Supercharge Your Chops: Part 4

by Brad Carlton

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Brad Carlton Guitar LessonIn this 4-part video guitar lesson series, Brad Carlton explores 40 timeless tips from 40 guitar legends featured in Guitar Player Magazine. Each lesson explores a lick or an exercise in the style of a great guitarist complete with the video guitar lesson, power tab, chart, and more. Now dig in and supercharge your chops!

31. Jimmy Herring

This just may be the happiest sounding lick ever played. “When I was in Aquarium Rescue Unit, we had a mandolin player named Matt Mundy who is one of the best musicians I’ve ever heard,” said Widespread Panic, Allman Brothers, and Other Ones veteran Jimmy Herring. “He plays the most melodic things you can imagine. This is a traditional bluegrass melody he showed me.” (Tip: Pick the first note in the three-note pickup as an upstroke, and the strong beats will all be nailed by downstrokes.)

32. Arnie Berle

After getting us hooked on harmony in 1978, Arnie Berle teaches us how to generate modes. The deal is, you take G major scale and play it from G to G (also called G Ionian, which works great over G major grooves), then play the same seven notes A to A (which gives you A Dorian-perfect for A minor vamps) and so on. Get these modes under your fingers and in your ears and you’ll use them for the rest of your life, guaranteed.

33. Joe Pass 1

Perfectly complementing Joe Pass’ 1968 blues eighth-notes lesson is this chord-melody seminar. In this excerpt, Pass shows how he might ornament the IV chord (Eb9) in a Bb blues using a variety of harmonies. “Do not play a piece the same way all the time,” wrote Pass. “Think of the possible ways of filling in between phrases-substitutions, melodic lines, passing chords-and try to do different things. Play what you feel at the moment. Try playing rubato [a feel in which strict time is disregarded] to freely explore and develop sections of a piece.”

34. Steve Trovato

Travis picking sounds as fresh and immediate today as it did when Elvis tunes such as ‘That’s Alright Mama’ and ‘Mystery Train’ first came out, wrote Americana powerhouse Steve Trovato in this lesson. And yes, 13 years later, Travis picking still sounds fresh. “If you’re into rockabilly and roots county, it’s essential to have a strong Travis groove in your bag of tricks.” The first two bars are a fun little descending intro. The looped measure (E7) is the Merle Travis-style phrase you gotta own. (Tip: Pick the bass notes, pluck the diads with the middle and ring fingers.)

35. Charlie Hunter

Leave it to Charlie Hunter to take the chordal guitar part, the single-note guitar part, and the bass line from James Brown’s “Get on the Good Foot” and combine the three in one of the funkiest measures of music the guitar has ever known. The fingering moves aren’t too tricky, but nailing the feel will take some practice. (Tip: Aim to play the upper voice-which comprises the two guitar parts-staccato while playing the bass part with the full note values written.)

36. Joe Pass 2

One exercise jazz genius Joe Pass preached as much as he practiced was his famous streaming eighth-notes drill. As sweet as Pass’ moves are in the music below, his example (played over a 12-bar blues cycle in C) is just that-an example. Your job is to work on your own spontaneous eighth-note flow. “The idea is to develop and improve your melodic sense by eliminating any rhythmic variation,” wrote Pass. “Stay with it and you’re bound to play better melodies.”

37. Montuno Guitar

A natural sense of rhythm, a good ear-these are just a couple gifts any guitarist would be blessed to have. It’s also great to be blessed with, shall we say, the gift of grab-the ability and will to snag any cool riff you see, no matter what instrument it’s played on, and translate it to your guitar. We lifted this classic two-part montuno phrase from one of pianist Bill Bell’s latin jazz lessons, and found a way to execute both parts with the fretting hand. The photos will help you master the chord shapes, but as far as the heavy syncopation goes, well, let’s hope you have the first gift we mentioned.

38. Martin Simpson

Okay, beginners, we know you probably have your hands full just trying to get comfortable with standard tuning, but it’s never too early to explore other tunings. In fact, the longer you put off opening tunings, the more you’ll wish you got started with them earlier when you finally discover their magic. For instance, DADGAD-which is achieved by simply lowering the first, second, and sixth strings a whole-step-rings out in a beautiful open Dsus4 chord that chimes with three droning D’s. It yields myriad harmonic and melodic possibilities, including the ringing arpeggios Martin Simpson shared below.

39. Danny Gatton

The Telemaster had so many awesome tricks up his sleeve it’s hard to pick just one. This gnarly cascade is a good choice, though, with its angular movement and clanging major and minor seconds. Arch your fretting fingers so the notes all ring together and let it fly. Once you get it down it will feel as good as it sounds.

40. Sonny Landreth

Slide guitar is a world within itself, but Louisiana slide deity Sonny Landreth has conquered a world within a world by pioneering behind-the-slide technique-the practice of fretting notes behind the glass, brass, bottleneck, (or whatever it is that composes your slide), thereby adding new notes to slide riffs. And guess what-it’s easier and more fun than you’d think. With your slide on your 4th finger, simply use your other fretting-hand fingers to press down one or more notes. The fretted strings will conveniently drop beneath the slide and ring unimpeded, as illustrated in this open-G tuning example. With the slide at the 12th position, the first bar gets you started by adding a 10th-fret G fretted with your 2nd finger. (Tip: Pull off from a behindthe-slide note and as the string “hammers” back against the slide, you’ll hear the string return to its slide-position pitch.)