WHEN IT COMES TO GREAT INSTRUMENTAL GUITAR MUSIC,
you probably think of Steve Vai or Joe Satriani. Well, native New
Yorker Rob Balducci is a player that can give these guys a run for
their arpeggios. Balducci’s last two CD’s, The Color of Light and
Violet Horizon were released on Steve Vai’s Favored Nations label
and received great reviews worldwide. His ability to create interesting
compositions full of memorable melodies makes his music
as appealing to guitarists as it does non-musicians. Balducci describes
his music as drenched in layers of sonic colors, each representing a
tangible emotion, desire, depth, feeling, thought, and mood
I worked with Rob creating an instructional program showcasing
his style, and found a few reasons he stands out from
other players: his melodic phrasing, scale choices, and ability
to use effects pedals to enhance melodies. As an instrumental
guitarist, the biggest challenge is to separate melody from lead.
You can’t just create a rhythm and start blowing chops all over
it because it will sound like a long, boring, four-minute solo.
You have to separate the lead and melody and make them have
a personality of their own. Balducci uses wah and Whammy
pedals masterfully to give unique sounds to different sections
of his songs, making certain sections sound like a vocalist and
others like a seasoned lead guitarist.
In this lesson, I want to show you one of Rob’s signature scales,
the altered dominant pentatonic, that he uses often in his music.
In Ex. 1, you find the various positions of this scale. Play through
these and get the sound of them in your ears. This is a dominant
pentatonic scale. However, it is not the traditional form, which is
root, 2, 3, 5, b7. Rob’s version contains the root, 3, 4, 5, b7. The
altered version replaces the major 2nd degree with a perfect 4th.
This scale can be used in place of a Mixolydian mode in
your improvisations. If you were to add a major 2nd and a
major 6th into the scale, you would have the Mixolydian mode
(root, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, b7). It is important as a musician to realize
that any seven-tone scale can become a pentatonic scale by
removing any two notes and making a five-note scale. Remember,
“penta” means five and “tonic” means tone, so any five-tone
scale is essentially a pentatonic scale.
In Ex. 2 you find the chord progression from Balducci’s song
“The Essence” from Violet Horizon. Play these scales over this
progression and you’ll really get an idea of how they sound
when applied in a lead context. You can download the backing
track from this lesson at rockhousemethod.com/robbalducci.