Home Practice Audio for Advanced Beginners
When we first learn how to play guitar solos, we’re generally taught to stick to the confines of a specific scale shape. As we progress, we learn how to break out of that initial scale shape and into other shapes all across the fretboard. Yet, no matter how many different places across the guitar we learn to play in the key of A-minor, there is still this somewhat unquestioned conviction that we should never stray from the safety of the key. The notes that are outside of the key and don’t fit into any of the patterns we learned are regarded as forbidden.
While it remains unclear what exactly happens if we play these forbidden notes, the results are sure to be calamities of horrible dissonance with catastrophic consequences for those guitarists careless enough to play a note not included in our nice, safe scale shapes. Or at least that’s how it really feels sometimes. As guitarists, we spend so much time memorizing patterns devoted to teaching us what notes we can play that the thought of venturing into the notes outside of those patterns can never occur to many players. Yet, soloists of all instruments, including guitar, play notes outside of the given key quite often. Because (and here’s the big secret) when you’re improvising, no notes are off-limits.
Sure some notes will blend more smoothly into your lines and any accompaniments than others, but there’s a value to those jarring, dissonant note choices that shouldn’t be dismissed. When you’re improvising, all twelve notes of the chromatic scale are viable options to you. It’s just that some of those options are safer choices than others. To be clear, I’m not trying to say something along the lines of, “There are no rules, so go pick up your guitar, step on all of your distortion pedals, and go bananas!”, which honestly sounds a little overwhelming. The scale shapes you have put hard work into learning have value, but the notes within them are not the only ones available to you. In this article, we’re going to go over some great ways to get started venturing outside of the scale shapes you know and love.
Let’s start by reviewing the A-minor scale shape that begins on the 5th fret of the 6th string. This scale shape will be our frame of reference for the concepts discussed moving forward. While the concepts discussed here are applicable (with some needed adjustments) to just about any scale, I prefer starting off with a minor scale. This is partially because the notes we will add to the minor scale be relatively easier on your fingers than most other common scale shapes. However, the primary reason is minor tonalities, which are already a bit darker and more dissonant than their major counterparts, tend to easier to have notes from outside the key blend smoothly.
If you are unsure how the A-minor scale goes off the top of your head, it is written out below.
Now, keeping that scale shape, we are going to add some of the most common out-of-key notes for a soloist to play. The first note we’re going to add is a flat-fifth, a note you may recognize from the blues scale. In relation to the root note, the flat-fifth creates an extremely dissonant interval called a tritone. The tritone is the interval at the heart of dominant chords, diminished chords, blues music, heavy metal, and much more of the grimier side of music. In the key of A-minor, the flat-fifth is going to be an Eb, a note which will occur twice within the octave of this scale. Below is tablature of the above A-minor scale, except with the flat fifth added. The result is a scale similar to the previously mentioned blues scale, but containing some notes omitted from a typical blues scale.
The A-Minor Scale with an added flat-five
Try jamming on the above scale shape. It’s almost like your typical minor scale shape, but the added flat-fifth packs a very distinctive punch, which is what makes it probably the most common non-diatonic (meaning out of the key) note for soloists to use. Once you feel comfortable incorporating the flat-fifth in your playing, try adding the sharp-seventh. The sharp-seventh is a typically major scale degree, but it works well in minor tonalities and is used in the harmonic and melodic minor scales (you can see more about those scales HERE. In the key of A-minor, the sharp-seventh is going to a G#, and, like the Eb, there are going to be two convenient spots to add the G# to our above scale shape. You can see the new addition of the sharp-seven reflected in the tablature below.
The A-Common Chromatic Minor Scale
Now try jamming using the new scale shape above. There isn’t a formal name for this scale since it’s of my own invention, but I like to refer to it as the “common chromatic minor scale”. The common chromatic minor scale contains all of the options of the natural minor scale, but also the flat-fifth of the blues scale and the sharp-seventh of the harmonic minor scale. Because of this, it lets you incorporate the essential notes of the two most common non-diatonic scales into otherwise diatonic solos. The shape above it totally movable, and can be applied to any minor key. Once you feel like you’ve got a hand of the common chromatic minor scale, there is one more non-diatonic note I’d like you to try experimenting with.
The final note we’re going to add is called a flat-second. The flat-second is only one fret up from the root note, and when compared to the root it creates an interval called a minor second. The minor second is the most jarring, dissonant interval to be found in tonal music. While the flat-second is not used as widely as any of the notes found in the common chromatic minor scale, when used well it makes such a bold statement that it can’t be ignored. In the key of A-minor, the flat-second is a Bb.
Below is the tab of a scale with the flat-second added onto the common chromatic minor scale (I have yet to come up with a satisfactory name for this one).
The A-Common Chromatic Minor Scale with an added flat-nine
I hope you learned something from this article! If you have any questions, comments, corrections (I have been known to commit the more than occasional type or notation mistake), or requests for future articles like this one, please feel free to reach out to me at email@example.com.
With its evil atmospheres, buzzy lo-fi recordings, striking costumes, and lurid history filled with arson, Satanism, and murder, black metal has long been one of the most polarizing of metal’s many genres. The genre has its roots in a loose collection of widely spread European bands, which were retrospectively named first wave black metal and included such bands as Switzerland’s Celtic Frost, Denmark’s Mercyful Fate, and, perhaps most significantly of all, England’s Venom. However black metal did not evolve into a self-identified movement until the early 90s, when a small and close-knit community of Norwegian bands codified the genre into the distinctive sound widely associated with it today. Since then, black metal has evolved in many different directions, including into such subgenres as war metal, symphonic black metal, and blackgaze, among others.
