Fun With Triads: Anastasia

“Rock guitar” is obviously a pretty broad, subjective spectrum. Blues, country, metal, and even jazz contribute to how each of us perceives that category. But virtually any rock player (or any style player) should check out the Slash tribute documentary, Raised on the Sunset Strip.

Beyond the expected accolades from his peers and (former and current) bandmates, what emerges is a profile of someone who is happiest when playing the guitar, who probably can’t conceive of doing anything else. That’s pretty awesome, and is the ultimate goal for just about any player, to be able to make a living at it so you can play all the time.

Slash famously insists that he knows very little music theory, and has no formal practice routine, he just works around in the major and minor scales and blues boxes, plays patterns and things that sound good to him. He’s probably the best contemporary example of a great player who is able to play anything he wants, purely by ear and feel. Tone, taste, and technique all combine for a powerful, passionate style.

We’ve taken a look at the technical aspects of the classic Sweet Child o’ Mine intro riff, which Slash developed as a practice exercise. Let’s take a look at another great melodic intro riff of his, from Slash’s 2012 release. The song Anastasia starts with an almost flamenco-flavored acoustic melody, essentially finger-picking the chord progression, which is in the key of D minor (yes, the saddest of all keys). See tab below:

Ana_intro

Notice the suggested fingerpicking (p=thumb; i=index; m=middle; a=ring finger). Try it also with a “hybrid” approach (pick and fingers), like this:

Ana_intro_alt

The picking does not have to be strictly down-up alternating, also try economy picking (in the same direction on adjacent strings), or starting with an upstroke. As the chords are arpeggiated down and then back up, the main goal is to make sure the sound is smooth and steadily “rolling” back and forth.

This progression is very similar to that of the Ozzy/Randy Rhoads classic Mr. Crowley. If you already know some or all of the classic solos to that song, it may help you get a feel for this one.

Let’s check out a couple of “exotic” scales that can be used to add a little spice to these types of progressions.

The Harmonic Minor Scale and the Spanish Phrygian Mode
Remember that there is more than one minor scale. Usually the natural minor (R 2 ♭3 4 5 ♭6 ♭7, in Dm: D E F G A B♭ C) is used for solos and melodies. But the harmonic minor (R 2 ♭3 4 5 ♭6  7, in Dm: D E F G A B♭ C#), which does not flatten the 7th, has a slightly more exotic sound which lends itself well to more “Spanish”-sounding melodies. Anastasia is one of those songs, so having a handle on the harmonic minor scale will pay off huge melodic benefits here. Just one note of difference, but you can really hear it:

D_harm_minor

As always, it’s a huge help in navigating the fretboard to map out scales in as many positions as possible. The first example stays within the 5th position, while the second example starts in the 10th position and travels up and along the neck, ending a full three octaves higher on the 22nd fret of the high E string. Learning the positional “boxes” and then connecting them is the key to fretboard mobility.

Try out this cool scalar lick based on the harmonic minor scale, designed to go back and forth through several positional areas of the neck:

D_harm_lick

The phrase in the final bar will be slightly tricky at first, but that “slide and stretch” move will pay off in developing your own wide-interval melodic licks. Throw in all the cool guitar vocalisms where applicable — palm muting, legato, artificial harmonics, vibrato, etc.

Where the natural minor scale is also a mode (Aeolian) of the major scale, the harmonic minor scale is its own scale, which means it has its own modes. (Refer to the free printable Modes cheat sheet for more information on how modes are derived from scales.)

One of the coolest modes around is the fifth mode of the harmonic minor scale. It has that quintessential “classical” feel, and has been popularized over the years by players such as Ritchie Blackmore, Uli Jon Roth, and Yngwie Malmsteen. It is commonly referred to as the “Spanish Phrygian” or “Phrygian natural 3rd (♮ 3)” mode. To play the fifth mode of the D harmonic minor scale, you start from the fifth degree of that scale, which is A:

A_Phryg3

Knowing how to spell scales and modes intervallically makes it easier to transpose them to other keys. The tab above, while derived from the D harmonic minor scale, would be called A Spanish Phrygian, since A is the root note of the mode. It still plays over D minor just fine, but the D Spanish Phrygian would be a slightly different animal.

So here is how to spell the Spanish Phrygian in terms of intervals:  R ♭2 3 4 5 ♭6 ♭7. Remember, all of those flats are in relation to the major scale.

So now to spell out the notes for D Spanish Phrygian, we take the notes of the D major scale (D E F# G A B C#) and flatten the 2nd (E), 6th (B), 7th (C#), resulting in this: D E♭ F# G A B♭ C. Check the tab below:

D_Phryg3

Both examples stay strictly within position. If you’re feeling adventurous, map the this mode out along multiple positions, like we did earlier with the harmonic minor scale, and develop melodic licks from the notes of the mode. Stay strictly within the note range of the mode before adding “passing tones” or “outside notes”. That’s the best way to train your ears to the “flavor” of any mode or scale.

