Melville, Madness and Practicing – Or Finding The Deeper Lesson Part 2

Condensed Cliff Notes

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Years ago, I found a back issue of National Lampoon that had a faux ad for Condensed Cliff Notes (“for people who didn’t have time to read the original”).  The joke was that major literary works were just boiled down into one sentence descriptions that couldn’t possibly encompass the scope of the book.  The Condensed Cliff Notes for Moby Dick was, “A whale bites off a man’s leg and he can’t forget about it.”

I don’t know how many of you have read Moby Dick.  I hated it when I had to read it in high school but really got to appreciate it when I was in college and read it again.  One of the central characters in the book was Captain Ahab, a man who not only couldn’t forget about the whale that bit his leg off – but was on monomaniacal mission of revenge that enveloped everyone around him in its wake.   At the end of the book, it’s also his undoing.

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The Ahab effect and practicing

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The nature of practicing music (seemingly endless repetition) makes it easy to fall into the Ahab role of obsessively trying to get a musical passage under your fingers.  I once had a lick I couldn’t get down.  It was challenging, but it certainly was something that was well with in my skill set.

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But the more I worked at it  – the worse it got.

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I’d work on this lick everyday for hours and get the metronome to a certain point.  When I came back to it, I’d have to knock the metronome back down 20 bpm – often 10 bpm lower than where I started the lick the day before!

You can imagine what this did for my sanity.

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After a week of this – I started noticing a few things:

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  • My goal line kept changing.  As I was working on the lick, I kept finding things wrong that I wanted to correct.  I was playing it clean, and then hear other technical issues when I switched to distortion. I was flubbing certain notes, and would go back to fix those.  I was rushing the parts where there were position changes.  I was over thinking it and the more energy I was putting into it the worse it got.  I was actually getting better at playing it, but because I kept adjusting the standard of what I was hearing I seemed further and further away from the goal.
  • I was in a rush.  I was putting all of this emphasis on this lick because I wanted to use it in a live context and  (finally)
  • I was hung up about the fact that I SHOULD be able to play it.

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The operative terms here are, “hung up” and “should”.

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Should is a faulty term. It implies value judgements that are hard, if not impossible to live up to and negates reality.   This might sound really  touchy-feely  to some people but this is the type of mindset that trips up musicians.  It’s why people get carpel tunnel (or Focal Dystonia)  – because they go all Ahab on something and assume that if they just work harder, that they’re going to get results quicker.

Everyone is different and this approach may work. for some people but it never worked for me.

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Here’s what did work for me.

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  • I got some distance and took a break.  I stopped playing for a couple fo days and came back to it fresh.
  • When did come back to it I had the lick down, but it taught me to try to approach all practicing more meditatively.  I noticed things that were wrong and worked on adjusting them rather than beating myself up about why I couldn’t do something.  When I did slip up and get angry or riled up – I made a note of that and tried smiling instead.

I found that I was really listening on a deeper level than I was before and using practicing to get to a deeper part of myself. I was really getting into the nuances of what I was playing and digging deeper into the pocket than I every had.  I noticed technical things that weren’t working and ultimately – I made a series of changes that had major technical ramifications for me in the long run.

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All from one lick.

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Anything has that potential to open the door to deeper expression.  But you won’t find it if all of your energy and attention is fixated on something.

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In the next post, I’ll have some lesson material that uses approaches from my Melodic Patterns book, and we’ll get a glimpse into just how tricky playing 4 notes can be.

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Thanks for reading!

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If you like this post – you may also like:

Don’t Be Afraid Of the Work

Hello!

Thanks for visiting this page!

This post has been moved to my other site  Guit-A-Grip.com.

You can read it here.

Thanks again!

-Scott

 

 

On “It is what it is”

I had a moment to catch up on some things this weekend, and returned a call from a friend of mine at CalArts.  We had a very nice conversation catching up and discussing Higher Education funding, trends, pedagogy and the like and she was kind enough to tell me this:

“You know, in a conversation we had once – you gave me some advice and told me that, ‘it is what it is’.  I thought about that a lot – and about how you’ve brought it up a number of times in our conversations – and it’s something I find myself coming back to as a mantra when I’m facing something difficult.”

