Music

Music (12)

Originals v Covers: Play for the Audience?

I was doing my typical boredom-induced zombie scrolling deal on Facebook the other day and happened upon a Woody Harrelson meme that said, “When people who only play “original music” crap on my cover band” and has Woody drying his eyes with money. It made me laugh, but it also made me think of another post I saw a while back that argued that cover bands aren’t “local music.” Both of these polarizing posts kind made me question where musicians place their value in their music, and I just wanted to talk through some of the points here (especially after having a discussion with a friend who has very different opinions than mine).

I’ll start from my end because it’s what I’m most familiar with. I love writing music and creating riffs and songs, but at the basis of my playing, I just enjoy playing covers. They’re fun, they get people up and moving because they’re identifiable and it’s a relatively straightforward thing that you can build from with your own unique flourishes should you choose to or play it exactly like the records...the choice is up to the player. For me, I like playing it note for note with the recording. It’s equal parts nostalgia and the desire for perfectionism is a world that lacks it completely. My OCD makes me want to nail each note exactly how the pros did it, and when I finally accomplish it then I feel successful. That’s been a driving force and where the bar has been set for myself since I started playing. I’ve always played covers because that’s actually how I’ve learned a lot of theory is piecing it together how the pros do it, because I don’t have the focus to sit down and practice scales…I never was a “studier.” When I did learn scales, it turned me into a robot because of that cushy feeling of false safety; if I stayed in the box I knew I couldn’t play a dreaded wrong note. But, it led my lead-work to be…scaley? No emotion, just notes in the scale. So, I went back to piecing theory together from songs, and that’s how I’ve personally connected the dots. It can be considered derivative if you broke it down, but it works for me and makes me happy and I try to play to the song and the band as much as trying to stand out.

My buddy is from the opposite line of thought. He gets ultimate enjoyment from writing songs and riffs. His fulfilment comes when he creates a lead lick or catchy rhythm part that he wouldn’t mind hearing again. He knows a few songs, but 95% of the time he chooses to create something in a jam than to cover a song, it’s just not interesting to him. He’s very into unique tones and doesn’t want to sound like Angus Young or EVH or any of the classics. He wants to create his own sound and for lack of a better description, to leave his own mark on the world. It’s something that I never wrapped my head around as a teenager as we’d go to jams and he’d want to make something up instead of playing a known song (to him that was boring). As we got older we both realized that a lot of what’s so great about guitar is the ability to adapt, so we’ve made stuff work.

Fundamentally, going back to the meme’s as referencing (welcome to citation in 2018), who is wrong and who is right? The answer? Both are right and wrong. I know, that sounds like a cop-out but hear me out. There’s playing music for fun, and then there’s playing music to earn money (surplus income, or sole income if you’re a full-time musician). You’ve taken a lot of time to hone your craft, and exposure bucks don’t pay the rent, unfortunately. So, fair compensation for the service you’re providing is what’s needed. To that end, a musician must be willing to adapt to what the customer is expecting. Whether that’s a bar gig trying to help sell some food and beer for the venue, or whatever scenario arises. In general, however, people are looking for identifiable songs. I’ve had several friends who have gone to bars to find out the band was playing nothing but originals, and they ended up leaving. It’s just the society we live in. Everyone has to start somewhere, and many of the famous acts played covers until they got their foot in the door and added in their own material along the way. I guess my point is that there can’t be a polarizing thought-process when it comes to music. Being part of a community means helping it grow, and admittedly it’s something that you shouldn’t have to sacrifice your own integrity to achieve either. My point is, even the biggest stars in music STILL play covers, because there’s something identifiable and nostalgic about hearing those notes, and sort of tying those nostalgic feelings to the personality of the artist covering them…sort of a way of the person covering the songs to express a bit of who they are and what they love.

 In the end, what is the point of cutting down another musician? It doesn’t matter if you’re in a cover band or an original band in the end. If you’re doing what you love, screw it, it doesn’t matter what people think. I’ve seen discussions of covers being derivative, but that’s something that is defined by each player. 

Playing music is the greatest, and surely, that should be enough?!

