Killer Guitar Control Secrets by Claude Johnson © 2005 About this e-book: This is a guide-book that goes with Claude Johnson's instructional video, “Killer Guitar Control Secrets”. If you obtained this e-book any other way except buying the video, please inform as at [email protected] Thank you. TABLE OF CONTENTS ------------------------------Introduction.........................................................................................................................3 Fundamentals......................................................................................................................4 Technique..........................................................................................................................13 Fretboard Knowledge........................................................................................................17 Brain to Hand Connection.................................................................................................25 I improvised, crazed by the music. . . . Even my teeth and eyes burned with fever. Each time I leaped I seemed to touch the sky and when I regained earth it seemed to be mine alone." Legendary Jazz Vocalist Josephine Baker INTRODUCTION Hi. My name is Claude Johnson. Like many of you, I am passionate about guitar playing. I fell completely in love with the guitar after being influenced by people like Jimi Hendrix, Eric Clapton, and Carlos Santana. I could name many more incredible heroes who inspire me to play. And of course... I want to be able to play (in my own style) like they can! Or at least as close as I can to that level of control and expression. B.B. King says he sings, and then he makes Lucille (his guitar) sing. Thats what great playing is to me – singing on the guitar. Most or many guitarists do not achieve any real control over the instrument from an improvisational standpoint. Even guitarists with chops. And really, the guitar is not about chops. Chops , (or technical ability) are only useful if the control is there to guide it. Think about that. Listen to Clapton's solos in White Room. Simply amazing, yet hardly technical. But I haven't seen too much written about how to get control like those guys. Guitar has become more technical over the years, for sure. But more technical doesn't mean better. I have spend most of guitar playing years trying to figure out how to gain control over the guitar. I'd like to share what I've discovered with you in my my video. So cue up your DVD player, grab your guitar, and have let's have fun! Or if you want, just grab your guitar and follow the booklet. FUNDAMENTALS THE IMPORTANCE OF HAVING GOOD TONE You can't play killer guitar with a crappy tone. Fortunately, getting a good tone doesn't have to be expensive. By tone, I mean the actual sound of the guitar. For rock and blues, I enjoy a nice sustaining, creamy, distorted sound. I love Fender amps that have good distortion. I have always loved the sound of the Fender Stratocaster. The tone of Jimi, SRV, Clapton....oh man oh man... And I although I do own a few Strats, I've always found it challenging to get a good tone out of them. In fact, I've found it challenging in general to get a good tone out of a single coil pickup. So often I'll just play on a guitar with humbuckers, like my Ibanez Jem, or in the video, my Washburn X series that only cost $200. The pickups are very nice for the money. With a good distortion sound from a $100 fender champ, I had a pretty decent tone for only $300. In the video I also use a DigiTech GNX1, which has it's own killer distortion and many effects. I use a wah effect which can make for a really intense lead guitar sound. The wah pedal adds another dimension of expression. In addition to pitch, you now also can control equalization (bass vs treble) through every note. Eddie Van Halen once said that if you have a great amp, the guitar seems to play itself. The point is, good tone will inspire you to play beautiful music. Bad tone will have a negative effect in terms of enjoyment, motivation, and progress in your music. Change your strings often. Just do it. Not only will this improve your tone, it will motivate you to practice more. THE PENTATONIC SCALE The Pentatonic scale is so common and important in rock and blues, even though occasionally it gets a bad name for being too rudimentary. Nonsense! The pentatonic is a fundamental scale and you need to master it! Let's start with an example and then I'll explain it. Here's the A Pentatonic Scale on the guitar: Notice the scale contains the tones A, C, D , E , and G for a total of 5 notes. “Penta” means five. Hence, pentatonic. Also notice the scale starts on the low E string, and the first note to be played is the A. If this seems very basic so far, please bear with me. I'll get to the good stuff