy 90's.  If you came online during this era, don't let this mindset damage your thoughts on Steve. He is an innovator. A ton of less talented rock players of that day, were "borrowing" pretty heavily from Steve. Many players "borrow" ... but few go on to carry those ideas further.

Steve has remained faithful to his creative vision over the years, taking his music to very experimental places. Something I admire him for greatly. I suspect an attitude that rubbed off from his time with the late great Mr Frank Zappa. Having the courage to try is the thing. Any band or player who does this, hit or miss, I am a fan.

Have a great weekend all!

*"Anti-talent" meaning: During the 90's the grunge era came to the forefront with many of the youth. Virtuosity and "guitar Gods" became "cheesy" to many fans of this era. They wanted anything that was NOT obvious "ROCK" talent. No more guitar solos, or drum solos, or light shows, More DIY, Garage band sound, simple chords and progressions with LOTS of attitude was that thing. Similar to the punk movement of the decade previous.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Pride and Joy solo w/tabs

Well here is a classically cooking solo by the late great Stevie Ray Vaughan. From one of his best known songs "Pride and Joy" from the "texas Flood" album. The tough thing with anything Stevie is nailing two things:

  • The swing - his pocket (rhythm) is absolutely amazing. Spot on DEEP in the groove ALWAYS.
  • The intensity - he absolutely smashes his way through the notes giving them a ferocious feel. Really tough to maintain.
I only barely hung with both of these things, so make sure you check the original recording. If you can nail these elements, your blues will be forever changed.

There is not a ton going on here that isn't fairly predictable. E minor pentatonic over a I, IV, V blues in  E  (E7, A7, B7). He starts out with some dyads with an Emin7 to Emin interplay. Then into a fairly classic (but tricky) Emin pentatonic riff. Throughout this solo Stevie rolls over the major 3rd of E (G#) to give it a major feel once in a while. Again, pretty classic blues moves. He also always hits the turnaround at B7... I have noticed Stevie seldom plays over the V chord in most of his solos. He mostly states the chord.

Getting the sound

Pure Fender Strat. Neck pickup, heavy gauge strings. Eb (ish) tuning. Twin style amp using an Ibanez Tube Screamer. Roll down your volume to 7ish on the guitar to clean it up a hair.

The files
Here is the TAB sheet for your downloading pleasure.

This comes from my YouTube channel which has a number of these types of solos so check it out:

Thursday, September 20, 2012

November Rain solo w/TABs

Here is Slash's beautifully melodic solo from Guns N' Roses' ballad "November Rain". The tricky part to this is really nailing the bends. They are many!

This solo is pretty much pure diatonic. Key of C Major ... using notes from C Major. It is also another example of chord tone soloing as he is hitting the passing chords all over the place. He starts by hitting the 3rd of the F chord (A) - as the chord changes the A becomes the 5th of the Dminor. As the chord changes to C he once again hits the 3rd - a sound heard all over this solo. He then plays with some suspensions (4ths) only to resolve to the root. In the second solo he begins with a Gmajor scale ascending... may seem odd until you realize the chord he is over - yup! G Major. This is pretty much the recipe for the entire solo... So take a second and figure out how the notes he plays relate to the chord. The act of examine it may open your eyes.

Getting the sound
Les Paul through a Marshall... pretty much nothing to it. Neck pickup for the first solo to get that 'woman tone' thing. Then switch to the bridge for the second solo.

The files
Here is the TAB sheet for your downloading pleasure.

This comes from my YouTube channel which has a number of these types of solos so check it out:

Friday, September 14, 2012

Wayne Krantz - Playing by ear

Happy Friday all.

I came across this great article by one of my Favs - Wayne Krantz. Very much agree with Wayne on this and have had similar observations. Enjoy!

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Crazy Train solo w/tab

Here is the insanely cool solo to Crazy Train as played by Randy Rhoads during his all too short time with Ozzy. Being a HUGE fan of both Ozzy and in particular Randy Rhoads this solo was a pleasure to do.

This is a solo that I learned a LOONG time ago… but also one that I never likely played quite right as I lifted it at 15 or 16 years of age. So it was fun to try to get it right. Randy was a HUGE influence on me and continues to be to this day. In my darkest times as a player I regularly listen to those two Ozzy albums (Blizzard of Ozz and Diary of a Madman) for inspiration. I hope I did his solo justice.

