In the latest lesson in this recent mini-series, Shaun Baxter cranks up the tempo and difficulty rating by exploring 16th-note triplets.
Shaun Baxter ups the ante in this exploration of the Mixolydian and the minor Blues scale.
In this series we’ve been building a working vocabulary in all five CAGED shapes, combining Mixolydian with the minor Blues scale over a dominant chord or tonality. Before we start dipping into the lines we should start with a recap, so that you understand the harmonic principles involved.
Strictly speaking, the Mixolydian mode fits best over a 7th chord because it contains all the relevant chord tones; however, the minor Blues scale is also used as a form of tension. This is because many players find the 'correct' Mixolydian sounds too pretty when used extensively over a dominant 7th chord: the minor Blues adds a bit of ‘edge’ that creates a more organic and earthy effect.
Basically, the minor Blues scale (with its minor 3rd) sounds dissonant against a dominant 7th chord, whereas Mixolydian (with its major 3rd) sounds more resolved; hence, both scales provide us with the means to produce tension and release in our licks.
We’ve seen in previous lessons how the distinction between the two tonalities isn’t always clear, as most blues, rock and country players will occupy a tonality somewhere between the two. In the transcription of the various examples in this lesson, you will see a microtonal ‘curl’ that only happens on the minor 3rd. It’s where the minor 3rd starts slowly inching its way up to a major 3rd, but never quite gets there; lingering in a harmonic no-man’s land between minor and major.
Diagram 1 shows the neck in five different areas (in accordance with the CAGED system). Make sure that you can extract all of the following sounds in each position - Dominant sounds: Mixolydian scale (1-2-3-4-5-6b7; dominant 7th arpeggio (A7) b7); (1-3-5- major Pentatonic scale (1-2-3-5-6). And minor sounds: minor Pentatonic b3- b7); (1- 4-5- minor blues scale b3- b5- b7) b5 (1- 4- 5- [the is a ‘passing’ note that needs to be handled with care]; Dorian b3- b7), (1-2- 4-5-6- Dorian blues b3- b5- b7) scale (1-2- 4- 5-6- Shifting up through the gears, diagram 2 shows some standard rhythmic subdivision in 4/4, starting relatively slow with eighth-notes and shifting up through the gears to 16th-note triplets. You don’t always have to lock in to specific rhythms like this, but it sets a good foundation, allowing you to develop control. If you’re always floating above the music, you can’t practise playing accurately (in time). So far, we’ve gone through all of the rhythmic denominations in Diagram 2 apart from the final one: 16th-note triplets, the focus of this particular lesson.
Even at moderate tempos, 16th-note triplets can be fast; consequently, a lot of labour-saving technical devices need to be employed, such as sweep picking and legato. Also, because there’s less time on each note, there’s less time for articulation, such as slides, bending, vibrato etc – these can be introduced either side of each line. We can use other devices that will help to provide expression and avoid predictability such as pushed notes (notes played in anticipation of the downbeat) and rhythmic displacement (where, due to its odd length, a lick changes rhythmic emphasis as it is repeated).
All of the musical examples in this lesson are played over an A7 chord vamp. One of the fundamental things to look out for in each is the interplay between C and C# (the minor and major 3rds of A), as they denote the main difference between minor tension (here represented by A minor Blues scale) and major (or dominant) resolution (here represented by A Mixolydian).
Both scales provide us with the means to produce tension and release in our single-note lines