For a while I’ve been looking for a new acoustic to replace my old Takamine ESF-40C. It’s a nice guitar that I got when I was about 18, but it’s worn out now and ready to retire. Had a look at a few Taylors, including the 214, but ended up going with a brand called Faith. The guitar I got is a Neptune High Gloss, it’s a baby jumbo shape without a pickup (I’ll put my own in). It’s a bit cheaper in price than the Taylor 214 but has solid rosewood back and sides, I was quite surprised that the Taylor is mostly laminate and not entirely rosewood.
Anyway, I’m very happy with it and here are some pictures. I’ll probably do a video soon, too.
Gumtree got in touch with me and asked me to be part of a social media campaign – a bit unexpected, but the idea was that we shoot a short video of me talking about the SG I recently got from Gumtree… Next week we’re filming a live stream with FRiSK, so look out for that one!
One of my students wanted to learn how to play What Do I Know? yesterday. It’s one of about 19 songs in the current UK top 20 (!) that are from Ed Sheeran’s latest album. Upon hearing it, my first thought was that it’s a lot like Justin Bieber’s Love Yourself: same key, same kind of riff. Coincidence? Hardly. After a quick glance at the internet I saw that Sheeran actually co-wrote Love Yourself. Un-belieber-ble.
Anyway, I thought it was a good opportunity to take a look at the Emajor scale in 10ths. 10ths are really pleasing to listen to and by learning this scale you’ll have everything in place to tackle these two riffs (and in the process get your fingers around some new shapes).
I’ve highlighted the range of the scale that both riffs cover, and you might have noticed that I’ve extended the scale one degree above the octave (circled) . This is just to accomodate the range of notes in Love Yourself. Leave this out if you want to play an exact one octave scale in 10ths.
A 10th is a compound interval (which means it’s an interval greater than an octave) but it’s essentially the same as a 3rd. If you’re not sure what that means: play the 1st and 3rd notes of the major scale (Fig 1).
Then, without moving the 1st, move the 3rd an octave higher (Fig 2) – that’s a 10th.
You can read more about this by clicking here, if you like. Here’s a link to a printable version of the scale: Emajor Scale in 10ths.
I’ve met Frank twice at masterclasses in London and on both occasions he’s been very keen to stress the importance of strong, musical phrasing when improvising. Upon listening to any of his works, it becomes very clear that he practices what he preaches. This has got me thinking about simplifying my approaches in the hope of achieving a more “musical” outcome. Taking this short solo as an example I thought it’d be interesting to see what sort of themes are evident in Vignola’s approach. The solo is only 16 bars long, so I’m just going to offer a commentary on each group four bars and highlight some of the rhythmic and harmonic features that I think are worth considering.
The opening phrases feature some fairly standard blues vocabulary, and are based largely around chord tones. There’s a rhythmic figure of five notes in bar 2 (red) which is reapplied to a C major arpeggio in bar 3 (blue): this idea of repeating the rhythmic shape of a phrase but changing the melodic composition really helps build in some strong rhythmic interest.
In bars 5 and 6 (Fig 2) Vignola takes a more scalar approach placing chord tones on the beats and diatonic passing notes between, a standard tactic in jazz improv. The Bb in the middle of bar 6 helps to retain the bluesy sound by implying C mixolydian and simultaneously providing a b9 tension over the A7. Instead of spelling out the ii-V in bar 7, Vignola opts for a straight forward blues scale run. This is a great example of how one doesn’t have to follow the changes: there is tension, melodic shape, and resolution but it’s clear he’s not thinking about outlining the harmony in any specific way.
Note: The 16th note rest in bar 7 has been put there to illustrate that the note is played fractionally late. It’s not to be taken literally but I wanted to include it because it does have an effect on the phrasing by breaking up what would otherwise be continuous 8th notes (albeit in a subtle way).
Bar 9 is another example of the statement (red) and reiteration (blue) of a strong rhythmic motif. This time with an ascending and then descending arpeggio pattern. In fact, these four bars are largely arpeggio based and as a result there is a wave-like contour to the phrase. Vignola clearly spells out the ii-V-I in bars 11-12 with a straight Dm7 arpeggio followed by a chromatic line running from the 3rd to the b9 of the G7 (yellow). Although this is a different approach to the ii-V (compared to what we’ve seen in bar 7) it’s similar in that the strength of the line lies in the uncomplicated nature of the rhythm and pitches used.
Bars 13-14 feature a repeated rhythmic motif (similar to those already discussed). Vignola recalls a grouping of specific notes that he has already used in bar 6 (fig 2) – shown in here in the red, this is the Bb, and G# creating tensions against the A7. He finishes the solo with another C blues lick (yellow) in much the same way as he does in bar 7-8. This time anticipating the resolution by placing the C on the last 8th of bar 7th instead of the first beat of bar 8.
There are things that haven’t been dicussed here, though. For example, to what degree the solo may or may not be related to the melody; and I haven’t atempted any detailed anaysis of note choice. These things are for another post. What I hope I have done is identify a few useful devices that Vignola has employed in this solo that might be worth considering in the journey to stronger phrasing:
1: Use of rhythmic motifs, changing pitches on repetition to provide melodic shape/interest.
2: Use of confidently placed blues scale to “ignore” changes but still create tension and shape over a resolving ii-V (see fig 2, 4).
3: Use of chord tones and arpeggios to create robust lines that are strongly anchored to the underlying harmony (see fig 1, 2).
I hope you’ve found this useful and enjoyable. You can download the the full transcription here: Cheek to Cheek .