Eric Gales’ Nasty Chord Substitutions
- Break down what makes Eric’s approach so unique.
- Learn Hendrix’s “Little Wing” from a whole new perspective.
- Pick up some new muscle memory on unusual chord shapes.
Eric Gales’ method of playing a right-handed guitar left-handed and upside down gives him a sound that’s distinctively his. If you watch videos of him playing, you’ll notice he plays with his thumb wrapped around the top of the neck, like Jimi Hendrix or John Mayer. However, since his guitar strings are flipped upside down, his thumb is fretting what would be the first string to most people. This not only puts your brain in a whirl when trying to steal licks, but it also opens the door for some truly unique chord voicings. Gales, who fuses blues, rock, and classical together, constantly manages to play some truly otherworldly licks and passages.
Gales’ speed and cleanliness are his bread and butter, but what sticks out to me in his playing are those chord voicings and substitutions he uses masterfully in his approach. He is one of the best at spicing up standard shapes. In this lesson we’re going to dig into Gales’ interpretation of Jimi Hendrix’s “Little Wing,” using a pair of different live clips to showcase how he tends to mix up his chordal choices from performance to performance.
“I remember on this last tour me and Myles [Kennedy] were on the bus looking up stuff and we ran into some Eric Gales clips and we were just like, ‘This guy could be the best player on Earth.’” - Mark Tremonti
In Ex. 1, we’re checking out Gales’ performance from the 2019 Keeping the Blues Alive Cruise. When he kicks off the “Little Wing’’ intro, every note is the same as what Jimi Hendrix originally played. It’s worth noting that Gales also typically tunes down a half-step. It’s a straight-up cover, that is, until Eric does his “thing” when going from the IIm to VIm chords in the progression.
Eric Gales - Little Wing - Sail Away Show - KTBA Cruise 2019
At 0:26 in the video Eric uses a diminished triad to work his way up the fretboard, resolving on a Bm7 triad for just an eighth-note before moving to the Em7. His use of the open third string in the Em7 chord provides a nice jangle.
At approximately 0:35 in the song, Gales uses (with a tasteful hammer-on embellishment) a Bbm9(11) and Bbm11 to descend to the IIm chord. He then gives an Am9(11) chord the same embellishment and voicing jump with an Am11. To end this phrase, Gales resolves an F6(9) to an Em11(b13), as shown in Ex. 2.
The last nugget we’ll look at from this specific performance is pretty simple: a single F6(9) chord around the 0:51 mark. Shown in Ex. 3, Gales works this chord into his arrangement to build tension and grab your ear before beginning the verse of the song. As with the other examples, the notes being played are not difficult. It’s the application, however, that gets the listener’s attention. If you’re at all familiar with “Little Wing,” you’ll see that this chord comes out of nowhere in his arrangement.
The next two examples are from a seminar that Gales did at the University of North Carolina–Greensboro Center for Creative Writing in the Arts. It’s clear that Gales is going a little out on this interpretation, and he is also tuned to E standard.
Eric Gales "Little Wing"
In Ex. 4 we’re looking at the same part of the intro as Ex. 1 (around the 0:22 mark), but Eric has a much different approach. He arpeggiates an Ebmaj7(#11) and uses a hammer-on to turn it into an Ebmaj7(#5). He then uses a pull-off to return to an Ebmaj7(#11). To complete the phrase, Eric uses a hammer-on to switch between an E7sus and an E9sus three times.
The last example (Ex. 5) is a real finger twister. At 0:29 he plays an insanely tasteful Bm9 voicing and descends to a Bbm9 before continuing to an Am9. If you listen close, Gales is sprinkling in an open first string. Because he is playing a right-handed guitar upside down, he can add that extra open string to the chord voicings. If you play a guitar that is not flipped upside down, you logistically won’t be able to add that open string.
Eric Gales is a completely underrated guitarist in my book. Nobody else sounds like him, and it’s refreshing to hear someone truly being different in the guitar community. You could spend countless amounts of hours picking out the licks and passages he plays. Unless you’re learning cover tunes note-for-note for a gig, try stretching your creativity in the way that Eric does. Now that you’ve seen how an old standard such as “Little Wing” can be dressed up with this chord voicing and substitution approach, run with the idea and see what you can create.
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Holiday Gear Finds 2022
Looking for more great gear for the guitar player in your life (yourself included!)? Check out this year's Holiday Gear Finds!
Gibson Les Paul Standard 50s Faded
SE Standard 24-08
MONO FlyBy Ultra Backpack
JBL 3 Series Studio Monitors
Guitar Tech Screwdriver Set
Xvive U2, U3 and U4 Wireless Systems
Elixir® Strings Acoustic Phosphor Bronze with NANOWEB® Coating
Elephant Foot Risers and Frames
D'Addario XPND Pedalboard
Caparison Horus-WB-FX MF
The Woman Tone
Templo Devices Holiday Specials
Taylors Guitars GS Mini
DR-05X Stereo Handheld Recorder
Sennheiser MD 421
Orangewood Guitars Oliver Jr.
