In our second unit we have another Bonamassa style solo for you, but this time we dial in on the Eric Johnson influenced licks that Bonamassa has absorbed so beautifully into his playing. This means we’ll be talking about a more arpeggio based approach, specifically the use of 10ths in his playing. We also talk more about the Dorian scale, as it once again pops up within this solo. Check out the first video to get started and click here to check out the Materials Section below to access the full solo tabbed out in our interactive tab player.
Let’s get started with the first lick of the track. This is an incredible lick that utilises so many theoretical nuggets of gold for you to get straight into your playing. First up, let’s make clear that the track is in the key of C minor and we are, as usual, generally thinking in terms of our C minor pentatonic shapes. In this lick in particular, we are using shape 1 and 2. However, we are also using a C minor arpeggio in 10ths, as well as the C Dorian scale.
“A 10th is simply the 3rd up an octave. You would therefore play the root, 5th and then 10th.”
This lick features an awesome, moveable shape for the 10th arpeggio, which we’ve popped be-low, next to the pentatonic shapes. Consider this shape as you play through the opening line, as well as the C Dorian shape shown below as you continue the lick. These add a real extra layer of spice and “coolness” to the sound of this opening lick.
The second lick kicks off with a super cool C minor arpeggio shape, that really helps us to define the fact that we are playing over a C minor chord. Throwing in these arpeggio shapes to your pentatonic playing, really adds a sense of purpose and understanding to the actual song you are playing over. From there, we continue to utilise shape one pentatonic combined with that awesome Dorian scale. You should hear that the sound is a little darker and more edgy, which is exactly what the Dorian scale brings to the party!
Moving with the chord
At this point, we play a little lick that perfectly moves us to the 4 chord of the track, the F minor. From Dion’s point of view, he is now thinking F minor pentatonic, and therefore we switch to the F minor pentatonic box 4, which neatly fits over this position of the neck. By doing this, we naturally target more chord tones of the F minor, and in this instance, land perfectly on the b3rd of F (which is of course in our F minor chord). The shapes below will help you visualise all of this lovely lovely theory!
For the next two licks we are coming back to those really cool 10th shapes, and the theory behind this part gets a little trickier, but if you can wrap your head round it, is very very cool! The basic idea is that we have now moved to the F minor chord (the 4 chord) and are therefore looking to play some F minor arpeggios over this section. We kick off with the F minor 10ths shape, shown below, and then move up to a cool, extended version of an Fm chord, featuring the b7th, 9th and 11th. The real takeaway here is the shapes can be used in your improve over the chord. So, for the first shape you simply start on the root of the chord, then the second shape starts on the b7th. It’s a great sequence to learn, and then Dion uses the C minor blues scale to play out the rest of the lick!
We’re now at a point when we are moving between the root chord of C minor and the G minor (5th chord), and therefore are adapting the scales we are playing again to target the best notes! We kick off with that same lick as in the intro lick, using the C minor 10th shape, as well as the C minor pentatonic box 2. We then move into the G minor pentatonic box 4, to ensure that we are targeting the best G minor notes over the chord. It’s a really cool lick, and the shapes can be found below.
For our final two licks we are back in the C minor pentatonic for a super speedy run down. A classic Bonamassa-ism, if you like! For this particular run, we are going through the shape 3, including the blues note. The key thing here is to get your picking hand working with you, and starting the lick at a very slow speed. As with all the speed licks, you need to do it at a very slow speed and simply put the time in, gradually increasing the speed. We end with the song theme, which you heard at the beginning of the track, which is a great way to end a solo!
In our final video of this unit, Dion talks about how you can apply those 10th shapes. There are a lot of ways to apply those shapes, and one of the best ways to do so is by using them to highlight chord tones, before expanding into the pentatonic shapes of that key. Dion has some cracking examples in this video, and this is where we can really learn from a master of improvising!