In The Woodshed

Play­ing the changes will ex­pand your Pen­ta­tonic po­si­tion play­ing and make your blues sound more so­phis­ti­cated, says Char­lie Grif­fiths.

Guitar Techniques - - LEARNING ZONE -

Last month we dis­cov­ered that ‘play­ing the changes’ over a Mi­nor blues can yield a more so­phis­ti­cated sound and gen­er­ate more mu­si­cal ideas than the typ­i­cal ap­proach of jam­ming over the whole thing us­ing the first po­si­tion of our favourite Mi­nor Pen­ta­tonic scale.

In this les­son we will use the same ap­proach and play over a sim­ple Ma­jor 12-bar blues with a view to play­ing a dif­fer­ent scale over each chord. Our blues pro­gres­sion has three dif­fer­ent chords: A7-D7-E7, so we will also need three dif­fer­ent scales. The chords in a Ma­jor blues are typ­i­cally Dom­i­nant 7th,

1-3-5-b7. which has the in­ter­vals For the pur­poses of our ex­er­cise we will stick with the Ma­jor Pen­ta­tonic scale, which has the in­ter­vals 1-2-3-5-6. Both the chord and scale share the notes of a ma­jor triad (1-3-5), so the Ma­jor Pen­ta­tonic is a good way of melod­i­cally out­lin­ing the ‘core’ sound of the chord while the Ma­jor 2nd and 6th are fan­tas­tic in­ter­val­lic ad­di­tions to the melodic melt­ing pot, bring­ing to mind play­ers like Eric John­son and Joe Bona­massa.

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 A7, there­fore you would play A Ma­jor Pen­ta­tonic. The next bar is D7 over which you would play D Ma­jor Pen­ta­tonic. You should change the scale on the down­beat of the chord change and aim to go to the near­est avail­able note of the new scale. This will pro­vide a smooth melodic ef­fect, rather than the dis­jointed (and pre­dictable) sound that al­ways start­ing on the root note would pro­duce.

No­tice that all three scales are played in the same area of neck by us­ing first po­si­tion, fourth po­si­tion and third po­si­tions of the Ma­jor Pen­ta­ton­ics. The in­ter­est­ing thing is; if you com­bine all three of those po­si­tions into one po­si­tion you end up with the notes A-B-C#-D-E-F#-G# or, in other words, the A Ma­jor scale. There are also a lot of shared notes be­tween all three Pen­ta­tonic scales, so it is a good idea to high­light the dif­fer­ences be­tween them in or­der to make the chord changes more pow­er­ful. For ex­am­ple, com­pare the notes of A Ma­jor Pen­ta­tonic (A-B-C#-E-F#) with those of D Ma­jor Pen­ta­tonic (D-E-F#-A-B). No­tice that four of the notes re­main un­changed (A-B-E-F#). The C# note how­ever changes to a D, so aim to tar­get the D when the D7 chord comes around. Sim­i­larly the E Ma­jor Pen­ta­tonic has a G# that isn’t present in the other two scales, so that’s a good note to save up for the E7 chord (try bend­ing up to it - it sounds great!).

We’ve pre­pared a solo for you us­ing this ‘one scale per chord’ ap­proach, so try learn­ing it note for note while be­ing aware of the chord-to-scale re­la­tion­ship. Once you have mas­tered the solo and played it over the back­ing track, try im­pro­vis­ing one of your own us­ing this same ap­proach.

The ham­meron dou­blestop in bar 11 of Ex­am­ple 2

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