Premier Guitar

Premier Clinic: Rock

May 14, 2007
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Secret Sauce: Solos
from Jeff Scheetz''s Blues Rock: Secret Sauce

This month’s “secret sauce” is all about intervallic playing, which is utilizing interesting intervals in your solos, rather than the up and down, scale-based riffs that we have all found ourselves relying on from time to time. There are two types of intervals: melodic intervals, which are single notes played one at a time, and harmonic intervals, which are more than one note played at a time, or harmonies. To hear a great example of someone who has mastered intervallic playing, seek out Scott Henderson. He is known for using intervals to give his playing more a sophisticated, complex sound.

Melodic Intervals
Our first example starts off with a lick that uses melodic intervals based off of the C# minor pentatonic scale – C#, E, F#, G#, B, C# -- as well as using a few notes from the C# Aeolian mode, which is C#, D#, E, F#, G#, A, B, C#, or the E major scale played from C# to C#.

This works because E major is the relative major of C#. So begin at the 9th fret on the third string, slide down a half step, skipping to the 9th fret of the fifth string, followed by the fourth string. Slide up to the 11th fret on the fourth string, then go to the 9th fret on the third string, followed by the second string, then the first. Now, look for the pentatonic blues walk down from the 12th fret, first string. Use your pinky to slide the last note up to the second pentatonic position.

Using wide intervals is a great way to create killer lines, and many jazz artists have used this intervallic technique through the years. Listening to great horn players is an excellent way to begin to think in intervals, and Charlie Parker is always at the top of any list for recommended listening. Horn players tend to approach things differently than guitarists, and using intervals comes a bit more naturally to them. Listen closely and don’t be afraid to borrow ideas liberally.

Let’s look at a couple of other ways that we can apply some interesting concepts to this progression to make our playing more unique. Arpeggios are great because they lend themselves to intervallic playing, due to the fact that intervals tend to keep you skipping around the fretboard, much like arpeggio shapes. Since we are working from the C# minor pentatonic and C# Aeolian scales, a minor 7th arpeggio shape is suggested. A nice chromatic run works well here, to move from one arpeggio to the next. You can then move to an E major 7th arpeggio shape to fully enter fusion territory, breaking up pentatonic runs with some nice intervals. We can also use harmonic intervals using the octaves.

So, when we’re thinking about intervals, we’re looking at different types of interval shapes that we can play to take our playing a little bit further outside – to keep from sounding repetitive. We’re doing that by starting with a minor pentatonic scale, but adding interesting intervals to it, jumping and skipping around a little bit more, to create movement. We’ve also gone over using arpeggio shapes and chromatic lines to tie things together. Experiment with this, and don’t be afraid to explore, going back and forth between your C# minor pentatonic scale and C# Aeolian mode.

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