Just as training wheels can help a kid learn to ride a bike, scales can help an improviser learn to surf standard chord progressions, including turnarounds such as the II-V-I Robert Megantz of San Jose, California, gracefully navigates in the example below. “Notice how the diminished scale works perfectly in this context,” prompts Megantz. “The upper four notes of the V chord, D7b9, are the same as the notes of a diminished 7th chord built one half-step higher. In other words, F#, A, C, and Eb—the 3, 5, 7, and b9 of D7b9—also spell an Ebdim7 voicing. This phrase is a straightforward linear use of this concept, but, even so, it sounds pretty hip. To spice things up, both the G major scale in bar 1 and the Eb diminished scale in bar 2 can be played using different intervals, arpeggios, and changes in direction.”
Want to help the world play better guitar? Submit your candidate for Reader’s Challenge (preferably notated and on cassette or CD), along with a brief explanation of why it’s cool and how to play it, to Guitar Player Reader’s Challenge, 2800 Campus Dr., San Mateo, CA 94403. Include your name, address, e-mail, and phone number. Materials won’t be returned, but we will listen to all submissions. You’ll hear from us if your lick is chosen.