Rhythm Workshop: Sliding Sixths

Learn more about a great, suitable-for-sliding interval that turns up in tons of Hendrix tunes.
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ANOTHER SUITABLE-FOR-SLIDING interval that turns up in tons of Hendrix tunes (and many others) is the mighty sixth. These inverted thirds (major third = minor sixth; minor third = major sixth), which can be found lurking within almost any chord shape, have been used to create some pretty groovy rhythm guitar parts.

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For instance, Ex. 1a reveals a pair of sixths, one major and one minor, nestled inside an “E”-shaped G chord barred at the 3rd fret, either of which will aptly portray a G chord sound. Likewise, Ex. 1b points out the resident sixths found within and around an open A chord. Like any interval, both sets are transposable to any key/ fret-position, and can be played either harmonically (both notes simultaneously) or melodically (one note at a time). Ex. 2a adds neighboring diatonic and chromatic sixths to the ones from Ex. 1a, while Ex. 2b does the same with Ex. 1b. Ex. 2c shows how bar 2 of Ex. 1a can be transposed (to A), broken up melodically, and ornamented with finger slides. (Tip: Play it in reverse for a great blues turnaround.) Ex. 2d features the same sliding sixths— minus the non-diatonic chromatic one— played in retrograde.

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In Ex. 3a, we relocate our starting sixth to an open E chord and add an octave’s worth of neighboring diatonic sixths to form an E7 chord scale, which may be played as written or embellished with all remaining open strings. The same goes for Ex. 3b’s A7 chord scale—just leave out the open low E. Try reversing the A7 chord scale and sliding into each low-to-high broken interval starting on its sixth step. Sound familiar?

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Ex. 4 shows how Hendrix used a pair of low-register sixths to create motion in an otherwise static E7#9 groove à la “Voodoo Child (Slight Return).” The first one implies E7/5 (or G/D), while the second outlines A/C# and leads back to the I7#9 riff.