Welcome to String Theory, a new column dedicated to imparting guitar-centric music theory concepts in a practical, useful way that you can readily apply to composing and improvising. Rather than show you a bunch of dry, abstract textbook examples of how chords are built from and live within various scales, I will try to keep things interesting and inspiring by presenting etudes.
Last time, we kicked off this series of Brewtality columns by going over some basic, but essential, stuff and learning how to play the A minor pentatonic scale (A C D E G) all over the neck. We did this by learning the five fretboard patterns shown in FIGURE 1.
In this classic entry from his "Brewtality" column, Zakk Wylde shows you some essential minor-pentatonic runs. To kick things off, let’s start with some basics by looking at the minor-pentatonic scale and how it covers the whole neck. To keep things simple, we’ll stay in the key of A minor for now.
Learning how to play jazz guitar means learning a number of ways to play maj7 chords and the related extensions, maj6, maj9 and maj7#11, associated with these chords. While these extended chords contain four, five and sometimes six notes, that doesn’t mean you have to learn big, hard-to-play fingerings that are difficult to grab and hard to insert into a playing situation.
A blues phrase is made up of three ingredients: what you play (the notes), when you play (rhythm) and how you play (your touch and sound). When players focus mainly on the what—scale patterns, arpeggios, picking technique and so on—the result tends to be a solo with lots of notes in constant motion, but if you change your focus to the when and how, you can deliver a breathtaking solo while barely moving your fretting hand.
In last month’s column, we explored a variety of ways to apply a modal approach to improvisation, with specific focus on minor tonalities and building from lines based on the E minor pentatonic scale (E G A B D) to ones based on the E Dorian mode (E Fs G A B Cs D), as well as E Dorian’s “parent” scale, D major (D E Fs G A B Cs).
Pete Townshend is a killer tunesmith who has penned such rock classics as “My Generation,” “Baba O’Riley” and “Won’t Get Fooled Again.” But the Who guitarist and band leader is also among the most skilled and influential rock rhythm players in history.
This month, I’d like to talk a little bit about some of the guitarists who have influenced my playing and writing style. Many of these influences—the main one being Dream Theater’s John Petrucci—use seven-string guitars, and I’ve long been drawn to the instrument’s expanded range and how it can be used in a musical way. Many guitarists who play standard six-string guitars have replicated the seven-string’s low B string by simply tuning their low E string down.