Tag: intermediate

Chromatic Twang

chromatic twang

I find myself adding “outside” notes to spice up typical progressions or chords I encounter all the time. Just like a chef, you need to know when to use this technique, as too much spice isn’t always nice. I’m not trying to take you on a jazz odyssey or have you overthink your lines. We will simply use the entire musical alphabet to help us get from point A to point B in a different way.

I like to call these style of licks “ear twisters.” When you add a few more colors to a predictable country line it can take your playing to new and interesting places. Remember, taste is important in choosing how far you “go out” since you don’t want to lose sight of your musicality. We are basically using all the options on the table to create tension that will inevitably lead to resolution. The licks I’ve chosen are for static major, minor, and dominant 7 chords. These are designed to be a small part of a big picture, and any note is ok to use as long as we use it wisely. I’ll show you some ways to start thinking along these lines.

Ex. 1 demonstrates the possibilities within the C chromatic scale. I play the root note followed by the next tone in the chromatic scale. That way you can hear the interval. Intervals can be described as the difference between any two notes. The larger the difference in pitch, the greater the interval. There are a variety of ways to think about intervals, but typically they are referred to as being either major, minor, perfect, octave, or tritone. While this is relatively simple to play, it may be the most important example to not only understand, but master. Both the intervals and the sound they make played together (or consecutively) to me connotates a color or emotion.

Major = happy. Minor = sad. Tritone = tension. Octave and perfect = pure.

Next, I dive into a descending line over C with some chromaticism (Ex. 2). Keep in mind we aren’t necessarily using scales as a reference, we are using notes in relation to the chord itself. Everything has a relation to the chord. Reference Ex. 1 if you don’t know the names of the intervals that you may find interesting or just awkward. Your ear may need to take a while to get used to some intervals but in the grand scheme of chromaticism, any note is available.

Here’s an ascending chromatic line over D (Ex. 3). Ending this lick, we do a country bend, so make sure to bend down with the index finger on the 7th fret. You can phrase it like the recording and slow the final bend to add dramatic flair.

Ex. 4 has a definite Tele-twang feel with double-stops in the front of the lick and plenty of hammer-ons and pull-offs at the end. It works great over an A chord and I might use it over a train beat feel. Try to use it next time you’re jamming to “Working Man Blues” by Merle Haggard, or Vince Gill’s “Liza Jane.”

Liza Jane – Vince Gill (w/ The Players)

Chromaticism works just as nicely over minor chords, too. Ex. 5 is a bluesy line with chromatic notes functioning as small connecting points. The leading tone, A#, gives it an exotic sound before resolving nicely on a B minor triad.

Open-string country licks are some of my favorites. In Ex. 6, I especially like the “clash” of the open 2nd string followed by the C (minor second interval) and open E with D# (also a minor second interval). The key here to let each note ring out as long as possible.

In Ex. 7 we move to the G7 chord. You are going to find yourself using double-stops into a bend then incorporating open-strings to work your way down the neck for this twang banger.

The final example (Ex. 8) is the most complex. The half-step theme works nicely over an E or E7 chord. The back half of this lick incorporates a Bb major triad (Bb–D–F) into a bend, then resolves on B and D. The ending of the lick implies a dominant 7 chord and I use my middle finger for the bend on the 3rd string.

That’s a lot to take in without a massive amount of theory. If you feel lost but want to understand intervals better and, more specifically, what you liked about the chromatic notes then I would recommend a bit of deeper analysis. Print out the licks and write the interval underneath the fretted notes to gain a better understanding on what was used to make the chromatic connecting points. It’s an excellent way of finding out the “formula” to what you may like. You’ll notice most of these licks use chord tones, notes from a major or minor scale, or intervals that create tension. Chromatic connecting notes all have a relevancy to the chord and can be used anywhere and in any style with the right amount of knowledge.

