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- 01/30/15--12:38: _Acoustic Nation wit...
- 01/30/15--12:41: _Frontal Assault: Th...
- 01/30/15--13:12: _Blackberry Smoke's ...
- 01/30/15--13:36: _Dear Guitar Hero: R...
- 01/30/15--14:06: _UFO Release Trailer...
- 01/30/15--14:21: _Slipknot Premiere "...
- 02/02/15--08:43: _Guitarist Plays 'Su...
- 02/02/15--09:10: _Guitarist Yana Muly...
- 02/02/15--10:05: _March 2015 Guitar W...
- 02/02/15--10:35: _The Guitarist's Gui...
- 02/02/15--12:25: _The DIY Musician: T...
- 02/02/15--12:47: _Electro-Harmonix In...
- 02/02/15--14:01: _Periphery's Mark Ho...
- 02/02/15--19:26: _International Guita...
- 02/03/15--10:37: _Review: TC Electron...
- 02/03/15--10:40: _Guitar Chalk Sessio...
- 02/03/15--10:41: _Bent Out of Shape: ...
- 02/03/15--11:04: _Man of Steel with S...
- 02/03/15--12:00: _Rob Scallon Cuts Of...
- 02/03/15--12:38: _Review: TC-Helicon ...
- 01/30/15--12:41: Frontal Assault: The Top 10 Guitar-Playing Frontmen in Rock
- 01/30/15--14:06: UFO Release Trailer for New Album, 'A Conspiracy of Stars'— Video
- 01/30/15--14:21: Slipknot Premiere "Custer" (Live) on Facebook — Video
- 02/02/15--09:10: Guitarist Yana Mulyana Plays Yngwie Malmsteen's "Brothers"— Video
- 02/02/15--12:25: The DIY Musician: The Meanest Guitar Tone of the 1950s
- 02/02/15--12:47: Electro-Harmonix Introduces Octavix Pedal — Demo Video
- 02/03/15--10:37: Review: TC Electronic Mini Pedals — Video
- 02/03/15--12:38: Review: TC-Helicon VoiceLive 3 Pedal — Video
These videos and audio files are bonus content related to the March 2015 issue of Guitar World. For the full range of interviews, features, tabs and more, pick up the new issue on newsstands now or at the Guitar World Online Store.
Born Steven Demetre Georgiou, Cat Stevens rose to fame in the early Seventies with an impassioned and groovy folk-rock sound that put him in step with singer-songwriter legends like James Taylor, Carole King and Van Morrison.
In 1977, a near-drowning experience—coinciding with his receiving a copy of the Koran—prompted Cat to convert to Islam, change his name to Yusuf Islam and retire from the music business.
Stevens resumed his music career in the Nineties, and today he’s back on the prowl, touring the U.S. for the first time since 1978 and armed with a new record, the Rick Rubin–produced Tell ’Em I’m Gone, featuring Richard Thompson and harmonica ace Charlie Musselwhite, among others.
In this lesson, we’ll look at a few of Cat’s classics—acoustic “chord-based” gems, ripe with internal moving voices, ornaments and strums—all of which he performs to this day.
Even though Metallica's James Hetfield makes it look all too easy, there are countless guitarists who find it challenging to sing while doing anything on the guitar — besides strumming.
Some players (myself included) even get bent out of shape when they're asked to provide the simplest of vocal harmonies while playing solos or semi-challenging riffs.
Which is why Guitar World has decided to honor the 10 worthy guitarists/singers named below. We feel they are — or were, since we're honoring some artists who have passed away — 10 of the best (if not undoubtedly the best) guitar-playing frontmen in rock history.
The criteria is simple: They must have outstanding voices — either technically impressive or pleasingly "warm," unique or offbeat — and a heapin' helpin' of distinctive six-string badassery. Of course, since we're talking about frontmen, they also need a touch of charisma, maybe a spot of quirkiness and/or what is commonly called "stage presence."
Note that, while we don't like to exclude such players as Pink Floyd's David Gilmour, this is a list of guitarists who don't/didn't share the frontman spotlight with anyone in the band. This is also why you won't find the Beatles' John Lennon or Paul "guitarist before he was a bassist" McCartney on this list.
With that in mind, here are our 10 choices. If you disagree with our picks or would like to suggest other players, let us know in the comments below. Note that these names are presented in no particular order. Once again, the names are presented in no particular order!
Frontman: Stevie Ray Vaughan
Band:Stevie Ray Vaughan and Double Trouble
With his electrifying prowess, the late Stevie Ray Vaughan refocused attention back to the essentials — guitar, bass and drums in a basic 12-bar format.
He had no light show to speak of, no dry ice, no fog, no lasers. He didn't go in for leather-and-studs macho posturing. A longtime local hero in juke joints throughout Austin, Houston, Dallas and Fort Worth, Stevie Ray waved the Texas flag all over the country in one sold-out concert venue after another.
His secret? A soft-spoken, laconic man, Vaughan summed it up in three little words: "I just play."
Of course, there's more to it than that. Along with his unquestionable prowess on the guitar, Vaughan, who died in August 1990, had one hell of a voice, a voice that still makes every "SRV bandwagon" blues-er sound, well, incomplete. Although you wouldn't have wanted to sit through a concert titled "SRV Sings Verdi" (or "SRV Sings Freddie Mercury"), there's no denying SRV had his own thing, a voice that oozed authenticity and confidence.
Frontman: James Hetfield
Well, we mentioned Hetfield in the intro to this story, so his inclusion can't be much of a surprise, can it?
Besides supplying the instantly recognizable voice of one of the most accomplished heavy metal bands in history, the Metallica frontman has always been lauded for his hard, fast and precise rhythm playing, a style that has had a massive impact on several generations of guitar players.
Hetfield, who often is said to have the best right hand in metal, once told Guitar World, “I’d much rather talk about guitar playing. I hate it when people ask me about my lyrics. I always feel like telling them to just go and read them.”
And who can resist a mid-song Hetfield grunt?
Frontman: Jimi Hendrix
Bands:The Jimi Hendrix Experience, Band of Gypsys
When Jimi Hendrix first exploded onto the scene, attention was riveted on his radical reinvention of guitar-soloing vocabulary, technique and sound, which was inspired by a now-familiar roster of great blues soloists.
But Hendrix had another musical asset that set him apart from similarly influenced British blues-rock contemporaries: undeniable charisma and a voice that clearly stood out from the pack. In that sense, he was the complete package.
Although he wasn't the most powerful singer in the world, his voice had a pleasingly warm tone and plenty of soul, as can be heard on "Bold as Love" and "Castles Made of Sand" (and so many other songs). He also added plenty of what could best be described as fun ad-libs ("Dig this, baby...") that would be exploited by future generations of singers in every genre of popular music. Bootsy Collins, anyone?
Frontman: Jack White
Bands:The White Stripes, The Raconteurs, The Dead Weather, Jack White
It's pure magic when Jack White ascends to the vocal register of vintage Robert Plant — while adding AC/DC-style riffs with his depth-charge guitar playing.
“I always look at playing guitar as an attack," White told Guitar Player. "It has to be a fight. Every song, every guitar solo, every note that’s played or written has to be a struggle. It can’t be this wimpy thing where you’re pushed around by the idea, the characters, or the song itself. It’s every player’s job to fight against all of that.”
White, who now tours and records under his own name, was (of course) once the more vocal half of the White Stripes. In the July 2002 issue of Guitar World, he explained how stage presentation plays a major part in a band’s success:
“Anything involved in presenting yourself onstage is all a big trick. You’re doing your best to trick those people into experiencing something good, something they haven’t thought about before or haven’t thought about in a long time. I’m doing my best to be that vaudeville trickster, to help that happen.”
Frontman: Dave Mustaine
Dave Mustaine's story is something a good portion of our readers can relate to: He became his band's singer by default after a series of unsuccessful auditions for vocalists.
At that moment, the former Metallica and Fallen Angels lead guitarist became the frontman for Megadeth, one of the world's most important thrash metal bands.
