Carl Verheyen Mas­ter­class

In part three of our ex­clu­sive video se­ries with Carl Verheyen, this as­ton­ish­ingly good mu­si­cian shows Mil­ton Mer­mikides unique as­pects to his play­ing.

Guitar Techniques - - LEARNING ZONE -

Bb7 / / / Eb7 / Bb7 / F7 Eb7 Bb7 F7 Carl lis­tened to the track par­tially and then de­liv­ered an in­cred­i­bly pol­ished, in­ven­tive and melodic solo in one take. It is in fact a mas­ter­class in stylis­ti­cally broad blues play­ing, fret­board mas­tery, tech­nique, rhyth­mic in­ven­tion and the amount of mileage that is pos­si­ble over just one chord type - in this case dom­i­nant 7th. In our ses­sion with Carl he spoke of his long term habit over his 40-year play­ing ca­reer of writ­ing down ev­ery lick and phrase that caught his ear, and now has ‘stacks’ of books of his own ma­te­rial. How­ever, rather than sim­ply me­chan­i­cally de­liv­er­ing this set of phrases, Carl has de­vel­oped a flex­i­bil­ity with this ma­te­rial and ef­fort­lessly trans­poses, ed­its, rhyth­mi­cally adapts, and re­com­bines th­ese phrases in an in­tu­itive and cre­ative man­ner.

There’s so much to learn from this solo but here’s a run­down of its key fea­tures. Carl’s play­ing is largely built on semi­qua­vers through­out this solo. At 112bpm, con­stant qua­vers would be a lit­tle se­date, but semi­qua­vers go by at quite a lick. Carl – rather than run­ning up and down scales – re­lies on his huge vo­cab­u­lary of melodic ma­te­rial to cre­ate mu­si­cally co­her­ent and sat­is­fy­ing phrases. Im­pro­vi­sa­tion re­quires prepa­ra­tion!

The solo is mostly on a sin­gle melodic line, but this is var­ied with the use of coun­try-style over-ring­ing phrases (bar 4), as well as the use of hy­brid-picked dou­ble-stops (bars 22-23). This va­ri­ety adds tex­tu­ral in­ter­est to the solo.

In GT241 we pre­sented an ar­ti­cle on four lev­els of blues play­ing, which de­scribed var­i­ous de­grees of har­monic en­gage­ment with a blues pro­gres­sion. In short th­ese are: 1) use of mi­nor Blues through­out; 2) mix­ture of mi­nor and ma­jor Pen­ta­tonic; 3) the use of Mixoly­dian (with pass­ing tones) for each of the chords (Bb Mixoly­dian for Bb7, Eb Mixoly­dian for Eb7 etc.) and 4) The use of Al­tered scales on each of the dom­i­nant chords, which out­line the key func­tion of the chord but with more dis­so­nant aux­il­iary notes. This solo demon­strates all of th­ese lev­els beau­ti­fully, and is mainly characterised by what, in that par­tic­u­lar fea­ture, we would call level 3 and 4 play­ing. You can de­velop this level of blues play­ing by en­sur­ing that you are able to play the vo­cab­u­lary in any key, so that one phrase can be used over each of the three chords. By ab­sorb­ing sev­eral phrases they can be com­bined to form a ba­sis to cre­ate an ever in­creas­ing num­ber of spon­ta­neous so­los

Carl has a laid-back feel to his play­ing, but he is in no way a lazy player; there are many ac­tive po­si­tion shifts and string skip­ping (bar 16), re­peated riffs are al­ways sub­tly al­tered (bars 41-43) and he’ll flick the pickup se­lec­tor from neck to bridge po­si­tion for a short phrase - even just one note (bar 8) - just to cre­ate more ‘bite’ and tim­bral va­ri­ety.

There’s some re­ally chal­leng­ing tech­ni­cal de­mands here (all the more im­pres­sive given this was im­pro­vised in one take), but even if some are be­yond you for the time be­ing, the con­cepts and vo­cab­u­lary here will make any study with this solo use­ful, and should act as a foun­da­tion to build your own blues so­los and gen­eral im­pro­vi­sa­tional vo­cab­u­lary.

You can de­velop this level of blues play­ing by en­sur­ing you can play the vo­cab­u­lary in any key.

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