Here’s another sample lick that takes you through the notes and positions:

D_Phryg3_lick

Quick rundown of the techniques deployed in the lick:  first bar ascends through the mode in thirds; second bar uses pedal point for melodic development before a short ascending transition into the third bar, which features descending arpeggios before landing on a B♭ note (6th degree of the mode). Definitely try sweep picking on those arpeggios in the last two bars, palm muting and artificial harmonics on the pedal point in the second bar, palm muting on the first bar, etc.

Use all those vocalisms judiciously; like a master chef preparing a special dish, you try this spice and that spice until you find the right combination, you don’t throw everything in all at once.

Record a simple one- or two-chord vamp in D minor, and practice all three of the scales (D natural minor, D harmonic minor, D Spanish Phrygian). Listen closely to the differences between them, as well as the similarities.

All of the above examples and techniques are to provide some background and ideas to apply in learning the Anastasia riff. That’s the best way to learn any song and make it your own, rather than merely parroting the notes.

Back to the Song
From that soft intro the band kicks in, with Slash retracing that Dm chord progression, this time with a really cool pedal point ascending triad sequence.

ana-riff

Start by taking just the first pattern, and playing it repeatedly until it’s smooth and crisp at medium to fast tempo (96-120 bpm). As always, take it slow at first until you memorize the pattern, then it’s a simple matter to start moving it along the progression. Listen to how just changing a couple of notes or a position keeps the musical tension going, until it finally releases and you start the descending pattern to resolve the progression.

The way the riff alternates between the B and E’ strings will force you to really examine what your picking hand is doing. Definitely alternate pick everything, accenting only the beat notes, and keeping everything else very moto perpetuo, constant and even.

Moto perpetuo exercises are great for disciplining your picking hand to stay within a steady range of motion and pressure, neither over- or under-accenting, just playing everything smooth and clean. There’s a ton of stuff in this post to work on, so take it a piece at a time, really listen to the nuances and differences between the various scales and modes described, and experiment with what sounds good in developing a nice melodic lick, whether for a solo or for a main riff. Have fun!

Kreutzer Etude #5, Part 1

Let’s check in on our ongoing Kreutzer Etude series, and take a look at a short yet melodic piece, the #5 Etude. It is just 24 bars (the final bar is a single ending note) of triplet 8th notes. Some of the etudes we’ve looked at so far are useful in developing specific techniques, such as alternate picking or sweep picking.

Certainly the #5 will help with alternate picking as well, but its real strength is in taking simple scale patterns and developing them melodically. It’s also an interesting exercise for practicing position playing, and we’ll show you how to play this piece in no less than four different positions (two in the lower octave, two in the upper octave).

Since this etude is in a fairly unusual key for most guitarists (C minor / Eb major), it also serves as a great way to learn how to play effectively in those keys. As always, there will be additional exercises to help in learning the piece, as well as show you some ideas in scales and fretboard navigation.

So let’s take a look at the first half of the piece, break that down into a couple of sections, and check out some exercises to go with those sections.

K5_01

K5_02

Breakdown and Analysis

You don’t really have to know too much music theory to benefit from the analysis and exercises, but the more you know, the easier it is to follow along. If some of the terms don’t make sense right away, don’t worry about it. Concentrate on learning the piece itself first, you can always come back through and check out the extra parts later.

As noted above, the key signature for this etude is C minor (relative major is Eb major). The notes in the C natural minor scale are C D Eb F G Ab Bb. It always helps to match up the notes numerically, as degrees of the scale, so C is 1 (1st degree), D is 2, and so on, right up to Bb (7th degree of the scale).

For those of you unfamiliar with reading musical notation and key signatures, take a moment and look at the three flat () markings on the left side of the notation staff, just to the right of the clef. In order from left to right, those flats are Bb, Eb, and Ab, corresponding to the flat notes indicated in the scale.

Section A (Bars 1-4):  The first four bars introduce a 12-note pattern based on the C minor scale. This 12-note pattern is basically a doubled 6-note pattern, the second one lower than the first. Starting from the 5th degree of that scale (G note), you go up 2 scale degrees (to Bb, the 7th note of the scale), then right back down the scale, five notes in a row. The pattern then starts up again from the next lower scale degree.

The first bar works this pattern down twice, so let’s look at it first as notes, then as numbers of the scale.

Notes:      G-Bb-Ab-G-F-Eb      D-F-Eb-D-C-Bb

Numbers:    5-7-6-5-4-3           2-4-3-2-1(root)-7

(Note that the Bb at the end of the second 6-note pattern is an octave lower than the one near the beginning of the first pattern.)

Practice that first bar over and over again, until the pattern feels comfortable, and you can hear how the pattern sounds. Observing how the numerals correspond to the notes can be tricky at first, but it will make it easier to extrapolate the pattern through this scale (or any scale), and develop exercises to work along the entire fretboard.

Now looking at the second bar, we can see that, rather than continuing the 6-note base pattern straight down through the scale, it jumps back up a fourth (interval) to start up the pattern again. This happens again, going from bar 2 to bar 3, and again to bar 4.

