Ex­pand your Pen­ta­ton­ics and make your Mi­nor blues play­ing sound a whole lot tastier by ‘play­ing the changes’. Char­lie Grif­fiths is your guide.

Guitar Techniques - - CONTENTS -

Char­lie Grif­fiths goes down the the shed to dis­cover the mer­its of ‘play­ing the changes’ in a Mi­nor 12-bar blues pro­gres­sion.

When play­ing over a blues the first ap­proach we all take is to jam over the whole thing us­ing the first po­si­tion of a Mi­nor Pen­ta­tonic scale (1-b3-4-5-b7). While this is an ex­cel­lent scale for the job and a source of much in­spi­ra­tion, there in­evitably comes a time when we start to feel a bit stuck in a rut, and lack­ing in fresh ideas. When this hap­pens it’s al­ways good to take a dif­fer­ent view. And so...

In this les­son we will play over a sim­ple Mi­nor 12-bar blues with a view to ‘play­ing the changes’. This es­sen­tially means play­ing a dif­fer­ent scale over each chord. Be­ing that we have three dif­fer­ent chords: Am7, Dm7 and Em7, we also need three dif­fer­ent scales. To this end we’ll stick with Mi­nor Pen­ta­tonic scales and es­sen­tially fol­low the chords. Play A Mi­nor Pen­ta­tonic over Am7, D Mi­nor Pen­ta­tonic over Dm7 and E Mi­nor Pen­ta­tonic over Em7. This works be­cause the scales con­tain the same in­ter­vals as the chords. Any

1-b3-5-b7, m7 chord con­tains whereas A Mi­nor

1-b3-4-5-b7 Pen­ta­tonic has - that’s the same bunch of in­ter­vals, plus a 4th. Us­ing this ap­proach is fan­tas­ti­cally melodic as it spells out the chord changes so clearly with mostly chord tones and re­sults in a har­mon­i­cally so­phis­ti­cated style of blues, and takes in­spi­ra­tion from melodic play­ers such as Car­los San­tana, Robben Ford or Scott Hen­der­son.

In the first ex­am­ple we ex­er­cise the me­chan­ics of play­ing the changes. The idea is to play a con­stant stream of notes and play one scale per chord, while chang­ing the scale to suit the chord. The first bar is Am7, and there­fore you would play A Mi­nor Pen­ta­tonic. The next bar is Dm7, over which you would nat­u­rally play D Mi­nor Pen­ta­tonic. You should aim to change the scale on the down­beat of the chord change.

You will no­tice that all three scales are played in the same area of neck by us­ing first po­si­tion, fourth po­si­tion and third po­si­tions of the Mi­nor Pen­ta­ton­ics. In­ter­est­ingly, if you com­bine all three of those scales into one you end up with the notes A-B-C-D-E-F-G - the A Nat­u­ral Mi­nor scale. There are a lot of shared notes be­tween all three scales, so it is a good idea to high­light the dif­fer­ences in or­der to make the changes clearer. The idea is that if you took away the ac­com­pa­ni­ment, you should still be able to hear the chord changes. For ex­am­ple com­pare the notes of A Mi­nor Pen­ta­tonic (A-C-D-E-G) with those of D Mi­nor Pen­ta­tonic (D-F-G-A-C). No­tice that four of the notes re­main un­changed (A-CD-G). How­ever, the E note changes to an F, so it stands to rea­son when play­ing a solo that you should aim to tar­get F ( chord tone) when the Dm7 chord comes around. Sim­i­larly, the E Mi­nor Pen­ta­tonic has a B (5th chord tone) note that isn’t present in the other two scales, so that’s a good one to aim for when tackling the Em7 chord. It’s so easy but so many play­ers don’t do it.

We’ve pre­pared a solo for you us­ing this ap­proach, so try learn­ing it note for note while be­ing aware of the chord-scale re­la­tion­ship. Once you have mas­tered the solo and played it over the back­ing track, why not im­pro­vise your own solo us­ing this same ap­proach.

Don’t ig­nore the chord tones; use them to sound great!

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