Watch the M&M Blues 2 online guitar lesson by Chris Buono from Juiced Blues
Putting the superimposition idea aside for a minute (it will be back, don't you worry) M&M Blues leans towards the concept of morphing 7-tone modal scales into 5-note pentatonic structures. " Why?" you may ask. It's a fair assumption that we all started improvising over the blues (and most any other style of music) with the root position minor pentatonic scale. And rightfully so--it feels great and sounds even better. In regards to the latter that greatness is due in part to not only what is there, but also what is not (yes, this is where the "less is more" mantra resonates). By cutting down the 7-tone mode to a 5-note pentatonic scale we cut the fat if you will, and get right to the heart of the matter. Plus, the resultant gaps in the 5-note structure provide wider intervals as compared to the 7-tone scale's consecutive whole-/half-step formulae thus helping to automatically break up the inevitable monotony those larger scales can produce in the hands of a newbie. Lastly, this approach garners very cool double-stop ideas as well as 1-1/2 bends further juicing your palette.
The changes we're working with in M&M Blues were lifted from the Darnell/Hawkins classic "The Thrill is Gone" that B.B. King rode all the way to the bank in 1969 and beyond. Transposed up a half step to Cm, the progression is as follows: Cm7 (i-7) for the first four bars, Fm7 (iv-7) for bars 5-6 and back to Cm7 for bars 7-8. For the turnaround a very cool sounding shift to Abmaj7 (bVImaj7) pops up at bar 9 followed by an edgy G7#9 (V7#9) in bar 10. Finally a resolute Cm7 is heard at bar 11 followed by the return of G7#9 at bar 12 to continue the cycle.
When it comes to the modal morphing at hand the first eight bars is all about Dorian with the Cm7 and Fm7 chords getting treated with C Dorian and F Dorian Pentatonic scales respectively. In both instances the newly created Dorian pentatonic formula is 1, 2, b3, 5, 6. Notice the tritone interval (b5 or #4) between the b3 and 6--the Dorian mode's mojo is based on this diabolic interval and will be exploited in the licks throughout the solo. After pondering upon this formula you may notice something: This is merely a major pentatonic scale, but with a b3 to bring it into the minor realm. The cool part about that is you can easily transform many of those classic sounding major pentatonic licks that start with a 6 to 1 motif into Dorian pentatonic licks by just flatting the 3rd.
Within the final four bars you will find the remaining two pentatonic formulae introduced in M&M Blues. For the bVImaj7 (Abmaj7) the Ab Lydian scale is chopped up into a Lydian pentatonic that follows this formula: 1, 3, #4, 5, 7. Once again the defining tritone interval (1-#4) is present ensuring the Lydian vibe is in the house, which is furthered by the presence of the 7th degree making it an undeniable, yet condensed Lydian event. For the biting G7#9 in bars 10 and 12 a Phrygian Dominant pentatonic was created that's spelled: 1, b2, 3, b6, b7. These are the essentials to the parent Phrygian Dominant 7-tone scale, which is the 5th mode of the harmonic minor modes. These two modes were chosen for their hipness factor in regards to displaced maj7 chords and V7 to i-7 instances.
M&M Blues also introduces rhythmically juiced elements to the mix such as odd-numbered groupings and simple polyrhythms. In regards to the former, of course you've already been playing with triplets, which is a group based on an odd number, but I'm talking about groupings of 5's and up. Looking in bars 3 and 4 you'll notice two instances of quintuplets nestled in the solo without sounding overly complex. Never dealt with these groupings? No problem, just get the metronome out make use of the "hippo" count I talk about in this segment to best get the feel in your head and hands. As for polyrhythms, for the uninitiated the term simply means two opposing rhythms played at the same time. Check out bar 3 where off the downbeat of beat 3 I play the last three subdivisions of a 4:3 polyrhythm right before the quintuplet. Just like the 5's, just take it slow and practice the count until you feel the flow because get ready: There's more oddities coming your way as Juiced Blues progresses.
As you work through all the solos keep this idea at the forefront: Though we're intentionally stepping away from the more traditional sounds heard in blues soloing and comping both melodically and rhythmically, were absolutely not abandoning them. More times than not the most important element of all--the phrasing--is intact, albeit the approach has been modernized. So, keep an open mind and remember: Nothing contained in Juiced Blues is meant to replace, but rather to enhance. To that end I totally encourage you to combine your concepts with the ones laid out here in Juiced Blues.
** Take note: Like Super Dom Blues, all the scales used in M&M Blues will be laid out for you in their full neck vision potential below the solo transcription with an (*) being employed to denote the specific fingerings that were utilized in the solo.