We're jumping straight in this first unit, head first, with your first solo. The solo has a Slash vibe and is all about taking your pentatonic shapes, adding a few extra notes, and working on the feel and energy behind rock playing. With each part of the solo, we'll be talking through the detail of the piece's technique, theory, and essence, allowing you to take them and use them as your own.
Let's start by laying down the groundwork for this track, by establishing the chords, scales and the key of the solo. This is a great introduction to rock playing as we are instantly confronted with a slightly awkward key signature. To explain this, let's take a look at the chords...
You have a few options if you're wondering how to play these chords, but Claire played them using the following shapes which can be found in the Chord Boxes section. These are common ways you'd play these in rock.
So when we now look at this chord chart, we need to establish a key. Well, it's of course rooted around the B minor, so the B minor key seems the obvious one. However, the E major stands out as notably not within that key. The rest of the chords fit very neatly, so we're faced with a very typical rock situation. The progression doesn't fit perfectly into a single key, much like when we play blues.
Powerchords use only the first and 5th notes and therefore do not have a clear major or minor pull (without the major or minor 3rd). So we have a lot more wiggle room when it comes to assigning a key. We simply think about minor pentatonic scales when we see so many powerchords in a rock track. The pentatonic gives us wiggle room as they only have 5 notes from the full 7, and the powerchords give us wiggle room, as they have only 2 notes from the 7. Therefore, with plenty of wiggle room to go around, we can say this is in the key of B "Rock".
As we walk through each lick, we will talk about those colour notes in detail, so you also know how and when to add them. For now though, let's make sure you know all 5 B minor pentatonic shapes. They can be found in the Fretboard Diagrams
Let's start to dive into the actual track, and there is no better place to start than the start! The first 4 bars are an absolute masterclass in rock bending, sliding and whammy bar usage. These three techniques give the track an epic opening sound and really draw you in. Let's start with the bends...
Claire is really playing around with these bends, so you need to make sure that you pay close attention here. Make sure you have a solid wrist position, squeezing the neck just like Claire does. This will help with the control of the bend.
The next thing to look out for is the whammy bar action. You really do need a whammy bar on your guitar if you're going to be a rock legend! Claire walks you through how to use this clearly in the lesson, so be sure to have one ready to play around with!
Finally, this part of the solo uses the pentatonic box 1 and 2 and brings in one of those "colour" notes that Claire talks about. In this instance, it is the 2nd degree of the minor scale, which we'll probably call the 9th (same thing, just an octave higher). This is always a good note to add as it sticks neatly within the minor key.
In the next few bars we're learning something very important in rock playing... you can sit on a theme as long as you like! What do we mean by that? Well, if you have a cool little lick that really sits perfectly, there is no harm playing it over and over again! Claire demonstrates this in the 5th and 6th bar, using the same lick idea, but slightly messing around with it each time.
6th's are very common in the world of guitar playing, and it is what it says on the tin. You take a note, add the 6th degree above, and voila... You have a 6th! We very much work within the scale. So for example, using the B minor scale, if our first note was C#, or 6th would be the A, as you can see here:
So a massive part of this section is the usage of these 6th intervals, working around the 1st and 2nd position again. The other cool thing here is that Claire effortlessly glides between a variety of pentatonic boxes, so watch out for each of them!
It's palm muting time! Here is another massive ace in your deck of cards as a rock guitar player. The combination of a very cool rhythmic sounding guitar part and palm muting is very very powerful. We hear it all the time from the greatest rock players on the planet, and now you can learn how!
You'll know you are smashing this section out of the park when you find yourself tapping your foot whilst you play it!
During these few bars, Claire also uses a couple of new colour notes. We firstly have the blues note (the b5th) which always sounds great over rock tracks (only as a passing note of course).
Secondly, we bring in the major 6th note, which brings the Dorian feel to the track. Remember, the Dorian scale is identical to the natural minor scale, just with a raised 6th, as you can see here:
Please watch out for these notes, as they will make a massive difference to the sound, and you can trial them out for yourself in your own improvising!
For the final 4 bars, we welcome in some very cool double stops! This is another very common rock technique, borrowed from the Rock n' Roll guitarists of old! Claire is always considering melody above all, and these double stops are perfectly crafted to be well-phrased and add a heavy dose of rhythm to get that foot-tapping once again. We also return to our pentatonic box 1 and 2, using the 2nd degree of the scale regularly.
There we have it! The first unit is now complete! There is so much packed into this solo, so please do take your time. Be sure to focus in on the details in every single lick, as well as more generally getting the sound together. Good luck, take your time, and feel free to start the next unit whilst you're still perfecting this one!
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