Here’s an exercise that will illustrate what we’re talking about with “extrapolating” a pattern “through a scale” or along the fretboard. This first exercise takes our 6-note base pattern, and works it down through the scale in the 3rd position.

If you break it up into 6-note chunks, you can see that each one starts one scale degree down from where the last one began. Numerically that would go 5-7-6-5-4-3, 4-6-5-4-3-2, 3-5-4-3-2-1, 2-4-3-2-1-7, and so on. Those sequences will eventually repeat as you go down (or up) through multiple octaves. Check it out:

K5_ex_01

Now, we’ll take our full 12-note pattern, and work it up the fretboard along the G-B-E’ trio of strings, ascending one scale degree at a time:

K5_ex_01b

Unless otherwise noted, stick with strict down-up alternate picking, until the patterns feel comfortable. After that, feel free to start with an upstroke, incorporate legato, palm muting, etc.

With these and any other exercises, use whatever musical knowledge you have to transfer them into as many keys as possible. For example, how would you play this exercise in C major, instead of C minor? How would you start from a given key, and work the exercise through the entire circle of fifths/fourths? Can you play these patterns on other string combinations, and map them out along the neck? Those can be tough questions for people who don’t have much theory, but if you use our free cheat sheets consistently, that knowledge comes pretty quickly, and will make it much easier to learn more complex ideas with less time and effort.

Despite the simplicity of the etude itself, the above demonstrates very clearly how many ideas can be drawn from just a simple 12-note scale pattern (composed of a doubled 6-note pattern), played for 4 bars in a single position on the guitar. Pretty cool, right? Chances are that this post alone will give you plenty of ideas to keep you busy for a long time — and we’re only covering the first half of the etude right now.

Before moving on to the next section, let’s take a quick look at the scales for this etude, in various positions. Here’s the base C minor scale in the 3rd position, starting from the 5th (A) string, played two ways, first in position and then 3-note-per-string style, with the position shift:

K5_ex_02

Usually the importance of scale patterns that use three or four notes per string is emphasized here, and those patterns are more useful in encompassing a broader musical range, as well as navigating more of the fretboard. You can cover more ground with a 3-note-per-string (3N/S)pattern than with a position scale pattern.

However, position patterns are still valuable to know and use, in that they provide yet another way of visualizing the fretboard, and that minimizing movement along the neck can help simplify the notes and patterns. Certain positions tend to be more conducive to certain keys and scales, but the fact of the matter is that every key in every scale is contained to at least some extent in every single position on the fretboard.

The relative major key/scale to C minor is Eb major. Here is that scale, first in position and then as a 3N/S pattern:

K5_ex_02b

Use the suggested picking and fingering, and be sure to run all these scales down as well as up. Observe how the descending shifts may differ from the ascending shifts, and which fingers prepare to “anchor” for those shifts in each direction.

Also practice the scales along all 6 strings:

K5_ex_03

K5_ex_03b

Section B (Bars 5-11):  Bar 5 starts out with a straight run up the scale, starting from Bb. Modally, this could be considered Bb Mixolydian. On the descent in bar 6, notice that the second-to-last note in that bar is an A, rather than an Ab, implying Bb major (G minor). Bars 7-8 shift the A note back to Ab, and feature some nice back-and-forth intervallic play.

Bars 9-11 have an ascending-descending scalar sequence that misses the 2nd degree (spelled intervallically:  1-3-4-5-6-7), moving the sequence up a scale degree at a time. The tonality shifts the Ab back to A yet again for the first two of those bars, before settling back to the original key for the time being. We’re only talking about changing a single note (Ab to A and back) in the context of the scale, but you can hear how that small change creates melodic tension. This etude plays with that melodic shift repeatedly, and it’s a powerful tool to incorporate into your soloing.

Here’s a couple simple but effective exercises based on what we’ve seen in Section B. First, let’s take a look at three different ways to play the Bb Mixolydian mode. The Mixolydian is the fifth of the seven major scale modes. It is identical to the major scale, except for the flattened seventh, and is most commonly found these days in country music, but certainly has nice melodic applications in blues and rock.

The idea here is to play the same scale, starting with a different finger each time. Here is the standard 3N/S pattern, beginning with the index finger:

K5_ex_04

Easy enough, right? The first 3 strings have the same pattern, and the subsequent shifts are small and fairly easy to learn. Now let’s take a look at starting with the middle finger, and remaining in position:

K5_ex_04b

Note the position shift heading into the B string, in order to catch the Ab (G#) note at the 9th fret. You can also play that note on the 4th fret of the high E string, and not have to shift at all, but stretch the index finger down a fret to play the note. Needless to say, it never hurts to get familiar with both of those ways.

