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This article was originally published in issue #21
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Larry’s style is comprised of a fantastic Blues grounding and sensibility matched with the sophisticated phrasing and harmonic concepts of a Jazz and Fusion player.
Tom Quayle guides you through the style of one of the world's most respected guitarists in an exclusive GI Tech Session.
Hi there, guys and welcome to this Larry Carlton style lesson. Larry is such a diverse and talented player that attempting to reproduce his style in one short solo is pretty much impossible so you can consider this a snapshot of one particular part of Larry’s playing and I recommend that if you really want to master this style you start transcribing as many of his solos as possible.
Larry’s style is comprised of a fantastic Blues grounding and sensibility matched with the sophisticated phrasing and harmonic concepts of a Jazz and Fusion player. When combined, these two elements add up to one stunning player and in this lesson I’ve tried to capture some of the Bluesier elements and combine them with a few Jazz based lines to capture the sophistication inherent in Larry’s approach.
The first thing to consider before we begin is that Larry would most definitely leave more space in his solo over this track. He would build slowly with each chorus, leaving space for each phrase to breath. For the sake of giving you as many licks and ideas as possible I’ve left less space than Larry so you can consider this a solo that he might take after having built up for a few times around the chord changes and consider leaving more space as you build up to this phrasing density.
The chord progression is a standard Blues shuffle in the key of G with a I-VI-II-V turnaround at the end to give a bit more harmonic material to play over. You’ll find a chord chart to accompany the solo transcription. So, let’s begin and check out each line in turn.
We start out really simple here with a phrase based around the G major pentatonic scale over the opening G7 chord. The use of the melodic 6th interval here adds a very definite Larry element to the phrase, influenced by players such as BB King and early Clapton solos. Try to use a medium speed vibrato with the first finger on the root note G. When the chord changes to C7 notice how the ½ step bend takes us up to the b7 of the chord. Larry has a superb ability to outline the chord tones of each chord even with very simple phrases.
This lick is a response to lick one. Call and response in this way is vital for good Blues phrasing. Again, not a tricky lick but make note of the use of the bluesy sounding minor 3rd interval against the G7 and the extensive use of root, 5th and 6th intervals for a strong, melodic sound.
In this lick we confirm the opening bend, hammer-on, pull-off phrase as a theme and you’ll see this crop up throughout the solo. The use of themes and repeated melodic phrases is a trademark of blue players and Larry is a master of it. Again, this phrase uses the 3rd, 5th and b7th of the C7 chord to form a strong melodic base.
Here we have our first Jazz influenced phrase, outlining the G7 chord with a G major triad and a definite G Mixolydian scale flavor, thanks to the use of the 4th leading into the 3rd of the chord. Notice also the b3rd moving chromatically into the 3rd. The b3 to 3 relationship is vital in Blues playing and it can be exploited very successfully in jazzier phrases like this too.
Starting with an octave jump on the 5th (G) of the D7 chord, this lick then moves onto the same opening shape for the C7 chord, outlining the 3rd, 5th, 6th and 7th of the chord. Again, notice how we slide into the 3rd from the b3rd a semitone below.
Here we get our first line over the I-VI-II-V turnaround section. The line takes a traditional Blues approach, rather than the Jazz based approach we’ll see in the second chorus. The lick starts by outlining a G major triad, approaching the major 3rd from the minor 3rd. We lead into the 4th for a Mixolydian sound and come down the G triad to outline an Em7 sound. Next we land on the b3 of the Am7 chord before using a Gm pentatonic phrase to land on the root note of the D7 chord. For each of the chords we land on a chord tone but manage to maintain a Blues sound by combining arpeggios with traditional pentatonic phrases.
For the second chorus things get a bit more sophisticated. Larry likes to add more and more harmonic elements to build each chorus so we’ll be adding more Jazz based elements here. We start with a repeating lick based on E and G outlining the 6th and root of the G7 and 3rd and 5th of the C7 in bar 2. The tone and a half bend at the end of the phrase adds a fantastic vocal quality to the phrase.
This phrase happens in bar 4 of the progression, creating some tension before resolving into the C7 in bar 5. First we do a chromatic ‘enclosure’ around the 3rd of the chord surrounding the 3rd with notes either side of it for a sophisticated Jazz sound. We then descend through the G altered or superlocrian scale adding in the #5, b5, #9 and b9 against the G7 for added tension. A classic bebop style resolution is used to lead into the C7 where we use the same bend up to the b7 as for previous licks.
For this lick we return back to our bend, hammer, pull-off motif before repeating the octave lick from earlier and sliding into a fast descending G minor pentatonic lick at the 15th fret. Notice how this fast line resolves into the 3rd of the G7 chord giving a much more sophisticated and melodic sound rather than using the minor 3rd of the pentatonic scale.
Lick 10 returns back to the motif but adds an element of sophistication by moving the line down a semitone each time. This adds some chromaticism over the D7 before resolving onto the root and 5th of the C7 again outlining each of the chords using chord tones for strong melodic effect. We finish the phrase with another Gm pentatonic descending lick resolving into the 3rd of the G7 chord.
This is the most Jazz inspired phrase and adds a great bebop style climax to the end of the solo. We’re outlining the I-VI-II-V progression very strongly starting with the 3rd and root of the G7 chord, moving into the b9, #9, root and b7 of the E7 chord. We then chromatically enclose the b3 of the Am7 chord and ascend through an Am9 arpeggio and descend through a Gm Blues lick over the D7 chord, retaining our Blues sensibility through a very jazzy phrase.
There we have it! I hope you’ve enjoyed this solo and found it useful. As mentioned, Larry’s style is so deep that you could study his playing for a lifetime but this should give you a flavor of his Blues based playing. Good luck and enjoy!