David Mead addresses your technical, musical and theoretical issues.
Post your playing posers and technical teasers to: Theory Godmother, Guitar Techniques, 30 Monmouth Street, Bath, BA1 2BW; or email me at email@example.com - every wish is your Godmother’s command!
Breakdown On A6? Dear Theory Godmother
I’ve just bought the Play Guitar Now: Rock & Roll and on Lick 1 of Danny Cedrone you have an A6 chord. However, due to its shape, which is the same finger position as a open Dm just five frets up, why isn’t it a F#m?
Cynthia The reason behind this is that F# is the relative minor key to A major and A6 and F#m share many of the same notes. Let’s look at the two scales (Ex 1): in A major, the triad is made up from the notes A, C# and E - and if we add the 6th to turn it into a major 6th chord, we need the note F# as well. Now check out F#m: once again we need the root, 3rd and 5th of the scale which adds up to F#, A and C#. So the two chords are near as dammit the same thing to begin with. In fact, if we add the missing E to the F#m we’ll produce F#m7, then the two chords would be an exact match.
In the case you’re quoting, a Dm shape at the 5th fret would produce the notes C#, F# and A - the 3rd, 6th and root of A, and just enough information to confirm it as an A6 chord. I suspect there would be a prominent A in the bass to confirm this so all would be well.
This sort of thing crops up many times in music - we’ve only got 12 notes in the chromatic scale and thousands of chords that can be made from them. So it’s inevitable that many shapes are either going to look similar or, as we’ve found here, exactly the same!
Yngwie B Goode Dear Theory Godmother
I’ve played for years and stuck to rock/blues type songs where I can use the pentatonic or blues scales to improvise a solo. However, I want to learn to play more like Yngwie Malmsteen as I love the sound of the harmonic minor scale.
My problem comes in the songs I play. I can’t play Malmsteen’s style lightning fast so how would I incorporate his style licks into a solo to Johnny B Goode or All Right Now? Please help, as I’d love to change my solos to sound like his.
Andy I’ve been doing a little research and found that when Yngwie takes on either straightforward rock or blues based material, he doesn’t venture into the harmonic minor at all. He’s far more likely to leave that for his own material where the underlying chords call for it.
The reason for this is that the harmonic minor scale is an extremely awkward fit for a lot of pop or rock ’n’ roll. The two songs you mention are both in major keys and the harmonic minor would just sound wrong unless you did a lot of re-arranging; you might be able to make it fit, but you’d have to bend both songs out of shape first.
If we look at the harmonic minor scale (Ex 2), the thing that gives it its essential flavour - that ‘middle eastern sound’ - happens at the top end of the scale, as detailed in Ex 3. This is going to clash terribly if you drop it into a solo over Johnny B Goode!
What Yngwie tends to do is to make use of the minor pentatonic or blues scale with some notes from the Dorian or Aeolian modes thrown in (Ex 4). This would sound quite run-of-the-mill unless you played it at high speed, adding the Yng’s characteristically wide vibrato at the end
If you want to use the harmonic minor in your solos, find some transcriptions and backing tracks of Malmsteen material and practise that until you can get it up to speed. And as far as that speed is concerned, I’m afraid that there’s no quick solution. Playing scales and exercises against a metronome is really the only way and it takes time and patience. But if you stick at it and do your speed-increasing exercises on a daily basis, you’ll see results after a short period of time.
So, leave the harmonic minor for songs that are in a minor key, but when playing the material you mention like Johnny B Goode or All Right Now, stick to your pentatonics or blues scales.
Time On My Hands Dear Theory Godmother
OK, I’ll admit it: my timing sucks. The problem isn’t actually playing in time - that I can do. But when I’m working out a transcription I’m mainly using the tab and while the more straightforward stuff doesn’t give me any problems, some of the more complex rhythms floor me every time. I listen to the track, but sometimes that’s just not enough to get it inside my head. I want to do things properly and work the rhythm out from the music, but I get easily flustered. Is there a way around this situation?
Ian Ordinarily, I’d say that it’s a question of working out the maths of the situation and sitting there with a metronome, tapping rhythms out with a pencil. But we live in modern times and these days there is help out there.
If you look around the net, you’ll find that there are free notation programmes with cut-down features that will allow you to type in rhythms and hear them played back to you. One that I know of is Finale Notepad, but there are others and I’m sure a quick search will reveal them all. Then, when you find a rhythm that you have trouble with, copy it into the programme to hear it played back to you. I would recommend that you don’t bother about the pitches of the notes - copy it all onto a single line on the staff so that you can hear the rhythm of the phrase in isolation. After a while, you’ll begin to recognise rhythmic phrases at sight as more and more of them become familiar to you.