 

Seeing three of the best within 5 days - Joey Landreth, Adrian Legg and Kris Barras.

Well, I’ve just one of the best weeks I can remember for a long time!

As you probably already know, I play in what bDub calls a “Dad-Rock” cover band and love every damn second of it. If I am honest, we are OK, we are tight and we always have good tone – we play the kind of music that would get us booted out of any US bar but over here, that kind of Americana/Blues/Country stuff is quite rare so we, at least around here, quite different to most other bands on the circuit. I’ve known all the guys I play with for almost 30 years and have been playing with them on and off for that time, although it was only a couple of years ago I fully joined them after the guitarist (the first guitar player I ever saw play live – albeit in a different band -  in early 1988) unexpectedly had to quit the band after being there for 24 years. So… it’s not a serious musical adventure, it’s just some old friends who get on very well playing the kind of music they like to the best of their ability. The band, Dirty Money, is somewhat of an institution around these here parts. On Sunday we played in the afternoon, outside (in the last hurrah of the flailing UK summer) a lovely time was had by all – it was just a laid-back moment of loveliness that we all thoroughly enjoyed. I must admit, I like afternoon gigs as it means I’m home by 9 and can get a decent night’s sleep. 2am and I just don’t mix like we used too. 

Then… Monday. Well, you may have read my last blog piece about it we saw the unbelievably perfect Joey Landreth. You can read about it here.

On Tuesday we were off again to see one of my favourite musicians, Mr Adrian Legg. Now, I have history with Adrian, I first saw him supporting Joe Satriani in March 1993 (the concert that provided the live track “Flying In A Blue Dream” for the album Time Machine) and for me, Adrian completely and utterly stole the show that night. You can picture it, lots of long-haired rock guitar god types all going to see ‘the master’ and in support is this wonderfully quietly spoken man with just an Ovation guitar. As he walked out we all kinda went “What the…?” but within the first 4 bars, the entire venue had their jaws on the floor in stunned disbelief what they were seeing. As we left the show that night, all around me all I could hear was talk about Adrian. I mean, everyone was blown away by Joe, but I’m pretty certain Adrian picked up a lot of fans that tour (he then went on to do a G3 tour with Joe and Vai) and I quietly just bought all his albums and retained my level of fandom over the years, I was delighted to connect with Adrian when the social media explosion happened and we often (and still do) talk about gear. He’s one of our artists in the most lovely way, he only uses stuff he likes that can make him sound incredible, and he still sound incredible - it’s so cool to see one of my favourite players sporting a Tumnus to make his acoustic guitar bite and growl in the perfect way. About an hour from us a small club run by a certain Mr and Mrs Quayle (who have a son you might be familiar with. Let’s just say… they created a Dual Fusion of their own), and they occasionally have some really good players performing so we go on up when we can. It was lovely to see Adrian again, not seen him for a couple of years and he honoured me by playing a request that I had asked for – “Mrs Jacks Last Stand” that is just one of the most beautiful pieces of solo guitar I can think of.

Adrian often tours the US, you can find tickets here. if you get the chance, you’d be mad not to go. It was a very, very, very special night for all concerned (this was the first time I could take Lisa with me so she was delighted to finally meet Adrian, Richard and Leslie - Tom’s Mum and Dad – in the flesh. You gotta love Leslie, she often starts a sentence with “Oh, I shouldn’t tell you this but there was this one time, when he younger, that Thomas…” and BOOM, there is my material for the next NAMM flight to wind him up!)