The rest, shall we say, is history.
"I actually enjoy [singing] a lot of times, but it's not my strong point," Mustaine told Colorado classic rock station 103.5 the Fox in 2013.
"I've been working really hard at it the last few years. I wish I would have given it as much attention in the beginning as I do now ... It's definitely a unique voice sound. You know, you hear people like Axl [Rose] or myself or [James] Hetfield or some of the other people that are really easily identifiable, it's scarce. Like Chris Cornell, you hear Chris, you know it's him."
Frontman: Steve Marriott
Bands:Small Faces, Humble Pie
We've read your pro-Steve Marriott comments on GuitarWorld.com "list" stories for quite a while now: "How could you possibly leave out the great Steve Marriott? He was one of the most talented singers of all time!"
First of all, we agree. We love Marriott, and there was pretty much no chance in hell he'd be left off this list.
We'll get to his legendary voice in a minute. First we'll briefly mention his stripped-down but aggressive guitar playing, the steam engine that propelled a slew of Small Faces and Humble Pie tracks, including "All or Nothing,""Tin Soldier,""E Too D,""Get Yourself Together,""What'cha Gonna Do About It" and so many more.
Marriott was the Small Faces' Roger Daltrey, but he also was the band's Pete Townshend, using a host of guitars, including an arguably too-big-for-his-body Gretsch White Falcon, to powerfully make his point in so many Sixties masterpieces.
And then there's his voice, a voice that is still considered one of the greatest in classic rock. Can words do it justice? Why not just listen to "Afterglow" below? And below that, you'll find Marriott in action on "What'cha Gonna Do About It" with the Small Faces.
Marriott, who would later front Humble Pie — where he joined guitar forces with Peter Frampton — died in a fire in 1991.
Frontman: Kurt Cobain
“We’re just musically and rhythmically retarded,” Nirvana's guitarist, vocalist and chief songwriter, Kurt Cobain, told Guitar World in 1991. "We play so hard that we can’t tune our guitars fast enough. People can relate to that.
“We sound like the Bay City Rollers after an assault by Black Sabbath,” continued Cobain. “And we vomit onstage better than anyone!”
So imagine how comical he'd find it to see the mark he's made on popular music. As Vernon Reid of Living Colour put it, "Cobain changed the course of where the music went … . There are certain people where you can see the axis of musical history twisting on them: Hendrix was pivotal, Prince was pivotal, Cobain was pivotal.”
Cobain, with his raw emotion and mélange of untuned metal, drunk punk and Seventies pop, slayed the beast called stadium rock. And no, he wasn't a guitar virtuoso by any stretch, but his creativity, his crunch, his off-beat chugging and droning charm made him unique. It's yet another reminder to create your own thing, your own sound, people!
Frontman: Eric Clapton
Bands:Derek and the Dominos, Eric Clapton
What else can be said about the amazing six-string gifts of Eric Clapton, one of the most lauded guitarists in the universe, 1966's blues-breaking virtuoso who went on to blow minds in Cream, Blind Faith and Derek and the Dominos?
Still, If you need to read more, be sure to pick up the March 2014 issue of Guitar World magazine, which counts down his 50 greatest guitar moments — but doesn't mention a word about his voice.
It's a voice first heard on the Bluesbreakers' 1966 version of Robert Johnson's "Ramblin' on My Mind," a song Clapton was actually reluctant to sing because he didn't think he was good enough.
He eventually shared the vocal duties in Cream with bassist Jack Bruce and went on to sing an endless stream of hits and classic-rock staples, starting with 1970's "After Midnight,""Let It Rain" and "Layla," coasting through the Seventies with "Cocaine" and "Lay Down Sally," kicking it up a notch in the Eighties with "Forever Man" and toning things back down again in recent years.
As he told Rolling Stonein 2010, these days Clapton is pretty fond of his voice. "It's taken me to be an older guy, an old man, to have an old man's voice. Because I only liked old men's voices. As a kid, I didn't like pip-squeaked singers. It was always someone with authority. And for a singer to have authority, they have to have some kind of social standing. Otherwise, it's fake."
Frontman: Trey Anastasio
Bands:Phish, Trey Anastasio Band
It just stands to reason that a band with an undying cult following has one hell of a frontman. Such is the case for Phish, whose guitar-slinging (and singing) Trey Anastasio — like the rest of the band — has built a magnetic rapport with the band's fans.
Anastasio's fluid lines are often wonderfully mind boggling — and can lead a 38-minute version of "Tweezer" to all kinds of new and exciting places.
"Musical inspiration can come from just about anywhere," Anastasio told Guitar World in 2000.
"For me, so much inspiration comes from the rhythms of the natural sounds in the air. Walking out in the country, you’ll hear certain sounds — a train, a boat, or maybe a horse walking on the road — and each of these sounds has a rhythm. If your mind is open, the simple rhythms of those sounds can inspire you and spark new musical ideas."
Frontman: Matthew Bellamy
As Guitar Playerput it in 2010, Muse frontman Matthew Bellamy is on a quest for futuristic guitar sounds—to the point of designing his own guitars with built-in effects, wireless MIDI and synth capabilities.
Not surprisingly, he’s a huge fan of Tom Morello and Jimi Hendrix, and he tries to channel the spirit of their sonic explorations into technology-fueled approaches that work for him and his compositions.
Head on over to YouTube (Or just watch the two impressive clips below) to see how everything seems to come together for Bellamy: technology, composition and serious guitar chops:
The rise of Blackberry Smoke, a hard-working, heavy-riffing quintet of southern-fried road monsters, hasn’t exactly been meteoric.
For the past 14-plus years, the Atlanta-based rockers have been enjoying what frontman Charlie Starr calls a “slow build,” playing more than 250 shows a year, touring with ZZ Top, releasing a handful of studio and live discs and, most importantly, forging a legion of rabid fans.
Although their last album, 2012’s The Whippoorwill, helped launch them into the role of southern rock’s newest hirsute ambassadors, their upcoming effort, Holding All the Roses (due in February via Rounder Records), holds the promise of upping the ante.
The 12-song set, which was produced by fellow Atlanta native Brendan O’Brien [AC/DC, Neil Young], is packed with crunchy back-porch grooves, greasy riffs, snarling guitar tones and simply irresistible hooks.
“This record gives the listener a lot to more to listen to,” says Starr, the band’s chief songwriter, singer and guitarist. “There’s nothing wrong with a meat-and-potatoes record like The Whippoorwill, but this time we put a lot more into the pie. Some people might think that means it sounds overproduced, but then I guess it is, because we produced more.”
Besides Starr’s main ax, a 1956 Gibson Les Paul Jr., the Holding All the Roses gear pile includes Starr’s Gibson Music City Jr. with B-Bender, which can be heard on “Fire in the Hole,” a host of vintage Fender and Marshall amps and several by Greg Germino of North Carolina that were built in the style of Sixties Plexi amps.
For Starr, who shares six-string duties with Paul Jackson, it’s all about the riffs.
“I’m a guitar player first, so the songs are always riff-oriented. That part is usually already done, so it’s a tall job for Paul to find a part that complements the riff. Sometimes he and I sit down and work on the whole Allmans-style ‘weaving’ thing, trying to find that guitar magic.”
Photo: Troy Stains
Robin Trower's mind-blowing landmark album Bridge of Sighs came out 40 years ago. But what Guitar World readers really want to know is…
The legendary Beatles engineer Geoff Emerick worked on your great 1974 Bridge of Sighs album. What did he bring to the party? — Michael Maenza
Geoff was certainly a key element in creating that wonderfully huge guitar sound you hear on things like “Day of the Eagle” and the title track. We were really lucky to get him, considering he was one of the top engineers in the world at that time.
It had something to do with my label, Chrysalis Records, being in bed with AIR Studios in London, which was owned by Beatles producer George Martin. The guitar sound on Bridge of Sighs was my invention, but Geoff came up with the way of capturing it to its fullest, and he had a hell of a lot to do with the success of the record.
