Friday, November 15, 2013

Playing outside with Chick Corea

I'd like to share with you a transcription of an outside lick played by Chick Corea on the song Vulcan Worlds from the album Where Have I Known You Before (Return to Forever). I've always found that playing outside is a difficult topic because even though the concept is simple - just add notes from outside the tonality -, it is hard to make it sound good. There are tons of videos and articles on the web that try to teach you how to best apply the concept of playing outside. Some of them are even quite good, but I believe that the best way to learn it is by figuring out how great improvisers play outside.

You can start by taking a look at the lick I've transcribed below. It starts at 2:54 into the song, and it is played over an Em7 groove. The chord scale for Em7 is E dorian, and that's also how the lick starts. In the first measure there are embellished A major and G major triads, both of which are contained in E dorian. In the next measure Chick Corea plays a purely pentatonic melody. However, it is not in E minor pentatonic but in F# minor. This is still inside because all notes the of F# minor pentatonic scale are contained in E dorian. On the second beat of the third measure, he moves to the G minor pentatonic scale. This is the outside part of the lick. He uses a chromatically ascending line to move back to E dorian, and he finishes by a lick taken from the B minor pentatonic scale, which is again totally inside because all notes of the B minor pentatonic scale are part of E dorian.

So why haven't I just transcribed the outside part of the lick, i.e. the G minor pentatonic part? Because I believe that the art of playing outside lies not only in the choice of the outside notes but also in the way you move outside and back inside again. So let's have a look at these 3 components and how Chick Corea made his choices:
  • moving outside: by moving down a half-step, which takes him from F# minor pentatonic to Gm pentatonic. Note that he does not move up, even though the scales move up from F# to G!
  • playing outside: he uses the G minor pentatonic scale, which contains 3 outside notes (Bb, C, and F) and two inside notes (G and D). It is important to connect the outside notes in some 'logical' and musical way, and using the familiar pentatonic scale is one great way of doing this.
  • moving back inside: he plays a chromatically ascending run which adds a lot of tension before it resolves back to E, the root of the tonality. From there he stays inside by playing another pentatonic lick.
 When you check out the lick, also experiment with fingerings and positions because I just chose one possibility that suits my style of playing. In the video below you can hear the original lick with me playing along. Afterwards I also play a slow version, so you can hear and see what's going on. Enjoy!

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Oz Noy: chord solo over 12-bar blues

Hi everybody,

in my previous post I talked about Oz Noy and the scales he demonstrated over a 12-bar blues in G. Even though his single note solo contains a lot of interesting melodies and note choices, I decided to transcribe the very last chorus, where he plays an improvised chord solo. I really like studying chord progressions, chord voicings, and voice leading. Oz Noy's chord solo was yet another challenge to try to hear (and understand) what's going on. It keeps amazing me how much you can do with a simple 12-bar blues progression. If you check out the transcription below, note the identical voicings for the dominant chords Ab7/#9, G7/#9 and for the diminished chords C#dim7/11, C#dim7/b13. This is a cool sounding voicing taken from the diminished (whole-half) scale (for dominant chords, it is actually taken from the half-whole scale, which is just a shifted version of the diminished scale). Another chord worth noticing is the final chord. Even though the tonic chord of a standard blues is a dominant chord - G7 in this case - Oz Noy switches to a major7/#5 for the final chord, which is basically a B major triad over a G bass note, check it out!

This is me playing the chord solo (with Oz Noy in the background):

Friday, November 1, 2013

Scales over 12-bar blues: great example by Oz Noy

I found this video of a master class by the guitar player Oz Noy where he demonstrates different scale choices over dominant chords. It's a 12-bar I-IV-V blues in G with the chords

||: G7  | C7 | G7 | G7 | C7 | C7 | G7 | G7 | D7 | C7 | G7 | D7 :||

He then plays one or more choruses using only one type of scale to demonstrate the sound of that scale over dominant chords. E.g., when playing mixolydian he would choose G-mixolydian over the G7 chord, C-mixolydian over C7, and D-mixolydian over D7. He continues in this way using the following scales:

  • mixolydian: 1 2 3 4 5 6 b7
  • minor pentatonic: 1 b3 4 5 b7
  • major pentatonic: 1 2 3 5 6
  • whole tone: 1 2 3 b5 #5 b7
  • diminished (actually half-whole): 1 b2 b3 3 b5 5 6 b7
  • altered: 1 b2 b3 3 b5 #5 b7
The first three scales are pretty much inside and will not cause too much friction. However, the whole tone, the diminished and the altered scales contain quite a few outside notes, and they might simply sound wrong to you if you use them for the first time. Anyway, Oz Noy manages to use them in a very musical way. Check out the video and start transcribing (starts at 6:46)!

