In a case of persistence pays off, I’ve finally uncovered the secret to one of my favorite guitar players legato licks and transcribed the first chorus of a challenging solo. Continue reading for a breakdown of Bill Connors Add Eleven from his album Assembler.
I’ve been a fan of Bill’s playing for many years, but have always struggled to play any of his solos. I recently decided to try again and thought that the solo to Add Eleven was a great example of his playing style.
You can view the transcription here: Bill Connors – Add Eleven, but you may want to continue reading for some tips on how to approach the solo.
While searching in vain for other Bill Connors transcriptions, I ran across a 2005 interview with a few nuggets of information:
I began exploring extended playing with left hand…
Like not having any of my fingers play on adjacent frets…
Most guitar players will usually hit three notes of scale on one string…
It’s kind of like violin fingering…
Ok, so maybe I should have figured this out years ago, but I had never thought about playing 4-notes per string like violin players (like our children who I watch all the time). Instead, I had been searching for 3-note per string solutions.
So, armed with that information and my trusty companion Capo, I began the dissection…
O Fingerings, Where Art Thou?
It’s one thing to hear the correct notes in a fast solo, but it’s an entirely different challenge to figure out the fingering that produced them. Sometimes there are clues, like an audible slide, pull-off or hammer-on, the sound of the pick, etc. In this case, I used a combination of listening and playing to determine the fingerings that would most likely reproduce the notes I was hearing at the speed Bill plays them.
Really, red text and all caps? Yeah, your fingers matter to me…
It really helps to have a 24.75 “Gibson” scale guitar while playing anything in this post. One of the reasons I struggled with Bill’s playing for many years was attempting these licks on my collection of 25.5 scale Ibanez guitars. Things got much easier when I grabbed one of my jazz guitars with a more friendly scale length.
Please take it easy and rest your hands often if you haven’t been playing in this style before, it can be rough!
Motivated by Motif
It helps to have a recurring motif in a solo that can anchor the surrounding phrases and I was happy to find one in Add Eleven:
This example occurs in measure 12 of the solo and is in the key of Bb Lydian, which uses the notes from F major. I’ve included the fingering above the notes – fingering is important as this is played very fast in a legato fashion.
This phrase occurs in many places and is preceded by a few different 4-note pickups:
This run demonstrates one of the signatures of Bill’s playing – doubled notes. In this case, the C natural is doubled on the 13th fret of the B-string and the 8th fret of the E-string. I love the sound of this – the melody seems to halt and stutter but the sixteenth note pulse continues racing forward.
In this example, we see the 4-notes per-string “violin fingering” in full force starting with the pick-up and continuing through the phrase. Be sure to play the first four notes with fingers 1, 2, 3 then 4.
One thing that helped me get 4-note per-string fingering to flow was to think of it as two separate hammer-ons and to lift my first finger as the third finger was operating.
If you are a “position player” like me, you are used to leaving your first finger down as other fingers go to work. That may not be effective (or healthy) when playing these licks.
Try letting go of the first finger and see if that helps execute these phrases.
Making the Connection
This phrase is connected to itself to create longer phrases in a couple places in the solo such as in the next two examples:
Take the Low Road
This next example proves that soloing isn’t just for the thin strings. This phrase covers territory I would typically avoid when soling and serves as a reminder that there are good notes to be found all over the guitar:
Get to it!
OK, enough talking from me, now it’s time for you to give it a try – here’s the transcription: Bill Connors – Add Eleven. I found it useful to create a backing track in iReal Pro and work on each section slowly. Good luck!
Enjoy this article? Find an error in the transcription? Let me know in the comments section below.