after going over the fundamentals :) If you want to make a G pentatonic scale, simply play the same pattern but starting two frets lower, on the 3rd fret G on the low E string. Or move the pattern up the next the 10th fret to play D pentatonic, etc. I call this first pentatonic pattern the “home base”. PLAYING THE PENTATONIC SCALE ALL OVER THE NECK In a way, guitar playing is more complicated than playing the piano. On the piano, the notes are laid out from left to right – one note after another. Just one dimension, physically. But the guitar fretboard is two dimensional. Your hands can travel up and down the neck, plus up and down the strings vertically. On the piano, if we had a scale, we could simply repeat the pattern as we go higher or lower. On the guitar, if we want to play the same notes but higher or lower on the neck, we need new patterns. Let's return to the A pentatontic scale (A, C, D, E, G). The next highest pattern starts on the C note on the low E string. We are still playing two notes per string, still using A,C,D,E, and G. But now the pattern goes like this: Then we start on the D note: ...Then the E note: ...and finally the G note: Note: This last pattern could be moved down to start on the 3rd string G fret, to play below the “home base”. In fact, any pattern, anywhere on the guitar, can be moved up or down 12 frets and it will remain the same except for the octave. PRACTICING WITH THE PENTATONIC SCALE A good exercise is to play some chords, like A, and then play a lick using notes from the pentatonic scale. For example: The challenge is to keep the rhythm while still playing creative licks. MINOR PENTATONIC VS. MAJOR PENTATONIC Let's go back to the A pentatonic scale – A, C, D, E, G. This is actually an A Minor pentatonic scale, although I just usually call it A pentatonic. But we also could play A Major pentatonic – A, B, C#, E, F#. A Major pentatonic contains the same notes as F# minor pentatonic. It is essentially the same scale. So if you move your A minor pentatonic scale back three frets to the F#, you have an F# minor pentatonic, which has all the same notes as A major pentatonic. Major and minor pentatonics often can be combined. For a pure minor key, you would probably just use the minor pentatonic scale. But for a tonal center with a major or Dominant 7 sound, you could use either scale. For example, if you have a vamp in A major, let's say A A G A: Then you could play either A minor or A major pentatonic. THE MAJOR SCALE The major scale is probably the most important scale in music, and most music theory uses the major scale as a frame of reference. The C major scale contains the notes C, D, E, F, G, A, and B, for a total of 7 notes. On the guitar, you'd play it like this: The tones of the major scale are often referred to by their Roman Numeral designations, I , II, III, IV, V, VI, and VII. For example, the fourth note of a C major scale is F. So, a “I- IV” progression in the key of C simply means C to F. By the way, keep in mind that every major scale (whether its Eb, F#, C, whatever) has the same pattern of half-step or whole step intervals between each note. A half-step (also called a semitone) is one fret. So, a whole-step is two frets. For example, C to D is a whole step. Only (B to C ) and ( E to F) a half step between notes. Everything else is a whole step apart. (A to B , C to D, D to E, F to G, G to A). So for a major scale it is: Whole step, Whole Step, Half Step, Whole Step, Whole Step, Whole Step, Half Step. C => D D=> E E=> F F=> G G=> A A=> B B=>C Whole Step Whole Step Half Step Whole Step Whole Step Whole Step Half Step Also consider that every scale, such as the pentatonic scale, has a specific intervallic structure that doesn't change based on the key. This, combined with the layout of the guitar, means you can simply move up or down the neck some number of frets, play the same thing, and unless open strings are involved, it will sound the same, but in a different key. In this way, the guitar is easier than other instruments. THE MINOR SCALE AND THE MODES Remember how we saw that F# minor pentatonic contains the same notes as A major pentatonic? We could say that one scale is an inversion of the other. That is, they contain the same notes, but start in different places. The same principle applies to the major scale. The minor scale is simply an inversion of the major scale. For example, C major contains the same notes as A minor. The rule is you can take the root of a major scale (e.g. C) and move it down three frets (A) to start a minor scale that is the relative minor of that major scale. So A minor, which contains A , B, C , D , E, F, and G, is just an inversion of C major (C D E F G A B). This is different, than, say E major, which contains E , F#, G#, A, B, C# , D#. You might have hear of the various