How quickly was Bridge of Sighs recorded? — Jean Halliday
Quick! Around 16 or 17 days. We were touring a lot around that time and we had been sneaking a lot of material into our set, so we were well rehearsed and knew the songs. The studio was quite big, and we basically all played sectioned off in the same room.
Here was the weird thing, getting back to Geoff Emerick. While we played, Geoff just listened while he walked around the room and placed the mics where he thought things sounded best. He basically put one mic close to the amp, one mid field and one far away. There was no science—it was just him and his magic set of ears.
He was great during the mix. He’d let me sort of ride the guitar track, and every once in a while I’d ask whether the guitar was too loud, and he’d always say “no.” The guitar was never too loud for him! But that’s sort of the great thing about playing in a trio. Nothing is ever too loud; nothing really gets in the way of anything else. There is always plenty of space.
The tone on Bridge of Sighs, and on all of your albums, is usually pretty amazing. Do you own a magic Marshall or a special Fender Strat? — Dick Marchand
There was no magic 100-watt Marshall or special guitar. Almost everything I owned was pretty new. I just went to Manny’s, the legendary guitar shop in New York City, and listened to about six or eight Strats acoustically and settled on a black one and a white one. I used those for quite a while. I’m not overly picky.
Several years ago, Fender created a signature model for me, and I’ve got about six or seven of those. I basically switch between two or three favorites. Each one is slightly different, and when I get bored with one I move to the other one. Even though they are made all the same way and should sound exactly alike, each one has its own character, which I think is wonderful.
You’re known as a guitar player, but you also are also a lyricist and songwriter. Do you like writing lyrics or is it a pain? How did you come up with the song “Bridge of Sighs”? — Homer Wagner
I do like to write lyrics! I get a great deal of satisfaction out of songwriting. I had the first line to “Bridge of Sighs” for a long time, but I couldn’t come up with a title to hang it on. Then one day, I was reading the sports pages and came across a racehorse named Bridge of Sighs and thought, What a great title!
You write a lot of slow jams and stoner grooves. Aren’t you ever afraid of boring your audience or putting them to sleep? — Rick Ferrante
As long as a song has some sort of dynamic or emotional power, the tempo doesn’t matter. I love slower songs like “Daydream” and “About to Begin,” because as a guitar player they allow me to go much deeper and really be expressive with my playing.
Your sound has a huge amount of midrange, and even though you use effects and distortion, it’s almost never mushy. What’s your secret? — Paul Kirkovitz
Good question! These days, I use effects designed for me by Mike Fuller over at Fulltone. He created my signature RTO overdrive that allows me a little more drive without losing the clarity of the note, which is really important to my sound. It allows me to keep what I call the “front end” of the note. There’s no mush. In fact, I use the overdrive all the time, and when I want a cleaner sound I just turn down. That’s one of the great benefits of having a name! [laughs] You can get things made to your specifications.
But I also think using heavier strings is an important key to maintaining a nice clear midrange. About 20 years ago I started tuning down a tone so I could use a heavier .012 on the E string and a .015 on the B string and still do all my bends. And using higher action helps. It’s all about getting those strings to ring acoustically, which translates into a great electric sound. That’s where the sound comes from, and you can’t create it after the fact. An instrument always has to sound good acoustically. If it doesn’t, you lose a lot of musicality.
You have a really unique vibrato. Who was your role model? — Antwon “King” Kong
I came to my vibrato naturally very early on. It was just a fortunate thing; I didn’t really have to work on it. Later, I got into B.B. King and started seeing how I could use it more artistically—the emotional power of applying it at the right place and time.
My favorite guitar song of all time is “Daydream,” from your first album, Twice Removed from Yesterday. How was it written? — Susan Weintraub
I actually wrote “Daydream” on an acoustic guitar, and I really tried to capture that kind of sound and feel using an electric guitar. The interesting thing about that recording is that the Uni-Vibe effect was added afterward in the mix. For that reason, the studio version never sounded quite right to me. I never play it live with the effect on it. But perhaps the reason it doesn’t sound right to me is because I conceived it on an acoustic guitar.
Some of your earlier songs like “The Fool and Me” and “Day of the Eagle” have a serious R&B vibe. Were you into disco in the Seventies? — Dylan Koplanski
No! [laughs] I didn’t really like disco, but I understand where the question is coming from. I think that side of those songs might’ve come from our drummer at the time, Reg Isidore, who was really into all kinds of R&B music and brought that element into our sound. And our singer, the late, great James Dewar, was essentially a soul singer. I would classify myself as a rock musician with blues and R&B influences, because all good rock has an element of black music in its foundation. In many ways, the early Robin Trower Band was a sort of fusion of funky influences. I don’t think we realized what we were doing at the time—we were just trying to make good music—but it was a really interesting combination of styles.
Do you ever get sick of being compared to Jimi Hendrix? I know I do! — James Hendricks
Not really. In many ways it’s a compliment. I drew a lot of inspiration from Jimi, particularly the Band of Gypsys era.
Photo: Vicky Robin
UFO have released a teaser video for their new album, A Conspiracy of Stars, which will be released March 3 via Steamhammer/SPV.
The band, which consists of Phil Mogg (vocals), Paul Raymond (keyboards, guitar), Andy Parker (drums), Vinnie Moore (guitar) and Rob De Luca (bass), recorded the album—their 22nd studio effort—in the U.K.
Most of the new music, which is full of meaty riffs, distinctive hooks and a laid-back attitude, was written by Moore, with lyrics by Mogg. The disc also features a song by Raymond and a collaboration between Raymond and De Luca.
A Conspiracy of Stars was produced and mixed by Chris Tsangarides (Judas Priest, Thin Lizzy, Gary Moore). You can find a complete track listing right here.
Here are two more videos from the "they're not exactly new, but they're totally new to me" file.
It's a pair of 2009 videos of a young guitarist named Zack Kim playing the Super Mario Bros. theme and The Simpsons theme—on two guitars at once.
Zack has one Ibanez strapped around his neck and uses a stand to hold his other Ibanez. Best of all, regardless of what you think of the clips, they're only about a minute and a half long each.
Check them out below and let us know what you think in the comments below or on Facebook!
As you can see in the top video below, Indonesian guitarist Yana Mulyana has overcome some serious obstacles in order to reach his guitar-playing goals.
The video, which shows Mulyana performing Yngwie Malmsteen's "Brothers," is certainly inspirational.
As pointed out in this Guit-a-Grip column about "working with limitations," Mulyana has some very real physical impediments that make playing the guitar in a “traditional” manner impossible.
However, his workaround is clearly visible in the video below.
We've also included a 2010 live performance of "Brothers" by Malmsteen for reference. "Brothers" originally appeared on Malmsteen's 1994 album, The Seventh Sign.
The new issue focuses on Black Sabbath's Tony Iommi, Geezer Butler and Ozzy Osbourne as they spill the details on drugs, debauchery and some damned good riffs!
First, Black Sabbath's Iron Men, Tony and Geezer, recall the rise and fall of the first—and greatest—incarnation of heavy metal's originators. Then, the Ozz Man tells the stories behind 10 classic Black Sabbath tracks, including "Paranoid,""Fairies Wear Boots,""Planet Caravan" and "Iron Man."
Also, Guitar World picks the best of the original lineup's tracks—from "Sabbath Bloody Sabbath" and "Supernaut" to "Sweet Leaf" and "Dirty Women."
Later, Soundgarden guitarist Kim Thayil recalls his personal history as a disciple of Black Sabbath and their dark lord of the riff, Tony Iommi.
Finally, check out the results of the Guitar World Readers Poll. John Petrucci shreds his way to Hall of Fame glory, Angus Young makes a triumphant return as MVP and Weezer edge out Jack White for Alt-Rock Album of the Year. You voted, we counted. Here are the results!
