Making A Longer Phase From A Few Notes

Just like Ratt – I’m back for more (hopefully you are also).

(Please feel free to insert another random hair metal reference if that suits you better).

I’m in the midst of a bunch of recording and gig preparation, and I thought one of the things I pulled out in a piece might help you.

I have an instrumental track that’s based on a pentatonic I’ve heard in Hindustani music before but don’t know the name of.  Other players have gravitated to this sound as well and in print I’ve only seen it listed as “Indian Pentatonic” (which, if we’re going to call it that, we might as well call it “Vindaloo” because vindaloo is at least tasty.)

Here’s the scale in A descending and then ascending.  Don’t let the time signature throw you off.  It’s just there to get all 5 notes in a bar.

A Pentatonic Asc Desc
In A  – I see R, 3, 4, 5 b7 (aka an A Mixolydian extraction) so this would work over chord taken from the parent scale D major.  In this case I’m using over a G – A vamp.

Start Small

Notice in the descending version I used one note on the B string and then 3 on the G string.  I do this because keeping only one note of the scale on the middle string of a 3 string group (in this case E, B, G) allows me to set up a sweepable version of the scale.

Why do I do that?

Here’s a little secret about guitar.  Certain techniques will take you a VERY long time to get under your fingers so if you’re going to spend the time to work on them make sure you find ways to use them to get the sounds you’re looking for.

Here I’ve taken the ascending scale and added 2 descending notes.  I’ve included 2 picking variations in the first two examples.  In my own playing I find that I end up going to the first Down Up Up pattern more often than not – but it’s worth the time to be able to do both of them.

For the example below – choose ONE picking variation and use it for all the groups of notes.  Pay attention to the 3 T’s (Timing, Tone and Hand Tension) and try playing it over a chord to associate the scale with a harmony.

A Pent 3 Note Sweeps

You might notice in the example that the E string always uses the index finger of the fretting hand and the G string always uses the pinky.  That leaves either the 2nd or 3rd finger for the B string note.  The fingering consistency also makes it easier to memorize the patterns.

Then build up

A Pent 5 Note

Now I’ve added a few notes on the G string.  One nice thing about Pentatonics is that they have some built in intervals larger than a major or minor 2nd that make them sound less “scale-ish” to my ears.  I’ve only included one picking idea above.  The 2-note sweep in the middle with the alternating picking would allow you to repeat the picking pattern, but you could also use pull-offs on the notes on the G string.

If the scale can descend on the G string – it can also ascend on the E string.  Here’s a two bar lick based on the idea above and adding in some notes on the E string as well.

A Pent Descending Line

Let’s Break This Down

A Pent Breakdown
I’ve broken this down in overlapping phrases to show how I expanded the initial idea into something larger.

Bar 9 Above:  This is a simple descending / ascending of the scale on the E string

Bar 10: There’s the sweep

Bar 11: This is a similar 7-note descending / ascending idea as bar 9

Bar 12-13: I broke this out to show the position shift to add the C# again with a similar idea as bar 9 and 11

Bar 14: There’s the sweep again

Bar 15: this is an the same idea as before but one octave lower.

Notice how there are two simple pieces of “connective tissue” the sweep and the short one string scale passage that ties the lick together.

Let’s look at another (and more challenging) idea:

Lick #2

A Pent Lick 2

Here I expanded on the initial idea.  I’m using sextuplets now so it’s faster.  In the first measure – there’s a slight pause on the last A in beat 3 to accommodate a position shift for the following beat.  As a phrase, I’d likely sit on that A for a beat or two before continuing but I shortened the time to fit it in a smaller graphic.

The position shift allows me to set up a sequence to ascend the scale again and build a little excitement.  Technically this uses all the ideas that have already been used.

Again – these techniques take time to get them under your fingers so they sound good.  Don’t take shortcuts.  Really focus on the 3 T’s and then find ways to incorporate them in ideas you already are using.

And one for the road

So far in this lesson we’ve been exploring string ascending / descending scales.  Adding in things like string skipping will give you some wider intervals to incorporate and get you further away from the scale sound.  Here’s one variation below.

Idea 3

My suggestions (should you choose to take them)

  • Find fingerings that work for you
  • incorporate some of the scale sequence ideas into the phrases you create
  • mix and match see how far you can go in one direction or the next before you run out of notes
  • incorporate different scale sequence ideas.  (For more information on this my Melodic Patterns book can open some doors here).

 

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

-SC

What Scale Do I Use?

Well…

 

Yep – It’s been a while.  A lot’s gone on.   These posts take quite a while to do so I need to either figure out a way to make them MUCH shorter or just post more sporadically.  I had a couple of free hours this AM so here we go!  Let’s get to something you might be able to use.

A lot of times in lessons, I get asked some variation of the question,

“What should I play over this or that chord?”

 

For example, here’s a question I answered on Facebook  a while back and I thought that the answer for approaching any kind of unfamiliar chord might help some of you.

