Sound — 9
Tom Kolb packs in an incredible amount of information in "Melodic Lead Guitar," a 2 hour and 7 minute instructional DVD published by www.HalLeonard.com). The clarity of both instruction and sound are excellent, including close-up finger playing in regular and slow-motion, tabs showing the licks as Kolb plays, and with the entire DVD running at a comfortable pace to get the ideas across. I recently reviewed Kolb's book/CD set "Soloing Strategies for Guitar" and I was very pleased to see that this DVD contains all new tips and ideas from which to integrate into one's playing.
Content — 10
Although the "student" should have a bit of background in theory, to know when a scale has a flattened 7th, for example, in general it matters very little as the instruction is so straight-forward and the examples so obvious that someone with next to no theoretical knowledge will gain a lot of ground with the tips and tricks presented. This DVD breaks up the various lessons into small segments, for both easy learning and so the student can dip into the ideas at his or her leisure without having to connect one video chapter to the next. Each segments stands on its own.
The first segment deals with "rocking up mixolydian," which is the most common scale in contemporary music (because of all the dominant 7 chords in modern progressions), but one the harder scales to make sound natural and emotional (and less mechanical) for many guitarists. The best part is when Kolb explains how to convert the basic Pentatonic scale into Mixolydian by implementing string bends (shifting minor to major) for some real pizzazz. The second segment explains self-harmonizing with 3rds and 6ths, and I found this produced a very distinct Jimmy Buffet/Margaritaville flavor (although with some heavy distortion, maybe not so much!).
The third segment explained how a person can link arpeggios off the 5th and 6th strings while applying Maj7, m7, dom7 and m7b5 "shapes" over various chords. I liked best the part whereby Kolb explained how to substitute certain arpeggios over various chords to produce some unique sounds, such as an E9 groove over an E7, or an Em7b5 over a C7.
The fourth segment is a "must know" for any beginner guitarist (although a cool "trick" for the advanced guitarist). This segment is called "The Railroad Track," or "the easiest scale pattern in the world." It deals simply with linear notes that run up and down a two fret spacing on the fingerboard (e.g., all the notes at the 5th and 7th fret positions). As simple as this sounds Kolb explains how to implement this super easy pattern over various chords to mimic the Dorian, Mixolydian, Lydian, Aeolian and Ionian scales. I think for many guitarists this one segment may be worth the price of the DVD!
Segment five covers minor scale modes, and although nothing out of the ordinary Kolb does a fine job comparing the relationships between minor Pentatonic, minor Pentatonic (add 2 - for that Gilmour or Hendrix sound), the Blues scale, Aeolian and Dorian, and finally the Harmonic minor (if you're going after that Malmsteen neoclassical sound). This brings us to segment six with a focus on the Lydian scale (to help break you free of the major scale doldrums).
Listening to the chord progression examples and how to use Lydian over certain chords and you can hear Joe Satriani right away. The cool trick in this segment is how you can substitute one stop down minor Pentatonic for that Lydian sound, e.g., over a Cmaj7 chord you play B minor Pentatonic.
Segment seven deals with Major key soloing and Kolb explains a few ways to keep this fresh, such as using the key's major scale over minor chords (within its key signature), but also how to shift Major Pentatonics up and down the fretboard over the associated chords. Segment eight provided some fresh ideas for soloing and to break free from the usual scale runs by integrating triads (3-note chords). Kolb explained how to improvise using the key's associated triads up and down the neck to create runs (as well as repeated finger patterns in a cascading fashion), but also how to break down simple bar chords across all six strings into arpeggio segments.
Segments nine and ten deal with Pentatonic substitutions and double-stops (playing two notes simultaneously). In segment nine Kolb demonstrates how to play minor pentatonic over major chords and vice versa, so that you can work off lead tones other than the root. In effect, he demonstrates how to get different voicings relative to the sound you're trying to produce, e.g., Lydian, Dorian, Aeolian, Mixolydian and over m7b5 chords. The segment on double stops adds body to a solo and Kolb also applies the concept to double-fourths.
Segment eleven deals with finding that "Killer Tone," which may be old hat for some guitarists, but for many of the newbies and intermediates Kolb's explanation on amp settings and how to best make use of the controls on Les Paul and Stratocaster-type guitars (and for different types of music, e.g., country, rock, funk) was ultra straight-forward and concise.
Segment twelve raps up the video, but it's certainly a stand-alone lesson that involves open string embellishments for various scale cascades, heavy rock riffing, or to achieve that ringing-chord effect (a la Jimmy Page and his acoustic virtuosity).
Production Quality — 8
Digital quality, the video is ultra clear, as is the sound. You can see the guitar tablature as Tom Kolb plays the riffs or lead lines, which he repeats at half pace. I liked that Kolb would play a chord progression so that the listener would get a feel for the lead lines, but it would have been better to hear all the examples with a backing track. There were several instances of backing tracks playing with Kolb's instructional examples, but backing tracks on all examples would have been superior (albeit more time consuming to produce the video).
Overall Impression — 9
This is one of those videos that you will return to and explore time and again. There are so many ideas that as you work through the video you likely will forget many of the previous ingenuities. I made notes, but even then re-listening to the various lessons sparks ideas and directions in playing that you likely never knew existed. That is what I like about Kolb's work, in that he explains a concept and shows how to apply it in different situations (viz., with different scale concepts) and allows the listener to integrate that concept into his or her playing style and compositions.