PLUS: Tune-ups on Periphery, Black Star Riders, Arctic Monkeys, Falling in Reverse, Gov't Mule, a Dear Guitar Hero interview with Richard Williams of Kansas, Black Crown Initiate, Slash's Setlist and much more!
Six Songs with Tabs for Guitar and Bass:
• Guns N' Roses - "Nightrain"
• Black Sabbath - "Black Sabbath" and "Sabbath Bloody Sabbath"
• Gov't Mule - "Thorazine Shuffle"
• Machine Head - "Now We Die"
Bass is more than just a guitar with two fewer strings. It has a different tone, scale length, feel and musical role, and in many cases it requires a different conceptual and technical approach.
Guitarists who are new to playing bass will often double the guitar part one octave lower. There is certainly a place for lockstep octave doubling—just listen to Aerosmith’s “Sweet Emotion,” Led Zeppelin’s “The Ocean” and Pantera’s “I’m Broken.”
But there is so much more that can be done with the bass guitar.
As a bassist who later took up guitar, I have developed 20 general guidelines that I live by when I play the bass. Apply them to the instrument, and hear your playing improve as they help you to think and play like a real bass guitarist.
1. PLAY FOR THE SONG
More often than not, solid bass playing requires that you exercise restraint and subtlety rather than showcase your technique and slick moves. In many situations, it’s best to work mostly with the root notes of the chords and lock in with the drummer’s kick and snare drums.
2. LEARN TO WALK
“Walking bass” originated in jazz and blues, but it has since been adopted in other styles. The term refers to a way of playing in which the bass line remains in perpetual motion as opposed to staying on or reiterating one note. The line “walks” from one chord’s root note up or down to the next, mostly in a quarter-note rhythm, with the occasional embellishment.
To achieve this, you use “transition notes” to smoothly connect the dots and bridge the gap between different root notes as the chords change. The transition notes can be any combination of chord tones (arpeggios), scale tones that relate to the chords, or chromatic passing tones.
In general, chord tones are the musically safest bet, as they sound harmonically consonant, while scale tones add a touch of light dissonance when heard against an underlying chord. The more chromatic notes that are used, the more dissonant the line becomes, as these notes momentarily clash with the prevailing chord. Whether this is a good thing or not is up to your discretion and instincts.
FIGURE 1 shows a stock blues walking bass line. Although the line is rhythmically animated, with staccato (short, clipped) swing eighth notes and a triplet fill at the end of each bar, it is fairly tame harmonically, as it uses mostly chord tones (the root, fifth and dominant seventh) with a brief chromatic run-up to the fifth.
By contrast, FIGURE 2 illustrates a jazz-style walking bass line played over these same two chords for which chromatic passing tones are liberally employed. Note the difference in contour between these two examples, the first being very angular and the second being smooth and rolling. Also note the use of “dead” notes (indicated by Xs in the notation), which help propel the line. These are performed by picking the string while lightly muting it with the fret hand.
When crafting a walking bass line, it’s best to land on the root note whenever there’s a chord change. If you’re staying on the same chord for several bars, it’s a good idea to play the root on the downbeat of every other bar or every fourth bar, depending on how grounded you want the line to sound.
The walking bass concept isn’t just for swing grooves and can be also employed with great results in a rock context with an even-eighths feel. Inspired by Herbie Flowers’ tasteful bass work on David Bowie’s 1974 hit, “Rebel Rebel,” FIGURE 3 is a fairly straightforward example of a great way to use scalar passing tones and fills to spice up a bass line over a repeating two-chord progression.
3. LOCK IN WITH THE DRUMMER
In a rhythm section, part of the bass guitar’s role is to function as a liaison between the drums and the rest of the band. In most cases you want to make the bass and drums sound like one entity, and a great way to do this is to craft bass lines that fit like a glove with the drummer’s kick and snare drums. Using octave root notes is often an excellent way to do this, the low octave corresponding to the kick drum and the high octave hitting with the snare, typically on beats two and four, which are also known as the backbeats.
Octaves allow you to create an active bass line with an interesting, angular melodic contour without clashing harmonically with the underlying chords, as the octave root note “agrees” perfectly with the chord.
“Grooving” doesn’t necessarily mean playing the same thing over and over. John Paul Jones’ playing throughout Led Zeppelin’s “The Lemon Song” is a perfect case in point, as he embellishes the groove and stays within the bass’ role as a support instrument for six solid minutes without repeating himself once.
4. USE OCTAVES AND FIFTHS
After the octave root, the fifth is the most harmonically agreeable note you can play. Many classic bass lines have been constructed using mostly roots, octaves and fifths as the framework. The great thing about this approach is that it allows you to create a bass line that is interesting and melodic, locks in perfectly with the drums and doesn’t clash harmonically with the underlying chords. FIGURE 4 is an example of this kind of approach, inspired by John Paul Jones’ nimble playing on Led Zeppelin’s “Thank You.”
5. TONE IS IN THE HANDS
This old adage could not ring truer for bass playing. Plucking the strings hard and near the base of the fretboard (FIGURE 5a) like Black Sabbath’s Geezer Butler makes them slap against it; plucking the strings near the bridge with just the very tips of your fingers (FIGURE 5b) lets you get that punchy Jaco Pastorius/Rocco Prestia machine-gun 16th-note attack. (Be sure to check out the video demonstrations for these musical examples on GuitarWorld.com to hear the difference in tone between them.)
You can go from a dull thud to a sharp, funky punch simply by choosing where along the string you pick it and how aggressively you hit it. Between that, your pickup selector (if your bass has one) and tone controls, you have a considerable range of tonal possibilities before the signal even hits the amp.
6. TO PICK OR NOT TO PICK?
Not all bassists use their fingers to pluck the instrument. Megadeth’s David Ellefson, Rex Brown of Pantera and Down, Yes’ Chris Squire and Paul McCartney use a pick, and John Paul Jones, the Who’s John Entwistle and Michael Anthony in his Van Halen days were known for switching from fingers to pick depending on the song. If playing with a pick works for you, go for it. I recommend the large, non-celluloid kind, such as Dunlop’s Tortex Triangle, with a thick gauge (at least 1mm).
The large surface area of the big triangle picks is well suited to the wide spacing of bass strings and will help you keep a grip on the pick. Tortex (or Delrin, depending on the manufacturer) is also sturdier than celluloid and less likely to break, and the thick, unbendable gauge will allow you to get more volume and power out of those thick strings, with less effort.
7. SINGLE-FINGER TECHNIQUE
Some record producers actually prefer having bass players use a pick because the attack is more even. But if you’re a fingerstyle player and want to achieve a more consistent attack, try using only one finger, such as the index (instead of alternating between the index and middle fingers) as much as possible. John Paul Jones copped this technique from Motown bass legend James Jamerson and made great use of it on several classic Led Zeppelin tracks, such as “Good Times Bad Times” and “Ramble On.”
8. GET YOUR TIME SOLID
Someone has to keep the tempo steady, and if the drummer can’t, than the bassist has to. The pocket depends on you, so learn how to be your own metronome. Don’t just count in 4/4—you should also feel in 8/8, especially when playing ballads, where the tendency to rush the tempo is greater. To help you land on the beat more accurately, listen to the drummer’s hi-hat or ride cymbal, not just his kick and snare drums.
9. TO FILL OR NOT TO FILL?
Fills are the little pieces of ear candy that embellish a solid bass line and help propel a song. Listen to how other bass players set up a new section, and shamelessly jack anything that grabs your ear. Playing fills that conclude one section of a song (such as a verse) and lead into the next (such as the chorus) is a great way to break monotony in a bass part and set yourself apart from whatever the guitarist is doing.
Filling is an art form in and of itself, in that there’s a fine line between adding to the song or groove and obscuring it and detracting from it. In keeping with the “bass-and-drums-as-one” concept, make your fills coincide with a drummer’s so that they sound like the same person’s idea being expressed. If a drummer plays a fill, it’s usually at the end of every second, fourth or eighth bar, so listen to the drums and pick your spots to fill accordingly. Of course, all your playing decisions should depend on the style of music you’re playing, and some styles, such as hip-hop or club music, are more about maintaining a relentless groove, with very little variation.