“hi folks!Cmaj7b9#11 what scale can i use???????”

Here’s how I approach unfamiliar chords and it may help you:

  •  If I don’t recognize the chord – I recommend CONVERTING to the key of C.  The reason for this is the key of C has no sharps or flats so any chord formulas become easier to figure out.  In this case we’re already in C (C maj7 b9 #11).

 

  • Make sure you understand the chord. The chord is C maj7 b9 #11. The major 7th chord formula is Root (C), 3rd (E), 5th (G), 7th (B).  On top of that we’re adding a b9 (Db) and a #11 (F#).  Lets find a voicing that makes sense.

 

In a Major 7th chord, the 5th doesn’t really add any flavor to the chord.  It’s just filler.  If you need to condense voicings just remove the 5th (if it’s an altered 5th like. #5 or a b5 – that’s a different story!!).  Here’s a shell voicing of the C major 7th (no 5th):  R-3rd-5th.

C Maj
Now I see that Db – F# as just a barre on the 2nd fret.  (Side note – taken on it’s own I hear this as F#-C# or a F# power chord.  In the following examples I’ll continue to use Db but I recommend paying attention to what you hear and adjusting appropriately).

DbF#

Combining the two produces this:

CMaj 7b9#11_1

As an alternative to this voicing I also like the 3rd on the high E string – so I’ve switched the F# and E around in the voicing below.  Use one of these for the examples below (or any other voicing with the appropriate notes that works for you.)

Cmaj7b9#11_2

  • Now that we know what chord we’re playing the question of “what do we play over it?” becomes a little easier to answer.  My very first question might be counter-intuitive but typically I’d ask, “What chord are you playing after it?”  It’s important to understand how a chord works in the context of the chords around it because ultimately you want to be able to make a musical statement that has continuity through a chord progression.

 

  • For the sake of simplicity, let’s assume it’s the ending chord of a tune.  Start with just the notes of the chord: C, E, G, B, Db, F# 

    in order that becomes C, Db, E, F#, G, B.  Using the notes that are actually in the chord for melodic exploration are the best place to start!  You can always add other notes after!

Here’s a lick that uses the notes of the scale in position.

Scale 1

When I play licks like this I always play the chord first to get the sound of the chord in my head and THEN work on a lick.  You could loop the chord with a looper, record it and play it as a backing track, etc.  the point is to get the harmonic context (i.e. the sound) in your head first and go from there.

Note:  the resolution to C doesn’t really feel complete.  The F# and Db in the chord creates instability.  It’s almost as if the chord is implying (to my ears) a resolution to Em.  When you have chords like any kind of dominant chord – they typically want to resolve somewhere.  Pay attention to where your ear tells you the chord is going and use that in crafting lines and ideas.

So start here!  Just familiarize yourself with the sound of the chord and how the individual chord tones work over it.

  • You could remove any note for a pentatonic (C, E, F#, B, G / C, Db, E, F#, B for example).  Here’s are a few fingerings to explore those ideas.  Apply melodic devices (rests, rhythmic variation, sequencing) to get generate unique ideas.

Cmaj7b9#11_2

Pentatonic Lick 1_1A

  • You’re only missing some type of A for a 7-note scale (Ab, A, A#)  Let’s say A for now:  C, Db, E, F#, G, A, B

Here are a couple of ideas floating around that.  The first one uses the sequencing idea we saw before – the second is just a straight melody.

7 note with A

  • Repeating licks are something worth exploring as well (particularly if you’re playing the last chord as a cadenza).  Here’s a little McLaughlin inspired run.

Repeating Lick

  • Try extracting some triads, 7th chords or intervallic ideas from the scale.  In the example below, I took a G5 add 2 (aka Gsus2 aka replacing the B in a G major triad with an A) and moved it in scale wise motion on the A, G and B strings.  I added a C in the bass for harmonic context (sometimes played with the thumb but you can experiment with fingerings) to help get the sound of the triad in my head. (Watch that stretch in bar 3!!  If it hurts your hand just tap the C with your picking hand.)

Intervals 1

  • You can get a lot of mileage from just two alternating between 2 sets of triads (or any other type of 3 note cells – the end result is a Hexatonic – or 6-note scale).  Here I’ve used C major and the notes Db, F# B.  I start moving them through inversions and then mix an match to get some more interesting ideas out of the line.

Intervals 2

  • You could also try working in some chromaticism (D, Eb, G#, Bb) etc. for a 8 or 9- note scale:

Chromatic

  • This doesn’t even take into account approach notes (there’s a considerable amount of 1/2 step motion in the chord already (B-C, C-Db, F#G) but you could add in approach notes to B (Bb),  E(Eb), or F# (F) for example, superimposition of other arpeggios / tonalities or a number of other approaches – this is simply one simple approach to get some ideas flowing for approaching how to play over an unfamiliar chord.

