Tag Archives: metal

Guitar Lesson: Diatonic Steroids Part I – Major/Minor Keys

Guitar Lesson
Let’s do this!!

Greetings and welcome to another online guitar lesson!

I added a new header photo to my site, the un-cropped version you can see here ->

This was actually a nod to a pod cast I listen to – Jocko Willink – and while I don’t “know” the guy, I follow his Twitter posts and podcast episodes religiously and enjoy them immensely.  I found out he plays guitar (how well, I don’t know) and he’s a big Sabbath fan so i thought I’d return the favor and devote a guitar lesson to Sabbath.

As with any online guitar lesson, it’s challenging to to convey everything in text so I’m trying a new format: mixing text with video I’ve posted on YouTube.  In a lesson like this with a whole song and solo, it only makes sense to use Video as text alone would be nearly impossible.

But me being me, I can’t just do it straightforwardly.  Yes, you have to learn something along the way.  All my guitar lessons are like that.  Which brings me to the title of this piece, which is a pun off of Anabolic Steroids.

Definitions:

“Anabolic Steroid” – Anabolic steroids, technically known as anabolic-androgenic steroids, are drugs that are structurally related to the cyclic steroid rings system and have similar effects to testosterone in the body.  In other words, they are a performance enhancement drug.  Don’t worry, there’s not a test.

“Diatonic” – involving only notes proper to the prevailing key without chromatic alteration.  Don’t worry, I’ll explain those terms.

“Diatonic Steroids” – Way cool things to explore with a guitar!

So the diatonic concept is about scales.  What do people think of when we mention scales?  An exercise.  Technique.  Finger dexterity exercises.  Yawn.  I/we want to learn cool licks!  I want to play like [fill in the blank] and you’re going to give me scales?  Can I get my money back on this lesson?

Well before you kick your scales book to the trash can, let’s take a look at the structure of basic music.  This won’t apply to Black Sabbath just yet.  But give me some time.  One thing builds on the other.

Here’s is a 10 minute video of me explaining Major and Minor scales:

Check this out:

So the gist of this is Sabbath likes Minor keys.  And the song we’re going to work on is in E minor.  Which is a lot like G Major but there are some differences.

Knowing the scales is a start.  But scales can be derived from scales.  (Don’t worry, it gets simpler).  Here is a discussion about the Pentatonics.

So that gives a somewhat “lay of the land” between the Major and Minor 7 note scales and the Major and Minor Pentatonic Scales.

But I still don’t see how i can play like Tony Iommi!!

Let’s apply it to a real Sabbath song.  How about War Pigs?  This is a 15 min video getting you through the song up until the 1st solo.

After this, it gets to the first solo.  Tony Iommi does some interesting things with a droning E string in the background, before he gets into some “basic” blues licks:

 

And finally towards the end, Tony Iommi gets more into the Natural Minor scales:

 

So to sum up the main points from this lesson:

G Major is a 7 note scale:

G A B C D E F#

G Major Pentatonic is a 5 note scale:

G A B D E

E Minor is a 7 note scale (just like G but starts and stops on E):

E F# G A B C D

E Minor Pentatonic is a 5 note scale, just like G Pentatonic, but starting and stopping on E:

E G A B D

War Pigs makes a lot of use of the D (bVII of E) to E (I chord in E minor).

The solo makes use of the major 3rd of E (G#) since the harmony of this part of the song was all E power chords

Much of the solo makes use of E Minor Pentatonic scales.

Towards the end they make a melody in E Minor – using more notes than the minor Pentatonic offers.

I hope you enjoyed the guitar lesson!  Drop me a note and let me know what you thought of it.

Keep Shreddin’!!

Spencer

How Did I Get Here??

Ok, folks, I really didn’t mean to take this long to post.  A number of things were going on, and I think we just rounded the bend, so I’m going to talk about them here.

First, the main thing that held up my post is I wanted to post the songs I talked about recording on Mother’s Day.  Way back in March.  Way back.  Well, one thing that didn’t turn out so well was the mix.

If you ever read Slash’s book, he talks about how Axle Rose refused to go into the studio, so they sent tapes back and forth – he would write down his comments and mail the tapes back, they’d work on them and send them back to him and the cycle starts again.  Doesn’t sound like a very efficient way to make a hit record.  Well it’s not a very effective way to make a demo tape either.

We must have passed those three songs back and forth 5 times to get the mix right.  And each time it took longer and longer to get their attention to mix it and send it back.  Most likely it’s because they were already paid (NOTE: No one gets paid in full until the job is done).

Then, about the 4th iteration of this, the mix came back very, very close.  Just a few tweaks were needed.  Maybe 6 things.  Well, the songs came back and the guitar – my guitar – was awful – it was way too loud and too harsh sounding.  Our singer went back to the engineer and he fixed one of the songs.  So 2 out of 3 were ok, but the third still had a messed up guitar sound on it.

My son also went through a similar experience with a guy in Sacramento.  The guy took his time on the mix and finally gave them some of the money back and cut them loose.

This is where all those music lessons you took don’t help you.  You need to have a clear plan, a clear timeline, and keep them on it or they forget about you.  I actually had something similar happen to me when we were putting a pool in the back yard.  We paid the guy in installments and when he was 75% paid, we saw less and less of him – he was off to his next gig.

Our persistence paid off – we finally got the songs mixed.  I will post links when I have them.

In the meantime, we played one heckuva private party in Livermore in June, then added a new guitar player into the mix.  Frank has good rock and blues chops, which I guess makes me the country guy.  How did I get that title?

On Labor Day we played at R place.  It was one of our best shows yet.  Frank was only in the band 2 weeks at that point, we used Kenny’s sound system and we rocked the joint for 3 hours.  For a holiday, we had well over 50 people in that club.

Our next gig is at Downtown Ollies on Oct 11 in Livermore.   I will provide pictures and links to our demo.  Promise!

Peace Out

Spencer

“ShredZilla”