If you’re a guitarist then you might agree that one of the most satisfying things about playing the instrument is getting a sweet tone. Whether you’re attempting to emulate the tone of a favourite guitarist, or sculpt a unique one for yourself, getting a good sound out of your guitar is probably the most essential aspect of playing, and so in your search for the ultimate tone you’ll likely find yourself hunting for some effects pedals to open up your sonic palette. Over the years I’ve acquired a decent collection of pedals, and while it was easily manageable when I only had a wah and overdrive pedal, once the rest started rolling in I found myself tangled in cables and power adaptors. I knew I needed a pedalboard but as didn’t want to spend $200+ on one I instead chose to deal with the chaos I had created. That was until a few weeks ago when I happened upon a post at the harmony central forums about a guy who constructed a pedal board using a $10 shelf unit from IKEA. The shelf in question is called a GORM (who the fuck names these things?) and this cheap DIY pedalboard has inspired literally hundreds of people to create their own.
the original GORM pedalboard
Before I detail my little DIY odyssey I’ll quickly share with you the pedals I have in my collection and the order I’ve placed them in the signal chain. I’ll also say a few words about each pedal.
“I began working hard and experimenting with techniques, seeking out the ones that felt good and were most expressive of my thoughts. My explorations continued for quite a while… More and more of me passed through my amplifier to those who took the time to listen” – Wes Montgomery
Wes Montgomery, a self taught guitarist, managed to reach a level of total mastery over his instrument that few can understand – he has set the jazz bar so high that an aspiring musician might be torn between feeling grateful and intimidated. His playing of “impossible to play octaves” is a style he has perfected “because, as a self taught musician, he didn’t know it was supposed to be unachievable”. This studio album, recorded in 1960, is so amazing that it was even titled ‘The Incredible Jazz Guitar’, you can’t argue with something like that. This is not one of those phony advertising fronts either, like those books that claim to ‘change your life’ – this is the real deal; everything on the album is nothing short of phenomenal. The Penguin Guide to Jazz added the album to it’s core collection section and stated that it was “probably the best Montgomery record currently available.”
The Girl From Ipanema is a classic bossa nova (samba/jazz) recording from 1962, it was originally written by Antônio Carlos Jobim, while the lyrics were written by two other dudes. In 1964 the Brazillian guitarist João Gilberto – one of the pioneers of the bossa nova style – collaborated with his wife Astrid Gilberto, and jazz saxophonist Stan Getz on an album called Getz/Gilberto, which won a grammy in 1965, and is now considered to be one of the best selling jazz albums of all time. The Girl From Ipanema is enormously popular and has long been considered by many musicians to be a jazz standard – it should be in everyone’s repertoire, and now you can add it to your own bag of tricks. If you desire, you may download a print friendly word document version of this lesson.
Bebop scales are certainly very valuable scales to add to your repertoire, especially if jazz is your bag. If you already know how to play the major scale and all of it’s modes, then you will find playing bebop scales a breeze. The reason being, these scales are essentially the same as the major scale’s modes, with the addition of an extra passing note in each of them. There are also bebop scales derived from the modes of the melodic minor, and the modes of the harmonic minor scale (guide on those coming soon!), but for the purpose of this guide I will only be dealing with the three most used bebop scales, and all three originate from the major scale.
Above is a terrific example of the dominant bebop scale (key of Bb) being played. Wes Montgomery is on fire as always, listen and take note! The bebop scales are frequently used in jazz, and deservedly got their name from their extensive use in the Bebop era (1940s-60s) by such jazz musicians as Charlie Christian, Wes Montgomery, Charlie Parker and Dizzie Gillespie, to name a few. Each scale presented is based on a mode of the major scale, with the addition of an extra passing note which gives it it’s characteristic chromatic run – you always hear the jazz giants flowing through their scales like this.
The bebop scale’s intention was to open up the major scale and give it more of a jazz flavour, and also to introduce a new ‘technique’ for playing over chord changes. Thanks to the added passing tone, if you begin the scale on the root chord tone (1) of the chord playing, and on the downbeat, all other chord tones (3, 5, 7) will also fall on downbeats, while the remaining tones in the scale will occur on the upbeat. This, of course, is assuming the scale is played either ascending or descending, without skipping an interval. These sort of scale runs, peppered occasionally with sequencing, are very common techniques in the world of jazz, as they colour the chords which are being played. Another advantage of the bebop scales is the additional note allows more soloing opportunities, which make it playable over more chords, thus eliminating the need to change scales as frequently as you would with the original major scale modes.
I’m not sure why I took so long to write a guide on the major scale, considering it’s easily the most important bit of music theory that you can learn, and knowing it is essential in order to learn other scales and chord theory. I even wrote my guide on modes of the major scale first! But don’t fret, here it is finally – a guide on the major scale, the mother of all scales. It is the scale which all other scales are compared to, and from where chords and their progressions derive from; it literally gives birth to music theory. The major scale is the first of the diatonic scales, which is just a fancy word for a seven-note octave repeating scale, which consists of five whole steps and two half steps between each octave. Don’t understand any of that? Don’t worry, you will very soon.
This post we’re going to be discussing three minor scales: the Natural Minor scale (Aeolian mode), the Harmonic Minor Scale, and the Melodic Minor Scale.
As you probably know already from my guide on the Modes of the Major Scale, the 6th mode of the major scale is always the natural minor scale, or the Aeolian mode. In the Key of C major, the Aeolian mode is A minor; therefore A minor is the relative minor of C major: every major chord has a relative minor. When you play an A Aeolian as part of the C major scale then they both share the same notes; for example, the pattern for the major scale is: (W = whole step – 2 frets), H = half step – 1 fret)
W – W – H – W – W – W – H
1 2 3 4 5 6 7
Which in C would = C D E F G A B (then back to C again, but at a higher octave.)