Black metal’s lo-fi audio aesthetics and focus on atmosphere over raw power have made it one of the few metal genres to lend itself well to solo artists, although the full black metal band is well established as well. This fact, teamed with the genre’s deeply devoted cult following, has led to many musicians trying black metal on for size. If you’re looking to try your hand at black metal but unsure where to start with the highly codified genre, then this article may help. Below are three easy but important tips to start playing and writing in the style today.
So grab your spikiest armband and your guitar, put on your corpse paint, and let’s get started!
Although not used quite as frequently by many more contemporary chords, one of the key sounds of early Norwegian black metal is sliding chords played in tandem with a static open string. The open string is typically the 6th string, although any of the thicker strings on your guitar should do the trick. The open string is then played with a chord whose root note is on a higher string, thus creating a slash chord. The chord in question is usually either a power chord or a barred minor chord, although that is far from a hard rule.
As the guitarist strums the chord and the open string together, they then create a riff out of sliding the chord up and down the fretboard (typically in parallel movement, meaning that the chord shape remains unchanged as it moves) while keeping the open string as is. This creates the dark, somewhat ambiguous harmony that gave many classic black metal songs their spooky vibe. These kinds of riffs also serve the dual function of providing a chord progression, something that is taken for granted in many genres but is often absent from metal.
Written below is an example riff that uses this technique. Try playing through it, as it may help you get a hang of the concept.
The above riff is based upon sliding a five-string minor barre chord shape while the E string rings out open. The chord shape stays exactly the same throughout the riff, meaning that all you have to do is slide it up and down the fretboard. When you see all those lines connecting the notes in the music, that means it’s time to slide. The rhythm mostly follows the pattern of alternating quarter notes and three triplets, a fairly common rhythmic figure in black metal.
It’s also worth noting that while the above example is in standard tuning, these kinds of riffs work great with alternate tunings. This is particularly true if you adjust the tuning of the string that remains open throughout, which can create some really interesting harmonies when done right.
Although in no way unique to black metal, tremolo picking is probably the single technique most associated with the genre. Tremolo picking is a technique that involves alternate picking a single note (or sometimes a couple of notes) very quickly, thus creating the trembling effect more broadly associated with the word tremolo. This trembling effect is great for creating the dark textures definitive of black metal, which has led to the technique being used throughout the genre.
There are several ways to tremolo pick, but the one we’re going to go over is the most common and arguably easiest. First, rest your forearm in a secure, locked position across the front of the guitar. If positioned correctly, your forearm should form a loose diagonal line with the neck pickup, but the most important thing is that you’re still able to easily reach the strings without muting any of them. Once your forearm is in position, start tremolo picking by moving your wrist up and down with quick, concise movements. The motion is all in the wrist, so if find yourself having trouble with tremolo picking then that’s where you should place your focus. Tremolo picking can be tricky to start, but once you get the hang of it then it’ll start to feel pretty natural.
It’s also worth noting that while it’s possible to tremolo pick with any pick (or even no pick) if you try hard enough, it’s much easier to pull off the technique if you use a pick that’s on the smaller side in length and on the thicker side in width. A lot of picks on the market fit this description, with Tortex Jazz III picks being a particularly popular pick of this variety. If you’re interested in learning more about picks in general, you can read about it HERE.
In black metal, guitarists will tremolo pick all over the fretboard. Tremolo picking on the lower end creates a cavernous, rumbling sound that’s great for hard-hitting riffs, and tremolo picking on the higher end creates a shrill in-your-face texture that’s aesthetically similar to the screeching sound many black metal vocalists employ and is great for playing lead lines and solos. Written below is an example of a black metal riff that makes heavy use of tremolo picking.
As you probably noticed, each individual note is only written once in the above notation. That’s because if every little tremolo note was written out individually, the staff would be very cluttered with notes and hard to follow. So instead, the note value is written for the amount of time spent on that particular pitch before moving on, and then ornamented with those thick lines. One line means that you tremolo pick at an eighth-note speed, two lines (as shown in the example) means that you tremolo pick at a sixteenth-note speed, three lines means that you tremolo pick at a thirty-second-note speed, and so on.
Black metal guitarists often create riffs out of the harmonies on two adjacent strings, often employing this trick during a song’s more melodic moments. The riffs are constructed from notes on two adjacent strings played in unison, and the harmonies the two notes create are what give each riff its distinctive character. These riffs are usually built on the notes along the three thickest strings of the guitar and tend to be mostly diatonic, meaning that all of its notes are in the same key. As you can tell from the number of accidentals in the two examples above, black metal tends not to be very diatonic, which makes these kinds of riffs an exception to the rule.
Below is a tablature depicting all of the notes along the bottom three strings that are in the key of E-minor. Any key will work for this kind of riff but, for this example, we’re going to stick to E-minor.
Try playing through the above tab. If you were trying to create this sort of black metal riff in the key of E-minor, you would do so with the above notes. Below is an example of a two-note harmony black metal riff that uses the above notes.
The above riff uses two-note harmonies culled entirely from the notes in E-minor, set to a steady eight-note rhythm. It’s mostly in the same position on the neck, with the only required shift coming at the very end of the riff. Try playing through the pretty simple above riff. Once you feel like you’ve got the hang of it, try writing your black metal riffs using the same guidelines.
Once you’ve done that, feel free to try writing using these guidelines that mix up the key or that use some notes from outside the key. These two-note riffs can be a bit easier to write than many other kinds of riffs in the black metal style, so they’re a great place to start. But once you feel ready, you can totally try your hand at writing riffs either with sliding chords or with tremolo picking, as discussed earlier.
