A Transparent Guitar And A Translucent Lesson

Hello everyone!

I hope this finds you well!  I have a couple of quick updates and a new lesson here for you today.

Guitar-Muse update:

Just in case you didn’t see it, I just wanted to let you know that a new review / tutorial on what to look for when buying a new guitar is up on Guitar-Muse right now.  Interested parties can check that out here.

Book Update:

All of the GuitArchitect’s Guide To… covers are done and up online.  You can see the revised editions here.  The Pentatonic book is getting a graphic overhaul and cleaned up for the print edition.  But I should have a new cover (and a revised edition) up by April.

Update Update:

I’ll have a couple of big announcements to make in the weeks ahead, but I think that it’s going to be good news for the readers of this blog and perhaps offer something truly useful.  So stay tuned – I might have an announcement (and something new to offer) as early as next week.

And an overdue lesson:

It’s been a spell since I’ve posted a lesson here (most of the lesson material for 2013 has been transcription work and lessons for Guitar-Muse), so I thought I’d rectify that with the following little morsel.  One thing I hope to do more in the future is offer bite sized lessons rather than the 3-6,000 word uber-lessons I’ve put up in the past.  Hopefully by making the lessons shorter, I can get them posted in a more routine fashion.

“You say you want a substitution…”

Okay – maybe none of you were saying that but I’ve got a string skipping idea that I think you might dig and want to explain where it’s coming from.

In this lesson, we’ll start with an F Pentatonic Minor (F, Ab, Bb, C, Eb)…and then add some notes to make something cool.

Visualizing the scale:

The first step in this lick is to visualize F Pentatonic minor in the 8th position.  The first group of notes in the example below is a F Pentatonic Minor scale.  In the second figure, I’ve removed the Bb  and moved the Ab to the G string to make it a 3-note-per string idea with a similar fingering.

 F Pent Minor - F Pent Minor 2 string

I find that removing notes from a straight scale-based pattern helps open up the sound of the scale as well when playing it in a linear fashion.

Preliminary Lick: F Pentatonic Minor on two strings

F Pentatonic Minor 2 strings

And here’s an mp3

Where there’s two there can usually be three:

Now I’ll take this same string skipping idea and expand on it moving it to a pattern on the E, G and A string.
F Pent Minor to F Minor 3 String


Preliminary Lick #2: F Pentatonic Minor on three strings

F Pent minor 3 strings

And here’s a MP3:


Adding by Subtracting

Using a trick I pulled from Eric Johnson (and a number of other players) I modified the scale by adding the 6 (the note D in this case) and the 9 (G) to the Pentatonic Minor scale to give it a slightly different sound.

Rather than think of extra notes – I simply modify some of the notes of the scale by a 1/2 step:

Changing the b3 to the 9 means changing an Ab to G

Changing the b7 to the 6 means changing an Eb to D

I don’t do this with every note, just a few of them.  If you look at the before and after below, you’ll see that the modified scale has the same number of notes but with an added bonus – namely a symmetrical fingering.

F Pent Minor to add 6 and 9

The advantage of a symmetrical fingering is that it makes it easier to manipulate when we use it in a pattern.

The Lick

Now with all of this back story it becomes much easier to see how I came up with the pattern below (based on an improvised idea):

F Dorian string ship seq

Here’s an MP3:

And here’s another MP3 in a more improvised vein.  By adding the natural 6 and the 2 (9) to the scale – what we really have here is a string skipping dorian lick.

Taking the idea a little further

In this case, I don’t mean stuffing more notes into a passage – I mean getting comfortable with the sound of added notes.

The MP3 below uses an approach from an early chapter of my Symmetrical Twelve-Tone Patterns book.  In that text, I talk a lot about understanding what it means to play “in” before you play out and being able to resolve “out” ideas or (in this case) resolve notes outside the scale.  But I also talk about working through ideas and finding resolutions.

When working with pentatonics add ons like the ones above, I’ll often work on accenting a note so I can really start to hear how it sounds in context.  The following short improvisation starts on the 6 and stresses that note for to accent the Dorian sound.

When working with ideas like this strive to get past the notes and to, instead, get into the sound.  It’s not just about playing a lot of notes, it’s about knowing which notes affect you before you play them.

Finally for those of you who are interested in the tech side of things – if you like the tone – it’s the same – AU Lab, Apogee Duet, FnH Guitars and Scuffham Amps combo that I typically use….

Scuffham Amp RigWith a little added reverb and a front end boost courtesy of the TS-999.


I hope this helps and, as always, thanks for reading!


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