Our music editor Jason Sid well introduces this month’s bulging Lessons section.
FOR MANY GUITARISTS, progress can seem to be about countless hours of technique based exercises, learning full songs and a full gamut of scale and chord know-how. And yes, there’s much to commend this. However, it takes a lot of time to get to admirable playing levels, so we also believe in the ‘learn-use-expand’ cycle when applied to smaller segments of music, such as chord ideas or licks.
The smaller the segment the quicker it is to learn (good), use in your playing (better) and explore further (ultimate). Small components become part of your playing much quicker than the hard slog of learning a whole song or solo. This also proves more flexible for your playing; numerous guitarists love to morph a favourite lick so it will work in different contexts and really earn its keep. For example, after you’ve learnt a dominant 7th based lick, look where the 3rds and 7ths are to convert it to a minor 7th or major 7th lick. This is a favourite approach of LA studio guitarist Carl Verheyen, who has numerous notation books fuelled by this means of lick generation.
Of course, if you’re not savvy to basic music theory this could be a tough call (highlighting another area of musical development for you?). Certainly having some theory knowledge will provide substantially bigger payoffs for your music making than, say, racking up another 20bpm on a lead lick. Perhaps you’d like to delve into a song like Layla for fresh soloing vocabulary? You may (like I) find much fun in re-harmonising the lead riff by changing the chords underneath it. Or perhaps take the riff and change a note or three, maybe switch the key, tweak the rhythm or alter the time signature; all are valid and fruitful areas to be explored. The process will both stir your creativity and fuel your lick bag.
I’ll leave you with something that a well-known rock guitarist told me years ago: while working on a track that became one of his band’s most popular, he decided the chords were too close to another song. To create ‘distance’, he worked up a unique guitar intro that was both ear catching and substantially removed from the ‘source’ song. These days he often duplicates this situation (pretending to be too close to another track) to push his creativity further. So look through this issue for a few great licks and explore how you can make them more flexible. You may end up sounding more unique and impressive than you already are!