Monday, October 28, 2013

Intro and main riff of Desire by The Winery Dogs

Hi everybody,

I found out that many guitar players wanted to know how to play the intro and the main riff of the song Desire by The Winery Dogs. So I made a little youtube lesson to explain how I think that Ritchie Kotzen plays it.

Hope it helps and thanks for watching!
Also check my post on the solo of this song!

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Student concert tonight @ Crow

Our student concert will start tonight at 19:30 in café Kraaij en Balder, Strijpsestraat 79, in Eindhoven. Singers and guitar players will join forces and present what they've learned during the last few months. Time permitting, Iris and I might hit the stage at the end of the evening. Join us and have some fun!!!

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

A few thoughts about entering a guitar contest

OK, I did it. I recorded myself playing a guitar solo in order to enter a contest. It's David Wallimann's 60 Second Solo Contest on Youtube. David recorded and shared a backing track and everybody can show what (s)he came up with over this backing track. So why on earth would I do such a thing? OK, you can win some pedals or something, I don't even know exactly what it is. But winning a pedal, or even winning the contest, was not what motivated me to participate. I know that there are zillions of awfully good guitarists out there that have enough time to record some amazing guitar solos which will make mine look rather modest.

So what else could it be then? I'll tell you and I'd also advise you to at least think about it and consider entering this or any other guitar contest at some time. What makes it really worthwhile for me is the feedback you get on your output. You can be sure that most contestants will be eager to see and hear what the others did, so you will get quite some exposure to a critical and possibly competitive audience. This feedback will help you put yourself and your playing in a new perspective. Don't worry, most people won't put you down, but they might be critical, and if you're able to take it, it will help you to keep moving in the right direction. The other important motivation for me is the opportunity to take the time to sit down and get inspired by someone else's music (in this case David's backing track). It's a very smooth and peaceful track which (at least for my understanding) asks for some emotions in what you add to it. I tried to come up with melodies and phrases in my head, not on my guitar, because in the latter case you're tempted to do what your fingers do best and not what the music is actually asking for. Whatever other people will think about my entry, I know that I found and played what was inside of me, triggered by the music. This makes me happy and satisfied, regardless of who's gonna win the pedal, or whatever it is that can be won ... :)

Friday, July 5, 2013

Richie Kotzen's guitar solo on Desire by The Winery Dogs

I recently discovered the all-star trio band The Winery Dogs featuring Richie Kotzen (gu), Billy Sheehan (b) and Mike Portnoy (dr). These guys need no introduction, they've been around for quite a while, and obviously they're all excellent musicians. So I was very curious to hear them play together and I didn't get disappointed. They have a classic rock trio sound, think Hendrix and Cream with some more modern influences like Lenny Kravitz and Soundgarden. Good songwriting, impeccable playing, and also Kotzen's great soulful voice.

When I heard their song Desire, I was surprised by Kotzen's guitar solo. When you hear the song you - or at least I - would expect some typical pentatonic or maybe dorian rock solo, but Richie Kotzen chose to use a lot of chromaticism in a way that I found interesting. So I transcribed his solo and I'll also use it in my lessons. It's only in the last two measures that he shows off some nice pentatonic bending licks played through a wah-pedal. Enjoy!

You can find a pdf-version on my TABs and Sheet Music page (scroll down to 'Advanced').

This is me playing the solo:
Also check my post on the intro and main riff of the song!

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Improvising over static sus4 chords

In my last post I explained the structure of suspended fourth (sus4) chords. Now I would like to say a few words about improvising over these chords. By 'static', I mean sus4 chords that do not resolve to another chord (usually a fifth below). These static chords are used in a modal way with no need to resolve. As I mentioned in my last post, a great example for such static sus4 chords is Herbie Hancock's composition Maiden Voyage.

I would like to focus on pentatonic scales because they sound great over suspended chords, and most guitar players already know them. As you probably know, the most common pentatonic scales are the minor and the major pentatonic scales:

A minor pentatonic scale: a - c - d - e - g
C major pentatonic scale: c - d - e - g - a

These two scales are of course identical, they just have different roots. Let's have a look at the notes of a 7sus4 chord with added tensions 9 and 13, e.g. with root D:

D13sus4 = Am9/D = d - g - a - c - e - b

(If you have trouble understanding this, just check my previous post).

