Richard Daniel's Ezine -- Issue #4

Dear Ezine subscriber,

Welcome to the fourth issue of the
Ezine.  In this issue  we examine the "War of the
Pentatonics: Major vs. Minor" with some good tutorial
tab examples.

Our tuition column looks at The Distortion Question
Solved: The Music Man 110 Amp.

See also answers to questions from subscribers.

If a friend has passed this issue along to you and you
wish to subscribe so that you get these issues directly,
you can do so by visiting,
or send a blank email to


The goal of the Ezine is to:

"Unlock the secrets of your guitar, release the power
in your fingers, and let the music flow from within
your soul!"

..and become a blues/rock guitar master, in record
time, without ever having to read a note of music!

In fact, that is the goal and purpose of everything
at  In Ezine you will

* An insightful, in-depth tuition column...totally free!

This is designed to take your understanding of your
chosen instrument, your guitar, to new depths of
understanding... bringing you and your guitar closer
to being one... able to express yourself in every way
you desire!

* Current news & events...

Know what's happening and when!

* A Question & Answer column
Pose your most burning questions... and get answers!

Kill all lingering feelings of doubt about a technique,
method, or gear setup... releasing you to steamroll
forward on improving your playing out-of-sight!

* Request and receive the most accurate TAB from the
hottest fret-burning classic rock masters, or the
latest releases.

Show off your superior skills to your buddies, and the
girls down at the local bar!


So, let's get this show on the road...

 War of the Pentatonics: Major vs. Minor.

When I first started out to explore the guitar on my
own, I employed the same mindset as the majority of my
students: I wanted to execute stylized licks and songs
without entering into the dry world of learning to read
the Great Staff and involving myself in the stuff of
overall chord and scale application. I was looking to
learn fast by dropping down on top of the deal. I wanted
to start at the top of the pyramid in a rush to
judgement. I had the finished recordings of Jimi
Hendrix, Cream and Led Zepplin as working examples. At
the time, that is all that seemed to really matter:
getting at whatever it was that lied just under the
surface of those recordings. I suppose that somewhere in
the back of my mind I knew that the guitar had a very
real history, and that all of the great music I wanted
to emulate was based on some greater scheme. The guitar
was just a hobby to me at the time, and my real motives
were rather superficial: those guys played great
groundbreaking guitarwork without seeming to put a lot
of effort into it, so why not me?

Still, my attempts to copy them always ended with me
frustrated. I knew that they knew some sort of code that
I just could not break. Even if I could copy them
exactly for a long string of notes, the pieces of the
puzzle just were not falling together. I ran up against
the limit of record copying. I could sense from the free
form styles that I was emulating that what they were
doing was running, inventing and improvising within
preconceived positions which they freely flowed into and
out of seamlessly. Copying the note for note passages
only offered spotty sightings into a free form
application. What I needed to know was the fixed form
parameters that they were using to pull off their
endless inventions.

The struggle was to figure out the code of lead guitar.
I assumed that there was one scale at work when a
guitarist played. If it was a blues in E, I assumed that
there was a single scale that the guitarist envisioned
and employed, and I set my sights on figuring out that
scale and its use. Actually things would go good for a
while, and then the curve balls would start flying by.
Certain notes would fit fine in one passage, but a few
seconds would sail by,  and the same note would not fit
into the playing box of the next measure. Something was
up and I was at a loss to understand what was really
going down. A great turning point arrived one night when
I finally realized that when it came to blues form, that
Jimmy, Eric and Jimi were actually employing two
different scale patterns, which I know today to be the
minor pentatonic, or blues scale (spelled 1, -3, 4, 5, -
7) and the major pentatonic (spelled 1, 2, 3, 5, 6). I
had to change the way I approached lead guitar once I
made this realization. If you are bilingual, and you are
speaking to somebody else that is likewise bilingual,
you can switch back and forth between two languages with
ease and grace, whenever you feel like it. It does not
affect the conversation or its message, except in its
overall feel. The thing to see is that the speaker is
free to knowingly make a change in language for a
difference in effect. Such are the inner languages of
lead guitar: a dual mode world where the performer is in
the drivers seat changing back and forth between two
effective worlds, one major and the other with minor

