Here are some of the questions we’ve been asked…

How do I use the book?2017-05-26T16:32:26-07:00

Start at the beginning and work from the front to the back. The basic idea is that you learn various sounds and where they are on the guitar. To introduce the sounds we use popular scales. For each set of sounds (scale, mode, arpeggio) you’ll learn the following:

  • The sound of the notes  (SOUND)
  • The spelling of the scale (HARMONY)
  • The fingerings for these sounds in the 7 fingerings that cover the entire fingerboard. (FINGERINGS)
  • Various techniques needed to play the sounds (various versions of the ‘roll’ and double stop, for example) (TECHNIQUES)

So, you work through each lesson learning a new fingering, the sound of the notes, and then practicing making melodies, playing licks, and hearing those sounds over backing tracks with techniques you’re acquiring.

On a routine basis you’ll

  • Learn a scale and its spelling. We’ll talk about the sounds to listen for.
  • You’ll play the scale over backing tracks for the progressions in the book.
  • You’ll noodle around and experiment with songs you know and/or video’s you’ve seen
  • You’ll experiment with the various techniques you know, and ones we’ve shown you.
  • Then you’ll move on to the next set of sounds and repeat the process.
Which sounds are covered in the book?2016-05-27T11:01:01-07:00

Each scale introduces a new sound to your major scale foundation. Various notes are added to your vocabulary, but always in the context of the basic fingerings.

  • The Major Scale –
    • the small interval sounds (half step and whole step)
    • Emphasis on the natural 3 and natural 7 (E and B in the C major scale).
  • The arpeggios in the major scale – large interval sounds found in the major scale. You use the same fingerings as you did for the major scales.
  • The Minor Pentatonic Scale – the b3 and b7 sounds for blues and rock – new notes. (Eb and Bb from the root C)
  • The Blues Scale – the #4 sound – another new note. (F# from the root C)
  • The Dorian Sounds – the natural 6 and 9 notes combined with the minor pentatonic and blues scale notes
    • (Carlos Santana type smoother blues sounds)
  • The Major Pentatonic Scale – the sounds of the 6 and 9 (also found in the major scale) but with larger intervals and no 7th
  • The Mixolydian Sounds – the natural 3 note and the b7 note for the unique major blues sound.

Musically what happens is this:

  • First you learn the sounds of the Major Scale, and the seven fingerings that interconnect across the entire fingerboard.

That provides you with small interval sounds (half step and whole step).

  • Then we go back over those fingerings to find the arpeggios located inside each fingering.

That gives you larger interval sounds, although still in the major scale tonality, and still in the basic fingerings.

  • During that time various techniques are also explored, including string bends, the ‘pinch’ and so on.
  • We then take the same approach to other tonalities, like the blues, minor pentatonic, and Dorian sounds.

Amazingly, the fingerings for the arpeggios we learned earlier are almost the same as the minor blues and rock sounds, making them that much easier to locate and quicker to learn.

  • The major pentatonic scale and Mixolydian scale provide the sound of blues and country with a major 3rd and a flatted seventh.
  • We continue with harmonized scale fingerings (playing scales two notes at a time) and more string bends.
  • Pedal tones and double string bends are the last topics. Here we’re taking scales and fingerings you already know to make new sounds, but still within the seven-fingering-framework we used for all the scales, modes, and arpeggios.
There is a lot of text in the book. Do I need to learn all that?2017-05-26T16:32:26-07:00

No. The text is me talking to you as if we’re in a one-on-one lesson together. Get a colored pen or highlighter and mark up the book! Mark things that you want to remember, and move on through the text. Some of the material might be familiar to you already, depending upon your playing level. Skip it if it’s old news.

Are there a lot of drills and exercises?2016-05-18T15:00:17-07:00

None. There are some technique examples for both hands. There are also two super-important melody tools, the melodic pattern and the sequence, but they are for learning sounds and playing – not exercises.

What kind of guitar can I use?2016-05-18T15:01:30-07:00
  • Any guitar should be ok if it has reasonable action and is in tune as you play up the neck.
  • You can use steel string acoustic, electrics or nylon string guitars.
  • For string bends and harmonized scales your guitar can help you if it is set up well, intonated, and the strings are not too heavy.
Do I need to read music or tab to use the book?2016-05-18T15:02:28-07:00


Is it hard to get started for a beginner?2016-05-18T15:03:31-07:00

No. Just follow the narrative and relax. The fingerings will be learned, and it will all start to make sense.

It looks kind of hard. How much playing experience do I need to start using the book?2017-05-26T16:32:26-07:00

You should be able to play the common barre chords comfortably and be able to name them.

You should be ok with starting to learn about spelling scales, and learning the terminology of harmony (it is easy).

You should consider removing all your pedals from your signal chain so you can hear your guitar “straight” when practicing. It will be easier to hear squeaky or weak notes.

You should accept that your left hand fourth finger is going to be used as a strong independent finger in soloing.

I’d recommend you listen to some classic improvisations in the styles you like. I consider John Mayall and the blues breakers with Eric Clapton to be a master class in rock and blues soloing. Immerse yourself in that record when you get the chance.

If you’ve had lessons, learned modes, or have experience playing solo’s I’d ask that you take the time to fit what you know into the fingering system here, and keep an open mind for simpler explanations.