modes like Dorian, Lydian, Mixolydian, etc. These too are various inversions of the major scale. You do not need to be too concerned about any of these! If you simply learn the major scale, you are learning all of these scales at the same time. Want to play D mixolydian? Simply play the notes in G major. The bottom line is that if you learn the major scale, the rest of the inversions (minor scale and modes) will be learned automatically. There are other scales that are useful, such as the harmonic minor scale, but we will not go into those. For now, the only scales you really need are the pentatonic scale and the major scale. Just as we saw how to play the pentatonic scale all over the neck, we need to learn the other patterns for the major scale. I gave you the first one above. Here are the others: Use the same fingering for these scales... For example, this last example, which is the A minor scale, you'd use fingers 1, 3, and 4 (pinky) for the first three notes. The last 6 notes would be played with fingers 1, 2, 4, 1 , 3, 4. Always use the same fingering and try to stay away from learning variations on fretboard placement and fingering for these scales. That way, you will get used to ONE fingering and positioning, and you'll master it. It is no accident that the average saxophone or piano player is better than the average guitar player. Guitarists simply have too many choices. So, just learn these fingerings here, and forget everything else for now. ALWAYS KEEP IT SIMPLE! Until you have considerable experience, follow these guidelines: – – – – Stick with just one or two styles. Don't learn too many scales Don't practice improvising over too many different progressions. Don't try to learn all keys This way, you will focus just fewer things and take them to a high level of mastery. 12 BAR BLUES Rock grew out of blues, especially lead guitar-wise. Few would argue that the greatest, most influential rock guitarist of all time was Jimi Hendrix, and Jimi was heavy into the blues. So the 12 bar blues progression is an essential progression to master, even if you aren't a blues player. It is like the granddaddy of all chord progressions for rock/blues guitar. The 12 Bar blues can come in many flavors and variations, of course, but most simply is: | I | I | I | I | | IV | IV | I | I | | V | IV | I | V | Notice the roman numerals, one (I), four (IV), five (V). So, for example A blues with all major chords could be A D E A D D A A A A A E Or, it could be with minor chords: Am Am Am Am Dm Dm Am Am Em Dm Am Em Or, Dom7 chords: A7 A7 A7 A7 D7 D7 A7 A7 E7 D7 A7 E7 If you build a triad ( a three note chord) for each note of the scale, you'd get: I – Major Chord II – Minor Chord III – Minor Chord IV – Major Chord V – Major Chord VI – Minor Chord VII – Diminished Chord So it makes sense that the I , IV, V, all in major chords sounds natural. These chords are built by alternating notes on the scale. The I has notes I , III, V. The II has II , IV, VI, etc... USING MAJOR/MINOR PENTATONIC OVER 12 BAR BLUES You can play both A major pentatonic and A minor pentatonic over A D E A D D A A A A A E and A7 A7 A7 A7 D7 D7 A7 A7 E7 D7 A7 E7 It is especially effective to play A Major pentatonic the first four bars, then switch over to A minor pentatonic over the IV. I do that a few times on the video. THE 3 MASTER KEYS TO IMPROVISATION You basically need three things. 1. Technique, - how is your ability to physically play the instrument? 2. Fretboard knowledge – how well do you know the organization and placement of notes? 3. Brain-to-Hand Connection – How is your raw ability to “sing” on the guitar and control the music? TECHNIQUE Technique is fairly straightforward. It just takes a lot of time. I have not put too much time into chops as of yet, because I've been occupied with discovering the secrets to control, but still, chops are important. First, you should practice playing the pentatonic and major scales in all 5 positions, using alternate picking. With alternate picking, the pick is moved DOWN-UP-DOWN-UP-DOWN-UP etc, no matter which strings the notes are on. Hold the pick firmly. There are various schools of thought about which is better- elbow or wrist movement to pick.. I generally suggest using mostly elbow motion to pick, although you can use a tiny bit of wrist motion too. Use a metronome. Be able to play the notes cleanly and accurately before increasing the speed. Proper form and consistency leads to better technique and ultimately, more speed, than trying to play things fast right away. 3 NOTE PER STRING PENTATONICS? Advanced guitar playing sometimes incorporates 3 note per string pentatonics, but since almost no one has mastery with control over 2 note per string pentatonics, I would say to not spend too much time on 3 note per string pentatonics until later. And