5 Riffs To Get To Know The Harmonic Minor A Little Better

From Metal to Gypsy Jazz, the Harmonic minor is a scale that can transform your playing into tame little baby riffs into deep and vicious whirlwinds of Arabic sands and Gypsy violins.

Here is a voicing of the scale:

 Here is the list, get your guitar ready

5. Slap and Tickle

4.  Johann Sebastian Buckley

3. Tremolo and the Djinn of Grappeli

2.  Hey good lookin you got Hummus cookin

1. Sweeping out the harmonic

There you have it!


Beginner Tuesday: Planes, Trains, & Pentatonic-mobiles Pt 1

Suddenly A Wild Major Scale Approaches:

Blues is a style of music that can be played in major and minor; today we will look at the (most famous) minor expression. However, how do we go from the major scale:

I-ii-iii-IV-V-vi-vii into the final expression: I-biii-IV-bIV-V-bvii-vii?

First, let us pretend that we come across a major scale in the wild and then we work on turning it minor:


Pentatonic to Gin and Tonic:

Count the amount of notes on the current incarnation of the scale right now: its 7 notes (heptatonic). Lets prune out the ii and the bvii to form this:


This is now what is known as the ubiquitous Penta(5)tonic(note) scale and for many, this becomes the final stop in the pursuit of the blues. However, this is just the skeleton or the blueprint of the house, the function of the space and the rest will be expanding on this to represent the decorations and appliances of the house which makes it livable.

Can we start to play blues from here? Yes, but I want to give you a little more before we talk about using the pentatonic for playing blues.Now that we have established a building, lets turn that building into 2 stations between 2 octaves and a train to shuttle between them:


So now we have two stations and a train, this is one of many ways to attack this scale pattern and we will be adding more to it soon. 

Here is a practice riff to help navigate this concept:

Passing Tones

If you look at the intervals of the scale, you’ll notice that there are spaces in between each notes that sometimes skip the original formation of the minor scale. Let’s fill in some of those gaps :

This is now what we could refer to as the “blues scale” because of the addition of passing tones ( filled in notes ) or blue notes.

So now there you have it, the evolution of the major scale to the blues scale, but what about a  practice lick using the staions concept:

Let’s concentrate on these passing tones, if we start on one these using the station 1-train-station 2 formula your playing will sound a little more rich and “real”.

This isn’t the end-all of blues scale playing but it is a good start into thinking outside the box and attempting to try a more “alive sound” with your guitar. Practice some more and make your own combinations out of this lesson.

PT 2 is here 

Sunday Morning Sermon: The Way To Greatness Is Commitment To Failure.



                         Many people trying to learn any instrument seldom are attempting to learn anything because they are attempting to succeed. Music is not a goal or contest of superiority, it is an activity born out of the deepest parts of the human soul. That sounds great, but if that is true; then that means music is available to every human being. Furthermore, if its in our souls, its in our brains as well and studies have shown that 2 hours a week of practice can actually grow certain regions of the brain, that means that if you practice:

  • 17 minutes a day 7 days a week 
  •  24 minutes 5 days a week
  • 20 minutes X 23 days a week

You can get better no matter what. So what is stopping you?

            Motivation must come from within and you must practice to fail, play fast enough that you can play under a little duress and fail all over the fretboard. Doing this activity is what your personality needs to let go of disappointment. In my years of experience as a guitar teacher/coach, I’ve heard millions of bad reasons and explanations for why they failed at a certain chord shape or techniques. I’ve heard that their hands were too small, too big, stupid hands, or bad genes. I’ve also heard that “they don’t really care if they do it or not” or “they aren’t trying to be a rock star or go on tour anyways”. I have no problem with a player/student that just wants to have fun and learn at a leaisurely pace, but plots forward towards their goals; even if it’s a goal like: improvise solos over Comfortably Numb on Saturday night at your friends house. Some of the best students I ever had were not always the technically best, they were people who were motivated intrinsically, had goals, and were inwardly prepared to meet the hardships ahead.