 

  • One place where people get hung up on something like this is trying to take on too much at once.  “Seeing” the chord over the entire fretboard.  Working out arpeggios in all positions etc.. Notice that once I worked out a voicing in second position – many of the licks just worked around the chord shape there.  Start small!!!  Find a sound you like and run it into the ground with melodic possibilities and variations and lick ideas. Then try others. One eats an elephant one bite at a time.

 

Ultimately what to play over any given chord will depend on the melody, the chords before and after it, the mood of the tune, and your aesthetic.  It also depends on what you hear – so explore lot’s of variations and work on the ones that sound good to you!

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

-SC

 

An Update And A Lesson On Technical Recycling

“It’s been a long…long…time”

I just realized that it’s been a while since I posted anything here.  Life has a habit of getting in the way of well laid plans.  So here’s a bullet point list to create a quick update.

  • Korisoron – We are currently working on a new KoriSoron recording and our most intensive material will be on this one!  Initial tracking is in progress and we expect to have the recording out in September.  I’m also writing new material for the project and-  Booking new gigs for the fall.
  • TEDx – Korisoron has been asked to perform at TEDx Schenectady this fall and I’ll be delivering a related talk.
  • Old Project  – I don’t want to jinx anything but I should be getting together with some former band mates of mine and putting some finishing touches on a project that was very near and dear to my heart (and that I’ve mentioned in prior posts).   Fingers crossed – that will be another EP out this fall.
  • “Eel-Ech!-trick-a-coup-stick” – is the tentative title of a solo acoustic recording I’ve been working on.  I had previously recorded some tracks but wasn’t happy with them so I’ve been cleaning some things up and moving forward with getting that out the door by the end of the year.
  • The new pedagogy approach I mentioned a while back – I’ve been working on this but, quite honestly, I seriously underestimated the amount of prep I’d need to do to make this work so I’m just rolling up my sleeves and trying to pull ahead.  I took some notes back from the presentation I did at the HVCC Guitar Festival and have been pulling the material together – but I’ve learned more in the last 6 months about how to deliver everything (and what to deliver) than I learned in all my previous years.  I’m super excited about what this is becoming.
  • The other things – I have a few other musical things in the works that are too tentative to discuss, but, well, let’s just say that it’s a lot of electric guitar in various fashions that will be disruptive.  Other things also include a lot of revision plans for this site as well.

A lesson while you’re waiting

One of the things that hold up posts are the fact that I don’t write them in an organized way.  I write them in real time based on a theme in my head because it makes the writing more immediate and (hopefully) engaging for the reader.  Good for the reader – bad for productivity.  A post with any kind of lesson content typically takes 3-5 hours but some of the mode ones took 10-12 hours in editing, layout etc. so that’s why the posts get a bit sporadic for actual lesson material.

The value of recycling

One trap I still find myself falling into is the trap of “short attention span theater” or playing an idea, discarding it like a child’s toy and then picking up another idea and doing the same.  Maybe it’s a little cultural ADHD kicking it – but it’s very easy to loose site of taking a theme and really developing it into something.  (A great example of this for me is Bill Frissell’s Nashville where you can really hear each of the players take care in developing musical solos based on the melody).

From a technical standpoint, this approach can also be really useful.  It can take a long time to really master technical aspects of performance (particularly at the early stages).  Finding new ways to utilize the approaches you’ve been practicing will dramatically reduce the time it takes to learn new things.  For example, alternate picking takes a long time to develop at the early stages of playing, but once you have it down it makes everything  you have to lean to play with alternate picking easier to perform.

Optimize

Let’s take an A minor pentatonic lick.

Pentatonic Lick 1

Let’s say that you’re using hammer ons and pull offs to create a more legato feel.

For me, the most legato part of this passage is the last three notes.  I’ll move the E on the B string to the 9th fret of the G string to put 3 notes to that string and make the pattern more fluid.

(Note the change in fingering)

Pentatonic Lick 1a

This is more of how I approach pentatonic fingerings so I adapted the first fingering for one that works better for me.  Here’s the first part of the lesson – assuming that you have a base level of technique acquired – find fingerings that make sense for you!

If this fingering isn’t one that’s common for you and you want to practice the approach.  Here’s how I would do it.

 1.  Isolate. There are two technical hurdles in this lick. Combining the 1 note per string and 3-note per string notes with picking

 Lick 1CAnd this:

Lick 1D

And the transition between the two:
Lick 1E
2.  Practice

The first step is to just get the initial fingering and picking down.

  • Set a metronome for 5-10 minutes.
  • Slow it down! Playing fast before you’re ready just adds tension and makes the lick sloppier and harder to play.  The goal is to take something you can play perfectly and effortlessly and then systematically develop it so you can play it perfectly and effortlessly faster.

