Saturday, May 28, 2011

Adventures in Music

There's nobody to take an instrumental solo at the jam session I attend. I can do a little fingerstyle and a couple of single-note or double-stop leads on this and that, but I'm more like Guitar George in Dire Straits first hit, "The Sultans of Swing:" I don't know all the chords, but I'm strictly rhythm, I've never wanted to make it cry or sing. (Digression: Seems like only a little while ago that song came out, but not really, it was 1979 when it first rolled into MTV's stage. Thirty-two years. Lord, how time flies ...)

Mmm. Anyway, I realized that at the jam group if there are three rhythm guitarists, one of us needs to step up, and if it's me, I'm gonna have to at least learn the pentatonic boxes.

These "boxes" are patterns on the fretboard that, when properly played, give you the ability to do leads over chords.

For those of you not guitarists, playing lead involves knowing one's scales, and one can get by with pentatonics because they tend to sound pretty good over a lot of blues, rock, or folk. I know two of these, but there are five in the CAGED progression–the letters stand for notes–that I should know and be able to play. 

(This doesn't scratch guitar modes very deeply. Let me exhaust my knowledge of that here for you:

Ionian - Same as the major scale 
Dorian - A scale with a flattened 3rd and 7th  
Phrygian - A scale with a flattened 2nd, 3rd, 6th & 7th 
Lydian - A scale with a sharpened 4th 
Mixolydian - A scale with a flattened 7th 
Aeolian - Same as a natural minor scale. A scale with a flattened 3rd, 6th & 7th 
Locrian - A scale with a flattened 2nd, 3rd, 5th, 6th & 7th

If this all sounds like Greek to you, that's because it is, and good guitarists can play these without knowing the names, they just noodle them out.) 

All of which is to say that I'm going to drop round Artichoke Music, which is a store/music school, and take a basic blues class. I have the teacher's DVD on order, and I'll fiddle with that, then go and see if I can make a dent in my ignorance ...


Dojo Rat said...

Hey, I'm trying to get there too...

heina said...

As another traveler on the path, allow me to share my steps. Having climbed the theory mountain all the way to the top (degree in music composition), I can tell you that it's effectively useless for playing lead.

If you want to compose music and understand why things work, I guess it's ok. But as Slash says, no one pays you to get up on stage and play scales.

What you want to do is start "collecting" riffs. And have an idea of what chord changes you can play those riffs over.

The archive has lots of solos. So you can always learn a variation of a song you're working on.

And I've recently picked up a great book calls "Blues by the Bar" (nice pun) that breaks down a set of licks you can play. Working slowly through it myself now and it's helping.

I'll end this post with a interview quote from Stevie Ray Vaughn: "Since I can't read music, I find I do the best when I just listen to where I'm trying to go with it and where it can go. And not try to rush it. Not try to make up things as I'm going necessarily, but just let them come out. Then I'm a lot better off. If I start trying to pay attention to where I am on the neck and the proper way to do this or that, I end up thinking that thing through instead of playing from my heart. When I've played from my mind I get in trouble."

J.D. Ray said...

Funny, I just posted in another one of your entries regarding my plan to invest some time in pentatonic scales. I think you mentioned before that you have an iPod Touch. Have you looked at the Gibson software that includes a tuner and metronome? It is a framework for loading lessons that you buy, and comes with a free one. I haven't tried it (the lesson) yet, but the tuner works great.

Steve Perry said...

Yep, I have that Gibson freebie on my iPod, along with a chord finder and another electronic tuner. I keep a small electronic tuner in the guitar case -- I use an Intellitouch PT-10, has a backlit screen that goes from orange to green when the string is in tune, plus or minus a couple cents.