Of course I did not know it at the time, but I was
actually discovering for myself (using finished modern
recordings as a foundation) the never ending "war"
between the use of major and minor elements that all
musicians have faced throughout history. In an essay
such as this, I do not have the expansive format that I
do in my books to demonstrate this interaction in its
full impact. But I do feel that it is my job today to at
least paint a broad picture for you of how the
relationship of these various forces work, and to
hopefully save you the trouble of wallowing in the world
of broken bits and pieces of "note for note" passages
that only expose part of the story. I want you to see
the big picture. To a large degree, rock and blues
guitar have their roots in the very same musical
structure that drove the wheels of all of western music
before, during and after the European classical period
and beyond into present times.

   Bar 1 - Major Scale over 6th string

   Bar 2 - Major Scale over bottom three strings

Bar one shows the mighty major scale over the first half
of the low string between the open string position and
the 12th fret. The open string plays a tonic E note, as
does the fretted note on the 12th fret. The six degrees
of the major scale flush out the territory of the inner
octave between these two extreme tonic station points.
The third of the scale (on 6/4, 6th string, 4th fret)
and the fifth of the scale compromise the two most
important division points of the octave and the
components of the major chord. A primary form of the
major triad can be played on 6/0, 6/4, 6/7 and 6/12. The
2nd on 6/2, the 4th on 6/5, the 6th on 6/9 and the major
7th on 6/11 are all that is needed to create a picture
of the major scale over the guitar's primary octave. Bar
two takes the very same notes, the very same degrees of
E major and plays them over the bottom three strings of
the guitar.

Bar 3 - Natural Minor Scale over 6th string

Bar 4 - Natural Minor Scale over bottom three strings

Bar 3 and 4 play through the natural minor scale over
the same position as the major scale in bar 1 and 2.
Each major scale degree 1 through 7 is written in stone.
Forever. They are derived from primary string divisions
and each major degree has a characteristic tone and role
in the melodic and harmonic structure of music. The
primary minor note in music is the flatted 3rd found on
6/3. The other minor degrees are the flatted 7th on 6/10
or 4/0, and the flatted 6th on 6/8 or 5/4. One way to
become familiar with these three minor notes is to sing
the major scale up from the tonic 1, 2, 3 then hold the
third and flatten it. You can feel the note's shadowy,
diminutive power. This note is a cornerstone of blues
lead guitar. You can also discover the nature of the
flatted 6th and the flatted 7th by singing to the 6TH and
7th and then holding and lowering the tone a half step
to the minor degree. Try it. It takes a special effort
to sing the major degree and then slide the note lower…
just that half step down.

The major and natural minor scales are at the center of
all western music. Once Bach published The Well Tempered
Clavier, considered the bible of piano technique, the
world was ready for universal chromatic application.
Bach's work pushed the student through each of the 12
keys in both the major and minor scales: 24 complex
exercises that just nailed down the use of the 7 note
major and the adjusted 7 note minor scales. To a certain
degree, this was the top of the pyramid as far as
defining the form of the elements used in modern music
was concerned. It also defined the interaction of the
major scale degrees and those of the minor: the flatted
3rd, flatted 6th and flatted 7th. After this point, the
field of play was cemented and the way was paved for
Beethoven and the rest. The battlefield for the great
war between major and minor had experienced its first

Once we see that the major scale (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7)
is simply adjusted down on the 3rd, 6th and 7th degree to
make the minor scale, we are well on our way to
understanding the fixed relationship between the major
and minor scales. The word diatonic means "referring to
the major scale," but in common use the word usually
refers to a scale that has seven notes. The deal is
this: First the major scale was cemented into musical
history over a period of thousands of years. The natural
minor evolved along side it. The flatted degrees that
make up the minor were all well known. The flatted 3rd
is the most primary and determines the minor chord. The
flatted 7th is a tone actually produced early in the
overtone series and although it is recognized as a minor
center, it does naturally compliment the harmony of the
major chord (1, 3, 5, -7). The minor sixth is a distant
third in our consideration.