Now let’s take a look at playing the mode starting with the 4th finger. There’s a 1-fret shift at the B string, and then we’ve added a nice 4-note descending sequence to help work on the fingering and shifts:

K5_ex_04c

Remember when learning new scale patterns, that once you learn the basic pattern itself, to move beyond just running the scale straight up and down, and to plug it into different sequencing patterns. Check out some of these past posts on scales and sequencing for some ideas:

3N/S Patterns: Major Scale

3N/S Patterns: Minor Scale

3N/S Patterns: Harmonic Minor Scale

Melodic sequencing is the key to building technique and musical knowledge at the same time, and will absolutely give you a huge advantage in understanding how to create memorable solos and melodies. Stay tuned for the second half of the Etude #5 in a few days!

Melodic Warmup Exercise

If there’s two things we like here at PTG, when devising useful exercises, one is to keep it as simple as possible, and the second is to combine musical ideas with mechanical concepts. This post and the next will show some ideas that address both those areas.

We’re going to look at the B-G-D string trio, in the seventh position. Let’s take a simple triad progression and see what we can do with it:

MelWarm01

Pay special attention to the fingering, because this is where it becomes somewhat challenging. The first chord, A7, uses (in order from lowest note to highest) the 1-3-2 fingers, while the next chord (G with B root, also known as an inversion) is fingered 3-1-2. So as you transition from the A7 to the G/B, keep the second (middle) finger in place on that G note (B string, 8th fret). Simply switch the first and third fingers as you go from the A7 to the G/B.

Next, on the B triad, you can see that the fingering is just 3-2-1. Easy enough. This time, as you transition from G/B to B, keep the third finger stationary on the B note (D string, 9th fret). You just trade places with your first and second fingers, between the G and B strings, and 7th and 8th frets.

The fourth and final chord in our single-position mini-progression is a C triad, exactly the same as the B triad immediately before it, just one position higher. You can easily slide shift the 3-2-1 fingering up one fret to play this, but to keep this challenging (it is an exercise, after all) use the 4-3-2 fingering shown in the notation. You may want to isolate this further and just work back and forth between the B (3-2-1 fingering) and C (4-3-2) triads until it feels comfortable. This is a very simple but effective exercise for finger independence.

When you feel comfortable working through the entire four-chord sequence, and can do it smoothly and cleanly, keeping the suggested fingers in place during the transitions, you’re ready to use the progression for melodic picking exercises. Let’s take a very simple four-note version of this:

MelWarm02

As always, start slow and smooth, use a metronome to keep in tempo, use strict alternate picking, and pay particular attention on the transitions from one chord to the next. The first transition (from A7 to G/B) may be somewhat tricky, in that you are moving your 3rd finger from the 9th fret on the G string to the 9th fret on the D string for consecutive notes. Again, take it slow and it will fall under your fingers before you know it.

As with any picking exercise, make sure to try as many picking hand techniques (palm muting, sweep picking, etc.) as you can think of. Mix and match these techniques, come up with progressions of chords and triads of your own. Use the chords section here (scroll down on that page) for ideas, and listen to how the chords flow and resolve when sequenced together.

Here’s a variation on our triad sequence, using sweep-picked triplets:

MelWarm03

With these back-and-forth sweep picking exercises, try to achieve a smooth “rolling” sound. Observe the motion of your picking hand, and where the “turnaround” point is from downstroke to upstroke and vice versa. Instead of coming to an abrupt halt to change direction, keep it smooth and even. Think of your regular alternate picking on a single string, and how the picking motion is constant, and not start-stop-start-stop. Sweeping across multiple strings is basically an extended version of that motion, in terms of the distance your picking hand travels.

Definitely come up with chord and shape ideas of your own and put them together. Print a bunch of blank tab and chord sheets, and keep them handy when you’re practicing, so you can sketch out these ideas as you come up with them. Don’t worry too much about figuring out which scale or chord they “belong” to yet, the main thing is that it sounds cool to you, and that you get it written down for future reference. You can figure out the theory later if you want.

The next post will explore a melodic variation on the single position exercise, stay tuned!

Maximum Fretboard Control: Fretboard Mapping, Part 2

Picking up where we left off in the last post, let’s resume our crash course in fretboard mapping and note memorization by taking a look at the 2nd (B) through 6th (low E) strings, from the open string on up to the 12th fret. We’ll look first at all the natural notes on each string, and then include all the accidentals (sharps/flats) for the complete chromatic octave along each string.

Reminders from the previous post will be included as we go along.

Here’s the B string:

SSM02b

SSM02a

Remember that each accidental has two (enharmonic) names, so C# is also Db, Eb is also D#, and so on. The name used will generally depend on the key signature. The particular names used in these diagrams are more commonly used than their enharmonic counterparts.

Moving on to the 3rd (G) string:

SSM03b

SSM03a

Remember that all of these patterns replicate 12 frets up the neck; for example, the B note at the 4th fret in the above diagram shows up an octave higher at the 16th fret.

Let’s check out the 4th (D) string:

SSM04b_

SSM04a

You don’t have to worry about it too much while you work on each string one at a time, but as you put all the strings together, it’s critical that you then work on the notes that are multiply located.

