Saturday, November 17, 2012

Amps and Other Things

Q: I know you love Marshalls, and I am looking at building a JTM45 head from parts. There is so much to love about Marshalls BUT they are SO loud - and that's the 45, forget the 50s and 100 super leads. What head and cabs do you use, and how do you tame them for say recording? Do you use a hotplate or something? And how do you find the lack of reverb? (I notice you mostly seem to run some delay though).

A: Regarding Marshalls, I definitely like the 100 watts the best. The best thing about Marshalls is that they are easy to rent for a gig, meaning I don’t have to cart my own, I can just rent one and the production company will have it on stage for me when I get there. 

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Playing Over Dominant Chords

Q: Like your style.  I need some review of scales to play with regards to how the Dominant Seventh Chord is resolving...functioning as a V chord or just a secondary Dominant (which I would play Mixo or Lydian b7).  If it is resolving to minor I'd play harmonic minor of the letter name of the chord it's going too.

A: here is the basic overview of the dominant scales. Let's take it by how the dominant chord is functioning. When I say functioning, I mean resolving to a I or i chord as in V-I or V-i or G7 - C or G7 - C-7. Non-Functioning means resolving somewhere else or possibly not resolving, as in G7 - F#maj7 or just a static G7 jam. Keep in mind, secondary dominants are for the most part functioning.

Friday, November 2, 2012

More on Minor Blues


Q: I was just watching the video of you doing the minor blues for the Australian movie soundtrack. I have a few questions about it. I can tell it's a minor blues but what is that chord that pops up in the 3rd bar? And what else is going on in the progression. What are some of the things you are plying in the solo? Especially the pentatonic scale things that you are doing. Great song!!

A: Thanks! Glad you like the tune. Your ears do not deceive you my friend, it is pretty much a minor blues with a few twists. The song is for a movie with some underworld type characters so I wanted it to be creepy. That's where that strange chord comes in to play in the 3rd bar. I've always liked tritones (diminished 5th intervals) and that is exactly what I have going on here.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

More on Modes

Q: Great dorian lesson, thanks. But when we see a Dmin7 on a chart while jamming, and thinking whether we should play a pentatonic a mode or whatever, isn't that decision should be strictly related on the KEY of the song? Aren't we risking playing notes completely out of key when we use modes?

A: Great question. It's all about musical context. There are two kinds of harmony and for the lack of better words let's say that one is functional harmony and the other is non-fuctional, modal or maybe static harmony (for lack of better words). When we talk about functional, we are talking about chords that work together inside of a particular key. So a Dmin7 chord inside of a Cmaj7-Fmaj7-Dmin7-G7 progression is functioning as a "ii" chord. As you know the "ii" chord is the dorian chord. If you tried to play one of the other minor modal scales it would sound wrong. You don't even really want to be thinking modes in this case anyways, I mean it's just a C major progression and that's all you really to know or consider. We hear the tonal center of this progression as C major.

Monday, April 2, 2012


Q: I've been working on "Footprints" lately. How can I solo over the changes? I sound pretty boring. Do you have any suggestions? I know it is just a minor blues for the most part but I sound lame.

A: "Footprints" is a great tune. It is actually one of the first standards that I played as well. It was written by Wayne Shorter and first appeared on his own record, "Adam's Apple" before being released on Miles Davis' "Miles Smiles" record in 1967. What a year, we get "Miles Smiles" and Jimi Hendrix' "Are You Experienced" at the same time. Not to mention "Sgt. Peppers." I was three, so I don't remember any of this.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Getting the Blues Together

Q: Been trying to learn a lot more of the Stevie Ray Vaughan blues style. Kind of plateaued. What would you recommend I do to be able to improvise like SRV and all of the Blues greats??

A: First of all, let me start with what we all do at first and how eventually we have to outgrow it. We generally start off by playing the minor pentatonic scale over the whole thing. I think this is OK when we start but you realize that this method won't work too well the first time you have to play the Blues for anything longer than ten minutes. I have to usually play two or three sets of the Blues on my Blues gig and let me tell you, your audience starts to get this glazed over look after a couple songs if you just keep regurgitating the same tired pentatonic scale licks.

Monday, January 9, 2012

Melodic or Harmonic Minor

Q: I'm enjoying your Infinite Guitar book very much lately but I'm wondering why you dedicate so much time to Melodic Minor and not so much to Harmonic Minor. Why is Melodic Minor more important?

A: Good question. There isn't anything wrong with Harmonic Minor so to speak but Melodic Minor has more applications. Only one mode of Harmonic Minor is exclusively used and that mode is the 5th one, sometimes named the Phrygian Dominant mode. As an example, E to E in the A Harmonic Minor scale: E-F-G#-A-B-C-D. You would play it over an E7 or E7b9 chord and more often than not, it would get used over a V chord in a minor progression. For example in a rock application: Amin-G-F-E, you would want to play A natural minor over the first three chords and A Harmonic Minor over the final E chord. In a Jazz application, you would play it over a iio-V7 in A minor, as in Bmin7b5-E7b9-Amin7 (over the last chord, you wouldn't generally play A harmonic minor but A natural minor or A dorian. You can use Harmonic Minor over a i chord (as in A Harmonic Minor over an Amin chord) but it sounds like you are playing Mexican or Middle Eastern music.