Marshall CODE 50 Digital Combo Amp
Line 6 Catalyst 100
LR Baggs Venue DI
Kali Audio LP-6 V2
Eventide H90 Harmonizer®
Wilkinson R Series Trev Wilkinson Signature Pickups
Hercules Stands Five-Piece Guitar Rack with Two Free Expansion Packs
ISP Hum Extractor Pedal
LAVA ME 3
Gator Cases Transit Guitar Gig Bags
DeLoach Guitars DL-225
Wampler Pedals Ratsbane
LegendaryTones Announces the Mr. Scary Mod
Created in collaboration with legendary guitarist George Lynch of Dokken and Lynch Mob fame, the Mr.Scary Mod adds an adjustable tube gain stage and an onboard Deep control, which together are designed to enable an amp to have increased sustain while still retaining note definition and dynamics.
LegendaryTones, LLC today announced production availability of its new Mr. Scary Mod, a 100% pure tube module designed to instantly and easily expand the capabilities of many classic amplifiers with additional gain and tone shaping. Created in collaboration with legendary guitarist George Lynch of Dokken and Lynch Mob fame, the Mr.Scary Mod adds an adjustable tube gain stage and an onboard Deep control, which together are designed to enable an amp to have increased sustain while still retaining note definition and dynamics.
Originally released as the Lynch Mod in February 2021, the updated Mr. Scary Mod features the same core circuit as the Lynch Mod but is now equipped with a revised tube mix combo per George’s preference as well as a facelift in a newly redesigned electro-galvanized steel enclosure. As with the Lynch Mod, each run will be limited and the first run in Pumpkin Orange with Black hardware is limited to just 150 pieces worldwide.
The Mr. Scary Mod adds an adjustable tube gain stage on top of the cathode follower position, keeping note definition and articulation while further increasing sustain. Each Mr. Scary mod is meticulously built by hand in the USA, one at a time, and tuned using high-grade components. Equipped with a single ECC81 (12AT7) in the first position and ECC83 (12AX7) in the second, the Mr. Scary Mod can clean up beautifully when rolling down your guitar’s volume, and still adds scorching gain when you roll it back up. This is a gain stage that’s been tuned and approved by the ears of the maestro George Lynch himself.
“The Mr. Scary Mod excels with dynamics and is incredibly touch-responsive, allowing me to shift from playing clear, lightly compressed cleans to full-out aggressive sustain and distortion –and control it all simply by varying my guitar’s volume control and picking,” said GeorgeLynch. “In many ways, it’s an old-school approach, but it’s also so much more natural and expressive in addition to being musically fulfilling when you can play both the guitar and amp dynamically together this way.”
The Mr. Scary Mod installs in minutes, is safe and effective to use, and requires no special tools or re-biasing of the amplifier. Simply insert the module into the cathode follower preamp position of compatible amplifiers (includes Marshall 2203/2204/1959/1987 circuits) and
immediately get the benefit of enjoying a hot-rodded amp that delivers all the pure harmonic character that comes with an added pure tube gain stage. The handmade in the USA Mr. Scary Mod is now available to order for $319.
For more information, please visit legendarytones.com.
October Audio Unveils Mini Version of NVMBR Gain Pedal
October Audio has miniaturized their NVMBR Gain pedal to create two mini versions of this beautifully organic-sounding circuit – including an always-on gain device.
The NVMBR Gain is a nonlinear amp that transitions gracefully from clean boost to overdriven tones. Volume increases from just over unity to about 10db before soft-clipping drive appears for another 5db of boost. Its extraordinary ease of use is matched by outstanding versatility: you can use it as a clean boost, push a stubborn amp into overdrive or create a just-breaking-up sound at any amp volume.
October Audio’s new family of mini NVMBR Gain pedals includes a switchable version that allows you to bypass the effect: one option features brand logo pedal graphics, while the other sports a fun “Witch Finger” graphic with a Davies knob as the“fingernail”.
The second version in the new lineup is an always-on device featuring the Witch Finger graphic and Davies knob, with the same NVMBR Gain circuit that lies at the core of the switchable version.
- Knob controls gain and clipping simultaneously
- Stunning silver hammertone finish
- Switchable versions are true-bypass, available with classic or witch finger graphics
- Authentic Davies knobs, including the “fingernail”
- 9V center negative power supply required
- Dimensions: 3.63 x 1.50 x 1.88 in
Witch Finger (always on NVMBR Gain) demo
All October Audio pedals are assembled in Richmond, VA, and available for purchase directly through the online shop. Street price is $109 for NVMBR Gain footswitch versions and $89 for the always-on device.
For more information, please visit octoberaudio.com.