She had asked me about where that mindset came from, and I’m sure it’s rooted in growing up in a working class small town in upstate New York.  Compared to many people around me I had it relatively easy.  My parents both worked hard – my dad taught middle school and my mom worked in a factory – and they owned the house we lived in. (A note: Despite a lot of nonsense talk generated in the media earlier in the year, as people living on an educator’s salary, we did not live high on the hog.  We burned wood for fuel (that we cut stacked and dried on our own), did all our own repairs and (for a while) raised animals for food. The two-story house I grew up in with a garage and a 2 story workshop on a 1/2 acre of land sold for well under 40k if that tells you anything about the economics of the region.)

Other people I knew had it really hard.  Farmers (and often their children) who worked from dawn to dusk with spouses working additional odd jobs just to make ends meet.   We had “valley runners” – a term of no endearment reserved for families who would relocate multiple times a year to stay one step ahead of the law.  I’d always see the kids in my classes; they’d show up for a couple of months and then be gone to the next county.  When I’d see them months, or years later, they had always changed for the worse.  They picked up a number of skills they needed to survive when you’re always on the run  (typically manipulation, but sometimes cons or petty theft), that were depressing enough for an adult to have to rely on to get by – much less a child.

Mainly though, I knew a lot of good people who worked hard and were often presented with really difficult situations.  And the response to those situations was to work through it.  I can’t count the number of times that I heard variations of, “No use crying about it – let’s get to work.”

For those of you who resonate with this sentiment, and have never read Marcus Aurelius’ Meditations, it might be worth a moment of your time.  One point Aurelius’ (and other Stoics like Epictetus) bring up repeatedly is the value of seeing things for what they are.  That often means removing the emotional issues associated with the matters at hand and trying to deal with them objectively. (Albert Ellis made an entire career out of this method of inquiry with his REBT (Rational Emotive Behavioral Therapy) approach).

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Getting emotional about certain things (particularly difficult things) only adds to their difficultly.

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In my world view, some things are simply facts andviewing those things as such makes it easier to see them for what they are.

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For example:

2+2=4.

How do you feel about that? (or do you feel anything?)

It’s difficult to get emotionally invested in it because it’s merely a fact.

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Now here’s the idea applied: where a student might hear, “You’re going to have to put a lot of time in to getting those sweep arpeggios down the way you want.” I hear “2+2=4”.  There’s no emotional involvement  and so there’s less to get tripped up on.

There are a million reasons to procrastinate, and generally only one or two to get something done.  If you’re facing something really daunting there’s a several part process I can share to help make it manageable.

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Getting it done

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  1. Know why you need to do what you’re doing. As Viktor Frankl once said, “He who has a why can bear almost any how”.
  2. Deal with problems individually.  Many problems are multi-tiered so break them down into individual components to make them easier to manage.
  3. See the problem for what it is.  Gain a scope of what it is you are trying to do and prioritize what has to happen to complete it.  (For example: If you’re trying to get better at sight-reading – you’re going to have to work on it a lot over a longer period of time.  If you’re trying to get two bars of a solo down – it will probably be a much shorter over-all time investment).
  4. Have milestones and a deadline.  Know what you’re going to complete by when.
  5. Prioritize and address what you can.  Don’t get hung up on big steps here, this stage is all about the specifics of each step (i.e. the grunt work).
  6. Reassess and return.  As milestones are reached verify your progress and start again.

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I remember reading a David Lee Roth interview where he was talking about how having a drive was the only thing that was going to get you through endless vocal practicing in your bedroom.

There’s nothing glamorous in the work that goes into doing anything well, but it’s necessary to acquire the skills needed to do those things.

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In other words, it is what it is.

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Thanks for reading.

