As the Notes Burn
Hey guys, welcome back to the continuing
saga of “As the Notes Burn.”
In this episode Greg Howe decides to put
into effect the wisdom of a true mentor and
genius by the name of Frank Zappa, whose
valuable advice was subtly displayed in text
form on the front cover of his 1981 release,
Shut Up ‘n Play Yer Guitar.
What will result from having taken such
advice? Guess you’ll need to stay tuned
in order to find out. But here’s a clue: this
month’s episode came awfully close to being
entitled “Less Blab, More Tab!”
Okay, so now that you’re finished cheering
and celebrating over the implications of that
clue, let me briefly preface this stuff by picking
up from where I left off.
I vowed to present licks and lines that would
not only lend themselves to our ability
to execute at high speed, but that would
also contain a level of musicality beyond
just the delivery of mundane mathematical
sequences designed solely for the sake of
securing note rapidity.
method that utilizes the musical concept of
superimposing, which is basically the idea of
placing one tonality on top of another tonality
for the purpose of creating a more complex
and colorful new tonality.
This would be like the soloing equivalent
to creating chord extensions by essentially
playing two chords simultaneously. For
instance, if one guitarist played an A minor
triad chord while another guitarist played
(overlaid) an E minor triad chord, the
combined chords would create an Am9 chord.
In the same way, we can imply these
expanded tonalities within licks and lines…
even at high speed.
I’ve personally found that the easiest way
to achieve this is with the use of arpeggios.
Simply stated, the arpeggios would, in effect,
serve as the overlaying tonality against
whatever chord is being addressed.
The following examples are all designed to
work within the framework of those modes,
keys, and chords existing as a result of the
parent key of G major.
Note: most of the examples involve the use
of 4-note arpeggios that include the 7th as
opposed to just triads, and are generally
comprised of shapes in which the root note
is located on the 5th string. You’ll also find
that the examples encourage a very legato-like approach, since the arpeggio shapes
really lend themselves to that texture. Also,
some examples illustrate the use of multiple
arpeggios, or multiple parts of arpeggios
within a single lick or line.
The idea here isn’t so much that we’re just
playing arpeggios up and down in a blatant
fashion, but rather we’re utilizing arpeggio
shapes for the sake of forming the foundation
of colorful and musical licks or lines, which can
then be used effectively at any speed.
My recommendation would be to first play
and hear these licks over an A minor chord,
then play and hear these licks over a C major
chord, and finally play and hear them over a
D7 chord. This can be a very useful practice,
since the context in which these licks are
used will completely dictate the tonal
characteristic they take on.
Yes, we will challenge the popular notion
that shred has to happen at the expense
The examples will also technically work with
the other modes related to G major, but at the
risk of getting into a long and boring harmony
discussion, for now I’ll just say they’ll work
best in the contexts of the above mentioned.
Though there are a number of ways to
achieve this, I’ll be focusing this month on a
In other words, all of these examples will work
in a Minor context if the key is A (implying
a Dorian tonality); or a Major context if the
key is C (implying a Lydian tonality); or a
Dominant 7th context if the key is D (implying
a Mixolydian tonality).
E xample 1 These are the 7 arpeggio shapes (based off the G major chord scale) from which some of the licks are designed.