In order to create more interesting lines, Shaun Baxter stacks his Mixolydian triads, ensuring that your musical palate never becomes jaded!
Shaun Baxter gets suspended this month suspended chords that is - for another CR...
Agood cook is selective with any available ingredients in order to prevent the palate from becoming jaded. If you always throw everything in the pot, you’ll end up eating stew every day, whereas, if you limit yourself to just a few things each time, you can eat differently every day. The same applies when improvising. If you use every note in the scale, you’ll end up with the same homogenised results (musical stew); however, by being selective with our note choice, we can extract a variety of different and distinct flavours. Many of our recent lessons in Creative Rock have been devoted to just that. In this present series, we are focusing on extracting suspended 4th triads from the scale (in this case, A Mixolydian) in order to produce sounds that are quite different from simply playing up and down the scale (using every note). Suspended 4th triads sound modern, angular and airy and are created when the 3rd note of each triad is replaced by a 4th.
Before we look at the musical examples within this lesson, we should start by reminding ourselves of how a suspended 4th triad is created. It is called ‘suspended’ because, when played as a chord, it sounds like it’s hanging in the air, needing to resolve to something more stable sounding. For example, if you play Asus4 (A-D-E) it sounds like the D note needs to resolve to a C# note in order to create a comfortable sounding A triad (A-C#-E).
Because they sound ambiguous and noncommittal, suspended chords are used a lot in modern styles like jazz fusion, which tend to be more abstract in nature. Here’s the list of suspended 4th triads available to us within A Mixolydian: Working out suspended 4th triad shapes from within a scale isn’t quite as difficult as it may look on paper. Basically, you just follow a logical progression: once you have established the notes of one sus4 triad, you simply move each note up or down to the next note in the scale in order to get the neighbouring sus4 triad within that key (or scale). Commonly on guitar, you will get each one-octave triad fingered in one of four different ways: • Three notes on one string (3 configuration) • Two notes on one string and then one note on a higher string (2-1 configuration) • One note on one string and then two notes on a higher string (1-2 configuration) • One note on each adjacent string (1-1-1 configuration)
In this lesson, we will be focusing exclusively on 1-2 and 2-1 note-
YOU SHOULD AIM TO ESTABLISH SIMILAR IDEAS STEMMING FROM ALL Of THE CAGED SHAPES Of MIXOLYDIAN THAT YOU KNOW
configurations. In which case, as you have probably worked out, they will all be two-string shapes. There is a limit to how much ground we can cover here; however, you should aim to establish similar ideas stemming from every one of the CAGED shapes of Mixolydian (and, eventually, every other scale that you use, since these principles apply to all of them). Diagram 1 shows each of the CAGED shapes of A Mixolydian, and Diagram 2 shows how all of these shapes link up along the neck.
Working within the restrictions of a single concept like suspended 4th triads will help to force you out of your ‘usual’ step-based approach to scale playing and into less familiar, but fresher-sounding areas. Remember, your aim, through formal experimentation with suspended 4th ideas is to establish a series of friendly and flexible shapes (rather than theoretical concepts) that exist within each particular scale pattern, allowing you to use the information in a more instinctive and intuitive way, so they don’t just sound like exercises.
Finally, as in previous lessons, when experimenting with your own ideas, remember to work at creating ones that have some form of rhythmic interest, as this is a great way help to make things sound more musical and, again, less mechanical.