If you compare these notes to the notes of the A minor pentatonic scale, you'll notice that the scale contains all chords tones except for the 'b'. That makes this scale is a great choice for improvising over a D13sus4 chord (and over all other D7sus4 chords with or without added tensions). If you want to use a scale that also contains the 'b' (which is the '13' of the chord), then you'll have to exchange this note for another chord tone if you want to stick to pentatonic scales (because they only contain five notes, whereas the D13sus4 chord has six notes). The E minor pentatonic scale adds the 'b' at the expense of the 'c':

E minor pentatonic scale: e - g - a - b - d

Listen to the next two sound samples to hear how those two scales sound over a D13sus4 chord:

A minor pentatonic scale over D13sus4:

E minor pentatonic scale over D13sus4:

I hope you agree that they both sound good.
Let's summarize: if you want to play pentatonic lines over a suspended fourth chord (e.g. D7sus4, D9sus4, D13sus4), use a minor pentatonic scale with the root either a perfect fourth below or a major second above the root of the chord. Over a D7sus4, this gives A minor and E minor pentatonic, respectively.

I'd recommend to you to use this pentatonic approach to improvise over Maiden Voyage by Herbie Hancock. The song starts with 4 bars of D13sus4 (Am9/D) followed by 4 bars of F13sus4 (Cm9/F). These 8 bars are then repeated. For a start, just use these 16 bars for playing some pentatonic lines. So what are the scales? As mentioned before, over D13sus4 you can use either the A minor or the E minor pentatonic scale. Over F13sus4 you use the C minor or the G minor pentatonic scale. Enjoy!

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Sus4 Chords

I decided to write a few lines about sus4 (suspended fourth) chords because I found that students can get quite confused about them, especially because of the large number of different symbols that are used for these chords in lead sheets.

In sus4 chords, the third of a (major or minor) triad is replaced by the fourth scale tone, i.e. by the note which is a perfect fourth above the root note. OK, here's an example: in a Dsus4 chord, the third of the chord (either F# in a D major triad, or F in a D minor triad) is replaced by a G, which is a perfect fourth above the root D: Dsus4 = d - g - a
Many of you guitar players have probably discovered this chord: XX0233

OK, that was simple, and there is usually not much confusion about such basic sus4 chords. However, it gets a bit more complicated when tensions are added, e.g. D7sus4, D9sus4 or D13sus4. (There is no D11sus4 for because the 11 and the 4 are the same notes.) These chords sound really nice because of their open character. They can either function as dominant chords resolving to a tonic chord, such as in the progression D7sus4 - Gmaj7, or they can be used as static chords with no need to resolve. Check out Herbie Hancock's Maiden Voyage for an example of static sus4 chords.

Let's now take a closer look at sus4 chords with added tensions:

D7sus4   = d - g - a - c
D9sus4   = d - g - a - c - e
D13sus4 = d - g - a - c - e - b

Looking at the chord notes of D9sus4, it turns out that the notes above the root note 'd' spell out an inversion of an Am7 chord: a - c - e - g. So an D9sus4 is equal to an Am7/D (Am7 over D as bass note). Sometimes the note 'a' is omitted, which gives a C/D chord (C major triad over D). For D13sus4 we get an extra note 'b', and the notes above the root spell out an Am9 chord: a - c - e - g - b. So we get D13sus4 = Am9/D, or - if the 'a' is left out - we get Cmaj7/D.

To sum up, we get the following equivalent chord symbols:
D9sus4   = Am7/D ≈ C/D
D13sus4 = Am9/D ≈ Cmaj7/D

These chords can be used interchangeably and they all have the same open sounding character. Here are some useful voicings for these chords:

D9sus4: X 5 5 5 5 5; 10 X 10 9 8 X; X X 12 12 13 12; X 5 X 5 5 3; 10 X 10 12 10 12
D13sus4: X 5 5 5 5 7; 10 X 10 12 12 12

And of course, if you play with a bass or keyboard player, you don't necessarily need to play the root on the guitar, so can use any voicing of C, Cmaj7, Am7 or Am9 to get the right sound. Have fun experimenting with these chords!

In the next post I talk about an easy way to improvise over these chords.