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Breaking out the Pentatonic - Pt 3

Lesson 3: One String Pentatonic

Breaking out of the pentatonic boxes doesn’t mean that you have to totally change the way you play guitar and start all over again, in fact, it’s very much the opposite! It simply means that you use your pentatonic knowledge as the foundation to build a more varied library of ideas.

In this lesson we come at the idea from a different angle altogether! This time we are not altering notes or adding arpeggios, we are sticking with the same 5 note pentatonic scale as always, except playing it on one string! This idea opens up a totally different, more vocal, sound to the scale. To begin with here is the A minor pentatonic scale on the G string...

Your first task is to get to know this across the neck. Remember to try and visualise the 5 pentatonic shapes as you flow through them on this one string. A great exercise is to get someone to shout ‘stop’ as you go through the notes… wherever you land you should be able to play up and down the pentatonic full box, wether it’s box 1, 2, 3, 4 or 5! Once you’ve got that you can work on the technique.

 

Slides and Vibrato

To get the notes sounding almost vocal like, you need to apply some simple techniques. Start by using grace note slides. This is simply where you quickly slide from note to note, so that the note covers one beat, not two (see the video for more help). If you then apply some wide vibrato you will immediately have this more fluid, vocal sound. Here is a cool exercise to practice this:

This can take a while to perfect, but once you’ve nailed it on one string try to do it on another string in the same key, followed by actually changing key. Good luck!

More about Your Guitar Academy!

Your Guitar Academy is the UK’s central hub for learning guitar. They offer an online subscription-based range guitar lessons called “YGA Pro”, as well as private guitar tuition in several parts of the UK including London. They welcome students of all ages and abilities looking to learn and improve, from complete beginners to experienced players. They’d love to hear from you!

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Lesson 2: The Major / Minor Pentatonic

Breaking out of the pentatonic boxes doesn’t mean that you have to totally change the way you play guitar and start all over again, in fact, it’s very much the opposite! It simply means that you use your pentatonic knowledge as the foundation to build a more varied library of ideas. 

In this lesson we will be taking the minor pentatonic shape 1 and changing one simple element to create a whole new sound and scale shape. We take the b3rd of the scale and sharpen to create a natural third instead. This essentially means that we have brought in a major element to the minor pentatonic scale, hence the name major / minor pentatonic. There are two ways to play this shape, which you can see here:

The Theory

In terms of how to use this scale, we need to understand a simple bit of theory. This scale uses the following notes:

Scale Construction

1st, 3rd, 4th, 5th, b7th 

Within these notes we have major and minor elements. The root, 4th and 5th are all good in both major and minor, but the 3rd is major and the b7th is minor. Therefore the ideal chord and sound to use this scale is shape is a dominant chord. If you look at the chord construction of a dominant 7th chord you get this:

Dominant 7th chord

1st, 3rd, 5th, b7th

 So this works perfectly! As it works so well over the dominant 7th chord this scale is perfect for blues and funk, so jam away to those style backing tracks. If you are playing over a 12 bar blues, remember that this scale fits perfectly over the root chord, but not as well over the there chords… so just tread lightly as the track progresses!

More about Your Guitar Academy!

Your Guitar Academy is the UK’s central hub for learning guitar. They offer an online subscription-based range guitar lessons called “YGA Pro”, as well as private guitar tuition in several parts of the UK including London. They welcome students of all ages and abilities looking to learn and improve, from complete beginners to experienced players. They’d love to hear from you!

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Lesson 1: The m7b5 Arpeggio...

Breaking out of the pentatonic boxes doesn’t mean that you have to totally change the way you play guitar and start all over again, in fact, it’s very much the opposite! It simply means that you use your pentatonic knowledge as the foundation to build a more varied library of ideas.

In this lesson we will be taking the C#m7b5 arpeggio (a half diminished arpeggio) and add it to the pentatonic box 2. We’ll get into the theory in a minute, first of all, let’s learn the shape:

Our second task is to layer this new shape on top of the B minor pentatonic shape 2. Theory aside for the moment, this layering effect will allow us to quickly call upon the m7b5 arpeggio without having to think too hard about it! The little exercise we looked at in the video is as follows:

Tab for arpeggio

The Theory

So, for those of you who like to know what’s going on behind the scenes, let’s talk about the theory behind this concept. We are using the key of B minor for now. If you are a pentatonic player you probably know that if someone shouts B minor, you pop your first shape of the pentatonic on the fretboard on the 7th fret and away you go! Well, thew other thing that happens when the key is called is that you can harmonise the B minor scale to create a series of 7 chord shapes. These are <em>B minor, C#m7b5, D major, E minor, F# minor, G major, A major and finally back to B minor</em>. Each one of these chords uses only the notes from B minor to create the chord, and therefore they work perfectly together in key.

