Creati ve rock
This issue Shaun Baxter enters quartal territory as he examines using Mixolydian mode to play medium-paced blues-rock licks in 4ths.
Shaun Baxter with another lesson in aspects of blues-rock’s favourite Mixolydian mode.
In this current series, we’ve been looking at ways of using various scale intervals to create a variety of medium-paced ideas to fit in with your Mixolydian vocabulary. So far, we’ve studied 2nds and 3rds; so, in this lesson, we move on to the next logical step, 4ths. Within the modes of the Major scale, each 4th interval will be one of two types:
• Perfect 4th = two and a half tones • Augmented 4th =three tones
To illustrate this, have a look at Diagram 1, which represents the notes of D Major (and any of its modes, of which A Mixolydian is mode V). If you start from any note, and then move in any direction (clockwise or anticlockwise) to another note three notes away (in other words, with another two scale notes in between), the distance is usually either a perfect 4th or an augmented one (in this case, only between G-C#).
Perfect 4ths produce an open and contemporary sound. The waveforms created by 4ths, 5ths and octaves are more stable and less dissonant than other intervals when used with distortion; consequently, they work well when played as double-stops, and form the basis of many classic rock riffs, such as those used in Smoke On The Water, Burn and All Night Long by Ritchie Blackmore of Deep Purple and Rainbow.
When played on adjacent (neighbouring) strings, perfect 4ths occupy the same fret (apart from when they are played across the third and second strings, which are tuned a 3rd apart, rather than a perfect 4th apart).
In terms of technical execution, perfect 4ths can be played using a barré roll technique, whereby one the fingers of the fretting hand is laid across two or more strings, and the weight of the fingerprint part (or more of the underside of the finger if there are many strings) is redistributed from string to string (note to note), so that only one note is held down at any one time. This is achieved using an arm and wrist action rather than distorting (changing) the shape of the finger. Alternatively, some players, like American fusion guitarist Scott Henderson, prefer to play perfect 4th intervals on the same string, even though the stretch is quite wide.
By this stage in our study of intervals, you should aim to execute all of the following basic permutations both up and down through each shape of a scale: • A series of ascending intervals.
• A series of descending intervals.
• A series of intervals that alternate between ascending and descending.
• A series of intervals that alternate between descending and ascending.
Also try other permutations, such as:
• Up, up down, etc.
• Various configurations of the same interval: Low note, high note, low note; High note, low note, high note (three-note motifs).
• Playing ideas that are a multiple of 2 (2-4-8) to a triplet count.
• Playing ideas that are a multiple of 3 (3-6 etc) to a duple count (eighth-notes, 16th-notes and so on).
Try recording yourself playing each and make a note of the most ear-catching results. Then why not try:
• Wandering around the fretboard using each idea or figure, in order to make sure that it is portable or adaptable.
• Applying each idea expressively: if you can’t do this with any piece of theory or technique that you learn, then it’s useless to you.
You should also practise shifting ideas up and down the length of the neck (lateral motion), as well as staying within the same neck area (vertical motion).
During this series, the object is to build up a variety of interval-based approaches over the same dominant backing track using A Mixolydian in conjunction with A Minor Blues
waveforms created by 4ths, 5ths and octaves are more stable than other intervals so work well as double-stops
scale (that’s why the examples have been written out in the key of A rather than D). All of the 4ths that have been highlighted in this lesson’s examples, are taken from A Mixolydian, and each of these sections is flanked by A Minor Blues-orientated ideas. Note that, although various 4th intervals might also be played within surrounding Minor Blues-based ideas, we are going to ignore them, as they are purely incidental, and not part of the main concept.
Regarding the backing track, most musicians would write out this in 12/8 time; however, for ease of reading on guitar, I have stuck to 4/4, viewing the bass drum pattern as a quarter-note triplet rhythm. If your rhythm reading isn’t great, don’t worry about it: just read the tab and use your ears.
Finally, once you have absorbed the concepts studied here, you should apply the same principles to other scales that you know in order to develop useful repertoire for improvising. For example, you can also produce A Dorian equivalents for each of the GT examples ideas (or your own) simply by replacing any C# notes with C notes.