Your Daily Dose of Guitar News & Reviews
Sunshine of Your Love Born on This Day 1967
This day (1/31) in 1967, Cream bassist Jack Bruce, inspired by Jimi Hendrix's performance the night before at London's Saville Theater, wrote the main riff to "Sunshine of Your Love." Today the blues scale-based gem is one of the most widely recognized guitar riffs in the world.
"Sunshine of Your Love" guitar tab, bass tab, and jam track
Win a Trip to Meet Eric Clapton in London
From now until April 30, 2011, each time you buy a package of Ernie Ball Slinky guitar strings at Guitar Center, you'll find a special code inside that you then enter at ernieball.com/clapton. From those codes, 15 lucky winners will be randomly selected to win the Eric Clapton Experience, which includes a private meet-and-greet in London, access to a private rehearsal, and a ticket to see Clapton at Royal Albert Hall. Additionally, select packs of Slinkys will contain a special Eric Clapton pick (kinda like the Willy Wonka golden ticket, no?) that is redeemable for prizes ranging from Guitar Center gift cards to Ernie Ball instruments to a trip to NAMM 2012.
Top 10 Debut Albums of All Time
Rolling Stone recently asked its Facebook fans to vote on their top 10 debut albums of all time. Thought I typically cringe at Rolling Stone top lists, the fans seem to have nailed this one pretty tight (except for the Strokes ... quite possibly the most overrated band of the past 40 years). So, without further ado, here they are (click on the artist name for guitar tab)!
10. Is This It? The Strokes
9. The Clash The Clash
8. The Velvet Underground and Nico The Velvet Underground
7. Van Halen Van Halen
6. Boston Boston
5. Are You Experienced? Jimi Hendrix Experience
4. The Doors The Doors
3. Ten Pearl Jam
2. Led Zeppelin I Led Zeppelin
1. Appetite For Destruction Guns N' Roses
Ground Your Phrases in Chord Tones and Watch Your Solos Soar
Guitar ruts ... They're disheartening, frustrating, and not a whole lot of fun. But if dealt with effectively, they can end up being your best friend. About a year ago, I decided it was time to seriously start working on my craft again, and one of the problem points I identified was that I relied entirely too much on scale-based lines and licks. And even though I knew the solution, it just didn't take root until a series of encounters with players I respect enormously.
The first was when my good friend and former colleague Troy Nelson (Guitar One, Guitar Edge) visited last summer. He picked up one of my guitars and started playing a string of mighty tasty phrases, to which I said, "You've been practicing!" Then he told me that he'd been focusing on building his lines around chord tones and arpeggio shapes, rather than scales. "Of course," I thought. I knew that, but old habits die hard. (By the way, Troy's great book Guitar Aerobics offers one heck of a fretboard workout!)
Then, less than two months later, Alter Bridge guitarist Mark Tremonti told me how he was working on some Robben Ford solos and licks, and the examples he played were just loaded with chord tones supplemented with slick, chromatic leading tones and passing tones. "A-ha!"
And finally, while perusing YouTube videos recommended by friends and colleagues, the coolest lines were almost always arpeggio-based.
So, even though progress has been slower than I'd like (due to things like this full-time gig, kids, chores, etc.), this shift in strategy to focusing on chord tones and arpeggio shapes has opened enormous doors for my improvisation. And if you've been finding yourself in a similar rut, I'm quite certain it will have the same effect for you.
Or check out Barrett Tagliarino's excellent book, Chord-Tone Soloing (MI Press).
Van Halen Hits the Studio
Happy 56th birthday, Eddie Van Halen! To celebrate, why not give us some new VH music? Oh, what's that? You've already begun?
According to a report at NME.com, Eddie and singer David Lee Roth have started their first Van Halen album together since the band's landmark 1984 disc, 27 years ago. Further, it looks like producer John Shanks (Bon Jovi, Michelle Branch), who recently tweeted "Here we go kids...VH" and posted a picture of Eddie Van Halen's guitar amp, will be at the controls.
Looks like we might be runnin' with the devil once again by mid-to-late 2011!
It's Official - Big 4 Announce One and Only US Show
Last year, thrash metal pioneers Metallica, Megadeth, Slayer, and Anthrax grabbed headlines when the "Big 4" played on the same stage for the first time in history, at the Sonisphere Festival in Warsaw, Poland. (Their Sofia, Bulgaria, performance is available on a 2-DVD set here.) After seven successful European dates last year, American fans began lobbying for U.S. dates, and on April 23, at the Empire Polo Club in Indio, California, those wishes will come true.
Tickets for the day-long concert event go on sale this Friday, January 28, at 10:00 am PST, at Ticketmaster. Prices are $99 for general admission and $199 for VIP. For more details, visit www.thebig4festival.com and www.facebook.com/TheBig4.
Guitar Instructor Lick of the Week 01-25-2011
I've always been a huge admirer of Eric Johnson's guitar playing, primarily because he has this otherworldly technique that allows him to shred when he wants to, yet he sounds like nobody else. (Though it should be noted that Joe Bonamassa, who's admitted that EJ is one of his idols, has pretty much mastered the same phrasing approach.) And as I began dissecting Johnson's lines, I found that his secret is that he uses pentatonic scales, only he doesn't limit himself to the root-position minor pentatonic box pattern and its upper extension the way that 98% of guitarists do. He actually learned and mastered the pentatonic scale in all five patterns and uses them interchangeably, shifting effortlessly from one to another mid-phrase, to create phrases that those 98% will never even stumble upon.
One of my personal favorites is the root position major pentatonic scale (in the key of G: G-A-B-D-E; see example below), which forms the basis for this week's lick, which in turn was inspired by an E minor pentatonic phrase in "Cliffs of Dover." The lick below begins on the 3rd (B) and on the way up skips the 2nd (A), thus allowing for a strong G major arpeggio in the middle of the ascent. Here, it's played in an eighth-note shuffle. Once you feel comfortable using the scale pattern and the lick, try it with eighth-note triplets, which is what Johnson uses in "Cliffs of Dover." (But beware, at a tempo of 180, those triplets will be smokin' fast, so work your way up to it.) Also be sure to try variations of the phrase in a variety of styles. I think you'll find, as I have, it's quite flexible.
For more on pentatonics, check out:
Combining Major & Minor Pentatonics by Tom Kolb
Connecting Pentatonic Positions by Tom Kolb
Sliding Pentatonic Scales by Fred Sokolow
Connecting Box Patterns by Dave Celentano