Let’s take the D note at the 12th fret on the 4th string as an example. Keep in mind how standard (EADGBE) tuning creates multiple locations for notes. What other locations can this exact note, not an octave above or below, be played? For most of the strings, the same note can be found 5 frets up on the next lower-pitched string (going from D string to A string, for example), or 5 frets down on the next higher-pitched string (going from D string to G string). The exception to this is going between the G and B strings, which will be four frets in the respective direction, rather than five.

Take a look at the entire 24-fret map and see if you can spot the other locations for that note. (Answer at the end of this post.)

Here’s the 5th (A) string:

SSM05b

SSM05a

Remember to learn the natural notes first, by the time you have those down, you’re more than halfway there!

Finally, let’s take a look at the low E string, which as you’ll recall is exactly the same as the high E string, just two octaves lower:

SSM06b

SSM06a

Again, don’t try to learn and memorize every diagram and pattern all at once. Five minutes at the beginning or end of each practice session, focusing on just one string each time, should get you going within a week or so (provided you practice 3-5 times a week).

After a couple of weeks cycling through the single-string patterns, start mapping adjacent string pairs, working on all the various elements covered so far. For now, just do 1-2 (E-B), 3-4 (G-D), and 5-6 (A-E) string pairs. Work these patterns above the 12th fret as well, knowing that the notes are the same, just 12 frets (and an octave) higher.

More techniques and exercises to help you master the art of fretboard navigation will be covered in the upcoming PTG Kindle book, Maximum Fretboard Control, coming soon. We’ll give you a heads-up as to the launch date, as well as free download dates to get yours when it drops. Play hard and have fun!

[Answer to question about the other locations for the D note found on the 4th string, 12th fret:  3rd string, 7th fret; 2nd string, 3rd fret; 5th string, 17th fret; 6th string, 22nd fret. Needless to say, play all of them.]

Maximum Fretboard Control: Fretboard Mapping

Knowing how to navigate the guitar neck is probably the single most important skill to develop, in terms of the results it will bring. You don’t have to learn to read music or any theory concepts to get the hang of fretboard mapping and navigation (though those things certainly don’t hurt, and you should look into those areas eventually).

The next PTG Kindle book, to be released later this spring, will be called Maximum Fretboard Control (in Just 5 Minutes a Day), and it will have plenty of tips, tricks, and exercises to help you in that area. Players of virtually all levels, but definitely beginning and intermediate guitarists, will benefit from these ideas. As the title implies, the idea is to make it quick, easy, and painless to get this vital skill under your belt and into your playing regimen.

You may want to use the Scales and Intervals series to provide some context here, but for the purposes of this post, we’re going to cut right to the chase. There are just a few fundamental things to know up front:

  • There are 12 notes in an octave: A  A#/Bb  B  C  C#/Db  D  D#/Eb  E  F  F#/Gb  G  G#/Ab  A’ (next octave)
  • The octave sequence repeats in both directions, up and down, but can start from any point in the sequence. A 6-string, 24-fret guitar in standard tuning (EADGBE) will have 4 full octaves (open low E string to 24th fret on high E string).
  • Notes without sharps or flats are called naturals. There are 7 natural notes: A  B  C  D  E  F  G
  • Notes with sharps or flats are called accidentals. There are 5 accidentals:  A#/Bb  C#/Db  D#/Eb  F#/Gb  G#/Ab
  • The reason accidentals are doubled up as shown above is because they are enharmonic; that is, A# is the same note as Bb, C# is the same note as Db, and so on. The note name will change depending on the key signature.
  • There are no accidentals between B and C, or between E and F.

Because of the guitar’s tuning, there are multiple locations for most notes. This is part of the reason why standard notation is more difficult to read than guitar tab; where most other instruments have just one location for each note in the instrument’s range, a given note may have as many as six locations on a guitar neck.

Many times, the context of the music will give you a pretty good idea of the most practical location to play a note. But it’s still important to get familiar with all the possible locations for every note.

That’s where mapping the fretboard, and learning it a piece at a time, come into play. Use the Fretboard Maps PDF on the Resource Page to see charts for an entire 24-fret neck. For this post, we’re going to simply use the lower half of the neck, from the nut to the 12th fret.

FM04

This will help reinforce the concept that any given note repeats an octave higher, 12 frets up the neck on the same string. So for example, the C note located at the 5th fret on the 3rd (G) string is replicated an octave higher, at the 17th fret on the same string. (This same C note, located 5th fret 3rd string, is multiply located at the 1st fret 2nd string, 10th fret 4th string, 15th fret 5th string, and 20th fret 6th string.)

In reviewing the chart above, notice that all the accidentals are listed using sharps. You could also list them using just flats:

FM05

Use these maps as references as we move on. Let’s look at the map with just natural notes:

FM01

If you’re a regular reader here, or have some knowledge of theory, you already know that these natural notes also form the C major (or A minor) scale. If not, don’t worry about scales or intervals or any of that stuff just yet, just concentrate on learning the names and locations of these notes first. Again, pay attention to the multiply located notes contained here.