The first line of this solo is a straight up F#min triad - but played as a tapped line. The tapping hand moves up one fret changing it to a D Major triad. But this time Randy switches it up to his signature tapped group of fives as opposed to the typical triplet feel (to give his some distance from copying Eddie Van Halen I suspect). A little trilled line of an Emaj for and the end which bends back up to (you guessed it) F#min. Randy typically favoured the sound of Natural minor (Aeolian) over a minor chord as opposed to many players of his and this day who opt for Dorian. This is very predominant in giving him his much more classical sound. He regularly used classical devices such as a trill (which this solo is FULL of). The solo ends with a blistering F#minor scale ending strongly on the high E note… The rhythm part here ends on an E chord - giving this a very strong resolution.

Getting the sound
I didn't really nail Randy's tone here… But he liked Double coil guitars through Marshall full stack LOADED with gain. He also had a WAH pedal always left on type of tone with that strong midrange honk. He liked MXR pedals as well but his pedal board was pretty sparse. His tone was (as all players) in his hands. See his rig here

The files
Here is the TAB sheet for your downloading pleasure.

This comes from my YouTube channel which has a number of these types of solos so check it out:

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Fade to Black solo w/TAB

One of the earliest solos that I longed to play as a teenager was the beautiful intro to Metallica's "Fade to Black" as played by Kirk Hammett. The haunting melody and liquid feel has captured the imagination of more than just me as it continues to be one of the most learned solos of all time.

Kirk Hammett is a very diatonic player. He very seldom leaves the key or scale of a song and this is the case... for most of this intro. He plays dead inside B minor (Aeolian) for the entire solo. Then he inexplicably (to me at least) ends on an A minor ascending scale. The odd thing is that there is an G# in the accompaniment? An odd choice for sure, but in the words of the immortal Eddie Van Halen "if it sounds good - it IS good". I believe this applies.

Getting the sound
I am afraid I didn't manage to get the sound… mine sounds too nice : ) Kirk has a very brittle gain setting and a bordering on nasal tone on this one. Possibly due to microphone placement during recording. Deepish reverb to give it some distance, long tail delay at a very low setting and you are there.

The files
Here is the TAB sheet for your downloading pleasure.

This comes from my YouTube channel which has a number of these types of solos so check it out:

Stairway to Heaven solo w/TABs

The solo to "Stairway to Heaven"  by Led Zeppelin is commonly ranked near the very top of all time on any of the "Top 100 solos" type lists you will see. Often ranked in first. With pretty good reason too. It is an absolute beautiful piece, built almost solidly around the A minor Pentatonic scale. But, if you look deeper, you will discover that Jimmy Page is nailing chord tones throughout. Which creates that wonderfully melodic sound.

This comes from my YouTube channel which has a number of these types of solos so check it out:

This solo is essentially made up of an A minor pentatonic scale … But if you look closer you will see that in the very first line he wraps it up on the note F. Seems odd until you examine the backing which is Amin, G, and two bars of (you guessed it) F. Actually if you take a minute (hint hint) and examine some of the other notes involved you will see that Jimmy frequently outlines these chords. Again - awareness of the backing is critical.

Getting the sound
This is fairly classic Les Paul with a fuzz tone as opposed to distortion. Some nice spring reverb as well. The other thing is in your hands. Jimmy's timing is very cool and laid back. He plays a hair behind the beat almost at all times. So as you are playing relax a bit and breath. Let the notes drag out a bit and all of a sudden you will feel where he lives. Very cool.

The files
Here is the TAB sheet for your downloading pleasure.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Chord tone soloing - an exercise

One of the hardest things with learning to hit chord tones while soloing, is trying to do the mental multitasking it requires. At first, keeping track of which chord comes next in your mind - while you "relax" and solo - feels damn near impossible.... But it really isn't. It just is for you right now!

Do you remember the first time you rode a bicycle? You likely wobbled down the street, eventually gaining stability, then you get it BOOM! Before long, its tough to remember why you struggled with this in the first place. The same holds true of learning anything new. It takes a bit of doing but once your mind latches on, these tasks become almost second nature.