Lick 1 Slow

  • Pay attention to the 3 T’s (Timing, Tone and hand Tension).  If you find your attention wandering this will get it back.  Are there any biffed notes? (Watch that pinky!)  Is any part of the hammer-on/pull-off uneven? (Bonus credit – make a video recording and listen back.  Pay attention to what both hands are doing.  Be critical but not judgemental.  Imagine you are watching a friend play this.  What constructive criticism could you add to help him or her play it better?)
  • Write down what you just did.
  • Adapt this to the second lick and the transitional lick if need be.  Get it to the point that the entire lick can be played without mistakes.
  • Repeat as long as time allows.  Do daily (and if possible, multiple sessions daily).
  • Typically with something like this, I’ll also practice it as sextuplets and a few other rhythmic variations to have those at my disposal if need be.

3.  Extrapolate.

This is something I improvised over a C minor-ish feel that uses the same technical approach that I used on the previous lick with a C Blues scale.

Cmin Lick

Click on image to see a larger version

From a technical standpoint – this is the same basic idea as the first 6 notes from the previous A minor example.

C min lick 1
(Ah – the fingering is missing here – I’m using 2-1-2-3 for each of these)

Sequenced here from the b7:
C Min Lick 2
And from the 5th here:
C Minor Lick 3

In fact the only new thing is the string skipping at the end:

(I got lazy here – I’m using the tritone F#/Gb interchangeably).

Cm String Skip
If the string skipping is unfamiliar to you you can just use the same approach to get it down outlined above.

(Yet another) Shawn Lane Observation

I was watching some footage of Shawn Lane that someone posted the other day and this technical recycling was VERY apparent to me in the footage.  From a technical standpoint, it appears to me that he took six or seven technical approaches beyond the realm that anyone else was willing to develop them to (fretting hand taps as opposed to hammer-ons, rhythmic groupings variations (5,6,7,9, etc), wide interval string skipping, Hindustani / Carnatic slide playing and blues phrasing) and adapted those to all of the different music he was engaged in.

In Karate, it always comes back to the Kata.  In boxing – the basics, the jab, the hook, cross, the uppercut.  You can practice fundamentals your whole life and STILL find things to improve.  New techniques take a long time to get down.  Invest the time wisely to get the one’s you need REALLY down to help realize what you want to express and then explore your sonic world with the tools you’ve developed.  (and if you’re not sure which techniques those are – a good teacher can help!  You can email me at guitar (dot) blueprint at gmail if you’re interested in setting up skype lessons to help realize your goals.)

As always, I hope this helps!

Thanks for reading,

SC

 

 

New Lesson Part III – A Process To Get Better

Case Study

In part one of this series I laid a some ground work for the idea that improvisation can be utilized for a practice and compositional tool.  In part two, I showed how I used that approach to write a song and develop a lick for the solo .

Here in Part III of this series, I’m going to use the lick I came up with to show how I approach practicing.  While I’m demonstrating this to show how to get a specific lick under your fingers, this approach can be used for more rapid skill acquisition in any area.

Step 1: Separate A Specific Goal From A Desire

A lot of times, people will say they have a general goal like, “I want to get better at guitar” and then buy a book that they read a bit of any perhaps play something for a minute or two in an unorganized session and then play the same licks they were playing before and never open the book again.

“I don’t know why I don’t get any better.  I practice all the time and have dozens of books but I keep playing the same things.”

It’s because you have a desire but you don’t have a specific goal.

Desire is important.  It’s a motivator.  It’s the why behind the things that you do.  But desire doesn’t get things done.

“I want to be a jazz guitarist” is a desire.

“I’ve adopted a daily practice of learning a new standard in every key and transcribing my favorite artists soloing on those tunes.” is a more actionable goal that works in the service of the desire of becoming a Jazz guitarist.

Goals address what what and the how of the things that you do. The specific mentioned above  is important as:

Specific Goals Get Specific Things Done.

Depending on the thing you’re working on, a setting a realistic time frame for the goal might be make it easier to achieve as well.

In this case, my goal is to try to get this lick:

32nd Note Lick Revised

up to the tempo of the song I want to use it in.

Step 2: Identifying The Thing(s) To Work On

In my example above, my goal is very specific so in this instance that’s the thing I’m going to work on.

It’s important to note that in going through this process you will very likely realize that what you’re working on uncovers all sorts of other areas that need to be developed to achieve that goal.

For a non-musical example, if you made a New Year’s resolution to loose 50 pounds by summer you might have identified working out at a gym as one of the things to work on but actually getting to the gym consistently might be a bigger problem in realizing that goal.  So you’d have to address things like willpower / motivation or other issues in addition to the initial area identified (the need for more exercise).

In the lick above, there might be a whole host of technical issues (sweep picking, string muting, etc.) that needs to be addressed in order to be able to play on the lick.  That aspect of it can become very frustrating if you didn’t anticipate it.  Just be aware that working on one thing will often mean working on multiple things.

Step 3: Contextualize And Analyze

One common mistake that I see people make is learning a lot of licks and then not knowing how to use them.  By understanding what you’re playing and how it works in a harmonic context, you can then take that information and re-contextualize it – (i.e. use it for soloing in other songs).