Kickass Elegant Blues Lick in the Key of E

kickass elegant blues lick in the key of e

Last Updated on July 6, 2022 by Klaus Crow Blues licks are tiny creative ideas, elements as well as devices for blues soloing as well as improvisation. They provide you the motivation you require and show you the skills to establish attractive ariose and also wonderful solos, so today we provide with a Kickass Elegant Blues Lick. Kickass Elegant Blues […]

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Exactly How to Play Beautiful Chords and Melody

how to play beautiful chords and melody

Last Updated on June 29, 2022 by Klaus Crow The mix of playing chords and also melody is a prominent method to obtain an attractive sound from your guitar. That’s why I developed a collection of these chord tune tunes. This one is a truly elegance with whole lots a various decorations and also guitar strategies. Just how to […]

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Mix Chords, Licks and Melody

mix chords licks and melody

Last Updated on June 24, 2022 by Klaus Crow Playing a chords, chord developments and tunes is enjoyable, but incorporating chords with tune by including licks to the table is even more fun. This style of playing includes gorgeous colors to the rhythm that makes the whole point truly fascinating to the audiences ear. Today […]

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Open-String Madness!

open string madness

Most guitarists learn the basic scales, patterns, and lines up and down the neck when starting to visualize the fretboard. Working open strings into the mix made my head spin and forced me think of note selection differently. It taught me how to manipulate lines that I’d played for years and breathed new life into those lines simply by adding one key element.

I’m not talking about playing in open position, but rather substituting and adding the flavor of open notes whenever possible into your lines. It creates extra tension and a cascading legato feel that’s so important to my style that I can’t play without it. It has become a pillar of my country guitar technique.

All you need to do is listen to the way Chet Atkins approaches this technique in his music like the ending to his version of “Blue Angel” (or better yet “Cascade”). Once I heard this technique, I had to understand it better. Other artists that come to mind that regularly use open-string licks are Danny Gatton, Merle Travis, Redd Volkaert, Jimmy Olander, and many others.

CHET ATKINS – Cascade 1977

Careless Love I Jimmy Olander

In this lesson I’ll get you going with some simple, and not so simple, ways to incorporate this technique and get you playing over major, minor, and dominant 7 chords. These are the three most common chords you’ll see in country and pop music so hopefully they’ll have an instant payoff. When I first started working on this it was painstakingly slow. So be patient, buckle up, and let’s dive in.

In Ex. 1 is a reimagined G major scale (G–A–B–C–D–E–F#). The intervals between the fretted and open notes will determine how much tension there is in your line. Minor and major seconds will typically have heavy tension, which is fine. Remember, tension is great in music and eventually wants to be resolved. You can use the pick for every note or use hybrid picking. Experiment and find what works for you. Using a pick will give more attack to the note but using the flesh or fingernail will give you more warmth and might be slightly easier at faster tempos.

Let the open notes and fretted notes “bleed” into one another as much as possible. This is how you get the cascading legato effect. Listen closely to the audio examples to match to phrasing and length of each note. Hold onto each note as long as possible to let the notes ring into each other.

Ex. 1

We reimagine a descending line for a D major scale (D–E–F#–G–A–B–C#) in Ex. 2. The larger the string skip, the more that interval creates contrast. Notice you are literally playing a descending scale with displaced intervals and substituting open strings whenever possible. This lick ends with some chords voiced with open strings as well.

Ex. 2

In Ex. 3 we move to the key of E major, which is great for open strings since you have two open-string root notes. This is a descending line that hits all the notes of the E major scale (E–F#–G#–A–B–C#–D#). You will need some good independence on your pinky finger to hold down certain notes but with practice, that should come. It’s all part of the technique.

Ex. 3

I like using open string licks for dominant 7 chords and Ex. 4 works great over an A7. We’ve moved from playing up and down the scale to working with chord tones and blue notes like the b5 found on the 4th fret of the 2nd string. The first three groupings are all triplets which works great on adjacent strings. I resolved this lick sliding up into nicely outlining the A7 ending in an open string. Use your ring finger to bend the note on the 3rd string and slide up with your index for maximum left-hand efficiency.

Ex. 4

In this bluesy lick over an Am chord (Ex. 5), you work your way down the neck all the while incorporating open strings. Use your pinky on the 10th fret of the 4th string and to end the lick on the 3rd fret of the 5th string. A quick and effective lick for playing over a minor tonality.

Ex. 5

Ex. 6 is a tricky lick over an F#m7 chord with some slides. Your index finger will slide first, then the ring finger on the left hand. It’s important to use those fingerings as they set up the ascending part of this lick. String skipping towards the back end of the lick is vital to really outline the open 1st and 2nd strings. Let all the open strings ring as long as you can without it sounding sloppy. Listen closely to the audio example for this one.

