As we approach Halloween, the power of the skull only increases! A Seattle guitarist makes a guitar for his everyday macabre needs.
“It is not my intention to be fulsome, but I confess that I covet your skull.”
—Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, The Hound of the Baskervilles
Greetings to all my fellow guitar brethren! My name is Cary and I’m a guitar addict. I was bitten and smitten with the “guitar bug” as a kid, and the fascination has remained constant, even getting stronger over time.
Like many, I found I couldn’t stop tinkering about with gear and guitars, trying to personalize and tweak them to my satisfaction. So, in dreaming up my next project (my wife would say scheming up), I thought about various finishes and patterns that might be fun. What could be more iconic and rock ’n’ roll than the ubiquitous image of the skull? I thought of the classic hot rod and motorcycle painting technique of using lace as a template. Why not try it on a guitar body? If only there was a lace material with skulls as the main theme. Luckily, it turns out there is! I set out to give it a go.
“If only there was a lace material with skulls as the main theme. Luckily, it turns out there is! I set out to give it a go.”
An old basswood 2003 Squire ’51 body was my victim. I drilled it to make it string-through, stripped the original finish and rattle-canned on a good coat of primer, and finished in white. Doing first the front (no guts, no glory), then the back, I sprayed black through the lace to create a glorious pattern of skulls. I sealed the pattern in with 20-plus coats of wipe-on poly.
I added a custom Warmoth Tele neck with rosewood fretboard, boatneck carve, 6100 nickel frets, and finished it with wipe-on poly. Doug Shepherd, at Doug’s Custom Neck Plates out of Texas, designed a skull neck plate for me. While waiting for various parts to arrive, I decided the skulls would look sinister if they had eyeballs. I inlaid yellow 3 mm crystal rhinestones into each socket so the guitar could stare down its audience. I selected a skull-approved DiMarzio Super Distortion for the bridge and a Duncan Hot Stack for the neck and kept it simple with a 3-way switch and volume. It sounds downright “skullduggerous” played through a TC Electronic Fangs into a cranked Quilter Aviator Mach 3. My neighbors seem to love it!
While this could be viewed as a Halloween guitar, I think of it more as a skull guitar for your everyday skull guitar needs. As we approach October, the power of the skull only increases!
Rock on all! I will keep an eye out for you. In guitars we trust.
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A session man’s take on the sound of a great tube amp—without the glowing glass.
Wickedly great EQ controls. A very musical range of overdrive tones.
Tight control can be a bit too subtle.
The Tilt is a new collaboration between Revv and session ace Shawn Tubbs that combines a robust medium-gain overdrive with a nuanced clean boost. Around Nashville, Tubbs has a reputation for burning lead lines and immaculately crafted tones. Designed to emulate the feel and response of a cranked single-channel amp, the Tilt absolutely nails the mission at hand. The overdrive circuit is based on LED clipping and features a rather simple control setup with volume, gain, bass, and treble. On the other side you have a 12 dB clean boost with two rather interesting controls: tilteq and a three-way tight toggle switch.
I tested the Tilt with my HSS Fender Stratocaster and a T-style Schroeder Chopper TL into a clean Fender Hot Rod Deluxe. Starting with the overdrive, I was quite impressed with how accurate and clear the EQ controls were. There were useful settings throughout the different frequency ranges. The drive was softer in the midrange than I was expecting but allowed for richer harmonics as I moved through different pickup positions. Not surprisingly, the sound of a dirty, cranked Princeton came to mind as I was exploring the width of the gain control. Mike Campbell tones for days.
It’s not likely that anyone would mistake the Tilt for a high-gain monster, but with the gain cranked it does an admiral job of emulating Marshall-style tones—especially when you kick in the boost. The standout feature on the boost side is the tilteq, which simultaneously affects the lows and highs depending on which direction you turn it. My setup with the Schroeder was a bit bright, so I was able to surgically slice out some high end with ease with both the EQ and toggle switch, which affects the overall voicing of the boost. While none of us will get the exact same tone that Tubbs is famous for, the Tilt can shine a brighter light on the best parts of what you sound like.