I already did a lengthy contextualization and analysis of this in part two of this lesson.  But here’s a cliff’s note version.

In this case:

32nd Note Lick Revised

The lick is a diminished lick that I’m using as a solo over an ostinato.

Ganamurti Ost

Step 4: Deconstruct

So when faced with a lick like this:

32nd Note Lick Revised

many players will just set a metronome and just start whacking away at it to try to get it up to speed.

This is NOT the best way to address something like this.

I recommend breaking it down into components.  So if I look at the first two beats and slow them down – essentially I see:

four four sixteenth first
Which is just the same fingering repeated at the 8th fret:

four four positional sixteenth two

and the 11th fret:

Four Four Positional three

So if I look at that first lick again:

four four sixteenth first

I can see that it’s the same basic idea on three strings in terms of picking and fingering – a minor 3rd on the same string, a single note on the next string and a minor third on the third string.

Or isolated further essentially this.

Diminished 7th quint

While the fingering might be adjusted slightly for the note on the middle string,  the first thing to do is address this initial shape.  Because if I don’t have this down then the rest of the lick won’t come together.

Step 5: Refine

If the lick features something really unfamiliar to me – I’ll break it down even further.

  • My initial focus is to just make sure I get the right notes.  Rather than even looking at 1/16th or 1/8th notes I might break it down to this:

D Dim 7 to octave

or even this:

5 Note half Note

  • The first thing to address is the fingering.  I’ll use the 1st and 4th fingers for the notes on the outer strings and the 2nd finger on the inner string.

5 note fingering

This will keep the fingering the same on the D-G-B strings:

5 Note fingering-2

And when I get to the G-B-E strings the only finger I’m changing is the note on the B string:

5 Note fingering 3

  • The next thing I’ll address is the picking.  Note that I’m going to pick the form in a semi-sweep pick that might seem unusual:

Initial Picking

The reason for this can be seen better when you look at the lick in full position:

16th Note Initial Picking

The reason I start the lick on an up-stroke is to create a small sweep going between patterns:

Picking Excerpt

But this solution is just what works for me.  You could use hammer-ons to play the whole lick as downstrokes and that would work as well:
Hammer On Lick

The point here is to find what makes the most sense to you to play the lick to make sure that you’re playing it properly.

Step 6: Measure

Tim Ferriss has frequently thrown out this quote (proper citing needed)

“That which gets measured gets managed.”

When I go on a trip, my sense of direction is typically terrible.  If the sun is out I can work out “the Sun rises in the East and sets in the West” to at least get my general bearings but at night – left to my own devices without a GPS of some kind – I will typically go in the wrong direction.

I mention this because past experiences have shown me that using perception without any kind of concrete markings is a terrible measure for how I’m progressing on something.

In my case, I do several things to help measure how I’m doing.

  1.  I use a stop watch.  I’ve been practicing for a while so I can sit for longer periods of time and generally stay on task, but for the beginner I’d recommend a 5-15 minute block.  If I only have an hour to work on a few things, I’ll take 4 15-minute blocks and really focus on only one thing for that interval.  That’s why the stop watch is so important because it allows you to focus on the task at hand without spending any mental bandwidth on how long you’re working on something.  (Bonus tip – 4 FOCUSED 15 minute sessions over the course of a day will get you infinitely further than one unfocused 1 hour practice session at a time).
  2. I use a metronome or a time keeping device.  If I can play the lick at the beginning of the session at 100 and end at 105 I’ve made progress.
  3. I write it down and by that I mean I (generally) keep a daily log of whatever I’ve practiced for whatever length of time I practiced it for and make any notes of things I addressed.

    Example:

    “3/13/16:  5-Note Diminished run- 15 mins @160.  Work on articulating middle notes.”

    That’s really important.  So many of my students who say that they’ve never made progress before become VERY surprised when they have to write something down and REALLY see exactly how much (or in most cases how little) time they’ve actually put into something.

Step 7: Play it (or perform it, or do it) and observe it

Okay – we’ve covered a LOT of preliminary groundwork but the reason for that is because practicing something wrong will only make you better at playing it wrong and you will plateau at a much lower performance level.  Playing it correctly (i.e. with no tension, proper form, timing and phrasing will take longer in the short run but will save you insurmountable time in the long run.

I hope you’ll take this advice from my own experience.  I have had to start from scratch – from the beginning – TWICE – because of all of the bad habits I picked up and had to get rid of.  Had I know what I know now, I could have gotten where I am now in 1/4 of the time.

Here’s the trick to practicing this.

You need to really focus on what you’re playing and pay attention to how you’re playing it.  But you need to do this in an impartial way.

This means divorcing yourself from the outcome and just focusing on the moment.  The way I do this is somewhat schizophrenic in that when I practice I almost view it as if someone else is performing it.  While I realize that this may sound insane –  the point for me is to not get caught up in judging myself (“that sucked” doesn’t help you get better) but instead to focus on the process (i.e. the physical mechanics of what I’m doing. “Is it in time?  Is it in tune?  Am I playing that with minimal hand tension?)  The goal is to be as impartial an observer as you can be and just focus on the execution.

