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!

 

Minor Pentatonics, Autumn Leaves

Recently I have been working with a student on using your pentatonic scales for jazz improvisation purposes. I have found them useful especially because of the notes left out. Just for the record, I do not make a difference between minor and major pentatonics in that as far as I can see it they are the same, be it not that many guitarists started out their lead guitar playing with the minor pentatonic scale and blues scale. So when I speak of using the G#min pentatonic scale over B7 others will speak of the B major pentatonic scale which is the same only it starts on the B (the second not of the G# minor pentatonic scale). I like to keep things simple.

The first  eight bars of Autumn Leaves are:

|| Am7 | D7 | G maj7 | C maj7 |

| Fm7b5 | B7 | Em | Em E7 ||

Below is an example of how you can use the minor pentatonic and blues scale over the chord progression set out previously. Please be aware that this is an example and as far as I am concerned it is one of the many ways in which you can improvise over the song.

Analysis

Now lets see what is happening here:

Bar 1: A min pent (V) goes to B min pentatonic (VII) which creates a nice sound adding the 9 and 13 besides that it moves right into the next bar (D7) in which we will play C min pentatonic

Bar 2: C minor pentatonic (VIII) even though it has the 11 in there, the emphasis is primarily focussed on the b9 and the b13, Mist of all it sets up to chromatically resolve into the B minor pentatonic that can be used over the G maj7 chord

Bar 3: Using the B minor pentatonic this creates a nicely grounded flavor while at the same time adding a 9 and 13 in your lines.

Bar 4: I used a pattern in sixteenth notes in E blues scale (VII) and repeated the pattern in pos II which would make that the B blues scale. The f# creates the airiness associated with the lydian scale. By repeating the same pattern yuou also create that sort of modern sound.

Bar 5: again a repeated pattern using F# blues scale (II) and A blues scale (V) all notes, even though their weird signature (sorry it was my power tab) are all closely related to the chord

Bar 6: Over the B7 I played a G# blues (IV) scale and a F blues scale (I) but avoiding the Bb note although it would work as a chromatic note to b, and thus I slid very nicely back into a Bar 7 -8 E blues scale to play over the E minor (open). The last two notes are the 3 and 7 of an E7.

I also suggest you read this lesson >>> which deals with the same subject in general terms. Or find the chord melody arrangement (beginner level) of the song here >>>

Autumn Leaves chord melody

Autumn Leaves

Autumn Leaves or by the original French title Les Feuilles Mortes is by now a jazz standard that has been played by countless artists. The chord melody arrangement below is suitable for beginners. The song itself is a great one to practice playing major and minor II V I progressions.

Download Autumn Leaves here >>>

Have fun !