For examples of great fills, check out R&B/soul session players such as James Jamerson (countless Motown hits), Chuck Rainey (Aretha Franklin, Steely Dan) and Nathan Watts (especially on Stevie Wonder’s “Do I Do”), or rock players such as Rex Brown, Stone Temple Pilots’ Robert DeLeo (another Jamerson disciple) and Duff McKagan of Guns N’ Roses. And don’t let genre get in the way—just because it’s a “Motown” fill doesn’t mean it can’t be used in a rock context, and vice versa.
10. OCTAVE APPROPRIATE
Are you playing in the right register (octave)? Perhaps that cool part you came up with sounds badass played down low but may be too heavy for the mood of the song. Or perhaps it’s too high and is interfering with the vocal or guitar part. Make sure your note-range choices are right for the situation.
11. AVOID LOW-B OBSESSION
If you’re playing a five-string, don’t just play sub-E notes, as it can become annoying. It’s one thing to hit a low B or C every now and then for dramatic effect and to show everyone who’s boss, but unless you’re in a Korn or Type O Negative tribute band, don’t live there.
12. SUBSTITUTE DIFFERENT CHORD TONES
Occasionally playing the third or fifth of the underlying chord instead of its root note can radically change the whole feel of a chord progression, and when done tastefully it can add warmth or tension. This device has been used for centuries by great classical composers like Bach and Beethoven and creates what are known as chord inversions. Master pop songwriters such as Elton John and Paul McCartney use inversions, via bass line substitutions, to build their chord progressions to a harmonic climax.
Realize that the ear reckons harmony from the ground up, so as a bass player you have the power to dictate how the chord is going to sound and fundamentally change its character. FIGURE 6 is an example of a common rock chord progression for which the bass line takes a left turn (in bars 2 and 3) to create chord inversions. In the second and third bars, instead of playing the roots (shown in cue-size notes and tab numbers), the third or fifth of the chord are substituted, creating a continually ascending and more melodic bass line in the process.
It’s that grimy, funky stuff that oozes between the beats. With all due respect to hardcore prog-rock bands, for which precision is key, rock and roll has always been more about attitude and spirit.
This isn’t an excuse to be sloppy and unmusical, but more an exhortation to make low, rumbling noises and revel in it. Listen to John Paul Jones’ low-end grumble during the “Hey baby, oh baby, pretty baby” chorus section of Zeppelin’s “Black Dog” (played with a pick) or Black Sabbath’s Geezer Butler on pretty much any song. For a more modern take, check out session legend Pino Palladino’s work on D’Angelo’s Voodoo album. In some situations, it’s perfectly okay to make excessive fret noise, be a little behind the beat or slide out of a note perhaps a bit longer than you should, as long as it’s not disruptive to the music and contributes to the intended vibe.
14. SHAKE IT
I’m not talking about a long trill or extreme vibrato but literally shaking a pitch. Fret the note, pick it, then quickly slide, hammer on or pull off to another fret and back, as demonstrated in FIGURE 7. Regardless of what style you’re playing, the resulting sound is funky and adds a little extra kick to the sound of the rhythm section. Sure, guitarists can do this too, but it just doesn’t sound the same (or as good) on that little instrument.
15. USE DEAD NOTES AND RAKES
Just as you might mute the strings on your guitar with your fretting hand while you strum “chucka-chucka,” the same principle and function applies to bass, whether it’s funk (FIGURE 8) or hard rock (FIGURE 9). Rakes on a bass are executed a bit differently than on guitar: you perform them by dragging a picking finger across the strings in an upstroke, usually in a specified rhythm, as demonstrated in FIGURE 10.
16. ARTICULATION VARIATION
As a guitarist, you employ all sorts of techniques to convey your musical statements, and you can do that on bass, too. Check out session legend Will Lee’s work in Dionne Warwick’s “Déjà Vu.” Lee makes use of rakes, palm muting while picking with his thumb, slapping, and finger slides in addition to plain-old conventional fingerstyle playing (FIGURE 11). And he does it without ever interrupting the groove or getting in the way of the vocal.
17. IT’S ALL BASS
A cool bass part is a cool bass part, regardless of what instrument it was played on, be it electric bass, synth or piano, so be open to hearing new ideas. Next time you’re at that bar and hear house or club music blasting over the sound system, listen to the bass lines. No matter how far-flung it is from your preferred musical style, you can translate it to your own bass playing.
18. LESS IS MORE
Take “September,” one of Earth, Wind & Fire’s most enduring tunes. Bassist Verdine White is capable of playing so much more, but in this song his bass line is almost rudimentary. Even so, it’s funky as hell, making great use of rests and staccato phrasing—space between notes—and, without fail, people get up and move as soon as that bass line kicks in. For a more modern example, listen to Branden Campbell of Neon Trees. His lines never get more complicated than eighth notes with the rare fill, but his fat tone and solid playing more than adequately complement drummer Elaine Bradley’s grooves and help propel the songs.
19. MORE IS MORE
A master groove monster like Juan Nelson from Ben Harper’s band can lull you into a groove, then hit you with a fill like the one heard at 4:30 in “Faded,” from The Will to Live album. The groove and lick shown in FIGURE 12 draws its inspiration from this approach.
20. LET IT ALL HANG OUT
What do you want people to hear in your playing? Anger? Joy? Whatever it is, get in that zone and play it like you mean it. Whether you’re a shredder or a “feel” player, express yourself. Because if you’re not connecting with people, what’s the point?
This is the first GuitarWorld.com column by Shane Speal, the King of the Cigar Box Guitar. Speal is a musician and historian of homemade instruments and even created the Cigar Box Guitar Museum. Expect stories on homemade instruments and DIY awesomeness in the upcoming weeks.
Ask any mainstream rock historian what the meanest sounding guitar of the 1950s is and they’ll most likely answer with names like Link Wray, Chuck Berry or Johnny “Guitar” Watson.
Unfortunately, very few of them ever heard the name Willie Joe and his Unitar, much less the handful of obscure singles this madman cut during the Eisenhower Era. Willie Joe laid down the meanest guitar tone of the Fifties. It’s time for the world to know.
The Detroit Years: Joe Willie Duncan was a blues musician from the Detroit ghettos who played a massive, amplified one-string instrument he called a Unitar. Made from a 7-foot plank of wood, it was strung with a solitary piece of wire with a playable scale length of more than 4 and a half feet and wired with a DeArmond acoustic guitar pickup. The instrument was a version of the traditional African-American diddley bow and was played with a bottle as a slide. Duncan used a hunk of leather as a pick and flogged the string as he played it, delivering a tone that’s best described as "bitch slapping."
In the late Forties, Duncan partnered with legendary bluesman Jimmy “Big Boss Man” Reed, performing on back porches, in front of stores and on Detroit’s mythical Maxwell Street. The pair would drive around the city in Reed’s beat-up pickup truck and choose a storefront or corner to play. If there was a place to plug in, they had a stage.
Let’s face it, if you stand on the sidewalk with a 7-foot musical plank, you’re guaranteed to draw a crowd. and people would swarm around the duo in amazement. Reed played guitar and sang. Willie Joe pummeled his Unitar and would sometimes take a vocal or pull out an old pair of spoons to beat on his knees as a finale.
Hitting the Big Time: Unfortunately for Reed, Willie Joe saw a brighter future in California and packed his bags to leave. But before he could escape Detroit, Reed presented him with a portable Unitar for the trip, complete with a hinge in the instrument, making it foldable!
Willie Joe Duncan settled into Palo Alto and continued his outrageous ways. He was known to ride a pony up and down the street while dressed as a cowboy, and he continued to play his Unitar around town. Eventually, he was discovered by Specialty Records house band leader Rene Hall in 1956 and cut a few rare but glorious sides for the company.
