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Expanding Your Options
With Guitar Improvisation - Part 2
Intervallic Ideas / Double Stops
By Randy Johnson
From a recent clinic tour I found that there is quite a lot of interest about the use of double stops and intervallic ideas. In this article, for simplicity, I will just call them double stops. What I have provided below should get many new ideas flowing. For a more expanded explanation (more than I could write in an article) and for those that need a little more help I explain how you can get a video demonstration of this lesson here in addition to some free backing tracks to play over.
Personally I never took lessons to learn what I know about using double stops although I have been asked a number of times to explain what I am doing with them and have given many lessons on them. I say that because one can get quite a lot of mileage from the ideas I will share by simply “experimenting” with them. In addition, the good news is you don’t have to know any theory to do this! Just learn a pattern or two, turn on the backing track and you are good to go!
WARNING: Once you learn one pattern and what you can do with it you will be rushing to learn them all over the neck because this can be some fun and cool stuff!
For the sake of this lesson I will stick with just the use of double stops in the pentatonic scale patterns. Otherwise this would be a novel and not an article. There ARE TONS OF THINGS YOU CAN DO WITH THESE! If you would like to see this topic handled in other ways check out the video demonstration I mentioned above.
Let’s jump in!
The following is the most widely used minor pentatonic shape. I have highlighted the notes with different colors to show some example note groupings (double stops). These are not all the double stop options, just a few of them. There is nothing special about these note groupings. They are just “one” way of how the notes in the pattern can be used (or grouped) together to make sounds:
1. Pick up your guitar! Place your index finger over the two red notes on the left (lets do this at the 7th fret) and your pinky finger over the two red notes on the right (10th fret).
2. Now play the two notes where your pinky is and then play the two notes where you index finger is. Note here that all we are doing is playing note groups within the pattern. Just as you can play single notes when you improvise you can also play these groupings. This adds a totally different dynamic to your playing and is used by many rock, jazz and blues players.
3. ** You could play the whole pattern this way two notes at a time. Starting with the red notes at your pinky descend down the pattern two notes at a time. Hopefully this makes sense but if not I cover this in the video demonstration I mentioned.
4. Now place your index finger on the green dots shown above to your left (lets do this at the 7th fret). Go ahead and play the notes and just the moment that you pick them, slide your index finger up to the green dots to the right (up to the 9th fret). Sounds cool eh? I love this Robben Ford like sound! Especially sliding up and then sliding back down. If you have never done this before it takes a little practice but once you have it mastered your whole playing dynamic increases. Remember that you can apply this slide in other parts of the pattern, using the red dots for example.
“THIS IS KEY!”: You can join any notes you want within these patterns in any way possible! That is what is so cool and why it’s a great advantage to just experiment!
Now let’s expand this to give us more options to work with. Below is the popular minor pentatonic pattern we looked at before and then I have provided another pentatonic shape.
If you saw both of these patterns on the fretboard at the same time they would look like this. If you look closely you can see where the patterns connect.
1. The shapes of the green dots in each pattern are perfect 5th intervals. In other words, “power chords”! That’s right; power chords are not just on the 5th and 6th strings but can be played on others strings as well!
2. As we did a slide in the previous example, slide with these 5th intervals. Compare the sound of this to the first slide I asked you to do.
With the shapes that I have mentioned so far you can add a lot to your improvisation but there are still other shapes we could create. In this lesson we created groupings of notes that are within a pattern. Experiment with these shapes and also create your own new shapes. Apply these ideas to other pentatonic shapes all over the fretboard. Try these concepts on other patterns like the major scale.
In my demonstration video I provide some close up shots of how these ideas are played in addition to showing you the sounds of them. I will also point you to some nice backing tracks as well, one of which I use in the video.
This is just a very small start on what can be done with double stops. I hope this has helped to give you some new ideas of how to begin to approach this topic. This is just the tip of a very large iceberg!
As always, if you have any questions please feel free to contact me directly through my contact page. I also invite you to stop by and provide suggestions on what you would like me to cover in future articles.
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About Randy Johnson
Randy Johnson is a Guitarist, Recording Artist, Logic Pro Consultant and Instructor based in Cincinnati, Ohio. Randy has received certifications as a Professional Guitarist "with honors" from the Atlanta Institute of Music, he has played in styles of Rock to Metal, Blues to Jazz Blues, Progressive, New Age, Classical and Country.
Randy has studied under Jimmy Herring (at A.I.M.), Tom Hess and Greg Howe and continues to expand his abilities. His favorite areas of study are improvisation, song composition and audio engineering.
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