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THE BIG

BANG
> Bill Frisell Helps You Unleash An Ever-EExpanding
Universe of Melodic, Harmonic, and Textural Possibilities
“I HATE TO SAY IT,” ASSERTS BILL FRISELL, jazz bins, his albums transcend genres.
“but music’s greatest innovators weren’t guitar “Think about it,” says Frisell. “Miles Davis
players.” often didn’t even have a guitar in his groups,
Yes, die-hard guitar loyalists, you heard but the way they functioned was revolutionary.
right. But before you take exception to Frisell’s The way the drums, bass, and piano all react-
bold words, remember that Frisell has more ed with each other—that’s what I get excited
than enough credibility to make such a state- about.”
ment. Not only has he dedicated almost 40 In this lesson, Frisell will show you how to
years to the guitar, he has achieved the ulti- import these outside influences to the fret-
mate goal of any musician—a sound. His dis- board, producing new colors you may never
tinctive playing ranks right up there with B.B. have heard from your guitar. Frisell will also
King, Allan Holdsworth, Carlos Santana, Pat show you how to create stirring,
Metheny, and a few select others. And though otherworldly textures using harmonics, neck
you’ll often find Frisell in your record store’s vibrato, cascades, and dissonance.

>By Jude Gold

9 2 GUITAR PLAYER DECEMBER 2002 guitarplayer.com


OCTOBER 2002 guitarplayer.com
PH OTO : C O U RT E S Y O F S O N G L I N E / TO N E F I E L D P RO D U C T I O N S ; A D D I T I O N A L PH OTO S : J U D E G O L D guitarplayer.com DECEMBER 2002 GUITAR PLAYER 9 3
THE BIG BANG
keys laid out in front of you. Here are three ano player might do when vamping in C.
ways of doing it [plays Ex. 2]. I’m just playing “What Jim had me do next was break out
notes from the C major scale with one finger, of this triad thing and get more into inter-
one string at a time.” vals . For example, here is the scale being
Before we get started, however, don’t let played on the first three strings again, but
Frisell’s love for horn players, pianists, and MELODIC MOTION this time each shape is composed of stacked
jazz arrangers mislead you—he has been pro- “Once you get this way of playing the fourths, using notes from the C major scale
foundly influenced by guitar players, as well. scale burned into your brain, try to play some [plays Ex. 5]. This creates an interesting sound,
Proving his point, Frisell starts off this Master melodies in the same manner,” suggests and we haven’t even left the scale—that is,
Class by passing along an approach he learned Frisell. “To show you what I mean, I’ll im- each of these three-note chords is diatonic to
from jazz great Jim Hall three decades ago. provise freely in C on just the first string the key of C major. I often use this approach
[plays Ex. 3 ]. It’s sort of an awkward way of in my musical arrangements. Experiment
THE JIM HALL LESSON playing—and it does go against a lot of in- with this technique; see if you can use it on oth-
“What Jim showed me is an idea that’s very struction books that teach you to play in sin- er sets of strings or as a means of harmoniz-
simple, yet you could spend your whole life try- gle positions—but it gets you to break out ing a melody—like this [plays Ex. 6].”
ing to get through just one millionth of the of patterns. In a way, you’re playing like sitar
possibilities,” says Frisell, who took eight mem- players do. They play unbelievably complex EVANS AND EVANS
orable lessons from Hall in 1971. “It basically melodies on just one string.” “I really love Gil Evans,” says Frisell. “He
has to do with taking, say, a C major scale and arranged music for Miles Davis, and he often
harmonizing it with one, two, or three other PARALLEL MOTION featured seconds in his harmonies. To demon-
notes. But instead of thinking of the scale as go- “The next step is harmonizing these single- strate, here’s an ascending melody in the key of
ing across the neck like this [plays Ex. 1]— string scales,” offers Frisell. “Start with triads C that has either a major or minor second be-
which is how most guitarists are taught to [plays Ex. 4]. I’m still just going up the C ma- tween the lowest two notes of every grip [plays
practice it—the idea is to see the scale going up jor scale, but this time on three strings at the Ex. 7]. I love that sound. It’s also reminiscent of
and down the neck on just one string. It’s as if same time, creating three-part harmony. It’s a what Bill Evans did on the piano.”
you’re looking at a piano with all the white very useful sound and it’s a lot like what a pi- The unique thing about Frisell’s vibrato—

Ex. 1

C major scale
VII

Ex. 2

   
Single-string C major scales

        
    
      


etc.

0 1 3 5 7 8 10 12
T
0 1 3 5 6 8 10 12 13
A
0 2 4 5 7 9 10 12
B

Ex. 3
Ex. 4

Freely

        
C Freely


etc. C

4    2
2 2
2
  
 
     
1 1

   
2 3 3

4
1 3 1

   
3 2
1
2

etc.