Specialty Records was a hit-making machine at the time with artists like Little Richard and Guitar Slim. Willie Joe was invited to play solos behind Bob Landers, a gravel-voiced singer who had a catchy song, "Cherokee Dance." (Legend has it that Landers got his frog-sounding voice from throat cancer and died soon after the song’s release.)
"Cherokee Dance" was a fine song on its own, but the true pièce de résistance was the flip side of the 45, an instrumental titled "Unitar Rock." The song is a simple blues jam provided by Rene Hall and his Orchestra with Willie Joe front and center, slapping and beating the Unitar until it screamed for mercy. Its distorted, gnarled sound is one of the meanest guitar parts ever recorded...
And it’s all on one string!
It amazes me that this song never achieved the cult status of Link Wray’s "Rumble." It’s pure rock and roll. It’s slide guitar to the extreme. To me, it’s the most brutal thing put to wax up until that time.
After the modest jukebox success of "Cherokee Dance," Duncan was invited back to Specialty in 1957 as a studio musician, playing solos on a few other sides, including the instrumental "Twitchy" by Rene Hall and his Orchestra. In 1958, Hall left Specialty for Rendezvous Records in Los Angeles. He soon called on Willie Joe for one more dose of Unitar as the soloing instrument of Ernie Field’s single, "Teen Flip."
The Later Years: I have only found scraps of information on Willie Joe from 1958 onward. For a short while, he showed up on local R&B TV shows (Johnny Otis, Hunter Hancock) on a fairly regular basis. One musician told me Willie would jam at open mics in local bars and eventually added a second Unitar that sported an orange crate for a guitar body.
In 1985, Duncan was re-discovered by LA disc jockey Little Willie G and was asked to perform at a radio event. John Huffman, a musician who was part of Willie Joe’s band, said, “we played 45 minutes of music that night with all of it sounding like Unitar Rock!”
Willie Joe Duncan passed away sometime in 1988 or 1989. I have yet to get a definite date. (Hey, there's a comment section below if you have info!)
Willie Joe’s legacy: Although Willie Joe was an obscure hero, one musician who was greatly influenced by his music was the late Mark Sandman of the iconoclast grunge-jazz band Morphine. Sandman performed on a two-string slide bass that was built to sound like the Unitar. A replica Unitar was also built by Philadelphia-based musician (and one-string expert) One String Willie…including the Jimmy Reed mod of a folding hinge in the middle. See his pictures at onestringwillie.com.
Shane Speal is "King of the Cigar Box Guitar" and the creator of the modern cigar box guitar movement. Hear the music, see the instruments and read about his Cigar Box Guitar Museum at ShaneSpeal.com. Speal's latest album, Holler! is on C. B. Gitty Records.
Electro-Harmonix has introduced the Octavix, a pedal that delivers the definitive late-1960s fuzzed-out, octave-up sound together with modern enhancements that update the classic concept.
Housed in EHX’s rugged nano package, the Octavix features Volume, Boost and Octave knobs. Volume regulates the output level of the pedal. Boost controls the amount of fuzz tone and Octave adjusts the volume of the octave above.
A mini-toggle lets the player select between 9 or 24 volt power rails and determines the power supply voltage for the entire circuit. At 9V the pedals behaves like the classic, saggy fuzz box. At 24V the Octavix delivers a tighter sound and a richer octave tone. True bypass ensures maximum signal path integrity.
A period-evocative, psychedelic design and blue LED contribute to the pedal’s vintage vibe. Octavix runs on a 9-volt battery or accepts a standard EHX9.6DC power supply, and carries a U.S. List Price of $117.15.
For more information, visit ehx.com.
In this newly posted video below, Periphery guitarist Mark Holcomb demos his new signature Alpha/Omega pickups, which will be produced by the Seymour Duncan Custom Shop.
The video was actually posted by guitarist Keith Merrow of Conquering Dystopia.
"These incredible pickups Mark and I made will be available soon through the Seymour Duncan Custom Shop," Merrow wrote via YouTube.
At the moment, this is all the information we have on the pickups, but be sure to stay tuned! For more information about Holcomb's signature PRS guitar, visit prsguitars.com/markholcomb.
To follow Merrow on Facebook, step right this way.
This year I moved from California to Massachusetts.
Many folks have expressed how I must be crazy to leave the mild and sunny weather to venture to the snowbound north.
And it’s true, there are some days (and nights) when it seems just too cold to go anywhere. Saturday was one of those nights.
But somehow I mustered the energy to wrap myself in layers and scarves and venture forth to check out the International Guitar Night performance in Natick, MA at the wonderful TCAN performance center.
Totally worth it!
The show, put together by guitarist and master performer Brian Gore, was delightful and surprising and fun.
The performance is built around four acoustic guitarists — Gore, classical innovator Andrew York, Brazilian jazz icon Diego Figuierido, and contemporary Iranian-Canadian steel string wizard Maneli Jamal. It was love at first note.
Gore opened the show with selections from his album, Wine Country Tales. Each song has its own backstory and is translated with passionate taps, rhythmic slaps and some really gorgeous fingerstyle playing. From lovely, melodic subtleties to boomy body slaps, Gore grabbed the audience’s attention from the first note to the last.
Next up was the comical and incredibly talented Maneli Jamal. Wow. With stories from his upbringing translated to innovative guitar delivery, Jamal stunned with his intense frenetic ethnic flare, and even his artfully placed pauses. His story delivery was also spot on and so fun to hear.
Following Jamal was a true virtuoso, jazz guitarist Diego Figuierido. Yes, we were all mesmerized by his amazing head of hair. But it was his incredibly fluid and natural performance style, his sense of true enjoyment as he dazzled us and his good-natured entertaining approach that truly grabbed us. Wow. I don’t even know what else to say. Seemingly effortless and thoroughly fabulous.
Rounding out the lineup was Grammy Award-winning classical guitarist Andrew York. While a more traditional player than some of the others that evening, York’s tone, subtle emotion and nuanced expression ranged from mellow to spritely. Simply gorgeous.
After a short break the real fun began as the performers played together in a variety of configurations. My favorite came as the quartet of performers all played together on the innovative train ride of a song “On The Run,” by Manelia Jamal. Each performer contributed to the sonic story, with his own piece of the puzzle summing to a roller coaster ride of a song. I think I fell in love.
Another super fun moment came as Jamal and Figuierido paired up for the latter’s original composition, “Bee.” Some super speedy fingerwork ensued, with both players diving in for a flighty rush.
Overall the evening was exhilarating, with each player’s unique performance style contributing to a whole that was refreshing and well rounded.
The quartet has lots more dates coming up in the U.S. Don’t hesitate to check them out if they’re in your neck of the woods.
Find out more here ttp://herschelfreemanagency.com/ign_2015/ign_2015.html
GOLD AWARD WINNER
In the constant quest for great tone, many guitarists eventually decide that the effects on their pedal boards simply aren’t enough.
The problem is that most of us have already filled much of our board’s available real estate, and there usually isn’t a whole lot of room left for another full-size pedal.
Then there are those who are tired of lugging around a heavy, oversized pedal board and are trying to put together a board with more portable proportions—preferably one that’s not much larger than an iPad Air.
If you fall into either of these categories, or you simply like the idea of a stomp box that’s shrunken down to the smallest imaginable size, you’ll love the four new additions to TC Electronic’s Mini Pedal line: the Corona Mini Chorus, Flashback Mini Delay, Shaker Mini Vibrato and Vortex Mini Flanger.
Mini Pedals offer the performance and personality of full-size stomp boxes in a super-compact format that measures less than two inches wide, four inches long and one-and-a-half inches high (not including the control knobs and footswitch). Featuring TC’s TonePrint technology, these pedals are versatile, professional-quality tools and not diminutive novelties.
