Carl Verheyen masterclass
Milton Mermikides welcomes you to the penultimate instalment of Carl Verheyen’s masterclass series, where he solos over a latin funk track.
blues and rock to deep fusion (including musicians from Dolly Parton to Allan Holdsworth - about the widest popular music span imaginable). For this series, we asked Carl to record a series of solos in one short session, with only one listen through and a simple chord chart to guide him. What he demonstrated consistently was an incredible melodic sense, improvisational knack, technical proficiency and stylistic diversity.
In this article I’ve transcribed Carl’s improvisation over a Latin funk track composed by Jason Sidwell. It’s at a medium tempo of 112bpm and is based on this 32-bar repeating form: F/A-Am-Dm7-Bbmaj7-Am7-Dm7Bbmaj7-E7. Essentially we have minor and major chords with one dominant chord. Carl provides an astonishing masterclass in how to navigate these chords, using a combination of major and minor Pentatonics, melodic motifs and widely spaced arpeggio ideas. Here’s a rundown of the prime approaches in this solo:
Pentatonicism (with some blue notes) is evident throughout. Major Pentatonic for the major chords, minor Pentatonic for the minor chords. However he colours these scales with the use of the 9th on the minor Pentatonic (bar 17) and the major 7 on major 7th chords (bars 22 and 39). He also uses minor Pentatonic and minor Blues for the E7 chords (bars 31-2, 63-4), but a 4th above the root, so A minor Pentatonic or Blues, which gives these dramatic moments a much bluesier edge.
Pentatonicism might seem like a limited approach to guitar playing, but if you observe passages like bars 41-42 or 53-54, you’ll see that Carl uses these five notes in endlessly creative ways; here the scale is broken up into wide unsingable melodies to create more of a fusion, rather than blues, approach.
What is also in evidence is Carl’s impressive ability to maintain interesting semiquaver lines at this tempo, and his ability to shift positions within a phrase so fluently that it’s easy to miss it. See for example bars 57-60, where a single unbroken phrase starts at 10th position and moves seamlessly down to open and back to 5th position. This sort of
Verheyen provides an astonishing masterclass in how to navigate these fundamental chords using a combination of ideas.
fluency in lead improvisation requires decades of guitar experience!
You might also notice that Carl has a habit of switching the pickup selector from neck to bridge just for one note, to create more of a bite to the tone, and uses the whammy bar to add beguiling vibrato, a vocal quality and to reach otherwise unreachable notes (bar 60).
As with every solo of this series, this improvisation is hugely instructive, and if you manage to get inside the mechanics and theory of the solo rather than simply copying it note for note, it will provide you with years of inspiration!