1 5 3 7 8 12 10 7 8 0 1 3 5 7 8 10 12
T T
1 3 5 6 8 10 12 13
A A
0 2 4 5 7 9 10 12
B B

9 4 GUITAR PLAYER DECEMBER 2002 guitarplayer.com “My main ambition is to have a place in popular music.” — Steve Howe, Sept. ’86, GP
which he introduces at the end of Ex. 7 and em-
ploys in many of the ensuing examples—is
that it’s capable of both raising and lowering sin-
gle notes, entire chords, or even open strings
in pitch. But when you’re face to face with the
guitarist, it’s hard to tell how he’s generating this
warbly, underwater sound—especially on a
Tele-style guitar with no tremolo system.
“Though it may not look like it, I’m wiggling the
neck around a lot,” explains Frisell. “I sort of lean
into it and push on it. It’s become an uncon-
scious thing.”

PUNCHY PAIRS
“Jim Hall also taught me that you don’t al-
ways have to play gigantic, stretched-out chords
to have a huge impact,” says Frisell, illustrating
his point with the rising diads in Ex. 8. “Some-
times just a couple of notes can have a real CHEAT SHEETS
meaty sound if the intervals are spread out
“It’s a bit embarrassing, actually,” confesses Frisell of the crowded music stand that
over several strings, like these major and minor
ninths. I’m starting with F on the first string and accompanied him at a recent string of concerts at Yoshi’s in Oakland, California. “The
E on the fourth string, and I’m just climbing up rest of the band already knows their parts, but I’m still reading the music—and I wrote
the C major scale on both strings. We haven’t left
the songs!” —JG
our major key, but we’re generating a lot of dis-
sonance with just a few notes.”

Ex. 5 Ex. 6

Dreamily

   
Freely
Cmaj7

C
 
 
       44     
3 3 1

  
1 3 2 3 2 1



4

1 3 1 1 1
1 3

1 3 5 7 8 10 12 13
T
1 3 5 6 8 10 12 13 T
8 13 12 10 8
A
0 2 4 5 7 9 10 12 A
9 14 12 10 9
B B
9 14 12 10 9

Ex. 8
Ex. 7
Abrasive

  
Ethereal Fmaj7 Cmaj7


 
C
 
44   
      
4
1

 
1 3

 4   
1


  
2
4 2
2 2

 
1 3 5 7 8 10 12 1 3 5 7 8
T 3 5 6 8 10 12 13 T
A 5 7 9 10 12 14 16 A
B B
2 3 5 7 9

guitarplayer.com DECEMBER 2002 GUITAR PLAYER 9 5


THE BIG BANG
EXPANSION POTENTIAL
“I could spend the rest of my life strug-
gling to learn all this stuff,” admits Frisell of Hall’s
approach. “And here, we’ve barely covered C ma-
jor. It really gets insane when you start think-
ing of the possibilities offered by all the different
keys, not to mention all the other scales. But
while the thought of that can be overwhelm-
ing, what I like most about this stuff is that
you can apply it to any kind of music, whether
you play jazz, rock, or bluegrass.”
Proving that Hall-inspired moves also work
in blues settings, Frisell plays a series of spicy
grips over G7, the V chord in C [E Ex. 9]. “The scale
gets a lot more complicated in a blues, where
you may include a b3 or a b5,” he observes.
“What I’m playing here is sort of cheating, be-
cause some of the notes are way outside the key.
But you can get away with it because the bluesy
melody—which takes place in the upper voice
on the first string—is so strong. Plus, this
phrase is easy. I’m just moving the same shape
up and down the neck. It may sound a bit wild
by itself, but if a whole a band is banging away
on a G7 chord, it sounds fine, and is not unlike
what entire saxophone sections might play in
big bands. It’s a sound that you don’t often FRISELL’S COCKPIT
hear from the guitar.”
Frisell’s gear, like many of his songs, is casually arranged, allowing plenty of room for

CASCADE TACTICS sonic mixing and matching. A Line 6 DL4 Delay Modeler—which Frisell uses mostly as
When playing melodies, Frisell often plucks a looper—is taped to the stage, along with a Boss DD-3 Delay. These pedals are routed through
notes on different strings and lets them ring
a DigiTech PDS 8000 Echo Plus and a Lexicon MPX 100 multi-effects processor, which are
against each other. These overlapping tones cre-
ate stabs of harmony that enrich a melodic both placed within arm’s reach on a stool. The MPX 100 sends a stereo signal to a pair of
phrase. “I like to work out fingerings for scales tube amps (often Fender Deluxe Reverb reissues), and noisy ground problems are min-
or melodies that get things running like a
imized with an EBTech Hum Eliminator. Frisell’s cables are all George L. —JG
piano,” he says. “For example, I’ll take a G ma-
jor scale and refinger it using open strings