FEATURES These four new mini pedals join TC’s Mini Pedal family, which also includes a booster, looper, reverb and tuner. But whereas the previous Mini pedals had only one control knob, these new additions each have three. The Corona’s controls are speed, depth and effect level; the Flashback’s are feedback, delay and effect level; the Shaker’s are speed, depth and ramp; and the Vortex’s are speed, depth and feedback. All four deliver the same sound quality as their full-size TC namesakes, although they lack those pedals’ more sophisticated features, like stereo inputs and outputs, preset selector switches or other certain parameter controls (like the full-size Shaker’s tone knob).
Each pedal has true-bypass foot switching, and the mono 1/4-inch input and output jacks are staggered, which makes it easy to patch together multiple Mini Pedals in close proximity using short cables with right-angle jacks. The pedals operate only with an external nine-volt power supply—no battery operation.
Located directly above the nine-volt power input is a mini USB jack that allows you to connect the pedal to a computer or iPad to transfer custom TonePrint effects programmed by dozens of pro guitarists. Likewise, you can import your own customized TonePrints that you can create using TC’s free TonePrint Editor software. The TonePrint app for Android or iPhone also allows users to wirelessly beam TonePrint effects to each pedal.
PERFORMANCE The TC Electronic Mini Pedals may be less than half the size of their full-size namesakes, but each pedal’s overall performance is essentially identical to its larger counterpart. If you’re a “set-and-forget” type of player that uses just one sound from a pedal at any given time and typically makes only minor tweaks of basic parameters during a gig or session, these pedals will save you some valuable pedal-board space and even a few bucks. However, if you need instant access to a full selection of parameters or constantly change parameters, such as the Flashback’s delay type and note-subdivision settings, the larger pedals are still the way to go.
Out of the box, each pedal provides classic effects that should cover the needs of most guitarists out there. The sound quality of each effect is thick, rich and lush but with the studio-quality, noise-free performance guitarists expect from TC effects. Each pedal also features analog dry-through circuitry that never converts the guitar’s dry signal to digital, so even when heavy processing is applied, the guitar’s tone always remains dynamic, expressive and natural sounding, without latency delays. The Flashback Mini Delay has an extra trick up its sleeve, an audio-tapping function that is engaged by holding down the footswitch. This allows players to manually set the delay time simply by strumming the strings at the desired tempo.
The selections of TonePrint effects for each pedal are staggering, and in the rare case that you can’t find an effect you need, you can program it yourself using the TonePrint Editor software. The amount of power and versatility that TC has packed into these tiny boxes is impressive, but even more remarkable is how affordable they are.
LIST PRICES Corona, Shaker and Vortex, $136.49; Flashback, $164.49
MANUFACTURER TC Electronic, tcelectronic.com
Each pedal offers the processing power of TC’s full-size stomp boxes in a pedal less than half the size.
Three control knobs allow guitarists to tweak basic parameters onstage.
TonePrint effects can be downloaded from a computer or iPad via the mini USB jack or wirelessly using the TonePrint app on an Android device or iPhone.
The Flashback’s Audio Tapping function enables guitarists to manually set the delay time by strumming the strings at the desired tempo.
THE BOTTOM LINE TC’s Mini Pedals are perfect for players who want or need maximum performance and professional sounds from a pedal that takes up the minimal amount of space.
For those who might not be familiar with intervals, we’ll start by reviewing the core concept.
The term sounds kind of advanced, but an “interval” simply refers to the distance between two notes, while a harmonic interval is when you play two notes at the same time.
So to bring the simplicity home, a power chord is a harmonic interval, and most of us are pretty comfortable with power chords.
So when you’re playing a “perfect 5th power chord,” you’ll typically have two major components:
01. The root note (typically the lowest note)
02. The consonant interval.
For a power chord that has a root note on the sixth string, you can make it a perfect fifth by simply playing the fifth string two frets up. For example, a G5 power chord would look like this:
If you’ve been playing guitar (particularly electric guitar) for any length of time, you’ll know this chord is incredibly common and is even exclusively used in many songs.
So why does this matter?
Perfect fifths make it incredibly easy to find the consonant interval, which can be simply thought of as two notes that resolve or “sound good together” and don’t leave you wanting. The term “staple” is also used to describe a consonant chord or interval.
Additionally, perfect fifths make it easy for you to find octaves, assuming you’re playing your chord on either the fifth or sixth string.
Playing a power chord on the fourth or third string changes things a bit because of the tuning of the second string to B, which means you have to reach further for one of your consonant notes; three frets up instead of two. This is just something to keep in mind.
For this lesson, we’re just dealing with power chords played on the sixth and fifth strings.
So let’s recap — perfect fifth power chords give us easy access to:
01. A consonant note in an interval
02. The octave of our root note.
It pays to understand this concept whenever you want to start figuring out how to improvise because it gives you a starting point and provides some simple structural components to start out with.
You know now that any power chord with a root note on the sixth or fifth string will have a workable or “stable” note two frets and one string up. Additionally, you’ll have an octave of that note two frets and two strings up.
So, going with the G5 power chord:
Root Note on the Sixth String and Third Fret
• Consonant Note: 5th String and Fifth Fret
• Octave Note: 4th String and Fifth Fret
This gives you a bit of a skeleton to build your improvising off of, so the best way to get that anchored in your mind is to go through a few basic exercises that utilize the perfect fifth at several different spots on the fretboard:
Exercise 1: Perfect Fifths Power Chords (Sixth String Root)
Exercise 2: Dyad Chords (Fifth String)
Exercise 3: Perfect Fifths Power Chords (Fifth String Root)
Exercise 4: Combination
Exercise 5: Combination
Hearing the Consonant Notes and Octaves
Once you understand the concept, the challenge is to start to be able to hear the consonant and octave notes that correspond to your root note. As you develop familiarity with that system, your instincts as a guitar player will start to improve, and your ear will be able to pick up on more subtleties of the instrument.
You’ll know what a consonant and octave note sound like, even if you might not be thinking in those terms as it’s happening.
So in a sense, it’s really more about your ear than it is about what you see on a piece of paper. If you can hear what’s going on in these patterns and replicate it in other musical situations, then you’ve built a crucial foundational tool to help you become better at improvising and playing by ear.
In this lesson, I'm going to teach you an arpeggio exercise that will help improve your music theory and knowledge of the fretboard.
Players often play exercises only to improve technique, but it's important to vary your exercises to focus on other important parts of guitar playing. Although this exercise is based on arpeggios, it is meant to help you visualize scales differently from the standard "three note per string" shapes.
How can learning an arpeggio exercise help with scales?
The answer is simple: Arpeggios are derived from scales. A big problem for guitarists is not being able to switch between the two in a musical way. When you listen to solos, particularly in rock/metal, when guitarists play arpeggios, they are usually played with a sweeping or tapping technique, playing exclusively arpeggio sequences. Then when you hear scales, it's the same problem, but usually they are being played as ascending or descending alternate-picked sequences.
Hardly ever will you hear a player integrate the two and sound musical and melodic. It all comes back to the age-old problem of guitar players whose solos sound like a bunch of exercises stuck together. There's the metaphor about players who sound like robots. These "robot" guitar players usually have two modes of lead playing: "scale mode" and "arpeggio mode." In the following weeks, I'm going to be working on a series of lessons to help you play less like a robot.
My exercise is very simple and based off building arpeggios from scales. A simple way to look at building arpeggios is by stacking third intervals or simply skipping notes within a scale. For example, from the A minor scale (A B C D E F G), you would make an A minor arpeggio (A C E). You skip the B and D notes to make the arpeggio. You can carry on skipping notes within the scale to make larger arpeggios until you have eventually used every note from the scale to make an A minor 13th chord (A C E G B D F).
This exercise applies that same system to every note within the key of A minor to make seven different 13th arpeggios. From every note of the A minor scale we build a 13th arpeggio by stacking thirds and play them in order.
When playing this exercise, don't just memorize the frets from the tab; learn each note you are playing and visualize how ascending and descending through each arpeggio relates to the key scale of A minor. The way I have arranged the notes on the fretboard is not important, and if you have a good understanding of the theory behind the exercise, you should experiment with your own fretting.
