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Blog // Sounds
February 20, 2012

Notes From The Woodshed – February

Last month I promised to post my guitar practice studies on the first Monday of every month. Well, this clearly is not the first Monday of February! A mix of travel and convalescence has meant that I’m late to the party with this month’s notes from the woodshed. Remember, this isn’t really a “lesson” series. […]

Last month I promised to post my guitar practice studies on the first Monday of every month. Well, this clearly is not the first Monday of February! A mix of travel and convalescence has meant that I’m late to the party with this month’s notes from the woodshed.

Remember, this isn’t really a “lesson” series. Rather, these notes are the lines, scales and studies I’m writing for myself. Here I’m exploring new shapes and ideas, as well as reminding myself of things that have dropped out of my repertoire.

After last month’s post I had a handful of emails and tweets asking if I would write some instructional, or how-to posts for up-and-coming guitarists. It’s certainly something I’ve thought about over the years. I did post some instructional stuff on the old (now deleted) version of this blog and my two Chord Cafe posts from 2005 (here and here) were an attempt to write a little book on the subject.

Anyway, here’s is this month’s [download id=”9″] (free, of course).

Etude 1 – C Dorian

This is a fairly straightforward set of warmup studies. The second is what I call “target-starts” which involves picking a target note for the start of each bar (here it’s C/F/G/D/C/F/G/F/C) then building a pattern around that. The third is more like a long jazz line, including the idea of keeping the note transitions tight, across each bar and also between the the 2nd and 3rd beats inside each bar, as small as possible (something we looked at last month).

Etude 2 – C Major Pentatonic

Most electric guitarists learn minor pentatonic scales early on, especially for soloing over rock and blues progressions. Although many jazz musicians effectively use pentatonic scales, I’ve always struggled to incorporate them, perhaps because the “blues box” patterns are so ingrained in my memory. These studies are an attempt to break out of that.

The first exercise will not look, on paper, like a Pentatonic to most guitarists. But, work through the odd-looking fingerings and you’ll hear that distinctive Pentatonic sound. This is my goal here; break away from established patterns, but hold fast to the musical logic and sound.

The second exercise highlights one of the coolest ways to use pentatonics. What’s happening here is I am including short key changes to the adjacent Pentatonic key, a semi-tone up or down, then coming back to the original key. This is one of the simplest ways to find “outside” notes and works well over stable chord changes (like funk tunes).

The next few exercises further explore this theme. In the third exercise I start with a very familiar fingering, then dance around some outside notes before circling into a final phrase. The fourth and fifth exercises go outside very early and rely on theme and variation to hold your ear, even though there most of the notes are outside the home key.

Etude 3 – Bossa Antigua

For this month’s final study, I’m applying things we looked at in this month’s (and last month’s) notes to the chord progession for the jazz standard, Bossa Antigua.

First up, was last month’s R-7-3-5-4-2-6-R pattern, which as I mentioned, is a great way to cement in your mind the sound of a chord progression. The following verses then progressively incorporate ideas from this month’s studies, including some of the Dorian patterns and lots of the Pentatonic ideas.

One thing I will look at more systematically in future notes is the ways we can combine Pentatonic scales and chords. You can play up to three different Pentatonic scales over any major, minor or dominant chord (while making sense) and when you combine that with the adjacent scales, you soon have a rich palette of Pentatonic options to choose from.

That’s all for now.

Responses
Mike Mahoney 8 years ago

I’ve printed these, and I’m interested to dive into them. As an ear-player with little formal training, I’m always looking for ways to tighten up and discover patterns that relate what I know and can hear to actual theory.

    Fernando Gros 8 years ago

    Mike – glad to hear you are giving them a go! For next month’s edition, I’m going to add more pentatonic over Maj7 and Min7 chords.

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