Watch the Eliminating Blind Spots online guitar lesson by Andy Timmons from Electric Expression
We're going to take my tune "Cry For You" and use it to show you just a few ideas that might help you expand on some of the things you already know and some pretty simple ideas that I think will lead you to some nice melodic ideas. Let me first talk about the chord structure of the basic melody, very simple. It's D minor, I guess D minor 7 if you look at the original riff, but you can consider it D minor, and then down to B flat for the major 7. So essentially D minor to B flat. As always, I will pare things down to the most simplest form. One idea might work over all the chords in this particular sequence and of course the D minor pentatonic is a go-to fan favorite of most guitarists. As I talked about previously, so many of these things are based on chord shapes that you already know, so I think the first couple of D minors that come to mind for most guitar players are the ones based with the root on the A string, or of course the tenth fret with the tonic on the low E string. There's the two D minors that I would base it off of, or maybe the open position as well. So I'm going to start with a D minor pentatonic and that's one basic position you may know, or I think this initial box position is what we all started with. With just those two positions and just the one scale there's a lifetime of music to make right there. You don't need to know anything else. It's an oversimplification, but it's really true. There's so much that can be done with just those five notes. It's just a matter of how they're played and what notes are played at what time. But obviously we like having a bit more to be able to do to help expand our melodic possibilities and what I like to do is blend those two positions together, and that's what I'm hoping to underscore here, is how to connect a couple of positions you already know and eliminate what I used to call blind spots. Before I really learned a lot about the guitar neck there was always a couple of positions I was most comfortable playing in. So the epiphany moment was when I realized how they just all connected together, and I didn't have to stay in a box. I could think more horizontally and so that's what I want to encourage you to work on in this particular segment, connecting those two positions, you can find ways of doing that. One of the things I like to do is to play things on one string and learn things that way. That way, you can play the pentatonic in the position and that's something that I grew to do a lot in a lot of my playing. I started gravitating towards that being a more vocal sound and if you're familiar with my music at all you'll realize that there's a lot of slippin' and slidin' and a lot of horizontal playing going on. There's nothing wrong with hearing but somehow this moves me a bit more. It's got a little bit more emotional content, more like a singer.
So try it on the A string and then visualize where that next chord is so you already start to see that you know that. I love that sound and you can try that on each string. If we reach out to the F and then play the D minor pentatonic on that D string you can use the open D string. Here I am at that open position D minor just up the octave. Of course I'm going to want to do it on every string. So go back to that chord position and a quick word about fingering. I'll do sliding generally with the first or third finger, but you have to figure out what's most comfortable for you. I'm never one to suggest that there's only one way you have to do it. Sometimes as an exercise I'll give the one finger exercise. Sometimes it's easier for players to visualize in that way. I might start out with the first finger and then go to the third finger, because I'll bend a lot into notes as well. I'll talk more about bending later. Why not on the B string as well? Start on that note F, you recognize that as the third from that D minor chord. You're already up to this position, just an octave from where we started the come-together bend. Now if you were only well-versed in those two positions and now you've really branched out over the whole guitar neck, and it's pretty easy that way. My epiphany was with Ted Nugent's "Strangle Hold", because I had the two positions in A minor pentatonic, and there was the bridge. There was that little epiphany that I can connect these two positions. Had I been a great practicer at that time I would've done it on all strings, but that was enough for a kid in his bedroom playing with his KISS and Ted Nugent records. So let's take the D minor on the E string, on the high E string. So I was descending on one string and then changing. Hopefully that will give you a little bit of inspiration to get rid of those blind spots. It's fun to be able to effortlessly blend those positions you already know, and then get into some of those phrasings where you're using more of a horizontal line. It's nice to slide from one note in the scale to an upper note.