Of course not. But he sure makes it sound good.
- Learn how to tweak the minor pentatonic scale to create a jazzier sound for the blues.
- Dramatically increase your soloing vocabulary.
- Dive deep into Robben Ford’s unique style.
Often the first scale many blues and rock guitarists learn is the minor pentatonic, so adjusting one note to create a new sound is fairly easy. The RF scale has the benefit of jazzing up the blues a little, yet it’s still very familiar and firmly rooted in the style. All examples for this lesson will be in the key of A.
Ex. 1 shows the five main positions of the scale as fretboard diagrams, and also in music notation and tab. It is critical to become familiar with this material before proceeding further. I’d suggest starting with position 1 and running the scale many times until you can play it without any thought, in as many ways as possible. Once you’re comfortable with position 1, move on to position 2, then 3, etc.
Now we need to hear how the scale works in context. In Ex. 2 you can see (and hear) how the RF scale sounds over the I chord (A7) of our A blues, and has the effect of implying an A13#9.
One of the benefits of using the RF scale instead of the regular minor pentatonic or blues scale is that it sounds “more correct” on the IV chord. Remember, we’re playing blues in the key of A, so the IV is D7. In this context, the RF contains the 3 (F#), b7 (C), and 9 (E), which implies a D9 sound. The chord’s 3 is critical to defining its sound. The standard minor pentatonic has the 4 of the chord and therefore implies a need to resolve. In Ex. 3 you can hear how these notes line up over a D7 chord.
Ex. 4 shows the sound of the RF scale on the V chord, which in this case is E7. Over this chord, the notes function as the 11, #5, b7, root, and 9, and this implies a E9#5 sound. It’s interesting to hear how the 11 works well over the V chord. That’s because the V always wants to resolve, typically to the I chord.
Ex. 5 is a 12-bar blues progression in the key of A with typical changes. The brackets show the chord changes that would be implied when using the RF scale over this chord progression. Note, while the implied chords lean toward jazz, they don’t tip too far in that direction, and this keeps the sound still firmly rooted in the blues. This is a key element of Robben Ford’s playing.
If the theory is starting to sound a little too heavy, don’t worry—the principal is simple: Take the A minor pentatonic scale and replace every G with an F#. Boom, you have this new hip sound which is very usable.
Our first phrase in Ex. 6 starts off with a swinging Am6 arpeggio (A–C–E–F#) before moving into a bluesy bend of the 3 and then resolving to the root. Notice how many chord tones are on strong beats. Even when dealing with extended harmonies, it’s always good to reinforce the essential sound of the chord.
We focus on the IV chord (D7) for the lick in Ex. 7. The addition of the F# to the scale is really the key here. Again, aim for the chord tones on the strong beats and you can’t really go wrong.
In Ex. 8 the harmony moves from the V (E7) to the IV (D7). The slight differences in the pattern from measure one to measure two are emphasized by the rolling triplets. This is a great way to build tension before the release back to the tonic (A7) in the final measure.
There’s plenty of space in the first measure of Ex. 9. Leaving space is an essential element of blues phrasing, and listening to such giants as B.B. King and Albert King will give you plenty of inspiration for when to lay out. The quarter-step bends in the second measure will require some practice to get just right. Aim for a sassy feel that’s slightly out of tune, but in control.
The next lick in Ex. 10 works great in measures five through eight of a 12-bar blues. After establishing a simple motif in the first measure, the second measure alters it just enough to keep the listener engaged. Such motivic development happens all the time in blues solos, so keep an ear out for it.
Finally, Ex. 11 is a lick that would work great as a cadenza at the end of a tune. The rhythmic idea of triplets should almost always be felt in any swing-style phrase. Here, I use a pattern similar to Ex. 8 to descend to the root.
So, there you have it—a new sound with minimal effort. Isn’t that the best way to learn? Take something you already know and expand it to create new material. Next time you’re at a jam session, give this scale a try, as someone will almost always call a blues.
MG-400 houses 2 powerful DSP chips for high-definition White-Box Amp Modeling algorithm (TS/AC-HD) and Core-Image post-effects.
The Nu-X MG-400 is a value-packed modeler akin to his little brother, the MG-300. MG-400 houses 2 powerful DSP chips for high-definition White-Box Amp Modeling algorithm (TS/AC-HD) and Core-Image post-effects. Since releasing the MG-300, people have been blown away by the sound and playability, not to mention the ease-of-use tone tweaking and intuitive interface. And now, the MG-400builds upon the MG-300 feature set moveable signal blocks, extra 12 IR COLLECTION slots, flexible P.L block with MIN & MAX parameter setup, send/return fx loop, abundant SYSTEM MENU, and physical master volume knob, MG-400 is now the best value modeler for the money.
The white-box algorithm offers realistic playability and analog-chaos response. The concept of "Chaos makes the muse" perfectly applies to the analog circuit. When you tweak the knob, it affects itself as well as other parameters. For a linear digital system, the parameter is independent. The white-box algorithm offers real-time feedback, increment-by-increment. Nu-X TS/AC-HD replicates the same playability most guitarists crave in a real tube amplifier.
MG-400 offers 512 samples of IR, you can also load 3rd party IR files through the editor software. The included 25 guitar cab IRs combine 4 classic microphones with 3 mic positions to allow beginners an easy way to jump into the multi-effects experience. Also included are 8 bass cab IRs and 3 acoustic guitar IRs, giving you the ability to play bass on MG-400 or use an electric guitar to simulate acoustic guitar sound.
NUX MG-400 highlights include:
- 2.8” 320*240 color LCD with intuitive UI.
- NG, CMP, EFX, AMP, IR, EQ, MOD, DLY, RVB, P.L | 10 independent moveable signal blocks.
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- 512 samples IR resolution and USER slot with each patch. (additional 12 IR COLLECTION slots).
- Input trim under SYSTEM MENU.
- Scene and Jam functionality.
- 5 output modes with global 3-band EQ for quick tone tweaking.
- USB recording interface, firmware update, QuickTone™ edit software.
NUX MG 400: how it compares vs the MG 300 and the MG 30
Nu-X MG-400 carries a street price of $219.
For more information, please visit nuxefx.com.