The goal of this exercise is to help develop your fretboard knowledge of scales. For that reason, each arpeggio is built strictly using only notes from the A minor scale. Some of the arpeggios in this exercise are not "normal" 13th arpeggios, which would usually involve flattening of certain intervals. However, if you can visualize how an arpeggio is derived from a scale, you can better incorporate them into your solos without relying on arpeggio shapes, which will usually end up sounding like exercises.
Will Wallner is a guitarist from England who now lives in Los Angeles. He recently signed a solo deal with Polish record label Metal Mind Productions for the release of his debut album, which features influential musicians from hard rock and heavy metal. He also is the lead guitarist for White Wizzard (Earache Records) and toured Japan, the US and Canada in 2012. Follow Will on Facebook and Twitter.
Hey! Satchel here, with part two of our look at the Steel Panther classic, “Gang Bang at the Old Folk’s Home,” from our latest release, All You Can Eat.
It never gets old, does it? I mean, it does get old, no pun intended, but no matter how old it gets, it’s still fun—that’s what I’m trying to say! This month we are going to examine the bitchin’ bridge and solo sections of this bitchin’ song.
As opposed to the all-downstroked verse section, the bridge section, illustrated in FIGURE 1, is very strummy in that it is played with a basic strum pattern of steady 16th notes performed with alternate (down-up) picking.
In this figure, I switch between bars of steadily strummed 16th notes and bars with either sparse chordal hits or combinations of two-note chords and single notes, which balance well against the feel of the steadily strummed chords. Notice in particular the fast pull-off riff in bar 4. Fretting with the ring and index fingers, I repeatedly pull off from the fourth fret to the second fret and then to the open string across the third, fourth and fifth strings before moving back into power-chord accents.
At 14 bars, this figure is relatively long, and bars 9–14 represent the rhythm part I play underneath the guitar solo. Including the first and second endings, this part works out to be eight bars long (the last chord, B5, actually is sustained through the ninth bar and final bar of the solo section). The bridge section is played in the key of A, and the latter part of the figure, starting at F#5 and used for the guitar solo, represents a shift to the key of F# minor, the relative minor key of A major.
FIGURE 2 depicts the guitar solo played over bars 9–14. For the solo licks, I rely primarily on the F# minor pentatonic scale (F# A B C# E) in bars 1–7. Keep in mind that these notes also comprise the A major pentatonic scale (A B C# E F#), the five-tone scale associated with the relative major chord of F# minor, A major.
I actually did not play this solo on the record. (I know, it’s the best solo on the record, and it’s the only one I didn’t play!) We were very fortunate to have the great Vivian Campbell of Def Leppard come into the studio and record the guitar solo for the track. But I do perform the solo live, and the example shown here represents my take on Viv’s approach. I begin with whole-step bends on the G string and dig in with the pick hand, getting the edge of the thumb into the attack in order to attain a series of pinch harmonics (P.H.).
In bars 1–3, I simply move freely through F# minor pentatonic in second through fifth positions, and I end the phrase in bar 3 by sounding the flatted fifth, C, which is heavily vibrato-ed. Bar 5 is made up of an octave-based pattern between two F# notes on the third and first strings, after which the lower F# alternates against descending higher notes. The solo ends with sliding two-note forms sixths apart, fretted on the D and B strings and decorated with some whammy bar dips.
Satchel is the guitarist for Eighties-inspired glam-metal act Steel Panther. Their latest albums is 2014's All You Can Eat.
In this new video (posted to YouTube February 2), guitarist Rob Scallon—the guy who brought you "Metal in Inappropriate Places" and several other hilarious guitar-based masterpieces—plays a one-note metal song called "00000."
Hey, sometimes one note is all you need!
As you'll see in the clip, Scallon starts with a Schecter Hellraiser C-9 (a nine-string guitar) and proceeds to cut off eight strings. That's when the fun begins.
Scallon adds, "Drums by Nick Pierce of Unearth; much thanks to Dwight Harding for the filming and cameo."
For more Scallon-isms, be sure to follow him on YouTube!
PLATINUM AWARD WINNER
Whether you grunt like Tom Waits with strep throat or sing like the love child of Luciano Pavarotti and Freddie Mercury, every vocal performance can sound a hell of a lot better with the right processing.
This is no problem if you play with a national touring act that has its own sound system, racks of outboard gear, and team of professional live-sound engineers, but the majority of bands that slug it out at smaller gigs usually can’t afford such luxuries.
Several companies offer affordable foot-controlled multi-effect units for vocalists, and while these offer good solutions, they can add to stage clutter for singing guitarists who may already have numerous pedals at their feet.
The TC-Helicon VoiceLive 3 is the ideal solution for singing guitarists as it combines TC’s acclaimed guitar effects and vocal effects in a single foot-controlled unit.
FEATURES The TC Helicon VoiceLive 3 combines a full-featured vocal processor, guitar processor and sophisticated looper, each with its own independent processor. All three can be controlled simultaneously via footswitches on the VoiceLive 3 unit, and global presets allow users to change entire vocal, guitar and looper settings at once with a single click of a footswitch. Individual inputs and outputs are provided for sending vocals and electric/acoustic-electric guitars to separate sound systems and amplifiers.
VoiceLive 3’s capabilities are incredibly deep, so we can only scratch the surface of its capabilities here. Vocal effects include reverb, delay, modulation, harmony, doubling, pitch correction, vocoder and more. Guitar effects are based on TC’s acclaimed TonePrint Series and include Flashback Delay, Hall of Fame Reverb, Corona Chorus and Vortex Flanger, plus amp modeling, distortion/overdrive, compression, wah, pitch shift, tremolo, modulation effects, and much more.
The looper allows users to record multiple tracks, and it holds up to 45 minutes of recorded loop material that can be saved to presets and even arranged in separate sections to create songs.
While VoiceLive 3 has only 10 footswitches on its control panel, its layer footswitch allows guitarists to re-map six of those footswitches to control only vocal, guitar or looper effects and functions. Presets can also be programmed to mix vocal and guitar footswitch functions together. The rings surrounding the footswitches illuminate in red (vocal), blue (guitar), or pink (looper) to make it easy to know what type of processing is being controlled. The unit includes 250 factory presets plus internal memory locations for another 500 user presets.
PERFORMANCE Although VoiceLive 3 is incredibly sophisticated and deep, it is surprisingly easy to use. The factory presets enable even technophobic musicians to get up and running within minutes. Chords played on the guitar can automatically guide vocal harmony processing and other effects. An Acoustic mode setting instantly optimizes the VoiceLive 3’s guitar processing section for an acoustic-electric guitar.
The vocal, guitar and looper edit screens are instantly accessed via dedicated switches on the front controller panel, and the control knob, four mix knobs and large display make it easy to navigate menus and adjust parameters.
Of course, the bottom line with any processor is the quality of its effects, and this is where VoiceLive 3 really delivers the goods. Individually, the vocal, guitar and looper sections are worth the price of admission on their own, and collectively they make VoiceLive 3 an incredible bargain. The vocal effects deliver professional studio-quality processing, particularly the realistic-sounding harmonies, lush reverbs and instantaneous pitch correction. The guitar effects are similarly stellar, as anyone familiar with TC’s TonePrint pedals can attest. The looper may be the Voiceprint 3’s secret weapon, as it is more powerful and sophisticated than most dedicated loopers on the market.
LIST PRICE $799.99
MANUFACTURER TC-Helicon, tc-helicon.com
Vocal and guitar processing and a sophisticated looper are combined in a single unit, allowing guitarists to control vocal and guitar effects at once.
Vocal effects include reverb, delay, modulation, harmony, doubling, pitch correction, vocoder and more.
THE BOTTOM LINE Providing studio-quality vocal and guitar effects plus a sophisticated looper, the TC-Helicon VoiceLive 3 lets guitarists sound like pros without an entourage of live-sound engineers.