Guitar teacher and guitarist extraordinaire Chuck D’Aloia has just added some new material to his instructional video arsenal, and I have to say that again, Chuck has hit another couple of homers. The first video, “Modal Studies,” covers the 7 modes of the major scale, the melodic minor, lydian b7, alt and the diminished scale. And in typical Chuck D’Aloia style, he teaches the concept then immediately demonstrates how it can be applied, with little “tricks” to help remember them. For me, I’ve always had a bit of a mental block with learning modes mainly because while I could intellectualize the note structure of each mode, I couldn’t immediately match that up with how it actually sounds and how to apply it. Chuck makes it easy! For instance, when explaining the Lydian mode, Chuck spelled out the note sequence, but he said something that really stuck: “…to get a Lydian sound, one way of getting it really easily is to take the root and play the triad one step above it.” Now THAT’S useful information, and easily remembered!
The other lesson he has available – and I haven’t gotten to it yet – is called “Playing over One Chord Grooves.” As Chuck writes, “The material is designed to open doors and present different options when playing over one chord grooves. Using pentatonic scales, triads, substitutions, chord scale relationships and other devices you will be using some of this material on your next gig as well as having new concepts to study.” How cool is THAT?!!!
As I’ve mentioned in the past, I purchased Chuck D’Aloia’s “Blues with Brains” series. After a month, I still haven’t moved past Volume 1, but that’s only because I’m going slowly and methodically with the process. Besides, the one thing that I found is that Chuck throws A LOT of stuff at you in a very short period of time, and I’m one of those types of learners that has to let information soak in before I can move on.
There aren’t any step-by-step lessons in this series. It’s very free-form, which I find is totally cool. But as I mentioned above, there are several places where Chuck throws in lots of material in a short span of time, so I’ve found myself going back and forth and listening and practicing for a couple of days before moving on. This is a real change of approach for me because I’ve operated by this little saying for quite awhile: “If patience were a virtue, I’d be a slut.” But this time ’round, I made a conscious decision to not move on until I could execute on what the teacher was talking about proficiently.
What about the fruits of my labor? Well… I know I’ve used this clip before, but it’s a good example of applying what I’ve learned:
Excuse the obvious mistakes, the song’s not really in a finished state (can’t decide what guitar/amp combo I want to use). But here’s what I’ve learned so far that I’ve applied to this song:
I now pay lots of attention to the current chord being played and playing notes that “fit.” I used to be a real pattern player – especially the minor pentatonic – but I’m learning to break free of those patterns.
I’ve lately put a lot of emphasis on learning various triad shapes up and down the neck. This not only helps with getting the proper fingering at a particular place, but it also helps in coloring.
I’m also learning to let my solos breathe. One thing that I haven’t heard Chuck mention yet – though he’ll probably share it – is taking some time to let my idea sink in, then playing to build on it. Yeah, that song is somewhat composed, but it came about through playing over the rhythm track underneath. The themes you hear are ideas that I came up with while just playing around!
Regarding that last point, that is probably the salient point that I’m getting out of the lessons thus far, and that is taking an idea, then developing it and building upon it. It’s incredibly freeing!