In this issue Shaun Baxter continues to explore ways of applying different intervals to create ear-catching Mixolydian lines.
Shaun Baxter with another lesson on using 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, 3rds and 4ths, so logically in this lesson it’s the turn of 5ths.
Within the modes of the Major scale, each 5th interval will be one of two types: Diminished fifth = three tones
Perfect fifth = three and a half 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 the fifth). If you start from any note, and then move in any direction (clockwise or anticlockwise) to another note that is four notes away (in other words, with another three scale notes in between), the distance is either (usually) a perfect 5th or a diminished one (in this case, only between C#-G).
Perfect 5ths sound open and contemporary, rather like 4ths. In fact, a perfect 5th is an inversion of a perfect 4th: for example, A up to E is a perfect 5th (seven semitones), whereas A down to E is a perfect 4th (five semitones).
As we saw in the previous lesson, the waveforms created by 4ths and 5ths are more stable and less dissonant than other intervals (apart from octaves) when used with distortion; consequently, they work well when played as double-stops, and form the basis of many classic rock riffs.
Once you have absorbed the various concepts featured within this lesson’s demo examples, you should aim to apply the same principles to the other scales that you know - shifting ideas up and down the length of the neck (lateral motion), as well as staying within the same neck area (vertical motion) - in order to develop useful repertoire that you can draw upon when improvising.
Also, by this stage in our study of intervals, you should be aiming to execute each and all of the following basic permutations both up and down through each shape of a scale:
• A series of ascending 5ths.
• A series of descending 5ths.
• A series of 5ths that alternate between ascending and descending.
• A series of 5ths that alternate between descending and ascending.
As well as trying other permutations, such as: ‘Up, up down’ etc; and of course the many and various configurations on each 5th interval... • Low note + high note + low note (three-note motif).
• High note + low note + high note (three-note motif).
• Playing ideas that are a multiple of two (2, 4, 8) to a triplet count.
• Playing ideas that are a multiple of three (3, 6 etc) to a duple count (eighth-notes, 16th-notes etc).
Finally, make a note of the most successful or useful ideas according to your tastes, and try to see each one as a template that can be adapted: it’s better to have a few flexible friends that can be edited (expanded or compressed) to fit your purposes at any given musical juncture than hundreds of rigid licks and lines that are set in stone; consequently, you should practise by limiting your approach to just using one line only and seeing how much variety and expression that you can create by varying the rhythms, omitting notes, adding notes, applying bends and vibrato to different notes, etc.
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 the A Minor Blues scale (that’s why the musical examples have been written out in the key of A rather than the parent key of D).
It’s better to have a few fle xible frien ds that can be edite d to fit yo ur purposes than hundre ds of rigi d lick s
in each of this lesson’s demo examples, are all taken from with A Mixolydian, and each of these sections is flanked by A Minor bluesorientated ideas. Note that, although various 5th 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 highlighted in each line.
Regarding this month’s backing track, most drummers would write out the drum part in 6/8; 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 various concepts studied here, you should also aim to apply the same principles to the other scales that you know in order to develop useful repertoire that you can draw upon when 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.