Obviously, there’s a lot more to black metal guitar than what was discussed here, but these three topics are all great places playing the genre with. Some other common black metal guitar tricks that can be great to try out include playing power chords with moving fifths and tremolo picking with triplet rhythms. But at the end of the day, as long as it’s heavy with a deliciously evil atmosphere, whatever you play can make for good black metal.
I hope you learned something from this article! If you have any questions, comments, corrections (I have been known to commit the more than occasional type or notation mistake), or requests for future articles like this one, please feel free to reach out to me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Maybe I’m being overly optimistic, but it really seems like we might be gearing up to return to normalcy. I’m counting down the days until my second shot will have been in my arm long enough that I’ll be as immunized to coronavirus as currently possible, and I know that many people around me are doing the same. It’s been a rough year, I’m hoping that normal life might return with just enough of a bang to make up for it. But for everything I’ve had to give up because of this pandemic, the single thing I miss the most just might be live music, both as a performer and as a frequent audience member.
However, I think that there’s going to be much more to participating in the return of live music than simply waiting for it. Live music is going to be different when it first comes back, as will your participation in it. In this piece, I’m going to go over what I believe are the three most important things you’re going to have to do safely and happily attend shows again in the near(ish) future.
Obviously access to vaccines isn’t equally available to everyone right now but if you’re hoping to partake in the upcoming wave of live music events, then my first and strongest piece of advice is to get vaccinated as soon as you’re able. The presence of vaccines is what’s making the return of live music possible in the first place, and if you want to be in the scene, then it’s important to do your part to make that scene safe again.
Getting vaccinated will not only reduce your chances of getting sick yourself but, more importantly, being vaccinated also reduces your chances of inadvertently spreading the virus to others by a significant margin. This means that getting vaccinated isn’t just a good decision for your personal safety, but a responsible move for the well-being of the entire musical community that you’re hoping to join.
Rules regarding who qualifies for the vaccine and how to go about getting one if you do currently vary state by state. If you currently have yet to get your first shot then it’s worthing doing some research to see if you qualify, and if not, it’s worth figuring out when you might. If you do qualify, then the website TurboVax, (not to be confused with the similarly titled tax site TurboTax), is a great data aggregating site from which you can easily set up an appointment.
Once you’re fully immunized from the virus, my next piece of advice is to look into your local DIY music scene. A DIY music scene means any music scene that operates outside the industry of typical music venues, and includes shows that take place in such locations as art spaces, residential homes, after hours at private businesses that are not typically venues, and pretty much any other non-venue space you can think of.
DIY spaces tend not to be profit-driven business ventures the way, but instead are artist-centered communities created purely for the love of music. Many music lovers will tell you that DIY music spaces have long been the best part of their music scene, but I predict that they will be playing an exceptionally important role in live music during the transitioning phase that we are hopefully about to undergo.
Because of their lack of capitalistic demand, DIY music spaces that don’t have to worry about profit margins are free to put on smaller, distanced events that are significantly safer as we transition into reopening. Additionally, as DIY spaces are not proper businesses they are not subject to the mandates and requirements affecting formel venues. This gives those running DIY music events way more freedom with how they put on events and how to handle what variables they encounter during re-opening. I myself have noticed plans being quietly placed in the world of DIY music for covid-safe events in the coming months on a scale that I’m simply not seeing from traditional venues, and I firmly believe that the reasons just discussed are a major part of why that is.
The underground and community-oriented nature of most DIY music scenes can make them harder to access to outsiders than a profit-driven traditional venue, but DIY shows can be easy enough to find once you know where to look. If you are unsure where to look, I’d recommend asking the music lovers you know in your area, searching social media for DIY events, and keeping an eye on the activities of some of your favorite local bands. Additionally, if you own, rent, or otherwise have access to a space that you believe may be large for a small, covid-safe show, then you can always consider putting on a show yourself!
So you’ve gotten your shots, you’ve found some fun-looking DIY shows featuring some of your favorite local bands, and you’re ready to see live music for the first time in over a year! That’s all great, but there are a few more things that I will like to urge you to consider as you attend these shows. To first, and most important, is that while the vaccine does significantly reduce your chances of transmitting the virus to others, it is currently believed might not reduce it entirely.
Furthermore, while the vaccines do reduce your likelihood of contracting coronavirus by astounding margins, none of the vaccines currently available are quite one-hundred-percent effective, meaning that you are still running a slight risk to yourself each and every time you attend an event with other people. So while we approaching a long-awaited return to some degree of normalcy, each of us still has to do our part to be vigilant to prevent a possible fourth-wave as regulations begin to loosen in response to vaccinations, and, as a species, to finally beat this pandemic once and for all.
That means that even if you’re vaccinated, try your best not to attend over-crowded events and avoid having an excessive amount of contact with the rest of the crowd until enough of the population has been vaccinated that we no longer have to worry about such things. Not being able to jump into the pit at punk and hardcore shows is probably going to break my heart a bit this summer, but we’ve all made so many sacrifices this past year that if it feels a little foolish to be unwilling to make a few more small ones in this final stretch.
When people talk about pop rock as a genre, they generally think of bands like The Cardigans and early Maroon 5 who bring gentle, radio-friendly hooks and slick production to music whose foundation is otherwise that of a somewhat subdued rock band. However, on their debut EP The Power, NYC-based duo Villins invert that conception entirely. Though rooted in the big beat, sheen production, and simple earworm vocal hooks that have come to define 21st-century pop music, Villins manage to still bring the rock in the most bombastic ways imaginable.
