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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
Bret Michaels Recovering From Heart Surgery
Poison singer Bret Michaels underwent a cardiac catheterization this morning at St. Joseph's Hospital in Phoenix, Arizona, to repair a hole in his heart. Doctors discovered the hole when treating Michaels for a brain hemorrhage last April. According to a report at Popeater.com, the procedure was successful, and Michaels is recovering in the ICU.
Best wishes to Michaels for a complete recovery.
Alex Skolnick Trio to Release Veritas on March 29
Guitarist Alex Skolnick and his trio will release their third album, Veritas, on March 29, 2011 on the Palmetto Records label. The 11-track album contains nine original compositions, a cover of Metallica's "Fade to Black," and a bonus remix of the song "Bollywood Jam" by Jay Sustain and Nik Chinboukas.
Skolnick first made a name for himself as founding guitarist for the pioneering thrash band Testament, but after seeing Miles Davis's electric band on TV, the guitarist moved to New York City, enrolled in the New School in Manhattan and successfully made the transition from metal shredder to jazz bopper, forming the Alex Skolnick Trio while earning his BFA.
Despite his newfound affinity for swing and such, Skolnick never left his metal roots behind, choosing to arrange some of the all-time great metal tracks into jazz structures, thus attracting many hard rock and metal fans to the sound of contemporary jazz, albeit an edgier version of the genre.
To keep up on all the lastest AST news, visit www.alexskolnick.com.
New Joe Bonamassa Album Due in March
Though he's long been considered one of the "hardest working men in show business," it looks like 2011 is going to be one nonstop ride for guitarist Joe Bonamassa. On March 22, Bonamassa will release his 12th full-length solo album, Dust Bowl, followed by a world tour covering the U.S., Canada, Europe, Asia, and Australia. The press release at Bonamassa's web site says of the album: "Dust Bowl combines the gritty, blues-based tones of Bonamassa's first albums with the fluid, genre-defying sounds he's mastered in the years since, plus a dose of Nashville in duets with legends John Hiatt and Vince Gill."
The record was produced by Kevin "Caveman" Shirley, who also did his last album, Black Rock, as well as the Bonamassa-led Black Country Communion album featuring vocalist/bassist Glenn Hughes, drummer Jason Bonham, and keyboardist Derek Sherinian.
Speaking of BCC, Hughes last week posted on his Twitter page that a new Black Country Communion record will be released in June of this year, to coincide with a tour.
And finally, Shirley, in a blog post at his web site recapping what he did in 2010, mentioned that Bonamassa and singer Beth Hart are working together on an album that will "show a different side of them," as Shirley put it. He goes on to say that they hope to release that record by September.
So, prepare for 2011 to be the year of "Bonamassa Overload," and if you're as big of fans as we are, that ain't a bad thing at all.
Here's video of BCC performing the Led Zeppelin classic "No Quarter" at Wolverhampton Civic Hall (U.K.) last month.
Top Jam Tracks of 2010
One of my favorite products here at GuitarInstructor.com is our play-along jam tracks category. Yeah, I know, some of you might say, "Why not just jam along with the CD?" Well, that's fun, but if you really want to gauge your ability to play a certain song, try removing the guitar part and step into those shoes all by yourself! Plus, this sort of practice will do wonders for your ability to keep good time.
Anyhow, here are the 20 most popular jam tracks of 2010. Not surprisingly, lots of blues and classic rock top the list. Download a few today and give your chops a test!
1. "Sweet Home Alabama" Lynyrd Skynryd
2. "Cold Shot" Stevie Ray Vaughan
3. "You Really Got Me" Van Halen
4. "Sunshine of Your Love" Cream
5. "Sweet Home Chicago" a la Blues Brothers
6. "Heaven" Los Lonely Boys
7. "Get Back" The Beatles
8. "Wanted Dead or Alive" Bon Jovi
9. "Purple Haze" Jimi Hendrix
10. "Brown Eyed Girl" Van Morrison
11. "Proud Mary" Creedence Clearwater Revival
12. "Jessica" Allman Brothers Band
13. "Iron Man" Black Sabbath
14. "Detroit Rock City" KISS
15. "Born to Be Wild" Steppenwolf
16. "Come As You Are" Nirvana
17. "Red House" Jimi Hendrix
18. "Cross Road Blues (Crossroads)" Cream
19. "Little Wing" Stevie Ray Vaughan
20. "La Grange" ZZ Top
Poll: The Greatest Guitar Instrumental of All Time
One of my morning customs is to flick on the Weather Channel when I wake up, and see what's playing behind their "Local on the 8's" forecast. Usually it's a Pat Metheny tune or some smooth jazz snoozer, but every once in a while, they surprise me. Like when I heard "Cliffs of Dover" the other day, or another time when I heard "Walk, Don't Run." So I started thinking of other guitar instrumental suggestions I could send their way, which in turn led to this poll:
If you don't like any of those, tell us your favorite in the comments below. And if you want the guitar tab so you can learn these classics, click on the title below:
"Cliffs of Dover" Eric Johnson
"Eruption" Eddie Van Halen
"Far Beyond the Sun" Yngwie Malmsteen
"For the Love of God" Steve Vai
"Hide Away" Freddie King
"Lenny" Stevie Ray Vaughan
"Samba Pa Ti" Santana
"Satch Boogie" Joe Satriani
"Sleepwalk" Santo & Johnny
"Walk, Don't Run" The Ventures
No Guns N' Roses on Glee
In a recent interview with Entertainment Weekly, guitarist Slash discussed his tour with Ozzy, the status of the search for a new Velvet Revolver singer, Axl Rose being named greatest lead singer of all time, and whether or not we'll see Guns N' Roses songs featured in the hit Fox TV show, "Glee."
Regarding the latter, Slash said, "We were asked about that once already but it got turned down. In the current climate of what's going on in entertainment these days, I try to be more optimistic than negative because it's really easy to get negative about it, but I draw the line at 'Glee.'
He then makes it abundantly clear how he really feels about it: "'Glee' is worse than Grease and Grease is bad enough. When Grease came out I was like, 'Oh, c'mon, give me a break.' Actually, I look at Grease now and think: Between 'High School Musical' and 'Glee,' Grease was a brilliant work of art."