Gettin’ The Blues
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!
EXERCISES #4 AND #5
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!