Outside Notes: You Can Play Any Note!

At any time, in any key, you can actually play any note. This can be a little confusing at first, but ultimately is an easy way to add character to your improvisations, and create much more interesting melodies.

Below is what you might call a scale diagram – if it wasn’t for the fact that we’re only 2 notes away from playing all the notes…
You can see the minor scale outlined with the red dots, (each conveniently labelled with it’s interval), and the new outside notes are coloured individually.

Outside Minor Scale.png

The Blue Note – b5

This interval sounds awful out of context, but it does have 2 uses. Firstly, you can make something sound tense by changing between a perfect and a diminished 5th – especially in rhythm playing, which has a cool kinda Led Zeppelin feel to it.
Secondly, and the focus of today’s attention, is using it as a bridge between the perfect 4th and 5th, which is what a lot of blues-based riffs and solos rely upon.

Major 3rd

If you’ve played a major scale, you should already be comfortable with the idea of a major 3rd, and hopefully comfortable that you, technically speaking, shouldn’t play this note when in a minor scale.

To heck with your rules. If you know where your minor 3rd is, this note is the fret above that. I came across this by watching a blues guitarist friend of mine, and noticed he was throwing this note in directly after the minor 3, (the same way you might throw in the blue note). The Minor 3 – Major 3 – Root lick has lived in my phrase book ever since.

The Phrygian Note – b2

I call it that, because it’s what gives the Phrygian mode it’s very particular flavour. The note is the fret above the root, and you can get away with it in a blues or rock setting, because these styles often avoid playing the 2 chord, (which would be Diminished in the minor scale). This ambiguity about what the 2nd degree of the scale is means you can make it whatever you darn well please.

Often I’ll use this in conjunction with the major 3rd to give a flavour of the Middle East in what I’m playing, (in my mind I refer to this as “the cool part of the Phrygian Dominant mode”)

How to “Sell It”

I get it, these notes sound weird so how can you really “sell” them to a listener.

  • Confidence. An audience will know you screwed up either from your face and body language, or because you stop playing for a moment to berate yourself. The best way around this is to intentionally play notes you know won’t work and get comfortable with them. Play a backing track, and try to hold a diminished 5th or flat 2 through the entire thing. Your brain and muscle memory will want to correct you – don’t let them. Pretty soon you’ll be fine with throwing outside notes into your everyday playing.
  • Short Note Duration. You can get used to these notes by keeping the notes really short, and gradually build-up your confidence in the sound of these notes.


The Spider Capo

An alteration to the traditional capo which, rather than fretting all strings on a particular fret will only hold the strings you select. This allows you to have a chord in the open position, without affecting your usual box and barre shapes further up the neck, allowing for some nifty new chord voicings.

It’s clear that, by design, you’re expected to hold open chords like Em, A, and other simpler ones, but with some finagling it was easy enough to get some 2-string chords like G and D. You can see me experiment with this and other ideas in the video below.

You can buy your very own Spider Capo right here: Link!

GraphTech String Saver Saddles

I’ll use this space to answer questions about String Saver Saddles. Feel free to comment with any other questions.

  • “Correctly setting up your bridge will cut down on string breakages”
    Yes, you should do that as well.
  • “Your strings won’t break if you know how to play”
    That’s not true, don’t be dumb.
  • “Pencil graphite will work just as well, and it’s much cheaper”
    I’m not going to rub pencil shavings onto my bridge, that would rub off as soon as you palm mute surely? I’d rather spend £30.


Here’s a link to find String Saver Saddles on Amazon.co.uk

Here’s a link to Graph Tech’s website.

Musicians: Buy these books!

Here’s a handful of books which have really helped me evolve as a musician in some way – either with music theory, business, or exploring new styles. Some are particular to playing guitar, but not all.


This book really helped me break into jazz theory, especially tackling some of the more confusing issues. It’s incredibly well-written, and assuming you have a reasonable music theory background you’ll have no problem understanding the subjects. It also helps that, unlike many jazz devotees I’ve met, this isn’t an overwhelmingly condescending experience.

Subjects include: scale construction, modes, cadences, reharmonization, arranging and improvisation.

For the price, this book is an absolute steal.

Jazzology: The Encyclopedia of Jazz Theory for All Musicians on Amazon.co.uk

41udVvnveeL._SX328_BO1,204,203,200_This is a fun read if you’re at all interested in aspects of music psychology, or medical disorders triggered by, treated with, or related to music. Oliver Sacks, a prominent writer, neurologist and music therapist, gives us a detailed and personal insight into individual case studies. One of which involved lighting.

‘A humane discourse on the fragility of our minds, of the bodies that give rise to them, and of the world they create for us. This book is filled with wonders’
-Daily Telegraph

There’s something about Sacks’ writing style which makes it very easy to read – it’s almost as if you’re reading his notes from medical examinations, or listening to the author walk you through an anecdote.

Musicophilia: Tales of Music and the Brain on Amazon.co.uk

Finally! Someone combined hip-hop and children’s activities. OK, fine, you don’t necessarily need this book, but it’s still fun….

Bun B’s Rap Coloring and Activity Book on Amazon.co.uk

The Guitar Atlas series is a gateway to music from around the world. I own and will often re-visit the Middle Eastern and Japanese editions, but I’m determined to make my way through every one in as short a period of time as I can. I have respect for world music, but have very little patience and need an immediate pay-off when experimenting with new ideas – these books do just that. Get in.

Expect detailed, mind-expanding material, which is methodically explained. You’ll learn some particular playing techniques, or new ways of approaching techniques you already know. Additionally, you’ll find scales to help really nail these styles and easily incorporate them into your own playing. There’s also a handful of songs to learn if you’re into the whole “note-for-note” learning approach, along with backing tracks on a CD. Literally, what more do you want?

Guitar Atlas series on Amazon.co.uk

41Bemw9Pn7L._SX325_BO1,204,203,200_Particularly useful if you, like 90% of people I’ve ever met, like in the UK.

Ann Harrison spent years as a media lawyer which allows her to write with exceptional knowledge and experience on the subject of music business, including case studies of recent musical issues.

Included within is information on: copyright law, royalties, music streaming, record manufacture and distribution, merchandising, sponsorships and tour management – and that’s just scratching the surface.

Everything you need to do band good.

Music: The Business – 6th Edition on Amazon.co.uk