The GuitArchitect’s Guide To Modes Part 5 – Making The Most Of One Pattern

Welcome to the fifth installment of the GuitArcitecture Mode Visualization lesson series.

If you see anything unfamiliar here, you may want to check out:

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About The Modal Exchange Example

Since describing how interchanging modes work doesn’t really get you any closer to hearing how they work – I’m going to present a simple exercise first and then explain the process of what’s going on theoretically in the post following this one.

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Using one pattern to get all the sounds of the major scale modes:

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As I’ve discussed before the modes of the C major scale are all related.  Each individual mode has a different root but all belong to the same parent scale.

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That being said, if I use any C major pattern (like this one with C played with the first finger on the 8th fret of the low E string):

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C Ionian

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and move the note C to different scale degrees – I’ll have all of the parallel modes  (or modes have the same root notes  – but belong to different parent scales) based on the pitch C.

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So if, for example,  I take the same pattern and move C to the 2nd scale degree (with C played with the second finger on the 8th fret of the low E string) I’ll have C Dorian.

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C Dorian

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Moving it to the 3rd scale degree (with C played with the 4th finger on the 8th fret of the low E string) produces C Phrygian.

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c-phrygian.

On the 4th scale degree (with C played with the first finger on the 3rd fret of the A string) – I’ll have C Lydian.

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C Lydian

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The 5th scale degree (with C played with the second finger on the 3rd fret of the A string) – produces C Mixolydian.

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C Mixolydian

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On the 6th scale degree (with C played with the fourth finger on the 15th fret of the A string) – I’ll have C Aeolian.

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C Aeolian

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And finally, if I move it to the 7th scale degree (with C played with the first finger on the 10th fret of the D string) – I’ll have C Locrian.

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C Locrian

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Taking stock of the exchange:

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Now I’ll show a musical example that uses this one shape to play all of the parent major scale/natural minor scale modes.

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Note:

This is not the most efficient way to get around the fingerboard but it can help with 3 things.

  1. Hearing the difference in how modes sound
  2. Seeing the modes as they relate to parent scale and
  3. Gaining fluidity in getting around the fretboard.

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What you’ll need

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  • You’ll need a time keeping device (like a metronome, or a drum loop) and
  • A drone of the note C (You can create this by looping the pitch C in your DAW or just recording a note C)

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The drone is very important because the drone and the combination of notes will be what helps you hear the change in modes (and tonality).

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Playing the Example

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I’ve created a simple one bar phrase for each mode.

All you have to do is play them over the C drone, in the order I’ve listed below and in time.

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That being said, here are some additional things to keep in mind:

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  • The primary goal of this is not physical technique  – but developing your ear.  Playing through it at slower tempos will probably be more beneficial to you in really being able to hear the transitions.

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Note:

If you really want to get something more out of it – try singing along with the pitches as you’re playing them.  This sounds goofy to most people but singing really is the way to get the sounds into your ear.

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Take this as a piece of advice learned by many people who take four terms of ear training at the collegiate level. If you look at those 4 terms as 3 units each  that’s 12 units or a full term load (at most for-profit colleges at $18-19,000 a term).

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In other words, people spend a lot of money to sing things to train their ear, doing it for free on your own is a good idea.

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  • Focus on the 3 T’s in performance (Tone, Timing and hand Tension).  From a technical standpoint, the goal is to play though the whole cycle without stopping.
  • Get the patterns and the timing under your fingers first – and then worry about making music out of it.  The important thing here is connecting the sound with the pattern visualization.  (I’ve tabbed all the examples as well – but try to be aware of the change in key signatures in each bar).

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First, here are the individual measures.

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C Lydian

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C Ionian

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C Mixolydian

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C Dorian

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C Aeolian

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C Phrygian

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C Locrian Option 1

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If you want to keep a low register pattern – you can try starting the Db Major pattern from the 7th putting 4 notes on the low E string).

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C Locrian Option 2

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and here’s the whole thing:

(Just click to see full size)

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Going Further

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  • Once you can get through the example at various tempos cleanly and really hear the transitions, take a short phrase and try moving it through the different modes.  It will be easier initially if you think about scale degrees.  Here – I’m thinking 5-4-5-6-7-2-1.
  • Also: try playing it swung in double time (ala Jazz 001)

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C Lydian Lick

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Note:  The scale degrees stay the same when I move to C Ionian but the F# becomes F natural.

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C Ionian Lick

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The same phrase changes the B to Bb when moved to C Mixolydian:

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C Mixolydian

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The lack of an Eb in the phrase means that the notes are the same between Mixolydian and Dorian in this case – just played in different position.

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Moving it to Aeolian, the A natural becomes Ab.

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C Aeolian Lick

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The D becomes Db in C Phrygian.

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C Phrygian Lick

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And finally, changes the G to Gb for C Locrian:

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C Locrian Lick

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From the light to the Dark.:

I’ll be talking about how I derived the order I’m using for the mode progression in the next lesson post on the circle of 5ths, the tonal circle of 5ths and talk about how these relate to modal interchange.  For now here’s a shortcut to consider until next time.

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In general the more flats a mode has in its scale formula – the darker its sound.

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Note:

This is a tricky area for intermediate students.  While I use a parent scale approach to visualize how I solo over chords, I am aware of the chord tones (and tensions) and tend to focus on those melodically.

When soloing, Just running up and down a scale isn’t going to help you really nail changes – it’s just going to fill space that often doesn’t need filling sonically.

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For beginning or intermediate players new to this – like I said before, for now just worry about associating the modes, fingerings and sounds.

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I’ll be talking about each of the modes in-depth in future posts, but for now understand that each mode of Major, Melodic Minor or Harmonic Minor has its own unique characteristics that are worth exploring.

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As before, just go through the lesson at your own pace and return to it as you need to and please feel free to post any questions you might have (or pm me at guitar.blueprint@gmail.com).

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

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-SC

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P.S. If you like this post – you may also like:

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The GuitArchitect’s Guide To Modes Part 4 – Modes and Chords

THE GUITARCHITECT’S GUIDE TO MODES PART 3B – SEEING THE SIX-STRING MAJOR SCALE

THE GUITARCHITECT’S GUIDE TO MODES PART 3A – SEEING THE SIX-STRING MAJOR SCALE

THE GUITARCHITECT’S GUIDE TO MODES PART 2 – SEEING THE TWO STRING MAJOR SCALE

The GuitArchitecture Guide To Modes Part 1 – Seeing The Single String Major Scale

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Making Music Out Of Scales

A BRIEF THOUGHT ABOUT MUSIC THEORY

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PRACTICE MAKES BETTER AKA PRACTICING PART I

PROPER POSTURE IS REQUIRED FOR PROPER PERFORMANCE – PRACTICING PART II

TENSION AND THE SODA CAN OR PRACTICING PART III

DEFINITIONS AND DOCUMENTS OR PRACTICING PART IV

PRACTICE WHAT YOU PLAY OR PRACTICING PART V

TESTING YOUR VOCABULARY OR PRACTICING PART VI

POSSESSION IS 9/10S OF THE LAW BUT PERCEPTION IS EVERYTHING OR PRACTICING PART VII

SOME USEFUL ONLINE PRACTICE TOOLS

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GETTING HIPNESS FROM A MAJOR TRIAD OR MORE CHORD RECYCLING PART 3

Getting Hipness From A Major Triad Or More Chord Recycling Part 2

GETTING HIPNESS FROM A MAJOR TRIAD OR MORE CHORD RECYCLING PART 1

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Getting Through The Gig – Negotiating A Chord Chart Part 3

Getting Through The Gig – Negotiating A Chord Chart Part 2

GETTING THROUGH THE GIG – NEGOTIATING A CHORD CHART PART 1

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WARMING UP: FINGER EXERCISES, THE 3 T’S AND THE NECESSITY OF MISTAKES.