even then, you might only use it once in a while. On the other hand, if you have loads of extra time to practice technique, then by all means, play these scales too! Here's an example of A pentatonic. ECONOMY PICKING After you have a good foundation with alternate picking, try mixing in economy picking into your playing. With economy picking, you will sometimes pick DOWN-UP, DOWNUP, but sometimes you will pick DOWN DOWN or UP UP, etc... if doing so means moving the pick a lesser distance. For example: FAST PICKING Try picking just one note, and play it consistently at 200 bmp (beats per minute). Then move onto more complicated patterns: SEQUENCES Starting on the first note of any scale, play a certain pattern (like the first 3 notes), then go to the next note of the scale and play the same pattern... This would be a “123” sequence. For example, in A minor pentatonic, you could play... You can play sequences going up or down the scales. Here are a few choice sequences: 123, 121, 1234, 13, 1234543, 12345 STRING SKIPPING Because the guitar is laid out in 2 dimensions, you should take advantage of the fact that you can play some pretty wide intervals without moving around on the fretboard too much. Just jump to a lower or higher string! For example, a note played on the low E string can be played on the same fret on the high E string and it will be two whole octaves higher without hardly moving your hand. But skipping strings can be technically challenging, so you can isolate this skill and practice it. Take a scale, either the pentatonic or major scale. Start with one degree of the scale, such as the root. Play the root, then the second note, Then the root then the third note, root and fourth,etc. You are playing the root before every other degree of the scale. Then play the second note in the scale, alternating with every other note. And so on... Play the same ideas on the major scale.. And also mix it up by playing the pattern descending. TAPPING You can tap the notes on the fretboard with your right hand to play licks that would be difficult or impossible to play with only the left hand. To construct a tapping lick, try to combine parts of the fretboard that are far away. It is easiest to start by playing notes from a scale. Here is a lick in A pentatonic H = left hand hammer on P = left hand pull off T = right hand tap You can also experiment with tapping and octaves. LEARNING THE FRETBOARD Stick with a few keys : E , G, A, B, D. Do not try to learn all 12 scales at once. 1. Memorize notes of Pentatonic Scales: example A pentatonic is A, C, D, E, G 2. Memorizes notes of Major Scales: example C major is C, D, E, F, G, A, B 3. Memorize placement of 5 pentatonic patterns and fragments (2 to 4 notes) of patterns. 4. Memorize which strings are open in these scales 5. Memorize placement of degrees (I, V, VII, etc) inside patterns. 6. Memorize placement of notes on fretboard. Example, quick, what is the note at the 8th fret on G string? (answer: Eb) 7. Memorize placement of octaves 8.Memorize where all As are, D#s are, etc 9. Be able to put your hand anywhere on the fretboard and instantly name the note. DOUBLE STOPS A double stop is a two note chord. Memorize double stops on two adjacent strings, with both major and pentatonic scales. For example take the top two strings of the G pentatonic scale. In addition to playing double stops in the scale, try this example slightly outside the scale: PLAYING 6ths You can also play around with intervals of 6ths off the major scale. Here is just one idea in C major. Trying playing that with sliding the notes around... SEE HOW CHORDS OVERLAP SCALES Greater control can be gained , both for rhythm and lead playing, when you see how the chords overlap with the scales. For example, the open A chord at the 2nd fret fits nicely with the pentatonic pattern like so: Or , In the “home base” pentatonic pattern, you can play like so… You should try to find ways to play scales and chords together everywhere on the neck. MEMORIZING TRIADS A triad is a three note chord. Because of the layout of the guitar, there are many voicings you can choose from. For an A major chord in the middle three strings, you would have: For B minor, say on the top three strings you would have: Start with major and minor for A, B, D, E, G, and then eventually learn all 12 keys. First learn major and minor. Only after learning major and minor triads for all12 keys, then proceed to learning diminished and augmented triads. PLAYING ARPEGGIOS An arpeggio is just a broken chord, or the notes of a chord played separately. It is useful to combine arpeggio shapes with pentatonic scales. LEARNING THE 4 NOTE CHORDS 4 Note chords, like triads, are generally built from the major scale by alternating notes. The “I” triad is essentially 1 -3 – 5 . So in the key of C, you’d