So we have two established seven note scales, with the
minor scale adjusting down three degrees of the major.
This results in a unchanging relationship between major
and minor scales. Each major key (or major scale or
major chord) has a relative minor position three half
steps below the established major position. The white
piano keys play the degrees of C major (C = 1). Set to
the key of A (A = 1), these same white keys play the
degrees of A minor. The word enharmonic means that the
exact same line up of chromatic notes applies to two
different keys in two different ways, just like the
white keys of the piano. Just understand this: Each of
the 12 musical keys has three things going for it: a
major scale, a minor scale, and a "related" relative
minor position (note, chord, scale) three frets down
from any key center.

Certainly there is a lot to understand about the
inherent relationship of the major and minor scales. The
thing I want you to know is that generally, way before
blues guitar came along in the 1920's, the musicians
that were establishing western music had already woven
this dual scale relationship into the fabric of their
world. They knew all about it and were familiar with it.
Each major key, chord and scale has a relative minor
position: They knew that. Each major position "shifts"
to a minor position: They knew that. When a piece
modulates from major to minor there are a short list of
standard consequences that play out every single time:
They knew that. What is the joke? The joke is that
hundreds of years after these established facts were
nailed down as standards of the trade, I am sitting
crosslegged on a rug with a tape recording of Cream,
trying to figure out out why things keep changing back
and forth mysteriously between two patterns.

Now, I did make a tremendous personal discovery, but it
is somehow deflating to also discover, later in time,
that what was blinding me out of the modern game for so
long was working knowledge during the baroque period.
That is what you get when you chase styles. You get
working finished examples, complete with slurred
expression and emotional flourish, that work the surface
of the superstructure of musical form. Like all young
men chasing the light, I rushed to the spectacle of the
finished invention. Not a bad way to go, really, if you
want to pull off a bag of unrelated tricks by day's end.
It is just that the real understanding comes later
rather than sooner when you do things that way.

The bottom line: The world of music does not revolve
around the elements of blues/rock/pop lead guitar. The
world of music does, however, revolve around the octave,
the major chord, the major scale, and below the surface,
the minor scale. Realize that, and you will be well on
your way to understanding the simpler, derivative nature
of the pentatonic scales. You see, the pentatonic scales
are nothing more than subsets of the seven note major
and minor scales.
The major pentatonic is spelled 1, 2, 3, 5, 6. The 4th
and the 7th are removed from the major scale, and the
result is a five degree subset based on the major scale.
Things to know: Along with the removal of the 4th and
the 7th go the half steps of the major scale, and in
their place two intervals of three frets (a minor third)
appear between the 3rd and the 5th, and the 6th and the

The minor pentatonic, usually called the blues scale, is
spelled 1, -3, 4, 5, -7. Just like the major pentatonic
removed the 4th and 7th from the major scale, the blues
scale removes the 2nd and -6th from the minor scale. The
result is, once again, a five note scale with two minor
third intervals between the 1st and the -3rd, and 5th and
the -7th. Technically known as "gapped" scales because
of their two large intervals, these two scales provide a
simpler overall scale pattern than the major scale, and
without half-steps, afford a well known ease of playing.
Now we are beginning to peek into the real roots of
blues/rock guitar: these open gaps in the scale allowed
the early blues fathers to develop a full guitar style
with just the use of their index and ring finger.

Bar 4 - Major Pentatonic Example

Bar 5 - Minor Pentatonic Example

The above tab examples are simple boxes that are
familiar to all blues guitarists. First play an open E
chord and then run through each box a few times. You
will hear the difference yourself. They both work. They
both do their thing. They are both "legal." But with the
major chord sounded as a basis, you can hear that the
major pentatonic provides a consonant major sound,
whereas the blues scale is sort of sour, or "off
centered" in its effect. Things to know: The 1st and the
5th are common to both the major pentatonic and the
minor pentatonic, the blues scale example commonly
involves bending the lowered degrees in its makeup (-3rd
& -7th), while the half step between the 4th and the 5th
(5/1 & 3/3) is often thrown into the blues scale mix as
a stepping stone between these major scale degrees. Also
understand that both pentatonic scales, like the
diatonic major and minor scales, have sweeping,
repeating twelve fret patterns that overlap directly
over and across the entire area of the full fretboard.
Our study here only looks at tiny bits of those patterns
that are useful for purposes of short examples.

