Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to learn, understand, and incorporate the musical characteristics found in countless spy-film soundtracks.
- Explore genre-defining elements of spy guitar.
- Learn how to use these elements to create your own spy guitar sounds and songs.
- Discover how musical intuition and music theory can work together to create mystery and suspense.
Although many might suspect that the sound of spy guitar begins in 1962 with the “James Bond Theme,” one must in fact go back to 1958 and Henry Mancini’s equally iconic theme for Peter Gunn.
While “Peter Gunn” begins with a jazzy drum groove, it’s the ominous, half-step-infused guitar riff that dominates the track. On top of the riff, the horns play a melody that contains a sinister b5 movement, half-step grace notes, and ends on an unexpected major 7 leading to tonal ambiguity. Ex. 1 highlights the aforementioned, genre-defining elements—out of context. Ex. 2 puts them all together in a “Peter Gunn” homage.
With the Mancini precedent duly noted, we can move forward to perhaps the most quintessential of the spy guitar themes. Unfortunately, the original theme music is bedeviled by a messy composer credit that has been battled over for years between Monty Norman and John Barry. Regardless of its origins, it was John Barry who went on to compose countless themes and variations for Bond movies over the years and it is Barry I’ll imitate in this lesson. Like Ex. 1, the next few examples in our lesson isolate the Bond melodic and harmonic archetypes.
Ex. 3 is commonly known as a CESH or Chromatic Enhancement of Static Harmony, in which the basic tonality of the chord (in this case, first Em and then Am) stays static while an internal melodic line ascends or descends chromatically.
Ex. 4 features simple melodic motifs that use descending half-steps at the end of each one-measure phrase to create tension and suspense.
And Ex. 5 is a bass-string riff featuring syncopated 16th-notes that descend chromatically.
Ex. 6 combines the aforementioned elements together for a James Bond tribute.
Mission Possible: Odd Meters
Quite frankly, most of the melodic and harmonic concepts found in the spy guitar genre were pioneered by Mancini and Barry, with future composers adding only slight variations. Nevertheless, one of the most notable alterations was Lalo Schifrin’s odd-meter riff in the theme from Mission: Impossible. Schifrin’s 5/4 groove provides an off-kilter feel, adding to the cloak-and-dagger uncertainty created by the previously mentioned chromatics, b5 intervals, harmonic ambiguity, and slippery grace notes. As well as incorporating most of the melodic ideas we’ve already discussed, Ex. 7 highlights the odd meter.
I Spy with My Little …
Ex. 8 is another instance of the myriad derivations built from Mancini and Barry’s music. This time it’s Earle Hagen’s work on “I Spy,” written for the TV program of the same title. Here we’re in 3/4, and, for the first time in this lesson, we have a chord progression—Cm to Abm, rather than a static riff—that ends on the chord you’ve been waiting for ... a Cm(maj7).
I couldn’t resist adding a slightly more contemporary piece to this lesson (just change the drums from jazz to something funkier, electronic, or more rock). Thus, Ex. 9 features all-purpose, suspense-building melodic intensity (half-step movement abounds) in B Phrygian (B–C–D–E–F#–G–A), perfect for all your cliff-hanger exigencies. You can practically hear the safe click at the end.
Up to this point I have specifically avoided mentioning any scales used in the creation of these compositions. This is because the theory behind the so-called “exotic scales” can be needlessly complicated. Essentially, I composed all of the examples using the natural minor scale, aka the Aeolian mode, with a few chromatic notes added for extra tension. Still, I feel duty bound to mention two additional scales, the harmonic minor and double harmonic minor (which is sometimes identified as the Hungarian or Gypsy minor).
Ex. 10 shows these three scales (in two octaves) in succession, demonstrating how each is built off the previous one. Harmonic minor is the natural minor with a major 7, and double harmonic minor is the harmonic minor with a #4. See? Needlessly complicated.
So ignore the theory and simply exploit the half-steps—labeled in Ex. 10—and isolated diminished fifths in Ex. 11. Natural minor has one and two respectively, harmonic minor has two and three, and double harmonic minor three and four. Just make sure they’re shaken, not stirred.
This lesson will self-destruct in 5… 4… 3… 2…
Kick off the holiday season by shopping for the guitar player in your life at Guitar Center! Now through December 24th 2022, save on exclusive instruments, accessories, apparel, and more with hundreds of items at their lowest prices of the year.
We’ve compiled this year’s best deals in the 2022 Holiday Gift Guide presented by Guitar Center.
