• Understand how to outline pentatonic harmony with double-stops.
• Create funky muted lines using hybrid picking.
• Strengthen your internal time. Click here to download a printable PDF of this lesson's notation.
Double- and triple-stops are a hallmark of blues, rock ’n’ roll, and country guitar playing. They offer a cool way to add harmony and texture to what would could otherwise be thin sounding single-note phrases. In this lesson, however, we’ll explore the “stop” concept and focus on its use within funk, R&B, soul, and gospel realms. I’ve always liked how these small note clusters can mimic the way a horn section would approach a chord stab. Keep this in mind when learning these licks and crafting your own. FYI: Many of these examples are best played using a hybrid-picking technique.
Think of Ex. 1as a warm-up for the rest of the lesson. It’s a two-octave D major pentatonic scale (D–E–F#–A–B) harmonized in fourths. (The D pentatonic scale is the top line; harmonizing it a fourth below introduces one note outside of D pentatonic. Can you spot it? Hint: It’s lurking under F# and belongs to the D major scale.)
You can use either your first or second finger for just about every double-stop, except for the slides in the second measure. This concept of pentatonics in fourths is quite prevalent in modern neo-soul guitar styles. (Just search on Instagram for proof.)
Staying within a D major tonality, we’ll combine the double-stop fourths with some thirds to craft the triple-stop, or triadic, shapes in Ex. 2. This kind of moving harmony adds an old-school gospel vibe. For an authentic feel, pay attention to the slides—it’s important to keep them in time with the beat.
Ex. 3combines a little of Ex. 1 and 2 but adds some heavy right-hand muting. The muting gives the double-stops that “sampled” feel found in hip-hop and R&B. Make sure those slithery, half-step 32nd-note shifts are clean, and keep those palm mutes nice and crisp. The last sequence of triple-stops is an essential gospel guitar maneuver that works over a I-IV–IIIm–IIm–I progression.
Ex. 4makes use of major and minor voicings for a Latin-crossed-with-classical feel. To make the double-stops short and clear, hybrid-picking is a must. Plus, it will help with the three shapes in the second measure that use the 6th and 4th strings, rather than adjacent ones. To experiment with individual note dynamics, first try this lick using both pick and fingers, and then just fingers.
Thanks to its sliding-sixth voicings, Ex. 5is perhaps the most country sounding of all these examples.It features some techniques I picked up from studying guitarists in gospel quartets. If anything, that should tell you that country and gospel have a lot in common. The only difference is the groove! The mid-tempo feel is what gives this lick some bounce, but it’s also fun to play over a fast shuffle.
Let’s check out some more triple-stops with this Maceo Parker-inspired groove (Ex. 6). For the first set of triple-stops in measure 1, use your first finger to barre the 4th and 2nd strings, and third finger on the 3rd string. This way, your first finger is in position to grab the D triad at the 7th fret, freeing up your second and third fingers to fret the F to F# line on the 5th string. For measure 2, use hybrid-picking to play the triple-stops and pluck the D on the 1st string with your pick. It goes by quickly, but the trick is to fret a full D6 grip on the top four strings. Your third, second, and fourth fingers fret the sliding triple-stops, and your first finger is right there, waiting for you to attack the high D.
Ex. 7uses some familiar funk voicings at the top. It’s best to use the pick for this one, and as many downstrokes as possible, which will give everything a more staccato feel when combined with right-hand muting. For the set of double-stops anticipating the third beat of measure 1, use your first finger to barre the 8th fret, starting at the 5th string—this will keep your third and fourth fingers free to play the remaining figures. Use this same technique for the stops in measure two.
Well, Ex. 8is kind of a handful, but not impossible. The lick starts with more of the country/gospel crossover we looked at earlier. In fact, this type of phrase can also be heard in the guitar part to Herbie Hancock’s “Hang Up Your Hang Ups,” played expertly by one of the godfathers of funk guitar, Wah Wah Watson. It can also be found in “I’ll Take Jesus,” by one of my favorite current gospel groups, The Soul Seekers (with John “Jubu” Smith and Charlie Bereal on guitars). In measures 3 and 4, definitely go with hybrid picking. It’ll help target each stop clearly and keep the phrases in time. I try to pluck “up and away” from the pickups—kind of like Eric Johnson does—for maximum cleanliness and separation between each group of notes.
Well, cool! Hopefully these licks will provide you with some fresh concepts for adding a little extra harmony to your groove lines.