“Whenever I’m playing on a
classic Steely Dan tune, the challenge for
me is to honor the original but still find a
way to make it my own,” says NYC-based
guitarist Jon Herington. A member of the
legendary group since 1999, Herington
also performs and records as leader of the
Jon Herington Band. His latest CD shine
(shine shine) [Decorator] is full of precisioncrafted
pop-rock and intricate, yet sublimely
melodic, guitar work that will earn major
props from fans of the Dan clan.
“When I was learning Jay Graydon’s
solo for the song ‘Peg,’ I was immediately
struck by this one lick [shown here in Ex.1]
where he is essentially outlining a G diminished
scale as a series of pull-offs against
the open G string,” explains Herington.
(Note: To effortlessly execute this dissonant
digit-distender, I recommend using
the first and third fingers of the fretting
hand and moving them up the neck in halfand
whole-steps.) “Using this as a jumpoff
point, I started to investigate what else
I could do incorporating hammer-ons and
pull-offs in the key of G, until I assembled
a whole vocabulary of licks that worked
not only for the song, but in other situations
as well,” he adds, demonstrating Ex.2.
One particular track on shine (shine shine)
that was directly influenced by Herington’s
onstage “Peg” explorations is “Fabulous,” a
Beatles-esque piece of ear candy whose solo
is a both a technical and melodic tour de
force. For the recording, Herington tuned
the first string of his P-90-loaded Hamer
Special down a whole-step to D, slapped
a capo on the first fret, and jacked straight
into his Guytron GT-100 amp. I’ve transcribed
the solo without a capo in Ex.3,
but retained Herington’s original tuning,
E, A, D, G, B, D (low to high).
In last month’s Herington lesson, the
maestro stressed intimate knowledge of
chord tones as the key to effective improvisation.
To understand why this is so,
simply play through the first three bars of
the solo and be awed by how its breathtaking
lyricism is drawn only from the clever
phrasing of notes of G and C triads—G, B,
D and C, E, G, respectively.
The swift-fingered pull-off run that starts
on the and of the fourth beat in bar 3 seems
to be culled from a lick that originally surfaced
when Herington was improvising
over “Peg” in concert. I suggest starting it
in ninth position, then switching to fifth
position on the second beat. The sweeping
phrase that begins on the fourth beat of bar
4 and extends through the first beat of bar
7 is composed of a series of multi-octave
arpeggios that will require some quick
position changes. In bar 6, you’ll need to
play the G on the 12th fret of the 3rd string
with your first finger. This will put you in
good stead to grab high G on the 17th fret
of the first string with your pinky. Finally,
dig how the string-skipping hammer-ons
in bar 7 are both a clever arpeggiation of
a D to Dsus4 change and a hip retooling of
the original “Peg” lick from Ex.1.
Vinnie DeMasi is a NYC-based guitarist
and regular GP contributor. He currently lives
out his rock star dreams as a full-time member
of several tribute bands and part-time in several
Broadway pit-orchestras. He also teaches
at the NYC Guitar School and can be reached
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