Get­tin’ The Blues

Australian Guitar - - Contents -

Django Rein­hardt still holds a strong place in the line of gui­tar play­ers who are cred­ited with the in­stru­ment’s cur­rent sta­tus. His fast and beau­ti­ful sin­gle note runs, em­phatic oc­taves and thrum­ming chords are ar­guably yet to be sur­passed as the true voice of the gui­tar. Sur­pris­ingly, many of the con­cepts he used drew from simple one. In this is­sue, we’ll look at a scale primer for what we might find in a typ­i­cal Rein­hardt im­prov piece. In the next one, we will ap­ply th­ese ideas in an etude of sorts!


The ma­jor pen­ta­tonic scale is per­haps the sweet­est and sim­plest sound in Western mu­sic. Did you know that this scale is sim­ply the ma­jor scale with the semi­tone steps re­moved? It also lacks a tri­tone in­ter­val. This means there is very lit­tle dis­so­nance in the re­la­tion­ship of any two notes within this scale, which means melod­i­cally sound ideas are eas­ily achiev­able. Al­ter­nate your pick­ing, but keep in mind that you want to be able to play th­ese fast even­tu­ally!


Every­body knows the mi­nor pen­ta­tonic scale! It makes per­fect sense over mi­nor chords and it works over ma­jor chords. I don’t have the space to the­o­rise why it works over ma­jor chords, but the ba­sic rea­son­ing is sim­ply that the mi­nor third takes the lis­tener’s ear right up to the edge of the ma­jor third, cre­at­ing ten­sion but also im­ply­ing the ma­jor third at the same time. It gets com­pli­cated quicker than a work­place ro­mance, so I’ll leave that there!


The har­monic mi­nor scale is the mi­nor scale with a nat­u­ral sev­enth. You will no­tice in many mi­nor blues – be it Rein­hardt or Eric Clap­ton – the ‘five’ chord will be a dom­i­nant seven. In A mi­nor, that would be an E7. An E7 has a G#, which is the nat­u­ral sev­enth of A mi­nor – hence one rea­son the har­monic mi­nor is so use­ful! Get used to the slightly awkward fin­ger­ing for this one. It’s up to you how you ap­proach it, but as al­ways, try to be ef­fi­cient. This scale has that very ro­man­tic Euro­pean side, so be care­ful to avoid the afore­men­tioned of­fice ro­mance!


Here, we’re look­ing at arpeg­gios. Arpeg­gios are more or less a scale that utilises the tones found in chords. Rein­hardt reg­u­larly uses the ma­jor six arpeg­gio and the mi­nor arpeg­gio. I have pro­vided two oc­taves of the ma­jor arpeg­gio and one oc­tave of the mi­nor arpeg­gio, spe­cific to some of the more com­mon thing Rein­hardt does. Sim­ply put, we can ap­ply th­ese arpeg­gios to the rel­e­vant chord, or even the rel­e­vant key de­spite the chord. C ma­jor six arpeg­gio can work with a C ma­jor chord, or more specif­i­cally a C ma­jor six chord, al­though the sim­pli­fied ap­pli­ca­tion will gen­er­ally work. A mi­nor arpeg­gio will go with the A mi­nor chord. Both of th­ese arpeg­gios could have great ef­fects at any point of a pro­gres­sion in the key of C or A mi­nor.


I kept this sep­a­rate be­cause it’s a bit more of a com­pli­cated arpeg­gio. This arpeg­gio can work as a G7b9, or as an E7b9. Con­fused? You’re sup­posed to be. A simple trick is to take any dom­i­nant seven chord, move up one semi­tone and play di­min­ished from there. For ex­am­ple, if you have E7, play an F di­min­ished scale. Here’s an­other tip: any note in a di­min­ished scale can be the root note – so if you see an F in the pat­tern, its an F di­min­ished. If you see a G#, its a G# di­min­ished. If this is blow­ing your mind, hope­fully some of the ex­am­ples I’ll be show­ing off in the next is­sue will help.


Learn th­ese scales, al­ter­nate your pick­ing, and lis­ten to some Django Rein­hardt be­fore our next les­son. Thank you. See you next time!

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