Since the natural notes are 7 out of the 12 notes total in an octave, that means that if you learn the naturals, you’re already over halfway there. Then it’s just a matter of plugging in the accidentals, understanding the enharmonic capabilities of those notes, and putting it all together.

Here are the accidentals, shown as sharps:

FM02

Now shown as flats:

FM03

To touch back briefly on the subtitle of the upcoming book, you really can learn all this with just a few minutes a day. The key here, as with learning or practicing any other idea, is consistency, just doing a little every day. Within just a few weeks of consistent practice, you should have most of these note names and locations committed to memory.

Another key is to take multiple approaches to this, and to take it a piece at a time. You don’t have to memorize the above diagrams right from the start. The best way is to go one string at a time.

Let’s take a look at the first string (high E), first just the natural notes, then every note located from the open string up to the 12th fret (E to E’):

SSM01b

SSM01a

This is yet another instance where there’s a built-in advantage to learning quickly and easily — since there are two E strings, the notes are the same, it’s just that the low E is two octaves lower than the high E. But as all you are concentrating on right now is names and locations, learning one E string gives you the other E string, which means you’re already one-third the way there.

We’ll cover the other five strings in the next post. Stay tuned!

Single String Thing, Part 2

Let’s finish up our look at scale patterns on a single string by looking at some cool melodic sequences to play along the scale. Hopefully by now you’ve mapped out the A minor scale up and down each string, and learned the pattern for each string, one at a time. (For reference, you can print the handy Fretboard Maps PDF from the Resources page; for the A minor / C major scale we’re reviewing, use the top diagram “Natural notes”.)

The examples here will all take place on the high E string, but of course it is highly encouraged that you try them out on every string, using just the notes in the scale, and paying attention to how the patterns differ along each string.

If you haven’t worked on single string scale patterns before, it may seem a bit limiting at first. But by staying on one string, and within one scale (at least at first; of course you should apply these patterns and sequences in as many keys and scales as possible), forces you to work on several important techniques:

  1. Alternate picking — Obviously this is most logical and efficient way to go on one string. But legato is also handy to try!
  2. Position shifting — As you shift, pay close attention to which fingers you use to anchor the shifts, both ascending and descending. Take it slow and use a metronome, and strive to keep the shifts smooth, even, and locked in with the tempo.
  3. Theory — Going across the neck on multiple strings can force you to think about where and what the notes are on the next string. The linear nature of a single string radically simplifies that process. Notes, intervals, and scale patterns can be easier to internalize this way.

So let’s take a look at a few sequencing patterns that can be run through the scale. The first one is a four-note pattern that ascends the scale one step at a time, and uses shift slides to make it smooth and easy, rather than stretching the hand trying to play all four notes before shifting. Use the suggested fingering and shifting:

SSE_01

Now let’s try the classic 1-2-3-1 / 2-3-4-2 / 3-4-5-3 / etc. sequencing pattern. Many players find this to be an easier way to play this type of sequence:

SSE_02

It’s tempting (and easy) to play a fast sequencing run that simply ascends chromatically, and such runs are definitely part of a well-rounded practice diet. But try staying within the scale for these exercises, and pretty quickly you’ll hear how it lends a more structured, melodic, classical sound

The next exercise utilizes the classical pedal point technique, where a scale fragment or melody is played “against” a repeated stationary note, creating a very melodic effect. Again, be sure to try these types of figures ascending and descending, and see how to “reverse” the patterns when desired.

SSE_03

The last exercise is a sequence found in the styles of many ’80s neoclassical shredders. It involves displacing the notes, ordering them in a different sequence, and then repeating that sequence through the scale.

Let’s take a simple 3-note sequence of notes such as A-B-C (1-2-3). Instead of just playing them in order, we’ll start the sequence with the third note, C, then go back down to A, come back up through B to C, then back down through B to end on A.

So the whole 6-note sequence goes C-A-B-C-B-A (or in numerical notation, 3-1-2-3-2-1). Here is the sequence broken down to a single-bar “cell”:

SSE_04a

It may be awkward at first, because you should be using just the 1-3-4 (index, ring, pinky) fingers to play the sequence at this particular position, but any chance to work on that 3-4 combination is a good thing. Like anything else, take it slow, use a metronome, play it clean and accurate before playing it fast.

Using the fretboard maps as reference, simply run that same 3-1-2-3-2-1 sequencing pattern up and down through the rest of the steps in the scale, as shown in the tab below.

SSE_04

At faster speeds, this type of melodic displacement sounds really cool, and maybe even sounds a bit trickier than it actually is. These “impress the neighbors” runs are always fun to play, and become easier once you master the sequence and see how to move it through the scale.

Definitely get familiar with these patterns, develop some sequence ideas of your own, and run them through the entire pattern along the neck. Again, add sharps and flats as needed to try different keys, and go through the circle of fifths / fourths.