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“When You Come To A Fork In The Road Take It”

A number of the motivational posts I’ve posted  here center around a few key concepts:

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  • Having a clear vision of what you want to do (goals)
  • Aligning perception with reality (having an honest assessment of what needs to happen to reach those goals)
  • Daily work on those goals
  • Limiting distractions, and obstacles in the way

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The reason I come back to these posts to the extent that I do (and why I address it with myself as much as I can), is because it’s incredibly important to make the most of your time and enjoy it because time is all you’ve got.  All the talent, skill, strength, brains or money in the world won’t stop you from dying eventually.  Since all those things (talent, skill, strength, brains and money ) are acquired over time, in the end all you have is your time and how you’ve used it.

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Life is short and the only thing of value.  Don’t waste it away.

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We live in the most technologically advanced era the world the world has ever seen, but despite (and/or because of) that technology we also live increasingly isolated existences.   As a society, we often equate texting with talking and surfing the web to connecting with someone (or something).

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All we’re really doing is staring at a TV with an infinite number of channels and typing.

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There’s only limited interaction and a one way transmission of data.   It’s  addicting, comfortable and seductive and brings about the complacency and relaxation everyone looks for at one time or another.  I’m not saying you shouldn’t relax, but I am saying that being sedentary in anything you do carries it’s own inertia (physical and psychological).  The more you turn off your brain, the more likely you are to turn off your brain – even when you don’t want to.

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My father’s grandfather worked coal for the railroad every day of his teenage and adult life.  It was long hours of backbreaking labor and by all accounts, he was an incredibly powerful man.  When he retired, he decided that he was going to retire from everything.  He sat in his favorite chair and went from someone who was active and engaged to someone with very minimal physical exertion and no real goals for the future other than not working.  He died a couple of years later. I can’t prove that they’re related, by in my mind they are.  By my dad’s account, he basically just decided to stopped living.

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“When You Come To A Fork In The Road  – Take It”

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And this brings me back to meaningful living and navigating the overwhelming number of options available to us.   Indecision is a natural byproduct of being overwhelmed.  While I’m all for making an informed decision before taking action, if you spend too much time informing yourself, you won’t have any inertia to carry out what you initially wanted to do. The unexamined life may not be worth living – but the over-examined isn’t either.

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In any battle with indecision, at a certain point you have to punt.  If you get overwhelmed with options, pick one and run with it until you have to switch to another.  If you have a good grasp of what it is that you want to do, you’ll make changes in direction as you require to get back on track.

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It’s less important what thing you do first as long as you do something.

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Thanks for reading.

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Circumnavigating The Wall You Just Hit

It’s easy to get so caught up in the how, or the technical process of what you’re doing, that you forget the why

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Every once in a while someone will send me a You Tube clip of some wunderkind playing a million notes and I often think, “Wow it’s impressive to spend so much time getting that down.   I wonder how they’re going to use that when they’re playing Brown Eyed Girl at the local bar?”  The answer, of course, is that they’re not going to play that or maybe even any song.  The point of the video generally isn’t to develop something interesting in a larger musical context (like a song) but instead to promote their efforts by performing something technically difficult to get people impressed.

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I don’t fault players for this, they’re simply trying to make a connection and that’s the point of music in general.  Sometimes that means playing a million notes and sometimes that happens in the silences of the music you’re playing.   It’s an easy path to go down because making a connection is really hard. In addition to a lot of work, it requires experience, sincerity and no small amount of guts to leave yourself exposed.  In contrast, sitting down with a metronome and getting a lick up to a quick tempo is substantially easier and the result is quantifiable.  Even if people aren’t impressed, you’ll know that you got it up to speed and take some comfort in advancing your technical ability.

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But the flash of something fast will fade quickly, and what’s left is the content of what’s being said and the sincerity behind it.
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I like video game licks in certain contexts, but they’re probably not going to work on a ballad very well (even if it is a fusion track 😉 ).  If you’re saying a lot of words without much meaning it’s not going to have a lot of impact.