A couple of days followed that was just work and family stuff and then on Friday, we were off out again to see an exceptionally cool and fast-rising star named Kris Barras. Man. I wish you could have seen it. I’m not the biggest blues fan in the world, as a lot of it just gets repetitive after a while, but there are certain bands and players that take the mould and smash it to a million pieces, all the time retaining the core of what makes a great blues band. Kris, quite simply, is a phenomenal player. I was listening intently all night as I kept hear different styles flawlessly fall from his fingers… it was about halfway through I suddenly realised what was happening. Every time he changed guitars, his playing slightly changed with it – but not completely, just another version of him. I’ve never really seen that in a player before. You know what it’s like, when someone plays a different guitar they tend to be the exact same player just with a slightly different tone with a couple of specific tricks thrown in… but Kris was actually adapting his style and voicings to compliment his guitar which was a real mind bend for me. When he was on the Tele, some incredibly subtle yet perfectly placed country fills were coming out right alongside some more biting bluesy stuff, then when we went to the Strat, the attack changed, as did the note choice, as did the feel of his playing… same when he went to his HB equipped guitars (a PRS and Seth Baccus Nautilus) everything changed again… I think I could tell you what guitar he was playing ‘now’  (in a blindfold test) on any given gig not by the tone, but how he changes his playing. I really wish I could articulate this better as it’s probably reading like a nonsense but within his own unique style, I could hear Gary Moore, The Allmans, Brent Mason, Albert Lee, Skynyrd, Mr BB (The) King, JoBo, Derek Trucks, Clapton, Beck… the list is endless, but each of those influences came out, perfectly morphed into his own style, according to the instrument he was playing. Class.

Then, after seeing those three incredible players during the week, three players that are respectively either at the sitting at the top of their genre, or comfortable in the fact that they changed millions of players and can still shake them to this day or one that’s raising up so fast it’s hard to keep up with them… All these players inspire me to be the best I possibly can… on Saturday night, I took Lisa to see her favourite guitar player play live, fortunately for me, that actually is me… and that’s just about the best feeling in the world for this hapless romantic old fool.

 

Learning from other musicians and their other instruments

In all the years I’ve been playing I’ve made the mistake of only listening too and ripping off other guitar players in order to find my own ‘style’. Yep, this was a big mistake. More recently I’ve been listening to other instruments to expand my palette and I’ve been having a ‘meh’ time with it… coupled with a constant desire to get my head around a more modal approach to make my playing more interesting, it just ending up as a more frustration (and let’s face it, I’ve had one of the very best explain it to me multiple times – Mr Tom Quayle)… I’ve understood some of it, but you know, I can’t find a way of putting it into a vocabulary that is mine. 

This has been changing recently and it’s come from the most unexpected of sources.

… so… backstory.

I first met Dave when I was about 16, he’s 8-9 years older than me and from the moment I first heard him play I was utterly blown away by his musicality. He’s a piano player. Classically trained, a music teacher, and just a frightening sense of melody and structure. Way back then, I was hugely intimidated (and that’s a reflection of me, not him, a more lovely and open man you could never meet), that I just could not ask him anything… Our paths have crossed many times over the years and although I’ve always had the utmost respect for him as a musician, I never thought of talking to him about it all. A couple of years ago I saw on FB that he was doing a solo show close to me, so I went to see him. First time I’d seen him in years! We caught up and went our separate ways… then at around that time Mrs Wilding had a couple of piano lessons with him and they became friends, he was very understanding that she couldn’t always fulfil her lesson slots due to her illness, and then last year when he became poorly she was there for him and the friendship became stronger. Once he was a little better, he came over and he just fitted in with our family and it became a regular thing - “it’s Saturday, so Dave’s coming over”. 

Since the time I first met him and then during the time we barely saw each other, Dave has made a career out of teaching music/piano and has gone so far as to earn a doctorate in music composition. So, if anything, I should have been more intimidated by him than I was before. But, now I’m 44, I’m a lot more secure and confident in my musicality so I’m more open to speak to people…. That first day he came over he only played a little piano and music didn’t come into the conversation, but ever since then at some point in the day we end up playing. I am VERY lucky that my wife is a musician and my kids play everything they can get their hands on, so music is always happening in the house.

It was about a month ago and Dave was just messing around on the piano and this incredible run came out of nowhere and I sat there, on the other side of the room, with my mouth agape. He looked up and laughed and said “what?”… so, I just said “What the &%^$ was that?” and he said “Oh it was just an *insert explanation here* and it made sense. I don’t know why it made sense in what he said, because it was no different from a guitar player saying it, but I think because it sounded different, and I could then look at it and have it in black and white (and also see and understand the chord he was using underneath it) there was what you might call a lightbulb moment.

