IN THE WOODSHED
Charlie Griffiths challenges the fingers with some stimulating sequences and atypical rhythmic phrases, but all based in the Minor Pentatonic and Blues scales.
Charlie Griffiths gets to grips with some atypical rhythmic phrases that will provide a nice challenge for the fingers.
You know the scenario. Just when you start to think you are pretty good at playing the Minor Pentatonic and Blues scales, you decide to celebrate by listening to guys like Scott Henderson, Eric Johnson and Robben Ford. And then you realise that perhaps there’s more to it than closing your eyes and bending from the b7th
to the root. We jest, of course, but this month we’ll spend some time revisiting two of the first scale shapes we ever learnt and applying some new concepts to them.
Eric Johnson has an interesting way of using unusual sequences and interval skips that sounds very fresh. One Johnson trademark is the ‘sequence of 5’. That means that you start from each note of the scale and ascend or descend five notes. This creates a cool repeating pattern, which can be a cool way of expanding upon an idea during a solo and giving the listener something to follow. Typically in blues and rock music, sequences of three and four are very common, but the five is less utilised. The Pentatonic is made for a sequence of five (the clue is in the name – Penta being ‘five’ in Greek).
In Example 1 we have transcribed a descending sequence of five in shape 1 of the
(1-b3-4-5-b7). A Minor Pentatonic A similar train of thought is continued in Example 2, which is a descending sequence of six which moves through each note of the six-note A
(1-b3-4-b5-5-b7). Blues scale This time we have an added element called ‘rhythmic displacement’. This means that the melodic pattern is grouped differently to the subdivision. In this case we have a six-note pattern played throughout a 16th-note structure, so the ‘starting point’ of each group of six ends up moving through and across the bar lines. Starting a rhythmic figure on every downbeat can sound quite stale and predictable so this is a fantastic tool for generating creative phrases and expanding your rhythmic perception in general. Just listen to Scott Henderson or Robben Ford and notice how interesting their phrases are.
Example 3 shows how you can make a standard phrase more exiting using rhythmic displacement. The melodic pattern here is a ‘sequence of four’ starting on each note of the A Minor Pentatonic. The most obvious approach is to start the on the downbeat every four notes, but let’s apply a bit of creativity and add a rest after every four notes, so you play ‘1 2 3 4 rest’ and repeat. Suddenly, a very typical pattern becomes a less obvious five-note phrase, which sounds much cooler and more creative.
In Example 4 we take that concept further and reuse the sequence of six we saw in Example 2 but this time we’ll add a rest after every sixth note ‘1 2 3 4 5 6 rest’. This makes a seven-note phrase, which moves against the 4/4 backbeat in a very interesting way.
At first these odd phrases will take some getting used to, but they very quickly become natural with plenty of practise. And, crucially, they will make you sound great. NEXT MONTH Charlie challenges your pinky’s pulling power with fourth finger bends
ERIC JOHNSON HAS A REALLY INTERESTING WAY OF USING UNUSUAL SEQUENCES AND INTERVAL SKIPS THAT SOUNDS FRESH AND LIGHT
Robben Ford: always sounds interesting and sophisticated