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There's a Freight Train Comin', p.2

Harmonic Choices

The Freight Train solo is based on what we might at this point simply call the Angelo Fingerings. The most important of these is the classic pentatonic or blues box-position fingering. Because Freight Train is written in G, we find this fingering at the 15th fret:

G minor Pentatonic / G “Blues” (parentheses)   –   listen (82.74KB MP3)


The second component of the Angelo Fingerings overlaps the blues scale at the 15th fret. It’s a Dorian fingering, which utilizes the classic three-note-per-string format:

G Dorian   –   listen (113.35KB MP3)


The final component of the Angelo Fingerings is a group of three symmetrical Dorian patterns that connect to the original Dorian shape:

G Dorian Extended Symmetry   –   listen (110.84KB MP3)


Together, these three scale components form the entirety of the scale choices in Freight Train. While there is a tendency in the music major crowd to over-intellectualize the scale and chord choices used by pop and rock players (“Clapton’s use of the altered Lydian scale in this tune…” — sure, right), in this case I’m certain that Mike does in fact employ modal thinking. He is actually a music major in real life, and he expresses his preference for Dorian licks in both his Speed Kills and Speed Lives instructional videos.

That said, Mike’s rationale for choosing this combination of fingerings is also mechanical. For one, it’s convenient that the Dorian scale pattern lives in the same fretboard location as the pentatonic pattern. This allows Mike to switch from blues to shred phrasing without moving the fretting hand to another position. Furthermore, of the seven possible three-note-per-string diatonic scale patterns on the fretboard, the particular one used in the Dorian fingering is among the easiest to play fast because it contains only three fretboard shapes:

Three Dorian Shapes   –   listen (103.67KB MP3)


Note how these shapes appear on adjacent strings. This allows the left hand to play two-string patterns and sequences without changing position or fingering at all. Note also that these three shapes closely resemble, and connect to, the symmetrical Dorian shapes that round out the Angelo Fingerings. Together, the elements of the Angelo Fingerings create a convenient interconnected map all around the blues scale, making them super useful for varied soloing with minimal left-hand effort. As a result, these are frequently the only shapes you’ll need to know to decipher Mike’s songs, solos, and brief improvisational sequences.

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