I’m not arrogant to say that because of this I have Quayle levels of theory at my disposal, but what has happened is that I’ve found someone, and a way, to demonstrate this kind of thing and then transfer it over to guitar and my own playing. I’ve started to understand how different intervals work over different chords and I guess I’m kinda approaching my solo construction slightly differently, maybe in a more piano way… not just a bunch of guitar-shaped boxes and scales, but a more fluid movement between them… but my playing has definitely changed because of my weekly jams and chats with Dave. This became obvious last weekend. As with any local music scene, it’s all slightly incestuous… the band I’m in now Dave was in during the early 90’s. So, after coming over Dave came with me one day (this was about 8 weeks ago) to the gig to see everyone. This was the week that he and I first talked theory and construction, so it was me he was seeing play that night. Then last week, he also came and saw us again, and was a couple of my lead lines caught his attention - a couple of times he looked at me and smiled and nodded… one of the times I said to him, well I mouthed, “That’s your fault” and he laughed… I realised that without actively knowing it, I had lifted part of his approach and taken into the guitar, into my own playing/style.

So, kids, the lesson in all this is this… if you have musical friends that aren’t necessarily guitar players and they have a better understanding of music than you do, pick their brains, take music as a thing outside your instrument and blatantly steal their lines and ideas. There is a huge chance it will make you a better player.

 

 

Joey Landreth

Sometimes a chain of events happens that results in your life being changed forever. I could trace this story back to how a pointless gobshite (to all those not familiar with British vulgarity, you're welcome) from England started to work for the fastest growing 'booteek' effects company in the world in 2011, but that's another story, instead I will start this on the NAMM floor, Friday the 20th January. 

I was hanging with my bud Andy Wood on the booth, I met Andy through Tom Quayle about 5 years ago at the show, he's used our pedals for a while and we quickly became friends, as you may expect I am an ENORMOUS fan of his playing, he's amazing, but also of him as a human. Funny, intelligent and just a down to earth great guy, he's a joy to be around. So, as usual, we were hanging and he said "Hey man, let's go out and have a beer" and usually at NAMM we are too busy to do this, but I knew we were off to the Celestion Party that night so I said to Andy, you should come. Fortunately, he did!

We arrived somewhat late (no surprised there) and after enjoying the Arnie Newman Band for a while I found Andy at the back with about 5 other guys so I went to hang for a while. As we are guys, the introductions weren't quick, we just drank and laughed and had a great time. Eventually Andy introduced me to the guys, which transpired to be most of the upper echelons of Suhr. To one side and being quite quiet and reserved was this guy in glasses and a beard who Andy introduced me to as "Joey". Now, as we say here, the penny dropped from a great height, it was Joey Freakin' Landreth. I'd been quietly accumulating a massive man crush on Joey for about a year, marvelling at his playing and songwriting (let alone his voice) and here I was completely unsober and face to face with him. I played it cool, said I was a massive fan (fortunately I had good knowledge to back it up with) and we hung for a bit. I was picking his brain about his intonation (was delighted to hear that it's mostly down to hard work and dedication) and other stuff. He mentioned that he was doing a tour of the UK in a couple of weeks. Usually when this happens I get all excited for nothing as to most artists a UK tour means "London, Manchester, Glasgow" which are all hours from me (and let's face it, in the UK, if it ain't within a half hour most people claim it's not local enough to bother with) but it turns out that Joey was playing in my home town, 15 minutes from where I live. He gave me a CD (Whiskey) and put me on the guest list for the show - I was a little uncomfortable about this, as I was a little drunk and I didn't think he would remember, plus, I have absolutely NO issue in paying for a ticket to see an up and coming artist such as this.

So, I spend the next two weeks quietly (and not so quietly) trying to get as many people to this gig as possible, I wanted Exeter to be good enough for Joey to come back for. The last thing I wanted was him to be in this quiet big room and there be not enough people there for it to be comfortable for anyone. 