The GuitArchitect’s Guide To Modes Part 4 – Modes and Chords

Welcome to the fourth installment of the GuitArcitecture Mode Visualization lesson series.

If you see anything unfamiliar here, you may want to check out part one, part two, part 3a or part 3b, of the series, but in the meantime, here’s a quick recap:

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To Review:

Any major scale can be broken down into seven 2-string modal shapes that are derived from their scale degree (i.e. position in the scale). These Related Modes are:

  1. Ionian
  2. Dorian
  3. Phrygian
  4. Lydian
  5. Mixolydian
  6. Aeolian
  7. Locrian

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The sequential order of the modes is always the same.

In the 2-string modal shapes, the fact that the 7th note of each mode is missing from the initial fingering pattern is irrelevant because it will be played in the pattern that follows it.

Modes do not exist in a vacuum.  They have as much to do with chords as they do with scales and are always associated with either a chord or a chord progression.

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Deriving the chords from the scale

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Let’s take a look at the initial two-string C Major pattern that we used in the previous lesson.

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If we remove every other note of the scale pattern, we can see arpeggiated versions of the triads associated with those modes.

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Here are the triads in ascending order with a root on the A String:

(Note: these are only sample voicings – please feel free to use your own)

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Since major scales all use the same intervallic formula, all major scales follow the same formula for standard harmonization. 

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From this we can develop a generic formula for major scale triads.

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So, for example,  the triad built on the first scale degree (i.e. the I chord) of any major scale will always be Major.

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Note:

If we’re discussing the relative minor key (A minor) – the sequence is the same – it just starts from the vi chord:

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7th Chords

If we take a look at the initial 2 string pattern again:

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This time I’m going to eliminate the 3rd and 5th note of each pattern.  So in the first pattern:

C, D, E, F, G, A becomes

C, D, F, A aka

D, F, A, C or  (D minor 7 starting from the 7th)

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Here’s the rest of the sequence:

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And a generic breakdown in another chart.

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Here are the 7th chords in ascending order with a root on the A String:

(Again, these are only sample voicings so please feel free to use your own)

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Beyond 7th Chords:

You could extend this idea out beyond 7th chords into harmonizations using the diatonic 9th, 11th or 13ths.  But all of these chords just come from stacking diatonic 3rds on top of each other.    I’ve followed this process through all the diatonic chord tones below with each scale degree of C Major:

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I’ll be explaining a lot more about this in a future post (including multiple approaches for voicing these) but for now here’s a chart that shows the harmonizations in the key of C Major.

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But Here’s The Catch

(and there’s always a catch)

The C Major modes are all just subsets of  the same parent scale.  If you’re playing them over a C major chord (or a chord progression in C Major) scale-wise it really doesn’t make a difference which of the above modes you’re thinking of as it’s all going to sound like C Major.

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To get deeper into modes, we need to get into some other tonal centers and talk about Relative Modes versus Parallel Modes and Modal Interchange and that is the topic of the next post in this series.

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Here are some important things to focus on for now:

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1. Theoretical:

  • The major scale can be broken down into a series of triads and 7th chords based on scale degrees that are associated with the modes on those scale degrees (Ex. Key of C Major – D Dorian and D minor 7 on the 2nd scale degree.)
  • The sound of the mode is based as much on the notes of the mode as it’s related chord.  So for right now – this is just a whole lot of ways to see C Major on a fingerboard – you should adapt the process to other keys as well.

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2.  Technical:

  • While it’s natural to want to progress quickly, trying to play too quickly too soon results in excess hand tension which will increase the difficulty of what you’re trying to play.  Fluidity comes from focused, relaxed repetition.  
  • Fretting hand: Always use the minimum amount of tension needed for the notes to sound cleanly.  The idea is to be able to hear every individual note in the chord as well.  Additionally, try to keep the fingers motion on the strings to a minimum and removing them from the string only when necessary.
  • Picking Hand:  Try using the above picking pattern on the top two strings or alternate picking.
  • Practice switching between chord voicings cleanly and playing the 3-note-per-string forms over each one individually.  As a comping exploration, you could try moving from one chord to the next in the series but only moving one voice at a time.  This type of internal motion is something I initially copped from guys like Torn and Miroslav Tadic.
  • Isolate problem areas and develop them.  You’re not going to be able to pull  any of these ideas off live if any of the individual components aren’t happening.  This isn’t a bad thing.  Things you develop over time are more likely to stay with you (and thus be accessible when you’re improvising).

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3.  Musical:

  • One thing to work on right now is to come up with multiple ways to play the chords above.  If you’re not familiar with voicings in general – try to write out the individual notes of each chord and move them around on the fingerboard.   It might not yield the most practical voicings (depending on key and position) – but it will definitely help expand your awareness of the fingerboard!

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Finally, one other thing I need to mention is that this is just my approach but it certainly isn’t the only one.    You should explore multiple approaches and take things that resonate with you from each of them as each of them will give you more depth of understanding.

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As before, just go through the lesson at your own pace and return to it as you need to and please feel free to post any questions you might have (or pm me at guitar.blueprint@gmail.com).

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

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-SC

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P.S. If you like this post – you may also like:

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THE GUITARCHITECT’S GUIDE TO MODES PART 3B – SEEING THE SIX-STRING MAJOR SCALE

THE GUITARCHITECT’S GUIDE TO MODES PART 3A – SEEING THE SIX-STRING MAJOR SCALE

THE GUITARCHITECT’S GUIDE TO MODES PART 2 – SEEING THE TWO STRING MAJOR SCALE

The GuitArchitecture Guide To Modes Part 1 – Seeing The Single String Major Scale

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Making Music Out Of Scales

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A BRIEF THOUGHT ABOUT MUSIC THEORY

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PRACTICE MAKES BETTER AKA PRACTICING PART I

PROPER POSTURE IS REQUIRED FOR PROPER PERFORMANCE – PRACTICING PART II

TENSION AND THE SODA CAN OR PRACTICING PART III

DEFINITIONS AND DOCUMENTS OR PRACTICING PART IV

PRACTICE WHAT YOU PLAY OR PRACTICING PART V

TESTING YOUR VOCABULARY OR PRACTICING PART VI

POSSESSION IS 9/10S OF THE LAW BUT PERCEPTION IS EVERYTHING OR PRACTICING PART VII

SOME USEFUL ONLINE PRACTICE TOOLS

.

GETTING HIPNESS FROM A MAJOR TRIAD OR MORE CHORD RECYCLING PART 3

Getting Hipness From A Major Triad Or More Chord Recycling Part 2

GETTING HIPNESS FROM A MAJOR TRIAD OR MORE CHORD RECYCLING PART 1

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Getting Through The Gig – Negotiating A Chord Chart Part 3

Getting Through The Gig – Negotiating A Chord Chart Part 2

GETTING THROUGH THE GIG – NEGOTIATING A CHORD CHART PART 1

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WARMING UP: FINGER EXERCISES, THE 3 T’S AND THE NECESSITY OF MISTAKES

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The GuitArchitect’s Positional Exploration Pre-Release Now Available

The official version of this book has been released as both a print and PDF version, so I’m leaving this page up  as a pointer for  historical purposes (and so that people who are interested in the book can get some more detailed information).  

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All ordering information (including an overview of the book and jpegs of sample pages) can be found here.

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Thanks!

-SC


Making Music Out Of Scales

Hello everyone, and welcome to the largest GuitArchitecture lesson I’ve ever put up online!

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In this lesson (an excerpt of some ideas from my forthcoming GuitArchitect’s Guide to Modes book), I’m going to talk about the difference between scales and music and show some concrete ways to adapt scales into unique phrases.

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When I first started playing guitar, I listened to a lot of metal and the players I was into were fond of working ascending and descending scales into their solos.   (I also listened to a lot of Al DiMeola on Friday Night in San Francisco as well).  So I initially focused a great deal on scales and got to the point where I could play them quickly (but not really cleanly).  The flash of this got me noticed by other players in my area, but I always felt like something was missing.

