Thursday, February 28, 2013

Kenny Werner Masterclass

Kenny Werner to me, is like the yoda of music. I absolutely love his approach and his observations strike me as very accurate. I first came across Kenny through his wonderful book 'Effortless Mastery' - one of my all-time favourite music books. Check out this video and really consider his words. You will be a better player for it.

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Take the Power Back solo w/tabs

Here is a 90's classic "Take the Power Back" by Rage Against the Machine. This solo is one of Tom Morello's few all out burners where he let's his chops hang old-school. Rage hit me and the world like a freight train. I will NEVER forget the first time they came into town in support of their first album. Small theater show, with less than 1000 people on hand. They hit the stage and absolutely annihilated the place. Ranks up there with the very best rock performances I have ever witnessed (and I saw a LOT of the bigs in their prime).

This song is a standard tuning - but the E string gets dropped down to a D. So it is D,A,D,G,B,E. The solo portion is centered around the D natural minor scale (Aeolian mode - so same notes as the key of F Major). There really is nothing added other than the very cool Dmin7 triad that slides down to the #6. The ending is a chromatic series of dissonant diminished chords that end on the note E (played as an octave chord). An odd choice? I suspect it could have been a passionate misfret that just was left in the recording. You'd have to ask Tom!

Getting the sound
Pretty simple here, guitar with humbuckers through a tube amp. Lots of gain, but mostly aggression. Don't be nice to it.

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

Friday, February 22, 2013

Pedalboard fun

Check out this cool little club pedalboard I assembled. My son gave me one of his old skateboard decks. So I took some Velcro, screws, rubber feet and a handful of my unused pedals that I can swap out depending on the gig. All I need now is a skateboard bag and I will be truly rockin and Rollin!

Thursday, February 14, 2013

John Schofield - "On Improvisation"

One of the best videos from one of the greatest players ever to pick up the instrument. Go out an buy yourself a copy of this beaut. It's a 4 part vid - so look for all 4.

Monday, February 11, 2013

Roben Ford - Crafting a solo

This is some great advice from one of my all time favourite soloists. If you are not familiar with Robben's playing I would suggest hitting YouTube and check the man out. I first came across him many years ago with the Yellowjackets and Miles Davis. THAT is heavy company to keep!

Friday, February 8, 2013

Modes - clearing up some common confusions.

With modes, sometimes you need to step back to start to understand them. So let's go back to the basic understandings of a mode: a mode is simply a major scale - but with a different note as the tonic or home tone.

So the key of G has the notes: G,A,B,C,D,E,F#,G
A Dorian has the notes: A,B,C,D,E,F#,G,A

Same notes right?
Different order - THIS matters.

A Dorian has the note A - which also means that its associated chord (Amin) is the tonic or 'home tone'. So a song that uses the notes of the key of G - BUT IS CENTERED AROUND THE CHORD Amin is a Dorian piece.

Sounds simple yes? Well it is. 
But here's the thing; YES - you can use all of the chords that live within the key of G. But the problem is, this pool of notes (or pitch collection) has a STRONG gravity towards the note G - NOT A. So the more of these chords you add to your progression, the less 'Dorian' it will sound.

This is why typically, most songs considered truly "modal" are based around just one or 2 chords. Using only one or two chords can create the sound of a drone of sorts. This harmonic simplicity allows the listener to soak in the true nuances of the desired mode. Think bagpipes or Indian music. A constant note provides a built-in framework, which has a real beauty to it.... or ugliness as desired.

Let's also discuss a couple other confusing things:

  1. The use of a 'scale mode' and something being 'modal' are not the same. During a solo, over a static chord, sure you can use different modes momentarily... Jazz guitarists do this all the time. But understand that this does nothing to affect the songs overall modality. The chords define the mode NOT the scale you are choosing to use.
  2. Modes are NOT scale shapes.... well, I mean, they are... or can be. But playing in Mixolydian mode (for example) can be fingered a number of different ways. Typically guitarists tend to think of things as fingering shapes - again TYPICALLY with the root centred on the low E string. This is not what is going on here. All the answers lie in the notes or pitch collection used.

You want to write a modal piece? It's simple.

STEP 1: Pick a mode
Let's pick Mixolydian, the fifth mode of G (for example). The V chord in any key is dominant, so that means to get the Mixolydian sound, we use a D7 chord as the root of our progression. So strum away and record yourself doing so... one chord, chug, chug, chug.

STEP 2: Write a melody (or 'head')
Play around until you find a melody that works over your D7 backing.

STEP 3: Support the newly created melody
Once you have your drone and melody in place start adding in chords (again, of the key of G) to your backing  - but whatever you do, make sure you keep going back to the D7.


Voila! A modal song. This concept confused me for soooooo long that when i finally grasped it, it seemed anti-climactic. I hope that just happened for you too. : )

Modal understanding should be a part of every musicians bag of tricks. BUT - it is not some magic potion. Applying creativity to everything you do IS what it is all about. So armed with this knowledge, get out there and write me a classic. Modal sounds have been utilized by everybody from the classical masters, to the Beatles, right up to this day. You can learn to use them too.

With a little practice of course!