in the Box
Getting the Bends
leads to, I promise, playing outside the box--
bends and all.)
stone's throw from Metal Improv as well
Last session we took a very brief look at the a
pentatonic box pattern played at the fifth fret.
This is your basic, very basic, stepping off
point for improvisation. It's interesting and can
be used with moderate effect, but it doesn't get
interesting until you spice it up.
the advent of video, players listening to
recordings had no way of telling what technique
the recorded player was using to get a certain
effect. Such was the case with blues bottleneck
players. Other guitarists looking to cop that
sound couldn't tell by just listening what these
cats were doing. Unless you knew, you couldn't
have any idea. You would know that you liked the
effect and you'd also be more than a little
interested into working this sound into your
arsenal of tricks. Well, let's make believe it's
1940 and you've just heard your first recording
of a guitarist playing with a slide. You can tell
straight off that the fluid transition between
pitch is not simply a finger dragged up the
fretboard. How to get that sound? You put on your
thinking cap. Hmmm, sounds like the string is
being tightened. That won't work though, because
there are downward pitch shifts as well-- and
with more than one note. How can you tighten or
loosen one or more string at once. Finally it
hits you. 'He must be bending the strings!"
the two box diagrams from last session here. Use
these as a reference for the new diagrams. We
will be considering us as all playing along in a I
VI V7 progression in the key of A.
red dots are the tonic, black dots are pentatonic
scale tones and the blue dots are chromatics and
passing tones. Okay, we're all back on the same
Bends are used by
the guitarist these days not so much to emulate
the sound of the slide, but to emulate the sound
of the singing human voice. It has been written
by musicologists that instruments were only
developed to mimic the sound of the human voice.
[I guess the cigarette must predate the musical
instrument. All those Lucky's and folks wanted to
quit singing and take up the guitar!] This means
that not only will the guitarist wish to smoothly
gliss from one note to another, whether higher or
lower in pitch from the starting point, but it
will also introduce us to vibrato, that warble
that opera singers love so much. Vibrato will be
the topic of next week's session. It is a study
unto itself and I don't think that a guitarist
exists who wishes his vibrato wasn't more fluid,
more controlled, more voice-like--and doesn't
practice to improve it.
Anyway, on to
Look at the diagram
to the left. In this sample, the first finger
covers the e and the a on the first and second
strings -- the red and black dots. Red dot is the
tonic, remember? The third finger covers the d on
the third string.
how it should look, pre-bend.
The third finger is
then used to dig slightly under that
third string and push it up towards the sixth
string so that the d fretted pitch is raised in
pitch to an e, the same pitch as is being played
on the b string with the first finger. It will
look something like this when the bend is
completed. (Note that the third finger and the
third string are also pushing the fourth string
up into the fifth string. This is gonna happen
and is of no concern.) When I say 'dig under' the
string, I mean that it will require you to
practice to develop the knack of getting that
string to bend up without slipping out from under
your finger. The string should remain pressed to
the fretboard. You're not trying to levitate it
up off the board. Also note that my second finger
has snuck around to help out.
bend doth not a riff make.
that on your... I have done so. Look towards the
right. No, your other right. Okay. Here we see
the same diagram as shown above, but with the
addition of a yellow dot. It's chicken. No, it
just tastes like chicken. This note is
played with the fourth finger. (That's the pinky
for those of you who are digitally challenged. I
call it 'the one I pick my nose with.' Totally
not PC.) Play it directly after the bent note,
then play the black dot. Hey man, that's like almost
a complete lick! here are a million little
permutations of this bent and few notes. It makes
a decent intro to a turnaround.
add a second bend from that chicken dot and
further expand the riff and the possibilities for
progressing forward into new territory.
Seriously, the bend and vibrato can make your
solos more 'musical' -- and like I said, we'll
look at vibrato next session.
little diagram shows a slight deviation of the
bend in the first bend diagram. This is a kind of
dissonant interval that we're bending into. It
sounds kinda cool and is useful in any genre
aside from classical. Once again, you're bending
the d up to an e.
these sessions of technique builders! Come back
next week for more.
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