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  • 30 Days to Better Guitar Playing

  • 30 Days to Better Guitar Playing

  • jonathan wilson

    Riff of the Week: Desert Raven by Jonathan Wilson

    by Simon James

    The Riff of the Week comes from Californian rocker Jonathan Wilson. Credited as being one of the revivers of the Laurel Canyon music scene, Wilson has a blend of 70s inspired psychedelic rock and funk that has spawned this catchy lead riff duet from the album Gentle Spirit.

    The riff itself doubles up as an excellent legato exercise running up and down a C scale in 3rds on one string. Not only that but it features two solo guitars in harmony so is an effective way to practice adjacent string scale patterns along with learning to play in harmony with another musician.

    Solo Guitar 1

    Begin on a top C on the 2nd string (B) and move down the scale going back one step every two steps. This is a fairly simple pattern to master and can be played with the first three fingers of your frethand. Each slide down makes moving down the string from one position to the next comparatively easy and works fine if you make each one with your first finger. This will allow you to play the other scale notes with your second finger if the interval is a semi tone and your third if it is a tone.

    Just watch out when you arrive at the open string as the shape that you make changes slightly as you complete the run by finishing on an E on the 4th string. By finishing at this point there is a sense that the run is Phrygian, which evokes a more gypsy-like feel.

    The riff is repeated with a full tone bend and return from the C to the D for the first two 1/16 notes in the first beat of the 5th bar.

    The second half of the riff involves an ascending run of the C scale up to the G, going back a step before going up 3 steps. I make the first slide up here with my second finger, all of the others I do with my third. Then descend once again in the same pattern as the opening half of the riff. Again there is a full bend on the first beat of the repeated riff.

    jonathan wilson, desert raven, gentle spirit  

    Solo Guitar 2

    The second guitar accompanies the riff by playing the same run a 3rd lower. Start on an A on the 3rd (G) string and descend the Aeolian mode making the same pattern in the steps. Be careful at the end as this run finishes a beat earlier than the first solo guitar.

    The principle difference in this accompanying part is when you play the ascending run. Instead of playing everything along one string this can be made in one position by playing an Aeolian mode pattern going down one step and up three each time and vice versa when making the returning run.

    jonathan wilson, desert raven, gentle spirit  

    This riff like all good riffs is instantly recognisable when you hear it and is particularly interesting as it features harmonising guitars without it sounding a bit too Spinal Tap, as unfortunately it can do sometimes! Wilson uses a Vintage Telecaster when playing live and his accompanying guitarist uses a Gibson SG with a VOX AC30 Amp, but on the recording the guitar sounds more like a Gibson E345. Undoubtedly the vintage gear gives that really cutting 70s sound in the mould of Neil Young and Supertramp. Check out some of the live versions of Valley of the Silver Moon to hear what I mean.

    Practice this well as it is a really useful one for learning the scale intervals up one string as well using legato slides to move from one position to the next. The latter half of Solo Guitar 2 works well as a finger workout in one position!

    Join the Mailing List for Access to the Video Lesson to this and many other riffs and for two free half hour guitar lessons!

    Related Posts:

    1. How To See The Scale Intervals Clearly

    2. Melody, Harmony and Counterpoint

    3. Double Stops and 6ths: Using Two Strings to Improvise