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Tech Session

Scott Henderson

Issue #60

In this tech session, I am proud to present to you a short piece that I have written in the style of Tribal Tech, I am nicknaming it ‘Scotts Boogie’ It features a theme and a solo to get stuck into.
Sam Bell

Tech Session....Scott Henderson

Scott Henderson is one of the most influential fusion guitarists of the last quarter century. With a stellar solo career and having worked with the likes Chic Corea, Jean-Luc Ponty, and Jeff Berlin to name a few; he has a prestigious music related CV as long as your arm. Sam Bell delves deep into Henderson's style approach and technique the in this issue’s tech session.

Scott Henderson has had great success as a solo artist and with his band Tribal Tech which he started with Virtuoso Bass Player Gary Willis in 1984. He is still very active having released his latest solo album Vibe Station back in 2015, he is working on new material in between touring and teaching at the Musicians Institute in Hollywood.

Scott's playing is a mix of rock and jazz influences, he started out as a rock player but later got into jazz after playing with various RnB bands in his early playing years. He has a very expressive and unique phrasing style, Jeff Becks playing but with a modern blues twist and jazz language. Scott's use of vibrato, rhythmical phrasing, the tone control and bends are genuinely magical. While his command of Jazz harmony in a Fusion context is masterful.

In this tech session, I am proud to present to you a short piece that I have written in the style of Tribal Tech, I am nicknaming it ‘Scotts Boogie’ It features a theme and a solo to get stuck into. Be sure to check out the video that accompanies this lesson as well as the downloadable Guitar Pro and PDF Tab which I have annotated with some of the concepts I will be writing about in this lesson. Let’s get stuck in! 

Theme - Bars 1 to 8:

A lot of Scott’s writing in his own solo material and work with Tribal Tech featured many rock and pop elements in his composition. The tech session example opens up with a bass/guitar unison riff which uses a mix of the Blues Scale and Whole Tone Scale in the key of C. This was inspired by some of the long melodic ‘heads’ that Scott would play with Gary Willis on bass.

The riff opens up with a fragment that uses the Blues Scale (C, Eb, F, Gb, G, Bb) which gives us the following intervals 1, b3, 4, b5, 5, b7. This quickly becomes blended with the notes from a C Whole Tone scale, the Whole Tone scale is made up of whole tones and gives us the following notes (C, D, E, Gb, Ab, Bb) This quickly becomes confusing to think about, which is why most fusion players think about intervals instead of whole scales. By understanding each intervals sound we can start to visualise our lines from a root note, in this case C. If we add all the notes we have in the Blues and Whole tone scales together we end up with the following intervals: 1, 2, b3, 3, 4, b5, 5, b6 and b7. Whilst when composing this riff I thought of the fragments in smaller chunks, the overall tonality I was going for was this ambiguous fusion sounding riff that still had its roots in the blues influence which are both big factors in Scott’s playing. There is a nice mix of syncopated rhythms starting on different off beats of 8th and 16th notes, and also longer 16th note runs that twist through the tonality of the riff. At the end of bar 6 there is a little bit of chromatic side stepping using a minor 3rd shape over the D and G strings. My ear was very much involved when writing this riff with my fusion intuition!

Solo – Bars 9 to 12

The solo starts over a 4 bar stretch on a Cm9 chord. This gives us the option of using a C Dorian tonality throughout the solo. However, Scott has a fantastic way of superimposing pentatonic phrases within this tonality. Super Imposition is where we can visualise a different scale pattern than the ‘root’ pattern in order to get highlight different intervals within the keys tonality. This whole section relies on this approach to soloing and I feel that it’s a great example of how this technique can really help develop some interesting phrasing ideas.

First let’s take a look at the theory: C Dorian contains the notes C, D, Eb, F, G, A and Bb. Which gives us the intervals 1, 2, b3, 4, 5, 6, b7. From this we can derive C Minor Pentatonic (C, Eb, F, G, Bb or 1, b3, 4, 5, and b7) We can also get D Minor Pentatonic (D, F, G, A, C or relative to our C root note: 2, 4, 5, 6, 1) and finally we can get G Minor Pentatonic (G, Bb, C, D, and F which gives us the following intervals of 5, b7, 1, 2, and 4). 

My solo opens with a C Minor Pentatonic phrase which is then mirrored exactly with a D Minor Pentatonic framework before going into a G Minor Pentatonic framework. This, of course, highlights different intervallic sets within the C Dorian scale and because of the familiar phrasing used throughout this opening solo phrase, it creates a sense of development of the basic melodic motif.

One thing that is perhaps most important about this phrasing is the way the notes are picked with a soft expressive attack, letting each phrase ‘breath’ so to speak. There is something highly vocal about Scott Henderson’s phrasing and subtle use of the whammy bar. I have notated where some of these details happen within the solo, be sure to use your ears to get some of the subtle inflections and intonation.

Solo – Bars 13 and 14

The solo backing then changes key centre to Ebm9, we open with some whammy bar inflected phrases that use some more pentatonic superimposition, this time of a Bb Minor Pentatonic scale over our Ebm tonality. As you can tell by the fingering, there is a lot to be said about the geometry of the guitar influencing some of these wider intervallic jumps and rhythmic phrasing.

Solo – Bars 15 and 16

This section of the solo opens with a new phrase which takes a different harmonic turn, I use the Eb Melodic Minor scale and some chromatic sidestepping in this opening lick. The Melodic Minor scale can be seen as a Dorian scale with a Major 7th instead of a Minor 7th. It’s common for Fusion players like Scott to use the Melodic Minor Scale over Dorian Vamps to create a little bit of tension at times, it’s a beautiful sound. There is also some sidestepping being used here from the very start of the solo, much in the same way sidestepping has been used in the intro theme and the way that superimposition in this solo has worked so far, this is a small two-note phrase which starts a half step above the notes which are in the tonality.

In Bar 16 we have some super imposed arpeggios used over our Ebm tonality, we start with a Dbmaj7 phrase which then mirrors in a Cm7b5 framework. These are arpeggios diatonic to our Eb Dorian scale, they simply highlight different intervals, and in this case the Dbmaj7 highlights the b7, 9, 4 and 13th. The Cm7b5 highlights the 13th, Root, b3, and 5th.


As we can see here there is a lot of theoretical information to take in, Scott’s use of these concepts sounds so natural because he has taken time with each one. Be sure to do the same in your playing, for example taking the concept of using the different Pentatonic Scales over a Dorian tonality. Spend time building your own phrases using these concepts in an improvisational setting. The more you do it, the more you will be able to ‘hear’ it and the better you’ll sound. I must also stress that techniques like super-imposition should be treated carefully, even though you may be playing a pentatonic scale up a whole step in a certain scenario, be sure to be fully aware of the intervals that you are playing within this ‘framework’ pattern. This way you will have more melodic control in your phrasing and exit notes.

Until then, have fun with this example, and I’ll see you next time at Guitar Interactive Magazine.


Issue #75

Peter Green / Ivar Bjørnson

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