Grade Lesson

•May 9, 2019 • Leave a Comment

A recent lesson was covering the Quick study section of the RSL guitar grade. In this particular section the student is presented with a motif and a progression that they have to improvise over. In the current incarnation there is a 12 bar blues in E that requires a quick improvisation over the top.

The progression consists of 3 different chords. E7 A7 B7. Firstly lets look at the notes that these chords consist of. E7 : E G# B D. A7 : A C# E G . B7 : B D# F# A . If we analyse them we can see that there isn’t a scale that covers all these notes, so to keep the note choice relevant we need a different approach.

I am going to suggest a tried and tested method, whilst is not the definitive answer, is a method that will work will more complex progressions and is a good discipline to apply.

Learn where and what the 3rds are of each of the chords. This tone is often the strongest tone you can select. the 3rd defines whether or not a chord is major or minor.
The 3rd of the E7 is a G# , For the A7 it is C# and for the B7 it is D#.
So to begin with we target the these notes, relative to the chord being played on beat one of the bar concerned. We are indicating that we know the chord and where the progression is going. Why? from an exam point of view you are demonstrating understanding and away from exams in the real world, the right notes are always good to supply your audience with.

This is the first part of the exercise. Hit those 3rds. Once you can do it confidently we will move on to adding the 7th of each chord. In this instance the 7ths of each chord are as follows.
E7 : D A7: G B7: A

Next part of the exercise is to add the 7ths on beat 3 of the bar. The 7th is probably the next strongest note in these chords. By accenting both these strong notes it demonstrates and understanding of the chords that are being played. As before we need to practice and integrate this idea until confident in it. We have strong chord tones now on beats 1 and 3. The down beats, the strong beats.

Happy with this concept I have now added notes in between drawn from the E minor pentatonic. This allows us to start working on lines to join changes together. At this point we are using 1/4 notes and no phrasing. Remember this is an exercise to install a new approach. This is not a world ending solo. The concept however will lead to the ideas that will allow you start constructing those kind of solos.

Now if we play the ideas presented , you will be able to hear the chords changing despite no chords being played. This is a desirable facet to have.

There is a Pdf of the ideas below for you to download and work through. It demonstrates each of these stages. Now work slowly and diligently through it in order to integrate it into your musical lexicon.

Vito Bratta

•March 3, 2019 • Leave a Comment

Vito Bratta born 1st July 1961 in New York.

The guitarist songwriter in the 80’s rock band White Lion. Who were formed around 1983 and ceased to be in 1992. In this time they released 4 albums all chocked full of heavy melodic rock that stands the test of time, as all good songs do. His guitar playing is both highly melodic and chocked full of technique. Beautifully crafted solos and parts are the mainstay of their material.

Pride released in 1987 is the bands double platinum album which featured 3 US top 10 singles. A band that offered musical competence, rock and melodies that stood the test of time.

Post 1992 Vito removed himself from the public eye having become disillusioned with the industry and looking after his father who had fallen into ill health. He also damaged his wrist during that time and now favours playing classical guitar as it hurts less.

Jason Becker

•February 28, 2019 • Leave a Comment

Jason Eli Becker, Born 22nd July 1969

Jason shot to prominence aged 16 when he was signed to the legendary instrumental guitar record label Shrapnel. This was the label that brought us amongst others ; Yngwie Malmsteen, Paul Gilbert, Richie Kotzen, Greg Howe, Tony MacAlpine and Marty Friedman.

Paired up with Marty by the record label, They formed a band called Cacophony who went on to make 2 albums, Speed Metal Symphony and Go Off, both packed full of fret melting and benchmark setting playing. The band also containing drummers Atma Anur and Deen Castronovo.

In 1988 Becker released his first solo album, Perpetual Burn. This album was, is and will always be one of the seminal moments of the shred guitar moment. A year later aged 20 Becker landed the holy grail of guitar gigs. Guitarist for David Lee Roth. For the uninitiated , Roth’s first guitarist was one Eddie Van Halen and when Roth left Van Halen he recruited Steve Vai to play guitar. The job of being Dave’s guitarist only ever went to the best of the best. Becker completed one album with Roth ” A little ain’t enough” and showed Jason in a more song orientated light.

Cruelly during the recording of this album Becker was diagnosed with ALS, Lou Gehrig’s disease , known here in the UK as Motor Neurone Disease. Motor neurone disease (MND) is a rare neurological condition that causes the degeneration (deterioration and loss of function) of the motor system (the cells and nerves in the brain and spinal cord which control the muscles in our bodies). This results in weakness and wasting of the muscles.

This meant that Becker was unable to tour with Roth. His health deteriorated fairly rapidly and he found himself unable to walk, play or even talk. Despite these obvious impairments Becker has continued to make music via the use of computers. His compositions are exceptional for someone who would be able bodied, let alone someone who only communicates via the movement of his eyes.

Recently Jason has released an album of new material called Triumphant Hearts and the assembled group of musicians playing the music he composed is a stellar list. Joe Satriani, Guthrie Govan, Steve Vai, Steve Morse, Paul Gilbert, Trevor Rabin, Uli Jon Roth, Neal Schon, Joe Bonamassa, Michael Lee Firkins, Marty Friedman to name but a few. This speaks volumes as to the esteem he is still held in amongst his peers.

Around 2012 there was film made about Jason’s life and situation called Not Dead Yet. If you haven’t seen it, See it. You will be moved.

John Mayer

•February 25, 2019 • Leave a Comment

John Clayton Mayer, Born 16th Oct 1977 in Connecticut, took up guitar aged 13 and was gigging 2 years later in local bars and clubs. He attended Berklee School of Music for 2 Semesters aged 19 then left to form a duo.