have C – E – G, for C major. A 4 note chord would be C – E – G –B. (C Major 7). Building a 4 note chord from each degree of the major scale gives you: I – Maj7 II – Min7 III- Min7 IV- Maj7 V – Dom7 VI – Min7 VII – Min7b5 For example, the key of G major yields Gmaj7, Am7, Bm7, Cmaj7, D7, Em7, F#min7b5. Generally you want to learn chords in bottom 4 strings, middle 4, top 4, and also with just strings E , D, G, B as in the previous example. You will want to learn min7 , maj7, dom7 over the neck also, for example, the Edom7 chord on top four strings. I don't provide all the examples here, but they are easy to find. For example, E7 contains E, G#, B, D. To make the correct chord, just find those four notes anywhere on the neck. Or, simply transpose these patterns here to other octaves/placements on the neck. Note, even though you can move a shape up and down the fretboard, you cannot move a shape up or down the strings because not all the intervals are the same, because the B string is a third up from G, not a fourth like the other strings. So, you will need to adjust the shapes to hit the right notes as you move these chords into the middle 4 strings and lower 4 strings. To make any 7 chord into a minor 7, you simply lower the 3rd and make it a minor third. For example , E7 is E , G#, B, and D. E to G# is a major third interval. Make it a minor third by lowering the G# to a G. Then simply find the G# in the chord and lower it to a G. In the first example, the G# is on the high E string, so that would get moved back to a G on the third fret here. To make any 7 chord into a major 7, you would raise the 7th to a major 7th. So E , G# , B, D, would become E , G#, B , D#. The same principle applies here. THE BLUE NOTE The “blue note” or flat five, is a great way to supplement the minor pentatonic scale and is very common in rock and blues. In the key of A minor pentatonic, (A , C , D, E, G), the blue note would be Eb. A descending lick... another lick... Here's an example from the higher octave: THE IIIm – Imaj – II-maj PROGRESSION This is an inspiring progression. For example, Bm G A. You can easily combine rhythm and lead by working the bar chords with melody notes on top string... Instead of playing a B on the top string, play a C# or D with the other notes the same. When soloing over this (any many) progressions, try combining the pentatonic minor scale with the regular minor scale. For example, if you are playing in B minor pentatonic, you can also play B minor, which has the same notes as D major. Can you see how the shapes overlap? In the video, I use a technique called palm muting where the right hand picking hand slightly muffles the strings to give a sharp, staccato sound. I also use a musical device known as “call and response”. Music is like a conversation. Playing a solo is like telling a story. When you use call and respond, you can make it seem like your guitar is talking to yourself. You can play one phrase, almost like the guitar is talking... then play another phrase to answer it. This technique can be enhanced by changing the sound of your guitar for each answer or call/response. This makes it sound more like a musical “dialog”. Some of my favorite ways to do this include 1) using the wah pedal...Play a line with the wah pedal down, then play a line with it up. 2) using octaves... Simply move up 12 frets and play a similar lick. 3) Change the pickup setting on your guitar (not shown in video). 4) go from clean to dirty sound... THE I – VI – II- V PROGRESSION We saw how to build a 4 note chord and what the 4 note chords are for the major scale. So, a I VI II V progression in the key of G major would be: Gmaj7 Emin7 Amin7 D7 This is a great progression to practice playing the major scale (and the modes). Also, you can and should learn the arpeggios for the four chords of the progression, within each position on the neck. For example, in the first major scale position, you can play the Gmaj7 arpeggio like so: I would recommend practicing as follows: Improvise freely over the progression, but when the Gmaj7 chord comes up, make sure to play notes from it using the arpeggio. Then do the same thing but make sure to hit the notes of the Emin7, etc... do the same with all 4 chords. Then, you want to repeat this exercise but don't just play the arpeggio.. Try playing: Up the arpeggio, then down the scale. Down the arpeggio, then up the scale. Up the scale, then down the arpeggio. Down the scale, then up the arpeggio. Finally, you can try playing the pentatonic scale over I- VI- II -V. Instead of playing G major, you can play E minor pentatonic, since E is the relative minor of G. THE BRAIN TO HAND CONNECTION The brain to hand connection is what I call the elusive factor that is responsible for raw control. One major reason it is difficult to achieve, is