Magazine article Guitar Player

Balloon Tones. (Chops Builder)

Magazine article Guitar Player

Balloon Tones. (Chops Builder)

Article excerpt

NO MATTER WHAT STYLE OF music you play, one of the hippest harmonic devices you can have at your fingertips is the ability to use upper-pedal tones--or, as I like to call them, balloon tones. Take it from the greats--Duke Ellington, Buddy Guy, Herbie Hancock, Eric Johnson, J.S. Bach, and countless others--balloon tones add magic to any melody or chord progression, no matter what style of music you play. You've surely heard this trick in action. Let's show your fingers how it's done.

Start by playing through Ex. 1, a recognizable, Count Basie-approved cliche that has closed more swing tunes than there are stars in the sky. Notice how the C on the high string--like a balloon tethered to each chord--appears throughout? It's a common tone in each of the chords, and putting it in the highest voice gives these grips a unifying shimmer. Though each chord demands you reshuffle your fretting-hand fingers, your ears only hear blissfully smooth voice-leading.

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If you think balloon tones don't show up in grittier styles, such as Chicago blues, then Buddy Guy has something to say about it. Ex 2a shows you how Guy transforms a typical minor-pentatonic lick into a sparkly two-note attack by adding a balloon tone throughout. Over a slow shuffle, pluck the low notes with your thumb, and the C balloon with your index or middle finger. Once you've got it down, try shifting this approach to a major key: Fret the C with your 4th finger and play twangy stabs such as those in Ex. …

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