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I’ve had gigs where everything involving making a connection turns off on the stage and while it’s not a defining moment in human history, for someone who’s being used to being connected to music it’s a pretty awful feeling.  I’d even argue that this was the case for 90% of the gigs I’ve played in LA.  There can be any number of reasons for this.  There might be technical issues that completely pull you out of your mindset.  The audience might not be there to make a connection.  Things may not be jelling with the band.  But most importantly,  it may be your disconnect, and it’s the most important, because it’s the only performance factor that you really have control over.

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Those of you familiar with the Aesop’s fable regarding the fox and the lion will probably remember the final adage, “Familiarity Breeds Contempt “.  You can put so much time into the same thing on guitar that it loses all musical meaning.  The bad news is it’s probably not going to gain additional meaning on the bandstand.  In all likelihood you’re going to disconnect from it further.

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The more you work with specific things the easier it is to auto pilot your way through them, and the less likely you’ll be able to connect with it.  Taking that a step further, it’s going to be hard to connect to audiences if you’re disconnected from your own playing.   It’s more common than you might think, and a lot of musicians go through small (or large) periods where they “weren’t feeling it”.  They hit a wall.

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By it’s nature, any wall is usually made of pretty hard material so meeting it head on and trying going through it is not the best approach.  I can tell you from personal experience that taking the approach of saying, “suck it up” isn’t going to get your groove back.  Playing through it is exactly what you probably shouldn’t be doing because it’s just going to distance you further from the actual music when you play.  It’s like when a relationship is on the rocks and you’re convinced that spending more time together will make it better when the time you spend now is stinted and awkward.  The better approach in both cases is to step back and get some perspective…to go over the wall if you will…

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One man’s recommendation for dealing with the wall

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If you’re facing this right now, here are some strategies that may help.

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  • Acknowledge that you’ve hit a wall.  You can’t fix something you don’t recognize as a problem.
  • Once you acknowledge that you’ve hit a wall, realize that while it might be big and imposing, it’s still only a wall.
  • If the wall you’ve hit is from playing in general, take a break from playing for a couple of days.  Spend that time trying to connect with friends or family.  What you do isn’t really as important as the fact that you’re engaged and connected while you do it.
  • Learn some new songs.  Learn things that are very non guitaristic like vocal melodies or horn lines.  Take those ideas and write something new with them.
  • Go back and listen to music that inspired you.  Try to find out what it was that inspired you about the music.  Don’t over think or over analyze it, just try to connect with it.
  • Get out of your comfort zone.  Listen to music from other cultures.  Read a book by an unfamiliar (but recommended author).  Play with different musicians.  Take a short trip somewhere you’ve never been with a friend and see some new surroundings.  When I was in Phoenix, I checked out the Musical Instrument Museum and had my head turned around in a dozen different directions both by the instruments and the multimedia presentations of field recordings.  I left that place with a lot of new musical ideas buzzing around my head.
  • Practice playing in front of other people.  Learn a new song and play it at an open mic.  Make notes of when you’re connecting and when other people are connecting and make mental notes of how they’re doing it.
  • When you come back to practicing, take a measured breath before you begin playing.  Mark the fact that you’re about to start something to get into the zone.
  • Try being mindful of what you’re practicing.  Set limits on time and only practice one thing as long as you can be engaged in practicing it.
  • When you play a solo – try only playing what you can sing.

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There are a lot of other things you can try, but the real goal here is to get re-engaged and bring that to your playing.  As corny as it may sound, playing is an expression of who you are and where you’ve been.  If you don’t have anything to say in your playing, it may be time to live a little more so you’ll have a story to tell next time you sit down…For me, it was about realizing what was wrong, taking ownership of that and moving past it to get back to making music instead of just sound again.

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Good luck to you and thanks for reading!

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Favored Curry Or Spicing Up Chord Scales And Triads Part 2

In Part 1 of this lesson,  I went over how to create a chord scale for improvising over a specific chord (in this case C major)  chord.  As a brief recap – here is the chord scale I chose:

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C major chord scale with a # 2, # 4, and a b6 scale degree.