All we are doing is taking one of these chords (we could take any), in this case the C#m7b5, and playing through it over the B minor backing track. We know every note will work as the notes are built from the B minor scale. The cool effect you get is that of a bit of tension, as these notes spell out a chord that may not be playing underneath (unless you beautifully land it on the correct chord). This could be a bit dodgy sounding if you just keep going up and down it, but used conservatively and resolving to the pentatonics after each lick, provides a cool sound that adds a bit more spice to your playing and gets you out of those pentatonic boxes, even just for a moment!

More about Your Guitar Academy!

Your Guitar Academy is the UK’s central hub for learning guitar. They offer an online subscription-based range guitar lessons called “YGA Pro”, as well as private guitar tuition in several parts of the UK including London. They welcome students of all ages and abilities looking to learn and improve, from complete beginners to experienced players. They’d love to hear from you!

Comparing the Tumnus to the legendary Klon Centaur...

I recently discussed with Curtis Kent what the Tumnus would sound like when put side by side with his Silver Klon Centaur. We all know that each Klon is slightly different due to Bill's delightful habit of tweaking the circuit (parts were more inconsistent than they are these days) so it sounded the best it possibly can... So, here is the Tumnus (that will sound consistent at all times) compared to his Silver Klon Centaur. Considering that another one of the originals will sound a little different to this one I think we got pretty close!

I'd like to personally thank Curtis for doing this, he did it mainly for his curiosity but also mine (and I generally hate comparison videos so this is a big departure for us), it would be beyond awesome if you could give his You Tube channel a follow here!

Stevie Ray Vaughan: 25 years ago today

(The above picture hangs right next to my desk, right next to every desk I've had)

25 years ago today we lost a musical giant and torch barer for blues music - Mr. Stevie Ray Vaughan.

On the evening of August 26th, 1990 Vaughan had just got done playing an all-star studded event with his band Double Trouble, joined as special guests for a concert at the Alpine Valley Musical Theater in East Troy, Wisconsin - along with Eric Clapton, Buddy Guy, Robert Cray, and Jimmie Vaughan (Stevie's older brother, guitar player for the Fabulous Thunderbirds/ Jimmy Vaughan Band.) After the show, around 1:00AM Vaughan took off in a helicopter heading towards to Chicago. Visibility was low that night because of a dense fog. The pilot of the helicopter; Jeff Brown, was an experienced airplane pilot - having lots of experience flying airplanes in this kind of inclement weather. Unfortunately, and what would prove tragically, Brown had little experience flying helicopters in such conditions. Because of the dense fog/ low visibilit y- Brown did not see a large 300ft ski slope at the Alpine Valley Resort and collided with it going close to full speed. Everyone on board was killed instantly. The crash was just over a half mile from takeoff.

For those of you who have followed Stevie Ray Vaughan - your experiences of how his music/ life effected you may differ. For me, Stevie Ray Vaughan and the music he played impacted me greatly. Even though I was only 4 and a half years old when he left this world - his music was powerful enough that I was able to discover it at 10 years old and be a dedicated disciple of his music and the blues for the last 20 years. While my friends were listening to metal and pop rock - I was listening to Texas Flood on tape in my walkman. I stretched the tape so much on so many copies that my parents eventually bought me a CD player because it was cheaper than buying more and more copies of Stevie Ray Vaughan tapes. Wether you like, love, or hate Stevie Ray Vaughan there is no denying that he created a legacy and helped secure the future of blues music by revitalizing an old style and craft of music that was previously dying.

I was going to end this blog with one of about 20 of my favorite Stevie Ray Vaughan songs - but I couldn't pick just one. Instead I think on this day it's fitting to end this blog with a song in tribute of that foggy night written/ performed by Stevie's brother Jimmy Vaughan. Even though I've heard this song a thousand times - the words and the meaning still give me chills every time. "Heaven done called another blues stringer back home."

- Max

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