We’ll end this post with a quick variation on the 3-1-2-3-2-1 sequence we were just looking at. It simply goes from 5th position to 4th position — but of course the 4th fret on the E string is a G# note, not in the A minor / C major scale. The G# pushes the tonality to E major (E-G#-B triad), which harmonizes well against A minor. Simply play this bar over and over again until you get the hang of it. Listen to how the sequence “resolves” musically. Experiment and see where other sequences outside the scale can fit in and sound good.

SSE_04b

Use the 1-3-4 fingers for the A minor (5th position) part, and 1-2-4 for the E major (4th position) part, so you get to use all four fretting fingers. Just go back and forth between the two until both feel smooth and easy to play and shift between. It’s a great little exercise for picking and for ear training.

As you practice all these variations, in different keys and on different strings, be sure to keep some blank tab paper handy, and listen for interesting sequences to put together, so you can write them down as soon as you can. Good luck and have fun!

Single String Thing

In past posts, we’ve concentrated on a variety of ways to play scales, but generally on forms and patterns that use most or all of the strings. Those tend to be the most efficient as far as maximizing fretboard navigation goes, and there are lots of cool sequencing patterns that can be developed from those scale forms.

But single-string scales are pretty cool too, and in fact have benefits as well for navigation, and for developing cool sequencing patterns. It’s just about impossible to know too many different ways to play a particular scale.

As always, we’ll use our trusty A minor (C major) pattern, since there are no sharps or flats. Here’s the scale played along the high E string:
SS01
Spelled intervallically:

SS01a
Check the tab below, and play the scale ascending and descending, using the suggested fingering:

SS_01

It’s possible to play as many as four notes along the string before needing to shift position, but it is highly recommended to play no more than three notes before shifting, especially at first. It’s easier to maintain control moving up and down the neck, and the shifts are shorter in distance.

This is a great single-string scale exercise to reinforce that principle.

SS_02

Here’s the same exercise in groups of four, the “three against four” rhythm always sounds cool!

SS_03

Now let’s map the same scale along the B string:
SS02

Don’t worry about starting or ending on the root as you play through the scale patterns, just play as many of the notes of the scale as you can along a given string.

Moving along to the G string:
SS03

Using the Fretboard Maps PDF from the Resources page, map out the scale on the other strings (really just the D and A strings, since of course the pattern on the low E is the same as the one on the high E), and play them all. In the next post, we’ll go over some cool sequencing patterns, stay tuned!

Coming Soon — More PTG Books for Kindle!

Hope you’ve all been enjoying the Kindle books we’ve released here at PTG all summer. We have several more in various stages of development, including one that is nearing completion and should be ready for release early September.

This next book will be a departure from the classically-oriented material we’ve been doing, and it’s something we’ve had a lot of folks asking for. The book will review the five pentatonic boxes, and will dozens of cool phrases you can use in each of those boxes.

There will also be brief explanations, for less experienced players, on how and why this stuff works, and how to use all the little “vocal” sounds the guitar can make that most other instruments can’t. If you’re looking for something that will take your playing to the next level, and that you can put to use right away, this is the book for you!

Stay tuned, we’ll have release dates coming soon, plus free download dates for the entire PTG library!

Classical Gasp: Haydn #88 Finale

It took me a few years of playing before I started appreciating classical music, and what it could do for my ears (theory) and fingers (technique). Generally speaking, it’s better to be able to do two things at once, as long as you can do them well, right? Classical pieces enable you to learn and apply two fairly difficult concepts simultaneously. Not only is that a great thing, but it saves you tons of time.

If you’re familiarizing yourself with the canonical figures of classical music, and want to look past the Big Three of Bach, Mozart, and Beethoven, you might want to give Franz Josef Haydn a shot. Haydn was a friend of Mozart and a teacher of Beethoven, and did more to innovate the then-young symphonic form than anyone up to that time. Certainly Beethoven’s Nine Symphonies represent the apex of the form, but Haydn’s 104 (some catalogues say 108) symphonies are full of melodic invention and development, and most are shorter and more accessible than many other examples of the style.

One of Haydn’s more enduring pieces is the final movement of his Symphony #88 in G Major. It’s a brisk, melodic finale to that composition, and one well worth learning and incorporating into your repertoire. We’re going to take a look at some of the really cool techniques contained in that piece. Paul Gilbert recorded his take on the Finale for his Get Out of My Yard album, and there are also YouTube videos of him playing the piece live to a backing track.

The piece is organized somewhat similarly to a modern rock song, just as an instrumental — verse, chorus, verse, chorus, breakdown, climax, end. Once you hear and learn the individual parts, and get how they fit together, it’s just a matter of working on those individual parts.

Here’s my tab for the entire piece, as well as the original score (both in PDF format):

Haydn #88 Finale    IMSLP30077-PMLP61596-Haydn_Symphony_88_Finale

I highly encourage you to go through the entire tab (as well as transcribing the score for the rest of that symphony, if you’re feeling ambitious) and see the great melodic shapes and ideas available there. Let’s take a look at the main theme (“verse”):

Haydn01

This is trickier than it might appear at first, and that’s primarily because of the shifts between 8th and 16th notes. Once you get a handle on the rhythm and the positions used, it will fall into place.