The picture that I am trying to paint is this: The major
scale, and the subsequent minor scale, have a definite
interaction that involves locked relative positions,
common notes (1 and 5), and a world of subtle
interaction back and forth between two worlds. The fact
that the pentatonics are the subsets of two diatonic
scales means that they inherit the same basic
relationships of the diatonic scales from which they
were derived. The heart of the relationship between
major and minor has never, and will never, change in its

There is one huge difference to note, however, in the
application of the major/minor relationship to common
use through time and culture. In musical history, the
idea of writing down a preconceived melodic vision
(classical approach) to be later reiterated by a large
group of musicians dictated that if a musical piece was
to modulate to the minor scale from the major that it
would take place during a calculated episode in the
piece. Everybody in the orchestra sees it coming. They
all change at the same time. Same deal when it goes back
to the major scale after the episode employing the
minor. Interaction between the major and the minor is
written into the work from the drawing board.

The modern use of major and minor pentatonic for lead
guitar improvisation means that the artist is freely,
quickly, and constantly changing back and forth between
the major and minor centers as he works. This is an
entirely different use of the major/minor phenomena.
Saying that we make it up as we go along sort of
diminishes the deal somehow, but indeed, that is
basically what we do. Still, educated guitarists know
the major pentatonic, they know where it appears, they
know its effect, and they know when to use it. Same
thing goes for the blues scale, and the chord which the
song is employing at any given time in the turn of the
songs wheel. This presents us with a complex picture
that is the true center of blues/rock guitar playing.
Pulling off Beethoven's violin concerto is no doubt a
lifetime's achievement. Stand on your head difficult.
Impossible, really, for guys like me. But can I be alone
in feeling that something is lost if you already know
every note that you are about to play before you play a
piece of music?

Enter the world of improvised blues/rock guitar: this
developed skill involves envisioning sweeping,
overlapping major and minor pentatonic based scale
patterns, and the instantaneous switching between them,
over a repeating chord pattern. I think that is about
it. I did not know all of this when I was trying to
break down Cream, many years back. I still struggle like
hell to figure out Stevie Ray and the rest, but now I
have an overall context in which to place the struggle.
If I try hard enough and long enough, I can figure out
any lick and put it into this overall working
perspective. That tends to calm me down a little.
Knowing I can, even if I don't.

Below I want to leave you with a very simple, yet
effective example of switching between the blues scale
and the major pentatonic. Very simple. We all know the
Chuck Berry/Elmore James deal where the tip of the index
finger plays the two thin strings across the fifth fret
in the key of A. The note on 2/5 is the fifth, and the
note on 1/5 is the tonic 1st. These two notes are played
together with great effect, and crown the position known
as the "root note fret." These two notes are contained
in both pentatonic scales and represent the center of
all subsequent building. What I am going to show you
first is the outline of a simple blues box based on this

Bar 7 - Minor Pentatonic box   w/second position

Bar 8 - Major Pentatonic box   w/second position

The blues scale box from bar 7 demonstrates a common
position to play the blues scale. The index finger holds
both the 1st and 2nd string (the 1st and 5th of the A major
scale) while the ring finger plays the notes above found
on 1/8 (the -3rd) and 2/8 (the -7th). The minor degrees
of the flatted 7th and flatted 3rd on the 8th fret just
beg to be bent. This is because of the gravity towards
the major 7th and the tonic 1st (the actual note played
on 2/10). The -3 on 1/8 presents a situation where the
bending of the note towards the "real" major 3rd played
on 1/9 is practically irresistible. The index fixes the
unwavering major scale degrees of 1, 5, and the ring
finger bends the minor notes on 2/8 and 1/8. This is the
minor penta box I want you to see first. The second part
of the bar shows the same box in a second position built
on the 2th fret.

The major penta box I want to see is built on the same
foundation of the index finger across the 5th fret on
the two thin strings. The same "index finger anchor" on
the thin strings is used for both examples, except in
the minor based box from Bar 8 the ring plays a whole
step box above this mark using the ring finger to play
the 6th on 2/7, and the 2nd on 1/7. A second 2nd position
box is also outlined at the end of the bar. This box is
a famous blues box that you can hear B.B. King employ at
any given time in his playing. The tendency is to bend
the note on 1/7 up a whole step "across" the flatted 3rd
to the major third fretted normally on 1/9. These two
boxes over lap, and are based on the notes held by the
index finger, but are very different in their effect.
The minor box has the bent blues notes. The major box
steps on each major note as it is played through. The
end result is a position where the player can fix his
index for impovising in A, but can obtain a desired
major or minor effect by extending the box with the ring
finger either of two ways: major or minor.