To do this, you’ll want to perform it at a level where it’s engaging (don’t make it too easy) but not so difficult that it’s overwhelming OR where you’re bringing in bad practice habits. 

When I was in high school I used to just practice everything as fast as I could and then use a metronome to try to make it faster and all that did was had me play with a lot of tension and not in a rhythmic pocket.  I could never figure out how people could play effortlessly and smoothly and it was years later that I realized that they played that way because they practiced that way.

Step 8: Correct

This is where the adjustments happen.  If my hands are tense, I adjust to play with less tension.  If my rhythm is off, I adjust to get back in time.  If other strings are ringing out, I adjust my hands to mute the strings better.

Step 9: Isolate the problem area(s) – Deconstruct Again

If I’m working on a big lick and have a problem switching position – I’ll apply this entire process to just that one problem area and correct that. Don’t spend 15 minutes playing 100 notes if you’re tripping up on 4 in the middle.  Get the problem area sorted out and then (once that’s worked out and smooth) work on playing the areas immediately before and after the problem and ultimately playing the whole thing.

Step 10: Play/perform/do it and observe it again

So I apply the correction.  When I get to the point where I can play it 5-6 times in a row perfectly, then I’ll adjust appropriately.

This Specific Lick:

Here’s how I tackle this:
32nd Note Lick Revised

  • Since it’s a repeating 5-note pattern, I start with the first 5 notes and establish a fingering and picking pattern.  I practice that with proper technique and timing and get it to where it’s smooth and effortless at a tempo.
  • I repeat this process with the 5-note pattern on the D-G-B strings and on the G-B-E strings, again getting each individual pattern smooth and effortless.  Spending more time on the first pattern gets these patterns under my fingers more rapidly.
  • Once I have the three patterns down I’ll focus stringing them together in position.16th Note Initial Picking
  • Once that position’s down I’ll do the same thing in the other positions:
    four four positional sixteenth two

and
11th Fret four four revised

  • Then I’ll focus on tying them all in together and look for trouble areas.  One issue I had with this pattern is making the switch from the high E string to the first note of the next pattern on the A string.
  • In this case, once I could play the full pattern with 16th notes at 160, I cut the tempo in half and started working on 32nd notes at 82.  I typically raise the metronome marking anywhere from 2-5 bpm when developing something like this until I get to my desired tempo.  The end tempo is typically 10-20 bpm above where I’m planning on playing it as playing it live with adrenaline kicking it in, we always play things faster so I like to be prepared (or at least more prepared).

That’s the process in a (rather large) nutshell!

My recommendation is to give it a go with something that you’re specifically trying to learn and see how it works for you.

  • You may find that it takes you longer than you expect it to
  • You may find the process uncovers a LOT of other things that need work

Those are both okay!  They come with the territory.  The good news is once you start doing this consistently, you’ll find that you make REAL progress in the things you’re working.

 

Here’s the big secret no one is probably telling you:

Practice requires practice!

Just like anything else, you actually have to practice practicing to get better at it (practicing).

The good news is you CAN get better at practicing and in doing so you will find that it actually takes LESS time to work on things because you get more efficient at what you’re practicing and how you’re practicing it.

As I mentioned before, I am working on a whole new pedagogical model that uses this methodology as it’s core to get better playing results in a shorter period of time.  I’m just about through the development stage – but if it’s something that interests you – please send me an email at guitar (dot) blueprint @ gmail (dot) com – and I’d be happy to send you more information once it’s ready.

Finally, consistent and steady wins the race

To get better at something isn’t any secret at all.  It’s putting in consistent focused time, day after day.

  • Be clear on what you want to do
  • Be clear on HOW you’re going to do it
  • Do it every day until it’s done

Move on to the next thing and repeat

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

-SC

New Lesson PT II – Improv(e) and Applied Theory

Case Study

In Part I of this lesson,  I laid some ground work for the idea that improvisation can be utilized as a tool for practicing and composition.  You might want to read that post here.

In this lesson I’ll use a real world example to demonstrate how improvisation and applied theory led me to develop a lick.

Ganamurti Melankarta

I’ve written before about how theory can not only help you understand what you’re playing but can also expose you to new sounds you never considered before.

I was fortunate enough to have some studies with Aashish Khan at CalArts in Hindustani (Northern Indian) Music – the Carnatic (South Indian) has been of interest to me as well.  In South   I have a photocopy of L Shankar’s 1974 AWESOME Wesleyan dissertation, The Art of Violin Accompaniment in South Indian Classical Music (typically available through interlibrary loan – Reminder – SUPPORT YOUR LOCAL LIBRARY) but as that text is not accessible to some people I’d recommend fellow Berklee alumni Charlie Mariano’s An Introduction to South Indian Music as a really good source for making South Indian melodic material accessible to people who wish to adapt the music.