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At best, scales are only ½ of the equation

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Seeing where my fingers needed to go was important but phrasing is where the real music is happening.

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Note:

There’s a lot of information below.  Just take your time and go at your own pace.  It’ll still be there later.

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Here’s another way to think of it.  Scales are like basic vocabulary.  They’re your nouns and verbs and no matter how you speak (with arpeggios, intervals or chords), they all have a basis in scales.

Your phrases are your sentences.  Guys with great phrasing can play a scale and make sentence out of it.  But a scale is, in and of itself, largely just a tool in making music and not music itself.

First Steps: Music is a language.  

So approach it the way you approach your native language

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The way we learn language is by listening to other people speak and then emulating their speech.  Initially it’s nonsensical.  Then some disjointed vocabulary emerges which eventually gives way to sentences.  There is typically a period of formal study where reading is taught, and students are required to write ideas down.  Eventually, we take on unique characteristics that make our voices distinct.  With daily exposure language, and our understanding of it is constantly evolving.

Learning music is the same thing.  It first requires active listening.  You need to find music that you’re passionate about and really work on learning it by ear.  Music theory is also important, because it can help you make shortcuts to understanding a sound (for example, “that Phrygian pattern” gives the informed listener an idea of what a sound is before he or she even hears it), but really getting into phrasing requires an aural understanding.   Initially, this will take a long time and you probably won’t have all of the technical skills that you’ll need to get it at 100% accuracy.  That’s fine.  Get what you can – but really pay attention to phrasing details like pitch (vibrato, slides, bends, etc) and rhythm.  If at all possible – try to sing along with what you’re trying to learn.   If you get to the point that you’re not enjoying it – move on and come back to it.  The more you actively enjoy what you’re doing, then more you will get out of it.

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Step 2 involves listening out of your comfort zone.

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Try checking out music from other (non-guitar playing) musicians and cultures as well.  A lot of my pointillist rhythm ideas were copped directly from Japanese Koto approaches.  I stole a lot of things from Arabic music (specifically Turkish folk and classical music, the Iranian Radif and various maqams), Hindustani music, and vocal music from around the world.  I copped gypsy violin and accordion licks and Klezmer clarinet lines.   Lately I’ve been super into the insanely wide vibrato and pitch bends in Vietnamese Dan Bau music.   The important thing is searching out for other sounds, getting inspired by them and taking something from them.

For me a lot of this has been the nonsense portion of trying to speak other musical languages.   Not everything I do translates in multiple musical situations.  It’s not always correct or accurate, and sometimes that’s even better because then it’s my own spin on it.

Really importantly  – not all of it sticks.  I spent a lot of time learning things that didn’t directly work its way into my playing.  That’s fine.  The important things are the things that will ultimately stick with you.  What it’s given me are some things that are distinctly mine now.  A distinct accent if you will, that immediately identifies a handful of things that I say as me.

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Next Steps:

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In addition to learning things by ear, having a few different approaches to using scales in your bag can help give you the flexibility to express some really musical things.  I’ve already posted on the area of limiting options, and with that in mind I think it’s more important to go deep with a few ideas, rather than just scatter-shot a number of approaches and deal with them all superficially.  So I’ll cover some of them here

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Starting point: The Scale

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For an initial starting point, I’m going to look at a 3-note-per-string C Aeolian scale.  Try running this scale a few times with the fingering and picking patterns I’ve provided to make sure it’s under your fingers.

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In the mp3 above, I’ve played the scale in 16th’s, a C minor 7 chord (to hear a harmonic context) and then as sextuplets.

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Note:

In some textbooks you’ll see the b6 as an avoid tone against a minor 7 chord (i.e. the Ab as an avoid tone for C minor 7).  You can always just play a minor triad or a 5th for a similar effect.  I’ve included the minor 7th here because – aesthetically – it doesn’t bother me and I like the sound of a minor 7th better than the triad.

Picking this as I have above results in a smoother (almost legato) sound than I could get using alternate picking, even though I’m still picking every note.  For the initial fingering, I’m playing the first 2 notes of each grouping with my 1st and 2nd fingers to facilitate the slight positional shift on the B and E strings.

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Note:  When practicing any musical idea, it helps to have a melodic and rhythmic context.  A time keeping device can certainly help, but I’ve included a short C note for a drone and a drum loop for your convenience below:

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Approach #1:  Skipping notes and using patterns

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The only time I use straight ascending/descending scales is if I have a target note that I’m specifically trying to get to.  In those cases, having some velocity to get there can build tension and make it exciting to hear.  Otherwise when you hear one note after another in straight ascending or descending scalar patters, it gets very predictable pretty quickly.

Here’s a sample phrase I improvised based on the scale above.  I’ve added some notes below.

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  1. On the first part of the phrase on the A and G strings, I’m only playing the notes C, D and Eb.  Adding a string skip and doubling the C at the octave creates more excitement in the phrase.  I’ve provided an optional notation indicating picking the octave C with the pick hand middle finger to give it a little snap – but you can certainly flatpick it as well.
  2. Starting on the Bb on the G string,  I’ve rhythmically copied the same phrase as on the A and G strings.  By playing it as a pattern, it creates some consistency in the phrase.  While the rhythm is sextuplets – the phrasing is alternating groups of 4 and 6.
  3. The last 6 notes break out of the pattern by just playing a straight ascending scale.

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Here’s another track variation.  I’m picking every note on this one:

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Approach #1a:  Skipping notes part 2 (Pentatonics)

Another way to work scalar ideas into a musical context is to reduce scales to pentatonics.  For example:  Here is my initial scale again:

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And now I’m going to remove the F and the Bb from the scale.   This leaves a five-note pentatonic (C, D, Eb, G, Ab) – sometimes called Hirajoshi.

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The term, “Hirajoshi”,  actually refers to a Koto tuning.  In the Japanese scale system, this collection of intervals would be recognized as belonging to the In scale.  But since so many guitarists refer to this as Hirajoshi, I’ll use that nomenclature here.

Regardless of what you call it, sonically it’s a very cool scale.  The skips between the Eb/G and Ab/C really open the scale up sonically.

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Here’s a variation on the lick above using this pentatonic idea in the second ½ of the phrase.

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Technically, in addition to some of the challenges of the first lick, another tricky thing here is the skip from the C to the Eb on the G and B strings because the D, C, Bb pull off wants to go back up to D.  Sonically though it adds a really nice contour to the phrase.

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Approach #2:  Sequences

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Sequences are a cool way to use scales in a way that generate melodic momentum but contain an internal logic.  Here’s an example of using the pentatonic in descending groups of 3s.

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This is a very Marty Friedman-esque idea.  A little goes a long ways with this type of approach, but these sequences are great devices to work into phrases as a way to get more mileage out of a scale.

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Approach #3:  Octave displacement

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Playing notes in order can be boring, but as we saw with the octave C jump in the first lick, alternating scale notes in different registers can be much more interesting melodically.  Since the A and B string are a 9th apart, playing an ascending melody between the strings works well positionally.

The first step in this process involves being able to visualize the scale on each individual string:

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Here’s a melodic idea that works off of this ascending/descending idea.  It works without a trem as well, but adding the trem gives it more of a slidish feel.  The important thing is to let it all ring together in a controlled way.  I’ve recorded this at full tempo and then in 1/2 time and I think it works a lot better at 1/2 speed .

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If you look at the notes in the phrases (C, D, Eb), (D, Eb, G), (Ab, Bb, Ab), (G, F, Eb).  They’re all based on short simple melodic ideas that sound more complex when broken up over octaves.

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Approach #4:  Modal Arpeggios

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Previously, I removed two notes to create a pentatonic scale but if I play every other note of a mode, I can create an extended arpeggio called a modal arpeggio.