The war of the pentatonics rages on around the clock. On
the edge of the stage the blues guitarist bends and
pushed the blues scale with the effect of a hammer on an
anvil. Backing off for a while, he retreats to the major
pentatonic, with the resulting of being "within the key"
for a short segment. Passages played in the major
pentatonic don't have the bent notes you find in the
blues scale. The major penta hides itself within the
consonance of the major scale, and can slither from
center to center with a smooth effect.

When the brew has simmered long enough, the improvising
guitarist always returns to the bent notes of the blues
scale to drive the point home. To return to the business
of hard hitting blues, the minor penta is always the
vehicle at hand. It is a very fine art, going back and
forth between these two emotional centers. Of course,
knowing about them and the patterns where they overlap
and appear is one thing, and commanding their effect
live in performance are two different things. From where
I stand, both are necessary.

The relationship between the pentatonic scales lies at
the heart of all of my books. Full fretboard diagrams
are contained in all of my work that describes this
association of forces to a much greater degree than I
can in this forum. Today I just wanted to sharpen your
awareness of this underlying interaction that drives
most of the finished guitarwork that we hear from Johnny
Winter to Johnny Lange. It is not a style, as I have
explained, but a discovery and employment of forces. The
elements of style come from becoming familiar with the
various positions and playing into, around and through
them live with a drummer and a bass player going full
bast behind you. We have just scratched the surface here
for now. In the future we will delve further into this
dynamic interaction between the warring forces of all
things major and minor.

Richard Daniels



The Distortion Question Solved: The Music Man 110 Amp

When the classic rock revolution started back in the
late 60's, guitarists were always left in a quandry
about to do about guitar distortion. The amps that were
available on the market were basically Fender or
Marshall with a straight plug into the front. Sure there
were plenty of knobs and switches, but after a full
examination the guy with the guitar was left scratching
his head and asking "How do I get that warm tube sound
that I hear on the records without breaking the windows
by turning the amp up so loud that it doesn't make
sense." The problem was the signal that the amp got
directly from the guitar cord was unadulterated. Clear,
clean and without any warm overdrive. In order for the
power tubes to really do their job, the amp had to be
overdriven. And the only way to do that was to crank up
the volume. A practical solution was sought by players
that wanted to play at a much lower volume than large
stage bands could afford, without the dangers and
problems of playing so loud that nobody could think
straight. Guitarists around the world looked for a

A temporary solution was the nine volt battery gadget
box: the basic fuzz tone that you plugged your guitar
into before it ran secondly into the front of the amp.
Use of these boxes was common, even among the top
guitarists of the time. But the ongoing limitation of
using gadget boxes for distortion is that the battery
overdrives the guitar's signal, but in the process a lot
of the dynamics of the waveform is clipped to a watered
down, thinner version of the true tone. The end result
was that the fuzz tone produced a singing, warm,
overdriven sound, but the signal was crushed to the
degree that it could not stand up to the fresh, real
sound of the drum's cymbals being played live. The
temptation was to increase the volume and the cycle of
being too loud was set into motion again.

I came to a turning point in this deal the day I bought
my first Music Man 110 amp. It is a rather simple affair
taken altogether. It is a small guy, in a small casing
with a single handle on top, but it is so carefully
designed with the needs of a lead guitarist in mind that
after I bought my first one, I never once considered
owning any other type of amp. It suits my purposes
perfectly. It has a mono 50 watt amp with two 6L6 power
tubes for the power amp, with all of the pre-amp stages
entirely solid state. This is what is known as a hybird:
Tubed power stage, all the rest solid state. This gets
rid of all of the tiny finger tubes you still find in
the old fenders.

