Get more out of that G-run, yeeh-hah

guitarWith  many of my students I work on improvisation and developing  runs. In this lesson In will use a classic bluegrass run to show how you can get much more out of it in terms of developing solo ideas and phrases.  In this lesson we will use a standard run from the bluegrass genre and see where it might take us when creating our own break over a standard chord progression. 

The run we’ll use is a G major run, essentially a G major blues scale (G major pentatonic plus minor third or so you wish the E blues scale started on the G note). Ultimately we will use the lesson material to play a break over the following common chord progression ( BIG SANDY RIVER).

||: G  |  G  |  D  |  D  |

  |  G  |  G  |  D  |  G  :||

||: G  |  C  |  D   |  G  |

  |  G  |  C  |  D   |  G  :||

The G major blues scale run

Ok,  here  we go.

Ex. 1

ex-1

We could also do this run in a closed  position (no open strings)

Ex.2

ex-2

First of all transpose the run to C and D

ex-3

Play it backwards

Ex 4

ex-4

I’ll leave it up to you to play this in closed position and to transpose it to C and D.

Playing around with these six notes we can come up with alternatives.

Playing  around with the notes

Ex 5  Start at a different place in time

ex-5

Ex 6 Leave out the root

ex-6

Adding notes

Ex 7 Adding the flat 7th

ex-7

Ex 8 Adding the flat 7th

ex-8

While all examples are in G I leave it up to you to transpose.

Application of what was learned: Big Sandy River break/solo

Time to apply what we have been doing so far to a real life situation: a break over the chord structure of Big Sandy River, a bluegrass standard. A melody arrangement of the tune can be found here >>>

bsr-1

bsr-2

bsr-3

bsr-4

bsr-5

bsr-6

bsr-7

bsr-8

Experiment with hammer-on pull-off etc, remember that this is alternate picked (on the beat down, off the beat up) and if you have a question let me know. Below a you tube video of Big Sandy River for some extra inspiration.

All the examples and the break are available as a pdf here >>>

 

Have fun!

Using the Lydian Mode

38954_422793518215_501308215_4610668_3753202_nSometimes we stumble upon the Maj7#11 chord in our musical ventures.

The maj7#11 chord is sometimes referred to as the Lydian chord associated with the fourth step in a harmonized major scale, at which we find the Lydian mode (major scale with raised 4th).

In this lesson we will look at 3 possible approaches, which will also work to color up a normal major triad,  maj7 chords, 6 chords, maj7 9, 6/9 chords or
majo 7/13 chords.

The raised fourth gives the mode an airy sound. Some players that use this as one of their favored scales are: Steve Vai, Joe Satriani, Eric Johnson, Scott Henderson and John Scofield and Albert Lee. The scale is commonly applied by many jazz guitar players and modern rockers alike.

Lydian mode

The lydian mode to which the maj7#11 chord refers is the fourth mode of the major scale. So an F maj7#11 is associated with the F Lydian mode which is the C major scale but started on the fourth note. While some people prefer to learn and use the Lydian mode, I teach my students to play the major scales they already know and shift the tonal center/ root to F.

Below is an example of the E lydian mode played in the VI position on the guitar. Effectively however you can translate that back to the B major scale which has the E (lydian mode) on the fourth step. (E.g. B major scale over E).

Lydian 001

Below is a lick using the E Lydian (read B major scale) in the position VI.

Lydian 002

In one of the lessons we discussed the G major scale. In this lesson we found the lick the following G major lick.

Trying shifting this lick up four positions and play it over a E chord.

Pentatonic Scales

Most guitar players start their lead guitar playing and improvisation using the minor pentatonic scale. In this case the pentatonic approach offers some additional options where it comes to playing extended sequences 0r when you enjoy a more layered approach.

First of is the pentatonic scale half a step below the root of the chord. So of we go for E, that would make it the  D# minor pentatonic which has the notes D#, F#, G#, A#, C#. When we set off these notes against an E major chord the pentatonic scale provides us with the maj 7, 9, 3, #11 and 6/13.

Lydian 003

Why I like using pentatonic scales is because they lead easier into motive type of approaches with less of a risk of sounding like you a racing up and down a scale.

While the D# minor pentatonic scale is the preferred one for outlining the Lydian mode, the (E major) or C#minor pentatonic scale allows for outlining the major triad and 6 chord. The B major (or G# minor pentatonic scale) is another way of outlining the chord and is closest related to the underlying B major scale.

Here a D# minor pentatonic lick over E maj7

Lydian 004

Shifting around triads

Sometimes you will find the lydian chord represented as a slash chord.
The E maj7 may sometimes be written down as a F#/E (read F# with an E in the bass or F# over E root).

Similar as to indicated for the use of pentatonic scales, you could move around these two triads as arpeggios and it will create some nice lead lines.

Lydian 005

To add more possibilities you could opt to also include the two minor parallel triads of E and F#, being C#minor and D# minor.

Have fun and try out some of your general major licks as lydian licks by changing the underlying chord. So if you have some licks in C major, try what happens if you play these over an F chord, or some licks in G major over a C chord Likewise, if you have some A natural minor scale licks, play them over F, E natural minor scale licks over C etc.  You’ll be amazed how these same old licks get a new life when applied in a different context.

Have fun.

Thoughts on play along tracks and metronomes

I get regular questions as to whether to use a play along track or a metronome.

I guess it depends somewhat on the purpose: both are equally capable of helping you with your time. At the same time however when it comes to using it for the purpose of improvisation, I generally prefer the metronome. While having the whole band behind you, for instance using Band-in-a-Box or play along CD’s may seem great, I generally find that they are a limitation to my imagination. I can’t help but feeling that when it comes to improvisation practice: less is more. More than once it seems like the play along tracks direct you in a certain direction. So, I would generally prefer a metronome.

At the same time however, I realize that it may well not be that easy to hear the harmonic structure of a song and improvise on that especially when you are starting out. I guess that is where I’d go for using a midi file or band in a box file with just the bass or bass and drums.

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!