For example, here’s the scale again:

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Taking every other note:

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And putting it into a phase gives me this:

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Note#1:

It’s interesting because while the scale and tonality is rooted in C, sliding the last note of the arpeggio up to D gave it a whole other texture.

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Note #2:

A lot of phrasing is really about minute details.  Here’s the same arpeggio but I sit on the first note just a little longer.  It makes the phrase more musical to me:

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Here’s another arpeggio idea with a repeated phrase in the middle.

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Playing arpeggios on smaller string sets allows me to sequence ideas more easily (Like the first 5 notes).  The jump to the Eb is probably the biggest surprise in the phrase.  Short but sweet.

This modal arpeggio approach can be applied to any mode or scale and offers a great way to add some additional textures into your soloing.

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Some Concluding Thoughts

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Normally, I would have broken this up into multiple posts, but I though it was important to get the aural learning component and the melodic variations on the same page.I didn’t even get into rhythmic variations, double stops, chromatics, chordal applications, superimpositions or any of the literally dozens of other approaches that can be used to extract music from scales.  It really all comes back to how much music you’ve absorbed because the most used tools in your melodic toolbelt are going to be your ears and your aesthetic and those are both guided by what you’ve been exposed to.

For those of you using GuitarPro, you can download the .gpx file of this lesson (with an extra arpeggio thrown in for good measure) here.

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The GuitArchitect’s Guide To Chord Scales

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Chord Scales Cover Front And Back

I’ve mentioned before, that (for me) the biggest advantage of investigating harmony and theory is to expose people to sounds that they didn’t know where there.  This is the entire purpose behind the  GuitArchitecture series.  One of the GuitArchitecture books in that series, The GuitArchitect’s Guide To Chord Scales utilizes and expands on this idea by exploring all unique scales from 3-12 notes!!!   The above material is expanded on substantially in that book so if you like this lessons you’ll really like the book.

More info on the book here.

Lulu Link

Amazon link

If you like this book you might want to check out the other books in this series here.

As always, thanks for reading!

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Making Sense Of The Pentatonic Scale – Diagonal Forms – Part One

Hello everyone!! After a lengthy delay – I’m posting this pentatonic lesson.  The amount of information over the next few posts will keep some of you busy for a while.

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A general online lesson note:

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The lessons I post here typically go into quite a bit of detail with the rationale that the reader (i.e. you) can take bite sized pieces of information and return to the material as needed.  If this more information than you will probably be able to process in a single setting, simply take one or two things that sound cool to you and apply them to what you’re currently playing (songs, solos, etc).

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One idea applied well is worth more than a dozen ideas applied poorly.

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In this lesson I’m going to combine 2-string pentatonic patterns into a diagonal approach.

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Note: For those of you who want to adapt these ideas to the blues scale just add in the A#/Bb to the patterns listed below.

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Diagonal Pentatonics

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Playing two-string patterns in octaves moves the fretboard shape both horizontally and vertically (i.e. diagonally). Two-string diagonal playing can help with visualization as the same pattern is simply moved to the octave of the starting pitch.

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To illustrate this – I’ll start with the following four-note shapes.  Use alternate picking for all of the following exercises.  With the exception of the first four notes which use open position, the rest of the patterns use the same fingering.

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All of the following examples should be practiced with strict alternate picking or legato (i.e. using hammer-ons and pull offs) and (ideally) played over a chord to supply a harmonic context.

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Some chords to try:

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  • E minor or Em 7 chord 
  • C Major 7
  • G Major 7
  • F Major 7 
  • D minor 7 
  • A minor 7 or
  • whatever sounds good to you!

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Here’s the 1st pattern moved in octaves.

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Pattern # 2

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Pattern # 3

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Pattern # 4

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Pattern # 5

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Working with patterns

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Note:

Pentatonic scales, or any kind of scale in general, are simply a tool in making music, but are not music in and of themselves.  The goal of this process is to use these shapes as a way to visualize sounds and then to be able to manipulate them in real-time.

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Let’s generate a musical line using this approach. Here’s an idea in the style of Paul Gilbert.  I’m picking every note in the example – but you could use hammer-ons or pull offs for a more legato feel.  It’s played first with sextuplets and then slower at 16th notes to make the notes easier easier to hear.

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The drums on this track are just a simple loop I pulled together for a song I was working on called Raga Jam.

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While recorded at 105 bpm – the  mp3 can be downloaded and then slowed down or sped up to accommodate your tempo needs.  A number of applications will do this but if you’re looking for a recommendation –  I recommend Transcribe! by Seventh String Software.

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There are several ideas here worth exploiting.

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  • The initial pattern consisting of four notes, is played as sextuplets (groups of six).  Rhythmically, this adds a sense of tension that is absent in phrasing the group of four notes into a 1/16 note pattern.  This idea will be covered more in part two of this lesson.

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In general, practice playing patterns in a variety of rhythms as you may find ideas you can use later.


  • The B on beat three breaks up the predictable note order a little.  It’s a small variation on the pattern that makes it sound a little less “patternish”.
  • The last five notes of the sextuplet break the four note melodic pattern.  This idea will be explored more in part 2. But in the meantime, here’s an initial fingering to get you going.  I’ve notated it as a group of 5 – But rhythmically it’s part of the sextuplet pattern above.

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The use of the open E and A strings changes the overall fingering shape on the bottom, middle and top two strings which may make the lick more challenging to play.  

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If you are having difficulty playing something melodically, take a close look at the fingering you’re using and see if it’s the most efficient one.

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In the example below, I’ve taken the same notes and broken them up into melodic shapes that use the G, A and B pitches on the same string.  You will probably find this much easier to play.

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Here’s a fingering variation of the above idea (watch the skip from G to B on the D string!)

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Going a little further:

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Sometimes patterns can lead us to unexpected melodic places.  Here,  in this approximation of an improvisation for example,

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  • I’ve taken the initial E, G, A and B pattern shape and instead of moving it up a 1/2 step, (to accommodate the B/G string 3rds tuning), I kept the fingering shape the same.  This produces a whole tone shape on the B string that adds a melodic surprise.
  • I’ve then continued the whole tone idea to the high E string  – bringing in a C and then resolving it to B (The 7th fret B is missing in the tab but is on the notation line). The whole steps in the F#, G# and A# passage and the C, D and E passage have the same intervals as the G, A, B of the pentatonic scale.  Even though the G# clashes with the G in E minor – the line has enough of a melodic drive that it can work (as long as you resolve the idea  – in this case to a chord tone).

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By understanding patterns, it becomes possible to  manipulate them and make them work for you.  In the next lesson we’ll play full pentatonic patterns on 2 string sets and bring in a few other ideas that will spice up your approaches

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Tones:

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Finally, for  those of you interested in the technical side of what I’m doing here are some screen shots of my set up. First the AU Lab rig:

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Something that may be of  interest to you – I set Audio MIDI Setup to 88.2k for the DUET  – but run the LA Convolver speaker cabs at 44.1.  That way the audio conversion rate for the guitar signal stays higher but I can use things that run at 44.1 (like the audio player on the Generator 1 strip).

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I’ve mentioned the AUAUDIO File Player on my AU lab posts – but it’s a cool plug-in.  Using it, I can bring in all kinds of samples or tracks and run them live with the guitar signal and record them with the click of the record button.  (It’s how all of these tracks are recorded btw – live into AU Lab).

There are two dirty sounds (I didn’t like my first tones so I re-recorded everything.  When I couldn’t find the first 5 audio files while typing this – I just went with the initial recordings since I didn’t have access to my guitar.)

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Here’s the dirty side of the main tone (Tube screamer is set at 9%, 53% and 9% – BTW)

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and the clean side:

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Tracks 1-4 are just my standard Marshall Who? settings

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Part two will be up soon!! In the meantime,  if you like this approach, I have a book that includes this material you may be interested in that features this material and much more!

