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.


Improvising with arpeggios part 2

Next to “How do I get out of the pentatonic?” the next most common improvising question must be “How do I get away from the 5th fret?”

Here’s another example of using dominant 7th arpeggios over a 12 bar turnaround, but this time I’ve moved up to the 10th fret to start exploring further up the neck. I’m using the top part of the A shape arpeggio for the E7 chord, and the G shape for D7. My A7 arpeggio extends through the E and D shapes. If you don’t know what the hell I mean by E and D shapes, I’m using the CAGED system.

Let me know how you get on.


Click here to download the tab: Blues Turnarounds.

How to get out of your pentatonic rut

One of the most common questions students ask me is, “how can I get out of playing the same old pentatonic licks?”

Since you ask, here’s the first part of a series on alternatives to the minor pentatonic when you’re soloing over a major 12 bar blues.

In this lesson, you’ll learn how to use dominant 7th arpeggios over the turnaround (that’s the last four bars) of a 12 bar. We’re in A major, so those chords are E7, D7, and A7.

Arpeggios are made up entirely of the notes in the chord, so they always fit perfectly over the changes. The only problem is that when most guitarists start trying to improvise with arpeggios, they stop playing licks and start wondering up and down the shapes. This sounds crap. Don’t do it. It’s important to phrase with arpeggios the same way you would with the pentatonic scale. Use bends, slides, hammer-ons and pull-offs, double stops, rhythmic variety, and dynamics to make it sound musical.

In the video, you’ll see me playing over a turnaround exclusively using arpeggios. It still sounds bluesy, and it gives you an alternative to the minor pentatonic. Rather than flying around all over the neck, I’ve used arpeggios that are all in the same area of the neck. If you know the CAGED system, I’ve used the C shape for the E7 arpeggio, the A shape for the D7 arpeggio, and the E shape for A7. All those arpeggios fit around the 5th fret area, making them easy to integrate with your regular A minor pentatonic stuff. By staying in one area of the neck, it’s also easier to make the licks flow into each other.

I’ve also included free tab (Blues Turnarounds) for this lick as well as the next few lessons for you to download.