T-Bone Walker - Augmented Triad Lick

Learn how to easily use an augmented triad in your blues guitar playing.

T-Bone Walker - Augmented Triad Lick
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Introduction

T-Bone Walker was ranked No. 67 on Rolling Stone's "100 Greatest Guitar Players of all Time" issue in 2011. His blues guitar playing has influenced players such as BB King, Chuck Berry and Jimi Hendrix.

For this lesson, I'm going to teach you a great augmented lick that T-Bone played on his hit recording from 1947 "Call It Stormy Monday." This song is played in the key of G, and the lick occurs on the V chord (D7).

If you want to grab someone's attention in your solo, use this lick! It certainly grabbed my attention. Ok, here we go...


Overview



The lick is based on the diagonal shape of a D augmented triad that is played on strings 5/4/3. An augmented triad is similar to a major triad (135), but in an augmented triad you will raise the 5th by a 1/2 step. So, for a D augmented triad, you get:

D (1) F# (3) A#(#5)

T-Bone uses 3 positions of this diagonal augmented triad shape in this lick. I'll use the 3rd finger as reference:
  1. 3rd finger on the 5th fret
  2. 3rd finger on the 7th fret
  3. 3rd finger on the 9th fret

Details

(Use the tab/video as reference)

For the 1st 2 positions, we play the 3 notes of the triad from low to high. In other words, play the strings in this order: 5-4-3.

When we move up to the 3rd position, we play from low to high again, but we also come back down the triad. Here are the strings that you'll play for that 3rd position: 5-4-3-4-5.

Almost done! Now, we move back to the previous position, and play down the triad. So play the strings in this order: 3-4-5

The last note of the lick is the top note (3rd string) of the 1st position that I described above.

List to the recording to hear the details that I can't put in print!

It happens at 0:34

Another Theory Perspective

(This is a little more advanced, FYI - so proceed accordingly)

While it's true that this blues guitar lick uses an augmented triad, and moves it up 2 frets, then another 2 frets, there's another way to look at this move.
If you combine the notes of these 3 triads, you get 6 separate notes. You may be wondering about my math skills here - fair enough. Here are the notes in the 3 triad positions: 

D F# A#

E G# C

F# A# D

Did you notice something? Yup, the notes in the 3rd position are duplicates of the 1st position. When you move an augmented triad up 4 frets, you get what we call an inversion - same notes, different order. That's why there's only 6 separate notes, and not 9.

Ok, If I lay out these notes in low to high order, I get this:

D E F# G# A# C

Take a look at the notes. What's unique about this collection of notes? The distance between every note is a whole step, that's what. This is what we call a "whole tone" scale. In this case, a D whole tone scale.

Here's why it sounds the way it does over the D7 chord. When I compare the notes in the D whole tone scale to the chord, I have exactly 2 alterations - #4 (G#), and #5 (A#). This sound is used in jazz extensively, and sometimes even in country!

             *   *
1 2 3   #4  #5 b7

D E F# G# A# C

Drum Roll Please...

Here's where the rubber meets the road, so to speak.

If you want this surprising, jarring, spacey sound (add your own adjective), you can play a whole tone scale over the V chord of whatever key you're in.

Examples:

Key of C - You can play a G whole tone scale (G A B C# D# F) over the V chord (G or G7).

Key of E - You can play a B whole tone scale (B C# D# F G A) over the V chord (B or B7).

Key of A - You can play an E whole tone scale (E F# G# A# C D) or the V chord (E or E7).

Here's a whole tone scale pattern for you to experiment with.

Conclusion

For any lick that you learn, you can learn a lot more than the 1 lick if you just pay attention to the basic theoretical principles used. You should practice this lick/concept on any jam track that has a V chord (which is... every track, basically).

It won't fit everywhere, certainly, but I'm sure if you tinker around with it long enough, you'll find spots where you can put it!

About the Author:
Dave Lockwood is an accomplished musician and award winning teacher in the Atlanta, GA area. Keep up to date by signing up at his website, and subscribing to his YouTube channel.

-1 comments sorted by best / new / date

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    HugoPan
    that sound really nice. I've never listened to T.bone walker before. gonna check his catalogue out. great lesson!
    jzgy12
    Thanks! I've only listened to him a little bit. I plan on doing the same. Fun stuff!
    CurlOfTheBurl
    Don't know if anyone gives a shit, but that breakdown in Periphery's Have a Blast, at 0:40, is heavily based around this idea of playing augmented triads, albeit in a more chromatic fashion (as in, it's literally just shifting the same intervals in half-step motion). Same idea though, albeit over IV.