Let’s take a look at the melodic figure that comes after the “verse-chorus” recap:

Haydn02

That string-skipped form in bar 35 can also be played as a straight or sweep-picked triad, where the D note (G string, 19th fret) is played on the B string, 15th fret. Try them both, play what feels more comfortable to you. It’s a great way to work on both techniques.

What should be a bigger challenge — and thus more productive for your technique — is executing the position shifts of bars 40-45. It’s a quick scalar run down for the first three bars. with a climb back up in the next three, alternating between a brief piece of the G major (E minor) scale for the first half of each bar and an octave figure in the second half. Note that bar 45 is the same as bar 43, just an octave higher.

Continuing with the melodic figure:

Haydn03

More of the same here, just in a higher octave. Really try to keep the continuity of the melody here.

The last part of this extended melodic figure should really test your technical abilities:

Haydn04

This is a really nice mixture of straight alternate-picked scale sequences, as well as sweep-picked triads, ending in string-skipped octaves.

The extended slowdown section is not too difficult to play, so we won’t cover it here. Check the tab and the music, and it should be fine. The ripping cadenza at the end is what we’re after now:

Haydn05

Should be straight alternate picking there, though you may want to throw in some economy picking moves as you see fit. Again, the melody is the main thing. The next part of it, leading into the grand finale, could easily incorporate some sweep picking:

Haydn06

Don’t worry about using a metronome until you have the scale sequences and melodic shapes dialed in. At that point, use it to work on keeping any technical ideas (such as sweep picking the triads) locked into the beat. In addition to tracking your progress, the metronome will help you ensure that you play the parts cleanly and with precision.

Listen to the music, check out the video, and make sure that your efforts sound musical above all else. Play hard and have fun!

Presto Excerpt

As you may have seen in the news, we’re in the middle of a brutal heat wave out here in California, making it pretty unpleasant to work or play guitar or do much of anything besides languish in front of a cool fan with a cold drink.

That said, we are still on track to release the next book in our Master the Classics! Series. Presto takes the classic Bach piece from the Violin Sonata #1 in Gm (BWV 1001), and works it every which way. The book will feature musical analysis of every part of the piece, and it is tabbed in two octaves, with plenty of great melodic shapes to learn and apply to your own playing. Best of all, there are dozens of exercises based on the music, featuring classic shredder techniques such as sweep picking, string skipping, pedal point, and more!

Whether you’re a novice player looking for tips on building technique, or an experienced shredder looking for more and better practice material, Presto will have something for players of all styles and skill levels.

So while we’re finishing up editing, formatting, and cover art, here’s another excerpt from the book:

________________________

The diagram below shows the G harmonic minor scale notes (other than open strings) from the 1st through the 12th frets:

G Harmonic Minor 01

Carefully observe how the scale lies across the fretboard, and see how you can create various useful fingerings for this scale, using any number of strings (including just one string). Here’s the tab for a standard six-string fingering at the 3rd position:

4a

Here’s an alternate fingering that’s great for working up the neck quickly:

4b

Use the suggested fingerings and slides, take it slow at first, and you should be ripping it up in no time.

A lot of the counterpoint and melodic motion in the Presto takes place within a single octave of the G harmonic minor, so these next few exercises will focus on a snapshot of the fretboard:

G Harmonic Minor 02

Here’s the tab:

4c

Even though the shift to the B string is two frets, it should not be too difficult to handle. Run it back and forth until it’s fast, clean, and smooth. Since all four fingers are used at some point or other, it makes an effective warm-up exercise as well.

Now what if we start this scale sequence one scale degree down, like this?

4d

Since it’s starting from the 7th degree of the scale, this is considered the seventh mode of the harmonic minor scale. It is commonly known as the Ultralocrian. Where the Locrian mode (seventh mode of the major scale) is spelled out (relative to major scale) R-b2-b3-4-b5-b6-b7, the Ultralocrian spells out (again, relative to major scale) R-b2-b3-b4-b5-b6-bb7; every note other than the root is flattened, and the 7th degree is diminished (flattened twice).

The harmonic minor scale and the Ultralocrian mode each have their own distinctive “flavor” that works well over certain types of progressions. It’s definitely worth the effort to get familiar with these scales.

Let’s run this up and back in thirds, along the D-G-B strings:

4e

There are some twists and turns in there, so take it slow and use the recommended fingering. There’s a balance of one-string and two-string third intervals throughout, demonstrating the importance of learning intervals every way possible.

________________________

Hope you enjoyed the excerpt. Presto will be available on Amazon July 4th, and we’ll kick off the release with free downloads all weekend (July 4-7)! Stay tuned, and check in as this week moves along, as we’ll have an excerpt from the other forthcoming book as well.