The 13th Fret

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Sorry (Not Sorry) To “Impose"

Hey all! Welcome to the December issue of The 13th Fret! This month I wanted to pass along one of my favourite musical concepts, and a few examples of how I use it in my own playing. The hope is that you’ll be able to take the idea and run with it too... so let’s get crackin’!


Big name, but don’t let it scare you. The idea here is to utilize one tonality (or chord type) over another, to imply a “larger” harmony. The is certainly not a new concept by any means. Many players across all styles of music employ this idea, whether deliberately or not. If you can harness even the basics of the concept, you’ll be able to expand your palate of sounds and musical vocabulary greatly, and almost instantly. Let’s check out a few ideas as I’ve used them in my own playing.

"In The Balance”

This song is one of the few instrumental pieces that I’ve written outside of my usual band, PRISMIND. The general goal of this tune (and the other ones as well, for that matter) was to write instrumental music that was at once heavy, but also as melodic and catchy as possible, while still ripping it up here and there!

The first example here is found at the 1:03 mark. I consider this the “pre-chorus of the song. It consists of two single string arpeggios; E minor (E,G, and B on the E-string) at frets 12, 15, and 19. The second arpeggio is B minor (B, D, and F# on the B-string) also at frets 12, 15, and 19. This does require a bit of a stretch, so be sure to warm up a bit before jumping in here.

Bar 1 of this excerpt gets right to the meat of the matter. Played or an E minor rhythm part, the first string notes (E,G and B) fit right in, as those are the same notes that comprise an Em chord. This means that they will fit perfectly, with no real surprises. As soon as the idea shifts to the second string, the notes D and F# from the Bm arpeggio come into play. These two notes serve the function of the 7th and 9th over an Em chord. The resulting sound when you take inventory of all the notes is an Em9 (E,G,B,D,F#).

Here’s the beauty of this idea: Being asked to play an Em9 arpeggio on the spot and QUICKLY may cause some players to sputter and short-circuit, as there aren’t a lot of fingerings that fall very comfortably on the fretboard to facilitate any real speed. If we can LESSEN the amount of thinking (and notes to play), we should be able to dish out the sound of that chord/arpeggio with relative ease.

So, the basic formula:

                  {B minor}
Em9= E G B D F#
          {E minor}

When the rhythm guitar (or whatever the instrumentation you’re playing over) is playing an Em, all you need to focus on is the "upper portion” of the Em9 chord in order to express that sound. Namely, the B,D, and F# (Bm). Voila! Instant jazz cred! ;)

The remainder of this line also includes some chromatic passing tones for a slippery effect, as well as scalar runs to return to key notes in the phrase. Strict alternate picking was used in this, but try using a legato approach (hammers/pulls) for a cool fusion-y sound!

Click here to download the sheet music for "In The Balance" and here for "Slaves To The Machine".

“This song is one of the few instrumental pieces that I’ve written outside of my usual band, PRISMIND."

"Slaves To The Machine”

In this solo from the PRISMIND catalogue, the very last lick exploits this approach in a different way; over a MAJOR chord. The underlying tonality is E major (E,G#, and B) and the run I’m playing consists of G#, B, MAJOR chord. The underlying tonality is E major (E,G#, and B) and the run I’m playing consists of G#, B, and D#; a G#m arpeggio. The resulting sound is an Emaj7. Obviously, the G# is the common note here, so the breakdown goes like this…

             {E major}
Emaj7= E G# B D#
                {G# minor}

As the bass and rhythm guitar secure the E major portion of the equation, I’m able to effect the Emaj7 sound by simply focusing on the upper fragment of G#,B, and D#….a simple G#m arpeggio. The shapes that I’m using in Ex. 2 are hardly groundbreaking or particularly difficult. However, they aren’t as commonly used in this context. Since I was very familiar with these patterns (as you will likely be), it was easy to use them this way to get a fresh sound out of them.

Sweep picking is largely used here, but you’ll also find moments of legato and tapping as well, to cap off the phrase. Although the last beat of bar 1 (and into bar 2) is decidedly more scalar, it foreshadows the upcoming C#m sound of the pre-chorus which follows. Here is where you’ll see hints of legato and the final tap. This example is found at 3:38.

As always, if you have any questions about this piece, drop me a line at my Facebook page.

Check out the examples and have fun experimenting with the concept. The resulting sounds are very cool, and the possibilities are endless! See you next month!

Kelly Kereliuk, HMS

More guitar techniques from Kelly