(no subject) - david.j.relihan@gmail.com - Gmail

This is not a lesson. I am certain that there is nothing I can teach you about guitar playing! No, this is simply a confession about the moment I learned the notes are not important. Of course I am being facetious. Harmony and melody is what moves us as listeners right? But unfortunately, a catchy title always trumps facts...

I always equated "scale knowledge" with sophisticated  guitar playing. When I heard Robben Ford, some of the first things that caught my ear were the altered sounds in Help The Poor and the diminished sounds in Revelation. At least I thought that's what was drawing me to the music,  but I'll come back to that in a bit.

I believe my belief of "scale knowledge as a panacea" came from the fact that the very first scale I (and most rock and blues guitarists) learned was the minor pentatonic scale (as opposed to Doe, a deer, a female deer...). The Pentatonic is a perfectly good scale consisting of five notes. For Example A Minor Pentatonic consists of A, C, D, E, G. The reason guitarists like it is that it fits nicely under the fingers due to how the guitar is tuned. Nothing wrong with that either, we should take as many shortcuts as possible. But have a quick browse over any guitar lessons website and you will see titles like "Break out of the pentatonic box with this scale...".  

I bought into this way of thinking too until I heard The Brother by Robben Ford. Listen to the first 45 seconds of this - particularly the final part of the melody:


I was blown away by the main melody of this song. However, when I sat down to work out the main melody I could not believe that most of it was derived from the E blues scale. Ignoring Robben's beautiful touch, in my opinion the magic of the melody is in  Robben's timing and sense of rhythm. It's impossible to describe, but its almost like the melody dances gracefully around the backing rhythm section.


I no longer listen to music in the same way.