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Michael Casswell - Pro Concepts Season 4 - Part 2: Different Approaches To A Run

Lesson Notes

** As featured in issue 35 **

Hi gang.

In this lead guitar lesson, I wanted to have some fun with you and look at building an interesting guitar solo run with a different approach for each segment. We have done this a few times before on Pro Concepts but it has been a while since we did something like this, and this issue felt like the right time. I also know how a lot of you like the lead guitar stuff, so hopefully you will enjoy this one.

When we first met, I tried to show you my 'Creative Thinking' approach to solo building. I personally try to be as creative as I can when improvising and soloing so that what I play has some musical depth to it (hopefully), rather than going for out and out speed all the time, which for me can get fairly boring to listen to pretty quickly. Speed and technique definitely are things to be conquered, but you can easily fall into the trap of sounding one dimensional if you do not balance your playing with musicality and creativity, which are the two things hardest to teach AND the hardest to learn.

No matter what your level of playing, there is always something musical you can play that shows you are thinking creatively and actually sounds cool. You do have to have to have some basics in place before it really starts sounding impressive though. I call 'basics' things such as, a good sense of time, accurate string bends, a decent vibrato, some scale knowledge, some chord knowledge etc. The more you don't have to think about the basics, the more creative a player you can be.

So with all that in mind, today we are working in F#minor, which means a lot of what we do will work in Amajor, because Amajor and F#minor are relative major and minor (but you already knew that, right? ). In parts of the run, we do mess a little with the minor 3rd, changing the sound to a more dominant mixolydian idea, but basically any Rock, Blues or Funk backing in F# should be safe territory for this run.

So on the day of filming, this was pretty much improvised and I was learning it with you as it came out of my hands! My brief to myself was to compose a nice lead run that is interesting but takes a different approach with each section. Hopefully once it's all there, and as long as I could remember it, it would end up sounding exciting, fresh and unexpected.

For the opening, I was concentrating on combining the position 3 Pentatonic in F#minor and a chromatic approach. So there are passing tones in there that have no right to be there unless you make it sound cool with a touch of 'Chromaticism' (which is not an easy word to spell for me!). You can get this up to speed with alternate picking, but it sounds even better with hybrid picking. I think I played it both ways on the day.

Segment 2 is all about groups of 5. I basically descended the position 1 F#minor pentatonic playing groupings of 5 notes at a time. This is always a cool sound and worth putting time into.

Section 3 has hints of Jazz and is slightly Be Bop in its sound. I think it takes an interesting route up to the next section and I just like the phrasing. Reminds me a lot of Steve Lukather, Larry Carlton, Robben Ford - which is probably where I have absorbed that approach from.

Section 4 takes a legato approach descending the F# dorian mode using 3 notes per string. F# Dorian is just an E major scale going from the 2nd degree. The E major scale, or any major scale, is something I put into the 'basics' category we spoke about earlier.

Section 5 is a string skipping idea leading up to the last part of the run. I love the sound of string skipping. It's a great colour to be able to drop into your playing and it's worth putting some effort into this approach generally.

Section 6 leads out of the string skip idea and our approach here is mess a little with that major 3rd and minor 3rd. A bit like blending a major and minor pentatonic. The bottom line is, it just sounds cool.

Our last section incorporates slides and a hammer on pull off idea which swings first along the neck then backwards down the neck just sticking purely to minor Pentatonic shapes.

So that's it. A string of approaches put together to create a creative guitar run. Once a run like this is put into your muscle memory, you will be able to play parts of it in any key as part of your solos. You could also try the same approach to create your own 'different approach' run. But take pride in constructing each section, because each part should have something that catches the ear for the 'super run' to be born.

Thank you to those of you who have already purchased my album. You will hear me take these different approaches on some of the improvisations found on there. MC


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