They do this through their use of crunchy riffs, hair metal inspired lead guitar fireworks, and an endearingly flamboyant sense of grandeur. Instead of being a rock band that uses their pop sense to tone down their output, Villins is, at their core, a pop band that uses heavy elements of rock and roll to rev their music into the next gear. The rock elements are largely brought by guitarist and New York City Guitar School teacher Kareem Devlin, who often goes by “Jesus”, a nickname given to him by Lady Gaga during his 2011 stint as her lead guitarist.
It was during his time with Lady Gaga that vocalist Jesyka first became familiar with Devlin’s playing, and the two formed Villins soon after Devlin produced an EP for a former band of Jesyka’s. It is fitting that Devlin’s connection to Lady Gaga would ultimately lead to the formation of Villins, as their sound is in many ways the logical continuation of Devlin’s work with the pop star. This is especially evident after listening to the Lady Gaga track “Electric Chapel” from her 2011 studio album Born This Way, which features Devlin playing the surging, Def Leppard-esque electric guitar riff that serves as one of the song’s main hooks.
From the very first of the four tracks on The Power, Villins vocalist Jesyka channels Lady Gaga’s knack rhythmic vocal hooks with minimalist but effective melodies. But unlike “Electric Chapel”, where Devlin’s guitar is mostly silent except when playing the main riff or his high speed solo reminiscent of Eddie Van Halen on “Beat It”, he is given the chance to really let loose on The Power. His guitar is as central to the accompaniment as Les Claypool’s bass on a Primus song, yet he manages to avoid ever stepping on or distracting from the radio-friendly topline of each track. The Power is more than a collection of rock songs catchy enough to appeal to pop fans; it’s a collection of pop songs edgy and unhinged enough to appeal to the much more stubborn fan base of hard rock fans which is, by just about all accounts, a far more challenging feat to pull off.
Take a listen to the Villians EP, The Power, as well as see more of their work here.
Logic Pro X (recently sometimes referred to simply as Logic Pro) is cheaper and easier to use than many other music recording softwares, but is still a very capable program in its own right. This fact on its own has made it a popular program for home recording since its release in 2013 (following the somewhat less popular Logic Pro 9). However, Logic Pro X is much more focussed on the recording and processing of live instruments than many of its contemporaries, making it the perfect recording software for many guitarists. In the article, I’ll walk you everything you need to start recording guitar on Logic Pro X today.
When recording guitar or bass on Logic Pro X, probably the first thing you are going to want to do is to attach an audio interface. An audio interface functions as a middle-man between your computer and your instruments and/or microphones. While an audio interface is not necessarily required in order to record audio on your computer, I highly recommend using one. Without one, it is impossible to do such things as go direct-in or to attach an external microphone to your computer, both of which we will be going into greater detail on later.
If you are using an audio interface, start by plugging it into the USB port on your Mac (Logic Pro X is a Mac only software, so if you’re a Windows user then this might not be the software for you). Once it’s plugged in, click the Apple icon on the top left of your screen and open system preferences. Once you’re in system preferences, click on the sound icon, which is represented by a speaker.
Next, select the name of your interface on both the output and input menus, thus deselecting the default settings (Internal Microphone and Internal Speakers).
Once you’ve done that, open up Logic Pro X. Click on the drop-down menu titled Logic Pro X, scroll down the Preferences, and from there scroll down to Audio.
Next, click open the drop-down menus labeled Output Device and Input Device, and click on the name of your interface for both, much like did earlier in the system preferences for your Mac. After that, you should be good to go!
In order to record a guitar or bass part on Logic Pro X, the first thing you are going to do is create a new track. To create a track, click on the plus sign button located near the top-left of the screen. You can see the button’s location below, circled in red.
When creating a new track, a window will open presenting a variety of options, including software instrument, audio, drummer, External MIDI, and Guitar or Bass. If you’re looking to record a guitar track, you’re going to want to select audio or Guitar or Bass, but choose carefully as the options are not interchangeable.
The audio option is fairly simple. If clicked on, Logic Pro X will create a blank audio track that can be used to record any sound. Your computer will by default use its built-in microphone to pick up these sounds. While built-in computer mics are entirely functional, they are substandard in quality. If you are interested in creating recordings of at least decent quality, then I highly recommend investing in an external microphone, which can be connected to your computer through the use of an audio interface. Whatever sounds the microphone picks up will be saved to the project as an unaltered audio file. The audio option is for when you’re looking to authentically capture the way an instrument sounds when played in real life, and if the common choice for recording acoustic instruments, amplified electrics, and vocals.
The Guitar or Bass option is meant for electric instruments plugged directly into your computer, likely with the aid of an audio interface as well, and without the use of an external amplifier. Plugging an instrument directly into your computer with any sort of real-life amplifier is called going direct-in (often abbreviated as DI). Going DI will give you a crisp and clear sound that is super malleable through the use of digital effects. However, going DI will give you a thinner, more artificial sound that lacks some of the punch granted by using a real amplifier. Conventional wisdom is that electric guitars sound a bit thinner than desired when going DI, while bass guitars and acoustic-electric guitars tend to suffer less when going DI. However, some guitarists have gotten great tones going DI, so it’s certainly worth giving it a shot.
When you click on the Guitar or Bass option, Logic Pro X will create an audio track with a pre-made digital amplifier. The digital amplifier’s preset can be changed and its settings tweaked in order to alter the guitar tones it creates, and it can also be changed to a variety of bass amp and acoustic-electric amp options. While it is possible to use these digital amp settings in conjunction with a microphone just as you would when recording something with the audio option, doing so is not their intended use of the Guitar or Bass option. If you do this, you may have work cut out for you if you hope to get a clear or conventional tone.
