This month I decided to really give everyone a challenge. This is a guitar solo transcription of an absolutely killing solo by guitar wizard John McLaughlin. The song is called ‘Tones For Elvin Jones’ and it’s in 5/4. It is a repeating 8 bar chord progression in C minor. What I’ve done is something you should start doing yourself whenever you’re doing a transcription of your own, or just looking at somebody else’s work, and that is writing the chord scale degree above each note. In other words look at the chord symbol, then above each note in that bar write what degree of the appropriate chord scale is being played. This requires that you really know your chord scales. I’ve written out the correct chord scales for you so you’ll be able to see exactly WHAT notes McLaughlin plays and more importantly WHY he plays the notes he does. So in our transcription here if you look at bar #1 the chord symbol is C min 7 and the first note is an Eb. Remember we are in TREBLE CLEF! The Eb is the -3rd degree of a C Dorian Scale. The 2nd note is a D note, that is the 9th degree of a C Dorian Scale and so on. When the chord changes to Ab13(#11) that takes an Ab Lydian Dominant Scale. I’ve written the corresponding scale degree over every single note in the entire solo. The reason you want to do this is so that you can take the licks that you like and be able to transpose them into any key. What good is learning a killer lick from this solo but only being able to play it in one key or against only one chord? None really. You want to be fluent and have that killer lick you learned available to you in all 12 keys!
Click on the images below to download the transcription
Does this take time? Hell yeah it does but it’s worth it. Come on guys, the bass guitar is a symmetrical instrument. That means yeah you can just move the ‘shape’ of a lick up or down into whatever key you want and that’s great but you don’t just want to learn licks by their shape, you want to know what the notes are. I further break down the notes into 3 types.
1) Chord Tones = R, 3rd, 5th, or 7th
2) Tensions = 9, 11, 13
3) Passing Tones/Chromatics = Any note that is not a Chord Tone or a Tension
This will really make you dive into your technique (or lack thereof) , your knowledge of Chord Scales, playing in odd meters, and getting your Harmony/Theory chops together. That is a lot. Dig in.