Two-bar 16th-note lines
Shaun Baxter continues in his quest to have you conquering the fretboard with this challenging Mixolydian workout through different keys.
In this current series of lessons, we are looking at developing a vocabulary of lines for each shape of the Mixolydian mode, and applying that repertoire in a systematic way in different keys in each area of the neck. So far, we’ve looked at triplet lines: now it’s time to switch our attention to 16th notes (four notes per click). The idea is not just to build your lick and line repertoire so that you have got things to play, but also to be able to have instant access to that vocabulary when improvising. To start with, Diagram 1 shows the five CAGED shapes of the A Mixolydian mode.
Once you have learnt one scale in all areas of the neck, it is possible to transpose this information to allow you to play from any other root note in the same manner. Ultimately, this leads to you being able to access any scale under your fingers at any time, wherever you are on the neck, purely by selecting the appropriate shape for the occasion.
The backing track for this particular lesson is devoted to a progression comprising a repeated sequence of A7 to C7 to D7 to F7 to G7 (two bars each chord). Basically, we go through the alphabet, but have taken away the first chord each time there is only a semitone between two chords (there is very little you learn about C if you’ve simply moved up a semitone from B, and the same goes for E and F). By removing B and E, you still have to mentally acknowledge where they are in order to get to C and F respectively but, of equal importance, by omitting these two chords, we’ve ended up with a five-chord sequence that allows us to practise all five shapes of the CAGED system in each area of the neck in a very streamlined and efficient manner.
Diagram 2 shows how the CAGED system can be used for each chord type in order to play in just one area of the neck. Generally, the neck areas or positions shown correspond to the ones delineated by the various dots on the fretboard.
Try building up your approach to playing the full version of the exercise shown in the transcription (along with the backing track) by doing the following:
Start by playing each A Mixolydian line: A7 Shape #1 (bar 1); A7 Shape #2 (bar 11); A7 Shape #3 (bar 21); A7 Shape #4 (bar 31); and A7 Shape #5 (bar 41).
Then, take each A7 line and transpose it (laterally) to another part of the guitar neck for C7 D7 F7 and G7 (note that you can use the backing track to practise this). Shift each A7 line up three frets for C7, then up another two frets for D7, then up another three frets for F7, then up another two frets for G7, and finally, up another two frets to get back to A7.
Note, as you ascend the fretboard, you may have to double back an octave (play the same things 12 frets lower) if you find that you are running out of neck. Next, use the backing track to work in just one area/position of the neck using a different CAGED shape (and associated Mixolydian line) for each chord.
Then work through the length of the neck (again with the backing track) playing a different line for each chord as you shift up through the positions in the same manner as shown in the transcription and demonstrated on the lesson audio.
Finally, you can also use the backing track to practise your own licks and lines for each of the five CAGED shapes of Mixolydian.
If you just learn each line parrot-fashion without seeing how it relates to the scale, you will not be able to truly understand it or adapt it to different situations.
I’ll be keeping to a moderate blues-rock fusion tone for this series. I use a Fender Strat, so I always use a distortion pedal to boost the signal before it gets to the amp. Generally, try to go for 25% of your distortion from the pedal and 75% from the amp. You’ll find that the results are sweeter and more compressed (even and tighter sounding) than when getting 100% of the distortion from the amp. Typically, most amplifiers should be set as above (less distortion than when playing metal). Note that I have chosen the ‘in-between’ position between the neck and middle pickups: this helps to give the guitar a sweeter sound with more middle honk.