Ex. 6

I like this ascending lick (Ex. 7) over a G7 chord. Note that you’re playing only on the top four strings for this lick starting with two quick arpeggiated lines connected with some open strings. The back half of this lick is one of my favorite ways to do quick runs using open strings.

Ex. 7

You can also incorporate a chromatic approach to your lines while using open strings. In Ex. 8, which is over an E chord, I sneak in a few passing tones to add extra tension and create some ear-twisting fun.

Ex. 8

That’s but a brief snapshot of some ways to add open strings to create cool cascading musical lines. It can be a bit tricky to initially wrap your head around thinking this way, but once you do, the sky is the limit. I like incorporating open string licks for texture and then start to intertwine them with other techniques like double-stops, pedal bends, and chord voicings. Until next time, take care!!

Get In Shape: A Guide to Breaking Out of Scales

get in shape a guide to breaking out of scales

Shapes can be unique and interesting, but the most common one that we run into as guitar players is that of a plateau. While growth and learning are exponential in the early days of discovering guitar, the true struggle for most players seems to be when they reach the middle to upper intermediate phase. Certain habits, muscle memory, go-to licks, and even practice routines
become second nature. This is what I refer to as “the big rut.” Every player has been at this point, where they’ve been spinning their wheels in the same tracks for so long that now they are simply stuck. Nowhere to go and nowhere to grow, seemingly. This is also the point where guitarists tend to start rapidly accumulating gear in hopes that something new will spark inspiration. (Not that you or I would ever do such a thing, right?)

Maybe a change in approach is just the thing that can break not only the rut, but other creative lulls in our collective journey to improve and feel more connected with six strings and 20-something frets. I’ve found that switching my focus from that of note choice and scales to simple shapes and patterns can unlock my playing when I feel stuck and uninspired. Not only do these licks help you change your visualization of the fretboard, they work fantastically as outside-sounding tension builders.

While I would use the rut buster in Ex. 1 in the key of A, I’m hardly worried about the note selection. The focus is that I’m taking an ascending three-note pattern beginning on the 6th string and simply moving it across the fretboard until I land on a resolution point–in this case on the 1st string. This lick doesn’t require a ton of dexterity. The first finger frets the lowest of the three-note shape, the second finger frets the middle note, and the third finger frets the top note of the shape. With this shape having a one-fret stagger between each note, it’s easy to quickly get comfortable with the rolling motion of the lick.

Ex. 1

Ex. 2 is the exact mirror image of Ex. 1, and we’re still in the key of A. Rather than starting on the 6th string and working our way to the 1st with ascending notes, we work backwards. Still, the shape is a three-note stagger. Again, we work one grouping of strings at a time until we hit a resolution point on the root.

Ex. 2

In Ex. 3 we’re using a different three-note staggered shape. This time there is a two-fret span between the notes staggered across three strings with exception of the last grouping, which moves the first note to the 8th fret to accommodate the third between the G and B strings. The fingering is led by the fourth finger with the second finger fretting the second note and the first finger fretting the third note of each grouping.

For simplicity, we’re still in the key of A. I’ve included a pickup note so you can get a feel for how this pattern lays in relation to its root.

Ex. 3

If we take Ex. 3 and put it in reverse, we switch to having the first finger lead the descending grouping starting from the first string. Ex. 4 shows again how we changed what is now the first grouping to accommodate for the guitar not being tuned in fourths.

Ex. 4

To tie it all together in Ex. 5, we combine part of an A minor pentatonic scale (A–C–D–E–G) with the lick from Ex. 4 to create a fun sounding fusion lick. The whole idea is to show how you can use one of these rut busters to create something unexpected and likely outside of your typical bag of tricks.

Ex. 5

Using shapes and patterns to break out of playing ruts has been a tried-and-true method for me, and I’m sure it can work wonders for you as well. Every single one of these licks and ideas works in any key and location on the fretboard, so they can be extremely useful even in a mid-solo scenario when you want to add some outside flavor and tingle some ears. Be warned, however, not to let your rut busters become your next plateau–experiment with different groupings, shapes, and rhythms to fire up your creativity and bust out of that rut!