Minor Pent Front

is 100 + pages of licks and instruction and includes demonstrations and breakdowns of two-string fingerings, diagonal pentatonics, sweep picking pentatonics, pentatonic harmony and much more!  It’s available here.

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Thanks for reading!

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Some Thoughts On Modeling, Gear Acquisition And The POD HD500

The forums have been a flutter over the Fractal Audio announcement/release of a major upgrade to the Axe FX product line, the new Axe FX II.  For those of you who aren’t familiar with the unit, The Axe FX is a high end modeler that emulates a number of amp tones and effects very well.

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From my second hand experience the pros are:

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  • it can sound really good – I need to emphasize that again as, “oh yeah it sounds good” gets glossed over easily.  I’ve heard people coax some mediocre tones from it as well – but the unit has the potential to sound pretty great.  The interesting thing is that while non Axe FX owners always nay-say the price, I’ve never heard an owner complaint about sound vs. value.

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The cons are:

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  • its expense (a fully outfitted Axe FX system (pre-version II Ultra) ran around $2,000 – with the proprietary midi board and an Atomic FR 50W active cab it would set you back about $3700 shipped).
  • it’s only available as a rack-mounted unit (so yes, there really is a use for that rack case your ADA MP-1 used to sit in!)
  • the midi controller is also high quality, but also expensive. (FYI -You can use other midi-controllers with the unit).  The comment here is more about the fact that none of the gear associated with the unit is what you could call inexpensive.

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As soon as the FXII was announced, a number of Ultra and Standards went up on eBay.  The fact that the re-sale value on Ebay is quite high ($1300-$1600 for an Ultra on Buy it Now) also speaks well to the quality of the unit.  I’m sure that the new model is a substantial improvement over the original (which are now phased out) – but how much better does it have to be?  The current world economy is helping some people keep cooler heads and realize that if they always liked the tone out of their current Ultra – that they’re probably still going to like it a year from now.  With that in mind, here’s a gear acquisition reminder:

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Cutting edge es MUY CARO!!

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The latest thing is always going to set you back financially.  To add insult to injury – you’re generally paying to be part of the learning curve.  Things break, things go wrong, things need updating and as someone on board for version 1, you will be part of that curve.   On the plus side, you’ll know the unit deeper than a lot of people and be able to coax things out of it easier.  Economically, it’s a simple question of how useful or necessary that skill set is to you.

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However, if you can hold back a little and wait out the initial rush.  You’ll see the products getting updated.  You’ll see other people having to tweak tones and work out solutions to problems. You’ll also see some people getting frustrated and selling their things at a great loss. I saw an Axe Standard on eBay for $800.  If I was in the market for one that price would be WAY more appealing than the $1700 they were originally getting for them.

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If you want something new it’s typically financially prudent if you can hold off.  (With used gear, it’s always – you snooze you lose – and it’s also generally the case with one offs, rare or discontinued items. One of my favorite sonic mangling pedals, the Digitech Space Station, was acquired from Guitar Center when Digitech discontinued them for $90.)

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POD HD500

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However, when I read about the recent substantial update to the POD HD line – my curiosity was piqued.  I had already mentioned the price versus performance differences between the POD Farm and the POD HD; but the ever increasing set up time of my POD Farm rig had me looking at the POD HD a lot closer recently.  The Pod Farm rig still completely makes sense to me for laptop gigs – where I’m sitting down at a table and sculpting sound – but the laptop with a live band thing started to  become an issue, not only live but also in setup time for rehearsal.

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There are probably a thousand pages with stats, clips, videos and MP3s of the POD HD.  So I’m going to spare you all of that.  You’ve already probably researched that to get here.  What I can offer are my impressions for using it live, and how I think it stacks up.

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Construction:

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This is a sturdy unit weighing in around 14 lbs due to the all-metal chassis.  It feels solid and  I have no doubts about it standing up to live use.  The switches are similar to the X3 or Shortboard MK II, but seem to be a little higher quality to me.   (I don’t have any quantifiable analysis so I might be imagining that – but they work well in any case).  The expression pedal on my unit is even smoother than my Shortboard MK II.  Some people have had problems with the pedal but mine was fine.  After I installed all of the updates, I did have to recalibrate it, but since then – I’ve had no issue with it.

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The display is very clear, and offers multiple viewing options, but I’d like to see a fully realized list option as well.  You can edit all of the parameters on the unit, but the HD EDIT program is so much more intuitive, you’ll probably gravitate to editing things on a computer.  That said, some parameters can only be edited on the unit itself (like the looper features), so you may want to get a little familiar with the on board controls as well.

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The HD 500 doesn’t have an off button – which is a little strange but manageable.  While the power cable is shorter than what I’m used to on a stand alone unit,  I’m guessing  that Line 6 planned on it being mounted to a pedal board and then  just plugged into a power strip.  This would also explain the elongated plug size as it looks like it’s designed to fit between other plugs on a power strip.

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In terms of ins and outs on the unit – the 500 is very similar to the X3, ¼ “, XLR and SPDIF outs, as well as midi connectivity and an RCA jack in for mp3 players/etc.  You can record with the USB – but I only use it to connect to edit so I can’t comment on recording direct with it.  I do find the connection time with my mac to be EXTREMELY slow – but it works fine once it’s connected.  The proprietary DT50 and the  variax connections are cool as well, but since I don’t have either right now, I can’t comment on them.

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Managing expectations for current Pod users:

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First – and this is important – there is no upgrade path from old models to new models.  There’s no tonal equivalency between old patches and new.  Furthermore, I would argue that if you expect this unit to sound exactly like your favorite X3 patch, you’re probably going to be disappointed.

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One thing to remember in the non-modeled world is that any amp is, by and large, a one trick pony.  I played a 5150 combo once with a nice dirty tone and one of the most useless clean tone’s I’ve ever heard.  As someone who put substantial energy into trying, it’s useless to attempt to make a Marshall sound like a Fender twin (or vice versa).  So even people who don’t model – and get the bunk of their tones with pedals of one type or another – end up compromising when it comes to tone.  If you’re playing through a Fender you might get a Marshall-ish tone, but it’s not going to stack up side by side to a Marshall going through a 4×12.  In managing my own expectations the my goal eventually shifted to getting a useable tone  (in this case with a Marshall as a bench mark).  If your expectation with modeling is that it’s going to sound exactly like a Bogner through your $100 practice amp – you’re going to be disappointed.

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Having said that, this unit has some really good sounds.  A lot of the tricks that I developed to get around limitations in the X3, or Pod Farm are actually not necessary in the HD because the base amp sounds are that much better.

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  • Plan on being patient.  There are more useful presets on the HD than I found on either Pod Farm or the X3, but that’s still not saying much.  There are some good patches out there and a number of good online tips. Glen DeLaune’s site is a great place to start for dirty and clean tones.  He also has a you tube channel with a number of clips that can help setting up patches as well.
  • Even with good patches, you should plan on sitting down and tweaking things to taste and then tweaking for other contexts.  My headphones are largely useless in helping me get a tone that works with my amp, so I have to plan on a couple of different tonal contexts.  But honestly, while I can record direct – the tone from my amp is the only one I’m really concerned with here.
  • Save Often!!  None of the patches take up a lot of memory – so save multiple tweaks of each patch that way you can go back over time and find alternate versions of patches if you need them.

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Second – the tones between units aren’t compatible.  The Pod HD 300 or 400 tones won’t import into the 500 directly.  That does seem a little myopic to me – but the good news is that you can download the HD edits for any of the units and run them without hardware.  When I found a HD 400 Plexi patch I liked – I just downloaded it, opened it up in the HD 400 Edit and then just manually copied the patch elements into the 500 for tweaking.

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Third – the volume and wah assignments aren’t automatic and are counter intuitive to me on a number of patches.  Having said that, they’re not that difficult to set up.  One thing I did was to save a patch with all my routing up and then build other patches around that set up to save time.

