Shaun Baxter continues to help you extract ear-catching diatonic arpeggios from within each scale pattern. This month: ‘along the neck’ lines.
Shaun Baxter continues his mini-series on creatively using Mixolydian 7th arpeggios.
Recently, we’ve been focusing on various ways of creating freshness and variety by being selective with our note choice, rather than simply playing up and down each scale. In the previous two lessons, we looked at ways of finding and using 7th arpeggios within a single scale shape (resulting in vertical motion, whereby we stay within the same area of the neck); however, in this and the following lesson, we’re going to look at ways of using 7th arpeggios when travelling laterally on the guitar neck.
To establish the 7th arpeggios within A Mixolydian (A-B-C#-D-E-F#-G), we simply need to play every other note from each note of the scale (giving us a 1-3-5-7 from each starting note). Using leaps like this (intervals of a minor third or greater) instead of steps (intervals of a tone or smaller) will result in bolder harmonic content to your single-note lines because they will imply chord motion. The full list of arpeggios within A Mixolydian is in Table 1.
In the heat of improvisation, things are rarely this complicated. Basically, you simply need to learn how to recognise and play a four-note configuration comprising every other note from each starting note within the scale. To do this, it becomes much more convenient and consistent to use three-notesper-string patterns (see Diagram 1) rather than the CAGED shapes that we have studied so far. This is not to say that you must ditch the CAGED shapes. The CAGED shapes should be your visual reference however you move on the neck (along the length of one string, etc). Three-notes-per-string shapes can provide technical convenience for certain techniques, but will often involve straddling two CAGED shapes or drifting from one to another. In Diagram 1, I have numbered each
TO ESTABLISH THE 7TH ARPEGGIOS WITHIN A SCALE WE NEED TO PLAY EVERY OTHER NOTE, GIVING US A 1-3-5-7 FROM EACH STARTING POINT
three-notes-per-string pattern in relation to its nearest equivalent CAGED shape (just play through them in order: 1, 2a, 2b, 3, 4, 5a, 5b, 1). And Diagram 2 shows all the notes of A Mixolydian on the guitar, so that you can see how everything fits together.
In the next lesson, we are going to look at Mixolydian lines that employ various diatonic arpeggios while shifting laterally on the guitar neck; however, in this lesson, we’re going to start with exercises that will help you to develop the ability to both see and play diatonic 7th arpeggios from within a given scale when moving along the neck in this manner. We are going to limit the bulk of our approach to four-note shapes rather than extend each arpeggio beyond the span of an octave. This is because some arpeggios within a scale sound less settled than others when played against the underlying chord. In A
C#m7b5, Mixolydian, the A7, Em7 and Gmaj7 arpeggios sound settled against A7; whereas the Bm7, Dmaj7 and F#m7 arpeggios sound tenser. We can use this tension, but only fleetingly; consequently, we need to shift through the latter arpeggios relatively quickly. Using large arpeggio shapes forces us to spend longer on each arpeggio and, therefore, risk extending periods of dissonance to uncomfortable levels for the listener, resulting in your lines just not sounding right.
Table 2 shows the 24 ways in which the order of four different pitches can be played. Our musical exercises will employ just a few of these, but you should aim to try all 24 in order to establish your own musical preferences - there’s a lot of interesting and different sounds to be found. Finally, regarding experimentation, it’s important to appreciate that we are only working with the root inversion of each 7th arpeggio in this lesson (1-3-5-7), whereas it is also possible to use the first inversion (3-5-7-1), second inversions (5-7-1-3) and third inversion (7-1-3-5) too. Plus, although we are working exclusively with A Mixolydian, the same approach can also be applied to all other seven-note scales, so once you’ve gone through these there’s plenty of further study.
Triads will sound good either clean or distorted; but as this is Creative Rock, all the examples were recorded using a standard blues-rock sound: I used my 1962 Strat through a distortion pedal into a valve head. From there one just needs to consider pickups: I used the honky in-between setting between middle and bridge pickups for most examples.