Tone

Apologies for the lack of new lessons. I have at least three more lessons written and ready to go, but I haven’t had time to record the video, and now it’s too dark.

So while you’re waiting, I’ll weigh in with my thoughts on guitar tone, because most guitarists have a crap tone and that’s kind of the fault of guitar mags (and I speak as someone who writes reviews for a guitar mag).

The trouble is that when we review a multi-fx unit like the new [I was going to name a specific brand here, but I've chickened out because I want to keep my job] pedal, we have to consider in mind of a) what it’s designed to do, and b) the type of person that might buy it. And budget multi-fx pedals are meant to be a cheap way for new players to get a bunch of fun sounds, find out what the different effects do, and sound good playing on your own in your bedroom. And most budget multi-fx do that reasonably well, so they get positive reviews.

But that doesn’t change the fact that they actually sound horrendous, and will break almost immediately if you subject them to any kind of real gigging. And that swamping your sound in tons of gain and effects at once is great way to guarantee that the drummer will drown you out.

The reason that some guitarists have a rubbish tone is the same reason they sound crap improvising over a 12 bar blues: they’re not listening. They’re not listening to the chord changes when they land on an Eb just as the chord changes to D, and they’re not listening to the sound when they set up their amp. They’re just going, “Well, I like a lot of bass, so I’ll turn the bass control up high, and I don’t like too much mid, so I’ll turn that down.” I often see guitarists do that before they play a note through the amp. Which is crazy, because all amps sound different, and every time you move an amp, the acoustic space changes and it will sound different. I had a Laney AOR50 for a while, and the only place to set the treble control on that thing was zero. Whereas that setting on a MESA/Boogie would sound like it was under a duvet.

And another thing: Don’t set the gain based on how it feels. It’s easy to do that. A certain amount of gain makes the guitar feel different when you’re playing. But guess what? You’re audience can’t feel the guitar, and they don’t care. So go with how it sounds, which is almost always less gain, even for metal. If that makes your licks harder to play, learn to play them better.

And if you want to play better (hey hey, shameless plug time) get in touch with me by visiting Jonny Scaramanga Guitar Tuition or email me or call 07929 911092.

Jonny

Blues turnarounds 3: Major pentatonic

Here’s another option for playing over a major 12 bar blues: the major pentatonic.

Trouble is, you can’t play A major pentatonic all the way through a 12 bar like you can A minor pentatonic. It sounds crap over the D7 chord and it doesn’t do a particularly great job over the E7 either. To get round this, we’re going to use a different major pentatonic for each chord. You’ll play A major pentatonic over A7, D major pentatonic over D7, and… yeah, you got it.

Again, I’ve tried to stick in one area of the neck. It’s difficult to make your licks flow if you’re having to jump five frets between chord changes. So I’ve used E major pentatonic shape 3 (that’s the C shape, CAGED system fans), D major pentatonic shape 4 (A shape in the CAGED system), and A major pentatonic shape 1 (E shape). All of these hover around the 5th fret position where you should feel at home.

If you’re not used to using these it can be difficult to improvise because you won’t have any lick vocabulary. For one thing, listen to guys like Freddie King or Robben Ford who do this well. For another, take the time to write some licks using these scales that work. Your musicality will improve loads as a result.

Don’t forget to download the free tab, and contact me with any questions.

Jonny

Download free tab: Blues Turnarounds