The actual act of pressing record is probably the simplest part of this entire process. Start by placing the playhead at the spot in the song where you would like the track to begin (the playhead will by default be placed at the very beginning of the song). Once the playhead is placed as desired, double-check that the button near the top labeled 1234 is selected. Selecting this button will cause the program to give you a count-in before it starts recording you. It may seem like a small detail, but that moment to get ready can make a huge difference if you’re hoping to come in in time with the rest of the tracks. You can see the count in button circled below in red.
Once all that’s taken care of, it’s time record! Once you’re ready, press the big red circle button on top of the screen, slightly to the left. Once you click that red button, you’ll hear then count in, and then it’s time to start playing.
Once you’ve finished playing the desired part, you can end the recording by tapping the space bar. If everything went right, you should see a blue-colored box with a bumpy line going through its middle if you created a track with the audio option, or a purple box with a bumpy line going through its middle if you created a track with the Guitar or Bass option. The bumpy line indicates audio levels, so if you don’t see it then that’s not a good sign. It probably means that either the audio didn’t record, or that it recorded so faintly that it wasn’t enough for the program to mark visually. You can see an example of both kinds of tracks recorded successfully below.
Rockabilly may be one of the earliest forms of rock n’ roll, but it’s also one of its most deceptively complex. Rockabilly blends elements of county, R&B, bluegrass, and into music that has a simple skeleton but is fleshed with some pretty crafty musicianship. In this article, I’m going to give you a guide to start writing authentic sounding rockabilly riffs today. Although the scope of the genre obviously encompasses more than just what’s discussed here, the main exercise in this piece is a great way to start writing rockabilly guitar parts, and the concepts discussed are applicable to rockabilly guitar playing outside of the confines of this writing exercise.
A quick note: this article will assume that you have at least a basic understanding of music theory, as well as an understanding of the tones and rhythms common to rockabilly guitar playing. If you are unfamiliar with the sounds of rockabilly music, then I suggest taking a break and listening to some classic players in the genre before returning to this article. Twangy guitar tones and swing rhythms are a big part of the rockabilly sound, and there’s no better way to forge an understanding of those elements than listening to the real thing.
Rockabilly songs tend to only have a few chords, and are most commonly built around a twelve-bar blues pattern. While this may sound simple, a good rockabilly guitarist is able to flesh out that basic structure into something a tab more intricate and distinctive. They do this by combining notes taken from scale shapes with the chords the blues pattern, thus creating both slightly denser chords and little lead guitar licks placed between the chords themselves.
While most rockabilly guitarists will utilize barre chords at some point, many players in the genre rely heavily on open chord shapes. There’s something about the spank of an open string that really gives a rockabilly guitar part twangy punch the genre is associated with. Because of this, start by picking a blues in a key where all three chords can be played in an open position, such as E, A, G, or D.
Figure out what the three chords would be in that blues, but change the I and IV chord from dominant-sevenths to major chords. We’re still going to treat them as dominant-seventh chords, but for the time being, we just aren’t going to play the sevenths. Once you’ve figured out all of the chords, play through a full twelve-bars of whatever pattern you’ve ended up with.
Example: I’m choosing to play this exercise in the key of E. The chords in an E-blues are E7, A7, and B7. As we’re changing the I and IV chords to major chords, I’m left with the chords, E, A, and B7.
The next step is to find an open position Mixolydian scale in your chosen key. The Mixolydian is exactly like the major scale, except that the seventh scale degree is flatted (which means lowered by one fret). The Mixolydian is essentially the scale equivalent of a dominant seventh chord, as dominant seventh chords also have an ordinary major beginning but a flat-seventh ending. This makes the Mixolydian, along with the blues scale, a perfect scale to use with blues patterns and dominant seventh chords in general.
You can see open position scales tabbed out below in the four keys I listed as good examples earlier. The first note in each scale shape might not necessarily be the scale’s root note. We are looking at the following scales for their utilitarian function within the context of a very specific function, so I want to make sure that you had all notes in the scale position available to you, even if it means we’re starting to scale on a note other than the root. But even if these scales do start on a note other than the root, the context in which we are going to use them is still overwhelmingly Mixolydian, which is why I chose to label them as such.
An open E-Mixolydian Scale
An open A-Mixolydian Scale
An open G-Mixolydian Scale
An open D-Mixolydian Scale
Play through the scale appropriate to the key you have chosen. If the key you’ve chosen isn’t represented above, then try your best to figure out the shape using the concepts discussed. Once you feel like you’ve got the open Mixolydian scale shape down, then all of the pieces are finished. We just need to put them together.
To start writing rockabilly riffs, we’re going to take the notes from the open Mixolydian scale and add them to our blues-based chord progression. You can do this in a variety of ways, including adding them onto the chord voicings themselves to create denser chords, hammering on/pulling off into notes from the scale to shake up the chord, and, perhaps most importantly of all, moving away from the chord shape to play a riff of the scale before returning to the chord shape.
Another common strategy among rockabilly guitarists is to hold down the full chord shape, but only pick on or two notes from it at a time. The guitarist will then use notes from the open Mixolydian scale to throw in notes from outside the chord shape. Below is an example of a short riff based on an open E chord written by following this exact concept.
Try out jamming some ideas using these concepts over the I chord of your chosen key. Things are going to get a little more complicated when we move to the IV, so now just stick to the I. You can have the same pattern repeat for all four measures of the I chord, you can have a different pattern on each measure, and everything in between. You have complete freedom within the confines of the exercise.
Example: Written below is an example riff that was using this exercise, in the key of E-blues. So far, the riff is just written over the I chord in the first four measures of the blues.
The above riff starts the first two beats of each measure by playing a full open E chord, but with the pinky added to the second fret of the second string. The added note is a C#, which makes the chord an E6. Sixth-chords are a very common chord quality in rockabilly, and a good way to invoke that twangy, rockabilly guitar sound. On the first three measures, beats three and four are occupied by a simple, bluesy response lick played on the first and second strings. The final measure is built entirely around adding and removing extensions to that basic open E-chord shape, cycling through the chords E6, E, and Eadd9.