Last night was the night of the show. My long suffering wife, Lisa, and I picked up our good friends Phil and Hazel (I've know Phil for literally years and years, he saw my first gig that was bizarrely 26 years ago that day, but that's another story) and off we went. The venue was a new one to me (last time I was in town it was a shitty discount sportswear store) and was desperately trendy and cool. Name was on guest list, result! As I walked in, I noticed large beards where everywhere, the fridges were stocked with beer that I had never seen before and being offered around there were pulled Pork or some strange Cauliflower canopé things. I'm more of a "pint of Guinness and a packet of Peanuts" kind of guy. So from the outset I was out of my comfort zone.

As I went to the bar (full of dread as these places are never cheap) I noticed a familiar face at the bar and it was non other than the lovely Mick Taylor, a long time industry legend who I first became aware of years ago as the editor of Guitarist magazine and more recently as one of the hosts of That Pedal Show with Dan Steinhardt. We had a quick catch up and a little business talk (I'm going up next week for something exciting to be featured on the show, although hopefully not me personally) had a quick chat with Joey - looks like he did remember me, which was nice - and off we went to find a seat. Fortunately (for Joey), the place had a very healthy attendance so we had to make do with a crappy seat at the back. The support acts came and went and then it was show time...

Now, it's taken me a while to get to this point because I wanted to set the scene. Sometimes, you go to a show and you get blown away and that's that (for example, every time I see Vai I am left speechless) but other times you go to something and the whole experience is what takes it from being blown away all the way up to a defining moment in your life. This was a defining moment, it was a masterclass, it was everything a musician - and most importantly a guitar player - needs to see at one point in their life. 

Starting with just an acoustic guitar, he built the set foundation perfectly. There wasn't any of the trademark genius of Joey's slide playing, but rare moments of complete wonder within the songs that caught you and carried you on to the next one. His ability to hold the attention of the room, and to be heard in every corner at a reasonable volume (3 people talking at the back would have been heard everywhere but it just didn't happen) was spellbinding. As he eventually moved onto the Suhr superstrat and then the Collings he is most associated with, the tension and almost unbearable anticipation of what he was going to be doing next was palpable in the room. I first "lost it" during his well known cover of Eddie Cochran's "Hallelujah, I love her so" and then struggled to keep it together throughout. His last song was dedicated to his Grandfather who died a couple of weeks before was just stunning, there were many of us who couldn't keep their emotions in check, it was just one of those evenings.

So, why am I writing this - you could say I am on somewhat of a mission to make as many people as possible aware of Joey Landreth. His star is rising, and rising fast, and it is my hope that everyone who reads this gets to see him live sooner rather than later. It's one of those experiences that not only restores your faith in a music industry that appears to spew out nothing but shit, but makes you realise that the guitar is a vehicle for so much beauty it's our duty to make it talk, weep or shout as often as possible. I can't think of anyone who can do the above as well as Joey, but I walked out as inspired as I've ever been to play more, practice more, use different styles/voicings/tones/expressions and just be a better musician. I can't think of many other players who can do that to a middle aged cynic like myself.

Please buy his CD, see him live, or do whatever you can to make sure this guy - and lest we forget his incredible work with his Brother in the Bros. Landreth so we should include David and that band in this - are as huge as possible. The future of music will thank you for it. 

Thank you Joey, for restoring my faith in music, and being just a lovely lovely man.

Breaking Out The Pentatonic - Pt 5

Lesson 5: Chromatic Scale

Breaking out of the pentatonic boxes doesn’t mean that you have to totally change the way you play guitar and start all over again, in fact, it’s very much the opposite! It simply means that you use your pentatonic knowledge as the foundation to build a more varied library of ideas.

In this lesson we look at applying the chromatic scale to the minor pentatonic scale. The chromatic scale is playing all 12 available notes, one by one, back to back! As you can probably guess, this isn’t the most beautiful sound out there and kind of sounds like the first thing a 5 year old does when they first pick up a guitar! However, in the right context, chromatics can sound great! Have a look at this diagram: 

In this fretboard we show the A minor pentatonic shape 1 with a few chromatic notes on the top two strings. The pentatonic notes are our safety notes, and the chromatic notes work out as ‘out notes or ‘tension notes’ that can be quickly resolved to the pentatonic notes. This is a good example of how to take a chromatic scale and break it into small, effective chunks. Have some fun with these ideas over any backing track, and you’ll quickly get the idea and be able to apply this to your own solos!

