Lesson: using the different timbres of the guitar

What many string instruments have in common is that you can play the same note in different places. If you try this out, you’ll find that while playing on paper the same note, they sound a little bit different in the different places.

All tab examples can be played finger-style or with a pick. By clicking on the image it will open in a new tab. All examples are available as a pdf here >>>

Ex. 1

ex-1

When I talk about timbre here I am talking about the tone quality or tone color produced by playing a note or a chord on your guitar. Over time I have found that using the timbre is important for your guitar playing and assists in adding expression to your music.
I suggest you play Ex. 1 with a pick, with your fingers, with your thumb so you may become aware of how much difference this all makes.

When I am to play a melody (a solo) and or an arrangement of a piece, I consider the different options. In this context, I might also look at the question of having notes of a melody ring together, can I use open strings. Choices to make include but are not limited to:

  • key
  • pick or fingers
  • what type of pick
  • closed position playing, open position playing or a mix of both
  • capo to facilitate specific open string positions

Mary did you know?

In example 2 we will look at the opening phrase of Mary did you know and work this out in different places on the neck to compare timbre and tonal quality while also looking at the option of letting certain notes ring together.

Ex. 2

ex-2
Let all notes ring together for as long as you can.
The pos. III type of phrasing already sounds slightly warmer and allows for the option of letting notes ring together most notably the last three notes before striking the chord.

We’re going to move up a little bit more on the neck, and see how that sounds.

ex-2a

 

 

 

Adding in a Capo

In think we have a clear idea of how different fingerings make a difference for how the melody will project. Since there is something really beautiful about open strings, Example 3 makes use of a Capo on the 3rd fret.

Ex.3

ex-3

 

 
ex-3a

 

 

As for me personally, I prefer to play the song as in the last option, which gives the melody a harp like quality especially when we let all notes ring as long as possible.

Here is how Andres Segovia explains it with some more options added in:

 

Enjoy!

 

How To Write A Song by Toby Gad

With some students having composition assignments at school this seems like a good set of tips from someone that knows what he’s talking about. 

The songwriter behind hits by Fergie, Beyoncé, Colbie Caillat, and more, opens up his box of secrets…

Toby Gad, professional songwriter

I’ve written songs for quite a while now, over two decades, and I still get a kick out of it. I used to write eighty to a hundred songs a year but it seems like success has only made me work harder—last year I wrote and recorded a hundred and eighty songs, and this year probably just as many.

Read the rest of the article here >>>

Thinking Outside of the Box: Steve Vai on the Creative Process

Last night by accident almost I stumbled upon the YouTube Channel of Steve Vai here >>> to be amazed by all the videos with such incredible guitar playing. But that actually was not what amazed me most. I was really blown away by the new band String Theory and the set up with two violin players (one traditional and one electric).  It is yet another example of how THINKING OUTSIDE OF THE BOX  really frees up for new possibilities and sounds, in this case due to the two violins.

Don’t you just love the way these instruments blend together, I know I do and what’s more. I have been writing new music and felt like arranging it with so that my very talented cousin could play his violin in there but was not sure how to get it so that it would be more than just an intro and than over and done. Than you Steve for opening up my world of possibilities again. At the same time: it meant two scores in the fireplace and back to the drawing board. Normally I’d be sad about that this time I am excited!

Here is another be blown away from the same band. Love those incredible harmonies.

I remember well how much I enjoyed my holiday in Bulgaria years ago staying in the ancient city of Nessebur and its beautiful people and how could I forget our stray dog that followed us around everywhere and would be there in the morning waiting for us. When seeing the video below which deals with Steve Vai’s creative process I started wondering if I had missed something there.

The most important lesson in here is I guess for me is: DO NOT STICK TO WHAT YOUR FINGERS ARE TELLING YOU BUT TELL YOUR FINGERS WHAT THEY ARE SUPPOSED TO DO. I remember well how I wrote some music for my good friend Michael Pokocky but could not play it that point (actually studying to get it fluent), it was the very same thing!