Since then he has recorded 7 Studio albums and 7 live albums, Sold in excess of 20,000,000 records. Add to that 19 Grammy Nominations and 7 Grammy wins.

His initial recordings presented him as an acoustic based singer songwriter before he morphed in a fully fledged guitar hero in the Clapton/SRV vein. He continues to evolve as a singer and songwriter exploring various genres from country to blues.

In 2011 he suffered from nodules on his vocals and had to rest his voice and as a result concentrated more on developing his guitar playing. Since then he has played with the Dead and company, the final incarnation of the Grateful Dead and their tours. The Grateful dead are legendary for their improvisational performances and this allows Mayer to stretch out as a soloist.

John has had and has a variety of signature guitars with companies such as Fender, Martin and Paul Reed Smith. he also is a prolific user of vintage instruments.

As with all these articles here are a number of Youtube links for you to listen and take in what he offers as it is far better to listen than talk about music

great outro solo
Grammy Winning.
Grammy Winning

Very cool

Andy Timmons

•February 1, 2019 • Leave a Comment

Andy Timmons born 26th July 1963 in Indiana is one of my favourite guitarists. Having heard and seen him back in the late 80’s/ early 90’s with Danger Danger, his playing caught my attention and has continued to astound me with every release. A consummate guitarist, dedicated to his art , he strikes me as a fine role model for all aspiring guitarists.

Popping up on records by Danger Danger, Kip Winger, Simon Phillips, and playing live with Olivia Newton John, and Simon Phillips as well as having his own band and being a hugely in demand clinician. Ibanez have had an Andy Timmons model for decades and his regularly clinics for them.

His playing more than speaks for itself, and below are many videos for you to watch and understand why I have such a Man crush on him.

His tone and playing are masterful and worthy of the term virtuoso.

One of the greatest live performances I’ve seen.

Nile Rodgers

•January 31, 2019 • Leave a Comment

Nile Gregory Rodgers Jr born 19th Sept 1952 in New York is one of the single most important musicians of the modern age. Be it either as Songwriter/Guitarist or Producer, he has over 500,000,000 albums sales and 75,000,000 single sales. Add to that 3 Grammy, Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Songwriters Hall of Fame. He is a tour de force responsible of some of the most loved music of recent times.

Lets have a look at a highlighted list of artists and songs he has been involved in.

  • Diana Ross
  • Madonna
  • David Bowie
  • Duran Duran
  • INXS
  • Sister Sledge
  • Blondie
  • Jeff Beck
  • Thompson Twins
  • Mick Jagger
  • Grace Jones
  • B-52’s
  • Daft Punk
  • Pharrell
  • Chic


  • Le Freak
  • Everybody dance
  • Good times
  • He’s the Greatest dancer
  • We are family
  • I’m coming out
  • Like a virgin
  • Let’s dance
  • Notorious
  • The reflex
  • Get Lucky

This list could be considerably longer but I shall allow you to investigate Nile in more depth yourself. Hopefully I will have peaked your interest.

Lets give you a bit more Nile knowledge, in the 1990’s Nile had his heart stop 8 times in one night causing him to rethink his lifestyle. Move on to 2011 and he was diagnosed with Prostate Cancer, he then set upon a flourish of work and touring, fearing he was coming to the end. in 2014 he was given the all clear. 2017 he had a lump removed from his Kidney. He is still touring like mad and working like a dervish.

Nile and Bernard Edwards formed a band that would become Chic in 1970, and released their first album as Chic in 1977. Chic are possibly the most archetypal disco band of all time. They are now known as the Chic Organisation and in 2013 played the Glastonbury festival. They have since gone on to play massive gigs worldwide. He is always accompanied by his white 1960 Fender Strat known as the Hitmaker. He plays that guitar on your song… it’ll be a hit. It is legendary. Couple this guitar with his iconic trademark rhythm style and you have part of the reason why he is so important. Add to it his production and writing skills and we have one of the most important musicians there has ever been. I’ve very proud to say I have seen him live many times now and each time is a privilege

Larry Carlton

•January 27, 2019 • Leave a Comment

Larry Eugene Carlton Born 2nd March 1948 in California.

One of the worlds finest session players with over 3000 sessions to his name. Carlton has brought his finesse to albums by some of the music worlds finest. Joni Mitchell, Michael Jackson, Steely Dan, Dolly Parton, Sammy Davis Jr, and Quincy Jones to name but a few.

4 Grammy’s to his name including one for the Theme music to Hill St Blues in 1981. Those of us of a certain age will know that it was an Emmy Award winning cop show from America. Carlton’s Grammy’s range from 1981 to 2010, showing his continued relevance and standard setting.

Add to this he played on Michael Jackson’s Off the Wall album, 7 Albums by Joni Mitchell and 4 Steely Dan albums including the track Kid Charlemagne where Carlton supplied one of the most revered guitar solos of all time. We will look at that shortly.

Larry Carlton is highly revered by Steve Lukather and the pair made a Grammy award winning live album in 2001 called No Substitutions. Carlton has also made a great live album with Blues Legend Robben Ford.

Larry’s phrasing, sensitivity and musical refinement means he is a player to be appreciated by all. I will add some video’s of his material as this will speak to you far better than all the waxing lyrical I can do here.

His eponymous solo album is an absolute must, so I recommend you getting hold of that for your ears to enjoy.

1988 Larry was shot through the throat and suffered paralysis in his left arm. He has however found his way back as you will see and plays as great as ever.

Room 335 named after is trademark 335 guitar
A complete imposter you might recognise.
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