Ex. 9

Dissonant blues

   
G13

4  

   
1

4
2

 
4


3 6 7 6 3 1 3
T
5 8 9 8 5 3 5
A
7 10 11 10 7 5 7
B

9 6 GUITAR PLAYER DECEMBER 2002 guitarplayer.com


THE BIG BANG
[plays Ex. 10]. I let everything ring as long as it JAGCASTER!
possibly can by holding every note until the last Frisell’s newest tool
moment. Curve your fingers so they don’t of expression is a col-
dampen the open strings.
orful, one-of-a-kind Tele-
“You can also play these same notes over
style guitar built for him
Em. Or, raise each C to C#, and you’ll get the A
Mixolydian scale, which works over A7. To by Seattle tech Mike Lull.
make things even bluesier in the key of A, in- “The neck is from my beat-
clude C, which is the b3, as well as Eb, the b5.” up ’64 Fender Jaguar,” re-
Frisell demonstrates these tangy sounds veals Frisell. “It has a shorter
over a 12/8 groove in Ex. 11. For full effect,
scale than a Tele neck, so the bridge had to be installed closer to the center of the body. The cus-
keep those pitches ringing with chimey
overlap, and notice that the last pitch is a tom paintjob is by Claude Utley, who did the artwork for my 2000 album, Ghost Town. He paint-
harmonic sounded on the D string at the 7th fret. ed the entire back of the body, including the backplate! It’s strung with D’Addarios, the pickups
are Seymour Duncan Antiquities—a humbucker and a Telecaster Neck—and instead of a 3-way
HARMONICS selector switch, the guitar has a 3-position knob.” —JG
Listening to Frisell, you realize that nothing
adds sparkle to a riff, melody, or phrase like the
inclusion of harmonics. To illustrate how these par-
tials can be incorporated in a lick, Frisell plays Ex. hit the final note, all six strings should be ringing.” like finding dissonant sounds that way,” he
12. “I’m mixing open strings with harmonics Frisell also digs the sweet-and-sour clang says, demonstrating with Ex. 13. “I’m not even
sounded at the 12th fret,” he details. “The result created by fretted notes that are placed in thinking in a particular key.”
is a rising E minor pentatonic scale, and when you close pitch proximity to ringing harmonics. “I Frisell produces another striking effect by

Ex. 10

G major/E minor cascade


    
1

    
1 4


     
 1
let ring

3 0
T
7 3 0
A
5 0
B
7 4 0
7 3 0
7 3
Ex. 11

Clangy blues
A7
  

12 
        
 
4 1 3

3

 8 

3
4 1 
  
let ring

0 5 0
T
2 5 6
A
5 8 8
B
4 7 7

Ex. 12 Ex. 13


Freely

 


Otherworldly 2
Em11

4

1 2

   4
4
 

  

let ring let ring

0 6 9 13 (13)
T
0 T
7
A
0 12 A
7
B
0 12 B
7
12
12

9 8 GUITAR PLAYER DECEMBER 2002 guitarplayer.com


THE BIG BANG
FINAL ODYSSEY Accompanied by an Em7 chord, he starts off
The best way to learn how to integrate with a jangly phrase laced with open strings in
these various approaches into your playing bar 1, follows with an arpeggiated cluster in bar
is, of course, to sit down with Frisell and watch 2, delivers a shrill mix of harmonics and fret-
plucking fretted notes and harmonics simul- him seamlessly blend these colors in a spon- ted notes in bar 3, and closes with an ascend-
taneously in Ex. 14. “I’m starting with a B har- taneous improvisation. While GP can’t tele- ing cascade composed entirely of harmonics.
monic on the sixth string that’s played against port you to a one-on-one jam with Frisell, we “That’s what I love about the guitar,” ob-
a fretted C on the fourth string, creating a dis- can come pretty close with Ex. 16, which shows serves Frisell. “It can get so many sounds and
sonant minor second,” he says. “With each you how the guitarist effortlessly merges sev- really mimic other instruments. I think of it as
pairing of a note with a harmonic, I’m picking eral of the concepts tackled in this lesson. a miniature orchestra.” g
the lower string while plucking the higher one
with my middle finger [see Fig. 1].”
Six-note chords can include harmonics as
well, as Frisell proves with Ex. 15. Looking at
Fig. 2, it may appear that all six strings are be-
ing barred at the 7th fret. They’re not. While
Frisell is indeed touching all the strings with his
1st finger, he’s only pressing hard enough to
sound the harmonics. It’s his 2nd and 4th
fingers that are actually fretting notes.

Ex. 14

Freely
     
 

1
4



4
1
Fig. 1

11 8
11 9 12
T 10 7 12
A 10 7
B 7
7

Ex. 15

Cmaj9/B
VII
1 1 4 1 2 1

= harmonic

Fig. 2

Ex. 16

  


 
= 54

      
4


Em7 1 1 3

1 4


4   3


 4  
4 1


1 4 4
2

   


let ring throughout
B1/4
8 8 0 (0) 13 9 (9) 12 ( 12 )
T
0 0 12 12 7 7 12
A
0 0 5 12 12 7 7 12 7
B
4 4 7 12 7
7 7

1 0 0 GUITAR PLAYER DECEMBER 2002 guitarplayer.com