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  • tim reynolds

    Playing on Two Strings- Double Stops and 6ths

    Moveable Mini Positions

    by Simon Joseph James

    On the guitar there are five sets of two adjacent strings; between the E and A (4th), A and D (4th), D and G (4th), G and B (3rd) and B and E (4th). Notice that all of the intervals are a perfect 4th, whereas between the G and B the interval is a perfect 3rd. This complicates things very slightly, but allows for interesting melodic possibilities.

    What you can to start is to try to improvise over seven modal vamps with sets of two adjacent strings. This approach will help you to play up and down two strings at a time with the advantage of partially playing in positions as well as training you to use double stops and 6th intervals in your licks and phrases. These mini positions are a particular feature of guitarist Tim Reynolds in his acoustic guitar work with Dave Matthews.

    In the following examples I have written out different two note scale positions on different string sets in the key of C Major. The chord shape of C major is at the beginning of each example and should be used as a vamp for which you can play the two note mini positions over the top. These all follow the Diatonic Pattern of Chords in the major scale.


    String Set- 1st and 2nd

    This set begins on the 1st and 2nd strings and consists of playing the root note and 3rd of each chord in the diatonic sequence. Play it over and over and you will hear how the harmony moves through the Major scale, whilst also learning new positions for playing the scale notes on the fretboard. Try playing these with the 2nd and 1st finger when there is an interval of a Major 3rd and with the 3rd and 1st finger when the interval is a Minor 3rd. One of the best examples of the use of the mini positions in this example is in Brown Eyed Girl by Van Morrison.

    c major 3rds  

    String Set- 2nd and 3rd

    In this set we are now playing on the 2nd and 3rd strings, but always sticking to the diatonic chord sequence to help commit it to memory. In this case, we are playing an inversion of the chord consisting of a 5th and a Root note in each instance. These can be played with either the 1st and 2nd fingers or the 2nd and 3rd of your fret hand depending on how you feel most comfortable.

    c major 3rds  

    String Set- 3rd and 4th

    The next set again uses a 5th at the bottom and the root note on top on the 3rd and 4th strings. Most of these can be played with just one finger (except for the 7th) and are particularly effective when played as double stops. Playing chords as Double stops like this is a feature of Blues Guitar Music by artists such as John Mayer.

    c major 3rds  

    Mixing up the String Sets

    When you have these positions in your pocket try mixing up the string sets. By playing on 2 strings that are a string apart you will really begin to see some of the classic blues and atlantic soul phrasing come into your playing. Try out the following examples to see what I mean:

    String Set- 1st and 3rd

    By missing out the middle string you will now be able to add some really bluesy phrasing to your mini positions. In this example you are playing a 5th and a 3rd, which are an interval of a 6th apart. Try playing these with your 1st and 2nd fingers when making the minor chords and with either your 2nd and 3rd or 3rd and 4th when making the Major chords. When you have them down with that fingering you will find it really easy to slide between each chord and make your mini-positions sound all the more bluesy. These types of two note chords were made famous by early blues guitarists like Robert Johnson and John Lee Hooker and have become staple techniques for enhancing blues licks.

    c major 3rds  

    String Set- 2nd and 4th

    The final example in this study involves playing on the 2nd and 4th strings, with a 3rd at the bottom and a root note at the top a 6th apart. This set also gives that really classic blues phrasing, with the lower register mini positions coming in particularly useful in blues accompaniment licks. These can be played with the same fingering as in the previous set and by also adding slides between each one for more effect.

    c major 3rds  

    You will find that by adopting this method, playing intervals of 4ths, 5ths and 6ths become much easier and simple two, three and four note patterns call out to be played. It is, in addition, an opportunity to work on some picking and hybrid picking patterns with the right hand that involve working between adjacent strings. Make sure you practice this a great deal, it is incredibly important.

    Practice all of these examples thoroughly in all 12 keys and over a chord backing track and then try introducing them to your solos and licks. Ensure that you have your fingers well organised so that you make clean changes between each one. This is particularly important if you want to practice sliding between each position. Then when you are confident enough with them, feel free to mix them up further still for added variety!

    Related Posts:

    1.4 Must Know Ronnie Earl Blues Turnarounds

    2.Using Minor and Major 3rds in Blues Soloing

    3.Riff of the Week: Brown Eyed Girl by Van Morrison

    4.Riff of the Week: Belief by John Mayer