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To start this off – here’s a sample lick using this scale:

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Here’s how the scale sounds played slowly  (1/4 note at 90)

Here’s the scale faster (1/4 note at 180).

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The chords you say?

Since we’ve engineered this chord scale around a C major triad – we know that any licks we come up with will work over that chord – but to see what other chords can be used with this scale – we need to harmonize it.

Let’s look at the triadic (3 note) harmony first.

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C major chord scale with a # 2, # 4, and b6 scale harmonized in 3rds (triads)

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**Note the first 2 chords have been moved to the back three strings to facilitate playing:

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Here are  the chord formulas that are generated:

  1. C, E, G – Root, 3rd and 5th – C Major
  2. D#, F#, Ab – Root, 3rd and double flat 5th – non functional harmony*
  3. E, G, B – Root, flat 3rd and 5th – E minor
  4. F#, Ab, C – Root, double flat 3rd, flat 5th – non functional harmony*
  5. G, B, D# – Root, 3rd, sharp 5th – G Augmented
  6. Ab, C, E – Root, 3rd, sharp 5th – Ab Augmented
  7. B, D#, F#, – Root, 3rd, 5th – B Major

(Note:  even though these don’t have a triadic function they can serve a function enharmonically – I’ll get to that in the 7th chord section).

To recap –  any licks that we generate from this scale will work over C major, E minor and B major.

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Adding the spice

Since we started this approach with C major – let’s look at a lick that spices up a C Major Triad.

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Here’s an mp3 of the lick.  This is an example of something I might play as a backup accompaniment in the pre-chorus of a song.

To my ears even playing this over a straight C major tonality, the D#–>E really triggers an E minor tonality.  Try playing this over a C major –> E minor progression.

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Moving to E minor – here’s an approach I use a lot in rhythm playing.

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The first step is to take a set of three strings – in this case I’ll use the high E, B and G strings.

Starting with a sample chord voicing in the low register – ascend up the neck by moving each note in the voicing up by scale degree.  In this example:

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I’ve started with an initial voicing (Ab, C and E) and moved it through scale-wise motion.

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(Note:  I hear this as G# instead of Ab – you may want to see the section on enharmonics below).

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Here is an mp3 of the voicings.  In the audio example, I play a low E between each chord to establish an overall tonality.

Having done this – I see some cool dyads ( 2 note voicings) on the B and G strings that I can use to spice up an E minor vamp.  This is an example of the type of comping I might do on the verse of a song if the song chart just said E minor).

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Here is an mp3 of the lick.  Don’t be afraid to lay into the slides or add a little vibrato to make the notes sing a little more.

With a lot of these approaches – I’m not really conscious of what the specific functions of the notes are.  Once I know that the scale will work over a chord – it’s more about focusing on the sound of the notes and how they fit into the song.  On some tunes – these notes would clash with the melody and it wouldn’t work.

This process is about building a repertoire of sounds to have at your disposal.  Knowing the theory around it just allows you to adapt those sounds and approaches to make the fit where you want them to.

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Space is the place

Here’s a lick that takes the above approach of breaking chords up into different string sets and applies it to a melody line.  Here I’ve focused on the A, D and B strings and added in the high E string at the end.

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Here is an mp3 of the lick.  Note the slides, vibrato and slightly rubato phrasing at the end of the lick.  These are the little nuances that help make the difference between playing music and playing notes.

This next lick combines chord forms and melody by using artificial (i.e. “harp”) harmonics.  To produce these – a chord shape is held with the fretting hand while the picking hand picks and partially frets notes 12 frets higher resulting in a chime like timbre.  If you are unfamiliar with this technique – just google Lenny Breau (an absolute master of the approach) and you’ll get an idea.

For this specific lick:  I’m holding the D# with my second finger, the C with my 3rd and the Ab with my 4th so I can reach the F# with the fret hand 1st finger.

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Here’s an mp3.

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One of the secrets of this method is to strategically time the release of the fret hand notes.  The longer you can leave the notes held down, the more the pitches will bleed into one another – which produces the desired effect.  Before we go to the next lick I need to make a brief enharmonic diversion.