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Fourth – The DSP issue.  I think that some real world tests should have been done to make sure that the POD could handle any configuration of effects in the 8 slots they have.  There’s a great PDF (Thanks Fester2k!!) that shows how the models and FX use DSP.  Some are just more hoggish than others.  The particle verb sounds great – but you’re going to have to compromise some things if you want more than one in the chain.

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Fifth – The signal chain is very flexible (and the new GUI for editing is slick).  The expression pedal being used as a straight volume pedal takes up an FX slot – BUT if you assign the expression pedal to an amp volume parameter you can control the volume with no hits to the number of FX slots.  I suppose you could assign the expression pedal to a sweepable tone control on the amp for a makeshift wah, but since neither of these effects use a lot of DSP  for most people it won’t be an issue.

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A neat trick I grabbed from the Gear net forums is that you can use the FX send as a volume boost by just plugging a ¼“ cable into the FX send/receive and boosting the level on the FX Send.  This is a good trick for Pad or FX heavy sounds without an amp to boost the signal and can also work as a clean solo boost.

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Amps:

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In the POD HD series, a lot has been made about the smaller number of amps.  Personally, I only use 4-5 amps in POD Farm anyway so the number isn’t an issue if the quality is there, and by and large I think it is.  The fenders sound really good to my ears, and you can even push them to get them to break up like a real Fender would.  The Gibson is cool and the Vox and Supro are nice touches as well.

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In terms of distortion, I find that a number of the amps break up in a musical way and react to picking dynamics much more so than the X3 or POD Farm.  I can clean up some of the Marshall models by rolling the volume back and then punch it to distort at full bore.  VERY COOL.   The JCM 800 works really well for me live.  The park does some nice things as well as the J45.  A lot of people rave about the Dr Z…I haven’t gotten it do do what I want – but it’s a cool addition.  For metal (and metalish variations) – the mesa works really well.  The sound just cuts through everything.  The Line 6 Elektrik model can get comically over the top as well.

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There are some nice contrasts between the pre-amp only models and the actual full amp versions.  One BIG benefit to the full amp models is the ability to tweak Master, Sag, Hum, Bias, and Bias eXcursion.  Particularly on the distorted models, being able to adjust the Master and Sag make tone adjustments that range from subtle to blatant.  The downside is using some models of the full amps will cause a spike in DSP use and may make the overload screen pop up.  Line 6 did a streaming video with some GREAT information on all of these parameters (tech talk starts around 24:00).

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Cabinets and Mics:

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The biggest complaint people on the forums would like to address is that they can’t upload their own IRs to use with the amps.  You can bypass the cabs and mikes on the 500 and if I were recording direct in the studio, I might be looking more in this option.   But since I’m looking at more of an all-in-one option, and running all of these into my atomic,  I think a number of the cabs sound fine for my purposes.  Being able to load IR’s would be nice but would also put a substantial tax on the processor – and I’d rather have things running the way that they are.  That being said, I’m not always happy with what I hear through headphones – but I run the patches studio direct into my Atomic and some of the amp/mic combinations work really well.

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FX:

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It is pretty easy to max out the processor, but some of the Fx sound really good.  Most people on the forums would like additional options for drives, gates, etc.  and I suspect we’ll see more of those over time.  In the meantime, you can certainly get useable sounds out of the Fx/amp combination pretty quickly.  There are certain sounds on Pod Farm I REALLY wanted to get out of this unit that I just can’t.  The Fx are too different and I run out of DSP too quickly.  Having said that, I have some Fx patches on this unit I can’t get out of my Pod Farm – even with all the other sounds.  So it’s a fair trade off to me.  You’re limited to DSP power but you can run multiple instances of pedals as well.  A good thing in my book.   The expression pedal can be routed to any fx parameters as well, so for example you could go from a dry clean sound to an ambient one just by fading in the verbs, delays or whatever other effects you have on the pedal.

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Looper:

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The looper was one of the things that excited me the most about this unit.  It doesn’t have anything near the complexity of something like SooperLooper, but is functional for stacking loops.  It does have some eq and recording volume options for loop recording that help with the stacking options.  A big part of what I do with looping involves bringing loops in and out of the mix with what I’m playing but since there’s no editable parameter for loop volume (i.e. being able to use an expression pedal to adjust wet/dry volume levels of the loop volume); it’s something that I can’t really use too much right now.  Hopefully this will get addressed in a future update (along with allowing the external ¼” expression pedal jack to be routed to a 3rd expression pedal just to control loop levels).

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On the stock setting, the switches convert their functions to looper parameters (record/overdub, start/stop, 1/2 speed, reverse, etc).  So if you’re using the bottom row of switches to bank through sounds and  want to switch tones on a loop, you’ll have to turn the looper switch off (the loop will keep running), and then switch from there.  This also means that you have to turn the loop switch back on to turn the looper off.
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The looper has 2 modes, post and pre.  In post, it records the entire signal chain.  Generally, this is probably the setting you want to use.  In the pre-mode the looper records the dry signal, and processes it through what ever patches you are switching between.   Having said that, by using the looper in the pre mode, you can loop a riff and then switch it between patches or tweak the sound of a patch without having to play it endlessly.

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The only other drag I can think of right now is that none of the looper parameters can be edited in the current HD edit.  It would be nice to have a global feature on the edit that also included a parameter for the looper.

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Using it with the Atomic:

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This is where I think this unit really shines.  On POD Farm, there were a number of factors that I had to use to determine how the unit would sound.  Most of the distortions only sounded useable to me at 96k (which put a huge tax on the system), and even then patches at low volume and higher volume often reacted completely differently.  Sounds that sounded good at an apartment level sounded like crap at stage volume in a club and vice versa.  With the POD HD, everything evened out more live.  I turned it up at the club and really had very little tweaking from bedroom volumes.  Additionally, no one really noticed the lack of the laptop sonically, so it was a big victory there.  I used it with the 18 watt Atomic for the last Rough Hewn Trio gig, and never had to turn the master volume past 12 o’clock.

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The comparison?

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I’ve read a lot about people comparing this to the Axe fx.  There probably is no comparision.  It doesn’t matter to me much anyways as an Axe Fx II is out of my price range right now.

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In terms of the POD HD:

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  • if you’re trying to cop a specific tone – you might not be happy with any modeler.
  • there are no acoustic sims on the current version.  I’m sure that that’s going to get updated in a future release – but for right now – it’s very much of an electric guitar processor.
  • If you try to go to Guitar Center and play the floor model with stock sounds, you’re probably going to be underwhelmed.


  • If you want a musical tone (and have some patience) there’s plenty that can be squeezed out of this box.
  • You can check the line 6 page – but huge the differences between this and the 400 or the 300 are substantial.  If you need the looper and/or a lot of fx – spend the extra money on the 500.

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I’ve never used pervious firmware versions of the POD HD but everything that I’ve read  has said that this update was substantial.  I can’t help but think that not only is this unit going to get better firmware updates (and more models of everything perhaps) – but that the Pod Farm HD version is going to be pretty much untouchable.

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Accessories:

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The Pod doesn’t come with a gig bag or case, so you’ll need some way to carry it.  I have a gator gig bag I used for the Pod X3, that fits the unit.   The pedal board option is more enticing, but good quality boards are expensive.  Rondo Music has an inexpensive flight case that would fit the unit.  But it’s still probably going to set you back at least $100 with tax and S/H.

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Lately, I’m been more inclined to mount it, the power supply and all of the cables on pedal board and spend the extra buck on something like this and just be able to carry everything in one bag.  You could probably get something similar at a thrift store for $10-$20 and then be able to take it on a plane with you as well.

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Thanks for reading.

