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 

Monday Hodgepodge – Fishbone: A Profile In Controlled Chaos

There has never been a more eclectic band that could still retain a distinct sound in the midst of the chaos of genres bouncing off of tonal walls.

It is safe to say that the main style of this L.A. band is defiantly ska, but they are not really anything because they are simply: Fishbone.

From 1979 to now, Fishbone never really got the recognition that they deserved, a tragedy because a world without Fishbone isn’t worth living at all. As a kid that grew up during the infancy of Alternative rock and I heard about the storied mosh pits from Fishbone concerts. Without further ado:

Sunless Saturday

Music Video Here

I start off with a 90s single called “Sunless Saturday”, a track that really shows some guitar wizardry and proves that Fishbone could rock if they wanted too.

Here is the acoustic intro and main verse:

Ma & Pa

Music Video Here

Aha, now we are dealing with ska and it is all about upstrokes after a quick downward rake on the chord changes:

Skankin To The Beat

Music Here

Everybody needs a little more ska in their life, so here is another easy little tab.

Lyin’ Ass Bitch

Music Here

And more ska, this became a prototypical ska progression from a million ska bands after this song came out in 85

I hope you grow to love this crazy crazy band because they would get 1/10 of the love they deserve from their contributions to music.

Skank to the beat..

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!

Top 5 Thursday: 5 Exotic And Unique Scales For You To Marinate on


Hirajoshi Scale 

     A tuning scale for the Japanese koto by way of the shamisen, this scale revolutionized the koto in Japan by the Andres Segovia of koto :  Yatsuhashi Kengyō.

Metal and Jazz players have used this scale extensively.

Enigmatic Scale

     Invented by the great composer Verdi, he whipped this up on a public challenge.

Spanish Gypsy

Another name for the Phrygian dominant

Whole Tone Scale 

A great transition scale especially over a dominant chord like the G7 that is implied here.

Augmented Scale 

This is a great way to dip in and out of a blues scale when the V chord is invoked and whenever you can fit it in.

Take these scales and applications and see what you can create with them!

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.