Once you have a riff figured out over the I chord, then it’s time to move onto the IV chord. This is where things start to get a little bit more complicated, as what you did over the I chord may not work so well over the IV chord. This is because a twelve-bar blues is not what we would consider diatonic. Diatonic means all of the notes fit neatly into the traditional concept of a key, without any use of accidental notes.
Chord progressions that are perfectly diatonic can be played over using just one scale and not incur any clashing notes. As twelve-bar blues are not diatonic, the Mixolydian scale that worked over the I chord will not work perfectly over the IV chord. The solution to this problem is to switch to the Mixolydian scale that shares the same root note as your IV chord.
For example, since my own riff above is in the key of E, my IV chord would be an A. Therefore I’d simply switch to an A Mixolydian scale during the IV chord. This strategy offers a clean shift without any real chance of sour notes, but requires you to change to a new scale shape. However, the new scale shape may not be as much of a change as you think; all you need to do is find the seventh-degree notes of the new chord in your original Mixolydian scale, and lower them by one fret.
In my previous example, I was going from an E-chord to an A-chord. The seventh scale of an A is a G (it’s not a G# sharp in this case, because we are working with dominant chords). So I need to find the G#s in my open Mixoyldian scale shape, and change them to G-naturals. There are a total of three in the shape, which can be found on the 4th fret of the 6th string, the 1st fret of the 3rd string, and the 4th fret of the 1st string. If I lower all of those by one fret, I’m now playing the same notes as found in an A-Mixolydian scale.
Figure out the correct Mixolydian scale to use over your IV chord, then write a two-measure riff built off of that and/or the IV chord. This riff is going to fill the space occupied by the first IV chord in the twelve-bar blues pattern.
Example: Written below is a continuation of the above example riff. As the above example is in E, the IV chord is going to be an A, and the extra notes added are taken from the A Mixolydian scale.
For the IV chord, the main rhythmic pattern that started each measure of the I chord is retained, but moved to an open A chord. Then, the F# on the 2nd fret of the 1st string is added from the A Mixolydian scale, changing the chord from an A to an A6. Beats 3 and 4 of both measures are occupied by short, bluesy response licks played from the A Mixolydian scale. The activity over the IV chord mirrors the activity over the I chord, but does so important variation and with a new tonal center.
After you’ve written the IV chord riff, it’s time to return to the I chord for the next two measures. Although it’s perfectly acceptable to write a new riff when you return to the one chord, it’s common to just repeat the main phrase from the time, with the possibility of a slight variation. Just remember that this time around, the I one chord is only going to be for two measures instead of four. So if you do choose to repeat the phrase from your original I chord, you’re going to have to chop it half in order to make it fit.
Example: Written below is a continuation of the previous example riff, this time showing the riff written over the seventh and eighth measures of the blues form.
The return to the I chord is an exact duplicate of the very first two measures of the entire form, with one important exception: the last note is changed from an E to an F#, in order to better lead to the upcoming V chord.
Written out below is the entire example riff this far.
This brings us to the V7 chord, the last new chord to be introduced. The Mixolydian scales you used over the I and IV chords won’t work perfectly over the V7 chord, but the scale you used over the I chord will only need to be adjusted slightly to work over the V7. Take the Mixolydian scale you used over your I chord, and raise the seventh from a flat seventh back to a natural seventh, thus creating an ordinary major scale. This major scale will work great over the V7 chord, but if you’d rather think of it as a Mixolydian scale that is based on the root note of the V7 chord then go for it, the notes are the same either way.
Example: As my I chord is an E, in order to play over the V7 chord I just need to take an E Mixoyldian scale and raise the sevenths from Ds to D#s, thus giving me an E-major scale that will work great over the B7 chord that is my V7. I can think of this scale either as an E major or as a B Mixoyldian. It doesn’t really matter, so I may as well go with whichever frame of reference feels more natural to me.
This also brings us to the start of the turnaround, which is an important detail as well. A turnaround is a part at the end of the section that leads the listener back to the beginning of the form (or sometimes to a whole new section). In a twelve-bar blues, the last four measures are considered the turnaround.
The turnaround is typically handled a little differently, as it has a very specific function within the context of the form. It’s less about having a catchy or hooky line, and more about fostering a satisfactory resolution. Because of this, it’s common to write a line over the turnaround that ultimately focused on serving the chord changes than anything else. Luckily, the chord changes are considerably busier on the last four measures of the form, so it gives you a bit more to work with.
Try to write out a riff over all four measures of the turnaround. If you need a refresher, the chords you’ll be playing over are V7, IV, I, and V7, in that order. You already know how to play over all three of those chords in this context, so you should be good to go!
Example: written out below is a continuation of the earlier riff, with the last four measures of the form finished.
The turnaround is sparser than the rest of the riff, with a focus on the chords and passing tones. It has a couple of chromatic walk-ups that briefly step outside of the chords’ respective Mixolydian scales, creating a simply bluesy effect.
Below is the entire example riff written out.
Sixth chords are often overlooked. They sound great and can add some wonderful color to a chord progression, but, like many other chords that break-away from tonal music’s standard pattern of nothing but stacked thirds, they don’t get much attention. Guitar methods and class curriculums often exclude them, teachers seem to sometimes forget about them, and many guitarists just never get around to really learning them. On top of that, many sixth chords are inversions of other sorts of chords, which sometimes causes them to be neglected the sixth-chord label altogether.
