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Advanced guitar tips: Blending guitar theory

Rating: 4 user(s) have rated this lesson Average rating: 2.0 Posted by: leokisomma, on Feb 16,2012, in category Music Theory Views: this lesson has been read 1450 times
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Once you have learned these different pieces of theory and these different songs and licks that you’ve heard, you are often left wondering what to do next. A lot of people find it hard to break out of this new ‘box’ they’ve put themselves in, as they know how to use some of the theory that they have learned, but they don’t know how to put all the theory they have together to get the sound they want. This series of lessons will help you with that.

To start with, I will show you a basic way to blend two scales that are very similar so that you can make use of the tones that both of them give off. I will be going over every possible blend that I can think of in these lessons, so don’t worry if you don’t see the one you’re looking for just yet. The chances are that I’ll upload it soon, or message me and I’ll put it in the next lesson.

This lesson will show you how to blend the minor blues scale and the Dorian mode, two scales which are used a lot in blues/Rock music both now and as far back as the 60s. Don’t worry if you don’t know what this funny Italian words mean as I’ve written out the scales just to be sure you guys can understand; it’s best to keep things simple whenever possible.

Here is the minor blues scale in E


Now here is the Dorian mode


Notice how similar these two scales are? This makes it easier to blend these two scales than some scales might be. There are certain notes that these scales contain however that sets them apart from each other. I have highlighted these notes in the scales above so that you can clearly pick them out. Now, if you want to blend these two scales together effectively, then you will have to work on getting the notes that I have highlighted into the same phrase.

What some guitarists will do to avoid getting a ‘confused’ sound is play small phrases using one scale, then quickly swap to using the other so that both scales are expressed without contradicting each other. You can use this technique either by using one scale and then the other, or by putting both together at once. The problem is that it is harder for beginner guitarists to put the two together immediately because they won’t have developed an ear for which notes sound best at the right time. You need to be aware of how each note sounds in both scales before you try and blend them, which is why it is easier to try this with similar scales as there are fewer notes to remember.

Here are some phrases that you could use to start getting used to this blending technique. The first few phrases are going from one scale to another, then the next few are using both at once, I have also highlighted the notes that are unique to each scale again so that you can see where the notes are coming from.




Now here are some phrases using both scales at once. Listen closely to how they sound, as only you can truly decide where you are going to use these techniques.




Because these two scales are so similar, it also means that there isn’t a massive difference in terms of the overall tone except giving it some extra ‘flavour’, however, if you are going to do this with more complicated scales, you will find that this technique gets harder as the scales become more different than each other.

For example, you will find it harder to blend a scale that naturally sounds very happy with a scale that naturally sounds very sad unless you write the song very cleverly and understand all of the theory going on behind it. Long story short, the more similar the scales are, the easier they are to blend together without incident. I will be going through as many examples as I can think of though, so don’t worry if you don’t know all the scales yet. Remember that you have to understand what ‘sound’ you are trying to get, not what theory is in practice all the time. The best musicians in the world aren’t thinking about scales or theory all the time, they play the chords they want using the theory they’ve learnt, but they aren’t concentrating on the theory, just the sound they want to get.

I hope that this lesson has been able to help some of you guys out there, and if these licks sound a bit southern rock that’s because I was listening to a lot of Lynyrd Skynyrd today.

Take care guys and I’ll see you next time! Peace! 

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