More about Your Guitar Academy!

Your Guitar Academy is the UK’s central hub for learning guitar. They offer an online subscription-based range guitar lessons called “YGA Pro”, as well as private guitar tuition in several parts of the UK including London. They welcome students of all ages and abilities looking to learn and improve, from complete beginners to experienced players. They’d love to hear from you!

Gain Stacking – 101

When it comes to pedals, there are endless possibilities of combinations to create the perfect tone for the scenario that you’re in, whether it’s just jamming at home with a jam track or in a live band setting in front of a packed venue.

One secret to finding that elusive perfect tone is to use two dirt pedals stacked together to cascade your gain structure instead of just running a single drive pedal with the gain all of the way up, or running a dirt pedal into a cranked amp. There are several advantages to doing this, including extra control of the nuances of your EQ to how the gain reacts in terms of the bloom of the notes. Here are a few tips when configuring your stacking setup to maximize tone:

  • When stacking 2 dirt pedals together, the key thing to remember is that the 2ndpedal in the chain dictates the overall tone of the stack. What does this mean? Let’s use a tubescreamer and the Plexi Drive (JTM-45 style overdrive) as examples. If you run the TS before the Plexi Drive, whatever signal is leaving the TS is going to use the Plexi as a “gateway” of sorts. This means that the EQ and the clipping on the Plexi Drive will change the way the TS sounds. By nature the TS is mid-heavy, which is great for cutting through the mix. Once it reaches the Plexi Drive, the circuit itself will take that signal and adjust the frequencies it sees according to the knob position treble and gain positions. So if you have the mid hump from the TS, but have the natural light mid-cut from the Plexi Drive, that mid-hump will be less pronounced and the gain will just add to the overall level of saturation. This will give your gain a larger, “wall of sound” effect, while placing the TS AFTER the Plexi Drive, the TS will impart that more noticeable inherent mid-hump. If you have a favorite pedal that you like as your “base tone”, you’lll either want to put that last, or put a very transparent boost (even just a clean boost) after it.
  • Cranking the volume on the first pedal in the stack will not raise the volume, but will increase the clipping (gain) in the second pedal. When stacking 2 pedals, remember that volume before dirt = more gain, where volume after dirt = more volume. Again, the 2nd pedal acts as a “gate” and dictates the overall volume. Cranking the output of the first pedal will push the input higher and clip the signal harder. This will make a big difference, because if you want a volume boost for a solo, you’ll want to put it 2nd in the stack.
  • Using an EQ pedal after your drives can help better sculpt your dirt tones. When you add an EQ pedal into the stacking equation, your options open up tremendously, especially based on what EQ pedal you’re using. We live in the golden age of effects pedals, so there are loads of great EQ’s out there, some that just adjust basic 3-band EQ (Bass, Mids, Treble) and there are some that let you fine tune the exact frequency of the signal to add or cut whatever you want in your tone. Getting lost in the mix using a big muff? Crank up the mids a bit. Want a little bit of added depth in a smaller venue? Adjust up the bass frequencies to fill out the sonic canvas. This also applies when using the amp for dirt, by sticking the EQ pedal into the FX loop of your amp, then you have access to a boost and can adjust your amps gain tone to the closest detail to get that perfect tone.
  • Stacking dirt pedals into an already distorted amp can add a depth and level of saturation to your tone only capable from stacking. Players have been using this method for decades to achieve their signature tones on classic records. A favorite of many people has always been a Plexi paired with a TS, which is used to boost the mids for solos. Another stack that happens often is using a Fender amp on the edge of break-up, and a Klon-style boost/OD to kick it into the stratosphere. One of the most popular and widely known stacks revolves around running a cranked fuzz face into most any type of amp (especially Plexi-style amps). The fuzz face provides a thick, wall of sound that’s great for fat sustaining leads or for chunky rhythms.