Have fun playing and writing.

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Free Lesson: Spice it up with your minor pentatonic scale

If there is one thing that is clear it seems to me that almost all guitar players interested in lead guitar use the minor pentatonic scale. There are others that will point out that they also use the major pentatonic scale but for now I will go from the premise that any major pentatonic scale will have its minor replacement, similar to what happens in modes.

As an example: some people will use the C major pentatonic scale for playing on either a C chord, C maj7  chord or a C7 chord.

When we look at the C major pentatonic scale we see it has the following notes: C D E G A.
When you start on the A note however, it will make A C D E G.

There is a reason however why I choose to approach this from the minor pentatonic perspective throughout, and that is because a.) Many guitar players start with this scale when experimenting with their blues solos and because it is so closely related to the other well used scale: the blues scale.

As beginning guitar players we will all have gone through licks like this:

Now in the following examples I have used different pentatonic scales to play over the chord sequence D min7 – G7 -Cmaj7 which is for those with a but of a theoretical background a II – V – I chord progression. In its most basic form we would be using the following minor pentatonic scales:

D minor 7 —>  D minor pentatonic scale

G7 —> E minor pentatonic scale / G blues scale or G minor pentatonic scale

C maj7 —> A minor pentatonic scale

You will find that when you play these scales over thew chord progression it sounds a bit dull.

Personally what I find attractive about the minor pentatonic scales is that they are useful to create patterns or certain repeatable fragments. If we combine that given with the idea that we may be able to use different minor pentatonic scales on different chords all of a sudden a wide array of possibilities opens up to spice up your solos. By the way I could go into all kinds of theory here but I will just say I usually use the minor pentatonic and blues scales as interchangeable. (the notes in between brackets are the additional note to the pentatonic scale to make it into a blues scale.  I am aware that more options exist but these give you a nice start.

D minor 7 (D F A C)

  • D minor pentatonic: D F G (G#/Ab) A C
  • E minor pentatonic E G A (A#/Bb) B D
    The B in this scale  makes for a nice emphasis of the dorian character of the chord (IIm7 chord) while the blue note  (Bb) provides for a nice natural minor sound.
  • A minor pentatonic A C D (D#/Eb) E G.

G7 (G B D F)

  • E minor pentatonic: E G A (Bb) B D
  • F minor pentatonic: F Ab Bb C (C#/Db) Eb
  • G minor pentatonic: G Bb C (C#/Db) D F
  • Bb minor pentatonic: Bb Db Eb (E) F Ab

C maj7 (C E G B)

  • A minor pentatonic: A C D (D#/Eb) E G
  • B minor pentatonic: B D E (F) F# A this scale produces a lydian airy kind of sound
  • E minor pentatonic: E G A (A#/Bb) B

Some Examples

Example 1

In this example only the A minor pentatonic and Bb minor pentatonic scale were used to create chromatic tension and and at the same time resolution. The A minor pentatonic over the C maj7 chord creates a 6 or 13 sound.

Example 2

I this second example we move up position by position and end up in the lydian sounding b minor pentatonic over the C maj7 chord.
The F# note suggests a Cmaj7 #11 chord.

Example 3

In this third example we have an gone from D minor pentatonic to E and F minor pentatonic so we would at least have the B note in the G7 chord. Try to avoid over emphasis of the C note in the F minor pentatonic as against G that suggest a sus chord, while at the same time chromoatically it sounds nice and we resolve this back to E minor pentatonic goes to B minor pentatonic goes to A minor pentatonic.

Cycling around for practice

I you would like to come up with other ideas and practice it us actually nice if you have a cycle that you can let go on continuously. That can be one by playing ||       Dmin7     |      G7     |      Cmaj7     |       A7 ||

Below I will list the different pentatonic scales you could use in a format that makes it easier to see how you can create nice patterns with them.

I guess you can see for yourself now that there are some good options to connect different minor pentatonic scales and keep on going round and round. Have fun!