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An Enharmonic Diversion

An enharmonic is when a note is spelled differently but sounds the same (for example Ab and G#).  When playing this over an E drone – I hear the pitch on the first fret of the G string as a G# (i.e the third of the chord) instead of Ab.  It’s very difficult for me to hear that note functioning as a b4.

As a case in point, here’s another lick.  (This piece makes liberal use of vibrato bar scoops – listening to the mp3 of the lick for phrasing is recommended).

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I’ve notated this lick with both a G# and a G natural as those are the intervals I hear in the approach.

With this interpretation it makes the scale harmonically vague as it would then have both a major AND a minor 3rd.  If we go back over the initial triadic chord and replace the Ab with G#, F# for Gb and D# for Eb we get a couple of different chord options.

  1. C, E, G#-  C Augmented
  2. E, G#, B –  E Major
  3. G#, B, D# – G# minor
  4. C, Eb , G –  C Minor
  5. G, B, Eb – Eb Augmented
  6. Ab, C, Eb – Ab Major

To recap –  in addition to C major, E minor and B major – these licks can also be used with care over E major, Ab major, C minor  and G# minor.

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To finish this approach out for now – let’s look at 7th chords.

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C major chord scale with a # 2, # 4, and b6 scale harmonized in 3rds (7th chords)

**Note:  the stretch on the second chord should be approached with caution.  If it hurts – stop playing immediately!

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Here are the chord formulas that are generated:

  1. C, E, G, B – Root, 3rd, 5th and 7th  – C Major 7
  2. D#, F#, Ab, C – Root, 3rd and double flat 5th, double flat 7 – Enharmonically – this spells – Ab, C, Eb, Gb, – or Ab7 – but doesn’t serve a function from the D# pitch.
  3. E, G, B, D# – Root, flat 3rd, 5th and 7th – E minor (Major 7)
  4. F#, Ab, C, E – Root, double flat 3rd, flat 5th – Enharmonically – this spells – Ab, C, Eb, Gb, – or Ab7 – but doesn’t serve a function from the F# pitch.
  5. G, B, D#, F# – Root, 3rd, sharp 5th, 7th – G Augmented 7
  6. Ab, C, E, G – Root, 3rd, sharp 5th – Ab Augmented 7
  7. B, D#, F#,A  – Root, 3rd, 5th, flat 7th  – B7

This gives us a couple of new tonalities to explore – namely, C Major 7th, E minor (major 7th), B7 and Ab7.

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The final tally:

At a minimum, this chord scale will generate licks that can be used over the following chords:

C major, C Major 7th,

C minor, C minor (major 7th)

E major, E Major 7

E minor, E minor (major 7th),

Ab major, Ab7

G# minor

B major,  B7

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Next steps:

You will probably not like the use of this scale with all of the chords listed but, as is the case with any musical approach, the key is always to use your ears as a guide to what works and what doesn’t.

I hope this helps! 

Happy Holidays and thanks for reading!

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The material in the lesson is adapted from the material in The GuitArchitect’s Guide To Chord Scales book. More information about that book (including an overview and jpegs of sample pages) can be found here.

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PS – If you like this post you may also like:

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MAKING MUSIC OUT OF SCALES

CREATING CHORDS AND LINES FROM ANY SCALE – A HARMONIC COMBINATORICS / SPREAD VOICINGS LESSON

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RECYCLING SHAPES OR MODULAR ARPEGGIOS FOR FUN AND PROFIT

GLASS NOODLES – ADAPTING A PHILIP GLASS ARPEGGIO APPROACH TO GUITAR

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MELVILLE, MADNESS AND PRACTICING – OR FINDING THE DEEPER LESSON PART 2