The main thing to remember is there are no wrong ways to stack your gain! Some of the most surprising stacks may lead to the coolest tones. Don’t be afraid to experiment and create unique combinations that can fit any scenario you need, from two low-gain drives to provide a base tone that you can stack on more gain for solos, or a boost hitting a distortion for sustain and saturation galore.

A few fun Wampler-related stacks that work really well together:

  • Tumnus into the Pinnacle Distortion. It adds a low-mid presence that just punches through the mix and sustains for days.
  • Clarksdale into the Plexi Drive. Reminiscent of cranked Plexi tones that have an added presence and depth from the EQ shape on the Clarksdale
  • Velvet Fuzz into Plexi Deluxe.From tube driver-esque tones to full on Hendrix, this is the go-to combo for great classic fuzzy blues.
  • Tumnus into the Euphoria. The perfect yin and yang. The Euphoria sounds like your amps natural OD with a D-style amp feel, and the Tumnus’s low-mid presence and warmth creates a 3D tone that works for a plethora of styles of music.

There are a lot more out there. What are some of your favorite stacks?

Breaking out the Pentatonic, Pt 4

Lesson 3: The Harmonic Minor Pentatonic

Breaking out of the pentatonic boxes doesn’t mean that you have to totally change the way you play guitar and start all over again, in fact, it’s very much the opposite! It simply means that you use your pentatonic knowledge as the foundation to build a more varied library of ideas.

In this lesson we will be taking the minor pentatonic shape 1 and changing one simple element to create a whole new sound and scale shape. We draw inspiration from the darker sounding harmonic minor scale and replace the flattened 7th we normally use with the natural seventh. Before we get deep into theory, the scale shape looks like this:

The Theory

To create this scale we firstly worked out the harmonic minor scale, which looks like this

Harmonic Minor 

1st, 2nd, b3rd, 4th, 5th, b6th, 7th

The key difference between this scale and the natural minor scale is the 7th (which is b7th in the natural minor). Therefore, our concept is to take the minor pentatonic and replace the b7th with the 7th to create the ‘harmonic minor pentatonic!’<

Harmonic minor pentatonic 

1st, b3rd, 5th, b6th, 7th

This scale can be used over basic minor progressions, but be careful to use the 7th degree as a tension note, resolving quickly to the root or b6th. You can also use the scale over a harmonic minor backing track, which uses the notes of the harmonic minor scale to harmonise the chords. Basic examples of this would be to use a major chord on the 5 chord, rather than minor. For example, you could play Am to E major and use your A harmonic minor pentatonic perfectly over that. Have some fun experimenting with it!

More about Your Guitar Academy!

Your Guitar Academy is the UK’s central hub for learning guitar. They offer an online subscription-based range guitar lessons called “YGA Pro”, as well as private guitar tuition in several parts of the UK including London. They welcome students of all ages and abilities looking to learn and improve, from complete beginners to experienced players. They’d love to hear from you!

Breaking out the Pentatonic - Pt 3

Lesson 3: One String Pentatonic

Breaking out of the pentatonic boxes doesn’t mean that you have to totally change the way you play guitar and start all over again, in fact, it’s very much the opposite! It simply means that you use your pentatonic knowledge as the foundation to build a more varied library of ideas.

In this lesson we come at the idea from a different angle altogether! This time we are not altering notes or adding arpeggios, we are sticking with the same 5 note pentatonic scale as always, except playing it on one string! This idea opens up a totally different, more vocal, sound to the scale. To begin with here is the A minor pentatonic scale on the G string...

Your first task is to get to know this across the neck. Remember to try and visualise the 5 pentatonic shapes as you flow through them on this one string. A great exercise is to get someone to shout ‘stop’ as you go through the notes… wherever you land you should be able to play up and down the pentatonic full box, wether it’s box 1, 2, 3, 4 or 5! Once you’ve got that you can work on the technique.

 

Slides and Vibrato

To get the notes sounding almost vocal like, you need to apply some simple techniques. Start by using grace note slides. This is simply where you quickly slide from note to note, so that the note covers one beat, not two (see the video for more help). If you then apply some wide vibrato you will immediately have this more fluid, vocal sound. Here is a cool exercise to practice this:

This can take a while to perfect, but once you’ve nailed it on one string try to do it on another string in the same key, followed by actually changing key. Good luck!

