I'm a HUGE Jimi Hendrix fan, but I wasn't always. When I was a closed-minded metalhead in my mid-teens (I started playing at age 15), I was only capable of worshipping rockers who always demonstrated ultra-precise technique and flawless intonation. How could I possibly appreciate something raw, beautiful, and totally spontaneous? (DUH!) Meanwhile, at that tender age, when I started reading guitar interviews conducted with some of my faves (Steve Vai, Joe Satriani, Eric Johnson, etc.), I noticed they always praised Hendrix. At that time, I just didn't get it! Well...
Around 1989 or 1990, I finally saw a videotape of Hendrix playing live (possibly Jimi Plays Berkeley May 1970?). That was all it took. Never before had I witnessed such a stream-of-consciousness performance style. He literally struck me as a guy who was 100% capable of expressing whatever he wanted to on his instrumentin total uninhibited fashionyet his technique seemed so natural, I almost couldn't imagine him ever practicing the darned thing! Total purity as an improviser, showmanto say nothing of his songs! I was blown away, and I have since learned a zillion of Hendrix's tunes, solos, etc.
Perhaps even more so than his unbridled leadwork, the Hendrix RHYTHM GUITAR STYLE really captivated me. A year or two after I was hipped to his revolutionary playing approach, I began dissecting Little Wing, Castles Made of Sand, Bold As Love, Wind Cries Mary, and others. At some point, I reached the following realization: Hendrix would often strike a chord, hold it down while he was singing, then fill in behind his vocal phrases with some kind of chordal sounding fill. Virtually all of these beautiful double-stop/chord partial fills were two-note pentatonic ideas (both notes sounding simultaneously) conveniently oriented near basic chord shapes. Any rudimentary major chord fingeringlike C, for examplewould always be colored using pitches from the C Major Pentatonic scale (C-D-E-G-A), with the frequent addition of the sus4 (as it relates to a C chord, the note F). Similarly, a Cm chord would receive the C Minor Pentatonic (C-Eb-F-G-Bb) treatment, with the frequent addition of the sus2 (as it relates to a Cm chord, the note D). Regardless of the song's chord progression, the appropriate pentatonic scaleagain, using pentatonic scales in parallel with every passing chordwould be plugged in. For instance: In Little Wing, the song's chord sequence might be treated as follows (with the aforementioned sus notes thrown in):
Em (E minor pentatonic)-G (G major pentatonic)-Am (A minor pentatonic)-Em (E minor pentatonic)-Bm (B minor pentatonic)-Bb (Bb major pentatonic)-Am (A minor pentatonic)-G (G major pentatonic)-F (F major pentatonic)-C (C major pentatonic)-D (D major pentatonic)
So I realized: If I had a fairly large arsenal of major and minor pentatonic chord partial licks under my belt, I could improvise within this style reasonably well over any progression! Also, by showing students some of these types of licks in relation to standard barre chord shapes, I discovered they could do pretty well themselves (without having to really know the fret board, or chord/scale theory). So...
For this week's lick, I'm presenting a four-bar string of C major pentatonic HENDRIX-STYLE figures, all arranged in a manner that sounds semi coherent unaccompanied. The notes used in the first two measures are all grouped in the vicinity of the garden-variety C barre chord (the six-note version), with it's root located on the 6th string (8th fret). Measure 3 uses doublestops found within the C major pentatonic/A minor pentatonic fingering we all know and love (sort of relates to a chord shape tootry moving a garden-variety open G chord up to the 8th fret to make C). The final bar stems from the standard C barre chord with it's root located on the 5th string (3rd fret).
I'll slap a minor pentatonic Hendrix-type figure up here next week! Keep in mind these types of licks can also work in a soloing context (à la Wind Cries Mary, Stevie Ray Vaughan's Lenny, etc.). In addition, these types of figures are a studio musician's bread and butter, when it comes to laying down potent (yet tastefully understated) rhythm guitar riffs on the fly (way more effectivein most casesthan strumming full-blown chords, or unloading triadic chord stabs). Hope you dig it!
(*You can hear the lick FAST by clicking HERE*)
(*You can hear the lick SLOW by clicking HERE*)
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