Wednesday, April 27, 2011

How To Solo Over A Song

Recently I have found a great website that I allows me to select any scale, in any key, on any position on the fretboard and will then magically provide me a list of chords that I can use to solo over it.

From my last post on solos, I learned that most solos are just scales dressed up differently with various articulation, phrasing and emotion. With the help of this website I can take a chord and figure out what scales sounds good over it or I can do the opposite and find a scale I like and then find chords that compliment it.

*Here is an example of some D Minor chords:

Question: I want to solo over a D minor chord. What scales can I use to turn a unique solo?
 Answer: There are tons of scales that can be used. Here is just a handful of ones I found.

C Ionian
D Dorian
E Phrygian
F Mixolydian
D Melodic Minor
G Lydian Dominant
F Major Pentatonic
A Harmonic Minor

*Here is an example of an E Minor Pentatonic Scale:

Question: When soloing with an E Minor Pentatonic Scale, what chords can I use over it?
Answer: There are several chords that can be used. Here is a handful of chords I found.

G Major
D Suspended 2nd
A Suspended 4th
B Minor Sharp 5th
E Minor 7th
A 9th Suspended 4th
D 5th
A 5th

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Solos: Van Halen Killed Them For Me

I was never really into solos on guitar. Sure, it was impressive that certain guitarists could burn up and down the fretboard but they usually failed in one really important area for me: If I can't tap my foot to it or bob my head then the song is not catchy and I lose interest pretty fast. I grew up just about the time "hair metal" was being killed by "grunge." Bands like Van Halen, Motley Crue, Poison, Bon Jovi and guitarist like Joe Satriani and Steve Vai were all shredders that were on their way out in terms of popularity. As technical as their solos were I just did not care. Solos only started to impress me later on when I heard Pantera and even later than than Job For A Cowboy. Eventually I learned to also appreciate mellower solos that had more feel to them. David Gilmour of Pink Floyd seemed like he could say more in five notes than Eddie Van Halen could say in a hundred.

Question: How are solos created?
1) Using Scales: To solo over any chord sequence you'll need a scale first. This sets the range of notes that will fit with the backing chords. If a song uses chords from the key of C Major, all the notes of the C major scale can be used as the basis for your solo. You don't need to play all the notes of the scale, or play them in any set order. The aim is to make your solo sound fresh and innovative, not scale-like!

2) Phrasing: Be sure to leave spaces between notes so that you start to create short phrases. Within these patterns use notes of different lengths: some long notes that you sustain, balanced by some very quick and short notes. This rhythmic variety will add interest and shape to your phrases. Try to incorporate rhythmic variety into your improvisations, remembering that you should also vary the direction in which you play. Remember, there is no need to play up the whole range of the scale before you play some descending notes. Adopt a melodic approach in which your improvisation can weave up and down the scale.

3) Using Intervals: One thing that always makes a solo sound too scale-like is using notes that are adjacent to each other in a scale. This type of playing instantly gives away to the listener that the improvisation is derived from a scale. Using interval gaps when playing a scale is a perfect way to break from sounding too much like a scale.

4) Repetition: By repeating short series of notes you will begin to establish phrases that will give your solo a sense of structure. By repeating these phrases, or variations on them, you will give the listener something to recognizable to latch onto, instead of a seemingly random series of notes with no direction.

5) Specialist Techniques: Make wide use of string bends, vibrato, slides, slurs, ect.

6) Emotion/Feel: Solos are supposed to be an emotional extension of the player. Once you know the key, once you have an idea of what scale you want to base your solo off of, then it comes down to what emotion and you want to convey with your solo. Some guitarists will convey their emotion by blazing through their solo at whiplash speeds while others will take a more laid back feel and make use of silence and spacing between notes. Be creative and be honest but most of all be sure to have fun!!

*The two best solos I can think of off the top of my head are:

1) "Floods" by Pantera

2) "Comfortably Numb" by Pink Floyd

*"Eruption" may have been the solo to end all solos of the 1980s, but frankly I don't give a shit!

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Pentatonic Lesson For Guitar

While searching through a mountain of Guitar World Magazines I found a great article on Pentatonic Scales. There are great exercises on major and minor pentatonic scales as well as advice on different positioning.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Minor Pentatonic Scale

Minor Pentatonic Scale: Is a five-note scale derived from the natural minor scale. It is made up of the root, flat 3rd, 4th, 5th, and flat 7th scale degrees. This omits the "awkward" half step intervals, which are normally located between the 2nd and the flat 3rd, and the 5th, and flat 6th scale tones. A 'C' minor pentatonic scale has the notes C, E-flat, F, G, B-flat.

*An Example of a C minor Pentatonic Scale

*An Example of a C Minor Pentatonic Scale on a fretboard

*Here is a video lesson on the minor pentatonic scale:

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Major Pentatonic Scales

The term "Pentatonic" has Greek origins. "Penta" means five, and "tonos" means tone.

