Big Picture

What Does It Mean To Play A Scale?

We all think we know what it means for me to play, say, the D Natural Minor scale. The scale contains the notes D, E, F, G, A Bb and C, so if I play D Natural Minor then I play all and only those notes. Simple. Or is it?

Four WaysTo Play With Your Guitar

I see a lot of students asking how they can improve their playing, what they should be working on or which books to study. What many seem to forget is that we don't work the guitar; we play it, and we should just play with it sometimes.

Two New Albums on Soundcloud!

I've gathered up the electronic pieces I wrote over the last year or so and pulled them together into an album, entitled New Work. I've also put together Phi Point, a collection of archive recordings that are now unavailable and of which I'm still fond. Both are free to stream or download.

R.I.P. Captain Beefheart

As you probably already know, the great Don Van Vliet passed away on Friday. If you don't know his music you can and should start searching YouTube or Spotify or whatever you preferred source of such things is and check it out.

Fun With Ring Modulators

As I mentioned before, I've been playing with Usine lately and doing some free VST effect processing on the guitar. This has enabled me to indulge my love of ring modulators, so I recorded a demo of two free ones you can try out.

Exploring New Material with Motifs and Patterns

This post is about one way to develop ideas for licks out of simple material almost by a kind of "free association": you play something, find a bit you like, play around with it and so on.

Free Real-Time Effects Processing Using Usine

Today I discovered Usine, a free bit of software for Windows that enables you to wire VST effects together. This is so much fun that I had to share it with you and give you a quick guide to getting it up and running. If you're a music techie already you can probably breeze through the first bit.

Practicing Improvisational Fluency

If, like me, a lot of your real-life playing involves improvisation then it can be tricky to know how or what to practice. Of course we can learn licks and patterns, but if we're not careful all our solos will start to sound like a collage of the same stuff played in a different order, and that's not really improvising. This lesson describes a simple practicing strategy to help you build fluency when playing off-the-cuff.

Some Interval Map Visualizations

For the past few days I've been experimenting with circular representations of chord, scale and similar kinds of structure. Laying them out in a circle is the right thing to do because then rotation of the circle is equivalent to finding all the modes of the scale or arpeggio.

What is a Mode?

In a recent post I mentioned some myths about modes, and promised I'd try to give my own account of this often-confusing idea. If you've read the first chapter of Scale and Arpeggio Resources then you'll know exactly what a mode is, but I thought I'd try a brief and slightly different explanation here in case either you found that chapter difficult or you don't have the book. Although it's a bit more abstract than most, I hope those of you who are confused about modes will find it enlightening.