All of this adds up to sixth chords being pretty underutilized by many guitarists. In this article, I hope to make you not be one of those guitarists. We’ll discuss how sixth chords are constructed, learn some of their most common forms, and learn how to use play them diatonically.
Before we get going, I would like to take a moment to say that this article is going to be pretty heavy on music theory. If you’re just looking for some new chord shapes and aren’t interested in the theory behind them, then feel free to scroll down, take some screenshots of the provided chord charts, and not worry too much about all of those pesky words in between. But if you are interested in the theory this article discusses, please go into it knowing that the article assumes at least a basic understanding of how chords are constructed and intervals. If you’re unfamiliar with either of these concepts, then it might be worth it read up a little on them before returning to this piece.
A proper major 6th chord is a major chord with a major sixth interval stacked on top. So when creating major-sixth chords, all you need to do is find that sixth and add it to your favorite major chord voicing. The major sixth interval is going to be exactly nine-half steps up from the chord’s root note, but a quicker trick to find that note is to go up strings and down one fret from the root note.
For example, strum an open C chord with your root on the 3rd fret of the 5th string. If you go up two strings and down one fret from that root note, you’ll land on the 2nd fret of the 3rd string, which is an A note. If you add that A-note to your open C chord, you’ll be playing a C6. You lose the note you were playing on the 3rd string if you do this, which was a G, but as that note is the 5th it’s not entirely necessary to the identity of the chord the way the other notes in the chord are. You can see that chord charted out below.
However, here’s a useful and entirely movable barre chord version of the major-sixth chord that does not omit any notes, fifths or otherwise:
A quick note: although the above chart says to use your ring finger to barre all of the notes between the 4th and 1st string, it’s totally fine to have your pinky help out and grab a few of those notes. It’s a lot for just one finger to do!
When all four unique notes are played in a major-sixth chord, it actually forms an inversion of a minor-seventh chord. Because of this, a major-sixth chord has a sonic quality very similar to a minor-seventh chord, but something about the order of notes in a major-sixth chord gives it a bittersweet melancholic feel that minor-seventh chords don’t quite have. When it is inverted into a minor seventh, the note that would be the 6th in a major-sixth chord would instead function as the root note of the minor-seventh. This means that a minor-seventh chord built off the sixth can be substituted whenever you see a major-sixth chord, and vice versa.
A less common variant of the major-sixth chord is the major flat sixth chord, which is constructed by stacking a minor sixth interval on top of a major chord. So the notes in a C6 chord are C, E, G, and A, the notes in a C b6 chord are C, E, G, and Ab. Major flat-sixth chords will be extremely dissonant due to the fact the fifth and the flat sixth are only a half step apart, but a flat-sixth chord isn’t an example of a chord where you can just drop the fifth as we did earlier with the C6 chord. This is because if you remove the fifth from a major-flat-sixth, the remaining notes will form an augmented triad. While there’s nothing wrong with an augmented chord, it’s not what we’re going for at the moment.
That half-step relationship between the fifth and the minor sixth makes major-flat-sixth chord voicings rather difficult to play on guitar, but the movable barre chord shape below is pretty painless.
The above chord chart shows this movable major-flat-sixth in the first position, where it’s an E b6. The root note in this voicing is along the 4th string and not the 5th string, so just remember that the bass note is not also the root note in this case. But as I mentioned earlier, this chord isn’t particularly common as it never occurs diatonically. We’re going over it more for the completionist’s sake than anything, so you probably won’t come across it too much.
Like their major counterparts, minor-sixth chords have both a natural-sixth and a flat-sixth variant. But unlike their major counterparts, both variants of the minor-sixth chord are used pretty frequently. Minor-sixth chords are constructed using the same logic as major-sixth chords, so if you’re reading this article in order there’s a chance that you’re already ahead of me.
The standard minor sixth chord is built by stacking a major-sixth interval on top of a minor triad. This makes it exactly the name as its parallel major-sixth chord, except with a lowered third. For example, the notes in a C6 chord are C, E, G, and A, and the notes in a Cm6 chord are C, Eb, G, and A. Unlike seventh-chords, the sixth remains major regardless of whether the triad beneath it is major or minor. Below is a movable minor-sixth barre chord with its root along the 6th string. This chord shape is exactly what we just discussed: a minor chord with an added major sixth.
If you instead stack a minor-sixth on top of a minor chord, you’ll end up with a minor-flat-sixth chord. Unlike major-flat-sixth chords, minor-flat-sixth chords do occur naturally in diatonic keys and don’t sound particularly dissonant.
The barre chord shape is almost exactly like a natural minor-sixth chord, except that the note on the 2nd string is lowered by one fret. This is because that note is the sixth, so that’s the note that gets flattened. A minor-flat-sixth chord is actually an inversion of a major-seventh chord, which is why it’s a term that you don’t hear used all that often.
The inversion is built upon that flat-sixth scale degree that defines the chord. For example, the notes in an Amb6 chord are A, C, E, and F. If you rearrange the order of those notes to F, A, C, and E, you get a root position Fmaj7 chord.
Now that you know four different kinds of sixth chords, chances are that you’re going to want to start sprinkling them into your playing and songwriting. However, it can be a little tricky to know which variant to use when, so I made the below chart to illustrate when each sixth chord can be used diatonically.
Diatonic Sixth Chord
Example In The Key of C
As I mentioned earlier, the major-flat-sixth will never occur diatonically. The natural major-sixth chord occurs the most often diatonically, followed by the minor-flat-sixth, which are in turn followed by the natural minor-sixth and the one chord on that chart that we haven’t yet discussed, the diminished flat-sixth chord.