Major Pentatonic:
The Pentatonic Major Scale is a five-note abbreviation of the standard major scale, with the fourth and seventh degrees of the major scale omitted. For example, the notes in the C major scale are C, D, E, F, G, A, B. To convert this into the C pentatonic major scale omit the notes F (the 4th) and B (the 7th) results in C, D, E, G, A.

*An example of what a C Major Pentatonic Scale:
*Major Pentatonic Scale in multiple positions:

*Here is a audio/visual example of a C major Pentatonic Scale

Friday, April 15, 2011

The Beauty Of Dissonance

Question: Sometimes as I learn a new piece of guitar music, there are notes played together that are very dissonant. It can discourage me from learning the piece. For instance, in one piece I'm singing an A note while the guitar plays the low G on the bass string just below it. The guitar feels like it wants to jump out the window! How do I deal with that?

Answer: First let me say that dissonance is an essential part of most music that we listen to, so don't be put off by it. When you practice a new piece really slowly as you learn it, you hear intervals (two notes) and chords (three or more notes) out of context. This can emphasize the dissonances built into the piece, which can be a problem. It's easy to dwell on an individual chord when learning a piece, much more so than actually happens when the piece is played at performance speed.Once you realize that, it may make it easier to work through the dissonance at a slow speed. I call this the difference between listening "vertically" and "horizontally."

If you look at a piece of music on a piece of paper (or onscreen in this computerized age), intervals and chords are lined up vertically on the page. Melodies and other moving lines are read horizontally as they move across the page. If you play one interval or chord out of the context of the piece,the dissonance within it may drive you crazy. But, if the composer or arranger did his/her job well, the dissonant interval or chord will sound fine and correct in the context of the moving music.

Let me explain dissonance. Dissonance can be described as notes whose frequencies are less than "harmonious"to our ears. For instance, playing notes that are one half-step apart (open first-string E played with the fourth fret of the second string, a D#) is considered dissonant by most people. Playing notes that are a major seventh interval apart, 11 frets, is also considered to be quite dissonant; for instance, play the opensecond string (B) together with the 6th fret of the first string(A#). However, dissonance is a requisite part of most music that we hear, providing it with "tension" that leads to "release."Without it, we end up with music that tends to command little attention.

Many good examples of "vertical"dissonance can be found in three- and four-part vocal music: Soprano-Alto-Tenor-Bassch oral music, for example. In this day and age of Crosby, Stills and Nash-style parallel harmonies, there isn't as much dissonance as can be found in some music of 500 years ago. In the choral music of that era, the melodic flow of each voice (the "horizontal")was actually considered to be more important than the chord (the"vertical") that the four notes made at any given time.This is the antithesis of the CSN approach, where the chord produced by the voices is of utmost importance.

In modern pop music of the CSN variety,the harmony voices largely are singing a line that is exactly parallel to the melody. This leads to continuously harmonious chords. In other writing, each voice has its own melodic shape,not necessarily parallel to any of the others. This can lead to some "vertical" dissonance, chordal dissonance caused by the independent melodic flow of the voices. But if it is done correctly, this dissonance is wonderful--the exact right thing for that moment in the music. If you are interested in hearing this kind of writing, get a CD of Renaissance choral music. One composer of that era who used dissonance liberally was Carlo Gesualdo. Look him up! Dissonance is all in the ear of the beholder, of course. A half-step interval may be beautiful to one listener,and unbearable to another. Also, how a dissonant interval is perceived can be quite dependent on the other notes around the dissonance.But that is another article. Keep those ears open!

By: Mark Hanson 

**HERE IS AN EXAMPLE OF A Crosby, Stills, and Nash song called "Teach Your Children:

**HERE IS AN EXAMPLE OF Carlo Gesualdo called "Tristis est anima mea":


Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Dissonance In Heavy Metal

The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines dissonance as being “a mingling of discordant sounds” and “a clashing or unresolved musical interval or chord”. Although which intervals or sounds are discordant has some scientific basis, dissonance is largely a culturally subjective phenomenon. Heavy metal has its origins firmly rooted in Western culture, so it is from this Western standpoint that I will examine the use of dissonance.

The tritone is a musical interval that spans three whole tones and was so synonymous with dissonance in the history of Western music that it has come to be known as ‘Diabolus in Musica’, translated as ‘the Devil in music’. It is quite fitting that when Black Sabbath wrote the title song from their first album ‘Black Sabbath’ about being visited by the devil, they relied heavily on the dissonance of the tritone. (Rohrer 2006) The main riff of the song is a very simple but highly effective G, G an octave higher and then a sustained tritone, C#.

 (The main riff from "Black Sabbath". Duhautpas 2007) 

The song’s tension filled dissonant riff and demonic lyrics, coupled with the gothic horror presentation of the band had live audiences terrified but screaming for more. The band Black Sabbath, and indeed the song of the same name, are widely regarded as being the founders of heavy metal and the genre’s disposition for gore and the occult. (Walser 1993)

For a genre born of the tritone, it’s no surprise that dissonance has played a major role in many heavy metal compositions since. Thrash metal and Nu-metal giants Slayer and Korn have both relied on the tritone to bring as sense of unresolved tension to compositions, with Slayer even naming the album ‘Diabolus In Musica’ after the interval.

