1989: I was 24 years old and had made quite a name for myself in the town of New Orleans LA using the same old Eddie/Yngwie shit.
One night while watching some music special or it might have been an MTV special, I caught an eye and earful of an unknown fresh new guitarist “Eric Johnson.’
He was playing at the time what would become one of the most famous pop guitar instrumentals.
“Cliffs of Dover.”
What I noticed first was his incredible melodic composition and flawless dexterity.
And his tone sounded to me like a cross between a trumpet and an alto sax.
But what I found most intriguing were the long pentatonic runs.
And he seemed to do them without slipping or sliding his fingers from one position to the next
Traversing what seemed like the entire guitar neck.
This was the one and only time I ever got to see Eric live.
So although I eventually learned “Cliffs” everywhere he did the long pentatonic runs I had to improvise something that sounded close because the technique eluded me for years.
March of 2001.
Over a decade later I met a formidable young guitar player named Jayson while corresponding with the guys at Ron Thal’s message board.
Upon Jayson’s first visit to my cave he brought with him an instructional tape by a guitar player I had never heard of. “Shawn Lane.”
The first thing I noticed was the same peculiar pentatonic runs that Id been listening to Eric play for over a decade.
And he seemed to be a far more intricate player (in my opinion.)
After learning the first scale cleanly in only a week I started to really vex on Shawn’s playing.
On the video tape he kept referring to the accommodating work book that has everything tabbed out
So he kept playing through everything pretty fast.
After scouring through every music shop I found myself purchasing Shawn Lane’s “Power Licks & Solos
For $35. The last one in NY after everyone telling me there outa print.
After studying Shawn’s tape and book for the last couple months I’ve come to the conclusion that Shawn and Eric’s use of this pentatonic technique are somehow connected.
And to this day have not heard any other guitar player make practical use of these techniques.
What I found while studying is that rather than playing mostly in one position or slip sliding to the next
In a (2 note per string kinda thing) that they were both using a (three note per string kinda thing.)
This coupled with 4,5 & 6 note roupings creates what I think is the most incredible sound since the swept arpeggio. In fact when played correctly at top speed it almost sounds arpeggic.
The first part of this lesson is not much different than the Shawn Lane tape.
Here are the 5 pentatonic positions in the key of A minor.
You’ll find the 2nd position is what we as guitarists use most of the time so its commonly mislabeled as first position.