that there is no way for our fingers to find pitches as easily as vocal chords can. DEVELOP PERFECT PITCH To remedy this, you must develop the skill of absolute pitch, or “perfect” pitch. This is an entire study in of itself. Please see www.guitarcontrol.com/perfectpitch.html With perfect pitch, when you hear a note in your head, you can identify whether that note is an A, B, an F, or whatever. Then your hand can go right to the note. Buy a pitch pipe and carry it around with you. This could be the biggest secret to gaining super control over your playing. SING WHAT YOU PLAY Another aspect of developing the brain to hand connection is using the technique of singing what you play. If “singing on the guitar” is your goal, then you must sing first, from the heart... and let your fingers follow. Usually the opposite happens, we just play from our fingers whatever we are used to playing and our ear tries to follow our hand. I like to think of playing from the mouth, not the hand. RIGHT BRAIN VS LEFT BRAIN Everything , all music, starts in the brain. That's why it's important to get in the right frame of mind for improvising. We have a two-part brain. Our left brain mostly handles tasks like logic, math, language. Our right brain is more associated with emotion and creativity. Improvising is a highly right-brained activity. It is important to get “in the zone”, in that right brained frame of mind... At it's best, its almost like a trance, where you are just absorbed and lost in the music. Interestingly, it's our right brain that is more in control of the left side of the body, while the left brain controls the right side of the body. So the left side of the body, which includes the fretting hand, is in touch with the right brain. The picking hand is less in touch. Fortunately, the picking hand has less to do than the fretting hand. SEPERATE THE LEFT AND RIGHT HANDS Try improvising just with the left hand. Sing the notes that you play, and do not worry about picking the notes. Just make sure your left hand is in the right position. If you use a lot of distortion, you may be able to hear a lot of the notes simply by pressing the strings. Practicing in this way doesn't necessarily sound good, but it improves your playing undeniably. Watch the video for a demonstration. Also, try improvising by singing the notes you play, and pick the rhythm with the right hand. You will want to compare yourself singing riffs with singing plus the right hand action. The goal is to feel as free even when multitasking in this way. USING RHYTHMIC DIVISIONS Everything you play has a rhythm. But most people don't pay too much attention to the rhythm pattern of their leads while improvising. When you are actually playing or performing, you should forget about everything and just play from the heart. But during practice, you can pay more attention to the rhythmic division of the notes. This is a great exercise to develop control. For example, you can start out playing just quarter notes. Then you can throw in half notes and eighth notes. Try quarter and eighth notes Also try quarter, half, and eighth notes. Then, you might try doing this exercise in a strict fashion, and then letting loose every now and then to go for more feel. USING THE “IN AND OUT” CONCEPT While you are singing what you are playing, you can focus more on the singing, even though you might not be hitting all the notes. This is letting your playing “fade out”... Then you can come “back in” and play guitar. Then stop, lay back,and sing from the heart, even if your playing fades out. By going back and forth like this, you increase control. NAILING THE FIRST NOTE OF A PHRASE The first note of a musical phrase is often the most difficult because we have less of a frame of reference, pitch wise. So practice just nailing that first note. Another exercise, is to forget playing the first note and just sing it, and then play the rest of the phrase. This exercise develops trust in yourself to flow with the notes. ADDITIONAL TIPS 1. Record yourself. Get a cheap tape recorder at the very least and record yourself playing. Then listen. This can be fun, motivating, and can also help you recognize weak points. 2. Break up your practice time. Playing an hour in the morning and an hour in the evening is more effective than playing for 2 hours straight. 3. Be consistent. So much of this comes down to discipline. Get a notebook and starting making a log of your practice sessions. 4. Get inspired, master thyself, and you will master the guitar. CONCLUSION Guitar control is not that complicated when you break it down. Simply work on 1) Technique, 2) Fretboard knowledge, and 3) The brain to hand connection, and you will someday be a guitar control master! Have fun and keep playing!
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