Both natural sixth and flat sixth chords can be constructed with every chord quality just as we constructed them with major and minor chords. However this article would be much longer if we took the time to apply the concept to each and every chord type, so I’m going to leave you with one last sixth chord. The diminished flat-sixth chord is the last sixth chord that will occur diatonically, so after this, you’ll have all the sixth-chords that you’re likely to come across anytime soon.
A diminished-flat-sixth chord is a minor-sixth interval stacked on top of a diminished chord. A diminished chord is nothing but stacked minor thirds, so adding other intervals to the mix tends to undercut the diminished nature of the chord, and the diminished flat-sixth is no exception. The addition of the minor sixth really does smooth out the sound of the diminished chord, creating quite a lovely harmony in the process. A diminished-flat-sixth chord is an inversion of a dominant-seventh, so it captures that punchy dominant sound while still managing to be a bit darker and more reserved than a typical dominant-seventh voicing.
You can see a reliable and entirely movable voicing of the diminished-flat-sixth chord charted out below.
Recording can be intimidating at first, but you really only need a few basic tools to get started! We see images of these major recording studios and they look like command centers on a space station, but most of those big expensive pieces of gear have been replicated digitally to near perfection. They are now no more than a piece of software you load on your computer and voila! Recording studio! To help you on your path to recording greatness, here are some basics you need to get started.
This is a recording software program for your computer. This is where you will do everything. You will record, arrange, mix and master all in this program. Logic Pro, Ableton Live, Pro Tools and FL Studio are some commonly used programs by professionals. Most have either a free trial or a “lite” version, so try a few out before you buy one and see what’s right for your needs! There are also some free options out there like Garageband, Studio 1 and Cakewalk.
These are essential to hearing the full fidelity of what you’re recording, and you will definitely need them if you are going to be using a microphone to record. Your headphones should PLUG DIRECTLY IN to your computer, NO BLUETOOTH (or you will get latency when recording and it’s just a mess!). More info and recommendations on “Choosing Headphones” HERE.
This allows you to connect your instrument and/or microphone directly to your computer. Some are designed just for electric guitars, basses and other instruments that plug-in; others allow you to also plug in a microphone. Check out our helpful guide on “Choosing an Audio Interface” for more info and recommendations.
If you plan to record vocals or any acoustic instruments you will need a microphone. (NOTE: If you are more interested in recording electric instruments and/or producing beats and other digital music completely within the computer, the next item “MIDI keyboard” will be a much more useful next step for your needs.) Check out our guide to “Choosing a Microphone” for some options to help narrow down your choices.
MIDI stands for Musical Instrument Digital Interface. MIDI keyboards do not make any sounds on their own, they are just a controller and most connect via USB or other standard connections. If you don’t plan on recording vocals or using any analog or acoustic instruments then this is all you need for an “audio interface”. There are tons of these out there that are all pretty equal quality. Just look closely at the different features they offer and choose one that best suits your needs!
For those of you who like video guides, here is just that! Check out the video below to learn a little bit more about the essentials when it comes to setting up your home recording studio.
If you plan to record vocals or any acoustic instruments you will need a microphone. Microphones range widely in quality and function and it’s the place I would recommend investing the most your budget allows. In the world of microphones, you do generally get what you pay for. You can use all the studio wizardry in the world but it’s really hard to get audio to sound good if it wasn’t recorded well to start with. By the same token, you hardly have to do anything to audio that was recorded well with a nice microphone to get a great sound.
Your first big choice is between USB mics which plug straight into your computer, or standard XLR mics which require an interface to connect with your computer. Let’s look at the pros and cons and give you some options for both.
Apogee Hype MiC – More expensive and similar to MiC+ but with some extra features like a built-in compressor and pop-filter. Not essential things, but certainly worth it if it works for your budget.
Rode NT-USB – Rode is a quality brand that has been around for a long time. This one has good reviews from what I’ve found.
Blue Yeti Multi-Pattern – Slightly cheaper option. Blue tends to make quality products
You will need an audio interface as well as a mic stand and XLR cable to go this route. The cable and stand are not expensive, but just FYI 🙂
IMPORTANT: there are two primary types of microphones- DYNAMIC and CONDENSER. Most likely you will want to go with a condenser mic, but let’s look a bit at both…
These are generally used for louder sounds and on stage for live shows. The classic dynamic mics are Shure SM57s and SM58s which you have almost certainly seen people using at almost every live concert you have attended. These are great for live shows because they only pick up what is right in front of them. Generally in the recording studio however, they are used more on snare drums or electric guitar amps since those are VERY LOUD. If you’re planning on recording either of those things a lot I would recommend picking up an SM57, otherwise they are not necessary for your starter studio.
The other dynamic microphone to consider is the Shure SM7B which is a beloved studio microphone by many engineers, especially for vocals. Michael Jackson famously used this mic to record his vocals on the album “Thriller”. Yeah, the best selling album of all time. If you’re planning on recording mostly vocals or electric guitar amps then this is definitely a great mic. However, if you’re looking to record more acoustic guitar or other softer sounding instruments in addition to vocals, you probably want to consider a condenser mic as the first mic in your collection.
These are much more sensitive. They are designed to pick up softer sounds and the more subtle nature of those sounds. They require “phantom power” which any respectable audio interface will provide. Here are a few recommendations in different price ranges:
Decent quality and most affordable option.
More on the expensive side, but this would be my top recommendation if it works with your budget. A classic mic and an upgrade from the Rode and Blue (below) to be sure. You’re starting to get into Pro territory with this one.
A solid, affordable industry standard.
These look great, and sound great too.
If you’re looking to go all out here are some recommendations in the higher quality and price range:
We’ve also got an overview on everything you may need to start recording your music at home. Check out the full blog here.
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