It only has a single ten inch speaker, but I went out of
my way years back to buy the biggest, best, most
powerful speaker I could get. The magnet is huge. Way
bigger than the stock magnet. The dashboard has two
channels which you can chose between with a switch, but
it has only one single female jack in which to plug one
guitar. That is it. It is a lead guitar amp. Period. I
have several other amps, but this is the one that was
designed with the needs of a lead guitarist firmly in
mind. Sure it has the regular volume knob, the treble,
bass and reverb knob, and they all get set to a basic
parameter. But the reason I am writing this is to tell
you about the built in gain knob that sits on the far
right of the dashboard.

That one single knob provides the answer to the entire
distortion question/problem for my playing tone. That
one special knob makes all the difference. Leo Fender
opened the Music Man company sometime after he left
Fender. This amp stands on a very great tradition
indeed. That single little knob is marked GAIN. Now get
this: you can set the gain to zero and you will get what
is basically an old Fender amp. Straight signal
amplification with the gain at zero. Clear as a bell.
Huge dynamics. A rather shrill effect. Straight up

But turn that gain knob to 3 and you start to feel the
room get warmer. The open chords start to ring out a
little. A Tom Petty chord based song has a little more
bite. A lead break takes on a fuller feel. Turn the gain
to 5 and you just stepped into the world of medium
crunch. Once you get to 7.5 there is no need to go
higher. You already have all of the lead guitar "warm
tube distortion" that any performer could want.

This special feature is built directly into the internal
wiring of the amp itself: No batteries, no extra boxes,
no extra chords. I have seen a lot of amps that have
overdrive, or master volume built into the amp, but I
have found the gain built into the Music Man 110 to be
the very best. It gives me a dependable distortion
sound, to any degree I want, without the raw compression
that a gadget fuzz to gives: You know, that hamburger on
a grill sound.

So I am happy with my discovery, and I have no intention
of ever changing amps. One reason is that another great
feature of the amp is the line out jack allows me to
"daisy chain" other, more powerful Music Man amps behind
the primary 110 amp. I get the distortion factor from
the first amp, and let the second, or third amp in line
inherit the signal just as it sounds from the first amp.
Great amp. Thought out. Small. With just the features I
need, and small enough to throw into the trunk for a off
the cuff jam at a small club.

They stopped making the Music Man 110 a few years back,
but if you search the vintage equipment sites you can
still find one. But, you better get there before me,
because I am in the market for a few more. RD



QUESTION: "Richard, I noticed that both Jimi Hendrix
and Stevie Ray tune down a half step for some of their
guitarwork. What is the purpose of doing this?

Answer: There are two good reasons why an artist would
choose to tune down a half-step. The first is to achieve
a state of lower tension on all strings. When the 6
strings are tuned down (E, A, D, G, B, E all go down a
half step) the resulting tension is on all strings is
lowered considerably, and this gives the artist a little
more ability to manipulate the strings, especially the
bending technique. The case with Stevie Ray is that his
strings were so thick in gauge that it was a practical
necessity to tune down. This allowed him the benefit of
heavy guage strings without the added tension.

The second advantage of tuning down is that if a band
has a set list of fixed songs with standard fixed keys,
each and every song on the list goes down in letter in
key: a song in E goes to E flat, a song in A goes to A
flat. This is a big help to the singer if he is having
trouble with hitting the high notes in the melody. The
minus side of tuning down is that the stings take on a
different characteristic than you are used to and may
not provide a feel that you like. And if you are going
to tune down your entire guitar has to be re-set to the
new tension. This basically means that you will no
longer be able to easily play with other guitarists that
are tuned to regular concert. Also, it can be hard to
talk the bass player into going lower because the low E
note of a bass is already at the edge of the acceptable

If you do decide to test going down a half step, make
sure that you use a straight chromatic tuner to gauge
the new tuning. Using the slash marks below the common
mark of a regular tuner usually does not work because
the marks are not commonly set at the exact half step
interval. If you are going south, you might think of
devoting a separate guitar to the expressed purpose of
gaining the advantages of tuning the guitar down a half


Dear reader, that wraps up this month's issue of Ezine.  Please send your questions, and
your TAB requests.  We'll see you next issue.

If a friend has passed this issue along to you and you
wish to subscribe so that you get these issues directly,
you can do so by visiting,
or send a blank email to

I encourage you to pass this issue of
Ezine to your friends!

Cordially, Richard Daniels, Heavy Guitar Company /
Richard Daniels Productions. Voice: (610) 869-5885
Free subscription - Ezine at