One of the hurdles we have to overcome in this day and age is there seems to be a real tangible fear of doing anything badly. Which is nonsense. Let me help liberate you on this - EVERYBODY who is good at anything, once sucked at it. Embrace sucking, learn to laugh at it, expect it. Because it is part of the road. A BIG part of it.

OK, so how do we get there then?

Leverage what you know
A great exercise to begin with is take a song that you know really well. Preferably a campfire style chord strummer and make sure you know the chord changes inside and out and can say them out loud. Now, pick an area on the neck and learn the arpeggios of these chords in this position. Play the song, but instead of strumming the chords, simply walk through the arpeggios, playing each chord change as a single note line.

IMPORTANT - Turn on a metronome, or tap your foot - something, ANYTHING giving you time. Force yourself to really nail the change on the click. The click is important to the process because it makes you accountable. You can't fudge this, either you are on it or you are NOT.

Once you are good with that now begin to improvise melodies using ONLY chord tones. At this stage, your only allowed pool of notes over each chord are the ones in the chords themselves. Try to create motifs and alter them accordingly as the change happens.

Once you have this DOWN in this one area of the neck, do the same thing in another area. Do not move forward until you have each area really owned. THEN and only THEN combine the areas - eventually spanning the whole neck.

Sounds kind of drab? How do we spice it up?
Turn each of the chords into scales... So if you are playing over a minor chord, use its minor scale (preferably Dorian!) using the arpeggio as its skeleton - these are your strongest resolve points. Same process if you are playing over a Major chord - use it's major scale.

Now do the same drill, but this time change the entire scale ON the chord change. Try to hit one of the chord tones of the new chord in your melody with each new change. The key here is developing awareness of the impending change. It forces you to do some pre-planning as you play, which is EXACTLY the exercise here.

Man, I sucked at that!
Yes you did! And you will for a bit. But that's OK. As I said above, learn to expect and embrace being bad. Notice the minute improvements as you go along. These are small victories. The reaching of these micro goals are steps toward reaching the macro goal of owning this technique. So be proud of each one you hit. How your think of your progress is a big part of succeeding.

Moving on
Now, try this approach with other songs you know really well first.

I should say that an immense help to this process is something that will generate a loop for you to play over. Using a looper pedal is a massive help. In my opinion, every guitarist should own one of these pedals. There are also software packages like "Band-in-a-Box" where you can input a chord change and it will generate the accompaniment for you. There are also some inexpensive iPhone based apps like ChordBot which do the same type of thing. I would highly recommend researching and purchasing something like this.

With some hardware or software at your disposal, the next steps would be to input some random chords. Diatonic - or of the key - first, eventually moving to completely unrelated or non-diatonic chords. Remember the chords can be anything really as the exercise here is doing the mental multi-tasking of getting ready for the change, knowing when it is and getting to the nearest chord tone in a musical way.

Jazz it up
Another fun thing to do is to get a jazz fake book. Open it up to a song with some chords you feel OK with and work with these changes. This is really helpful as it will also help develop your chord chops. Inevitably there will be some chords in there that you don't know well. Which forces you to learn not only it, but it's arpeggio as well, in more than one area of the neck.

The main thing with anything you do is to have fun with it. So get creative. If it's not fun then make it so or simply dump it and move on. If you do a little bit of this each day it will oneday click. Once you get good at this it can be really fun and addictive. It becomes a little mental puzzle for you to work through. When you go back to playing the one-key based structure that most popular music follows you will be surprised how easy it is. Soon you begin to HEAR the changes... no thinking required. This is when the real music begins to happen. Before long - like your bicycle - you will wonder why you weren't able to do this all along.

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Runnin with the Devil solo w/TABs

Here is the solo to Van Halen's absolutely killin "Runnin with the Devil". It is one of Eddie Van Halen's most recognizable solos but it remains (unlike his others) fairly accessible for intermediate players. It is also a great working example of chord tone soloing and how a total awareness of the backing chords is critical to playing well.

Here also is my YouTube channel address:

This solo is essentially made up of an Amajor triad moving to a G Major triad. He even bends up to hit the final Emin in the backing. Chord tone soloing at its best.

Getting the sound
Loud amp, add some flanger to get that Eddie Van Halen signature sizzle. Touch of reverb and high output humbuckers in your guitar.

The files
Here is the TAB sheet for your downloading pleasure.