Creati ve rock
In this issue Shaun Baxter continues to explore ways of applying different intervals to create ear-catching Mixolydian lines.
Shaun Baxter with a lesson on using 6th intervals in bluesy-rocky Mixolydian mode.
In this series, we’ve been looking at using certain intervals to create a variety of ideas to fit in with your Mixolydian vocabulary. So far, we’ve studied 2nds, 3rds, 4ths and 5ths. This lesson, we logically move on to 6ths. Within the modes of the Major scale, each 6th interval will be one of two types:
• Minor 6th = eight semitones.
• Major 6th = nine semitones. To illustrate this, have a look at Diagram 1, which represents the notes of D Major and any of its modes (A Mixolydian is its fifth mode). If you start from any note, and then move in any direction (clockwise or anticlockwise) to another note that is five notes away (in other words, with four scale notes in between both notes), the distance is either a major 6th or a minor 6th.
Sixths sound soft and melodic, similar to 3rds. In fact, a 6th is an inversion of a 3rd: for example, C# up to A is a minor 6th (eight semitones), whereas C# down to A is a major 3rd (four semitones). Stylistically, 6th intervals are used extensively, both in the single-note and double-stop form, in country music, and various forms of blues.
As with our study of the previous intervals, 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, you should aim to execute each and all of the following basic permutations both up and down through each shape of a scale:
• A series of ascending 6ths
• A series of descending 6ths • A series of 6ths that alternate between ascending and descending
• A series of 6ths that alternate between descending and ascending
As well as trying other permutations, such as: ‘up, up, down’ , various configurations on each 6th interval:
• Low note + high note + low note (three-note motif) • High note + low note + high note (threenote motif)
• Playing ideas that are a multiple of two (two four, eight) to a triplet count
• Playing ideas that are a multiple of three (three, six 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 ideas 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 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.
During this series, the object has been 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 D).
All of the 6ths that have been highlighted in each of this lesson’s demo examples, are taken from within A Mixolydian, and each of these sections is flanked by A minor blues- It’s good to use as little distortion as you can. You may have to work harder, but there will be a core to your notes, rather than the fizzy transparency that results from using too much gain. If your guitar has humbuckers, they will probably be powerful enough to get all the distortion you need from the amp; with using single-coils you may need a bit of help from a distortion pedal. A dash of reverb will round things off and help your tone flourish.
6th inter val s are used exten sively , bot h in the form as single - note s an d double - sto ps, in co untry , an d some form s of bl ues
orientated ideas. Note that, although various 6th 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 12/8; 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 too much 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 instead since, note-wise, Dorian can be viewed as a minor version of Mixolydian. I hope these articles have helped to expand your soloing prowess.
Brent Mason with his heavily modified Tele