The interesting thing here is that I'm using a combination of the major 3rd (C#) and the flat 5 (D#). When you analyze this, you see this creates a chromatic run starting from the C note moving through to the E. This is a valuable thing to note, especially if you're applying this kind if approach to fusion, blues or jazz.
There's nothing new to this approach. Blues players have been adding these notes to the basic pentatonic for eons. But the difference here is that I apply this system to a heavy/hard-rock style of playing. I do this with a combination of sweeps and legato, which creates a very hard-edge modern sound while still keeping the blues tonality.
In this Monster Lick, I'm using the E major 3rd pentatonic. The notes in this scale are E, G#, A, B, D. As you can see from the notes, I'm substituting the G minor 3rd with the G# major 3rd. This particular variation of the scale gives a less aggressive sound and is a great way to inject a little character into your runs and melodies. This also happens to be one of my favorite scales.
In this Monster Lick, I'm using the E major 3rd pentatonic scale. What I actually do with this scale is add the major 3rd, but I don't substitute it for the minor 3rd. I keep the minor 3rd in the scale. So the notes in the scale are as follows: E, G, G#, A, B, D. This is nothing new; all the blues greats have done this. I just give it a different spin by ... Read on!
This particular lick, and the style I've developed, is the result of my obsession with Eric Johnson. When I first saw him play, I was so captivated and blown away that I set about learning everything and anything I could of his work. Until I discovered his playing, my influences where SRV, Hendrix, Beck and Clapton. My love of the blues-rock guitar style and tonality is something I can't shake.
What I wanted to break away from with my soloing and playing was the box form of the pentatonic and the repeated licks you hear everybody play. The sound in my head was very clear, but the challenge of making it a reality was huge. I started by combining two of the boxes and creating three-string arpeggios. From there, I started working on the transitions to combine them.
I was always fascinated by the sounds jazz guitarists created when they'd play licks all over the fretboard. The interesting thing was that tonally I couldn’t relate to jazz or fusion; I never connected with it, although technically, I could. I wanted to take these ideas and apply them to a more rock/blues approach. This is the result.
In this Monster Lick, I'm using the E pentatonic blues scale with the legato technique. Legato and the blues scale are nothing new. We all use hammers and pulls in the traditional box form of the scale to add spice to what we are doing. But this approach is a little different. I'm treating the scale as a three-note-per-string scale — as I'd treat a mode or major/minor scale.
Because we generally approach the flat 5 or “blue note” as merely a passing note when we play blues or blues rock, the scale sounds incredibly smooth and even a little jazzy. My way of incorporating the flat into the licks and runs creates a slightly dissonant-sounding movement. The dissonance immediately creates the tension that is often needed when soloing to heavy, dark rock or blues-based rock.
In this lick, I'm using the blues scale in the key of E. When used in the right fashion, this scale can sound incredibly dark and even a little evil! It is the dissonant sound of the flat 5 that creates the dark feeling. In the traditional blues format, the flat 5 is used as a passing note. This creates the intensity and gives tremendous feeling to the lines or licks.