Looking for a compact, “noiseless” way to plug in and play guitar? Check out the brand-new Gibson Digital Amp, available only in the Gibson App.
The new Gibson App simplifies the learning process and brings guitar playing to life for the current and next generation of guitarists in a modern, comprehensive, and intuitive way. The Gibson App is the place to take your guitar playing to the next level. New to the Gibson App is the Gibson Digital Amp, the ultimate starting amplifier for beginners and a flexible amp on-the-go for intermediate players and pros to get their sound anywhere. The Gibson Digital Amp is an accessible amplifier for both acoustic and electric guitars, and is currently available for Apple/iOS users--an Android version will debut next year.
Use the Gibson Digital Amp’s jamming guide to get started and transform your sound with built-in effects and pedals, jam to backing tracks, or use it in lessons and songs. The Gibson Digital Amp only requires your phone, and wired headphones for the best playing experience, no cables are needed. The amp features 3 acoustic mic presets, 4 electric amp presets, and 6 effects pedals.
The Gibson Digital Amp is the ultimate starting amplifier for beginners and a flexible amp on-the-go for intermediates and pros.
The Gibson App uses a unique two-way, interactive platform to teach guitar students how to do everything from playing their first note to shredding loads of songs. The Gibson App features interactive lessons with thousands of lessons and songs. Learn the songs step-by-step with video tutorials from superstar artists and pro guitarists in the “Gibson App Guide.” The Gibson App also includes the new Digital Amp, a built-in tuner, a metronome, Gibson TV, and new songs are added every week. New Gibson App Guides are added regularly and include Tommy “Spaceman” Thayer’s favorite iconic KISS guitar solos, Richie Faulkner’s (Judas Priest) “Guide to Metal,” Jared James Nichols’ “Guide to Blues,” CELISSE’s “Guide to Songwriting,” and more.
The Gibson App uses “audio augmented reality” to provide dynamic feedback to students as they learn and play. As you pluck a note or strum a chord, the Gibson App listens to your guitar and gives you real-time feedback on your playing. It also gives students a more contextual learning experience: Instead of learning chords and scales in a vacuum, you’re able to practice on a scrolling tablature that lets you hear how you sound with the backing of a virtual band. That means you can load up “Hurt” by Johnny Cash, “Brown Eyed Girl” by Van Morrison, “American Girl" by Tom Petty, “Nothing Else Matters” by Metallica, “Where is My Mind" by Pixies, “Country Roads” by John Denver, “I Hate Myself For Loving You" by Joan Jett, “Heaven” by Kane Brown, “Shape Of You” by Ed Sheeran, “Killer Queen” by Queen,“ Sweet Child O’ Mine,” by Guns ‘N Roses, “Run to the Hills” by Iron Maiden, “Roxanne” by The Police, and “Don’t Stop Believin’” by Journey, “Smells Like Teen Spirit” and “The Man Who Sold the World” by Nirvana, “Are You Gonna Go My Way” by Lenny Kravitz, and “Don't Look Back In Anger” by Oasis and hundreds more songs in a wide range of genres, to see how your play matches up with such seminal tracks.
As you’re playing, the Gibson App gives you feedback on timing and tone, ensuring that students are getting active input on how their play is developing. The Gibson App appeals to players of all levels, it’s not just for beginners looking to learn a few chords; the app can assist seasoned guitarists who are working their way through difficult riffs, want to learn their favorite songs, or polish their advanced techniques.
Players can also challenge themselves by speeding up or slowing the tabs. Like having a full-time guitar teacher, the Gibson App keeps track of all your progress and adjusts lesson plans accordingly. The Gibson App released a “backing track mode” which supports both lesson and song playback without headphones, so users can self-select what works best for their current environment. And that’s not all: the Gibson App also packs in a fully-featured digital tuner for guitar first-timers, there’s even a detailed lesson on how to tune your instrument, a multi-function metronome, players can connect to free one-on-one consultations with Gibson’s Virtual Guitar Tech team, and to direct links to the Gibson, Epiphone, and Kramer online stores for easy shopping for guitars, gear, apparel, and accessories.
Learn Guitar With The Gibson App
The Gibson App is more than a pocket-sized guitar teacher, it’s loaded with an archive of exclusive content and original programming from its premium and accessible award-winning online network, Gibson TV, featuring music icons telling their best guitar stories, with more episodes and installments added regularly. Users can watch Black Sabbath’s Tony Iommi share insights and tales from his decades-long career on the series “Icons,” dive into Joe Bonamassa’s assortment of legendary Les Paul guitars on “The Collection,” or see how Gibson’s iconic instruments are made in their Nashville factory from body to binding on “The Process.” There’s even a series called “The Scene” that focuses on backstage stories from hallowed music venues from coast to coast like The Troubadour and Grand Ole Opry.