                 Disappointment is the attorney in court prosecuting you right now about your playing and why should you be taking lessons/ practicing/bother even trying.It seems to me that the problem is never stupid hands or bad genes, rather a commitment to success without being interviewed by failure who is the gatekeeper to success. Stop looking past failure and acting like you are not afraid of it! Its time to face it and laugh at ourselves to return our natural wonder and awe of the instrument. Disappointment needs to be eradicated and replaced with slow and careful handling of your musical phrases (whatever they may be ), but it can’t stop until you deal with that little devil that makes you question yourself and rob you of your passion.

                 Remember, the more you let disappointment rule you, the more blood, passion, and sweat it steals from you and those are the ingredients to success.Make your practice structure and your motivation and discipline spiritual. Motivation comes from within like a pilot light, now go! Turn yours on!

Joni Mitchell: Painting With Altered Tunings


The prolific and often sourced Canadian Joni Mitchell has been constantly wrestled with harmonic riddles through her long time practice of searching for chord progressions under the influence of heavily altered tunings for decades. Her insights are quite valuable, especially since I don’t want to spend that much time writing that many songs to earn said insights.

Let’s see two ways altered tunings and Joni Mitchell have made a beautiful union.

EADAAD Tuning for Dulcimer simulation on “A Case Of You”

I have to confess the intro reminds me of Fine Young Cannibals’ “She Drives Me Crazy” chorus and I chuckle a bit when I hear every time. However, this is a very gently meandering yarn of beauty that keeps unraveling into nostalgia and soliloquy.



(Full Transcription Here)

Hejira: Dark Moods and Altered Tunings  (CGDFGC)

 Hejira is a very dark, introspective, and mature non linear ballad that shows some interesting progressions and of course… tuning.

Beginner Tuesdays: What To Practice- Chord Changes, Arpeggios, and Power Chords.

Practice is something that I’m asked about all the time and I understand why… ractice is action and asking is procrastination. Especially as a beginner, you need to execute;  ACTION! Pull the trigger! That means sitting down and do, act and throw yourself in the process.

Some guys like to just play or jam around with other guys and never sit down and practice. They still get better, but why? Because they ARE practicing, its all about action. Playing over other songs, playing along with other songs, and just doing something active on the guitar gives you enough repetition to make it a productive practice for the day. However, what if we combined both a timed practice discipline with applied science on the guitar?  We would have some great routines that I will share with you now.

Please Please Me By The Beatles for a great chord change workout:

Q Q Q Q Q Q Q Q H  E E E E E E

We hang on the E for a bit and then A-E, but then we hit 2 fast strikes per a chord with the G-A-B7. This is a great practice to work out your fast chord changes ( and I hope your working those out ). Fast chord changes strengthen your hands and in my humble opinion; make faster fingers for leads and solos.

Power Chord training with Fuck Authority by Pennywise

This fast and brutal power chord progression is a great fit for a beginner trying to get their left hand chops up a notch:

Here is the intro


Find Your Arpeggio Tri Force In The Underworld

Arpeggios simply speaking is a picked out chord played in some succession. This can be achieved with a pick, fingers, or (my personal favorite) hybrid picking. Try this one on for size for a good arpeggio workout and a nice dark diminished run at the end.

Drop D Tuning

     S S S S S S S S S S S S S S S S    S S S S S S S S S S S S S S S S

  S S S S S S S S S S S S S S S S    S S S S S S S S S S S S S S S S

  S S S S S S S S S S S S S S S S    S S S S S S S S S S S S S S S S

  S S S S S S S S S S S S S S S S    S S S S S S S S S S S S S S  E

Thank you to Justin Lincoln for the tab

This should hold you over till the next beginner lesson where we will discuss proven and successful practice strategies.

~Jonathan Hayes