SOME USEFUL ONLINE PRACTICE TOOLS

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

TESTING YOUR VOCABULARY OR PRACTICING PART VI

PRACTICE WHAT YOU PLAY OR PRACTICING PART V

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DEFINITIONS AND DOCUMENTS OR PRACTICING PART IV

TENSION AND THE SODA CAN OR PRACTICING PART III

PROPER POSTURE IS REQUIRED FOR PROPER PERFORMANCE – PRACTICING PART II

PRACTICE MAKES BETTER AKA PRACTICING PART I

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MELVILLE, MADNESS AND PRACTICING – OR FINDING THE DEEPER LESSON PART 2

FINDING THE DEEPER LESSON

INSPIRATION VS. INTIMIDATION

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

“THE LIMITS OF MY LANGUAGE ARE THE LIMITS OF MY WORLD”

A BRIEF THOUGHT ABOUT MUSIC THEORY

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BOOKS

LESSONS

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GuitArchitecture, Sonic Visualization And A Pentatonic Approach For The Holidays

Happy Holidays!

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I know I’ve been posting a lot of gear related items lately – and  based on the statistics for site visits – this seems to be what people are primarily interested in – so this has driven the posting content recently.

While I’m happy to blog about gear (not incidentally, my 8 string Bare Knuckle Cold Sweat pickup came in last night and I squealed like Bobby Hill); I don’t want to get too far away from playing.  With that in mind I’m putting a concentrated effort to get more lesson/performance posts up to rebalance the site a bit.

I’ll have a new  chord-scale lesson up next week but in the meantime wanted to explain my performance/pedagogical approach to navigating the fingerboard with a fleet fingered pentatonic lick (yes, it’s reposted – but just like Thanksgiving leftovers – aren’t they still good on day two?).

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GuitArchitecture?  Sonic Visualization?

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I wanted to take a moment and talk a little about GuitArchitecture, sonic visualization and re-examine a chestnut from the lesson page as a little – three for the price of one post.

In broad strokes, the GuitArchitecture concept is that the nature of the guitar’s fretboard and tuning lends itself to visualizing fingering patterns.

While patterns performed mindlessly can be a bad thing, they allow people to realize ideas more readily.

Through these patterns, musical structures can be realized and worked into larger sonic arrangements.  More importantly, patterns can be associated with sounds and visualizing how to realize a sound by seeing its shape on the fretboard makes performing it easier.  Hence the term Sonic Visualization.

In my forthcoming books – I have a lot of information on this topic as it applies to scales.  When approaching scales – I see them as a series of modular two-string patterns that connect the entire fingerboard.

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The GuitArchitecture Approach

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Here’s an applied example of sonic visualization:

Let’s say I’m playing a solo over an E minor chord.  As mentioned in a previous post – when soloing over a minor chord you can substitute a minor chord a 5th away (in this case B minor).

So if I’m thinking of using E pentatonic minor over the chord (E, G, A, B, D) I can also use B pentatonic minor (B, D, E, F#, A).

If you look carefully – you’ll see the only difference between the two is the F# and the G.   Both notes sound good against E minor, so if we combine them we get a six- note scale (E, F#, G, A, B, D).  Here is a sample fingering of the combined scales in the 12th position.

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If that scale were fingered as a 2-string scale instead of a six- string box pattern – the same fingering pattern can be moved in octaves – thus eliminating the need for multiple fingerings. (This is the same approach I’m using on 8 string guitar btw).

Here is an mp3 (note mp3s are a little glitchy in Safari – if it doesn’t play you may just have to reload the page) and notation/tab for the descending scale:

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Sextuplet descending

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* Fingering Note: I finger both patterns with the 1, 2 and 4 fret hand fingers on both string sets.

* Descending Picking Note: I play this with a modified sweep picking pattern

E string: up-down-up

B string: up-down-up

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The picking pattern is the same for each string – but when I switch strings – it’s two up picks in a row.

Here it is  ascending:

Sextuplet Ascending

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* Ascending Picking Note: I also play this with a modified sweep picking pattern

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E string: down-up-down

A string: down-up-down

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The picking pattern is the same for each string – but when I switch strings – its two down picks in a row.