One Melakarta (this is an oversimplified definition but for discussion purposes here – a 7-note scale) I got exposed to was called Ganamurti

(scale formula: Root, b2, bb3, 4, 5, b6, 7)

or with A as a root:

A Bb Cb D E F G# A  (aka A Bb B D E F G# A).

I feel the best way to internalize new scale ideas is to write a new tune with them.  Here’s an excerpt of a new tune based on this idea I’m playing with KoriSoron.  You’ll be able to find it on our next EP.

What’s notated below is what I wrote for Farzad’s part on the A section of the tune.  I’m playing a counterpoint line and doubling some parts of the tune.

Ganamurti A section

So this gives you a basic idea of the melody and vibe of the tune.

Han(d) Solo

There are a few other sections of the piece and then some sections to solo over.  One of those sections has a repeating pattern like this.

Ganamurti Ost

Now this is the basic form.  There’s a lot of melodic variation and fills thrown in on the last beat so it’s not played robotically but you get the general gist of one of the ostinatos being soloed over.

So what I’m going to do now is walk you through the process of how I approach improvising over something like this and how I generated a new lick to add to my vocabulary.

To review the process from Part I of this lesson:

  • Improvise. (Create)
  • Record everything.
  • Listen back and find the new things that you improvised that you like. (Assess)
  • Learn (and when possible improve upon) the best ideas you came up with when improvising.

Here’s the ostinato.

Ganamurti Ost

Thought Process #1. 

I start negotiating the scale looking for melodic fragments to utilize.

I see D F G#

D F G#

aka D, F, Ab

D F Ab
which I recognize as a Diminished triad.

The scale also has a Cb (B) (This is going to be referred to as B from here on out for simplicity.)

D F Ab Cbb

Which makes it a Diminished 7th.

Thought Process #2:

This means I can play dimishished arpeggios over the ostinato.

As diminished arpeggios are made up of all minor 3rd intervals, the notes repeat over the same string groups every three frets.  This is useful information because whatever I come up with melodically here:

D F Ab Cbb

Can be played at the 8th fret:

8th fret 4 note

And the 11th fret:

11th Fret 4 note revised

And so on to create a melodic sequence.

What’s your Position on That?

Before I look at developing a multi-positional lick I’m going to look at it in position.  Since the intervals are made up of all minor thirds – this arpeggio:

D F Ab Cbb

will have a D on the G string as well:

D Dim 7 to octave

Thought Process #3.

THIS is useful information because if I have an arpeggio that’s contained on three strings (in this case using 2 notes-per-string, 1 note per string and 2 notes-per-string which I think of as a 2-1-2 form) then I can take whatever I’m using as picking and fingering for that shape and (with slight modifications to the fingering) apply the same basic idea (more or less) positionally.

So this:

D Dim 7 to octave

Becomes this:

Positional Ab

And this:

Positional D

**Note on playing with patterns:  I find pattern playing to be extremely useful when improvising because it makes modifying those patterns (i.e. making music from them) in real time feasible.   Having said that playing this as quintuplets (i.e. 5 notes to the beat)

Diminished 7th quint

will give you a very robotic feel.  (This IS a really good way to practice getting quintuplets under your fingers but that’s another discussion).  With arpeggios like this I typically play them as 1/16th notes to alter up the feel a bit.

With all this in mind – here is the lick I improvised initially:

four four sixteenth first

It basically involved:

  • Seeing a diminished shape
  • Seeing it on three strings
  • Manipulating it in position

While I’ve detailed a lot of the thoughts out BEHIND the scenes here,  Once I saw the initial shape I arrived at this intuitively.

Then I just moved it up 3 frets:

four four positional sixteenth two

And three frets more:

11th Fret four four revised

Once I saw the whole thing – I tied it together into this monstrosity:

Ganamurti Diminished lick full

News Flash!

We play this tune around 100-110 BPM on acoustic guitars.  What looks like a pristine metronomic moment of perfection in the example above was a train wreck when I first tried to pull it off.

In order to have it under my fingers (and at my disposal) when we play live I’m going to have to practice it and in Part III of this series, I’m going to show how I’ve been practicing this to get it up to tempo.  If you’ve ever felt like practice lessons are not fruitful for you or wondered if you’re doing it the right way – Next week’s lesson will be an awesome one for you!

A call to action:

As always – thanks for reading.  I hope that this helps!

I’d like to continue to keep the lesson content I put up here for free but, in addition to the amount of time it takes to generate lesson content this in depth, there are also expenses associated with putting any content online.

If you like this lesson, or the other material on the site, there are a number of ways you can contribute (and enrich your own quality of life) and help keep the information here free.

  • You can schedule a private lesson.  You can email me at guitar (dot) blueprint at gmail for information on skype or in-person lessons.

Any and all support is appreciated.  As always, thanks for reading!