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GEAR

Getting hipness from a major triad or more chord recycling part 3

In part one of this post, I looked at generating different major chord variations based on flatting the root and the 5th.  In part 2, I sharped those pitches and then combined the two approaches to create additional chords and textures.  In this post, I’m going to look at applying these chord tones to  melodic (or lead) ideas.  But first…

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The Relative Minor Explanation:

The second post of this series ended on a cliffhanger when I said that all of the A major upper extensions would work as substitutions for F# minor chords.   You can read the rest of this Relative Minor explanation if you want to understand why this works – otherwise you can just skip ahead to the next section for some melodic ideas.

Here’s the explanation for this.

In a major chord, the 4th is sometimes known as an avoid note.  In the key of C, this means that the note F is usually viewed as a note to avoid either melodically or harmonically.  If we look at a major scale:

C D E F G A B C

the only 1/2 steps in the scale are between E/F and B/C.

Chromatics are powerful things in music.  They tend to act as tonal anchors to where the tonal center is.  If you play a simple ascending C major scale and stop on the note B, most listeners will want you to resolve to C.   In the major scale the 1/2 step between the 3rd and 4th makes the ear think that F major is the tonal center.

(For those of you familiar with ear training, if you sing a c major scale from C to F – it sounds like you’re singing so la ti Do – instead of Do re me fa.)

One innovation that came about in jazz music was to substitute an #4 for a 4 over chords with a major quality.  This put the 1/2 step motion between the 4th and the 5th.  Since the 5th is a chord tone in a major triad, it has less of an effect of moving outside of the key.

Here’s how this is applied:

  • Any Major scale with a #4 is a Lydian mode.
  • The A Lydian mode is taken from the parent Major scale of E Major.
  • The Relative Minor chord of A Major is F# minor.
  • In the key of E Major, F# is the second scale degree and uses the Dorian mode.
  • Dorian is a popular mode for soloing over minor chords.

Here’s the shortcut:

You can change the chord scale with the chord if you want here – but if you’re playing a chord progression that goes between a major and the relative minor chord (and you’re using Lydian for the major chord) – you can keep using the same scale to create a Dorian sound over the minor chord

(and vice-versa).

A Quick Review

Here’s the Major chord shape I’ve been modifying over the first 2 lessons:


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A Major

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If the root and the 5th are strategically sharped or flatted, other chord tones (7, #11, 9 and 13 can be created).

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A major with  additional chord tones on the B and E string

Since the b (9th) on the high E string is available, the 9th on the g string is something that can be incorporated as well.

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A Lydian/F# Dorian Chord tones based on an A major chord shape

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If I’m soloing over A major (or F# Minor)  – all of these notes are fair game. 

Try all the licks below over an A major type chord or F# minor type chord.

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Lick 1 (Double Click any notation to see full size)

Lick 1


I try to stay with consistent note-per-string fingerings on strings when playing melodically, so here I’m going to take the same idea and just move the last note to the g string to create a 3 note per string pattern.

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Lick 1: Three note-per-string shape

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Here’s how it sounds at 1/2 speed.

Here’s how it sounds at tempo.

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Lick 2:

Here, I’m taking the same notes and breaking them up intervallically into 4ths (except for the 5th in the last 2 notes which adds some variety in the cycle).  Licks like these are easy to visualize (and therefore easy to manipulate when improvising).

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Here’s how it sounds at tempo. 

Note:

When I improvised this- I played it as transcribed – but when I recorded it – I played the last 2 notes as 1/8th notes instead – please take any of the ideas here and manipulate them as you see fit.

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Here’s a similar (but shorter) idea with a scalar pattern at the end.

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4ths lick 2

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Here’s how it sounds at 1/2 speed.

Here’s how it sounds at tempo.

Lick 3:

Here’s an arpeggio idea that incorporates chromaticism.

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arpeggio lick w. chromatics

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Here’s how it sounds at 1/2 speed and then at tempo.

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A couple of notes:

  • In the beginning I’m visualizing a C# min7 arpeggio (C#, E, G#, B) starting on the B.
  • The chromatic motion isn’t random – instead it specifically emphasizes the A and the C# in the A Major chord.
  • In the 3rds pattern that ends the lick – I’m skipping the middle note of the 3 note per string pattern in Lick 1.  I like using 3rds in patterns because it breaks up the monotony of just running scales up and down.


Going Further – Dominant Superimposition:

Now that some initial options have been explored – I’ll take a look at the upper notes of the voicing.  If I take the previous fretboard diagram and extend a note on the g string I’ll have something that looks like the diagram below:

Here’s a chord voicing I discussed in part 2 of this series (B7/A)

And here’s how it sounds.

Short cut 1:

Playing a dominant 7th chord on the second scale degree of a major chord will get you all of the upper extensions and the root)

(i.e. B7 over A major)

Short cut 2:

When soloing over a major chord – you can play a dominant arpeggio on the second scale degree (i.e. B7 over A major).

In the example below, I’m combining a B9 arpeggio and an A major arpeggio to create a melodic idea.  The A and C# on the D string are the linking material between the 2 arpeggios (they act as the 7 and 9 in the B9 chord, or as the root and 3rd of the A Major).

The important thing with any superimposition like this is to resolve it to a chord tone in the chord you’re soloing over (in this case A).

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Here’s how it sounds at 1/2 speed.

Here’s how it sounds at tempo.

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Going Further – Minor Superimposition:

Here’s another chord voicing I discussed in part 2 of this series (G# min7/A)

Short cut 1:

Playing a minor chord on the seventh scale degree of a major chord will get you upper extensions (7, 9, #11 and 13)  of the chord.

(i.e. G# min7 played over A major)

Short cut 2:

When soloing over a major chord – you can play a minor arpeggio on the second scale degree (i.e. G# min7/A).

In the example below, I’m combining a sextuplet idea from the earlier licks and a  G#min arpeggio to create a melodic idea. Again, an important thing with any superimposition like this is to resolve it to a chord tone in the chord you’re soloing over (in this case A).

I’m not a fan of the shift from E to D# in this fingering as it requires quickly barring to get the rest of the arpeggio.  As an alternate fingering, I  recommend this:

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The “picking” is just a suggestion.  (For example: you could also pull off the D# to the B on the g string and then just continue the sweep picking motion.)

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Here’s how it sounds at 1/2 speed.

Here’s how it sounds at tempo.

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Wrapping it up:

This is really only the beginning of where these approaches can go.  Hopefully this will give you some ideas to explore both in comping and soloing.  If there’s enough interest, I’ll expand this approach to minor and dominant chords in future posts.

Final Tech Note:

For those of you who are interested, these are the approximate settings I’m using in Pod farm for the distorted tone here:

Thanks for reading!

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Getting Hipness From A Major Triad Or More Chord Recycling Part 2

In part one of this post, I looked at generating different major chord variations based on flatting the root and the 5th.  In this post, I’m looking at sharping those pitches and combining the two for additional textures (if you came here directly – you may want to review the A major variations in  part one before continuing).

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Start with a map:

Adapting chord forms requires the ability to visualize chord tones around the shape you’re using.  As a starting point, here’s a fretboard diagram of an A major chord (with the A being on the 7th fret of the D string).  I’ve added some additional chordal extensions on the E and B strings (but this process could be applied to any string-set).

In the last lesson, I looked at creating sounds with the 6th (or 13 – see post 1 for the difference between the 2) on the E string.  This time, I’ll add the 6th (6th or 13th) on the B string by raising the E  up to F#.

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A Major 6th no 5th

Here is the sound of the A Major 6th (no 5th) chord.

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Comparing this to the A major 6th voicing in part 1:

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A Major 6 - Watch the 1st finger stretch - if it hurts - stop Immediately!!

Here’s an mp3 of this chord.

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The new voicing is certainly easier.  If I was really stuck on the close voicing of the E and the F# in the A major 6th, I could simply move the F# to the B string and move the E to the open string like this:

A maj 6 with open E string

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Several Notes:

  • This voicing wasn’t included in the first lesson as I wanted to show the process of how to derive these chords.
  • The upside to this approach is it makes this specific voicing easier to play – but the downside is it’s not movable – which may or may not be problematic for you.
  • If a chord is really difficult to finger – there is always an easier way.  You may not get the specific notes or voicings you’re looking for – but there’s always an easier way.