What are the backing tracks like?2017-05-26T16:32:26-07:00
  • The tracks are MP3 audio tracks.
  • There is a track for each of the progression examples found in the book. You can see the progression in the book, and hear it on the matching track. There are also some bonus tracks.
  • In addition, some book examples have the chord progression played on several different backing tracks in different styles and tempos.
  • The book examples are typically played three times through on each track. An extra ending chord is also played.
  • The styles of the tracks vary. There are pop trios with piano or guitar, jazz and bossa nova sounds with both piano and guitar, country tracks, rock tracks with varying sets of instruments, and blues tracks with varying sets of instruments (including mandolin, fiddle, 12-string guitar, uke, harmonica, Hammond B3 organ, Rhodes piano sounds, acoustic bass, and electric bass).
  • The tracks for arpeggios are set to be slow enough for you to ‘walk’ through the arpeggio fingerings at different speeds. Because the arpeggios have major and minor seventh chords as a focus, the progressions tend to sound a little on the “cocktail lounge” side in some instances.
  • Each track has a 4 beat click at the beginning.
What are the videos about?2016-05-27T11:02:18-07:00
  • Several videos are explanatory, talking and showing scales, fingerings and so on with graphics or screen animation.
  • Each video is short. That is, none of them are rambling explanations of harmony, pop culture, or history. (Those are all ok, but not here.)
  • Several videos are to illustrate left hand or right hand fingering techniques in action.
  • Typically the videos focus on content in the book, but from a different perspective or illustrated in a different manner to help you learn.
  • The videos are presented in 1200 x 720 video in the mp4 format.
Is one musical style favored over another in the book?2016-05-18T15:14:17-07:00

Not really. Rock,Blues Pop, and Country are the main targets. Gospel falls in there a little harmonically. The arpeggios and scales do prepare you to start jazz, but that is in a separate volume coming later. (Originally called Modern Improvising)

Does the book used the CAGED fingering system?2016-05-18T15:14:55-07:00

Not specifically. The five CAGED fingerings are found in the fingerings used however, so it all goes together.

Is ‘position playing’ the focus of the book?2016-05-18T15:15:34-07:00

No, but sort of Yes. The book introduces sounds in fingerings that are in a particular position, but the point is to learn the sounds and forget the positions. Until you do, however, you can use the positions in “Styles.” Very early in the book we show how to move easily between positions and to play horizontally (down the fingerboard).

Wasn’t the original “Styles” book called “Volume 1?”2016-05-18T15:16:09-07:00

Yes. The material that was going into volume 2 became a book called “Modern Improvising” so no “volume two” exists.

Do I need to know harmony to use “Styles?”2016-05-18T15:16:48-07:00

No. Styles will introduce you to harmony, and carry chord and scale spellings (C D E F G A B C) along throughout the book, but you don’t need to know it to start. And you don’t need to study it outside of “Styles.” Styles does explain things about harmony, but in a simple approach, and only to help you find notes and remember sounds.

What about Jazz Improvising? Does “Styles” teach that?2017-05-26T16:32:26-07:00

No. But the arpeggios in “Styles” are the foundation of Jazz playing, so the arpeggios get you about one third of the way there. Of course all the scales and modes can be used in Jazz, but “Styles” does not focus on their Jazz usage.

Learning Jazz soloing (depending upon which part of Jazz we’re talking about) places greater emphasis on melody and chromatic sounds (b9, #9, b5, #5). Modal Jazz can focus on a single tonal group (like Dorian for example, or more exotic sounds) but typically Jazz requires greater awareness of individual chord sounds then Blues, Pop, Rock, and Country.

My book “Modern Improvising” (soon to be back in print in a modified form) covered the so-called Jazz scales and progressions.

Can you use “Styles” with Lick books?2017-05-26T16:32:26-07:00

Yes, definitely. “Styles” will give you the framework for seeing each lick in its proper fingering(s) and key. It can be like a roadmap to your closet full of licks – you’ll be able to see the context, the chords etc. for a lick

What kind of guitars do you play?2016-05-18T15:18:45-07:00

I’ve been a guitar-aholic over the years, owning a lot of different wonderful guitars. Most often I play a semi-hollow body two pickup electric like a Gibson 335. I’ve been lucky enough to own some great vintage guitars (’66 335s, ’53 tele, ES-5, ’57 Les Paul Black Beauty, etc) but they’ve all found homes elsewhere. I play the custom semi-hollow body, a Martin D-18s, and a Fender Tele made in Mexico (the best Fender I’ve ever owned).

I use a little compression sometimes, a Princeton Reverb with an extension cabinet, and an old Rivera power attenuator.  With the acoustic I use a buffer amplifier in front or at the end of the signal chain. Nothing fancy. String Guages are 11-49 for electric, light gauge bronze for acoustic. (I played 10-46 for a long time on 335s, but I’m liking the sound of the 11s.) What do I want for Christmas? A ’57-’60 Gibson L-7 cutaway acoustic.

Do you teach?2016-06-18T16:48:51-07:00

Yes, via Skype. If you live in Honolulu, I’d be willing to travel.

Do I need to read music to use “Styles?”2016-05-18T15:20:32-07:00

No. But I think you should learn to at least ‘decode’ music notation. You can learn things much faster.

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