The Gibson App free version features a few lessons a day; the premium version of the Gibson App offers full access and a 14-day free trial, then costs $19.99/£16.49 monthly or $119.99/£98.99 yearly.
For more information, please visit gibson.com.
This pickup captures the clear, bell-like single-coil chime of a classic P-90 when played clean and retains the tight mids and articulate low-end vintage growl and smooth sustain saturation when pushed into overdrive.
Belltone Guitars, as part of their Custom-Select System curated offering of pickups, has partnered McNelly pickups to create a one-of-a-kind retro-vibe P-90 pickup in the standard Filtertron size format. This pickup captures the clear, bell-like single-coil chime of a classic P-90 when played clean and retains the tight mids and articulate low-end vintage growl, and smooth sustain saturation when pushed into overdrive.
The McNelly P-90 Foil-Coil comes housed in a ‘raw’ nickel outer casing with a dull nickel foil face with metal mount screw gromets to complete the ‘new-vintage’ aesthetic, making it a perfect choice for your signature Belltone custom build. Available exclusively through Belltone Guitars.
Check out the Custom-Select System belltoneguitars.com to preview the McNelly P-90 Foil-Trons and all our standard and selectable components available to create your own signature Belltone. Then visit the Dream Lab on our website and select either model B-Classic ONE with its top binding or B-Classic TWO with its arm and body contours select your body color from our wide range of offerings, select your neck profile of either standard ‘C’ or thicker ’59 Round Back and either Maple or Rosewood fingerboard followed by your tuners, pickguard, and strings. Finally, review our curated custom-designed, and unique pickup selection to locate the McNelly P-90 Foil-Trons to complete your signature build.
Builds start at just over $2,300.00 with a custom case and shipping included.
For more information, please visit belltoneguitars.com.
McNelly P 90 Foil Tron video Sep27
Belltone P-90 Foil-Tron Pickup
DiMarzio, Inc. announces the Relentless P (DP299), the Relentless J Bridge (DP301), Relentless J Neck (DP300), and the Relentless J Pair (DP302) for 4 string basses.
DiMarzio, Inc. announces the release of the Relentless P (DP299), the Relentless J Bridge (DP301), Relentless J Neck (DP300), and the Relentless J Pair (DP302) for 4 string basses. The new Relentless P and Relentless J series pickups feature the Relentless cover designed in collaboration with Billy Sheehan.
As with the Relentless pickups, we removed all the hard edges from the standard P Bass and standard J Basspickups, and added an arch to the top of the pickups to bring the sensing coils and pole pieces closer to the strings. These improvements increase the dynamic range and make active circuitry unnecessary.
The Relentless P and Relentless J pickups incorporate Neodymium magnets and produce 70 percent more output than traditional passive pickups, and they’re dead quiet due to the incorporation of metal covers and foil-shielded cables. To dial in (or fine-tune) the individual string output, the Relentless P and Relentless J include eight adjustable pole pieces. These pickups also have a broad magnetic field so you can even bend notes without volume dropout.
DiMarzio’s extra shielding makes the Relentless P and Relentless J better for both recording and stage performances. We’ve mounted them onto robust .09375” thick circuit board base plates to eliminate the annoying protruding mounting screws — ultimately creating a more comfortable and consistent foundation to rest your fingers on.
The new Relentless P steps beyond the traditional P-Bass sound and can only be described as massive. It has more of everything: more volume, beefier lows, a growling midrange, and crispy highs with better individual string definition.
The Relentless J incorporates a new invention, (patent pending) parallelogram-shaped coils, offering an expanded mid-range punch, snappy highs, precise lows, and a new dimension to the sound of the Relentless series pickups.
Relentless P and Relentless J pickups will breathe new life into any bass, increase playability, and work well for any style of music from Motown to metal.
DiMarzio’s Relentless P, Relentless J Bridge, Relentless J Neck, and Relentless J pair are made in the U.S.A. and may now be ordered for immediate delivery.
Suggested List Price for the Relentless P is $169.00 (MAP $119.99).
Suggested List Price for the Relentless J Bridge and Relentless J neck is $155.00 (MAP $109.99).
Suggested List Price for the Relentless J Pair is $296.00 (MAP 209.99).
For more information, please visit our website at dimarzio.com.