In this month’s column we’re going to take a look at some double-stop licks that emulate the sound of the Hammond B3. These are licks that you might have heard from such great players as George Benson, Grant Green, Kenny Burrell, and even Stevie Ray Vaughan. They don’t have a high level of difficulty but have a high level of coolness. You’ll find that these licks are mostly coming out of the first position minor pentatonic scale pattern. We’ll make these fit over the first four bars of an A blues progression. Let’s get right to it.
In Fig. 1, you’ll notice that the idea being played is a very common blues lick using the minor 3rd (C) and the flatted 5th (Eb) against the major 3rd (C#) and the natural 5th (E) of an A7 chord. The best way to achieve this sound is to hold your pick between your thumb and index as normal, but now you want to add the ring finger to pick the first string every time. It’s a pinch motion between the pick and the ring finger.
Instead of using the root as our harmony note for our double-stops, we will use the flat 7th (G), as shown in Fig. 2. We’re also using hammer-ons and pull-offs to surround the C#. We will hammer-on from C# to D to start each phrase while holding the G on top. This is an interval of a perfect fourth, which is a very cool sound, but its a little thinner sounding than a third or a sixth because it has less dissonance. Power chords in rock music are perfect fifths that sometimes have an octave on top. Octaves are also perfect intervals. With this lick I would pick in a downward motion. I wouldn’t try to use my ring finger to pick the second string. The strings in this case are close enough to each other that you can just use the pick.
Fig. 3 is out of the A major pentatonic scale (A–B–C#–E–F#) and starts out with an octave and then moves to a chromatic climb up from C to E. At the same time we are holding down the A on the 1st string. Again, just as in the last lick I’m using a downward picking motion to play each one of the double-stops.
For Fig. 4, we will combine both the first and second position of the minor pentatonic scale. The phrase starts out with a hammer-on from Eb to E with the root note (A) on top. Then we use a pull-off from the flatted fifth (Eb) down to D. Again we continue to have the A above each note. Then we move down into the first-position minor pentatonic scale. I play the second half of the phrase with a sweeping-like picking motion using all downstrokes. This is a technique I picked up from listening to Stevie Ray Vaughan. He would both use this sweeping-like motion or he would use his ring finger and pick the root note for every note in the lick. Either way you chose, it’s one of the coolest sounds ever.
Dennis McCumber has been a guitar instructor and performer for more than 20 years. He holds a Bachelor’s degree in music education from The College of Saint Rose. Dennis performs regularly in the New York City area with various rock, blues, and funk bands, and occasionally as a classical soloist. In addition to performing, Dennis has been a middle school music teacher in the Bronx for the past 12 years. While teaching in the Bronx, he was given a guitar lab by VH1 Save the Music and a keyboard lab from the radio station Hot97 Hip Hop Symphony. Dennis has been an instructor at the National Guitar Workshop since 1996, where he teaches Blues, Funk, and Rock. Find out more at dennismccumber.com.