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Lesson 2: The Major / Minor Pentatonic

Breaking out of the pentatonic boxes doesn’t mean that you have to totally change the way you play guitar and start all over again, in fact, it’s very much the opposite! It simply means that you use your pentatonic knowledge as the foundation to build a more varied library of ideas. 

In this lesson we will be taking the minor pentatonic shape 1 and changing one simple element to create a whole new sound and scale shape. We take the b3rd of the scale and sharpen to create a natural third instead. This essentially means that we have brought in a major element to the minor pentatonic scale, hence the name major / minor pentatonic. There are two ways to play this shape, which you can see here:

The Theory

In terms of how to use this scale, we need to understand a simple bit of theory. This scale uses the following notes:

Scale Construction

1st, 3rd, 4th, 5th, b7th 

Within these notes we have major and minor elements. The root, 4th and 5th are all good in both major and minor, but the 3rd is major and the b7th is minor. Therefore the ideal chord and sound to use this scale is shape is a dominant chord. If you look at the chord construction of a dominant 7th chord you get this:

Dominant 7th chord

1st, 3rd, 5th, b7th

 So this works perfectly! As it works so well over the dominant 7th chord this scale is perfect for blues and funk, so jam away to those style backing tracks. If you are playing over a 12 bar blues, remember that this scale fits perfectly over the root chord, but not as well over the there chords… so just tread lightly as the track progresses!

More about Your Guitar Academy!

Your Guitar Academy is the UK’s central hub for learning guitar. They offer an online subscription-based range guitar lessons called “YGA Pro”, as well as private guitar tuition in several parts of the UK including London. They welcome students of all ages and abilities looking to learn and improve, from complete beginners to experienced players. They’d love to hear from you!

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Lesson 1: The m7b5 Arpeggio...

Breaking out of the pentatonic boxes doesn’t mean that you have to totally change the way you play guitar and start all over again, in fact, it’s very much the opposite! It simply means that you use your pentatonic knowledge as the foundation to build a more varied library of ideas.

In this lesson we will be taking the C#m7b5 arpeggio (a half diminished arpeggio) and add it to the pentatonic box 2. We’ll get into the theory in a minute, first of all, let’s learn the shape:

Our second task is to layer this new shape on top of the B minor pentatonic shape 2. Theory aside for the moment, this layering effect will allow us to quickly call upon the m7b5 arpeggio without having to think too hard about it! The little exercise we looked at in the video is as follows:

Tab for arpeggio

The Theory

So, for those of you who like to know what’s going on behind the scenes, let’s talk about the theory behind this concept. We are using the key of B minor for now. If you are a pentatonic player you probably know that if someone shouts B minor, you pop your first shape of the pentatonic on the fretboard on the 7th fret and away you go! Well, thew other thing that happens when the key is called is that you can harmonise the B minor scale to create a series of 7 chord shapes. These are <em>B minor, C#m7b5, D major, E minor, F# minor, G major, A major and finally back to B minor</em>. Each one of these chords uses only the notes from B minor to create the chord, and therefore they work perfectly together in key.

All we are doing is taking one of these chords (we could take any), in this case the C#m7b5, and playing through it over the B minor backing track. We know every note will work as the notes are built from the B minor scale. The cool effect you get is that of a bit of tension, as these notes spell out a chord that may not be playing underneath (unless you beautifully land it on the correct chord). This could be a bit dodgy sounding if you just keep going up and down it, but used conservatively and resolving to the pentatonics after each lick, provides a cool sound that adds a bit more spice to your playing and gets you out of those pentatonic boxes, even just for a moment!

More about Your Guitar Academy!

Your Guitar Academy is the UK’s central hub for learning guitar. They offer an online subscription-based range guitar lessons called “YGA Pro”, as well as private guitar tuition in several parts of the UK including London. They welcome students of all ages and abilities looking to learn and improve, from complete beginners to experienced players. They’d love to hear from you!