-SC

 

2 String Melodic-Minor Arpeggio/Scale Fragments

Hi Everyone!

As promised here’s a quick lesson of some material I’ve been exploring lately that may be interesting to you as well!

The In-Between

As those of you who have explored my not-peggio series know, I’m a big fan of melodic material that exists in the area between scales and arpeggios.

The following ideas will be drawn from D Melodic Minor (D, E, F, G, A, B, C#) – but the approach can be applied to any scale.  Lately I’ve really been into trying to work this scale over knuckle-dragging metal that exploits that Phrygian-ish 1/2 step E->F Bass motion but the licks presented will work over any of the chords outlined below,

Two-String is The Thing

The first thing I’m going to do is look at some ascending two-string diatonic 7th chord arpeggios.

2_String_7th note arpeggios

If you’re not familiar with these shapes try practicing them up and down the fretboard to get them under your fingers.

Here’s a little secret:

  • When I play two-string patterns, I think of all of the time I spent working out permutations for the two-string minor pentatonic patterns I practiced endlessly and try to find a way to get a little more use out of them.

With that in mind, I thought,  “What if I extended this arpeggio with some diatonic notes and kept the 2-note-per-string idea the same?”

Applied to the first arpeggio above, I got this (Note the fingering):

Extended Pattern Fingering

Practicing it a bit to get fluidity, I realized that I was playing it in a different rhythm:

Pattern 1

This specific arpeggio could be called an E min 7 (add 11), but the combination of 3rds and some step-wise motion opened up the sound of the arpeggio for me and made it sound more like a fluid lick.

Here’s each individual pattern.

Pattern 1 Pattern 2 Pattern 3 Pattern 4 Pattern 5 Pattern 6 Pattern 7

I’ve added a Soundcloud link of all of the individual patterns played together below.

Technical Note:

I think I’m playing this around quarter = 132 or so and using a combination of hammer-ons/pull-offs and sweep picking.  I edited out some clipping that occurred when I recorded these but you may still here some elements of them in the mp3.

As always, pay attention to the 3T’s (Tone, TIming and (hand) Tension) when practicing these and focus on trying to be as fluid as possible.  Also be aware of the little finger dance between the first and second fingers when switching between the G and B string.

Aesthetic Note:

While you could play each of these ideas all in a row as I did in the example, I view each of these licks as connective tissue to help create larger phrases.

I’ll post more examples of these in the weeks ahead.  In the meanwhile, keep exploring and, as, always, thanks for reading.

-SC

PS – for those of you who are interested, the sound on the demo was recorded on my iPhone using a modded 69 Lead amp I created in Positive Grid’s BIAS running through a signal chain in JamUp Pro.

It’s a stunning App…and I can’t recommend it strongly enough.  Look for an upcoming review in Guitar-Muse.com!

Pentatonic Short Lick Part III

Hello everyone!

If you haven’t had a chance to check out part one or part two of this series I’ve been revamping some of the material from my last clinic for some upcoming events and I thought I’d take a couple of posts and put up one lick/approach in each one.

Prepping The Lick

In this lesson I’m going to combine a few penatatonic shapes to make a shape that can be played with sweep picking for a more legato sound.

 

Sticking with E Minor Pentatonic from the previous licks, in the example below I’ve taken a two-note per string fingering starting from D in the first measure.  In the second measure, I’ve started the sequence from the root, E, and changed the fingerings of the notes so that it alternates from 1 note-per-string to 3 notes-per-string.

Positional Explanation

This allows me to use all down-strokes and hammer-ons when ascending the scale which helps create a more fluid sound.

Lick #3

This lick is simply an ascending and descending run to demonstrate the fingering and sweep picking approach.  As a lick, it’s something I would use typically either ascending or descending to get into another register of the guitar when improvising.

While I practice ideas like this in 16th notes to get them under my fingers, I find the phrasing to be a little mechanical.  So, after I get the fingering down, I’ll typically move it to other rhythmic groupings.  Moving it to sextuplets in this case, puts the accents in more interesting places (and makes it a 4/4 phrase rather than a 3/4 phrase):

Pentatonic Lick #3

Here’s a mp3 at different tempos.  As with lick #2, the first pass is phrased at 16th notes and the second at sextuplets.

Tips:

Remember to keep your hands relaxed and focus on the 3 T’s (Timing, Tone and (hand) Tension).

Try experimenting with this idea starting from other notes in the scale and/or modulating the ideas to other tonal centers!

If you like this idea, you may want to check out my not-peggio lesson posts as they use a similar alternating 1-note-per-string-3-note-per-string idea.

That’s it for now!

As always!  Thanks for reading!

-SC

.

ps – for those of you who are interested, this was tracked entirely on my iPhone using JamUpPro and a Line 6 Sonic Port.

Pentatonic %22rig%22

p.s.s. – If you like this idea you may dig my Pentatonic Visualization Book!

theminorpentatonicscale-front
Click Cover For Book Link