If you’re used to alternate picking  – you can use that approach as well but I try to apply the same picking pattern to all three-note per string patterns.

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Practicing the pattern

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In addition to focusing on the timing of the notes – it’s very important to practice slowly and only increase speed when both the timing (are all the notes being played with rhythmic equivalence?), tone (i.e. can you hear all of the notes clearly?) and hand tension (is your hand should be as relaxed as possible?) are all working together.

I’ve written a whole series of posts on practicing  (Post 1post 2post 3post 4post 5post 6 and post 7) that I’d recommend checking out if you haven’t already done so – but the simple principle here is to pay attention to what I call the 3 T’s in Performance: Timing, Tone Production and Tension.

This particular approach is challenging – particularly if you’re not used to the stretch.  Just remember to practice in small focused increments and try to increase steadily over time.

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The Tones:

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For those of you who are interested, tone on this recording was the same AU Lab/Apogee/FNH combination that I detailed here:

Here’s a screen shot of the Pod Farm setting (The tone can be downloaded from line 6 here):

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That’s all for now

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I hope this helps!  You’re free to download and distribute any of the lessons here but I maintain the copyright on the material.

I’m always looking for feedback on what people find useful and what they don’t so if you have any questions or comments, please feel free to e-mail me at guitar.blueprint@gmail.com

Guitarchitecture Post Featured In Guitar Player Holiday 2010 Issue – Quick Licks Section

It’s been a couple of productive days – The pentatonic/blues lick that was featured in the quick lick/rig du jour post has been featured in the Guitar Player Holiday 2010 issue. It’s the issue with Santana on the cover.  Thanks again to Matt Blackett  and the GP staff!

The long overdue Tubtime cd, “We Bleed The Sun And Make It Pay” – is finally up for sale on Itunes and on the CD baby tubtime page. Featuring the talents of Patty Barkas, Geof Chase, Joe Rauen and Keichi Hashimoto – Tubtime was the first project I was involved with that was based solely on of structured improvisation and in many mays was a cornerstone of what I do now. In addition to cd baby and Itunes – it’s also available on emusic should be available on Amazon and any other digital distribution service over the next several months.

Rough Hewn Trio @ CalArts was a big hit!  We should have video/audio up soon.

More info coing soon!  Thanks for dropping by!

Setting Up “Testing Environments” Or Multi Layered Tones In AU Lab

One site that I always forget to link to and need to do so now is the Guitar Amp Modeling Blog,  which is just a really tremendous resource.  It’s really inspiring to me to see so many people working on pushing more and more into alternate live and studio approaches to guitar.

A couple of days ago I went to the Speaker Cabinet Impulse section of the forum and found that RedWirez, a company that sells a high end collection of speaker impulses is giving away their impulses from a Marshall 1960A with Celestion G12M 25-watt Greenbacks to celebrate their birthday!  The folder is about 107 MB of impulses that go from 44.1 KhZ – 16 bit to 96 KhZ – 24 bit.

There are 17 different types of mikes used for each IR set AND there are ambient mics to capture the back of the cab at various distances, room and wall mics as well. You can go to the link for that here.

I still have the recabinet set – which at $15 for something like 2000 irs is an amazing bargain as well.

But one thing that comes up in something like this is how do you sort through all those speaker sounds?

My solution is to set up a bunch of instances of LA convolver on multiple busses in AU LAB.

In this way I can set up one bus at a time and mute the other channels to be able to a/b/c everything.

Additionally, you can set up more complex sounds by combining different IR’s.

For example here are the IR’s used in bus 1:

and bus1 is the tone.

Here are the IR’s used in bus 2:

and bus2 is the tone.

Here are the IR’s used in bus 3:

and bus3 is the tone.

And the final tone of all 3 together:

To my ears, this creates a more full bodied sound than any one channel.  Each plug in takes up more processing power – so it may be a balancing act based on resources – but since AU LAB uses so much less CPU than something like Logic, it’s easier to pull off here.

In case you’re interested – here’s the patch the sound is based on:

Thanks for dropping by!