Now I’ll extend the initial Major 6th sound by flatting the 7th.  This is done by lowering the A to G#.

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A Maj 7 add 13 no 5th

Here’s how it sounds.

Again,  I’m a sucker for chords with seconds in the voicing (in this case the F# and G#).  It adds a little but of tension and elevates the chord a bit.

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Adding in the 9th:

First let’s create an A major add 9 chord.

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A add 9

Here’s how it sounds.

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Note:

The reason this is an add 9 chord and not a major 9 chord is the lack of a 7th.

Since the chord is a major chord with a 9th added, it’s called an add 9.

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Now I’ll add a sharp #11.  This is done by lowering the E to D#.

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A maj 9 sharp 11 no 7th no 5th

Here’s how it sounds.

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Another Note:


The further you extend the harmony and remove initial chord tones, the more vague the sound of the chord is as related to the tonic.

For example:  The chord above could be analyzed as an A major 9 # 11 with no 7th and no 5th. But the notes are A,  C#, D# and B.  If those tones are centered around B – you have a B, D#, A and C# or a B dominant 9 (no 5th)/A.

If you have to analyze a chord with more than 1 elimination (i.e. “no 7th no 5th”) there’s probably a simpler analysis of the chord.


Going Further:

Now that some initial options have been explored – I’ll take a look at the upper notes of the voicing.  If I take the previous fretboard diagram and extend a note on the G string I’ll have something that looks like the diagram below (again the A listed below is on the 7th fret of the D string):

If I’m willing to be a little adventurous and replace the 3rd of the chord (C#) with the #11 (D#) , I’ll get a voicing with a root and then all upper tensions (9, #11 and 13).  Here it is notated:

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B7/A

And here’s how it sounds.

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While you could analyse this related to the key of A Major (A major 13, #11, no 3rd, no 5th, no 7th) you may have noticed that shape is the upper chord voicing for a VII position B 7 barre chord.

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Short cut 1:

Playing a dominant 7th chord on the second scale degree of a major chord will get you all of the upper extensions and the root).

(i.e. B7 over A major)

But isn’t a stable sound on its own.  If you play this chord and then the standard A major, it will probably feel resolved to you when you play the A.  If you have a song with a number of bars of A major – switching between these two chords is a nice way to generate a little harmonic motion.

Now, I’ll take this idea a little further by lowering the A to a G#:

G# min 7/A

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Here’s how it sounds.

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This gives the chord a 7 (G#), 9 (B), #11 (D#) and 13 (F#) – or all of the upper chord tones.

Short cut 2:

Playing a minor 7th chord on the seventh scale degree of a major chord will get you all of the upper extensions of the chord.

(i.e. G# minor 7 over A major)

Like the B7/A, this isn’t a stable sound on its own.  If you play this chord and then the standard A major, it will probably feel resolved to you when you play the A.

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Quartal for your thoughts?

Here’s one last transformation for now.  Here I’m going to lower the D# to C# to create a quartal chord.

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Quartal Chord

And here’s how it sounds:

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A quartal chord is a chord that is built on 4ths (G#, C#, F#, B) as opposed to being built on 3rds like A Major (A, C#, E).  To me, quartal voicings have a nice “airy” or “floating” quality .  This is just one of many  possible quartal voicings built from A major.  Quartal voicings will be discussed more in-depth in a future post.

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How to double the number of chords that have been covered.

So far, I’ve looked at a series of chords that either work as substitutions and/or extensions for major chords  I’m going to go into more depth about why this works in the next post but for right now – here’s a quick tip that gives a whole other dimension to using these chords.

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Every chord presented here also works over the relative minor (i.e. F# minor chord).

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Try taking this chord:

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and after you play it add an F# by tapping a fret hand finger on the 2nd fret F# on the low E string for a very hip F# min 9 extension.

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F# min 9 add 13 no 11

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Hopefully this has given you some new chordal ideas!!  You may want to go back to the first post and apply this idea by playing through all of the voicings covered there and adding the F# as a root.

In addition to explaining this approach more in-depth, in part 3 of these posts I’m going to explore a number of ways to use these ideas in your soloing.

Thanks for reading!!  Please feel free to post any questions you might have.

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Getting Through The Gig – Negotiating A Chord Chart Part 3

I took the wrong weekend to sleep in!  Guitar Squid distributed a link to part one of the post and by the time I got to check my stats for the weekend I had already missed my record keeping days.

However, you got here – welcome.

In the previous posts (part 1 and part 2), I talked about deciphering chord symbols and developing shortcuts for playing them.  In this post I’m going to talk about my approach and  how I ended up reading the chart.

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One final time – here’s the 232 chart with upper extension triads written in:

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Full Triadic Substitutions / Shortcuts

Here’s an mp3 of the track.  This was recorded with an FnH Ultrasonic recorded directly into AU Lab with PodFarm 2.0 @ 44.1.  The goal was an ambient wash of sound but in retrospect, I should have gone with a longer delay time/wetter reverb to hold the sustain.

Here’s the PodFarm Patch:

Here’s Bar 1 of the chart:

232 Measure 1

Notes:

  • Simple is better.  I usually start with 3-4 note voicings and then add from there on subsequent passes.
  • I chose the F minor chord in the first position to make the C in the chart the top note of the voicing (and thus accent the melody) – this kept my initial focus on voicings primarily on the D, G and B strings.
  • I added the bass note on the E and A strings so I could get a little more of the chord texture.
  • On the B minor 11 chord, I made some alterations on the fly.  To get the melody note on top of the voicing I doubled the 11 (E on the 5th fret).  Technically this isn’t a minor 11 chord as there’s no 3rd – but in this case Chris was playing the full voicing anyway, so I’m just adding texture.  Depending on what the bass was doing on the second pass I would probably add the 3rd of the chord (D) on the 5th fret of the A string.
  • The 3rd and 4th chords follow a similar pattern so I used the same voicing.
  • I decided to drop down to 1st position for the last chord to get some low-end emphasis.  I’d probably add some harp harmonics as well.
  • The same voicings and approach are used in Bar 2.

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Bar 2

232 Measure 2

Bars 3-4


232 Measures 3-4

Notes:

  • A 9 (sus4) – This went to g,b and e strings to facilitate the melody note.  With the kind of ambient swell sounds that I used – muting the strings with the pick hand between chord changes becomes important to maintain smooth delay.
  • Bb Maj 9 – Here I was actually thinking Dm 7/Bb.  So I’m just using the top notes of the voicing.
  • E min 9 – This is a stock A string minor 9 voicing I use.  I have a couple of these for E and A strings I throw in when I need to.
  • F#9 (sus 4) – E maj/F# voicing based off of a VII position E barre chord.
  • G maj 9  – I was thinking B min but then added the A on the 10th fret for the melody and the G on the A string for the root.
  • C#min 9 – I moved the melody up an octave on the last 3 chords to amp up the arrangement.  Stock E string rooted voicing.  Sometimes I’d play the B on the D string and sometimes not.
  • D Maj 9 – Variation on the C#min9 shape – 2 useful voicings to have at your disposal.
  • E9 sus 4 – Just kept the D Maj 9 voicing, added the F# on the top string and played the low octave E.  I addition to filling out the chord the voicing puts me in a good spot space wise if we decide to repeat bars 1-4.

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This has been a long series of instruction for a pretty simple chord chart, but the purpose of it was to detail the process behind those short cuts.  It might seem long and involved – but it gets easier over time.  In reality – the voicings took about a minute to suss out.

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I hope this helps!  Please feel free to reply here or send an email to guitar.blueprint@gmail.com with any other questions you might have about this.

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