The sound waves made by Paul Jackson Jr. seem ripple through genres, artists and decades. One of L.A.'s premier session guys, his unique approach to the instrument has been sought after by the likes of The Temptations, Bobby McFerrin, Michael Jackson, George Benson, Luther Vandross, Jewel, Smokey Robinson, Aretha Franklin, and the list goes on (it really does).
In this entry, I've transcribed and broken down one of Paul's fairly recent solo releases, "The Workout". In addition to having a great groove, the tune also showcases Paul's unique rhythm playing, which is spliced between phrases. As one of the most talented rhythm guitarists out there, he knows how to compliment any piece with his intellect of chord voicings, voice leading and rhythm. He's indeed a mad scientist when it comes to that stuff.
Please enjoy Paul Jackson Jr.'s "The Workout" and follow along to the fully tabbed out version in SoundSlice.
Add to your bag:
No transcription is worth doing without making some time to pick out your favorite parts and better understand them. When you do so, you move beyond just repeating someone else's ideas, and start to internalize new musical concepts that can help you to develop your own sound (add to your bag). To download a PDF of what I'm adding to my bag, click here.
This tune mostly lives in the guitar player's paradise that is A minor. What's so fun to listen to in this tune is the way Paul plays around with the altered dominant V chord (E7#9) in his licks to create some tension that releases so smoothly to A minor. To get the most out of these licks, highlight a measure in SoundSlice and practice playing along as the phrase loops. Here are my picks:
Lick 1 @ 2:08
Lick 1 comes with some rhythmic punches that dance around the initial downbeat in a way that calls back to the chordal hits throughout the melody. Over this lick we see how Paul uses a diminished triad built off of the 5th of E7 (B-D-F-G#) to resolve back to A minor. In theory, you can build a diminished arpeggio off of the 3rd, 5th, 7th or b9 of any 7th chord and you will produce the same effect. Put on a backing track and give it a try.
Lick 2 @ 2:17
Lick 2 again shows us the diminished arpeggio built off of a scale tone from an altered dominant chord (this time, the 3rd) and as well a cool use of the diminished scale that builds some nice tension before it resolves to a clean A minor. In theory, you can build a diminished scale (whole half) off of the flat 9, 3rd, 5th or 7th (sound familiar?) of any altered dominant chord. If you've never used the diminished scale before, here's a video that shows a nice fingering to get started on. I particularly like Paul's fingering above as it allows for an easy transition back into your A minor pentatonic box.
Lick 3 @ 1:22
Nothing earth shattering about the above lick which outlines the 5 chord, but man does it feel good.
Lick 4 @ 2:28
The above lick I titled "The Freight Train" lick, because it speeds up like a locomotive all while staying on the tracks! Shredding is meaningless without rhythm and time, and here Paul shows you how to rock out just right.
It's hard to listen to Paul without being hit by his cleaver use of chord intervals and inversions. Not unlike another rhythm guitar guru, Nile Rodgers, the way Paul cleverly ornaments a song in this fashion creates an instantly recognizable accompaniment that sometimes can be the most driving part of a tune (P.Y.T anyone?). I highly recommend checking out some of the chord voicings transcribed throughout the tune.
If you'd like to learn more about Paul's playing, he put out a DVD a few years back all about his approach to rhythm guitar. It's a little rare, but can be found with some light internet sleuthing. If you find it, it's worth the money! Here's a clip: