Voicings for Semitone Clusters

I've been experimenting with some 12-tone rows again recently and found I had to keep pausing to find voicings for stacks of semitones. The guitar isn't really designed for playing such things in close voicing, so you have to make some decisions about octave displacement just to make the things playable. I thought it might be useful to have some of these collected together, so here goes.

Building Vocabulary with Seventh Arpeggios

I revisited a past post on building vocabulary from scratch today and decided to extend it a bit. Here's what I came up with.

Advice for Guitarists from Two Magicians

Here's a video of two well-known stage magicians talking about advice for younger aspiring performers. If you can translate what they say into musical terms you'll find some useful insights here.

CAGED Considered Harmful?

Back when I was first learning guitar, it seemed like everyone who wanted to sell you a snake-oil method did it by using the mysterious "CAGED System". Today, it's the other way around: all the slick salesmen have a new "system", and CAGED is "harmful", "inefficient" and "incomplete". As someone who learned with CAGED and teaches it, am I doing something wrong?

New Free eBook: Hypermodes!

A while ago (a long while ago!) I made a post introducing what I called "hypermodes" -- scales and arpeggios that don't have root notes. I've finally managed to pull the material on hypermodes together into a PDF that's free to download. I won't repeat myself here -- head over to the link and check it out!

Building maj7b5 Vocabulary from Scratch

Say you've written (or a bandmate as written) a tune that features a sustained Maj7b5 chord. What do you play over it? Probably you don't have standard vocabulary for this type of chord, and since it's unusual it's not likely you'll find many ideas by transcribing. So how could you quickly build coherent vocabulary?

New Sounds from "Roomy" Pentatonics

This bit of analysis was prompted by an interesting question asked on the Music Theory forum on Reddit. It ended up as a question about which scales you can transpose and get a completely different set of notes from the set you started with, with no overlap.

Targeting Notes with Slonimsky Patterns

I had an interesting question by email today that I thought was worth addressing here. The question was, how do you integrate Slonimsky-style patterns into a "target note" approach to improvising? I should say up-front that I don't do much of this myself, and the solution I've come up with here is just a suggestion for your own experiments: let me know what success you have with it and whether you discover any "hacks" or alternative approaches that make it easier.

Making Exotic Scales with Familiar Arpeggios

Struck by a bout of insomnia, I decided to figure out all the 7-note scales that can be made by combining a pair of common triad or seventh arpeggios, one at the root and one somewhere else. Here are the results.

Barry Harris's Sixth Diminished Scale

Here's a great excerpt from a Barry Harris workshop where he introduces an interesting diminished concept, which he (jokingly) calls his "personal scale". It produces a very cool jazz sound by a quite unexpected means. The video is a bit piano-focussed so I thought it might help some guitar players to have a summary from our point of view of the main idea.