- Collaboration between session/stage/YouTube guitarist extraordinaire Shawn Tubbs and Revv found Dan Trudeau
- Exceptionally natural amp-like OD tones that are highly responsive to your playing
- 2-band drive EQ and tilt boost EQ for exceptional tone shaping capabilities
- 3-position tight switch to cut out the mud on higher boost settings
- Road-worthy construction, with a blue sparkle finish and custom Shawn Tubbs graphic
- Top-mounted 1/4-inch inputs to save room on your pedalboard
What happens when you mix major, minor, and the blues?
- Develop a better understanding of the blues scale.
- Create lines that move between major and minor.
- Understand the intervallic makeup of various scales.
What is a Parallel Blues Scale?
It’s simpler than you think. When you have a major and minor scale that shares the same root it creates a parallel relationship between them. Whether you’re integrating the two scales within the same phrase, or playing one right after the other, this approach will allow you to “say” more than if you only used one scale.
Each scale, chord, and arpeggio can be boiled down to a numerical formula that tells you how to alter a major scale to get a specific sound. A major blues scale formula is 1–2–b3–3–5–6. You could also think of this as a major pentatonic scale with a b3.
The minor version of the blues scale is 1–b3–4–b5–5–b7. Here, we are taking our standard minor pentatonic shape and adding a b5.
Here’s the General Rule
When the key is major, we can use major and minor blues scales based off the same root. For example, over a G7 chord we could bust out both the G major blues scale (G–A–Bb–B–D–E) and the G minor blues scale (G–Bb–C–Db–D–F).
As a guitarist, it’s imperative to know both forms intimately. If you listen to the greats such as Jeff Beck, Jimmy Page, Eric Clapton, Pat Martino, George Benson, or Grant Green, you’ll hear that they weave in and out of both tonalities seamlessly.
The Parallel Approach
In Ex. 1 I outline both scales starting with the major and then the minor. Let’s break this down a bit more. Both scales share three common notes (G, Bb, and D). That leaves six notes that are unique to each scale. The 2, 3, and 6 really solidify the sound of a major tonality. On the other hand, the b5 and b7 are defining notes in the minor blues scale. These notes are what shapes the music that is built upon these scales.
The following examples use only major and minor blues scales, unadorned with outside notes or other scales, played over G7. As you’ll see, with good phrasing and rhythm there’s a lot you can do with just the two scales. In Ex. 2 I start nice and easy with a major-sounding blues run. Even by staying entirely within the scale you can take liberties and emphasize colorful chord tones on strong beats. For example, I kick it off with the 9 (A) on beat 1. In the next measure I start on the 13 (E) before drilling that b3–2 sound on beat 2.
Ex. 3 contains a fragment of the minor blues scale. I’ve been working on playing repeated four-note patterns through different rhythmic ideas. Here, I’m doing a four-note shape through sextuplets, or 16th-note triplets. As you work up the speed it can become very shreddy.
Next, let’s look at how you can blend the scales together. In Ex. 4 I primarily use the minor version, but a few notes from the major blues scale creep in, notably A and E. It definitely gives the line a Dorian vibe.
Just playing endless eighth- or 16th-notes can be tiresome, so adding more interest in the phrasing helps a lot. Ex. 5 starts in major but descends the minor pattern. Plus, the syncopation and rhythm make it pop a bit more.
There’s still a place for chromaticism—when used right.In Ex. 6 chromatic elements of both scales are combined so much that the tonality is a bit obscured. You can totally hear the blurred line between major and minor here.
Ex. 7 is a sweet country-style lick. This example sounds major overall, but there are colors of the minor blues scale with the addition of F and Db.
You can cover quite a bit of ground with Ex. 8. The line begins with an ascending major blues scale run, followed by hybrid chromatic notes within the quintuplets. The chromatic elements of both scales combined add color and again obscures the tonality, making for an exciting line!
Ex. 9 begins in major, then switches to minor on beat 2. Notice the extended chromatic line which is a popular melodic blues phrase. It starts from the b3 and moves chromatically up to the 5.
Our final example (Ex. 10) starts with a major blues idea followed by minor blues phrase with the entrance of the quintuplets. The opening chromatic line, sweeps, and the quintuplets make it pretty challenging.
It’s imperative to have the blues scales in your arsenal, both intellectually and technically. As guitarists, we keep adding new concepts to material we already know. The saying rings true: “What’s old is new again.” Until next time, happy shredding and enjoy the journey!