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  • 30 Days to Better Guitar Playing

  • 30 Days to Better Guitar Playing

  • van morrison

    Riff of the Week: Brown Eyed Girl by Van Morrison

    by Simon James

    One of the most useful lessons I have ever learned on the guitar was how to use triads and Mini Positions on the fretboard. When I was 15 the father of my best friend had an Irish country blues band, and the guitarist was a guy called Dave Blackwell who taught me how to use triads to make riffs and to improvise in solos and rhythm comping. This was one of the most profound guitar tips that I ever received and I can honestly say that hardly a day goes by where I don’t use these mini positions when playing the guitar.

    The example that he used for displaying these mini positions was the intro to “Brown Eyed Girl” by Van Morrison. On the recording the riff is played using the notes of a G Major Scale each played with the corresponding 3rd interval.

    Begin by playing a G on the 2nd string and a B on the 1st string using your second and first fingers respectively. Then move up the scale to the next ‘mini position’ which is an A on the 2nd string and a C on the 1st string and then to the following B and D, again on the 2nd and 1st strings. The second two chords are both minor and can both be played with the 3rd and 1st fingers.

    In the second bar we then move up the scale from C, playing a major 3rd (C and E), to D, another major 3rd (D and F#) and then a minor 3rd (E and G). You should now see that in the first two bars we have moved up the G major scale from the root note to the VI and played the corresponding Major or Minor 3rd in accordance with the order of the Diatonic Harmony.

    Bar 1 is repeated in Bar 3 before we complete the riff in Bar 4. On the original recording it sounds as though the riff is played as single notes (A, F#, G and A), but I have noted them below to be played as mini positions by moving from the F# and A minor 3rd, down to the D and F# major 3rd, up to the E and G minor 3rd before finishing on the root chord G and B Major 3rd. The diatonic scale order in the last bar is from the VII to the V, VI and then back to the VII.

    The notation below shows all of the chord mini positions and the timing in each bar. The rhythm part consist of a G, C, G and D chords.

    brown eyed girl, van morrison  

    Practice playing the G major scale and corresponding Major or Minor 3rd by moving up the fretboard using strings 1 and 2 as a warm up to help fix the shapes in your head. Then practice the riff slowly in order to learn the timing efficiently. When you have done this try moving the mini positions around to other keys.

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    Related Posts:

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

    2. Major/Minor: What's the Difference?

    3. Riff of the Week: Belief by John Mayer