Last month, we analyzed the densely layered rhythmic blend of tresillo, backbeat and triplets that powered many classic New Orleans-based R&B hits. This month, we'll look at the city's unique spin on one of the fundamental grooves of humanity itself: the two-beat.
Before Dream Theater took off I used to teach a lot, and one of the things my students often asked me was how to apply the chromatic scale to practical playing situations. You see, their other teachers would give them chromatic warm-up exercises without providing any explanation of how important and versatile this scale actually is. For the next few months, I'd like to show you how to use the chromatic scale, not just as a tool to build chops but as a melodic device to add color to your playing.
In this Sick Lick, I am using the E diminished scale. This is one of my favorite scales. Not only does it create a powerful sound; it also works very well with the pentatonic scale and can be adapted to anything from jazz to metal. I incorporate a lot of three- and six-string arpeggios while using the diminished scale. It's a great way to move around the guitar at speed, and it creates a real intensity in your soloing.
In this lesson, we are going to learn a chromatic pattern that will allow you to shred over blues, country and any other scenario that could call for a major pentatonic sound. It works over major and dominant chords, particularly around I-IV-V scenarios and other similar progressions.
When first learning to solo over 7th chords, most guitarists will begin by checking out the pentatonic and blues scales we all know and love, followed by the Mixolydain mode, which completes the fundamental trifecta for blowing on unaltered dominant chords. But what about altered dominant chords? When adding in b9s, #9s, b5s and #5s, all the “altered” notes of a 7th chord, suddenly these three scales just don’t cut it on the bandstand.
My approach to guitar is tonally a little different than most modern shredders, as I base all my playing around the pentatonic scale. Players like Shawn Lane and Eric Johnson do this better than anyone on the planet. But my approach is a little different again. I use the combination of sweep picking and three-string arpeggios to get around the guitar rather than focus on the scales in their natural form.
Working on scales in the practice room can sometimes seem like a one-handed event. Sure, the picking hand is there, and it may even be focusing on alternate picking, sweep picking or other picking technique, but beyond that, how deep do we really go with our right hand when practicing scales?
Improvising with arpeggios is a great way to dig into chord changes, bringing out the exact sound of each chord in your lines. While scales and modes are great for outlining keys and creating modal colors, when you want to sound each chord in a progression, arpeggios are the way to go. While they are great for outlining chord changes, arpeggios can often become boring or predictable when you overuse them in a solo.