Get­tin’ The Blues

Australian Guitar - - Contents -

Every­body’s heard of the pen­ta­tonic scale, but I bet you haven’t heard of the hexatonic scale! To be fair, I am not even sure if it’s re­ally a thing, but when I was 15, I read a song anal­y­sis for the Red Hot Chilli Pep­per’s “Cal­i­for­ni­ca­tion” where the au­thor de­scribed the solo as be­ing drawn from the hexatonic scale. Hex is latin for six, so I guess this makes sense. Be­fore get­ting into the ex­er­cises, let’s look at what I have con­sid­ered to be a plau­si­ble and highly use­able six-note scale.

In a ma­jor scale, one of the most im­por­tant notes is the third one. In the key of C, this would be E. Be­ing such an im­por­tant note, it’s been widely recog­nised that the fourth note – in this case, F – can be a lit­tle bit tough to get along with. For this rea­son, many play­ers have in­tu­itively adopted their ideas to omit the in­fa­mous ‘fourth’, leav­ing us with a six-note ma­jor scale.

If we look at an A mi­nor scale, which shares its notes with the C ma­jor scale, we can find that by leav­ing that F out once more, we get a very cool sound­ing scale. It looks like an A mi­nor pen­ta­tonic, but we get the B note with­out that pesky, not-so-nice sound­ing F.


Dis­re­gard the tempo marks here – I’ve recorded th­ese scales at a slower tempo than 120 beats per minute (BPM) but needed to write th­ese in semi­qua­vers to fit! Take note of the sound of the scale – it is much eas­ier to lis­ten to than your typ­i­cal ma­jor scale, and melodic ideas will flow a lot eas­ier from this pat­tern. Make sure you use your fin­gers ef­fi­ciently; I start with my sec­ond fin­ger and use my pinky on the sixth string, then fol­low the log­i­cal ‘four frets, four fin­gers’ ap­proach, go­ing to my first fin­ger on the fifth string, and so on.


As men­tioned, this will feel very sim­i­lar to a mi­nor pen­ta­tonic scale, only with the ad­di­tion of the sev­enth fret on the sixth string, fourth fret on the third string and sev­enth fret on the first string. I like to shift back a fret and use my first, sec­ond and fourth fin­gers to nav­i­gate the notes be­fore drop­ping back into pen­ta­tonic po­si­tion on the sec­ond string.


The first lick util­is­ing the ma­jor hexatonic is rem­i­nis­cent of more con­tem­po­rary jazz and blues play­ers. Ex­pres­sion is ev­ery­thing – if you think th­ese scales sound or­di­nary, try adding some feel with ex­pres­sive tech­niques like slid­ing and pick­ing dy­nam­ics. If you can in­cor­po­rate some slid­ing and bend­ing into this shape, you’ll hear some great coun­try ideas as well.


This lick is has a some­what horn-like qual­ity to it, mov­ing up the scale with some back-step­ping and a rapid triplet flour­ish be­fore re­solv­ing to the fifth note of the A ma­jor scale. It’s a lit­tle bit like a sim­pli­fied Char­lie Parker lick, if you will.


This lick is rem­i­nis­cent of An­gus Young and Joe Bonamassa. It’s very much a pen­ta­tonic rock lick, but the B nat­u­ral added in on the third beat gives it a great new flavour, just like our new rapid triplet flour­ish. This is a tricky lick – take your time putting it to­gether. I would rec­om­mend us­ing your third fin­ger on the sev­enth fret of the third string, and your pinky to play the sev­enth fret on the first string as we roll into beat num­ber three.


This lick could work over any­thing; it’s sim­i­lar to the last in tonal­ity, but by phras­ing it this way, it could be a jazz lick, a soul lick, a funk lick... You name it! By now, you should be hear­ing the re­ally cool colour that comes from the slight vari­a­tion on your ba­sic mi­nor and ma­jor scales.


Th­ese ex­er­cises are not here to be learnt note-for-note, nec­es­sar­ily. Re­mem­ber that ev­ery new idea you learn is what cul­mi­nates into who you are as a player, so take the ex­am­ples and make them your own!

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