Heavy metal’s propensity for dissonance doesn’t end with the simple tritone, as the flattened supertonic or second is also used extensively to evoke a sense of doom and omen. The flattened second rarely occurs in popular Western music, but is quite common to other musical styles like the Spanish Flamenco, Indian and Eastern European Jewish. Led Zeppelin were masters of contrasting tension and release and would often use these exotic modes to add interest to their compositions. The Led Zeppelin sound was quite influential to heavy metal and the tension created by the flattened second is now a commonplace heavy metal and death metal technique. (Moore 2009)

The shift from the tonic to the flattened supertonic in the bass line or rhythm guitar parts often creates the basis for many metal compositions. The guitar solo is often based in the ‘dark’ sounding Phrygian or Locrian modes, which both feature the semi-tone first interval. These modes may be chosen by many heavy metal guitarists for their natural ease of fingering position, enabling lightning fast solos, but it is likely that the unresolved tension created by the unusual modes and dissonant intervals appeal to the generations of fans.

Heavy Metal bands use the doom and tension evoked by dissonance to connect with an audience which feels that not all is good in the world and seem alienated by utopian views of modern society.

by: Andrew Bluff

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Dissonance In Music

The more I listen to music, particularly metal, the more I notice sounds which don't sound quite 'right' and creates feelings of tension. Yet they still sound cool. The beginning of Meshuggah's song "Future Breed Machine", Norma Jean's "Memphis Will Be Laid To Waste", and "Panasonic Youth" by The Dillinger Escape Plan are prime examples of that tension I feel when I hear their music. 

Here are the songs that I mentioned earlier. FULL OF TENSION!!!


Friday, April 8, 2011

Beauty Is In The Eye Of The Beholder: A Lesson by Victor Wooten

 **Following in an excerpt from the book. It is a conversation between a teacher and a student**

"How we view notes provides a good example of how we view Life," Michael said.
"How we view life? What do you mean?"
He then played a C and a C sharp at the same time on the guitar.
"How does that sound?" he asked.
"Awful. It sounds like two notes clashing," I responded with a grimace.
"Very ordinary answer," he said matter-of-factly. "Now, if I take the C up and octave and play the two notes again, what does it sound like?"
"Now it sounds pretty," I answered. "The C became the major seventh which is the key factor in making a chord sound pretty. That's cool."

"Correct. The rule book tells us that two notes played side by side, a half step apart, should clash and sound dissonant, but if we movve the lower note up and octave, the same two notes sound pretty. Why is that? They are the same two notes, so how can they clash at one instance, and sound pretty in the next? There is a Life lesson in there somewhere."

"So you're saying that situations in life which seem to clash may not be 'wrong' at all; they may just be in the wrong octave?" ...If we can learn to change our perspective and see negative tings in a different 'octave' we may be able to see the beauty in all things and in all situations."

"All situations and all people contain beauty, but it is up to us to see it....Here's another way to look at these two notes," he continued. "Let's say that we don't change the octave of the C or the C sharp. Let's just surround these two notes with other notes and see what happens."

"If you play a B flat, a C, a D flat, which is the same as a C sharp, an F, and an A flat, you have a B flat minor nine chord. Now the C and the C sharp sound good even though they are right next to each other and in the same register. People could learn a Life lesson from Music if they would just choose to see." He began to sing, "I can see clearly now the rain is gone."

"Johnny Nash," I responded, recognizing the lyric. "That's a beautiful song."

He nodded in agreement. "Also," he continued, "in the key of B flat minor, the rule book tells us that we are not allowed to play a C sharp, but when I play it, it sounds good to me. We're supposed to call it a D flat. Even though they are the same note, we  can play one but not the other. It's all in the the name, I guess. Rules! Once they are learned, they can be thoroughly broken!"

(Pages 51-54).

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Intervals Workout: Thank You Guitar World

Recently I found an great article from Guitar World (May 2005)  that talked about intervals. The article talked about fretboard application, some ear training exercises with popular songs to compare it to, and soloing techniques. I have posted the article below.




Sunday, April 3, 2011

Intervals and the Guitar: Part 2

As I researched intervals further I found that some interval shapes remain constant as you move to most other string sets:

(A and D; A and G; D and G; B and high E). 

However, when the lower note of the interval is on the G string, or if the G string separates the two notes of an interval, the shape changes.

This is due to the tuning of the guitar. Remember, the strings are tuned in 4ths except for the third and second strings, which is a major 3rd. 

Below is an example of these interval shapes:

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Intervals and the Guitar

As I was researching intervals I came a cross a section in one of my music theory books that was particularly interesting. It said, "One of the most valuable (and overlooked) skills a guitarist can possess is the ability to recognize and play intervals on the fretboard." It also said that whether ascending or descending, the name of the interval remains the same (either note can be considered the "root." 

Below is a example that features the interval shapes as they appear on the fretboard on the low string sets (low E and A; low E and D), with the lowest note on the sixth string